There are 41 selections this year between the first and supplemental rounds, and the Angels choose 16th. This is a familiar zone for the Angels – they've selected between the 12th and 18th slot six times since 2000, and each of those six players (Casey Kotchman, Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver, C.J. Cron, Kaleb Cowart, Sean Newcomb) has seen some time in the MLB, or brought back a significant haul in trade. It gives you a sense of the range of value that can be had with a mid-first-round selection. The Angels go on to select three times (16, 60, 96) within the first 100 picks, and this is traditionally where most of the opportunity is had in the annual draft.
This article will lay out the top 41 prospects, with a weighted average rank culled from many mock drafts and prospect rankings (currently 12 boards), including Baseball America, MLB and Perfect Game, as well as reputable prospect hounds like Keith Law, Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, and John Manuel. As draft week approaches (June 9-11), I'll expand this table to encompass all 106 selections in the first three rounds, so we can discuss possibilities for the Angels' first three picks with some perspective on what's in the market.
The most important thing to remember here is that this is not a mock draft. I am not attempting to predict whom each club will pick, based on need and organizational tendencies. This is just an attempt to place players in a relative ordering based on the wisdom of a small informed crowd. Also, this is just a kickstarter. I offer a little analysis after the table, but it's just a sampler for what's to come.
The Board: Take One
|Slot||Team||Player||Level & Position||Raw Rank|
|1||Philadelphia Phillies||A.J. Puk||College LHP||2.36|
|2||Cincinnati Reds||Jason Groome||HS LHP||2.55|
|3||Atlanta Braves||Kyle Lewis||College OF||3.82|
|4||Colorado Rockies||Riley Pint||HS RHP||4.27|
|5||Milwaukee Brewers||Corey Ray||College OF||4.73|
|6||Oakland Athletics||Nick Senzel||College 3B||7.27|
|7||Miami Marlins||Mickey Moniak||HS OF||7.27|
|8||San Diego Padres||Delvin Perez||HS SS||7.36|
|9||Detroit Tigers||Blake Rutherford||HS OF||8.00|
|10||Chicago White Sox||Dakota Hudson||College RHP||11.36|
|11||Seattle Mariners||Braxton Garrett||HS LHP||12.91|
|12||Boston Red Sox||Ian Anderson||HS RHP||14.27|
|13||Tampa Bay Rays||Matt Manning||HS RHP||16.64|
|14||Cleveland Indians||Zack Collins||College C||16.64|
|15||Minnesota Twins||Joey Wentz||HS LHP||17.09|
|16||Los Angeles Angels||Josh Lowe||HS 3B||18.64|
|17||Houston Astros||Forrest Whitley||HS RHP||18.82|
|18||New York Yankees||Alex Kirilloff||HS OF||20.64|
|19||New York Mets||Buddy Reed||College OF||20.82|
|20||Los Angeles Dodgers||Connor Jones||College RHP||21.64|
|21||Toronto Blue Jays||Jordan Sheffield||College RHP||22.91|
|22||Pittsburgh Pirates||Nolan Jones||HS 3B||23.27|
|23||St. Louis Cardinals||Bryan Reynolds||College OF||23.50|
|24||San Diego Padres||Cal Quantrill||College RHP||25.18|
|25||San Diego Padres||Taylor Trammell||HS OF||25.27|
|26||Chicago White Sox||Robert Tyler||College RHP||26.82|
|27||Baltimore Orioles||Justin Dunn||College RHP||27.57|
|28||Washington Nationals||Will Craig||College 1B/3B||28.09|
|29||Washington Nationals||Kevin Gowdy||HS RHP||28.36|
|30||Texas Rangers||Jared Horn||HS RHP||28.36|
|31||New York Mets||Matt Thaiss||College C/1B||29.70|
|32||Los Angeles Dodgers||T.J. Zeuch||College RHP||29.89|
|33||St. Louis Cardinals||Kyle Muller||HS LHP||30.00|
|34||St. Louis Cardinals||Drew Mendoza||HS 3B||30.18|
|35||Cincinnati Reds||William Benson||HS 1B/OF||31.40|
|36||Los Angeles Dodgers||Zack Burdi||College RHRP||31.82|
|37||Oakland Athletics||Gavin Lux||HS SS||33.17|
|38||Colorado Rockies||Logan Shore||College RHP||33.25|
|39||Arizona Diamondbacks||Cody Sedlock||College RHP||33.30|
|40||Atlanta Braves||Alec Hansen||College RHP||33.73|
|41||Pittsburgh Pirates||Eric Lauer||College LHP||33.90|
So who might the Angels be interested in? Well, the early word on this draft is that it is a bit thinner on college talent, and is heavy on high-upside high school pitching. (That's been changing a bit as some college players have been turning in better springs than anticipated.) While there's no consensus on a top selection this year, the top nine in the above table typically fall in the top ten of most boards. There are a number of arms to dream on in the high school class that are likely to fall to the teens of the first round, but catching one of those falling stars also falls afoul of one the cardinal precepts of my preferred Angels draft strategy. That is:
Turk's Law: When in need, do not draft a prep arm with your top picks.
This law has some exceptions, but for the Angels, it's virtually unconditional.
Why is that? Well, try to think of any prep pitcher that the Angels have drafted in recent decades in the early rounds who has made an impact on the club at the MLB level. Can you do it?
Nope, nope you cannot.
Since the Angels drafted Frank Tanana from Detroit Catholic Central High School in 1971, the Angels have not selected a single high school pitcher in the top three rounds who has delivered even 1 WAR as a starter for the big league team.
There are only three cases that even come close: 2008 2nd rd selection Tyler Chatwood, whom the Angels traded away to Colorado at age 21; 2002 2nd rd selection Kevin Jepsen, who as a middle reliever has delivered almost 3 WAR over a long, inconsistent career; and 2007 3rd rd selection Matt Harvey, whom the Angels failed to sign due to Arturo Moreno's pecuniary wisdom.
Otherwise, the first three rounds over the past 45 years are littered with names like Joe Gatto, Hunter Green, Anthony Whittington, Tyler Kehrer, Jon Bachanov, Trevor Bell and Joe Torres. The bust rate is phenomenal, and injury is a typical culprit. (Note that even Tyler Skaggs falls into this category.) Subjecting young arms to the rigors of professional ball at ages 17-19 takes a mighty toll.
So that leaves three classes of players that bode well for early round drafting: prep bats, college bats, and college arms (including junior college selections). The Angels have had reasonable success drafting from each of these categories. And looking at the "hot zone" (roughly slots 10-30) for the Angels in the table above, we can identify three or four players in each class that are reasonable bets to fall to the Angels at 16.
The Hard to Get
Two players who are fairly unlikely to make it to the mid-teens, as they have a reasonable amount of momentum, but have been spotted there on a few boards: college masher Zack Collins and college righty Dakota Hudson. The former is the Kyle Schwarber of this draft, an offensive catcher who probably won't stick at catcher, with an extraordinary power/patience profile that could make him anything from a lefty Mike Napoli to Chris Davis at the MLB level. The latter hurler has a 97mph fastball and a wicked slider/cutter, and is having a terrific spring for Mississippi State. If either player fell to the Angels, it would be hard to pass them up.
The Prep Bats
There are four names here in the Angel hot zone that are worth the time for your research: outfield prepsters Alex Kirilloff and Taylor Trammell, and 3B candidates Nolan Jones and Josh Lowe. Of the four, Kirilloff has been identified most often with the Angels, and he is among the early runners for my top pick for the club. He has serious power upside, is extremely athletic, and is the sort of player that might have that Trout/Grichuk feel of a late first round winner for Anaheim. Trammell is an Eddie Bane style high risk, high reward speedster with raw tools, but likely a long development path. Jones has also been linked to the Angels, but has some positional uncertainty, and Lowe is a two-way player whose profile is uncannily like that of 2010's first-rounder Kaleb Cowart. One is tempted to say caveat emptor, but these kids could take completely different routes through the minors ultimately. Another dark horse in this group is 6'6" William Benson, an athletic Georgian prepster with an obvious Jason Heyward comp.
The College Bats
The three most tempting college bats in reach of the Angels are Buddy Reed, Bryan Reynolds and Will Craig. Reynolds is perhaps the safest "high floor" bat in the draft, with a possibility to hit the MLB by 2018, and be a serviceable corner outfielder with solid average and 15-20 HRs a year. This is the sort of guy you go for if you want a high probability of success, but don't need a franchise wonder. Buddy Reed has more upside as a switch-hitting speedster with a good glove, but there are questions around how much contact he'll make against next-level pitching. Will Craig is a typical big-bodied masher who's all bat (and is putting up video game numbers at the college level), but may be a first baseman by the time he hits the Bigs.
The College Arms
There are any number of college righties available in the first round. Among them, Connor Jones is probably Bryan Reynolds' mound equivalent of a high-floor "safe" pick, a polished arm who could move quickly but probably has a ceiling as a #3 in an MLB rotation. Robert Tyler has one of the best fastballs in the draft, and a plus change to boot, but like powerballers Justin Dunn and Jordan Sheffield, may ultimately find himself in the bullpen if it doesn't all come together for him as a starter.
With three weeks to go, what say you? Which young captain is floating your boat in this year's draft?