The 2014 draft was a return to the first round for the Angels, who had missed the first round in the previous year due to the Josh Hamilton signing (/mimics barfing). With their draft slate locked and loaded and the first pick at #15, Jerry Dipoto and Ric Wilson had their eyes on a young man from Virginia, one Sean Newcomb.
Newcomb was a big, burly lefty a la John Lackey, and was primed to be a starting rotation piece sooner rather than later. In the second round, they took another arm, Joey Gatto and in the third, yet another pitcher, Chris Ellis. Three rounds, three pitchers, but all were quite intriguing and talented options.
Joey Gatto is still in the Angels system, although he's having a tough time getting over that first big hump. He spent a couple seasons in the Pioneer League, before finally getting moved up to low-A Burlington this season, where he's been struggling somewhat to really get things going. Here's the thing about Gatto though: he's one of the few prep arms the Angels have picked in recent years, especially in those high rounds, and the kid is only 20 years old at the moment. Plenty of time to work with him and see what he can do.
Newcomb and Ellis, however, were the quintessential college arms that the Angels prefer, and within a couple years, they became the Angels' two top pitching prospects in the system (albeit a lackluster system, but they were the kings of the hill, nonetheless). The hardcore fans were just waiting to see what these guys could do at every level they ascended to, and while neither were tearing up the minor leagues, both were solid and it was evident they had the big league stuff.
Then it happened. On November 12, 2015, newly crowned GM Billy Eppler made his first big impact on the team by trading away not only fan favorite SS Erick Aybar, but also the first and third round picks Newcomb and Ellis. Just like that, the two best arms on the farm were gone. Of course, in return, the Angels got a once-in-a-generation talent in Simmons, and they have him locked up for a fairly team-friendly deal for the next five years. The trade stung at first, but now it can be seen as a stroke of brilliance. We can never be sure what Newcomb and Ellis would have meant for the Halos down the road, but they locked up their shorstop position for the foreseeable future with literally the best defender in the game, and at a time when the pending free agent market for SS would not yield anything close to that.
Solid move, and that alone could make it a great draft. They used their picks to get some pieces, or rather Jerry Dipoto did, and then Eppler flipped them for even better goods. I'm not complaining one bit.
Also, looking over the rest of the picks from 2014, this draft was pretty darn good. The Angels farm system sucks, yes, we know, but this draft actually stocked them with quite a few guys who would now rank in their top 20 prospects. Guys like the aforementioned Joey Gatto, Jake Jewell, Caleb Adams, Jeremy Rhodes, and even Greg Mahle (who we've already seen plenty of with the Angels this year).
All in all, not too shabby. They stocked the farm a bit, got a few of the higher-ranked prospects of recent memory (going off of consensus Top 20 rankings for Angels farm hands) and most importantly, they got the fuel needed to launch that Simba trade rocket.
Not bad, Jerry. Not bad at all.