It’s no surprise that the Angels’ farm system is short on impact players, and depth in the upper minors of the system thanks to a combination of poor drafting, a lack of high draft picks, and trades over the years. The Angels haven’t been the best at drafting, but they have graduated Kole Calhoun and C.J. Cron into everyday MLB players.
Pitching, however, has been nothing short of a disaster: No Angels pitcher drafted since 2010 have provided 1 win, or WAR, since entering the league. Cam Bedrosian and Sean Newcomb are strong bets to cross this threshold in time, but it demonstrates the sheer weakness of the system — and that was reflected through evaluators’ prospect reflections throughout the years.
But there’s a new sheriff in town now, and his name is Billy Eppler. In his first draft as GM, he elicited major heartache and disgust from fans as soon as they realized the first round pick, Matt Thaiss, was actually a catcher. It turns out Eppler employed a high-risk, high-upside approach in the overall scheme of things. He drafted Thaiss as a quick-moving college bat in the 1st round, Marsh/Nonie Williams for athleticism and upside in the 2nd/3rd, and Chris Rodriguez/Cole Duensing in the 4th/5th, two projectable high school arms.
It is quite opportune, then, that the Angels have the opportunity to add what they have been missing in their farm system for what seems to be a long time now: a starting pitching prospect with frontline potential.
Taylor Blake Ward and Jeff Ellis discuss prospects for the 2017 MLB Draft, and the consensus among evaluators is that the upcoming draft’s strength is impact pitching, which happens to be exactly what they have been lacking.
This draft is pretty fun to me, though, with multiple front-of-rotation arms like Alex Faedo, Kyle Wright, J.B. Bukauskas, Seth Romero and many others. My favorite part is that these guys are hungry when I see them, and really have a hatred for their opponent, which I haven't seen in a while. I dig this draft. —Taylor Blake Ward
There are so many college arms in this class that teams into the 20s will get a solid college pitcher this year. My first big board went 11 deep, and five of those players were college arms. If I had gone to 12, then it would have been half college arms. I feel like the top arms this year are much better than a year ago. As of right now, I have four college arms I would rate ahead of A.J. Puk, who was the top college pitcher to most a year ago. —Jeff Ellis
For those who don’t follow minor league baseball, A.J. Puk was a college pitcher drafted 6th overall last year by the A’s; he’s a consensus top 100 pitcher with front-of-the-rotation upside that put up a 3.03 ERA in 10 starts of A-ball.
It’s exciting to see the Angels be in the mix for already-developed college pitchers. MLB.com has assembled a top 50 of the draft, and they have 7 college pitchers in the top 15 alone. And as the high school and college season unfolds, there are names that are bound to vault up draft boards come April.
The upcoming draft will be Matt Swanson’s first as scouting director, and it will be telling as to which direction Eppler and his staff go.
Let’s hope they don’t clap in unison as they select a glove-first catcher one round too soon.