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First baseman Matt Thaiss promoted to double-A Mobile, 5th rounder JoJo Booker doesn’t sign, & other prospect notes

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The Angels’ 2016 first round pick hit the go-ahead RBI double in his first AA game.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Matt Thaiss, the 16th overall pick in 2016, has been promoted to double-A. His slash line at high-A is .265/.353/.399, a 108 wRC+.

There were high expectations that come with being a first round draft pick, among them that Thaiss would be patient, hit for average, and be quick to the majors. The Angels hoped the power would come with time but his isolated slugging numbers remain similar, even with the swing change he incorporated last year. Still, it’s a respectable line for a first baseman who only has 136 games fielded under his belt. It’s worth noting that despite the Cal League being a hitter friendly environment, Inland Empire is arguably one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in the entire league.

For what it’s worth, Thaiss has repeatedly said he is “trying to have a good at-bat”, being selective as opposed to hacking away at pitches. He doubled in the go-ahead run in his first AA game.

Grayson Long had a nice start in that very game as well. He now has a 3.22 ERA in 14 starts (72.2 IP) and peripherals to boot: 7.93 K/9, 2.60 BB/9, 3.38 FIP, 1.14 WHIP. And that’s in AA, mind you.

Despite the strikeout troubles, OF Brendon Sanger performed quite well in Inland Empire, earning a promotion.

The Angels had a snafu in their draft this year, in that they could not sign their 5th rounder, Joseph ‘JoJo’ Booker. It turns out their talking to al.com in this piece was indeed serious. The signing deadline for draftees was last Friday, and Booker did not sign. Their 15th rounder, Hunter Brittain, Booker’s high school batterymate and apparently best friend, also did not sign. (Though it’s not uncommon for 11th-40th rounders to not sign, it is very, very rare for a team to not sign a top-ten round pick)

"I'm not going to say his decision wouldn't have affected mine, but I think from the start of all this, we kind of knew where our hearts were, and where we really wanted to go, and that was South," [Hunter] Brittain said. "My decision was kind of made, even before the draft. If I had been offered a bunch of money, I might have gone, but I knew before that I wanted to go to South."

Said [Joseph] Booker, "That was definitely part of it. We've played together since we were eight years old. It's a crazy experience to go through that with your best friend."

...

"I told them a certain amount of money and if I didn't get it, that was kind of a sign that I need to go to college," said Booker, who did not wish to publicly disclose his desired bonus amount. "The offered me two different amounts. The day of the draft, they offered me $300,000, which is below slot. Then yesterday, they came back and offered me a little bit above slot."

My takeaway is that Billy Eppler and Matt Swanson got caught trying to push the envelope. It’s very difficult to sign to sign 4 high schoolers out of a team’s top 5 picks, since prep (HS) players are more likely to demand more money, since they have the leverage of going to college. Though the Angels succeeded in doing this last year, there is high risk of messing up negotiations (see 2016, Brandon Marsh) or a teenager changing his mind and demanding more money than was previously agreed to. There are many things we don’t know, so it’s difficult to know who to blame, let alone what happened (though lowballing a prep player is almost never a good idea).

Though the Angels do lose out on Booker, the bigger loss is that the slot money for this pick is subtracted from the bonus pool, which the Angels can exceed by up to five percent without forfeiting next year’s first round pick. Effectively, they had less money to sign someone they otherwise could not have.

Imagine this: the best draft the Angels have had in years could have still been a tad bit better.