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Los Angeles Angels 2024 Amateur Draft Preview


Chuck

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By Taylor Blake Ward, AngelsWin.com Feature Writer

 

The 2024 MLB Draft is a potentially pivotal turning point for the Los Angeles Angels organization. Selecting eighth overall, it is the highest the team has made a selection since 1997, when they took Troy Glaus -- a top 10 position player in franchise history -- third overall.

You cannot ask whoever is selected eighth overall by the Angels this July to have a career or production level similar to Glaus, but it is a selection that could alter the course of the Angels next decade, as well as the picks behind it.

For only the second time since 2020, the Angels have a second-round selection, as well as five selections in the first 110 picks, with picks 45, 74, 81, 110. The bonus slots attached to these picks have granted the Angels their largest bonus pool in franchise history at $12,990,400 -- the eighth highest in the 2024 draft.

With a draft class that is broken into differing tiers of talent evaluations, there is a clear top group of eight to ten, pending opinion. Of those eight, only two should be ruled out when it comes to falling to the eighth pick in Oregon State middle infielder Travis Bazzana, and Florida two-way Jac Caglianone. There are just too many suitors for that pair in the first seven selections that it is essentially a zero percent chance they would fall to the eighth pick. And yes, that does mean there is a non-zero chance that Golden Spikes Award winner, Charlie Condon, could fall as far as the eighth pick, though it is much more unlikely than any of the remaining five or seven top tier players.

The bigger problem with Condon is that there is a believed signing bonus already known to some of the public, which would hover around $3 million to $3.3 million above the Angels recommended slot bonus of $6,502,800. For that reason and the ones mentioned; Bazzana, Caglianone, and Condon will not be in this writeup.

One item that continually comes up with the Angels and their draft selections is "quick-moving" players. This is merited due to the Angels being the first team to call a player to the Majors from the 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 draft classes. However, the urgency to move draftees to the Majors in an effort to secure a winning record, or potential playoff position, has been lessened with the departure of Shohei Ohtani in free agency. That is not to say the Angels would not take one of the quicker moving players, but the reasoning has altered, and the club has notably been more open to selecting players who will go through a more standard development, whether as collegiate or prep amateurs.

You will see a total of 15 potential draft targets mentioned in this article, with small reports on each, concluding with projected outcomes for each player, with some garnering MLB comparisons if suggested by a scout in the recent past. They will be separated into four distinct categories -- pitchers, collegiate position players, preps, and underslot options. Players will be listed in alphabetical order, so as not to create any perception of interest in one over another.

 

PITCHERS:

- Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest

One of the most notable and decorated amateur pitchers for the last half decade, Chase Burns has been on the prospect map since his early high school days. His natural ability to reach triple digits has always been a big draw for scouts and hasn't ceased into his draft eligible junior season. Sitting in the upper 90's through a full workload, Burns can reach back and get to 101-102 early or late in games. Despite the power, he has only fringe/average fastball command, working more around the zone than being able to maneuver around it, taking a half grade off of its elite velocity and making it more hittable when left up in the zone. Every pitch in his arsenal is a power weapon, starting with his high spin breaking ball that he can alter the shape of, making it an upper 80's slider or mid 80's curveball. Both pitches grade as plus, or plus-plus weapons, with tilting action and late vertical depth. It is a true bat-misser and will play immediately at any level of professional baseball. Burns has a changeup in the bag, which will be a key focus of development to make sure he has a third or fourth option, particularly against left-handed hitters. Burns rarely uses his changeup, but will throw it with conviction when used, flashing late life that pairs well with his fastball as a power off-speed pitch in the upper 80's. It may be too firm in its current state, but with professional development, he could create more separation making it a kill-spin offering and fourth swing-and-miss weapon. Burns will have to clean up some of his command and arsenal, but he has all the ingredients of becoming a top of the rotation starter, with a similar mold to Bobby Miller.

 

- Hagen Smith, LHP, Arkansas

Up until his final start of the season against Kansas State, Hagen Smith was having a better statistical season than Paul Skenes who went first overall in the 2023 draft and finished the year with an all-time Division-1 record of 17.3 K/9. Five years removed from Tommy John surgery, Smith's delivery and future health is the biggest question mark of his otherwise stellar report. Each pitcher will come with health questions because throwing a baseball in a violent manner is an unnatural motion, but Smith's mechanics lead to long term questions about his ability to stay healthy during his control years. He has a crossfire delivery while firing the ball in from a low three-quarters slot and arm recoil after release. Outside of his delivery, there are few questions about Smith potentially having the highest upside of any player in the draft class. He will consistently work in the mid 90's with his fastball that touches triple digits and plays up due to his arm slot and movement through the zone. His slider is a true plus weapon, with sweeping action and power in the mid-to-upper 80's, that he can alter the shape of to turn into a cutter, as has been the case with many pitchers learning the art of a sweeper. He has started to incorporate a power splitter into his mix, which also plays up from the low slot with deadening life off a fastball plane but is still a bit rudimentary and will be a key focus of development along with getting the most of his mechanics. Smith has improved his general control as a junior but is still more control-over-command with his fastball and splitter. With a strong six-foot-three build, there is durability in the physical frame with some athleticism giving faith to tapping into his command and mechanical adjustments. You cannot ignore the pure arm talent from the left side, and if all goes right, he has the looks of a front-line starter. Though he doesn't possess the same size, the raw mechanics and arsenal remind some of Andrew Miller.

 

- Trey Yesavage, RHP, East Carolina

Coming into the spring, Trey Yesavage had the tools and upside to potentially sneak into the first round, but again performed at a high clip while showing a shrewder arsenal and command, solidifying himself as the third best pitcher in the 2024 class. A physical six-foot-four pitcher, Yesavage has four pitches that can miss bats while working around the zone with some ease. His fastball will sit in the mid 90's, with more in the tank when reaching back, and plays best above the zone as a chase pitch. His slider/splitter combination is lethal, as he works glove side with the slider and arm side with the splitter. The slider has late depth, breaking away into the left-handed batter's box, though he can locate it under the zone. His splitter has improved over the spring, and is now a plus weapon, running arm side with late dead-life break, giving him two off-speed weapons against hitters on both sides of the plate. He has a curveball in the bag just to keep hitters honest, and it has proven to be a useful swing-and-miss option when hitters guess properly on his primary off-speed and fastball. There is some rigidness to Yesavage's delivery, but with a full arsenal of weapons and strong frame, there are some who have as much (or more) faith in his ability to stick in a rotation long term as a mid-rotation bet.

 

COLLEGE POSITION PLAYERS:

- Nick Kurtz, 1B, Wake Forest

There may not be a more decorated hitter in this draft class, or in recent ones prior, as Nick Kurtz. His long levers and intentful swing cover the entire zone with strength, leading to power to all fields and 30+ home run projection. He rarely chases or swings-and-misses, and has advanced barrel control, making him a well-rounded hitter. His pitch recognition and discipline only aid to what could be a league-leading offensive profile from the left side. Despite a slow start to the spring hindered by a shoulder injury and broken rib from the summer prior, Kurtz went on a tear once he returned to the field, hitting six home runs in the span of seven at bats, and 14 home runs in a nine-game span. His collegiate career ended with an on-base percentage over 50% and OPS above 1.2. A first baseman by nature of being a left-handed thrower and fringe-average runner, he is a gifted defender at the bag who has solid athleticism to make challenging plays to his right. There is a chance to test him in the outfield where his strong arm could play in the corners if he adjusts to the pace of the development levels. The first base demographic has steadily become one of the riskier groups in the draft. If you look at 14 first basemen taken in the first round from 2011-2019 and eliminate the one player who has amassed the most bWAR (Matt Olson, 30.6), the remaining 13 have an average bWAR/162 of 0.7 for their careers. Kurtz is a special amateur bat, but the demographic has clear track record issues. With the Angels selecting Nolan Schanuel in the first round of the 2023 draft, there are the obvious questions about whether taking a first basemen in consecutive drafts would occur, though Kurtz's upside and potential in the outfield could give a solid chance as a faller from the top tier towards the back of the top 10 picks, or even into the teens. Due to his size, being a left-handed hitter, and hitting pedigree, Kurtz has been compared to players of MVP and Hall of Fame caliber, which is not fair to address on any amateur, regardless of the upside talent.

 

- Braden Montgomery, OF, Texas A&M

With a power upside profile, Braden Montgomery has worked his way into top five draft discussion, despite breaking his ankle during regional play that will keep him out of playing pro ball this summer. A switch hitter, Montgomery consistently swings intently from both sides to do damage on any ball he puts in play. It's a quick swing that allows him to drive the ball to all fields with authority, and projects to hit 30+ home runs at the highest level. He has a budding approach and is praised for his desire to improve while being a leader in the dugout, so teams aren't as afraid of his moderate chase rates and swing-and-miss in the zone. It may be a fringe-average hit tool, but the power and ability to get to it have teams believing he will be a middle of the order threat. A pitching recruit out of high school and into college ball who was up to the mid 90's on the mound, Montgomery has one of the best outfield arms in the class that will show up regularly to keep runners honest, and a true plus-plus grade arm. Montgomery is mostly an average, instinctual fielder, who doesn't have the speed or route-taking ability to take over center field above early development, but the arm and power fit the right field profile with ease.

 

- J.J. Wetherholt, SS, West Virginia

Wearing the D1 batting title crown after his sophomore year, J.J. Wetherholt was viewed as an early candidate to go first overall in 2024, and that hasn't been ruled out with tools similar to that of Travis Bazzana. Wetherholt is an advanced pure hitter from the left side who makes regular hard contact while keeping his swing-and-miss to a minimal rate. His patience and ability to lay off pitches he can't do anything with make him an easy candidate for a leadoff spot. An aggressive baserunner, he has plus speed and a quick first step on the paths that only enhance his potential leadoff profile. Limited a bit in stature at five-foot-ten, he lets his power come naturally through high contact and swing decisions that lead to intentful and hard contact. He may never be a slugger, but there is enough power to project impact and 20 home runs annually, making him a 20/20 threat, or better. Wetherholt will occasionally perform highlight reel defensive plays at shortstop, but his defensive tools lean more towards the right side of the middle infield where he could be a plus defender at second base. He has enough arm and the general tools to develop at shortstop but will have to fine tune everything with improvements to stick long term instead of playing the premium spot in a pinch. Hamstring issues limited his playing time this spring, which some clubs believe could be attributed to West Virginia's turf infield, while others are concerned could be a recurring problem. Nonetheless, teams will be buying on the bat and speed combination with a non-zero chance of sticking at a premium position, and he has suitors all across the first 10 picks, including the first.

 

PREPS:

- Cam Caminiti, LHP, Saguaro HS (AZ)

The cousin of former 15-year Major League third baseman and 1996 NL MVP, Ken Caminiti, Cam is an athletic prep pitcher with plenty of projection and present stuff to see frontline rotation upside. He has been a model-darling for clubs, with both data and physical markers at his disposal, as well as being 17 years old until early August, making him one of the younger players in the draft class. Caminiti has a projectable frame with room to fill all across his six-foot-two frame, which should add power and stamina to his starter baseline. Currently, he will work in the mid 90's with his fastball that sees 97-98 early in outings. With an easy and prototypical delivery, his advanced fastball command lets the pitch play up with already premium velocity for a prep southpaw. The pitch has lively movement, making it a bat-misser in its current state. A big question early in the spring was the progression Caminiti would show with his breaking ball and answered that over the spring with an improved feel for a sweeping slider and top-down curveball, both of which need focus in development, but flash promise as swing-and-miss weapons. His changeup took big strides forward over the spring as well, with solid feel and life with enough separation to be a weapon playing off of his fastball. Despite some advanced tools, there is a lot of arsenal development remaining with Caminiti. Teams love the fastball and athleticism on the mound though, with all signs pointing towards a rotation future. Pending how far his breaking ball progresses, he could be a solid mid-rotation arm down the road. He is committed to LSU.

 

- Konnor Griffin, SS/OF, Jackson Prep (MS)

No position player in this class brings as much upside as Konnor Griffin. From a raw tools perspective, Griffin could be a five-tool player if the hit tool comes around as expected. He has worked on simplifying his load, but still possesses some bat wrap and length in his long levers that may be challenged against pro arms without some refinements. So far, it has not hindered his ability to make frequent hard contact and display his plus raw power in games. With an ideal tall and athletic frame at six-foot-four and 205 pounds, Griffin has explosive bat speed with natural strength that gives him 30+ home run projection. He has been patient against prep arms, including higher profile arms on the summer circuit, showing all the markers of having a pro ready approach. He is a plus runner who is quick out of the box and in the field, with aggressive baserunning instincts, making him a 30/30 candidate at a premium defensive position. Where he plays defensively will be dictated by the team that drafts him, but he has shown all the actions and tools to be an impact defender either at shortstop or center field. He has a plus-plus arm that has been displayed on the mound (up to mid-90's) and across the infield where he can make strong throws on a line, with athletic and twitchy range both ways. In the outfield, he covers ground with ease with direct routes. Someone will sign him away from his LSU commit, and if that team can develop the hit tool to average-or-better, this is a potential star in the making.

 

- Bryce Rainer, SS/RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)

The top draft product in Southern California, Bryce Rainer came into the spring with a second-round evaluation as both a hitter and pitcher and raised his stock with steady improvements to his position player profile. Proving his hitting chops against some of the top prep arms in both Southern California and across the nation, Rainer has been a consistent hard contact hitter over the spring, covering the entire zone with a quick swing and showing little struggle against velocity. He made some minor mechanical adjustments as he added strength to his six-foot-three frame, which still has room to fill out, and is a batted ball data-darling, posting frequent high exit velocities. He maintains balance in his swing throughout and has shown advanced discipline that only aids his offensive profile. As he continues getting offensive reps and fills out his frame, there is a budding well-rounded profile in the works that could turn into a middle of the order bat. Many scouts still like Rainer as a pitching prospect -- though they'll admittedly say he has more upside at the plate -- and his arm that has seen the mid 90's on the mound plays on the left side of the infield. An above-average runner, he has solid range and glove work at shortstop, with a fair chance of sticking at the premium position. His arm will keep him on the left side of the infield, and as power comes, he fits the third base profile with ease. He is committed to Texas.

 

- William Schmidt, RHP, Catholic HS (LA)

Equipped with one of the best curveballs in the class that could become one of the best deuces in baseball, William Schmidt is the best right-handed prep arm this summer and has rumors all over the first round, upwards of the sixth pick. Tall and lean, there is a lot of projection remaining in the frame which could see added power to the arsenal and more ability to stay balanced throughout his delivery. Already seeing power gains to the fastball from the winter to spring, Schmidt will work in the mid 90's and touch the upper 90's on occasion. He has been able to overpower prep hitters with the fastball by simply letting it naturally ride and run through the zone, and will have to make minor adjustments to his command to keep it from staying up-in-the-zone too often in pro ball, which is a natural development trait for young power arms. His curveball is already a pro-ready bat misser, with high spin rates around 2900-3000, with a full zone break. The power, spin, and shape of the low 80's breaker give it plus-plus projection and would play immediately against pro bats with his ability to locate it. As is the case with many high school arms, there is a changeup in the bag that is rarely used, but Schmidt shows some feel for the pitch with solid separation to see positive early development markers in becoming a useful third offering. There is some effort in the delivery, particularly when throwing his fastball, though he stays on a line and finishes fairly athletic to believe his current strike-throwing ability will turn into improved command as he gets stronger. Coming from the same prep program as Aaron Nola, scouts see parallel traits to the Phillies starter, with similar peak upside. Like Caminiti and Griffin, Schmidt is committed to LSU.

 

UNDERSLOT OPTIONS

- Christian Moore, 2B, Tennessee

Completing a stellar collegiate career with a College World Series title, Christian Moore has been a consistent offensive force for Tennessee over three seasons and is now seeing potential suitors inside the top 10 of the 2024 draft. Moore's pedigree in the SEC speaks for itself, with three consecutive seasons batting over .300 with an OPS over 1.0, while setting the single-season and all-time program home run records in 2024, with 34 long balls this spring and 61 over his Tennessee career. Moore became the second player in Division-1 history to hit for the cycle in the College World Series, while going 10-for-27 with six extra-base hits over the championship run as Tennessee's leadoff man. Built like a running back at six-foot-one and 215 pounds, Moore is a super physical hitter who puts frequent a-swings on balls in the zone, crushing them to all fields. It is easy plus power that translates into regular high exit velocities and 30+ home run projection, while his combination of pure strength and bat speed can turn even mistake hits into over-the-fence home runs. Moore has done a better job of staying compact in his swing, aiding his ability to make contact. There is still aggression in his game with tendencies to over swing or outright miss on breaking balls, though he has become more selective and will walk enough to tap into his power/on-base upside. The aggressive swing can take away some of his pure speed assets, but he is an average-or-better runner once underway. Finding a defensive home may be a test for development in pro ball, as he has seen time across the middle infield and entire outfield, though his fringy arm and mostly moderate actions would lean to a future at second base. Though it's nowhere near unanimous, there are a fair amount of scouts who believe there are lapses in concentration throughout Moore's game. Whether this has any credence or not, Moore has all the offensive tools to be an impact hitter no matter where he plays defensively.

 

- Cam Smith, 3B, Florida State

The top sophomore-eligible position player in the class, Cam Smith has a well-rounded toolset that could lead to an impact player. With a tall and strong frame at six-foot-three and 220 pounds, Smith stands out mostly for his plus raw power at the plate. With a quiet load, he has simplified his offensive approach with an eye towards making contact and letting his natural strength turn into over-the-fence power that plays to all fields. He has done a solid job of staying inside the zone and making frequent contact against velocity and breaking balls which give a balanced offensive toolset. Though it's a smaller sample size of 187 plate appearances, teams are more than satisfied and convinced of his hitting prowess after hitting .347 with a .981 OPS in the Cape Cod League last summer. A solid runner and mover for his size, Smith should be an average-or-better defender at the hot corner, equipped with a strong and accurate arm. With a sum-of-all-parts kind of profile, Smith has the offensive tools to see the middle of a Major League lineup at his peak.

 

- James Tibbs, OF, Florida State

One of college baseball's best hitters for the last three years, James Tibbs has hit his way towards the top half of the first round, upwards of the middle of the first 10 selections. With a picturesque swing from the left side, Tibbs makes frequent hard contact with an all-fields approach. There is some thud in his compact six-foot frame that gives him above-average power projection, which is more based on his ability to drive the ball with high contact rates. A patient hitter who stays inside the zone, Tibbs will show cold blooded takes on fastballs just off the black. He has improved his ability to hit all pitches, though he still has some swing-and-miss against off-speed. He proved his wood bat hitting chops in the Cape Cod League last summer, hitting .303 with an .862 OPS. It is mostly a bat-only profile, as Tibbs doesn't project much defensive impact wherever he lands on the field. A below-average runner, his routes in the corner outfield are ordinary at best, while his average arm strength was tested in right field during his draft season. He split time between left field and first base as a sophomore and may best project at an offensive minded first baseman who has enough power to profile, though the bat is what will carry his draft stock and future value. He has middle-of-the-order upside.

 

- Kaelen Culpepper and Seaver King

This draft class is limited in up-the-middle defenders, and nearly all teams have been attached to Kaelen Culpepper (Kansas State shortstop) and Seaver King (Wake Forest utility infielder/outfielder) for their chances to stick at a premium defensive home while also possessing some offensive upside. This includes the Angels, though both King and Culpepper are seen as teen picks at their highest marker. It would be irresponsible to assume either is in play as high at the eighth pick, but probably equally irresponsible to believe players with impact defensive tools wouldn't find their way closer to the top of the draft as part of a market inefficiency. It's doubtful either would fall to the Angels second selection, which makes them at least notable as options for the eighth pick, but you should proceed with caution as to a deep attachment despite some industry rumors.

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