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Los Angeles Angels and the Draft: Who is the Best Player Available?

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By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer -

I’m a draft junkie. I can’t get enough coverage of it. It has everything a fan can want—hope, potential, strategy, gamesmanship. I’d give anything to be a fly on the wall in the Angels war room for the next few days as they select their future players.

Going into this year’s draft, we all know that the Angels intend to follow a strategy—especially for the first 10 rounds: Draft the best player available regardless of position. But that leaves a big question: what exactly makes a player the best player available at any given time? There are many ways to rank players, and what a team values the most will determine its prospect rankings.

If the team values getting a good return its investment, then it will take the player who is most likely to make it to the Major Leagues with good success—the safest pick—even if he isn’t the player with the highest ceiling. This strategy focuses on identifying the player with the best, most developed tools and the best mental composure for success in the Major Leagues. Most likely this will be a college pick and a hitter. 

With the Angels having a first round pick for the first time since 2011, there has got to be some strong consideration for going with the safest pick because their farm system can’t afford a major bust. This is why many of the rumor mills suggest the Angels may pick Max Pentecost and Kyle Schwarber if they are available. Both are solid hitters and are considered very safe picks.

If getting the highest potential return on the pick is the goal, then the team should select the player with the highest ceiling. The problem is, players with helium ceilings don’t always make it to the Major Leagues, and the team might end up with a bust. This gets complicated later in the first round, when the Angels pick (15th overall) because most of the elite ceiling college players are typically gone, leaving the elite high school players who are much more risky (although the team could end up with the next Mike Trout). Furthermore, with the limited draft pool money available, drafting a high school player could hurt the team’s draft overall if he requires a larger signing bonus to buy out a college commitment, and leaving less money available to sign later picks.

When the Angels didn’t have a first round pick, or only had a very low pick overall, this was the strategy that they employed. It made sense, especially before the limited bonus money because they might hit a homerun on a player and get an incredible talent. Unfortunately, it also led to some busts which have left the farm a bit barren. 

If the team wants to maximize its potential return on its investment, it could focus on drafting those positions that are the most expensive to fill in the Major Leagues. This is a hybrid strategy that focuses on both the player’s likelihood of making the Major Leagues, his overall ceiling, and adds in one more factor—the relative worth of the position played by the player. Using this strategy, a team would most likely focus primarily on starting pitching in the early rounds while deferring hitters and relievers as there is such a premium for quality starters. The team would figure that a surplus of pitching could be traded for a greater value of hitting, so, by hoarding pitching, it can achieve better results across the board and let the GM use the elite pitching to fill in the gaps.

Last year, the Angels approached the draft much like this. Nine out of their first ten picks were pitchers. Jerry Dipoto, the Angels GM, has said many times how much value he places on pitching. It is cheaper to draft and develop starting pitching than it to sign it through free agency or to trade for it. With more pitching in the Minor Leagues, Dipoto would have more chips to play if he needed to fill a hole on the parent club. 

Lastly, a team looking to make the most stable farm system could view a player who best fits into the organization’s depth charts as the best player available. Note: this is not drafting for need—it’s about drafting players who complement the talent already in the organization. All teams have depth charts and projections going for out for several years. It helps them focus on what players to sign and for how long. Having waves of talent emerge helps the parent club because it allows it to offset the price of high-priced veterans with productive young players. So, looking at two players with equal skills, a team would select a player who best fits into the overall depth chart rather than one where they have an abundance of depth. 

At the AngelsWin.com Spring Training Fanfest this year, Jerry Dipoto talked about the importance of having layers of talent on the Major League team and waves of talent in development in the Minor Leagues. Looking at the AngelsWin.com Top-50 Prospects going into this year, it’s clear that the Angels have a need for bats, particularly at C, 3B, and the OF. They also have a need for a big-time starter, particularly one who is more polished (college player). This does give a lot of credence to the speculation that the Angels would pick Max Pentecost and Kyle Schwarber. 

As an organization, the Angels are incredibly tight-lipped about who they will draft. Of course it all depends on who is available when they pick, but their strategy is hard to discern. Ric Wilson hasn’t had many opportunities to show fans how he determines the best player available. And the Angels are always known for taking surprise picks that differ from the general consensus.

With this being their first time picking in the first round, I can see the Angels valuing the safest pick overall. I won’t be surprised if they pick a college bat in the 1st round especially Pentecost and Schwarber, unless a premium college pitcher falls into their lap. But, from that point on, I can once again see them moving into a position to maximize value and focus on pitching for most of the 2nd through 10th rounds. This draft is supposed to be deep in pitching, and, as the old adage goes, you can never have enough pitching. 

No matter who the Angels pick over the next few days, I’m excited about the upcoming draft. It will be a chance to look into the future of the franchise and start thinking about future lineups. For the next few days, I will have my computer logged on here to get all the up-to-the-minute coverage of the draft.

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Keith law has us take Beede, thoughts?

I think he has a very high upside, especially if we can get his command down. I'd like to know what all the hiccups were in the negotiations when he was drafted out of high school (he was a first rounder who didn't sign). But that could tempt me to pass on a hitter, especially if Pentecost is gone.

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I agree that we will probably try to pick up a reliable position player/upside bat. Analysts have suggested this draft is very deep in pitching so the Angels seem likely to grab a bat with the first pick and then start adding a lot of pitching in the remaining rounds.

Dipoto's philosophy, and correctly so, is that pitching is gold in baseball. We can always trade a pitcher later for any bats that we need but it will be harder to acquire pitchers, especially good ones, from another team.

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I agree that we will probably try to pick up a reliable position player/upside bat. Analysts have suggested this draft is very deep in pitching so the Angels seem likely to grab a bat with the first pick and then start adding a lot of pitching in the remaining rounds. Dipoto's philosophy, and correctly so, is that pitching is gold in baseball. We can always trade a pitcher later for any bats that we need but it will be harder to acquire pitchers, especially good ones, from another team.



Yep. Good strategy! 

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Well after Day 1, it looks like the Angels are trying to maximize on their investment to determine the best player available. They could have picked a hitter and instead went with a pitcher. This isn't the safest pick, but if Newcomb pans out (and I think he will) he has big upside. A lefty who can dial it up to the mid-90s isn't all that common, and I'm excited to add a starter of that caliber down the road. 


The same is true of their second pick--another middle of the order starter. Given the chance to pick plenty of hitters, the Angels once again chose to go with a pitcher early on, which will save them plenty of money down the road. With the high cost to get FA pitching or to trade for a good starter, it's far better to draft and develop it.

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Best Available on Day Two (From Baseball America)

An exciting first day of the draft concluded Thursday night with 74 selections through the first two rounds, including supplemental selections. The third round begins at 1 p.m. Eastern with the Astros’ at pick No. 75.

Here are the 10 best available players from the BA 500, our definitive draft prospects list, at the start of Day 2, with seven coming from the high school ranks and several falling because of signability questions. You can track the best available undrafted players from the BA 500 throughout the draft simply by filtering this list by drafted/undrafted status, or by using this link.

No. 33 Jacob Bukauskas, rhp, Stone Bridge HS, Ashburn, Va.

Bukauskas is one of the hardest-throwing prep pitchers in the draft—sitting 93-96 mph, touching 98 at his best–in a class known for its velocity. He sent a letter to teams late in May asking them not to draft him because of his commitment to North Carolina. If Bukauskas gets drafted at this point, it likely won’t be until after the 10th round, when his selection would not put a portion of a team’s bonus pool at risk.

No. 45 Michael Cederoth, rhp, San Diego State

Cederoth is the highest-ranked college player left on the board. He has premium stuff, with a fastball that can sit 94-97 mph and touch 100. His role has changed from reliever to starter, then back to the pen, where he probably fits long-term. His control (4.9 walks per nine) remains an issue.

No. 48 Milton Ramos, ss, American Heritage HS, Hialeah Gardens, Fla.

Ramos is the premier defensive shortstop in a class that’s short on true up-the-middle profiles. He has plus speed, has drawn comparisons to Alcides Escobar and is committed to Florida International.

No. 53 Carson Sands, lhp, North Florida Christian HS, Tallahassee, Fla.

Sands, a Florida State commit, improved significantly as a senior, showing increased velocity, feel for pitching and two offspeed pitches that show at least average potential. After sitting 90-92 mph and touching 95 down the stretch, he showed reduced velocity in his final appearance of the spring at the Florida high school all-star event in Sebring, at 88-91 mph.

No. 57 Mac Marshall, lhp, Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga.

Marshall, who has a curveball and changeup that show above-average potential, showed reduced velocity toward the end of the season, sitting in the high 80s and touching 91-92 mph in some starts. He is considered a tough sign away from his Louisiana State commitment.

No. 59 Matthew Railey, of, North Florida Christian HS, Tallahassee, Fla.

Railey offers a pure lefthanded stroke, natural hitting ability and at least average power potential. Although he is a plus runner in the 60, some expect him to move to a corner outfield spot, and his below-average arm will play better in left. He is committed to Florida State.

No. 61 Brett Graves, rhp, Missouri

The second-highest-ranked college player left on the board, Graves is an athletic strike-thrower (1.8 walks per nine) with a fastball that sits in the low 90s with life, touching 95, and a curveball that shows above-average potential.

No. 62 Jakson Reetz, c, Norris HS, Firth, Neb.

Reetz is the top-ranked prep catcher remaining, in a deep position for this draft. The Nebraska commit has a high-intensity game with hitting ability, athleticism and an above-average arm behind the plate.

No. 63 Josh Morgan, ss, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS

The UCLA commit is an instinctive player with passion for the game and a chance to remain at shortstop, with smooth actions and soft hands. He has a contact-oriented righthanded stroke with a chance to hit, while offering average or slightly better speed and arm strength.

No. 66 Chris Oliver, rhp, Arkansas

Oliver has some of the best velocity from the college ranks, sitting 93-95 mph and touching 97 with downhill plane. His slider shows plus potential. His statistical performance has not matched his raw ability in his first year as a starter, as he struck out 5.7 per nine with a 1.6 strikeout-walk ratio.

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