Angels will look to reload system in Draft
Halos, who don't have a first-round pick, focused on adding pitching
ANAHEIM -- Waiting has become a way of life for the Angels' amateur scouting department, which has been left without a first- or second-round Draft choice -- and sometimes both -- in six of the last eight years.
The Angels didn't have a pick in the second round of 2006 (due to the signing of Jeff Weaver), either of the first two rounds in '07 (Gary Matthews Jr. and Justin Speier), the first round of '08 (Torii Hunter), the second round in '11 (Scott Downs) and the first two rounds of '12 (Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson). Then there was the December signing of Josh Hamilton, which eliminated their first-round selection this summer.
When the 2013 First-Year Player Draft kicks off this week, the Angels' first pick won't come until No. 59.
Still, for a club with the worst-ranked farm system in baseball, this will be a crucial process.
"It's huge," Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said. "We've gotten into a position where we need to reload and get some inventory and get some guys moving through the system. Our goal and our job is to replenish whatever we did, and give Jerry [Dipoto, the general manager] as many options down the road for him to do whatever he needs to make our Major League club better. The only way we can do that is through getting the players in our system and getting the right players in our system. That's my goal."
This year's Draft will take place Thursday through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 73 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. Rounds 3-10 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m., and Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter and get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Several win-now trades, lucrative free-agent signings tied to compensation, a two-year absence in Latin America and, of course, the rapid graduation of top-tier prospects -- i.e., Mike Trout -- prompted ESPN and Baseball America to label the Angels as the worst farm system in baseball.
And while the ranking may be subjective, the point stands: The Angels have a lot of work to do if they want to beef up their system, or at least make it respectable.
They'll head into the 2013 Draft looking for pitching, by far their biggest deficiency at all Minor League levels, and will continue to implement a safer strategy ultimately geared towards taking collegiate prospects.
Who will the Angels select first?
Considering where they'll start, it's impossible to tell.
"The biggest thing is you really don't know who's going to be there for you when you pick," Wilson said of the challenge that comes with drafting so late. "You get an idea of some of the really, really higher guys that aren't going to be there, but you really don't know. Our strategy last year was I was going to spread everybody out and just get as deep as we can and see a lot, a lot of guys. And that's what we did."
Here's a glance at what the Angels have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
Those $125 million the Angels committed to Hamilton in December also robbed them of a first-round selection in this year's Draft, thus hindering their ability to restock a farm system that's ranked last in the Majors by Baseball America and ESPN. They need as much pitching as they can get.
Only two words are needed to summarize the Angels' Draft strategy in recent years: Safety first.
It's a drastic change from the philosophy under former scouting director Eddie Bane, who gambled -- and hit on -- a lot of high-ceiling high school prospects. But on a high-payroll club with a thin Minor League system, the Angels want guys who can rise quickly.
Besides, as Wilson noted, "You have to pick in a particular spot to get those really high-ceiling, high-risk guys, and then the further you go down in the Draft, the less of those guys there are."
Angels' bonus pool
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Angels' bonus-pool money is $2,998,200, which ranks 29th in the Majors. For their first selection (59th overall), they were given $942,000; for their second (95th), it's $541,000.
Yes, the Angels' farm system is barren. But those in the organization believe that the position-player side is talented, particularly with the likes of third baseman Kaleb Cowart and first baseman C.J. Cron (two first-round picks). Pitching-wise, though, the Angels don't have much in the way of high-upside talent. This is the area they have to hit on in this Draft.
From 2006-10, the Angels drafted at least 15 players from high school each year. In 2011, the first year Wilson ran the Draft, that number dropped to seven. In '12, with Dipoto in his first year as GM, it was five. Expect the Angels to continue to go heavy on collegiate prospects as they utilize a safer approach to yet another Draft in which they have no first-round selections.
• Recent Draft History •
Cron, taken with the 17th overall selection in 2011, posted a .293/.327/.516 slash line with 123 RBIs in his first full season for Class A Inland Empire last year. This year, the 23-year-old right-handed slugger got off to a nice start despite recovering from shoulder surgery, posting a .314/.356/.479 mark through his first 50 games in Double-A. The Angels don't have many trade chips in the Minors, but Cron could be an intriguing one.
There probably isn't a more perfect example of paying attention to the Draft's later rounds than Pujols. Nobody took him out of high school, so he went to community college in Kansas City, starred at that level, and still didn't get any love. Scouts didn't know what position he'd play, were worried that he might be older than he said. And so Pujols watched 401 players get selected ahead of him in 1999, until the Cardinals took him in the middle of the 13th round. You know the rest.
In The Show
One of the reasons the Angels' farm system is depleted is the result of something positive -- high graduation rates. Trout, in the Majors at 19 years old and a star by age 20, is the prime example. But the Angels currently have nine other homegrown players on their 25-man roster, including Jered Weaver, Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and Garrett Richards. There's also Peter Bourjos, who's on the disabled list.
Angels' recent top picks
2012: R.J. Alvarez, RHP, Class A Inland Empire
2011: C.J. Cron, 1B, Double-A Arkansas
2010: Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Double-A Arkansas
2009: Randal Grichuk, OF, Double-A Arkansas
2008: Tyler Chatwood, RHP, Colorado Rockies