The Angels usually have that one big pick every year. It’s a marquee player taken early in the draft that defines the direction of the organization. In 2011 it was CJ Cron. In 2010 Kaleb Cowart, and before him there was Mike Trout, Tyler Chatwood and Hank Conger. This year would be different though. The Angels didn’t have an early pick. They surrendered their first and second round picks when they signed Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson. So instead of finding an elite player and filling out the depth from there, the Angels were forced to make up for it by making sure their organizational needs were met. They needed to make smart picks and shore up their weaknesses. And what exactly is the Angels biggest organizational need?
Relief pitching. Not since 2008, could the Angels count on preserving a lead night in and night out or having a bullpen that could keep them in the game. Current General Manager Jerry Dipoto was once a reliever, and fully understands the importance of having an elite bullpen. After taking the job as GM he proceeded to sign LaTroy Hawkins, Jason Isringhausen and traded for Ernesto Frieri to supplement a bullpen that blew more leads than any team in baseball last season. Admittedly, Hawkins and Isringhausen are more than likely one year fixes. As good as they are, both appear to be reaching the twilight of their careers. So the order Dipoto gave Scouting Director Ric Wilson was simple. It probably went a little something like “Ric, find me some relief pitchers. This team doesn’t have 5 years to wait on them to fail as starters and turn into mediocre relievers. I need game-enders and I need them now.”
And find them, Ric Wilson did. After not having a single pick in the first two rounds of the draft (day one), the Angels had thirteen picks on day two. Of those thirteen picks, the Angels selected SEVEN college pitchers. Of their first seven selections, five were college pitchers. From the look of things, the Angels have relief help on the way, and it’s entire possibly they won’t have to wait long for it to arrive in the big leagues.
Round 3: Angels select RHP R.J. Alvarez from Florida Atlantic. As a reliever, Alvarez was 5-0 with a 0.72 ERA whole striking out 47 batters in 37 innings. He comes fully equipped with a high 90’s heater and a devastating breaking pitch. With a fast, violent delivery and low-three-quarters release, Alvarez does not dispense with the pleasantries. He takes the mound and hucks that baseball as hard as he possibly can and says “hit this, if you can”. That’s the mentality of a major league reliever. That’s the mentality of R.J. Alvarez.
Round 4: Angels select 2B Alex Yarbrough from Ole Miss. Yarbrough hit .380 as a college junior and shouldn’t need a ton of time in the minors. While he lacks the power or speed to grow into a superstar, he plays a solid second base and for lack of a better descriptive sentence, he simply hits the ball.
Round 5: Angels select RHP Mark Sappington from DII Rockhurst College. The big bodied (6’4 200 lbs) Sappington was 10-3 with a 1.78 ERA across 96 innings with 101 K’s. Coming out of high school, Sappington was considerably smaller and was topping out in the upper 80’s. Now scouting reports suggest his fastball sits in the low to mid 90’s and if transitioned to the bullpen as is expected, this number could creep into the high 90’s.
Round 6: Angels select SS Eric Stamets from University of Evansville. Stamets is a slap-hitting speedster that hit .316 this past season while playing terrific shortstop and earning all-star honors in the Cape Cod League.
Round 7: Angels select C Andrew Patterson from an Oklahoma HS. Patterson is the only high school player selected by the Angels and is committed to a Junior College in Florida.
Round 8: Angels select RHP Austin Adams from University of South Florida. Adams tossed 27 innings with 34 K’s and a 1.95 ERA for South Florida this year. Armed with a low 90’s fastball with movement and a “wipeout” slider, Adams fits the bill of a typical major league reliever, and that’s exactly what the Angels need him to be.
Round 9: Angels select LHP Michael Roth from University of South Carolina. Roth was the staff ace for the Gamecocks this season, going 6-1 with a 2.68 ERA. Roth has a high 80’s fastball with a plus change and solid enough breaking pitches to go with impeccable command. His arsenal is very similar to that of former Angels Top Prospect Trevor Reckling and could fit well in a rotation or bullpen as a lefty specialist.
Round 10: Angels select LHP Chris O’Grady from George Mason University. O’Grady was George Mason’s closer this season, notching 14 saves with a 1.22 ERA and 51 K’s in 37 innings. Couldn’t find a good scouting report on O’Grady, but it’s a good sign that he’s 6’4 and left-handed. Being a southpaw with that physique, he basically only needs a pulse and he’ll make it to the major leagues.
Other notable: Round 13 – Angels select RHP Michael Morin from University of North Carolina. According to one source, Morin may have been the top closer in college this season, accumulating 19 saves with a 1.40 ERA for the Tar Heels.
Thanks to Ric Wilson and the scouting staff of the Angels, it appears that an entire wave of relievers is about the enter the Angels system. These typically aren’t the prospects that inhabit the top of annual Top Prospect reports, but are needed nonetheless. The good thing for the Angels is that these capable relievers aren’t coming in as wide-eyed, inexperienced 18 year olds. These are twenty-something year old men that probably won’t spend much time in Cedar Rapids or Inland Empire. It’s possible that the Angels could begin reaping the benefits of this draft as early as late 2013. And for a system that’s sorely lacking notable relief pitchers (outside of Steven Geltz, Dan Tillman and Ryan Chaffee), that help couldn’t have come too soon.