With the draft just around the corner, there have been plenty of mock drafts published that predict the Angels will sign this player or that. Most of these mock drafts are heavy on prospect knowledge and light on organizational knowledge. So let’s try to bridge that gap. Teams draft players not only based on their ability level, but also the team’s needs and pocketbook. The Angels haven’t had a draft pick this high in a decade, so it seems likely they’ll spend whatever is necessary to bring in the draft pick, so this shouldn’t be a factor.
What will be a factor however, will be the organizational needs. There are three specific glaring needs the Angels have down on their farm right now. The first, high upside starting pitching. Sure, they have a lot of starting pitching prospects, guys like Elliot Morris, Kyle McGowin, Michael Clevinger, Mark Sappington, Michael Roth, Alfonso Alcantara, Yency Almonte and Nate Smith. All of these guys have a legitimate shot at being in a big league rotation, but none are above AA and none project to be anything more than a #4 starter. The draft is a pitching heavy draft and the Angels could find themselves grabbing a college starter that could jump up to AA next year and potentially be ready the year after that.
If this is the case, you could expect the Angels to target the likes of Jeff Hoffman, Tyler Beede, or Brandon Finnegan. These are all collegiate pitchers with higher upside that are projected to go in the middle of the 1st round due to the depth of this year’s pitching class. In Jeff Hoffman, the Angels could have a top of the rotation starter who’s coming back from Tommy John surgery, so they’d need to be patient but could experience considerable rewards.
Another weakness within the Angels farm system is a high impact bat. In Advanced A Ball and A Ball, the Angels have a serious lack of premium bats. The best you’ll see are Eric Aguilera (a 34th round pick from a year ago) and Chad Hinshaw (a 15th round pick). Granted, both players are intriguing and could someday be major leaguers, but these aren’t the type of marquee players that scouts drool over. In fact, last season, the earliest drafted position player was a catcher, Stephen McGee.
If the Angels chose to go the high school route, some names to look for are Marcus Wilson, Derek Hill or Monte Harrison. If they prefer a more polished collegiate hitter, Michale Conferto, Max Pentecost, Bradley Zimmer and Kyle Schwarber.
The final considerable need the Angels have in their minor league system is catching. They have plenty of catchers, such as the aforementioned McGee, Jett Bandy and Abel Baker. However, all of these players have considerable required growth before being taken seriously. The Angels would love for local product Alex Jackson to be on the board when their pick is up, but this is becoming increasingly unlikely. But Max Pentecost and Kyle Schwarber have a decent chance at still being available and the Angels could grab either of them. Pentecost is seen as a Jason Kendall type, who would be a very good defensive catcher with modest power and average but high quality speed, athleticism and approach. Schwarber on the other hand is a hulking figure who may bash 30 homeruns a year, but there are serious questions as to whether or not he’ll be a major league quality catcher. Given Scioscia’s preferences and the Angels quality of depth at 1B where Schwarber would play, chances are they’ll stay away from him.
Right now, the top three names I’ll look for the Angels to grab are San Francisco State Outfielder (and brother of top prospect Kyle Zimmer) Bradley Zimmer, Kennesaw St. catcher Max Pentecost and Vanderbilt starter Tyler Beede. Zimmer has plus speed on the base paths, an advanced approach at the plate, decent power projection and excellent defense. In essence, a lot of folks see him as a Hunter Pence type. Pentecost, as already mentioned is a catcher in the Jason Kendall mold. In Beede, the Angels would have a starter that’s ready for AA right off the bat, but is likely limited to a mid-rotation starter type of potential.
Just a pure guess, but I think that given the depth of pitching in this class, the Angels will chase quality arms in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and will go for a bat in the first round. If Bradley Zimmer is available come the 15th pick in the draft, judging by a conversation with Angels scouting Director Ric Wilson, the Angels won’t pass up on him, though Wilson did seem genuinely entertained by the notion that Zimmer would be available at such a spot in the draft. It seems the Angels expect him to go lower. Max Pentecost should be available for the Angels to grab though and he fills a position that’s lacking in the system.