Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Angels need better results in draft

The Angels have not been incredibly successful during the 21st century when it comes to scouting, drafting, signing and developing players. The media's player development experts place the Angels among the bottom half of all big league organizations when it comes to creating player value. The current scouting director, Ric Wilson, conducted his second draft for the club this week.

By BILL PETERSON
Big Leagues in Los Angeles

The Angels needed a big start from a rookie Tuesday night, and Garrett Richards delivered with eight strikeouts in seven innings, helping the club to an easy 6-1 win against the Seattle Mariners at the Big A. Coming on the heels of another disappointing start by Ervin Santana, Richards illustrated, after a fashion as fresh as the headlines, the importance of the June amateur draft.

It also called attention to how little the Angels have accomplished in the draft during this century. Just for getting his first big league win Tuesday, Richards already is the third most accomplished starting pitcher the Angels have drafted and developed in this century, according to the baseball-reference.com version of WAR. He's sitting on 0.1. Without going back and counting through all the picks, it's safe to say the Angels have drafted about 25 pitchers per year this century, coming to 300 pitchers in 12 drafts entering this year. Richards has won one major league start, and he is the third best starting pitcher they produced from those drafts. As of now.

Extrapolating from the numbers explicitly on baseball-reference.com, the Angels have generated a mere 98.9 net WAR worth of big leaguers who they have drafted, signed and developed, starting with 2000. More than one-fourth of the value they have created is Jered Weaver with his 25.6 lifetime WAR. Nobody who sees the free agent contracts on the Angels would accuse them of being a homegrown operation. Seeing how little the Angels have produced, it's understandable that they would seek free agent talent.

Beginning with the draft in 2000, the Angels have scouted, drafted, signed and developed a grand total of 24 players who have come to the major leagues and made positive contributions, as measured by WAR. That is, in 12 drafts through 2011, the Angels haven't produced a 25-man roster of productive major leaguers.

In fact, during the same years, the Angels have scouted, drafted, signed and developed 22 players who have zero or negative career WAR. That is, they do replacement quality work, if that. Thus, in 12 drafts, the Angels picked and signed 46 players who made it to the major leagues, at whatever level of achievement, out of about 600 draft selections.

Don't know how any of that ranks across baseball. However, the Angels generally are regarded as a bottom-half organization in terms of the talent across their system. Baseball America ranks the Angels 19th (of 30 clubs), Baseball Prospectus ranks them 23rd, Fan Graphs ranks them 19th, John Sickels at minorleagueball.com ranks them 18th and ESPN's Keith Law ranks them 15th.

As to what the draft has produced this century, this is your All-Star team of players the Angels have drafted and signed starting in 2000: Jeff Mathis catching, Casey Kotchman at first base, Howie Kendrick at second base, Sean Rodriguez at shortstop, Dallas McPherson at third base, Mike Trout in left field, Peter Bourjos in center field, Kole Calhoun in right field, and Mike Napoli at designated hitter. The bench would be Bobby Wilson, Freddy Sandoval, Hank Conger and Tommy Murphy. Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and Garrett Richards are your top three starting pitchers: Pick two more starters out of this group (the rest go to the bullpen): Bobby Cassevah, Jordan Walden, Michael Kohn (disabled), David Herndon, Steven Shell, Jake Woods and Matt Hensley. The closer is Bobby Jenks. Those are all the players with positive WAR.

Being fair, a couple players with zero or negative WAR are youngsters, like Andrew Romine, Trevor Bell and Will Smith. Others, like David Carpenter and Tyler Chatwood, are young big leaguers having those struggles. But Chatwood, the club's top pick in 2008, now is gone to Colorado by trade. And Bell, the top Angels pick in 2005, is well past due to be contributing in the major leagues. As fiascoes rank, though, Bell isn't quite with Brandon Wood, the Angels' 2003 top pick whose WAR is minus-four.

We're dealing here only with the draft, which isn't the only way to procure amateur talent. Latin American operations are huge. Among the Latin American players the Angels have brought through, we find Santana and Erick Aybar. Infrequently, an amateur free agent, undrafted by the majors, finds his way to The Show.

Starting with 2000, the Angels have had three scouting directors, meaning three different scouting regimes. The scouting director now is Ric Wilson, who just conducted his second draft this week. It's impossible, therefore, to assess his performance, though he clearly marks a change of direction from his predecessor, Eddie Bane (2004-2010).

Wilson picked only six high school players in 2011, none in the first ten rounds. This year, with limited picks due to the free agent signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the scouting director took only five high school players. For his final draft in 2010, Bain took six high school players in the first seven selections. Only once did Bain take a four-year college player in any of his first three picks. Curiously, it was Bain's first pick, and the best he ever made, tabbing Weaver from Long Beach State with the first selection in 2004. From that point forward, Bain's drafting record has its ups and downs.

Preceding Bain, the Angels' scouting director was Donny Rowland, whose record isn't Hall of Fame material. That said, Bain probably isn't going to catch him. Among the players on the All-Star team mentioned above, Rowland drafted Napoli, Jenks, Kotchman, Mathis, McPherson, Kendrick and Saunders. He also drafted Wood. 

The Angels have won some with these players and turned them into other good players. They got 4.7 of Kotchman's lifetime 7.0 WAR before they traded him to Atlanta in 2008 for Mark Teixeira, who contributed 3.6 WAR to the Angels' stretch effort that year. When Teixeira left as a free agent, the Angels received two compensatory first round picks in 2009. Bain turned the first one into pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who later went to Arizona in the deal for Dan Haren. Bain turned the second pick into Mike Trout. So, the selection of Kotchman, the Angels' first-round pick in 2001, keeps paying back to the organization. Between Kotchman, Teixeira and Trout, that pick has produced 11 WAR for the Angels, and there's more to come.

The Angels have a similar success story to tell with their first pick in 2002, Joe Saunders. The Angels expended 6.1 of Saunders' 7.7 lifetime WAR before trading him and three other players to Arizona for Dan Haren in 2010. Since then, Saunders has produced 1.6 WAR for the Diamondbacks and Haren has generated 7.2 WAR for the Angels. So, that first-round pick also keeps producing.

Those were Rowland's success stories, the 2001 and 2002 drafts. The Angels' first five picks in 2001 (Kotchman, Mathis, McPherson, Shell and Woods) all reached the Angels and contributed positive WAR, but they only add up to 10.4. The 2002 draft also produced Kendrick, who has a 14.8 WAR. Rowland’s first draft, in 2000, and his last, in 2003, weren't so happy.

In 2000, Rowland selected Aaron Hill and David Murphy out of high school, but both decided on college and went to other clubs in later years. They have a combined WAR of 24.0. Hill, at 17.5 WAR, is the most valuable player the Angels drafted and didn't sign in this century. Murphy, at 6.5, is tied with Buster Posey for second. Bain took a crack at Posey out of high school with a 50th round pick in 2005.

The Angels also selected Jenks out of high school in the fifth round in 2000. But the Angels couldn't make it work with Jenks and they waived him to the Chicago White Sox after the 2004 season. Jenks powered the White Sox bullpen to the 2005 world championship. Jenks now has a career 7.9 WAR and 173 saves.

Then, there's Mike Napoli, taken in the 17th round with the 500th pick in 2000. Napoli made it up to the Angels, of course, and gave them 10.1 WAR before they dealt him to Toronto in the infamous Vernon Wells deal at the end of 2010. Since the trade, Napoli has added 6.2 WAR, while Wells has subtracted 1.2 from his lifetime WAR, which is down to 24.8.

The 2003 draft is painful to recount, as well. Begin with Wood, the top pick. He was Baseball America's No. 3 prospect for 2006. But he never cut down his strikeouts. Now, he's playing for Colorado Springs in the Colorado organization, turning the light mile-high air into three homers and a .337 slugging percentage in 163 at-bats.

In the 2003 third round, Rowland took a good high school shortstop, Sean Rodriguez out of Miami. On Sept. 1, 2009, the Angels, driving for a division title, dealt Rodriguez and two other players to Tampa Bay for a 25-year-old left hander who already had 55 big league wins, Scott Kazmir. Since the trade, Rodriguez has a 7.9 WAR, while Kazmir's career war has declined by 1.7 to 6.7.

Bain took the reins in 2004 and began with a bang. First pick in 2004, Weaver. By WAR, Weaver is the best Angels' draft pick of the last 15 years, since they tabbed Troy Glaus with the No. 3 overall selection in 1997. Glaus finished his career with a 35.0 WAR.

Bain dialed up another win in the 18th round in 2004, selecting Trumbo out of Villa Park High School. The Angels selected Trumbo as a pitcher. He has a 4.0 lifetime WAR as a hitter, and he keeps adding to it.

In 2005, Bain selected Bourjos, a high school outfielder from Scottsdale, AZ, in the tenth round. Bourjos has a 6.4 lifetime WAR. There are no other success stories from that draft. Walden, selected in the 12th round in 2006, has a 1.4 WAR and is the biggest success from that draft. Bain's 2007 draft is shaping up as a complete bust, and we would say the same about 2008 if the Angels hadn't dealt their top pick that year, Chatwood, to Colorado last winter for Chris Iannetta.

But Bain's 2009 draft is looking much better. It starts with Trout. Then, there's Richards, taken with a first-round sandwich pick that year out of the University of Oklahoma. The Angels sent two left handers taken in that draft -- sandwich pick Tyler Skaggs and second rounder Patrick Corbin -- to Arizona in the Haren deal. From the 2010 draft, Calhoun already has arrived. Another selection from that year, third round pitcher Donn Roach, went to San Diego recently for reliever Ernesto Frieri. While Frieri has stabilized the Angels bullpen, Roach is running a 9-1 record with a 1.98 ERA in 11 starts in the California League.

With Trout, Richards and Calhoun already called up to the big leagues this year, the Angels have about tapped what their organization can produce for them this year. The next best draft prospect, for all we know, is toiling at Inland Empire, where last year’s top Angels pick, C.J. Cron, is tied for fourth in the California League with 42 RBI.

(Editor's note: The above has been revised and corrected to show that the Angels used one of their supplementary picks for losing Teixeira to draft Tyler Skaggs, rather than Randal Grichuk.)

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