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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

THE DRAFTS OF BILL STONEMAN 

I don't know how I've managed to go two weeks without saying anything; I guess that's what happens when the team is playing well and there's nothing to complain about and no problems to diagnose.

But, as this week is the amateur draft, I thought it might be a good time to feature some draft-related material.

This is the first entry, and looks at the first five drafts the Angels made under Bill Stoneman. I didn't want to go past 2004, as it's far too early to say much of anything about the last two drafts. In fact, it's practically impossible to say anything about 2004, either, but it was the first draft with Eddie Bane in the organization and we got at least one major leaguer out of it, so we can take a cursory look.

There are various sources for draft info online, the two best of which (to my knowledge) are at Baseball Reference and The Baseball
Cube
.

I'm not really going to evaluate the drafts in a systematic way (the Baseball Cube has a rudimentary draft rating system based on the major league playing time of those drafted, which is a rough starting point I will reference despite its flaws and near uselessness for recent drafts; see it for 2000 here), just take a look at who we drafted, who we could have drafted, and how it all turned out. The list of "could haves" is far from inclusive, as I just went through the first twenty rounds each year and grabbed some recognizable names.

Also, I'm not going to link to every single player I mention, as I usually do, as life is short.

Here we go.

2000
First Round: The Angels had two picks in the round; the 10th and 20th. Stoneman grabbed Joe Torres at 10 and Chris Bootcheck at 20.

Who Else Was Available: Most everyone picked between Torres and Bootcheck has been a disappointment, save one: Chase Utley, who may well be the best overall second baseman in the game right now. The Angels had just installed Adam Kennedy at second, so maybe Utley wasn't as high a priority because of that, but so far he's the pick of the round.

No one outrageously special was taken after Bootcheck; Boof Bonser went one pick later, but he has yet to pan out (though he still could, of course), and Adam Wainwright and Aaron Heilman (who didn't sign with the Twins) came later in the round. Dustin Moseley and Kelly Johnson were two intriguing later picks. The second round saw the Cubs select Bobby Hill (who the Angels had drafted but not signed out of high school) and the Pads take Xavier Nady.

Others Picked of Note: Tommy Murphy got picked in the third round, a pitcher/shortstop at the time. Matt Hensley in the 10th, but the rose so far has been Mike Napoli, somehow only the second- or third-best player taken in the 17th round (Josh Willingham, Rich Harden).

The Angels also grabbed Bobby Jenks in the fifth, and you all know how much good that did us.

Other Available Players of Note: Grady Sizemore (3rd), David DeJesus (4th), Dontrelle Willis (8), Brandon Webb (8), Edwin Encarnacion (9), Brad Hawpe (11), Freddy Sanchez (11), James Shields (16).

Baseball Cube Ranking:: 19th

Summary: Despite finding the gem in Napoli in the middle rounds, this draft would have to be considered a disappointment. The only other player to live up to expectations, to any degree, is Bobby Jenks, who has done it all for the White Sox. The world would be interesting if we had drafted Chase Utley, a local product out of Pasadena and UCLA (imagine Utley at second and Howie at third), and we are just one of 29 teams to have missed out on the likes of Sizemore, Willis, and Webb.

2001
First Round: Once again, the Angels had two picks in the first round, and took Casey Kotchman at 13 and Jeff Mathis at 33.

Who Else Was Available: Gabe Gross went a couple of picks after Casey, as did Jason Bulger. The two most intriguing picks between Kotch and Mathis, though, were Oakland's back-to-back picks of Bobby Crosby and Jeremy Bonderman. The Angels had actually drafted Crosby out of high school, but didn't sign him. Noah Lowry went 30th.

After the Mathis pick, the best pick, and what may end up being the best pick of the first round, was David Wright.

The most notable player picked in between Mathis and the Angel second-round pick is JJ Hardy.

Others Picked of Note: The Angels got Dallas McPherson with that second-round choice, so, his back notwithstanding, they weren't really complaining. Steven Shell and Jake Woods were taken in the third, Nick Gorneault in the 19th, but the only other picks to make the majors (beyond Woods) were Steve Andrade, who did so as a Royal, and Matt Brown, who sipped coffee earlier this year.

Other Available Players of Note: Danny Haren (2), Edwin Jackson (6), Chad Tracy (7), Dan Johnson (7), Kevin Youkilis (8), Dan Uggla (11), Chris Young the Outfielder (16), Jonny Gomes (18), Zach Duke (19).

Baseball Cube Ranking:: 13th

Summary: This is the draft that put the Angels on the prospect map. Kotchman, Mathis, and McPherson toplined prospect lists for the next few years, and were the first three picks taken. Though the idea of having Bobby Crosby or Jeremy Bonderman is intriguing, I can't say the Angels were wrong to stay in the family and grab Casey Kotchman. In retrospect, David Wright would have been a much better pick than Jeff Mathis, but Mathis comes from the Tom Kotchman Florida Pipeline that also brought us Casey, Howie Kendrick, and Scot Shields.

However, this was a top-heavy draft, and it looks like only one guy will pan out. Steve Shell could end up in the bullpen, and maybe Matt Brown will become a new Robb Quinlan down the line, but that's not much booty relative to all the prospects we had lined up from this draft just a couple of years ago. Prospect attrition is harsh, and no matter what the BPro guys tell you, it happens to hitters as well as pitchers. You load up as much as you can and see who survives the gauntlet.

2002
First Round: Joe Saunders with the 12th pick.

Who Else Was Available: The seven players taken right after Saunders: Khalil Greene, Russ Adams, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, Royce Ring, and James Loney. Jeremy Guthrie, Jeff Francouer, Joe Blanton, Matt Cain, and Mark Teahen all went later in the round.

Others Picked of Note: The Angels got only one other major league player in this draft, but he may turn out to be a doozy: Howie Kendrick in the 10th.

Other Available Players of Note: Elijah Dukes (3), Curtis Granderson (3), Delwyn Young (4), John Maine (6), Scott Olsen (6), Pat Neshek (6), Joel Zumaya (11), Ryan Shealy (11), Brandon McCarthy (17), Russell Martin (17), Kameron Loe (20).

Baseball Cube Ranking:: 20th

Summary: Saunders is a credit to the organization now, but an injury not long after signing delayed his ascent. Scott Kazmir or Cole Hamels would have been very interesting first-round picks, and there was a lot of intruiguing talent taken at the bottom of the round.

Getting Howie was a coup, but the rest of the draft was completely devoid of prospects for the Angels; the only other name that pops out at all is Aaron Peel, who is stagnated at AA.

2003
First Round: Brandon Wood, 23rd.

Who Else Was Available: Chad Billingsley, Daric Barton, Carlos Quentin. Some intriguing names, but none as intriguing as Wood.

Others Picked of Note: Sean Rodriguez in the third, Reggie Willits in the seventh.

Other Available Players of Note: Tom Gorzelanny (2), Andre Ethier (2), Chris Ray (3), Ryan Garko (3), Jonathan Papelbon (4), Kevin Kouzmanoff (6), Anthony Reyes (15), Ian Kinsler (17).

Baseball Cube Ranking:: 25th

Summary: Wood has justified his draft position to this point, even accounting for his early struggles at AAA. Sean Rodriguez and Willits appear to be good picks, but guys like Bob Zimmerman, Von Stertzbach, and Daniel Davidson have washed out a bit. No one else has emerged from the class.

In October, 2003, Eddie Bane took over as scouting director.

2004
First Round: Jered Weaver's price dropped him to 12th, where the Angels caught him.

Who Else Was Available: Stephen Drew went three picks later. Other notable first-rounders were Josh Fields, Taylor Tankersley, and Huston Street.

Others Picked of Note: Weaver's the only one to make the majors out of this young class, but the Angels picked up a first-round talent in Nick Adenhart (14th round) and pilfered Mark Trumbo in the 18th. Hainley Statia was drafted in the ninth, Stephen Marek was grabbed in the 40th round. Nick Green went in the 35th.

Other Available Players of Note: Dustin Pedroia (2), Adam Lind (3), Chris Iannetta (4), Casey Janssen (4), Cla Meredith (6),

Baseball Cube Ranking:: 11th

Summary: Weaver was a gift, but the Angels picked up a lot of other intriguing names. It's far too early to say who the true finds were, but Adenhart and Marek may be real bargains, and in addition to Staitia, Freddy Sandoval has shown something. The Angels didn't have any picks between the first and fourth rounds, so this draft could end up being even more impressive once you see who was available.

Adding It All Up
What does this mean?

Well, by my count, Stoneman has drafted three-and-a-half regulars (Napoli, Kotchman, Kendrick, and Willits), one surefire rotation starter (Weaver), one swingman/potential rotation starter (Saunders), and one top position player prospect (Wood). A couple of back-of-the-bullpen types, too (Bootcheck, Woods) and a top starting prospect (Adenhart). Add in faded prospects like McPherson (injury) and Mathis (struggles), and that about rounds it up.

How did the Angels do in the five years prior?

I won't walk you through it year-by-year, but from 1995 through 1999, and looking at it from the perspective of the year 2002, the Angels drafted two regulars (Darin Erstad and Troy Glaus), one top starter (Jarrod Washburn), and one top pitching prospect/productive rookie (John Lackey). Robb Quinlan and Scot Shields were in the organization, both upcoming (Shields debuted briefly in 2001). Other notables that didn't add up to much, and who had mostly washed out by 2002, were Brian Cooper, Justin Baughman, Scot Schoeneweis, Matt Wise, and Alfredo Amezaga.

I'd say Stoneman's drafts compare pretty well to that group, especially considering that the highest pick Stoneman has had to work with was the 10th in his first year, and the previous regime had two top three picks that were close to no-brainers (Erstad at #1 and Glaus at #3).

The first five drafts under Stoneman haven't been particularly deep, but his draft legacy for these years is going to rest on Kotchman, Kendrick, and Weaver primarily, but with Napoli and Adenhart likely candidates to boost it up. Even if Mathis never amounts to anything or if McPherson's injuries keep him on the sidelines, the success of the above (and others) could be pretty impressive. Add in a formidable international scouting program, and you have the recipe for success that has kept and is likely to keep the Angels competitive for a pennant year in and year out.

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