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Los Angeles Angels 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Los Angeles Angels 2011 Draft Selections

(I’m away on my first non-baseball trip in way too long, but there are a few more 2011 draft reviews in the can for when I get back. Next up is Atlanta (Friday or Monday, break in travel schedule Thursday night pending), followed by the White Sox next week. As always, thanks for reading…)

I’m not even an Angels fan, but I sure do miss Eddie Bane. I do not understand what the Angels did on draft day this year. If I had to guess, here are my three principles of Los Angeles’ 2011 drafting philosophy: 1) say yes to junior college guys and no to high school prospects, 2) pitchers without arm strength need not apply, and 3) stick to scouting the big three – Texas, California, and, most noticeably, Florida. Let’s dive in deeper with a look at their top ten rounds and beyond…

Good to start off with a player that totally contradicts my opening paragraph, I think. Keeps the readers on their toes. Utah 1B CJ Cron (29th ranked draft prospect) is a college position player from the great state of Utah. He’s not a juco or prep player, not a pitcher with a plus arm (in fact, a shoulder injury has kept him from throwing for most of 2011), and not from Texas, California, or Florida. Cron’s scouting profile is eerily reminiscent to former catcher Paul Konerko, a popular comp for a reason. I’ve also heard Cron compared to a righthanded hitting version of Texas’ Mitch Moreland. He’ll hit enough to be, at worst, a league average bat at first.

Cron’s numbers sync up well with his scouting reports. I may be in the minority, but I actually like his pure hit tool more than I like his power. Either way, both are above-average tools. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are his only above-average tools. Again, I find myself in the minority in thinking he could at least be a passable catcher at the next level, but I’ll concede to the experts on that one. Looks like Cron will be the first first baseman off the board, college or high school. His well above-average hit tool and present power make him a safe bet to become a starting first baseman and middle of the lineup bat

If the opening paragraph wasn’t enough, another warning: there are very few positives forthcoming. An exception comes with the selection of Florida LHP Nick Maronde (80th ranked draft prospect), an outstanding prospect. My only hope is that Los Angeles continues to give Maronde the opportunity to start as he progresses through the system. The former Florida reliever has the three pitches needed to start in the big leagues, but it will take time for him to get back into the starting pitching mindset.

Florida JR LHP Nick Maronde: 90-91 FB, peak 93 as starter; now sitting 93-95, 96 peak out of bullpen; plus low-80s SL that he doesn’t use enough; CB; good 81 CU; relieved in college, but I like him as a starter; 6-3, 200

Seminole State JC (FL) RHP Mike Clevinger hits on all three of the Angels criteria listed above. He’s an arm strength reliever all the way. Northeast Texas CC (TX) OF Andrew Ray was a curious underslot signing who profiles as a backup outfielder and/or four corners utility guy. Grayson County CC (TX) C Abel Baker makes three junior college players drafted in the top seven rounds by the Angels. Of the three, Baker is my favorite by far. His raw power, arm strength, and makeup are all exactly what you’d like to see in a catching prospect. He was pretty far under the radar this spring – a genius like me missed him, for example – but the Angels know Grayson County CC prospects (John Lackey and Jordan Walden) better than anybody.

Southern California RHP Austin Wood (50th ranked draft prospect) is like a more experienced (as a starter) righthanded version of Nick Maronde. His inconsistency is maddening, but the raw stuff is good enough to start at the highest level. Settling on a breaking ball would be a great first step for Wood’s professional career.  Wood’s teammate Southern California RHP Logan Odom has the size of a power pitcher, but not the stuff. I know I’m just one list crazy guy, but Odom didn’t crack the top 400 on my pre-draft top college pitchers list. He wasn’t even my favorite Odom (I liked JT of Mercer) in this year’s class. Needless to say, the Angels like Logan way more than I do.

Southern California JR RHP Austin Wood: 92-94 FB, 95-96 peak; interesting SL; emerging 80-82 CU that still needs work; average CB; 6-4, 215

California prospect RHP Nick Mutz is a scout’s dream. Without an organized team to call his own, Mutz got himself noticed by throwing bullpens for teams on request. I lost track of him after he left Dakota State, but my old notes mentioned a Jason Motte comp that I think holds up pretty well. Memphis OF Drew Martinez is a nice little player who gives you exactly what you’d expect: defense, speed, and patience. He might not be the burner some teams want in the role of fifth outfielder/pinch runner, but his instincts, both in the outfield and on the bases, make me think he’d thrive in the role.

Memphis JR OF Drew Martinez (2011): outstanding CF defense; plus speed; below-average arm; no power; average at best bat; great base runner; FAVORITE; 5-10, 170 pounds; (392/445/469 – 25 BB/27 K – 20/30 SB – 260 AB)

College baseball fans have to be pretty pleased with the way the Angels whiffed on signing a quartet of interesting mid-round high school draftees. Boca Raton (FL) HS OF Domonic Jose (Round 15), Bell HS (TX) C Hunter Lockwood (Round 17), Tunkhannock Area HS (PA) OF Mike Papi (Round 30 and my 181st draft prospect), and West HS (WA) SS Erik Forgione (Round 33) all could emerge as single digit round selections in three years. Jose was a worthy gamble for a fifteenth rounder with a strong Stanford commitment; no harm in trying with the toolsy outfielder, but it is probably the best for all involved for him to head to school and work on his swing. Lockwood will head to Oklahoma and could step in right away by getting some at bats at first, designated hitter, and behind the plate. Offensively, he reminds me a bit of the fan he could be replacing at catcher (Tyler Ogle), but whether or not the direct catcher to catcher comparison can be made depends on Lockwood’s defense. Papi, who I consistently referred to as Matt for unexplained reasons prior to the draft, could be Virginia’s starting right fielder from day one. Forgione is ready for full-time shortstop duty defensively and could get the chance if the Washington coaching staff can live with the growing pains that will come as his bat develops.

No weaknesses in Lockwood’s game, just a really solid, well-rounded skill set.

Another player with a better than average shot at winding up in class this fall, Matt Papi’s solid across the board tool set could get him drafted early enough to keep him away from enrolling at Virginia. His best tool is an electric right arm, a true plus tool that helps the still raw defender compensate for his occasional defensive shortcomings.

One of my favorite sleepers from the Pacific Northwest, Forgione is a plus runner with great range and athleticism.

The Angels didn’t just fail when it came time to sign their mid-round high school prospects. They also dropped the ball on getting anything done with Florida RHP Greg Larson (Round 29) and Fresno State C Trent Garrison (Round 50). I’m inclined to give them a mulligan on these instances, as Larson made it known early on he wanted to head back to Florida and Garrison, one of the very last overall picks of the entire draft, was a really tough sign as he rehabbed from injury. Larson reminds me a great deal of recently promoted Phillies reliever and one-time fourteenth round pick Michael Schwimer. A good senior year could get him selected up in a similar draft range. Garrison, who I foolishly removed my personal board due to injury, is an elite defender with enough upside at the plate to shoot up draft boards with a healthy senior season. I actually give the Angels a lot of credit for staying with him this spring and taking a chance on him signing on.

Florida JR RHP Greg Larson (2011): 87-88, 90 peak FB; 81-82 SL with upside

Fresno State JR C Trent Garrison: solid defender; above-average arm

UC Riverside SS Trevor Hairgrove (Round 18) has a slick glove at short, but very limited upside with the bat. UC Irvine 3B Brian Hernandez (Round 27), as you can read from his pre-draft report below, is cut from a very similar cloth. With an intriguing hit tool and little else, Arizona State OF Andy Workman (Round 34) goes the other way. All three make for good organizational players. One college prospect from out west that I think can be more than an organizational player is Arizona C Jett Bandy (Round 31). I’m shocked that Bandy fell all the way to the 31st round and even more surprised to see he signed a contract. There’s no denying that Bandy’s stock took a nosedive in 2011, but it is highly unlikely that whatever skills he showed as a sophomore disappeared. In addition to his rough junior year, I think he lost some points with scouting departments because he is more of a well-rounded catcher who doesn’t wow in either the power or arm strength department. It may take some time and perhaps a few different organizations, but I’m not giving up hope of seeing Bandy emerge as a big league backstop somewhere down the line.

Last year I wrote: “he’s [Hernandez] your typical ‘whole is greater than the sum of his parts’ kind of prospect, with the upside of a big league bench bat if everything breaks right.” I stand by that today (some pop, some speed, some plate discipline), with one additional comment I’ll present straight from my notes: “PLUS fielder.” All caps means you know I’m serious. Hernandez can really pick it at third.

Arizona State JR OF Andy Workman (2011): best tool is hit tool; fantastic base runner; gap power, but could develop more; slightly below-average arm; LF future; good OF range; 6-2, 180 pounds

Hard to explain Bandy’s 2011 collapse, especially when you consider there has been no news of any down tick in his scouting reports. I’m not super concerned about the dip in production for that reason, but Bandy’s signability could become a question if he slips past the first five rounds as expected. He is still exactly the player I’d target past round ten. Even without knowing why he slipped so badly this year, I still think it is safe to say that he didn’t completely forget how to play baseball.

Eastern Illinois OF Zach Borenstein (Round 23) does everything well, but nothing in his scouting profile portends big things to come. As a lefty with some pop and a history of playing all over the iamond, he’ll get his chances. Southeastern Louisiana RHP Brandon Efferson (Round 37) was a favorite during his college days, but I never came away after watching him thinking that I just saw a big league caliber arm. He’s way more talented than I’d ever dream to be, of course, but with a lackluster fastball and a lack of quality secondary stuff I don’t see how he can successfully hang in pro ball.

Eastern Illinois JR OF Zach Borenstein: good speed; good power; leadoff profile; (353/438/575 – 26 BB/36 K – 12/15 SB – 207 AB)

Southeastern Louisiana SR RHP Brandon Efferson (2011): sits high-80s, 92 peak FB; good cutter; CB; CU

It wouldn’t be a fair and balanced evaluation if I didn’t mention the one late round overslot deal that could work out for the Angels. Hillsborough CC (FL) LHP Michael Johnson (Round 46) getting six figures was a surprise to many, this writer included. Nothing stands out in terms of Johnson’s junior college stats, stuff, or frame, but perhaps the Angels know something I don’t. A big summer for the Utica Brewers might have been what convinced Los Angeles to take the plunge.

Last and almost certainly least, we have the time honored baseball tradition of nepotism. Round 44 would have been preposterously early. Round 46 could have hurt his ego. Round 45 was just right. Notre Dame C Matt Scioscia (Round 45) joins the same organization as his father, but I hear there could be trouble brewing already. Seems Matt hasn’t taken to kindly to being the third wheel to Mike’s adopted son, Jeff Mathis.

Final 2011 MLB Draft High School Catcher Rankings

1. C Blake Swihart (Cleveland HS, New Mexico)

The hardest prospects to write about are the ones at the top of lists like this. What more can be said about Swihart that hasn’t already been said? The Texas commit has shown all five tools (hit, power, defense, arm, and speed) this spring, an extreme rarity for a catcher at any level. I realize speed is easily the least important tool you’d need to see in a catching prospect, but Swihart’s average running ability works as a proxy for his outstanding athleticism. In that way, Swihart is the prototype for the next generation of catchers. After an almost decade long flirtation with jumbo-sized backstops (e.g. Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters), baseball is going back towards an emphasis on athleticism and defense behind the dish.

A no-brainer to stick behind the plate (the aforementioned athleticism and reported 95 MPH-caliber arm from the mound will help), Swihart’s biggest tool is his bat. Plus opposite field power and consistent line drives are not the norm for a typical prep prospect, but Swihart’s hit and power tools both project as plus in the future.  I stand by my belief that Swihart will catch for a long time as a professional, but his great athleticism and plus bat might convince a team to fast track Swihart’s development by switching him to third base or right field. It should also be noted that Swihart has a little extra leverage because he’ll be draft-eligible again in 2013 after his sophomore season.

2. C Eric Haase (Divine Child HS, Michigan)

The biggest question mark on Haase is how the Westland, Michigan native wound up committing to Ohio State in the first place. Lack of allegiance to his home state university aside (I kid!), Haase profiles similarly to Blake Swihart, except without Swihart’s switch-hitting ability. Despite the typical risk involved that comes from selecting a cold weather prospect early, he’ll still find his way ranked near the top of some clubs’ draft boards. Strong defensive chops, plus athleticism, a strong pro-ready build, and a balanced swing will do that for a guy.

3. C Riley Moore (San Marcos HS, California)

One of the draft’s fastest risers, Riley Moore does two things really, really well. Moore can throw with the best of them and Moore can hit the ball a long way. Plus arm strength and plus raw power will get a young catcher very far on draft day. Throw in an above-average hit tool and really nifty footwork behind the plate and you’ve got yourself a young player with the potential to be a first division starter.

4. C Elvin Soto (Xaverian HS, New York)

Of my many odd player evaluation biases, one of the weirdest is my affinity for players from non-traditional locales. Something about the possibility of untapped ability just gets me all worked up, I suppose. Like Eric Haase before him, in Soto we have another cold weather prospect with a well-rounded skill set. I see big promise with the bat, a pro-caliber arm, and the potential for plus defense in the very near future.

5. C Garrett Boulware (TL Hanna HS, South Carolina)

Without the benefit of meaningful statistics, two of the most difficult things to assess at the high school level are plate discipline and pitch recognition. Boulware’s patient approach to hitting has gotten raves from everybody I’ve heard from, so, with the absence of BB/K data, I’m ready to take those positive reports and run with them. There is a chance Boulware gets moved off the position, but I think his above-average arm and good but not great hands should keep him a catcher for at least a few years.

6. C Cameron Gallagher (Manheim Township HS, Pennsylvania)

The “local” guy that I’ve seen this year a few times – 90 minutes away is local, right? – has had himself an oddly inconsistent year for a potential top five round draft prospect. He reminds me a good bit of Tyler Marlette, except with a tiny bit (we’re talking teeny tiny) less arm strength and a good bit more raw power and physical strength. So, basically, he reminds me of Marlette except for three pretty big differences – maybe that’s not the best comp after all. Gallagher is still a very raw defender, but steady improvement throughout the spring has led me to believe he can remain a catcher, assuming he doesn’t experience another growth spurt. The raw power is undeniably his biggest strength and there are some who think he’s got enough bat to handle first base if the whole catching thing doesn’t pan out. Not sure I’m buying into the bat that hard, but also not sure he’ll be moving to first any time soon.

7. C Austin Hedges (JSerra HS, California)

I don’t feel too bad about ranking Austin Hedges lower than most because, when it comes down to it, what do these rankings really mean anyway? I hope they are a good resource for fans checking in on their team’s newest draft pick, but they won’t influence what happens on draft day one iota. Despite my lack of love, Hedges is a potential first rounder. Words don’t really do his defense justice, but I’ll give it my best shot all the same. Austin Hedges is already one of the 30 best defensive catchers in the country. I’m talking pro, college, and anything in between. Young catchers who can pull off a plus-plus arm, fantastic hands, and all-around plus receiving ability are few and far between. The bat is the problem. He has a long way to go before being labeled a finished product, but, as of now, I’d have to really squint hard to see a future where Hedges ever hits more than one of the league’s lesser 8-hole hitters. Selfishly, I’d love to see him go to UCLA on the off-chance that he’d get some time on the mound and really put that cannon of a right arm to work.

8. C Nicky Delmonico (Farragut HS, Tennessee)

Delmonico is another player who could realistically sneak into the first round who I’m not quite as high on as others. He’ll get the last laugh on draft day, so I don’t feel too bad breaking him down now. In Delmonico, I don’t see a standout tool. His arm works alright and there is some power upside, but there is no one part of his game that makes you stand up and take notice. In his defense, well, I like his defense. So many had written him off as a catcher, but in my brief looks and the scouting reports I’ve read, I don’t see anything that makes me think he’ll have to move to first anytime soon.

9. C Tyler Marlette (Hagerty HS, Florida)

Marlette has as much upside at the plate as any high school catcher sans Swihart, but questions about his defense continue to suppress his stock. The shame of it is that he has above-average defensive tools – he’s surprisingly natural behind the plate – but lacks the polish that comes with years of practice at the position. The aforementioned upside as a hitter works in much the same way. In batting practice Marlette is a monster, but he’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter in game action thus far. A solid defensive catcher with plus power is a heck of a prospect, of course. An iffy defensive catcher who may or may not stick with gap power is less exciting. This is where teams who have seen Marlette multiple times over a couple of years have a huge leg up on what I do.

10. C Grayson Greiner (Blythewood HS, South Carolina)

Regular readers of the site knew I couldn’t get past the top ten without throwing a major upside play in there somewhere. Greiner is a little bit under the radar, partly because of a really strong commitment to South Carolina. I mentioned earlier that teams are moving away from bigger catchers, but Greiner’s picture perfect 6-5, 220 pound frame could have a few teams backpedaling on that strategy just a wee bit. With that pro-ready frame comes, you guessed it, plus raw power and really intriguing arm strength. With that pro-ready frame also come some mechanical issues that need to be ironed out, but that’s a problem for the minor league instructors, not the faceless baseball draft writer.

11. C Greg Bird (Grandview HS, Colorado)

Bird came into the year a big prospect, but much of the hype that came with catching Kevin Gausman last year seems to have disappeared after Gausman went off to LSU. The Colorado high school catcher has a little bit of Cameron Gallagher to his game. Both prospects are raw defensively with impressive raw power that has been seen firsthand by area scouts at the high school level. That’s an important thing to note, I think. We hear so much about raw power, so it is worth pointing out when a player has plus raw power and average present power. That’s where I think Bird is currently at. There might not be a ton of projection to him, for better or worse.

12. C Brandon Sedell (American Heritage HS, Florida)

Sedell is a pro-ready backstop from a high school program with a deserved reputation of being a pro ballplayer producing factory. His calling card is his tremendous raw power, though it is limited somewhat to the pull side. He won’t win any Gold Gloves for his work behind the plate and his throws down to second won’t evoke comparisons of the Molina brothers, but he sets up a nice target for his pitcher and moves around laterally better than you’d expect from a big guy. He gets bonus points for his extensive experience catching high velocity arms. This may be a little nuts, but I feel as though the recent pros that have come out of American Heritage in recent years (most notably Eric Hosmer, still the most advanced high school bat I’ve ever seen) have brainwashed some scouts into thinking the game comes easy to all prep players there. Sedell isn’t Hosmer, but he’s still a damn fine pro prospect with big league starter upside.

13. C BreShon Kimbell (Mesquite HS, Texas)

Kimbell is unusually strong, very athletic, and a gifted defender. He also has shown big raw power in the past, but inconsistencies with his swing mechanics make his trips to the plate hit or miss, no pun intended. Some good pro coaching could turn him into a high level pro prospect in short order. Also, BreShon – a fella with a name like that is obviously destined for greatness, even though I sometimes read it as Bre$hon.

14. C Brett Austin (Providence HS, North Carolina)

First Austin Hedges, then Nicky Delmonico, and now Brett Austin – my trio of lower than expected rankings is finally complete. It all comes down to what you want in a catcher, I guess. I’ll take defensive ability, raw power, mature hitting actions, and arm strength, in that order. If you don’t have a plus tool in any of those four areas, I’m a little nervous. Austin’s defensive work has been spotty this spring, and he’s not assured of starting his professional career as a catcher. I’d generously give him a 55 on raw power – damn good to be sure, but not on the level of a handful of players ranked above him – and his arm is average on his best day. He’s got impressive athleticism and arguably the best foot speed of any prep catching prospect, so a position switch – second base, maybe? – could actually help his pro standing in my eyes.

15. C AJ Murray (Westfield HS, New Jersey)

Fast-rising prospect poised to make me look stupid for having him this low. Area scouts rave about his athleticism and sheer physical strength.

And now for five more guys that I couldn’t bear to leave out, but knew that if I started to write a little something about them then I’d wind up writing about high school catchers forever. With two weeks until the draft, that’s a no-no. Five additional high school catchers that I’m high on with very brief thoughts on each:

16. C Daniel Mengden (Westside HS, Texas)

A good low-90s fastball has most preferring Mengden on the mound, but I’m going to stubbornly stick by him as the receiving end of a pitcher-catcher battery, thank you very much. Why do I like him as a catcher? Well, you already know he has a plus arm back there and his defensive actions are all very good. I also have liked what I’ve seen out of his swing so far; it is the kind of level, line drive producing swing that might not generate a ton of raw power, but will help him keep the ball off the ground and into the gaps.

17. C Taylor Nichols (Faith Academy, Alabama)

Quick draft day math problem for you: plus power plus plus arm strength minus strong college commitment (no offense South Alabama) equals potential top ten round catching prospect.

18. C Hunter Lockwood (LD Bell HS, Texas)

No weaknesses in Lockwood’s game, just a really solid, well-rounded skill set.

19. C Aramis Garcia (Pines Charter HS, Florida)

Similar to Nichols in that he’s best known for his power bat and power arm.

20. C Dylan Delso (Broken Arrow HS, Oklahoma)

Like Greg Bird and Brandon Sedell above, Delso has no problems catching high velocity heat. Archie Bradley’s prep catcher approves.