Every year, the MLB draft is a way for some of the top amateur talent in the country to get a chance at making it big, and it doubles as a chance for rich teams to stock their farm systems with cheap, young, exciting talent. For me, it triples as the primary source of my agony in mid-June as I watch the Angels make their first round pick. This year, I made sure to get my feelings straight before putting them into words, so as to be sure that I wouldn’t have to eat those words a month later.
I am obviously not a professional scout, and I certainly do not get paid for providing insight about baseball, which is well evidenced by my 653 Twitter followers and my necessity to finish a higher education program. However, I do actually have an idea of what to look for in a player sometimes. The traditionalists love my prior playing experience (1-9 with two walks in college) and the stat freaks love my knowledge of analytics (batting average = bad). Even with my lack of proper scouting experience, there was one guy who jumped out at me as the can’t miss guy in the months leading up to the draft: Reid Detmers.
Although time stamped on March 30, I had been long convinced of the merit of Louisville lefty Reid Detmers as the future ace of the Angels. The only issue, of course, would be for Detmers to even fall as far as 10. Then even if he did, I wasn’t the one making the selection, so I had to pray for general manager Billy Eppler to somehow share the same wavelength as me. If you haven’t heard, Detmers fell, and Billy didn’t miss.
For drafting the guy I’ve wanted for months and not passing on him (miss you Brady Singer), Billy gets a big big A+. Detmers, while not as hard throwing as the pitchers selected before him, has the best feel for pitching out of any pitcher in the draft. He understands how to use his offspeed pitches, including a Kershaw like curve, to accentuate his fastball and make his 94 look like 97 from the left side. He figures to make an impact with the major league club soon, potentially even when play resumes this year. He struck out 37.6% of batters he faced his sophomore season, and had begun his junior season by striking out 52.7% of batters faced. With his whiffs comes sparkling command, as he walked only 7.2% of the batters he faced in the span.
There is, of course, the issue of actually inking him to a deal. Although I’m sure many fans wanted Billy to go the route of the Marlins and have all of our picks signed before the draft was even really over, it’s okay that Detmers hasn’t officially put his name into the Angels organization yet. In fact, out of 37 first round or competitive balance round picks, only 14 of them have officially signed with the clubs that drafted them, including only 3 of the top 10, and 1 of the top 5. So just chill out for a bit, get some sun, eat a Popsicle, whatever helps you relax.
With the Angels second round pick in 2020, Billy Eppler acquired 3B Anthony Rendon. The second round pick was forfeited as compensation to the Nationals for signing the perennial All-Star after he was given the qualifying offer, and was a more than worthwhile sacrifice to acquire a consensus top 10 player in the game. A+.
With their third round pick, Billy went back to that athletic high school talent that he loves so much. Canadian outfielder David Calabrese became the newest addition to the Angels farm, and with athleticism off the charts, he figures to have a chance to rise up the ranks quickly if he fills into his 5’10 frame. Said a fellow member of Diamond Digest who has never watched or talked to Calabrese, “he’s the man around these parts. People have talked about him since he was like 10” – the Canadian guy.
From what I’ve heard briefly about Calabrese, he has a skillset that projects him to be a Mallex Smith-esque type of player. The dude absolutely burns on the base paths and in the outfield, and while he’s no Dee Gordon in terms of pop, he seems to be a long way from even Nick Markakis. Who knows what he could become if he adds some muscle weight, but as of now, Calabrese seems to be a higher floor, lower ceiling type pick. If I had to use an Angels example, think Peter Bourjos.
In the fourth round, Billy flipped the script and went for the high risk high reward option of Werner Blakely, a high school shortstop from Detroit Edison High School. Checking in at 6’3, Blakely was considered to be a risky draft choice, particularly in a shortened draft, as he had a commitment to play baseball at the University of Auburn. Although he was ranked #297 by Baseball America, the Angels took him way above projections with the 111th pick. Blakely is another prep player who can absolutely fly, as evidenced by his 6.55 60 yard dash time. Although already weighing in at 180 pounds, he figures to be able to add some more muscle to his taller frame to add on to the already impressive raw power he displayed in high school. Unlike last year’s first round pick Will Wilson, Blakely’s athleticism projects him to be a shortstop in the long term. Once you see past the reach above the projections, you see a phenomenal shortstop talent just waiting to explode onto the pro scene. Blakely could jump up our prospect rankings quickly.
In the 5th and final round of this year’s shortened draft, the Angels stayed close to home and selected Long Beach State pitcher Adam Seminaris, a left handed pitcher who relies on movement much more than velocity to get outs. During his time in college, Seminaris was still able to strike hitters out at a respectable rate (8.0 K/9) and rarely gave a free pass to a batter, yielding a walk rate of only 5.5% during his final two seasons as a Dirtbag. For some of you older Angel fans, Seminaris has drawn comparisons to another popular Angels lefty, Jarrod Washburn. Seminaris falls into the Detmers category of “lefty with great feel for pitching”, and he offers a deadly combination of a fastball that can touch 93 and an incredible changeup. He also offers a curveball and slider that both grade out as plus pitches. If you want to see Seminaris for yourself, check out his prospect video on YouTube.
For a shortened draft, I don’t think Billy missed once here. There is some concern about signing for most fans; only Seminaris has signed thus far. But that still leaves us with a little over a month to ink Detmers, Calabrese, and Blakely and get them integrated into our system. Our competitive window is beginning to open up, and this small group figures to play a big role in keeping it open through the middle and later part of the 20s. From the guy with 653 Twitter followers writing about how a major league general manager did his job, good work, Billy.