The 2014 First Year Player Draft occurred on June 5th this year and represented the second time GM Jerry Dipoto and his front office were able to hand select the Angels of tomorrow. Whereas the first draft under Dipoto’s reign was centered on starting pitching, this draft also had a strong focus on pitching. The Angels would use their first five picks on pitchers and ultimately selected 22 hurlers out of a possible 40 by the end of the draft. That is not to say that there weren’t a handful of solid position players taken, as the Angels did use four picks in the first ten rounds to take some strong bats off the draft board. Let’s have a look at some of the standouts selected from this year’s draft class.
Top Performers from the 2014 Draft (in no particular order)
RHP Jeremy Rhoades – Rhoades was taken in the 4th round and played the year out in rookie ball with Orem. The righty pitched fairly well in 38.2 innings, striking out 40 and only walking 15. Although he posted a 4.42 ERA and a WHIP of 1.50, the Pioneer League is known to be extremely hitter friendly and those numbers should come back down with a promotion to a higher league. Rhoades only allowed 0.7 HR/9, which is a good sign to see when playing in a high altitude environment.
OF Bo Way – Along with having the 9th best name in the minor leagues, Way also had an extremely impressive on field performance in 2014. After tearing up the Pioneer League in Orem, Way was promoted to Class A Burlington where he continued to mash. In 133 plate appearances, he hit .339/.424/.461 and only struck out 16 times. Bo Way primarily plays center field and his patience at the plate and ability to make contact is ideal for a top-of-the-lineup type of player. I would expect him to start the year with the Angels’ High A affiliate, the Inland Empire 66ers.
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RHP Jordan Kipper – Another top ten round draft pick, Kipper pitched 26.1 innings for the Orem Owlz in 2014. The 21 year old showed excellent command by only allowing 2.7 BB/9 and giving up just one big fly on the season. His 7.2 K/9 isn’t dazzling, but if he can pitch with enough finesse to let batters get themselves out, a la Jered Weaver, then he could find success as a reliever in the future.
2B Andrew Daniel – Oh look, another good second baseman in the Angels farm system. Daniel probably deserved a call up, but with prospect Kody Eaves in Burlington, that wasn’t going to happen so fast. After many of his teammates earned promotions, Daniel quietly carried Orem’s offense throughout the season, hitting .340/.408/.510. The University of San Diego product laced 20 doubles and 6 homers in 293 PAs and successfully swiped 13 out of 16 bags. He will be playing for Burlington or Inland Empire in 2015.
LHP Greg Mahle – The left-hander pitched well after being called up to play with Burlington, tossing 29.1 innings of relief for the Bees. Mahle struck out an incredible 11.7 batters per nine innings pitched and held a solid 3.17 K/BB ratio. Being a year younger than his competition helps his case for a promotion and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Mahle quickly blaze through the minors if he can keep up his strong strikeout numbers.
RHP Zach Varela – The 23rd round draft pick was effective in relief for Orem and boasted a 1.02 WHIP in 27.1 innings. Varela struck out just 19 batters but allowed a lone walk on the year and gave up zero homers. Very similar to Jordan Kipper, his control will determine his effectiveness as a reliever in the coming years.
As it is with every draft class, there will be disappointments. 1st round pick and 15th overall pick, pitcher Sean Newcomb, did not have the greatest performance in Burlington, but to his credit he did only make four starts. His last start was particularly strong as he went four innings and struck out 10, but he will need to prove he can consistently perform in 2015. The second and third round selections, right-handers Joe Gatto and Chris Ellis, will be under close watch in the coming season after lackluster showings. 3B/SS Zach Houchins had an incredible start to the year in Orem, posting an OPS greater than 1.000, but cooled off significantly after his promotion to Burlington.
Although you cannot truly judge a team’s draft just five months after it took place, I would like to think that Dipoto and Co. did a solid job in rounding up their players. Newcomb is projected to be middle of the rotation, or better, starter someday and both Gatto and Ellis have high ceilings as well. It’s hard not to love Bo Way already and the infielding combo of Andew Daniel and Zach Houchins could make a case for themselves in the coming years.
It is always fascinating to see the path of a prospect to the majors and watching the members of this draft class succeed or fail will be a story of it’s own. You too can keep up with these prospects, as well as many others, by subscribing to us here at Halo Hangout, as we will be providing minor league coverage throughout the off-season and 2015 season.