LA Angels Draft 2017: Starting pitching is top priority

Jul 5, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Cam Bedrosian (68) throws a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 5, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Cam Bedrosian (68) throws a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Major League draft looms large for the Los Angeles Angels. A team roundly labeled as having one of the worst farm systems in the game is determined to “get it right.” Recent highly touted draft pick Sean Newcomb just made his major league debut this week- for the Atlanta Braves. While Newcomb’s value will take some time to decide as he was traded for defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons, the Angels posses the number ten overall pick for this year’s draft.

The LA Angels need a bit of it all. While they employee the best offensive player in the game with Mike Trout, the team has needs. Their projected pitching is in shambles for the second straight season while both second base and left field have remained areas of concern (credit is due to Cameron Maybin and Eric Young Jr. for really beginning to produce in the outfield.) With a number of young arms expected to contribute now injured or having been injured for significant time in the last several years, the team needs to look to strengthen that area.

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Much of the Los Angeles Angels minor league pitching projects either as mid-rotation types (Jaime Barria, Nate Smith, Parker Bridwell, Alex Meyer, and Grayson Long) or as relievers (Keynan Middleton, Eduardo Paredes, and Brooks Pounders.) Middleton has started to pitch quite well in the bullpen for the Angels. Much of the rest of their young major league pitching has not been so fortunate.

Garrett Richards will have missed more than half a season for the third time in his career in 2017. Tyler Skaggs returned from Tommy John surgery last season, but has still missed time. Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney are recovering from Tommy John surgery this year, after missing much of 2016, and reliever Cam Bedrosian has missed time the last two seasons as well. That’s to say nothing of the injuries to veterans like Huston Street and Andrew Bailey, or what is hopefully a short term injury to starter Alex Meyer who was beginning to make some strong starts.

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To better highlight the Los Angeles Angels need for front line, ace material starting pitching, let’s look at their best starters in recent seasons.

In 2015 the Angels leader in WAR for starting pitchers was Richards with 2.6. After that? Heaney who made just 18 starts added a 1.6 WAR. It declines from there, rapidly. 2014 you ask? Richards leads again. This time with a 4.6 WAR. 2014 was Richards’ injury shortened, All-Star snubbed break out season. After Richards came Matt Shoemaker who also had his breakout that year with a 2.6 WAR. For Arguments sake let’s take a look at 2013 and 2016. In 2013 the team’s leader for WAR by a starting pitcher was C.J. Wilson with 3.2, followed by Jered Weaver with 2.3. As for 2016, Shoemaker led the pack with 3.3 WAR. Only one other starter had a WAR of 1.0.

Position players have dominated much of the Los Angeles Angels recent drafts.s Matt Thaiss, Jahmai Jones, Brandon Marsh and Taylor Ward occupy four of the top seven spots in the Angels top prospects list. In fact, Jones, Thaiss, and Marsh occupy the top three spots.

The first pitcher, Nate Smith at number four has made just one start in 2017. He is currently on the disabled list an turns 26 years old in August. The next pitcher on the list, Middleton, is doing well in Anaheim. After Middleton, number six prospect Grayson Long is at Double A Mobile and getting positive, although not overwhelming results. Chris Rodriguez comes in at number eight and will be playing rookie ball this year. The eighteen year old is at least 2-3 years away. Jaime Barria comes in at number nine and has pitched excellently in 2017. However, Barria is just 20 years old and is not expected in the bigs until at least 2019.

Next: LA Angels 2017 Mock Draft

With amateur talent like Alex Faedo, Griffin Canning, and maybe even Hunter Greene out there for the Halos to take in the draft, they have to seize on the opportunity to do so. The Simmons for Newcombe trade still looks like a win for the Angels. The team did not have another in-house solution beyond then-incumbent Erik Aybar. The Angels made a calculated move in swapping  a possibility fora known entity. However, the Angels can little afford to whiff with such a high draft slot in their possession this year.