Angels Draft: First Round Picks That Succeeded Elsewhere
By Kyle Franzoni
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have seen some success in the MLB Draft, but some of those picks had to go elsewhere to realize their potential.
As an MLB front office member, nothing could possibly hurt more than successfully drafting the right player only to watch them find success with a different organization. Whether it be through trading prospects or a simple change of scenery, every team has a tale of one or two players that were picked in the MLB Draft and got away despite the writing being on the wall.
Of course, one would imagine that the Angels have their share of these players. However, despite a number of prospect trades and a relatively reduced system over the past few years, most of those players are outside of recent memory. That may be a good sign for the makeup of the team today but may have been a key reason why the Angels waited 41 years for their first World Series title.
Let’s take a look at some of the players that the team was high on when selecting on draft day, but ultimately saw find success elsewhere.
Tom Brunansky – 1978 Draft
Selected with the 14th overall pick of the 1978 draft out of West Covina High School, Tom Brunansky spent four seasons in the Angels organization before making his MLB debut in 1981. However, he would receive just 41 plate appearances (33 AB) with the Halos, hitting .152/.317/.424 with three home runs. He would be traded to the Minnesota Twins along with Mike Walters and $400,000 for Doug Corbett and Rob Wilfong in May 1982.
Brunansky would go on to be worth 22.0 bWAR over his 14-year career between the Twins, Cardinals, Red Sox, and Brewers, finishing with 271 home runs and 919 RBI. Corbett would spend five years with California, primarily as a reliever, and was worth just 1.2 bWAR to the Angels. Wilfong would also get five years and finish with a 2.2 bWAR for the Angels.
Dennis Rasmussen – 1980 Draft
Without a pick in the first round in 1979, the Angels had to wait until 1980 to have another shot after Brunansky. They spent that pick on Dennis Rasmussen in 1980, selecting the right-hander 17th overall. Unlike Brunansky, Rasmussen never saw the big leagues with the Angels, as the Halos shipped him to the New York Yankees after three years in the system. In exchange, Calfornia received Tommy John (the pitcher, not the surgery).
Tommy John would pitch four seasons for the Angels, going 24-32 with a 4.40 ERA and a 4.09 FIP, and was ultimately worth a 3.8 bWAR. On the other hand, Rasmussen spent 12 years between the Yankees, Reds, Padres, Cubs, and Royals. He would have a career 91-77 record, a 4.15 ERA, and was worth 10.0 bWAR.
Richard Dotson – 1977 Draft
Imagine picking a high school pitcher with the seventh overall pick and then giving up on him just one year later. Then imagine him sporting a career record of 111-113 with a 4.23 ERA, including a campaign where he went 22-7 with a 3.23 ERA and finished fourth in the Cy Young balloting. That would be exactly what happened with Richard Dotson and the California Angels.
Of course, while the success of Dotson outside of the Angels organization notwithstanding, the deal that sent him out was well worth the move. Dotson and Bobby Bonds were part of the deal that brought Bryan Downing to California. While Dotson was ultimately worth 16.0 bWAR, Downing gave the Angels 13 seasons of memories, 222 home runs, and 38.0 bWAR.
Roberto Hernandez – 1986 Draft
Unfortunately, you win some trades and you lose others. Selected 16th overall by the Angels in 1986, Roberto Herandez was primarily a starting pitcher in the California system. However, he was ineffective at best over four years and the Angels shipped him to the Chicago White Sox in a swap of minor leaguers in August 1989.
The rest they say is history. The change of scenery helped and Hernandez made his MLB debut in 1991, seeing both starting and relief appearances. However, after converting to the bullpen permanently in 1992, he changed his career. Hernandez would finish his 17-year career 326 saves, a 3.45 ERA, a 3.86 FIP, and an 18.5 bWAR. Meanwhile, the player the Angels received in return, Mark Davis, played in only three games and saw the plate just twice.
"Angels: How much better is Mike Trout than the rest of his draft class?"
In a world where prospects serve as capital in trades and franchises operate under different development philosophies, there are bound to be misses like these for every organization. The Angels have seen others throughout the other rounds as well, but these four certainly stand out.