05/18/10 10:00 AM ET
Angels aim to replenish rich farm system
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
After all, 14 of the 25 players on their roster were either drafted or originally signed by the Angels, including three of their five starting pitchers, the entire starting infield and both catchers.
All told, 18 homegrown players have seen playing time with the Angels this season, and that number is certain to grow thanks to one of the best farm systems in baseball.
"We brag about it a lot and are really proud of it," scouting director Eddie Bane said. "That's our goal. If a spot in -- let's say left field -- opens, we want a guy ready to go in there and take over. My job is to have somebody waiting back there."
The Angels, however, will have plenty of chances to add to their impressive collection of homegrown talent in this year's First-Year Player Draft, which will be held from June 7-9, as they have three first-round picks and two first-round supplemental picks, giving them five of the first 40 picks.
Live coverage on MLB.com begins at 4 p.m. PT on June 7.
The plethora of early selections is a result of the club not re-signing Chone Figgins and John Lackey, who as Type A free agents gave the club two first-round picks and two supplemental picks when they signed with the Mariners and Red Sox, respectively.
But Bane, who is like a kid in a candy store with so many early picks, certainly isn't complaining. The club has 10 picks in the first five rounds, second only to Toronto.
"We're kind of reaping the benefits of some of our guys choosing free agency, if there is any benefit to that," Bane said. "We need to enjoy the time we have with these picks, because it won't happen very often."
It certainly hasn't happened in years past, as the club didn't have a first-round selection in 2008 and just one first-round pick each year from 2004 to 2007 under Bane, who took over as scouting director in '04. But the Angels have made the most of their late-round selections. Of the 14 drafted players who have seen playing time in Anaheim this season, the average round for each player drafted was the 13th.
Just four of those players were first-rounders -- Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Brandon Wood and Trevor Bell -- while several players were drafted late, including Howard Kendrick (10th round), Robb Quinlan (10th), Ryan Budde (12th), Mike Napoli (17th), Bobby Cassevah (34th), Scot Shields (38th) and Bobby Wilson (48th).
The Angels' ability to snag late-round talent is almost unparalleled, but with so many early picks this year, they should be in line to find premium talent. This year's Draft features plenty of young pitching talent from the high school ranks and fits right in with the Angels' recent Drafts under Bane.
The Angels have never shied away from high school players -- they haven't used their top selection on a college player since Weaver, in 2004. They drafted highly regarded high school outfielders Randal Grichuk and Mike Trout with their first two picks last year. Of players on the current roster, Budde and Reggie Willits were drafted out of college.
But Bane said that he couldn't continue to draft and develop high school players without the patience of manager Mike Scioscia, general manager Tony Reagins and owner Arte Moreno, who are willing to let players develop in the Minor Leagues out of high school, a process that often takes more time than drafting polished college prospects.
"A lot of guys can't do that as scouting directors, and I don't blame them, because they wouldn't still have the job," Bane said. "But here we just preach to stay the course and stay the way you are, and it works. You just have to have somebody with patience, because unless you get a guy like Jered Weaver, it's not going to be a guy who is going to help us in the next year or so."
Another trend for the Angels under Bane is to select local talent. Kevin Jepsen, Weaver and Bell were all born near Anaheim, and top prospects Tyler Chatwood, Mark Trumbo, Ryan Mount, Hank Conger and Sean O'Sullivan are all from Southern California as well.
This can improve the signability of players who might be debating whether to go to college, as someone local might be more willing to play for his hometown team. And, of course, it helps that Southern California is a hotbed of baseball talent.
"I tell our guys, if all things are equal, we're going to take the homegrown guy," Bane said. "It's a big deal. These guys grow up rooting for us. This is a great market for high-schoolers and college guys, so we're not dumb. We're not going to walk away from these guys."
But another interesting trend is the Angels' ties to the state of Florida: Napoli, Kendrick, Jeff Mathis, Wilson, Shields and Cassevah all grew up in the Sunshine State.
But it's no coincidence. One of the Angels' top scouts, Tom Kotchman -- the father of former first baseman Casey Kotchman -- has a knack for finding talent in Florida.
"If I were really dumb, I wouldn't listen to Kotchman," Bane said. "But with the sixth, seventh round. he'll walk up to me with a card, and it'll have a guy's name on it, and we'll take him. He has an innate feel for other clubs who are interested in a player, and we end up taking him just ahead of them, and they inevitably become good players. He's just got a special feel for scouting."
Kotchman is one of many scouts the Angels lean on for advice. The club employs two national scouts -- Ric Wilson and Jeff Malinoff -- as well as three regional scouts covering the western, central and eastern U.S., and countless others around the country.
With their help, Bane is hoping to make the most of these early picks in this year's Draft and work toward his goal of adding even more homegrown players to an already impressive roster littered with such talent.
"I'd love to have a homegrown guy at every position, but it doesn't always work out that way," Bane said. "I guess a good goal is to have enough homegrown guys at every position so that Arte, Tony and Mike can go out and pick and choose in the free-agent market."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.