The draft is a little less than month away, and Billy Eppler has been universally applauded for his work on the Angels minor league system to date. His predecessor, Jerry Dipoto’s drafting, international approach, free agency and general team building philosophy left the Angels system completely bare. We’re talking about a General Manager that managed to trade away Jordan Walden, Andrew Romine, Tyler Chatwood, Will Smith, John Hellweg, Ariel Pena, Alexi Amarista, Taylor Lindsey, Jose Rondon, Donn Roach, A.J. Schugel, Mike Clevinger, Zach Borenstein, R.J. Alvarez, Mark Sappington, Austin Adams, Yency Almonte, Kody Eaves, Eric Stamets, Elliot Morris, Kyle McGowin, Randal Grichuk and Jean Segura. All within a three and a half year reign of terror. Basically, this guy traded away anything of value and didn’t think twice about it. And the prospects Dipoto didn’t trade away are only still with the Angels because nobody wanted them at the time (Nate Smith, Keynan Middleton, etc..)
In the mean time, Eppler has begun the slow, arduous job of rebuilding a completely depleted system. First, he drafted Matt Thaiss, Brandon Marsh, Chris Rodriguez, Nonie Williams and Cole Duensing, in what has been lauded as the best Angels draft since Mike Trout. He’s also scoured the waiver wire and traded for others like Alex Meyer, Vicente Campos, Damien Magnifico, Brooks Pounders, Abel De Los Santos and Parker Bridewell. Something Eppler has also done which the Dipoto led Mariners are just learning about, Eppler has managed not to trade away international bonus slots.
The farm can’t be fixed overnight. They had a great draft last year, and they’ll need to have another one this year, and also have a solid showing after July 2nd with international prospects. Still, the single biggest thing that Upper can do to improve the farm is chase upside.
You might notice that all those names up there are all prospects with upside. This makes it clear that the Angels scouts are as good as any in the business at unearthing premium major league talent in unexpected places. They just have had trouble holding on to them. But another reason for the farm faltering had to do with Dipoto’s drafts. Consider that his top picks were Taylor Ward, Sean Newcomb, Hunter Green, and R.J. Alvarez. One is a 23 year old catcher repeating A Ball, another was traded away and still can’t find the strike zone, one has retired from baseball and the last is currently sporting an ERA over 7.00 as a reliever in AA.
The Angels system cannot survive another era like Dipoto, not unless the 80’s and 90’s should be relived in the new century. So regardless of who Eppler picks, it has to be an upside pick. Safety picks simply will be a wasted pick in which the Angels should’ve been using on “lottery tickets”.