The Angels minor league system has lacked big time upside for years. Sure, they’ve always had depth (and that’s where most experts fail at their job when they call the Angels minor league system “shallow”), but they’ve lacked the big time talent since the organization changed directions. Under the Stonemason regime, we saw a hoarding of prospects that resulted in some disappointments (Mathis, McPherson, Wood) and some pretty solid players (Aybar, Kendrick, Napoli). But it was under the Tony Reagins regime that the organization as whole took a step away from building long term success and more toward competing in the immediate future. Big contracts were handed out, draft picks were forfeited, prospects were traded for rentals. The result was a depleted farm system.
And then Jerry Dipoto came.
Sure, he acknowledged a need to rebuild the farm, but where Dipoto failed was the way in which he went about it. International spending was cut, and draft picks were used on “safe picks”, players that were very likely to be big leaguers, but very unlikely to be stars. Dipoto liked college pitching, and the Angels had a ton of it. Most either flamed out, were traded or simply topped out as swing starters.
It’s one thing to acknowledge a problem, it’s another entirely to actually fix it.
Billy Eppler has gone about fixing it. It started last year when he somehow managed to grab Brandon Marsh, Nonie Williams, Chris Rodriguez and Cole Duensing all from the high school ranks in the first ten rounds. For those that don’t know, the first ten rounds are where teams are heavily limited by their draft allotment. They can’t overspend without severe penalties, including forfeiture of future draft picks. When you draft a lot of high upside talent like that, it calls into question whether or not you can sign them all. Typically high school players with upside that don’t go in the first couple rounds will go the college route because in two-three years, they can get first round money. Through a lot of negotiating and creativity, the Angels somehow managed to stay within their budget and sign everyone that needed to be signed.
But one year can’t fix the problems that Reagins started, and Dipoto ignored. That’s why this draft was so important. The Angels needed to come away with upside talent, that if the potential is realized, can drastically affect the future of the ball club.
Enter Jo Adell. The highest upside this draft class has to offer. Off the charts speed and strength. Great family, good kid. Insane amount of talent. because of all of these factors, it was doubtful Adell would make it to the 10th pick of the draft. But somehow he did, and the Angels got him. This is the kind of game changing talent the system has lacked ever since Mike Trout was promoted and Jean Segura and Randal Grichuk were traded away.
But one player alone, still cannot fix the years of depletion caused by previous regimes.
The Angels pitching depth has taken a huge step forward in the minor leagues recently with Grayson Long and Jaime Barria thriving in AA and looking like major leaguers. But they both figure to be back end starters. The Angels were in need of someone that could safely slot into the middle or front of the rotation.
Enter Griffin Canning.
Canning is a first rounder. He’s one of the best collegiate starters in the country and has a track record of success. His fastball sits 92-93 and scouts can’t decide if his curve, slider or change up are his best pitch. All they know is, they’re all really good. Canning is a lock for the first round. Then a medical report comes back, and shows some unfavorable signs of wear on his shoulder. No, it hasn’t effected his performance so far. But it potentially could someday. That day may never come, or it could come tomorrow. No one knows.
The medical report was enough to scare teams away from Canning in the first round. Their loss.
The Angels landed Griffin Canning in the second round. This marks the third consecutive draft in which the Angels have landed 1st round caliber talent in the second round (Jahmai Jones, Brandon Marsh, and now Canning). No word on what sort of signing bonus Canning will require, but I think we can safely say it will be at very minimum, slot level.
And so today the Angels have added Jo Adell and Griffin Canning. And so today the Angels have a much better minor league system than they had yesterday.
Put it like this, if the Angels farm system was a man stranded on a deserted island, he wasn’t starving. He’s had just enough food to keep him going. But there wasn’t enough fresh water, just what he could get here and there. Jo Adell and Griffin Canning are like a sudden thunderstorm that forces this man to take cover, but blesses him with enough fresh water to start looking for ways off the island.
Well done Mr. Eppler. Well done.