The June Draft – Day Two

Matt Scioscia attends a Lake Elsinore game in April 2000 with his father, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia.

With the first televised draft in the history books, Major League Baseball got back to business and conducted a more routine draft day.

In the past, with no glare of TV lights, the draft went 20 rounds on Day 1 and 30 rounds on Day 2. But with all the hoo-ha that accompanies a telecast, only five rounds were conducted on Day 1 this year, which meant thirty scouting departments pulled a 45-round marathon yesterday.

It should be noted that an organization’s general manager does NOT select the draft picks. That’s the scouting director’s job. The GM will participate in war room planning, but the scouting director is the expert and he’s the one who decides which players to draft.

Baseball America has a complete list of the Angels’ draft selections. To pre-emptively counter one of the usual cheap shots posted on Angels boards, the Angels will eventually sign about half of these guys. No, this is not further proof of Bill Stoneman’s supposed incompetence. EVERY team signs only about half of their draftees. They know many of these players have other plans, e.g. going on to college or playing pro ball in another sport. The draft is simply about acquiring the sole right to sign a player. It doesn’t mean he’s a future major league star who’s slipped away.

Frankly, teams don’t need all fifty of those guys. They have foreign players already under contract who are not subject to the draft, and any player not drafted can be signed as a free agent. Let’s also face the reality that when you get beyond the 10th round or so, the talent dropoff is fairly significant. If you look at the Baseball America Draft Almanac, which lists drafts every year through 2003, you’ll see that all teams don’t sign most of their lower-round picks. Those guys, if they do sign, are typically organizational players filling out rosters at Rookie-A.

For example, yesterday I mentioned that you’ll see many players chosen in the lower rounds from Florida. That’s because Tom Kotchman wears two hats in the organization — Florida scout and Orem Owlz manager. He knows what he needs to surround top young talent with players who can play supporting roles, e.g. a catcher who can’t hit but can call a game, block a ball, and keep baserunners honest.

I count eight Floridians chosen by the Angels this year. Kotch isn’t the only Angels scout in Florida, so you can’t credit him of all of those picks. He did recommend Jon Bachanov, the first round pick. But one lower round pick who has to be a Tom Kotchman call is 47th rounder William Falasco, a right-handed pitcher from Seminole High School. The Kotchman family lives in Florida. Tom’s son Casey, Arkansas Travelers catcher Bobby Wilson and Salt Lake Bees reliever Greg Jones all graduated from Seminole.

Two significant rule changes will affect the negotiation process. Teams have only until August 15 to sign draft picks, otherwise it’s wait ’til next year. In the past, teams had until one week before the next draft to sign a player, unless that player attended a four-year college, at which point the rights were lost. A player could maintain his eligibility by attending a junior college, which made him a "draft and follow." But MLB chose to do away with DNFs, so no more hiding out at the local J.C. while negotiating a contract.

The main reason for the rule changes was to reduce signing bonuses. Super-agent Scott Boras — who is technically not a player’s "agent" until he signs, he’s just an advisor — is the main target, but historically the Angels have been pretty successful with Boras, who lives in nearby Newport Beach. Boras frequents Angels games and is often seen in casual conversation with owner Arte Moreno and with Bill Stoneman. They waited out Chris Bootcheck in 2000, and they waited out Jered Weaver in 2004.

I always laugh when I see some person post on a bulletin board that Boras is "ruining" a player’s career. How someone’s career is "ruined" by a multi-million dollar payday out of high school or college is beyond me. Bootcheck and Weaver are in the major leagues, hardly "ruined." And in the end, it’s the player’s call whether to sign. Boras doesn’t hold the lad captive in a dungeon. Nor have I ever seen Boras level a pistol at a GM’s head. If a team doesn’t want to deal with Boras … draft someone else.

Angels scouting director Eddie Bane has maintained predecessor Donny Rowland’s philosophy of "high-risk, high-reward" draft picks. Drafting a Boras client is always a risk. But Bane has been pretty successful with high-risk picks that yielded high rewards. One example is Nick Adenhart, who was the top high school pitching prospect in the nation in 2004 until he blew out his elbow and underwent "Tommy John" surgery. The Angels selected him anyway, in the 14th round of the June 2004, paying him about half of what he’d received if he’d been drafted in the first round. The Angels supervised his rehab and patiently brought him along. Now he’s a 20-year old top prospect pitching in Double-A ball.

This year’s "high risk" candidate is third-rounder Matt Harvey, a right-handed high school pitcher selected out of Connecticut. Harvey is a Boras client who reportedly anticipated a first-round selection. Bane was quoted as saying the chances are "not good" that Harvey will sign for anything less than first-round bonus money. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Another risk is Patrick White, a high school outfielder selected in the 27th round. The Angels drafted White in the fourth round out of high school in 2004. At the time, they thought they had a verbal commitment from him to sign, but then White went to college. Three years later, they’ll give him another shot, but according to media reports he’ll probably return to West Virginia for his senior year.

Two other names of note … The Angels selected Mike Scioscia’s son Matt with the 41st round pick. Matt has already committed to attend Notre Dame, but you never know. I saw Matt at age 11 or so attend a Lake Elsinore Storm game with his dad in April 2000, back when the Storm were an Angels affiliate. Who knew. The other name with a genetic connection is Brandon Lodge. According to the Los Angeles Times, Lodge "is the stepson of former Angels infielder Bobby Grich and the son of television personality Roger Lodge." Brandon was chosen in the 46th round.

For those players who sign quickly, they’ll report to a mini-camp at Tempe Diablo, the Angels minor league complex, and will then either report to Orem or remain in Tempe for Arizona League. Hope you boys enjoy 110-degree weather.


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