2014 MLB Draft: Los Angeles Angels Focus On Starting Pitching


The Los Angeles Angels got a first round draft pick for the first time since 2011. Below is in-depth analysis of the Angels’ 2014 MLB Draft.

Angels Pick LHP Sean Newcomb

For the 15th overall pick in first round of the 2014 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft, the Los Angeles Angels selected pitcher Sean Newcomb.

Newcomb, 20, is a lefty out of the University of Hartford. And at 6′ 5″ 240 pounds, Sean looks like Jon Lester cross-bred with the Terminator on the mound. And this kid can throw some gas.

Newcomb reaches 90-94 mph, and hits as high as 97 with his fastball. His best secondary pitch is the slider, which is in the low-80s and has some bite. He also uses a curveball and changeup. He’s still learning to repeat his delivery, and to locate his pitches consistently, but there aren’t many left-handers in this draft who can match Newcomb’s velocity.

While pitching at Hartford, Newcomb set a school record with 92 strikeouts in 72 innings, and showed one of the strongest arms in the Cape Cod League last spring. He also did all of this while battling mononucleosis during the summer.

Newcomb also has a presence that alone could get him to the big leagues… and fast. Harold Reynolds said Newcomb is probably the first pitcher in the 2014 MLB Draft to make it to the show. And I agree with him. I’d put my money on it.

Is Newcomb A Steal?

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There is a good possibility that Sean Newcomb could be another Jered Weaver/Mike Trout pick. With some of those early projections floating around Newcomb, one must begin to wonder how he fell to the 15th pick.

There are all kinds of reasons for this. But the Angels will take it.

Weaver probably should’ve been the first overall pick in 2004, and Mike Trout definitely should’ve been the same in 2009. But it didn’t happen. And the Angels scored.

In fact, they might have even scored on CJ Cron. He was projected as having the biggest power bat of the 2011 MLB Draft.

Time will tell how this really plays out. As for right now, there’s a good possibility that Sean Newcomb may be another stolen draft pick by the Angels.

Angels Focusing on Starting Pitching in 2014 MLB Draft

For a number of years, the Angels were making the playoffs with good young starting pitching, mixed with a great bullpen and a lot of role players riding on the back of Vladimir Guerrero. That changed, however, in the past four years. And it’s not like the Angels didn’t keep their rotation in tact. They just simply ran into some bad luck with injuries and meltdowns. Now, they look to right that ship by drafting a glut of young arms to develop for their starting rotations of the future.

Back in 1995, the Angels were an offensive juggernaut. They were top-heavy with the bats, as they have been over the past few seasons, and a bit light on pitching. It was mostly Mark Langston, Chuck Finley, and then nothing. They did bring back Jim Abbott in ’95 (instead of  acquiring David Cone!!!), but Abbott fell off a cliff in 1996. The Halos got Ken Hill in 1997, but it wasn’t enough, as their rotation was still weak at the back end.

And they kept coming up just short. Then, the lack of depth exposed the Angels in ’96 and ’99.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

By 2001, the Angels had Jarrod Washburn, Ramon Ortiz, and Scott Schoeneweis coming up and holding their own. By the end of 2002, John Lackey was in the rotation. And by 2007, to complement Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar, the Angels were bringing up the likes of Ervin Santana, Jered Weaver, and Joe Saunders.

It seemed like year after year the Angels were pumping out starting pitching that was at or near the top of the American League in innings pitched. But by 2013, those rotations seemed like an after thought.

I would, however, go with the Halos’ 2012 rotation on paper over their ’95 rotation any day. But their starting pitching in ’12 was plagued by the aforementioned injuries and meltdowns. This led to trading two promising prospects for ace Zack Greinke, who then left to sign a ridiculous contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. This, as well as being unwilling to reward poor performance, led to the Angels to rebuild their rotation from scratch behind Weaver and CJ Wilson.

The Angels’ 2013 starting rotation resembled the rotations they had in the mid-to-late 1990’s, when they kept finishing just short of a division title. Not too long after, however, the Halos began building their starting pitching from within to complement the dangerous starting lineup they had also built from within.

And it worked. Starting pitching bridged the gap between the Angels teams that just fell short in the 1990s, and the Angels teams that made the playoffs six times in eight years, and won a Championship.

One might say that it was the bullpen, or Vladdy, or all those role players. One could even argue coaching. Those are all valid. But the Angels had a good bullpen for years, even decades. They almost always had an offensive core, led by a star power bat, who could carry the team on his back. And coaching, for the most part, has always been at least pretty good.

Starting pitching made the difference.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

From the looks of this draft, as well as last year’s draft, Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto and his front office team appear intent on backing up their beliefs in organizational depth, especially starting pitching.

In my opinion, the key to long term success in general is bringing up good young starting pitching. And with Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs emerging, and perhaps succeeding Weaver and Wilson someday, Sean Newcomb and company could help build another strong starting rotation for the future.

Facts and Figures

  • Jeff Bagwell is the only other Hartford player, besides Newcomb, ever to be drafted in the first 10 rounds. The Boston Red Sox picked him in the fourth round in 1989.
  • Newcomb turns 21 on June 12th. How do you think he’ll celebrate?
  • So far, in this draft, Jerry Dipoto and his front office have stuck with their strategy of drafting college players, as opposed to selecting high school players, which was the approach in the Tony Reagins/Eddie Bane era.