Resigning a mere 3 weeks after the 2015 draft, Jerry Dipoto left the Angels with a few gifts. At the time, there were questions about Dipoto’s drafting skills and a widely known rift had developed between Dipot and skipper Mike Scioscia. Despite that, the 2015 draft class was arguably Dipoto’s best work in 4 drafts with the Angels.
Taylor Ward made the MLB Pipeline’s top draft prospect list, clocking in at #99. The Angels were super pumped to nab him in the 1st round, leaving most wondering what the hell they were doing drafting him at #26 overall. Was he really the best available? Ward was a catcher but they loved his bat. It wasn’t long before they moved him from behind the plate to around the diamond. Ward has played 3B, OF, and 1B in attempt to find a way to get his bat in lineups. Certainly, Ward had a slow start to his MLB career, hitting .181 in 2018 and 2019, but going into the 2020 season he has still logged only 195 plate appearances. This September, over 38 plate appearances, Ward has been on a tear and is starting to show the signs of what the Angels saw in him back in 2015. He’s slashing .457/.500/.657, and while he hasn’t hit any home runs this month, he has 5 doubles, a triple, and stolen base.
David Fletcher, drafted 195th overall in the 6th round has obviously paid dividends for the Angels over the past two seasons with his positional flexibility, flashy defense – and one of the best bats on the team. Fletcher’s ability to get on base at the top of the lineup is something the Angels have been missing for years, and his OBP has steadily risen since he debuted in 2018. In parts of 3 seasons, his bWAR already lands him at #42 on the Angels all-time list.
Jared Walsh has loudly announced his presence over the past month, despite being a 39th round pick (1,185 overall). Late round successes are not common, but there is an impressive, yet small list. Mike Piazza was drafted 1,390th overall in the 1988 draft, Mark Buehrle was 1,139th overall in 1998, and Raul Ibanez was a 36th round pick in 1992. In 25 games this year he’s hitting .319 with a 1.052 OPS and over the month of September he’s slashing .393/.413/.875 with 7 home runs.
The verdict is perhaps still out on Walsh and Ward due to the smaller sample sizes, but they, along with Fletcher, are showing signs of being a successful part of this team for years to come. Building a strong position player base to play alongside Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon is a key part of the puzzle and path to post season success. Now to work on that pitching…