First things first.
The Angels have not successfully developed an early round prep pick into an impact player since the 2009 class, and they have no business selecting one in the first round. If they do, they don’t understand their own system, what they can and cannot do, and the org is truly hopeless. Moreover, this is arguably the deepest draft for college position players in a decade. The fact that the Angels don’t have second-round selection again is criminal, and repeats the mistakes of the 2010s that resulted in the Angels having the worst farm system in the Majors for a stretch. This is the year that the Angels could have received two first round talents among their first two picks, but now they choose only once on Day One. Their first round pick better be a high-confidence college player, and those types of players are the only ones I list here in my first tier of prospects likely to be available in the #6-15 range on MLB Draft Day.
This is a personal preference ranking:
I think the likelihood of Lowder falling out of the top ten is very small, and also I think 2-3 of these names may be gone by the time the Angels select at #11.
My personal “guy” in this pack is Matt Shaw, and has been for the past couple of months. If the Angels want to repeat the Zach Neto miracle in 2024 (and Neto was top of my board when they selected him last year), and the club wants to find an impact player to become an MLB regular within a year of drafting, I think Shaw has the highest likelihood of delivering that. He could slot in at 2B (or anywhere on the infield really), and has an enviable speed-power combo with good barrel rates and sneaky high ceiling. He’s performed consistently in cold weather with wood bats (he was the Cape Cod MVP) and in a competitive college division. Walked more than he struck out last season, hit 24 HRs in 62 games, stole 18 bags, was caught only once. Solid glove – if not for an average arm perhaps more suited to 2B than SS, he’s a five tool player. I don’t know why any teams are talking themselves out of this guy – seems like next-level Neto with more power. (Keith Law agrees – in his final mock for the Athletic, he all but urged the Angels to take him: “I haven’t heard Shaw as much as I should, though, as he could move quickly with a shift to second base.”)
If not Shaw, Taylor and Wilken offer two 3B options who were both college performers. Wilken has power for days and delivered a video game slash line for Wake Forest this season (.345/.506/.807 with 31 HRs in 66 games), but he’s slid down boards a bit by spooking teams somewhat with a 1-for-12 fade-out with 7Ks in his final three games of the College World Series. That seems like too much recency bias though for a guy with 21.5% walk rate in his 2023 season, and a masher that delivered Wake Forest a generational season for the record books. Brayden Taylor, on the other hand, is strongly linked to Oakland at slot #6, but he’s another solid bet, a lefty with a more versatile profile than Wilken, but less thump (Law: “some of the best batted-ball data in the college class, from launch angle to hard-hit rates and more”).
Dollander and Waldrep are no-doubt first-round college arms, who’ve each had inconsistent stretches in both their junior seasons and the CWS that drove up their ERAs, but have also both had stretches of dominance that make them look closes to their #2 MLB rotation potential. Dollander has the longer pedigree and came into the season as the best pitcher in his class, but some potential tinkering with his secondaries disrupted the meticulous control he exhibited in his sophomore season. He’s still incredible value at #11, and has as much ceiling as any pitcher on Day 1. I slot him above Waldrep, because Waldrep has clear reliever risk, not unlike Bachman in 2021. One day he’s striking out 12 hitters in 6 innings, the next outing he’s walking 6 and chased by the third inning. He has a devastating splitter, but the fastball has proved hittable, and with no second round selection, ending up with a set-up man out of this first round class would be a disappointment. High risk, high reward pick.
I’m less bullish on the hit-first crop in this draft – the Angels have a real power deficit on the farm, especially among infield candidates – but if I were to choose one, Troy seems like that guy. A super-ute that does a bit of everything, has absurd plate IQ, and seems like a high-probability contributor that will move fast and likely be an MLB asset, if not necessarily a star, for a good long time.
Second tier picks:
While at the top of this list, I have my doubts about Schanuel’s ability to translate his power to wood bats at the MLB level (his performance on the Cape is a red flag, even if he takes his walks). His might be a profile you could drool over if he fell to you in the 20s, but #11 seems too rich for a contact-centric 1B/DH, .615 OBP or no. Morales is tempting, and provides a lot of what Wilken offers (K-risk, big pop, 3B succession), but the 20% K rate also gives pause. Gonzalez and Wilson look like MLB shortstops, but chiefly contact hitters that could become reserves if some power doesn’t develop. I include Davis and Horvath here as guys that look like Major League outfielders to me with legit corner OF power profiles.
Beyond this, there is catcher Kyle Teel – a BPA type is a less catcher-strong organization, and who is still less likely to slip to the Angels (I’d slot him near Wilken’s spot if he did). Then a clutch of MLB pitchers in Ty Floyd, Brandon Sproat, Joe Whitman and Hunter Owen who are mid-rotation possibles if the Angels were seeking an underslot deal to spread more of their draft pool money around for later selections.
Ideally they don’t have to do that. Ideally they grab Shaw, Dollander or one of the college infielders in my first tier and hope for quick ascendancy. But this is a draft room that tends to agree with my preferences once every three years (Neto in ’23, Detmers in ’20, and Canning/Adell in ’17) so, well, we’ll see.