The Angels had gone away from the raw and risky high school athlete, taking a combined 12 the last two First-Year Player Drafts after obtaining at least 15 each year from 2006-10. But when 17-year-old Kentucky left-hander Hunter Green fell to their laps with the No. 59 overall selection in Thursday's second round, they couldn't resist.
Green, 6-foot-4 and lanky, was considered by many to be a first-round talent heading into the Draft, with a low-90s fastball, sharp curve, sinking changeup and 0.14 ERA as a senior at Warren East High School in Bowling Green, Ky. If the Angels are able to strike a deal with him, he'll already be the best pitching prospect of their barren farm system.
And that should happen very soon.
"We still have work to do, but we are comfortable that he wants to sign and play," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said.
"It's absolutely amazing," Green told his hometown newspaper, the Bowling Green Daily News, late Thursday night. "Words can't describe how happy I am. Even though things didn't pan out how other people expected it to with the first round, that's fine with me. The second round is still a great place to go, and just getting the opportunity to play professional baseball is a blessing."
Green will be a starting pitcher and is expected to begin his pro career in the Rookie-level Arizona League once he signs on the dotted line. He has a full scholarship for the University of Kentucky, but he told the Daily News he plans to bypass that to join the Angels' organization.
The Angels came into this Draft once again without a first-round pick -- as a result of the compensation tied to Josh Hamilton -- and a desperate need to add high-ceiling pitching talent for a system that's ranked 30th out of 30. They believe they got that with Green, who was ranked 48th in MLB.com's Top 100 heading in.
"We felt like he was the best player to pick at the time," Dipoto said. "Obviously we like Hunter. We've scouted him extensively through this frame, we developed a criteria of what we were looking for in pitchers and we felt like Hunter hit on the criteria. Whether they're high school kids, college kids, junior-college kids -- we're going to pick players that we feel like can have a future impact for the Angels, and he was the best player to suit the need."
Day 2 of the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10, streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 9:30 a.m. PT. Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
The Angels' total bonus-pool money this year is $2,998,200, which ranks 29th in the Majors. For their first selection, they were given $942,000; for their second (95th), it's $541,000.
Green, who doesn't turn 18 until July 12, posted a 1.66 ERA throughout his high school career, striking out 323 batters in 168 2/3 innings. He gave up a run in the first start of his senior season, then didn't allow another one the rest of the year, striking out 110 batters and walking 37 while en route to being the No. 1-ranked player in Kentucky's Class of 2013.
White Sox starter Chris Sale has been thrown around as a comparison, but Green's delivery is more polished, his projection a little more natural. Former Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs, whom Dipoto acquired for the D-backs three years ago, may be the more accurate comparison.
"Hunter Green is a pitcher we liked tremendously, and we are thrilled to select him," Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said in a statement. "He has a good size, a young loose arm and a high ceiling. We project him as a starter, as he has many Major League starting pitcher traits."
Several win-now trades, lucrative free-agent signings tied to compensation, a two-year absence in Latin America and, of course, the rapid graduation of top-tier prospects -- i.e. Mike Trout -- prompted ESPN and Baseball America to label the Angels with baseball's worst farm system in 2013.
The Angels have been left without a first- or second-round Draft choice -- and sometimes both -- in six of the last eight years.
They didn't have a pick in the second round of '06 (due to the signing of Jeff Weaver), either of the first two rounds in '07 (Gary Matthews Jr. and Justin Speier), the first round of '08 (Torii Hunter), the second round in '11 (Scott Downs) and the first two rounds of '12 (Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson). Then there was the Hamilton signing in December, which eliminated Thursday's No. 28 selection.
Shortly after high school, Green worked out for the Rays, Rangers and Braves, clubs that had picks Nos. 29, 30 and 31, respectively. All of them passed, and the Angels jumped in.
"You're never surprised with anything that happens in the Draft because it's such an unpredictable animal," Dipoto said, "but we were definitely excited by the fact we had the opportunity to select him."
In the Pipeline
You don't draft based on need, but Green fills the Angels' greatest void -- high-upside pitching talent.
The Angels' 30th-ranked farm system has little in the way of big arms with big potential, perhaps with the exception of Austin Wood and Mark Sappington, but Green has just that. Yes, he's raw. And sure, high school pitchers are risky. But his delivery is pretty clean, his stuff is lights-out, his frame is ideal and his velocity should increase over time.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less