When evaluating how teams fare in the First-Year Player Draft, the quality vs. quantity debate often comes to the forefront. Is a club better off getting one cornerstone player to build around while whiffing on the rest of its picks, or by acquiring several useful players but not any stars?
The best Drafts end that discussion by scoring on both fronts. And baseball's best Draft of the past decade certainly did that. Jonathan Mayo is going with the 2009 Cardinals, but I prefer another Draft of the same vintage: the 2009 Angels.
That Draft represented a reversal for Los Angeles, which had forfeited several premium picks as free-agent compensation in previous Drafts. The Angels gave up a first-rounder in 2005, a second-rounder in '06, first- and second-rounders in '07, and another first-rounder in '08.
In 2009, they surrendered another first-rounder but recouped five of the top 48 picks for the loss of free agents Mark Teixeira, Francisco Rodriguez and Jon Garland. Los Angeles took full advantage.
With their second overall pick, the 25th overall choice in the first round, the Angels took a New Jersey high school outfielder who would have made their Draft outstanding all by himself. Mike Trout lasted that long because there were some questions about his bat, and he threw his signability into question by putting out a $2.5 million price tag the night before the Draft.
In his two full seasons in the Major Leagues, all Trout has done is demonstrate all-around brilliance and put together the best 20-year-old performance ever followed by the best 21-year-old performance ever. If Los Angeles had performed better as a team, he might have won back-to-back American League MVP Awards.
As great as Trout has been, the Angels' Draft ran a lot deeper than just him. They found another All-Star in the second round with a left-hander who began his college career splitting time between baseball and basketball at Mohawk Valley (N.Y.) Community College.
Patrick Corbin transferred to Chipola (Fla.) Junior College in 2009 and impressed Los Angeles with his solid stuff, command and projectability. Traded to the Diamondbacks a year later in a deal for Dan Haren, Corbin won 14 games and made the All-Star Game in 2013, his first full season in the big leagues.
The Angels also scored with a pair of supplemental first-rounders between Trout and Corbin. California high schooler Tyler Skaggs, another part of the Haren package, had a rough 2013 rookie season in Arizona but still projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter. He returned to Los Angeles in a December trade for Mark Trumbo. University of Oklahoma right-hander Garrett Richards has served the Angels as a swingman the past two years and has the power fastball/slider combination to be a factor as a mid-rotation starter or late-inning reliever.
Los Angeles got value out of two more draftees. Its top choice, Texas prep outfielder, Randal Grichuk, has yet to reach the Majors while battling injuries as a pro, but provided value as trade fodder in a deal that landed David Freese from the Cardinals in December. David Carpenter, a ninth-round righty out of Paris (Texas) Junior College, has made 29 big league relief appearances over the last two years.
The Angels don't get any credit for him because they didn't sign him, but they did identify yet another Major Leaguer in Arizona State left-hander Josh Spence, their supplemental third-round selection. And they did land one more prime-time player, albeit in another sport, when they inked University of Washington outfielder Jake Locker in the 10th round. Los Angeles considered Locker an even better athlete than Trout, though it knew it would lose him to the NFL, where he's the starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans.
A Draft stocked with this much talent seemingly would give the scouting director who orchestrated it plenty of job security. Especially if that director, Eddie Bane, previously had drafted All-Stars such as Trumbo, Jordan Walden and Jered Weaver. (Incidentally, Trumbo was an 18th-rounder and Walden was a 12th-rounder.)
Yet, Angels general manager Tony Reagins dismissed Eddie Bane in September 2010, just 15 months after he oversaw baseball's best Draft in the last 10 years. Not coincidentally, the club's farm system has been on a downhill slide ever since. Reagins lost his job a year later, and the club hasn't advanced to the playoffs in the last four seasons.