HOUSTON -- The Angels entered the 2014 First-Year Player Draft with their first top-15 pick in a decade and a glaring need for high-upside starting pitching in their system.
They hope to have shored that up with big-bodied left-hander Sean Newcomb.
Newcomb, who turns 21 next Thursday, was plucked out of the University of Hartford in Connecticut with the Angels' 15th overall selection on Thursday, representing the organization's first first-round pick in three years.
Newcomb is listed at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, with an electric fastball that sits in the mid-90's, an above-average curveball and a developing slider and changeup that could make him an effective four-pitch starter in the Majors someday. He went 8-2 with a 1.25 ERA in 14 starts for the Hartford Hawks during his junior season, striking out 106 batters and walking 38 in 93 1/3 innings, and has been compared to Red Sox ace Jon Lester.
"We didn't really expect him to be there, to get to us at 15, but somehow, some way, he got to us, and we're thankful," Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said. "He's a good one."
The Angels selected another starting pitcher, high schooler Joe Gatto, with their second-round pick (53rd overall), a right-hander out of St. Augustine Prep in Richmond, N.J. The Draft continues with Rounds 3-10 on Friday. The MLB.com pregame show will begin at 9:30 a.m. PT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 10 a.m.
Newcomb excelled as a three-sport star at Middleboro High School in Massachusetts, getting recruited as a football tight end and also playing basketball, but Hartford was the only Division I school to give him an offer.
In the three years that followed, Newcomb gradually added velocity to a fastball that's one of this best in this Draft, while refining his breaking pitches and building what's deemed a very smooth and easy delivery. He posted a 4.17 ERA in nine starts as a freshman, a 3.75 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) as a sophomore, and was named the America East Pitcher of the Year as a junior, finishing as Hartford's career leader in strikeouts with 243 and easily the best prospect in program history.
In his final game, Newcomb struck out a career-high 14 batters and reportedly sat at 97 mph with his fastball. Shortly after that, he became the earliest Draft pick out of Hartford, topping Jeff Bagwell, a fourth-round pick by the Red Sox in 1989.
"He can get it, top-end, up to 98 [mph]," Wilson said of Newcomb's fastball. "But he'll pitch anywhere from 93 to 95."
The Angels' Draft allotment this year is $5,774,000, which is 20th in the Majors but nearly double that of last year. Major League Baseball has recommended $2,475,600 for their first-round pick and $1,050,600 for their second-round pick.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Angels had their first first-round pick since 2011, when they took first baseman C.J. Cron 17th overall, and they're selecting in the top half of the Draft for the first time since they went with current ace Jered Weaver 12th overall in '04.
The Angels didn't draft until the third round in 2012, a byproduct of signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson the previous December, and selected reliever R.J. Alvarez 114th overall. After signing Josh Hamilton in December 2012, they didn't draft until the second round in June 2013 and took a pitcher with 10 of their first 11 picks, starting with high-school left-hander Hunter Green at 59th overall.
The organization has been scouting Newcomb for the last two years, watching him extensively in the Cape Cod League this past summer and having someone present for almost every one of his starts this spring.
"He's a college kid, but he's just starting to find out who he is," said Wilson, who still isn't sure where Newcomb will start in the Angels' Minor League system after he signs. "We'll monitor him moving forward, and at his pace, there's no telling what he can do. But it's nice to get some starting pitching in here."
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