Next up in our series looking at each club's five largest amateur signing bonuses, the Angels…
- Jered Weaver, $4MM (2004)
- Kendry Morales, $3MM (2004)
- Kaleb Cowart, $2.3MM (2010)
- Troy Glaus, $2.25MM (1997)
- Joe Torres, $2.08MM (2000)
Coming off a junior season at Long Beach State in which he posted a 1.62 ERA with 213 strikeouts and just 21 walks in 144 innings (13.3 K/9, 1.3 BB/9), Weaver was the best pitching prospect in the 2004 draft but fell to the 12th overall pick due to bonus demands. The Scott Boras client held out until the following May (this was before the days of the signing deadline), pitching in an independent league to stay sharp in case he re-entered the draft in 2005. The Angels eventually got him to sign, and just about a year later he was in the big leagues. Weaver has a 3.55 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 144 career big league starts. He earned his first trip to the All Star Game in 2010, leading the AL with 233 strikeouts.
Morales defected from Cuba as a 21-year-old during the summer of 2004, signing with the Angels that December after establishing residency in the Dominican Republic. The $3MM bonus was paid up front as part of his six-year, $4.5MM major league contract. That deal just expired this season, but the Halos still control him as an arbitration eligible player for the next three years. The switch-hitting first baseman is a .284/.336/.502 career hitter in 1,240 big league plate appearances, coming into his own with a 43 double, 34 homer season in 2009.
The third overall pick in 1997, Glaus zoomed through the minors and made his major league debut in July 1998. A three-time All Star with the Angels, Glaus hit 40+ homers twice with the team, leading the AL with 47 big flies in 2000. He was named the World Series MVP during the team's 2002 title run, and overall hit .253/.357/.497 in six-plus years with the Angels before signing with the Diamondbacks as a free agent after the 2003 season. That $2.25MM bonus, a staggering amount at the time, was a tremendous investment. The Angels got their money's worth and then some.
Cowart was the the team's first round pick this year, the 18th overall selection. He hit .192/.214/.308 in just 28 plate appearances down in rookie ball after signing, but his career will begin in earnest next season. Torres flamed out after being the tenth overall pick in 2000, never getting out of Single-A. He missed part of 2003 and all of 2004 after having Tommy John surgery, and left the team as a minor league free agent after the 2006 season. Torres threw 375 innings in the Angels' system with a 5.40 ERA.
Casey Kotchman is right behind Torres at $2.075MM. He was the 13th overall pick in 2001. Mike Trout, the best prospect in baseball and the 25th overall pick in the 2009 draft, was originally asking for $2.5MM to sign last year, but he settled for $1.215MM. Through 807 minor league plate appearances, he's a .344/.426/.489 hitter.
The Angels have really suffered by not signing guys over slot. There were a lot of years where they just didn’t have a 1st round pick. However, there were deals to be had if you are willing to spend. This has caused the current predicament where there aren’t a lot of real high ceiling guys in the system.
Overall though – it’s impressive that their big gambles have really paid off (exception being Torres).
It was one year of non playoffs. Looking at their track record it seems to me they have done an admirable job at not over spending and still being HIGHLY competitive. As a fan I do wish they would splurge on over slot impact guys, but you really cant argue with their ability to draft right and not spend exorbitantly. They seems to develop pitching very well (albeit quietly) and struggle to develop power bats.
Actually, they have over spent on a number of players, but mainly free agents. Vladdy, Colon, Escobar, and Guillen were all given more than anyone else was willing to give them and that’s why all 4 of them signed in 2003/2004. Only one of those players actually fulfilled his contract. This is a big reason why they refused to offer an extra year to Vladdy, Figgy, and Lackey this past offseason. The front office is still feeling the wounds. We all know what happened with Gary Matthews. The Angels pretty much pulled a “Yankees” with Torii Hunter, which brings me to my point. After 2010, look for Arte Moreno to just go ahead and open the wallet again and give free agents that extra year, as well as paying them $5 million more than what they are really worth. The question this time is if they are players who either don’t have possible future injury/stamina concerns (Colon, Escobar) and/or don’t have serious clubhouse issues (Guillen).
I think the Angels system is underrated. While the lack of power bats has been a concern in the past (although Mark Trumbo, Trout, and Cowart might help with that), they’ve managed to pull up some great starting and relief pitchers, and solid role-player types. And when they’ve needed to make a trade, they’ve still been able to do so. Although I wish desperately they could somehow undo the Kazmir trade…you know, for that package, plus one more high ceiling prospect, they might have been able to land Cliff Lee in the offseason, even if they still had to get another team involved. Oh well…
This is probably one of the best lists of all I’ve seen posted so far.