The MLB Draft is a hit and miss proposition, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have enjoyed a few such missed during their draft history.
In the world of gambling, there are always winners and losers. In the world of Major League Baseball, there is perhaps no bigger gamble than the yearly MLB Draft.
As is the case with all organizations, the Angels have had their fair shares of successes and failures in the draft. In fact, the first three first-round picks in franchise history only produced one player that played at the Major League level. And out of the first six first-round picks, they saw a grand total of 5.8 wins above replacement. Over 59 years, the team has made 66 picks in the first round and 16 never made it to the big leagues.
Of course, even among the draft failures that the Angels have seen over the years, not all are created equal. Some busts have been bigger than others, but which are the biggest in team history, in terms of first-round picks?
Brandon Wood – 2003 Draft
There may be no further disappointment in terms of prospect potential than that of Brandon Wood. Selected by the Angels with the 23rd overall pick in the 2003 MLB Draft, Wood quickly rose through the minor league ranks after a huge 2005 season where he hit .321/.381/.667 with 43 home runs and 116 RBI between High-A and Triple-A. That performance had him ranked as the #3 overall prospect in the game prior to the 2006 season.
Unfortunately, expectations and reality don’t always add up. Wood struggled with his transition to the game’s highest level. The Angels gave him his first shot at the majors in 2007, and he would see time with the team each year through 2010. However, a propensity for strikeouts hurt and he would only slash .168/.197/.259 with the Halos. He would be waived prior to the 2011 season. Wood would spend the next three seasons bouncing around waivers between five more franchises and would be out of baseball after 2014.
Kaleb Cowart – 2010 Draft
Kaleb Cowart is perhaps an interesting case in failure. Not only has he failed once with the Angels, but he even came back around for another shot.
Cowart was the team’s first-round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft when the Angels chose him with the 18th overall selection. Originally a third baseman, Cowart was slow to develop, but eventually made his way to the majors in 2015. However, he quickly proved that he was at best a Quad-A player, one that succeeds at the upper level of the minors but can’t pull it together in the big leagues. In parts of five seasons with the Angels, Cowart has hit .176/.238/.292 and carries a 29.8% strikeout rate.
After being cut loose by the Angels in the winter of 2018, the Mariners picked Cowart up off waivers and tried to convert him into a two-way player. However, they too waived him after one season, and after a stop with the Tigers, the Angels selected him again prior to the 2019 season. He’s not signed to a minor league deal with the Yankees, but he’ll be hard-pressed to add to his -1.3 bWAR.
Danny Goodwin – 1975 Draft
The Angels have held the first overall pick in the MLB Draft just twice in the organization’s history. Once that pick worked out extremely well for the team (we’ll get to him in a minute). The other time team wasn’t so lucky.
Since the draft was instituted in 1965, only once has a player been selected twice with the first overall pick. Danny Goodwin was originally picked by the White Sox with the first overall pick in 1971 but chose not to sign. The Angels again made him the first pick in 1975 after he graduated from Southern University. With that kind of pedigree, one would almost assume that Goodwin was a can’t miss prospect.
Unfortunately for the Angels and Goodwin, that pressure never amounted to success. He did play in parts of seven seasons at the big league level, including three with the Angels. However, Goodwin ultimately hit just .236/.301/.373 with 13 home runs and 81 RBI over 707 plate appearances. To add insult to the matter for California, they never once used him in the field during his time with the organization, and he was ultimately worth just -1.7 bWAR for his career. The Angels traded him for Dan Ford in 1978
With the 10th overall pick in 2020, will the Angels make a smart choice that proves to be a cornerstone for years to come or will they flop on draft day? We won’t know for years to come, but we’ll be watching closely when they call out their pick.