With no second-round pick to close out their first day of the 2023 MLB Draft where their sole selection was Nolan Schanuel, a first baseman from Florida Atlantic, with the 11th overall selection, the Angels opened up their big board a bit on day two.
Kicking things off with a big college bat who had a sudden rise over the last calendar year, the Angels took Alberto Rios from Stanford in the third round. Rios, announced as a third baseman, has some questions about his future defensive home but answered any questions about his bat after going from a combined eight hitless plate appearances his freshman and sophomore year to slashing .384/.485/.707 with 18 home runs his junior season, which helped name him the Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Despite not having a real defensive home in college, playing mostly left field for Stanford this spring, the Angels worked him out at third and second base during a private workout at Angel Stadium a few weeks ago, and have not ruled out a return to catching after he served as the bullpen catcher as an undergrad, but that won’t happen until at least Instructional League.
“It’s a neat story with him,” said Angel amateur scouting director Tim McIlvaine. “He was recruited by (Stanford). Got there and really just couldn’t get in the lineup. For him – he kept working hard, kept working at it. Something seemed to click for him in the fall and really started swinging it well. Once they put him in there this spring, they couldn’t get him out of the lineup, and he ended up being Pac-12 Player of the Year. We followed him pretty closely. We have a guy that lives in Northern California, Scott Richardson, he’s around there a lot. He started calling me early in the spring and was like, ‘Hey this guy, he didn’t really play, but he’s really good. He’s really swinging it good’. So, we kind of kept tabs on it and he didn’t stop and just got better seemingly every game this spring, so we ended up watching him a lot.”
Despite the short offensive track record, evaluators have faith that Rios can become an impact hitter at the highest levels of professional baseball, and if he can be a catcher, he could be high-end offensive producer at the position that separate him from his catching counterparts.
In the fourth round, the Angels took center fielder Joe Redfield from Sam Houston. Redfield was one of 11 players across Division-1 baseball in 2023 with over 100 hits, his exact total which ranked tied-ninth across D1. The tooled-up outfielder is seen as a future fourth outfield type who has the offensive tools to reach his bench upside and play all three outfield positions.
“He’s a well-rounded player,” McIlvaine said. “He’s a guy that has tools and can touch a lot of different tools. He’s a well-rounded player that can go out and not do anything different. He goes out and just plays his game. He’s gonna get his hits, gonna hit some doubles, gonna hit a few homers, gonna steal some bases, gonna play center field. We’re excited about the athleticism and the excited about the kid too.”
The Angels took a handful of right-handed pitchers on the second day of the draft between Chris Clark (Harvard, 5th Round), Camden Minacci (Wake Forest, 6th Round), Barrett Kent (Pottsboro High School (TX), 8th Round), Chase Gockel (Quincy University, 9th Round), and Chris Barraza (Arizona, 10th Round). McIlvaine has belief in Clark and Kent being starting pitchers through development, with the others having relief upside.
The Angels war room had some buzz about Clark, and one scout in particular fought hard to get his guy, with elation once the Angels took him in the fifth round. Drew Dominguez, an area scout for the Angels, was the signing scout on top prospects Werner Blakely, Caden Dana, and Mason Erla, and expressed a long-founded desire to bring Clark into the organization.
“Drew Dominguez has been talking about (Chris) for years as a guy we need to get,” McIlvaine stated. “Drew stayed on him and was jumping up and down about it still today. We walked out in the hallway after calling (Chris) and Drew was jumping up and down. So excited that we got him. It’s great. It’s fun to see that kind of passion. It’s way easier to take a guy when our scouts have that sort of conviction with players.”
The sole high school player taken by the Angels was Barrett Kent out of Pottsboro High School on the south side of the Texas-Oklahoma border. Kent is a physical and projectable three-sport right-handed prep with four pitches that sits in the low 90’s with a power slider. Kent had an up-and-down year over his senior high school season but finished strong and impressed during a private workout with the Angels in Dallas a few weeks ago. He draws some tool-based traits to the Angels 11th-round selection in 2022, Caden Dana.
“It’s a similar situation,” McIlvaine said of the comparison of Kent to Dana. “Caden is a little more physical. I think Barrett is still going to grow into his body a little bit more. Barrett might throw a little bit harder than Caden right now, but they are similar. They both have four pitches, and both have a really good idea of how to pitch and what they want to do and pitch to their strengths. I think they’re both wired very well. I think they’re both very competitive. I think they’re both smart and both want to be really good. I think both these guys have a great motor and desire to be great.”
Part of the Angels pitching selections was Camden Minacci of Wake Forest, who served as the Demon Deacons’ closer this last spring and parts of his freshman and sophomore years. Wake Forest spent a large chunk of the season as the top ranked college program in the nation and has already seen five pitchers selected in this year’s draft with potentially two more, as well as their primary catcher (Bennett Lee, Detroit, 6th Round). Minacci has two potentially plus pitches in a mid 90’s fastball with sink and a power slider with depth. He has the current command to be a quick-mover through development and had the off-the-box score and aptitude tools to appease the Angels.
“He brings a different kind of energy and fire and excitement to him that other guys just feed off of,” McIlvaine said of Minacci. “He’s not afraid of anybody and he just comes at guys. It’s a good fire that a lot of those backend relievers seem to have.”
Potentially the biggest unknown among the Angels day two draft picks came in Chase Gockel, a right-handed relief pitcher, and grad student at Quincy University in Illinois. Gockel impressed the Angels during their Dallas workout by throwing 93-95 and seeing his fastball reach 98 in the past.
“It’s a good arm and he’s had some struggles before that but seemed to kind of figure it out a little bit,” said McIlvaine. “He got a little bit stronger this past year and he threw the ball really well for us.”
Also included in the Angels day two picks were TCU third baseman Cole Fontonelle and Arizona reliever Chris Barraza. Fontonelle is a big-moment switch-hitter with athleticism to move him around the field, while Barraza is a fastball-dominant reliever with impressive pitch metrics.
When asked about potential day three targets, McIlvaine noted they are looking at all three demographics of high school, junior college, and college players. He noted that they do not have the funds they have had in prior years where they spent a combined $2.8495 million over their non-bonus slot permittance of $125,000, with $3.2 million going to Caden Dana (11th Round, 2022), Chase Silseth (11th Round, 2021), and Mason Albright (12th Round, 2021). McIlvaine said they could play a similar scenario that would garner them a potential second-or-third round type player, though it would not be the same financial situation as Dana and Albright going well over $1 million in bonus expenditures.