2001: A Draft Odyssey
Casey Kotchman played for his father Tom with the Provo Angels for about a week before spraining his wrist and missing the rest of the 2001 season.
Baseball analysts recall the 2001 amateur draft as one of the deepest talent pools in recent history. The first two players chosen were Joe Mauer (Twins) and Mark Prior (Cubs). Mark Teixeira (Rangers) went #5 overall.
Drafts are more art than science — remember Colt Griffin? The Royals chose him at #9. All velocity and no control, he played five minor league seasons, never higher than Double-A. In 373 2/3 innings, his strikeout-to-walk ratio was 271:278. That’s not a typo.
The Angels had two extra picks in early rounds as compensation for the Rangers signing reliever Mark Petkovsek — a supplemental pick after the 1st round (#33 overall), and the Rangers’ third-round pick.
In a talent-rich year, it was thought this might be the Angels’ best draft ever. In the immediate years that followed, it seemed likely that would be a reality.
Such judgments in retrospect are, of course, strictly subjective. But although none of the players chosen by the Angels in the draft became superstars, many went on to play in the majors.
Who were the major leaguers? By round:
Casey Kotchman 1B (1st)
Jeff Mathis C (1st, supplemental)
Dallas McPherson 3B (2nd)
Steven Shell RHP (3rd, compensation)
Jake Woods LHP (3rd)
Matt Brown 3B (10th)
Ryan Budde C (12th)
Nick Gorneault OF (19th)
Stephen Andrade RHP (32nd)
Two didn’t play in the majors, but are now coaches in the Angels’ minor league system. Catcher Brent Del Chiaro manages Cedar Rapids, and Mike Eylward is their hitting coach.
Sixth rounder Quan Cosby never made it above Low-A, but went on play wide receiver for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.
Kotchman, Mathis and McPherson were considered top prospects, and it would be fair to say none of them achieved expectations.
Casey Kotchman reached the majors in 2004, called up from Double-A Arkansas after Darin Erstad was injured. He was eventually packaged with minor league pitcher Stephen Marek in a trade to the Braves for Teixeira. Casey went on to Boston and Seattle but never achieved his potential. This year at age 28, he’s having a career year with his home town team, the Tampa Bay Rays. In 328 at-bats, his AVG/OBP/SLG are .332/.394/.457.
Jeff Mathis has started 59 of the Angels’ 113 games to date. Manager Mike Scioscia values him for his defense and game-calling. Jeff never manifested in the majors the offense he showed in the lower minors, and many fans question why Scioscia continues to play a catcher whose AVG/OBP/SLG are .181/.226/.259.
Dallas McPherson reached the majors in 2004 but was never healthy. A lower back injury that began in spring training 2003 grew worse over the years, eventually resulting in a series of increasingly invasive surgeries. The Angels granted him free agency after the 2007 season, and since then Dallas has led a nomadic baseball existence. He played briefly for the Marlins in 2008 and was called up earlier this year by the White Sox, where he was 2 for 15. He currently plays third base for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights.
Was it the Angels’ best draft ever?
Probably not. But of the thirty drafted players who signed, nine appeared in the major leagues. And that’s not bad.