Staying true to what was 'a strong focus,' Los Angeles Angels use all 20 draft picks to select pitchers

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The Los Angeles Angels made unique draft history this week: They made 20 picks in the 20-round draft and selected 20 pitchers.

The only other team to select all pitchers in a draft was the Miami Marlins a year ago, but MLB shortened that draft to just five rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miami University right-hander Sam Bachman was the Angels' first-round pick -- one of 19 college pitchers they selected. The only high school selection was 12th-round pick Mason Albright, from the IMG Academy in Florida.

Angels scouting director Matt Swanson said the team didn't necessarily rule out selecting a position player, especially in the earlier rounds, but at some point during the final 10 rounds on Tuesday decided to "let it ride."

"Today was really targeting pitching. It's obvious," he said. "We took 20 pitchers. That was a strong focus for us today. There were so many valuable pitchers to bring into the organization, so just go all out and play the hot hand."

The Angels have emphasized drafting pitching under Swanson in previous drafts as well. In 2017, 13 of their first 20 picks were pitchers. In 2018, 16 of their 20 were pitchers, although their top two selections were position players. In 2019, 17 of their first 20 choices were pitchers, although the top two were again position players. This year the Angels went all in.

"It's not excluding other subsets of players, but I was a pitcher myself and understand the wear and tear and how difficult it is to find pitching," Swanson said. "Again, it's a commodity you can't have enough of, so take as many as you can and take the ones you believe in."

Pitching has long been an issue for the Angels, the primary reason the team hasn't made the playoffs since 2014. When Shohei Ohtani starts Tuesday's All-Star Game in Denver, he'll be the first Angels pitcher to appear in an All-Star Game since Jered Weaver in 2012. (Hector Santiago was selected in 2015, but did not pitch).

The Angels currently rank 12th in the American League with a 4.90 ERA and the starting rotation has a 5.06 ERA.

Swanson suggested one reason the club went all-in on pitching was simply the depth of pitching available due to last year's draft getting shortened to five rounds and more college juniors returning for their senior seasons instead of turning pro.

"A lot of guys who got squeezed last year and two classes condensed into one," he said.

The Angels weren't the only organization to invest heavily in pitching in this draft. Cleveland drafted 19 pitchers out of its 21 selections, all of them college players. The Dodgers didn't draft a position player until the 16th round and selected 17 pitchers out of 19 picks. The first two of those were high school pitchers, but the rest were college or junior college selections. The Giants selected pitchers with their first nine selections, with eight of those coming from the collegiate ranks.

Swanson said the team views the young position players in its minor league system a strength, making the choice to target pitching easier.

"It's not fully intentional, but a little more of an advanced pitching group [in the draft] sort of offsets the depth of position players we have. It probably injects a little bit of balance into the system."