HOUSTON -- The Angels entered the 2014 First-Year Player Draft with their first top-15 pick in a decade and a glaring need for high-upside starting pitching in their system.
They hope to have shored that up with big-bodied left-hander Sean Newcomb.
Newcomb, who turns 21 next Thursday, was plucked out of the University of Hartford in Connecticut with the Angels' 15th overall selection on Thursday, representing the organization's first first-round pick in three years.
Newcomb is listed at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, with an electric fastball that sits in the mid-90's, an above-average curveball and a developing slider and changeup that could make him an effective four-pitch starter in the Majors someday. He went 8-2 with a 1.25 ERA in 14 starts for the Hartford Hawks during his junior season, striking out 106 batters and walking 38 in 93 1/3 innings, and has been compared to Red Sox ace Jon Lester.
"We didn't really expect him to be there, to get to us at 15, but somehow, some way, he got to us, and we're thankful," Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said. "He's a good one."
|1||HOU||LHP Brady Aiken|
|2||MIA||RHP Tyler Kolek|
|3||CWS||LHP Carlos Rodon|
|4||CHC||C Kyle Schwarber|
|5||MIN||SS Nick Gordon|
|6||SEA||OF Alex Jackson|
|7||PHI||RHP Aaron Nola|
|8||COL||LHP Kyle Freeland|
|9||TOR||RHP Jeff Hoffman|
|10||NYM||OF Michael Conforto|
|11||TOR||C Max Pentecost|
|12||MIL||LHP Kodi Medeiros|
|13||SD||SS Trea Turner|
|14||SF||RHP Tyler Beede|
|15||LAA||LHP Sean Newcomb|
|16||ARI||RHP Touki Toussaint|
|17||KC||LHP Brandon Finnegan|
|18||WAS||RHP Erick Fedde|
|19||CIN||RHP Nick Howard|
|20||TB||1B Casey Gillaspie|
|21||CLE||OF Bradley Zimmer|
|22||LAD||RHP Grant Holmes|
|23||DET||OF Derek Hill|
|24||PIT||SS Cole Tucker|
|25||OAK||3B Matt Chapman|
|26||BOS||SS Michael Chavis|
|27||STL||RHP Luke Weaver|
|28||KC||LHP Foster Griffin|
|29||CIN||SS Alex Blandino|
|30||TEX||RHP Luis Ortiz|
|31||CLE||LHP Justus Sheffield|
|32||ATL||OF Braxton Davidson|
|33||BOS||RHP Michael Kopech|
|34||STL||RHP Jack Flaherty|
Newcomb excelled as a three-sport star at Middleboro High School in Massachusetts, getting recruited as a football tight end and also playing basketball, but Hartford was the only Division I school to give him an offer.
In the three years that followed, Newcomb gradually added velocity to a fastball that's one of this best in this Draft, while refining his breaking pitches and building what's deemed a very smooth and easy delivery. He posted a 4.17 ERA in nine starts as a freshman, a 3.75 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) as a sophomore, and was named the America East Pitcher of the Year as a junior, finishing as Hartford's career leader in strikeouts with 243 and easily the best prospect in program history.
In his final game, Newcomb struck out a career-high 14 batters and reportedly sat at 97 mph with his fastball. Shortly after that, he became the earliest Draft pick out of Hartford, topping Jeff Bagwell, a fourth-round pick by the Red Sox in 1989.
"He can get it, top-end, up to 98 [mph]," Wilson said of Newcomb's fastball. "But he'll pitch anywhere from 93 to 95."
The Angels' Draft allotment this year is $5,774,000, which is 20th in the Majors but nearly double that of last year. Major League Baseball has recommended $2,475,600 for their first-round pick and $1,050,600 for their second-round pick.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Angels had their first first-round pick since 2011, when they took first baseman C.J. Cron 17th overall, and they're selecting in the top half of the Draft for the first time since they went with current ace Jered Weaver 12th overall in '04.
The Angels didn't draft until the third round in 2012, a byproduct of signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson the previous December, and selected reliever R.J. Alvarez 114th overall. After signing Josh Hamilton in December 2012, they didn't draft until the second round in June 2013 and took a pitcher with 10 of their first 11 picks, starting with high-school left-hander Hunter Green at 59th overall.
The organization has been scouting Newcomb for the last two years, watching him extensively in the Cape Cod League this past summer and having someone present for almost every one of his starts this spring.
"He's a college kid, but he's just starting to find out who he is," said Wilson, who still isn't sure where Newcomb will start in the Angels' Minor League system after he signs. "We'll monitor him moving forward, and at his pace, there's no telling what he can do. But it's nice to get some starting pitching in here."
Halos go with high school arm Gatto in Round 2
HOUSTON -- The Angels had so much success drafting a player out of high school in South New Jersey five years ago that they decided to take a shot on another.
With their second-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft on Thursday night, they selected right-hander Joe Gatto out of St. Augustine Prep in Richland, N.J. -- located less than 15 miles from Millville, hometown of superstar center fielder and 2009 first-round Draft pick Mike Trout.
Gatto, who turns 19 next week, is listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, can already touch 95 mph with his fastball and has a scholarship to the University of North Carolina that he may not take. Shortly after being selected, Gatto (@JGatt33) tweeted "South Jersey reunion" to Trout (@Trouty20). Trout's response: Congrats man that's sick! #RepresentSJ
Gatto's selection came after the Angels took left-hander Sean Newcomb, a junior out of the University of Hartford in Connecticut.
"Another high-ceiling pitcher," Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said of Gatto, whom Wilson described as having "really long length and a powerful body."
Added Wilson: "He's a little bit unpolished, but he's got a little tight spinning breaking ball with high velocity, he's a three-sport athlete, throws the ball downhill, he's a quarterback in football. Just everything you're looking for."
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 9:30 a.m. PT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 10 a.m.
The assigned signing bonus for the No. 53 pick is $1,050,600 and, according to The Press of Atlantic City, Gatto's advisor is agent Jeff Randazzo of MVP Sports Group -- a firm that represents Albert Pujols, among several other high-profile Major Leaguers.
Gatto finished his senior year going 7-1 with a 0.94 ERA, striking out 65 batters in 52 1/3 innings and closing out the season with three shutouts. He also played quarterback as a freshman and sophomore, and starred on the basketball team as a junior.
"He's from New Jersey and hasn't had the exposure or the time on the mound, just because he plays so many sports," Wilson said. "But, man, we're really, really excited to have him, too. We've had a good day, for sure."
Gatto, considered the Cape-Atlantic League's highest-profile Draft pick since Trout, is the second straight high school pitcher taken by the Angels in the second round, joining 2013 59th overall pick Hunter Green from Kentucky.
The Angels, their farm system ranked last in the Majors by Baseball America the last two years, had a first-round pick for the first time in three years and entered the Draft with a glaring need for high-upside starting pitching.
Last year, 10 of their first 11 picks were pitchers.
Will they take a similar route this year?
"A lot of it comes down to what happens on the board as you're moving down it," Wilson said. "There are some position players that it's a little bit deeper with, too, so let's just see how it all plays out. But we gave ourselves some leeway to do some things with these first two picks that opened us up to be a little bit more creative and do some things."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.