The Angels chose left-hander Sean Newcomb with the 15th overall pick of Thursday’s amateur draft, and at least one expert believes the hard-throwing University of Hartford pitcher could help the Angels out of the bullpen this season.
“I think he’ll be the first guy in this draft to get to the big leagues,” MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds said after the Angels made a first-round pick for the first time since 2011. “If you want a left-hander who can get a big leaguer out, I think this is the guy.
“They need help in the back of that bullpen. It’s going to take some time for [Newcomb] to get there, but I do think if you’re talking about a guy being able to come up, maybe affect a pennant race in September by getting a left-hander out, I think he’s my guy.”
Angels scouting director Ric Wilson is extremely high on Newcomb, whom he said “looks a lot like Jon Lester,” but he would not go so far as to say the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder would have an impact in the big leagues this summer.
“That’s Harold speaking,” Wilson said. “I think we’ll take it a little slower with him. That’s not my department, but I don’t see that happening.”
Newcomb, a native of Marlboro, Mass., was drafted as a starter. He has touched 98 mph with his fastball, and he mixes that with a curveball, slider and changeup.
He was not projected as a first-round pick going into his junior year at Hartford but improved dramatically throughout a season in which he went 8-2 with a 1.25 earned-run average and 106 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings.
“We didn’t expect him to get to us at 15, but somehow, some way, he got to us, and we’re thankful,” Wilson said. “He’s a big kid with a good delivery. His arm works easy. He has a mid-90s fastball, he spins a nice breaking ball, he commands the strike zone, and he keeps getting better and better.”
Thursday’s selection of Newcomb marked the first time the Angels had a first-round pick since 2011 when they chose infielder C.J. Cron — they lost their top picks in 2012 and 2013 as compensation for signing free agents Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
It was their highest pick since they used the 12th overall selection of the 2004 draft on current ace Jered Weaver.
Major League Baseball has suggested a bonus of $2.4756 million for the 15th overall pick.
The Angels used their second-round pick, the 53rd overall selection, on Joe Gatto, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-handed pitcher from St. Augustine Prep in Richland, N.J., which is not far from Angels center fielder Mike Trout’s hometown of Millville.
A three-sport star who played quarterback on the football team, Gatto, whose fastball has touched 97 mph, went 7-1 with an 0.94 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings this season, a performance that earned him a scholarship offer from the University of North Carolina.
“He’s a high-ceiling right-hander with really long limbs and a powerful body,” Wilson said. “He’s a little bit unpolished, but he has a tight-spinning breaking ball with good velocity, he throws downhill, he has an athletic delivery and good arm action.
“Being from New Jersey and playing so many sports, he hasn’t had the exposure or the time on the mound, but we’re excited to have him. We’ve had a good day, for sure.”
The draft will resume with the third round on Friday.