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March 30, 2012

Future Shock

AL West Prospect Preview

by Kevin Goldstein

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Los Angeles Angels

Affiliate to Watch: Obviously, wherever Mike Trout is, which is Triple-A Salt Lake. However, Double-A Arkansas wins the overall quality and quantity award with shortstop Jean Segura, and a rotation that should feature power righties John Hellweg and Ariel Pena. The Low-A Cedar Rapids squad has youth to watch, especially infielders Kaleb Cowart and Taylor Lindsey.

Trade Bait: With a deep rotation in the big leagues, the top pitchers could be available, but only in blockbusters. Lefty Trevor Reckling could generate some interest as a change-of-scenery type.

Breakout Candidate: While it seems strange to call a player who hit .362 last year a breakout candidate, Lindsey was the talk of Angels camp early on and could easily end up a Top 101 prospect following his full-season debut.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets to The Big Leagues: Reliever David Carpenter's stuff doesn't match his crazy numbers–including a 1.77 career ERA with 10.3 strikeouts per nine–but he's polished enough to help out the bullpen in the second half of the season.

Fans Are Too Excited About: Right-hander Garrett Richards' inability to grab a fifth starter job that's there for the taking shows that he remains a frustrating combination of good stuff and inconsistent results.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Jean Segura: 2-1
Taylor Lindsey: 6-1
John Hellweg: 8-1
Kaleb Cowart: 10-1
C.J. Cron: 25-1

Oakland Athletics

Affiliate to Watch: After acquiring so much talent in the offseason, the Triple-A Sacramento roster is suddenly packed, with leftover and frustrating sluggers Chris Carter and Michael Taylor to be joined by newcomers Derek Norris, Jarrod Parker, and Brad Peacock, as well as 2009 first-round pick Grant Green.

Trade Bait: Look for the A's to add more prospects come July, with Kurt Suzuki being their most valuable trading chip.

Breakout Candidate: The A's were pleasantly surprised to have right-hander Sonny Gray plummet to the 18th pick last June, and after an impressive spring performance, he'll begin his first full season at Double-A Midland.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets to The Big Leagues: While the A's are loaded with young outfielders, Jermaine Mitchell has the potential to be an outstanding fourth outfielder or second-division starter, and is arguably ready now.

Fans Are Too Excited About: While I ranked Parker as the No. 2 prospect in the system, his stuff is still not all the way back from his pre-Tommy John days. It's plenty good, and enough for him to turn into a well above-average starter in the big leagues, but ace potential seems to be a thing of the past.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Michael Choice: 2-1
Sonny Gray: 4-1
A.J. Cole: 8-1
Derek Norris: 15-1
Grant Green: 25-1

Seattle Mariners

Affiliate to Watch: With the Mariners deciding not to send top prospect Taijuan Walker to High Desert due to both his talent and the offensive environment, Double-A Jackson will have the best rotation in the minor leagues. Walker will be joined by lefty James Paxton and 2011 No. 2 overall pick Danny Hultzen. Enjoy it early because it won't last long.

Trade Bait: Quick quiz: You run the Mariners, and while they are clearly improving, the team is 10 games out in July with no shot at the playoffs. Ichiro is hitting .320 and only has a limited no-trade clause. What do you do?

Breakout Candidate: Third baseman Francisco Martinez is still just 21 years old and has constantly been pushed up the ladder. Repeating Double-A could allow him to get grounded and unlock his offensive potential. 

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets to The Big Leagues: Reliever Forrest Snow features a heavy fastball that could get him to Seattle in the second half of the year.

Fans Are Too Excited About: While his minor league numbers were nothing short of outstanding last year, Vinnie Catricala is likely limited to first base or left field by the time he gets to the big leagues, and his bat falls short of first-division expectations there.

Odds to Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Taijuan Walker: 2-1
No. 3 overall pick in 2012 draft: 3-1
James Paxton: 10-1
Danny Hultzen: 20-1

Texas Rangers

Affiliate To Watch: Already interesting enough due to the presence of third baseman Mike Olt, the Double-A Frisco team suddenly became much more interesting with the mildly surprising assignment of 19-year-old shortstop Jurickson Profar, whose timetable could force some interesting decisions down the road. Still, the lower levels can't be beat, including a Low-A Hickory squad that could feature catcher Jorge Alfaro, second baseman Rougned Odor, lefty and 2011 first-round pick Kevin Matthews, as well as an outside shot of 17-year-old Dominican first baseman Ronald Guzman.

Trade Bait: The Rangers have never shied from pulling off big deals at the deadline, and Mike Olt is a very attractive target who is blocked in Texas by Adrian Beltre. Enigmatic left-hander Martin Perez might also go on the table due to overall pitching depth.

Breakout Candidate: Jordan Akins' tools are nothing short of incredible, but he might also be the breakout candidate for the next three years while he attempts to translate athleticism into baseball skills. Alfaro could be a more realistic candidate, and he's shown some signs of an improved approach this spring.

Don't Be Surprised If He Gets To The Big Leagues: If Mitch Moreland's struggles at the plate continue, Olt could slide across the diamond to present some temporary relief.

Fans Are Too Excited About: While Odor has an extremely advanced hit tool for his age, he's a risky prospect, as he's limited to the right-side of the infield and he hasn't shown much in the way of secondary skills, so he'll have to hit all the way up the ladder.

Odds To Be 2013 No. 1 Prospect:
Jurickson Profar: 5-4
Mike Olt: 15-1
Martin Perez: 20-1
Jorge Alfaro: 30-1
Ronald Guzman: 50-1

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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