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February 8, 2013
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Top 10 Prospects
The Top Ten
1. Kaleb Cowart
What Happened in 2012: In his full-season debut, Cowart crushed in the Midwest League before a promotion to the California League, where the 20-year-old showed above-average potential on both sides of the ball.
Strengths: High-impact profile; quality athlete, with size/strength; shows plus hit tool potential from the right side; plus power potential from the left side; bat should play on both sides; shows bat speed and the ability to drive the ball; has a plan at the plate; 7 arm in the field; good glove; good reactions; above average defensive profile at third.
Weaknesses: Shorter to the ball from the right side; left-side swing has more leverage and length; mechanics can get hitchy and can get tied up inside; needs to clean up actions in the field; can rush setup with pickup and throws.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division player/all-star potential
Explanation of Risk: High risk; very good present skills and high projection, but has yet to succeed at Double-A level; gap between present/future.
Fantasy Future: Has all the tools to stick and excel at third base, while bringing a balanced offensive attack to the plate, with a chance to hit .280-plus with 20-plus HR.
The Year Ahead: A player of Cowart’s skill could return to the friendly environments of the California League and pad his statistical profile, but from a developmental standpoint, a jump to the Double-A level will present the real challenge. Often referred to as the level that separates the players and the pretenders, Double-A will force adjustments in the young hitter, and possibly setbacks. As a switch-hitter, Cowart will no doubt be turned around from the left side with more frequency, so the contact ability will need to improve. He can show swing length, and even though it comes with more power, better pitching could find a way to exploit those weaknesses. If he survives his journey through the Texas League, he could be knocking on the major-league door in 2014.
Major league ETA: 2014
2. Nick Maronde
What Happened in 2012: On the back of his southpaw fastball/slider combo, Maronde took a journey through the minors in 2012 and eventually found himself pitching out of the major-league bullpen.
Strengths: Smooth delivery; repeatable; good command profile; shows good arm strength; in the rotation, fastball worked upper 80s to low 90s, spiking slightly higher; slider is effective bat misser; sharp in the 83-84 range; both pitches play up in bursts.
Weaknesses: Lacks overwhelming raw stuff; fastball can straighten out and find barrels; can work up and be flyball prone; changeup is often too firm; below average offering; limited ceiling.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter/late-inning relief potential
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; already achieved major-league level; mature skill-set/approach.
Fantasy Future: Has the body and delivery to log innings, but only two pitches that play average or above; could be better fit for the bullpen, possibly in a late-inning capacity (set-up).
The Year Ahead: Depends. As a reliever, Maronde could make the 25-man roster and bring his fastball/slider combo to the big stage. As a starter, he will probably require more time in the minors, most likely working in the Triple-A rotation until an opportunity presents itself. Maronde has a high floor but a moderate ceiling, and despite some late-inning potential, is unlikely to develop into a high-impact arm at the highest level.
Major league ETA: 2012
3. C.J. Cron
What Happened in 2012: Despite playing with a body that was less than 100 percent, Cron made his full-season debut in High-A ball, showing off his raw power by slugging over .500.
Strengths: Plus-plus raw power; strong human; shows good bat control despite strength-heavy swing; showed ability to work with arm-side pitching; hit tool could develop to average; enough to allow power to play at plus or above; conditioning improved during season; lost bad weight and took steps forward on defense.
Weaknesses: Below-average athlete; low energy at times; 2 run; 4 glove; fringe-5 arm; hit tool shows some holes; needs to work deeper into counts; fastball appetite could make him vulnerable to soft/spinning.
Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league regular
Explanation of Risk: High risk; has yet to pass the Double-A smell test; future tied to bat because of defensive limitations.
Fantasy Future: Bat-first player with legit power potential; could hit .260 with 25-plus bombs from first base profile; not a stolen base threat; might clog.
The Year Ahead: We mention this often, and will continue to mention it when applicable. Double-A is a huge test for hitters, as pitchers can exploit weaknesses by showing better offspeed stuff and command. It should also be noted that the Texas League is tiny and with teams getting multiple looks the book on hitters can get written very quickly. This forces hitters to adjust (in theory) or suffer under the weight of their own deficiencies. Cron brings back varied reports, as some aren’t sold that he can handle more advanced pitching, while others think he will mash all the way up the chain. If he can work deeper into counts and wait for mistakes, he has the type of raw power to take a step forward on the prospect front. But many prospects met their fate at the Double-A level, as their lower level skill-set just wasn’t up to the challenge. Huge year for Cron. Is he a pretender or a prospect?
Major league ETA: 2014
4. Randal Grichuk
What Happened in 2012: Finally healthy after two injury-shortened seasons, Grichuk re-emerged as a prospect, ripping 57 extra-base hits in a return to the California League.
Strengths: Excellent raw power; shows ability to generate bat speed; can rake against left-handed pitching; fastball hitter that can make loud contact to all field; not flashy with the leather but make it work; 5 glove; arm is solid-average; lacks big speed but runs well; heady player.
Weaknesses: Aggressive approach; pitchers with a plan can trip him up; hit tool doesn’t project above average (might end up below average); lacks plus defensive tools; hasn’t been able to stay on the field.
Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league regular
Explanation of Risk: High risk; minor injuries on resume, but only one full season so far; questions about hit tool/approach.
Fantasy Future: Could develop into league-average corner bat, with low batting average but 20-plus HR potential and the occasional base swipe.
The Year Ahead: The Double-A test. Like Cron, reports are mixed on Grichuk, and with approach and hit-tool issues, he is a good candidate for exploitation in the Texas League. He’s a gamer with legit bat speed and pop, but will he be able to hit quality stuff with any consistency? He has a chance to make it, but is unlikely to develop into an impact bat at the highest level.
Major league ETA: 2014
5. Taylor Lindsey
What Happened in 2012: If you like pretty-looking swings from fringe-average second basemen that play the game with intensity, buy stock in Taylor Lindsey.
Strengths: Impressive bat speed from whippy swing; knows how to square up a baseball; line drive hitter; good eyes on right-handed pitching; tracks well and can hang with offspeed offerings; improved on defense; glove could play around average at second.
Weaknesses: Hit tool is only above-average tool; unlikely to be power threat; struggles against arm-side pitching; swing mechanics/setup can leave him in bad hitting conditions; defensive profile on right side of infield is fringe at best; arm is fringe; glove is below average with only fringe projection; will need to maximize to reach highest level.
Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division player
Explanation of Risk: High risk; hit tool only carrying tool; has to really hit to play.
Fantasy Future: Has the potential to hit for a high average (~.280) with some gap pop; unlikely to hit beyond 10 HR in a season; unlikely to be a big stolen base threat.
The Year Ahead: Stop me when you’ve heard this: The Double-A test. Lindsey can swing the bat and he should be able to make contact at any level, at least against right-handed pitching. But his setup can get noisy and leave him behind plus stuff, and next-level pitching could chew him up. Again, just like the previous reports, if he can make the necessary adjustments, he can put himself in the major league conversation going forward. If not, he won’t be the first player to hit the professional wall at the Double-A level. It’s a make or break level, and it’s a make or break season for Lindsey. Is he a major-league caliber player or just a minor-league caliber player?
Major league ETA: 2014
6. RJ Alvarez
What Happened in 2012: He signed, moved straight to full-season Low-A, and punched out 38 hitters in 27 innings out of the bullpen.
Strengths: Excellent arm strength; mechanical deception; fastball works 94+; can touch 97+; creates good angle on the offering; shows impressive late life; slider flashes plus; thrown with good velocity and can achieve depth; intense two-pitch burst; late-inning approach.
Weaknesses: Max-effort mechanics; looks violent at times; falls off to third base side in finish; command is loose; works up and loses movement/angle; limited arsenal/profile.
Overall Future Potential: 6; frontline setup reliever
Explanation of Risk: Moderate; limited professional resume, but impressive two-pitch mix that could make him a fast comer.
Fantasy Future: Has the stuff to miss bats in a late-inning capacity; might be able to close.
The Year Ahead: If he remains in the bullpen, has a chance to move very quickly and reach the Double-A level over the summer. With a plus-plus fastball that can work in the mid-90s with wiggle and a two-plane slide, he has a chance to find a home at the back of a bullpen. The command will need to improve, and the mechanics look a bit funky and dangerous, but some arms can just make it work and more power to the 21-year-old old if he can continue to pull it off. Relievers don’t make great prospects, but they can turn into very valuable players at the highest level, and Alvarez has a major-league quality arm.
Major league ETA: 2014
7. Mark Sappington
What Happened in 2012: The on-the-field production doesn’t scream top 10 prospect, but the combination of size, velocity, and secondary potential make Sappington one of the more interesting arms in the Angels’ system.
Strengths: Impressive size; high-end arm strength; good reports on arm action; fastball will work from low-mid 90s; shows natural weight; has a chance to play up even more in bursts; slider shows at least above-average potential; plays well off his fastball; changeup could be average offering with more work.
Weaknesses: Still finding comfort in body; very long and can get out of whack (mechanically); slider has potential but is inconsistent and can get slurvy; changeup will take time; fringe command profile; bullpen/starter debate.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter/late-inning reliever
Explanation of Risk: High risk; only rookie ball on resume; secondary arsenal needs grade jump to play.
Fantasy Future: Has the body to chew innings; heavy fastball to force weak contact and slider potential to miss a few bats; could be back-end workhorse.
The Year Ahead: Sappington will most likely be developed as a starter, and he can work to refine his command and his secondary arsenal through workload. At the end of the day, he might be a reliever, one that could probably pump a heavy mid-90s fastball in the zone and try to sweep the deck with a slider. He’s far from a finished product, and as he finds the muscle memory and coordination in his body, he might take a bigger step forward than expected. Could go either way, but all the reports were high on the potential and a full year in the developmental machine will help to show us what is really possible.
Major league ETA: 2015
8. Austin Wood
What Happened in 2012: With only 1.1 innings of professional ball on his resume, Wood moved up to the Midwest League and logged 26 starts and over 127 innings.
Strengths: Excellent size/present strength; very good arm strength; fastball will work 92-95+; in bursts, fastball can play as a 7 pitch; amateur curve became pro slider; works low-80s with some bite; improved in second half of season; became more confident in secondary arsenal; more utility/sequence.
Weaknesses: Mechanically inconsistent; elevates fastball; loses arm speed on breaking ball; changeup can get firm and lose action; can get deliberate on secs; command profile is below average; reliever profile.
Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league reliever (late-inning potential)
Explanation of Risk: High risk; shaky mechanical profile and only one pitch that grades plus at present.
Fantasy Future: In bursts, can work fastball in mid-90s and touch a little higher; breaking ball can play up and miss bats; could develop into set-up type if command improves.
The Year Ahead: Wood will continue to be developed as starter to encourage command and secondary pitch growth, but his future role is most likely in the bullpen. As a starter, he can log innings and battle, but his arsenal is better suited for specialization, where the fastball can carry more of the load and the slider can be a weapon used to miss bats. He has a long way to go before he will jump into the major league discussion, but the arm strength is very legit and after another season of development, he could be ready to take a step forward as a power reliever.
Major league ETA: 2014
9. Jose Rondon
What Happened in 2012: Making his stateside debut as an 18-year-old, Rondon impressed scouts with his promise on both sides of the ball.
Strengths: Good athlete, with projection; shows good bat-to-ball skills for age/developmental level; already has a good two-strike approach; can shorten up and go to the opposite field; has skills for left side of the infield; arm is high 5; glove is 5; solid-average run.
Weaknesses: Added 20 lbs during the season, but needs to continue to get stronger; contact can be soft; doesn’t project as big power threat; might not have the range or true actions for shortstop at the highest level; might not have the bat for third; lots of developmental unknowns.
Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular
Explanation of Risk: Extreme; complex-league resume; wide gap between present/future grades.
Fantasy Future: Could hit .270-plus with extra-base hit potential; much better profile at shortstop.
The Year Ahead: Rondon has a chance to jump straight to a full-season league, where his bat-to-ball skills and overall approach to the game could elevate his stock. His game comes with several question marks and it’s going to take time to figure who this player really is. But if he can stick around at short and show off some offensive potential, his stock will soar.
Major League ETA: 2017
10. Eric Stamets
What Happened in 2012: The offensive stats might leave you flat, but observers were quick to champion Stamets’s defense, with multiple sources claiming that he has the chops to play the position at the major-league level right now.
Strengths: High quality defensive profile; arm is plus; glove is plus; shows impressive range; instincts for the position; plus run; shows some contact ability; good fastball hitter; competitor.
Weaknesses: Fringe offensive profile; limited pop; struggled with offspeed pitch recognition; doesn’t project to average for hit tool.
Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; glove can play now but bat is major roadblock for major league success
Fantasy Future: If he reaches his potential, could be ~.260 hitter with some secondary skills; unlikely to be more contact/speed type; down-the-lineup shortstop.
The Year Ahead: Players with defense-first profiles rarely get the love, but at the highest level, they can offer tremendous value. Of course, they have to get there first. Stamets has a long road to the show, despite owning a defensive package that some observers suggest is ready for the main stage now. It doesn’t have to hit a ton to make it work, but based on the projections, he will need to get close to his offensive ceiling to have a chance. The fallback is a utility player, but even that outcome will require some life in the bat. The promise is there, and if the bat has a heartbeat in 2013, expect more people to jump on the bandwagon.
Major league ETA: 2015
Prospects on the Rise:
1. 2B Alex Yarbrough: With solid bat-to-ball skills and good baseball instincts, Yarbrough is a player that could easily be included in the top 10 prospects in this system. It’s a right-side profile, but if the bat reaches its potential, he’s a major leaguer.
2. RHP Cam Bedrosian: After losing a season to injury, Bedrosian slowly put himself back together on the mound, logging over 80 innings and making 21 starts. Ignore the results, as pitching was more important than production, and a return to health was the developmental trophy of the season. While currently a starter, Bedrosian projects as a reliever, where a plus-plus potential fastball and hard two-plane breaking ball could make him an impact arm out of the ‘pen.
3. OF Natanael Delgado: A low-six figure Dominican signee, Delgado turned heads in his stateside instructional league appearance, and looks to start next season in the AZL. It’s very early in the process, but Delgado projects to hit for both average and power with an eventual corner defensive profile.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013
1. OF Kole Calhoun: Gamer profile with the versatility to play all three outfield spots, Calhoun might not bring the thunder with the stick, but he’s a tough out and shows good situational ability. It’s a bench profile, but he’s a cost-effective player that raises the intensity level with his approach to the game.
2. OF Andrew Romine: Another role player, Romine brings a solid approach and a left-side defensive profile to the roster. While the bat has question marks, its not as empty as it once appeared, and even though he’s unlikely to log significant time as a starter, Romine can step into a lineup without falling on his face.
3. 3B Luis Jimenez: While the 25-year-old Dominican isn’t going to impress many observers with his defensive prowess or his approach at the plate, he can swing a bat and he can do some damage if you make a mistake. It’s not an ideal profile for a major leaguer, but if the opportunity prevents itself, Jimenez is a good candidate to step into a major league role and show some skill with the stick.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/87 or later)
In one sense, the Angels are a balanced organization. The club’s top talents over 25 form a gorgeous pool of high role 5 and role 6 major leaguers; the under-25 group, with the exception of the golden boy, is very underwhelming. Before we dive into it, it should be noted that Peter Bourjos misses this list by one day; he would have been third if eligible.
One reason the team lacks young impact talent is its aggressive, win-now mentality. The Halos forfeited their top two 2012 draft picks after signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. The club turned prospects Alexi Amarista and Donn Roach into Ernesto Frieri to stop the bullpen’s bleeding back in May. Finally, in a July attempt to boost their playoff chances, the Halos shipped Jean Segura, Johnny Hellweg, and Ariel Pena to Milwaukee for Zack Greinke. The club will also forfeit its top pick again in 2013 after signing Josh Hamilton this offseason.
The point of a farm system is produce major-league talent. The Angels have done that, albeit in a rather inefficient way. The current group of youngsters isn’t very good. Cowart is really likeable as a future impact talent, and Nick Maronde probably has a bright future too, but the system is mostly stocked with replacement-level or slightly better talents.
Hank Conger will have a chance to be the team’s backup catcher behind Chris Iannetta, and Garrett Richards could be a useful long man out of the pen, while also adding some depth to the back of the rotation in 2013, should another arm fail or get injured. But the Angels have something that nobody else does.
Mike Trout is really, really good. You get it. He has a chance to be a legend, and he makes this U25 group respectable. The farm system isn’t good, but the organization is. —Hudson Belinsky
A Parting Thought: The system has seen better days, but the scouting and developmental grand slam the Angels hit with Mike Trout gives them a pass.
Special thanks to Mark Anderson and Hudson Belinsky for their input and influence on this list.