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November 8, 2013
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Los Angeles Angels Top 10 Prospects
The Top Ten
1. Taylor Lindsey
What Happened in 2013: Lindsey took a step forward to the Texas League and took a step forward with the stick, impressing scouts with his ability to square the baseball to all fields.
Strengths: The hit tool could be plus; shows above-average bat speed; quick hands; can square velocity; can track off-speed; good gap pop; has athleticism to play a passable second base.
Weaknesses: Wide-base setup and leg movement can effect timing and balance; power potential is fringe-average at best; below-average run; below-average range; hands in the field are fringy; arm is average but not a weapon; has to hit.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; above-average player
Realistic Role: Low 5; second division player
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; already achieved Double-A level
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: A much more interesting prospect in deeper leagues, Lindsey is one of the least exciting no. 1 prospects for fantasy that this series will feature. The batting average could be helpful, but the production everywhere else is likely to be middling at best. His best-case scenario is somewhere around Martin Prado for fantasy, which, while underrated, is not a star.
The Year Ahead: Lindsey is the top prospect in the Angels system, but I doubt he would sit atop the list for any other team in baseball. He has a really nice hit tool, and if you are one of those people who really, really believes in it—meaning you think he can develop into a .285-plus hitter at the major-league level—perhaps you can look beyond his other “average-at-best” attributes to see a first-division talent. I like the player and I think he will hit for a good average with some doubles power, but I don’t see a lot of over-the-fence power coming and the overall profile is a bit one dimensional.
Major league ETA: Late 2014
2. Kaleb Cowart
What Happened in 2013: An aggressive assignment to Double-A was met with disappointing results, as Cowart never found any comfort at the plate, especially from the left side, as he hit an anemic .202 against right-handed pitching.
Strengths: Good athlete; good defensive profile at third; arm is plus-plus; glove is above average; in the past, has shown bat speed and control from both sides of the plate; better contact from the right side; bigger power potential from the left side.
Weaknesses: Was a mess at the plate in 2013; timing was off; unbalanced; hands/front foot not in sync; bat speed was noticeably slower; lost his approach; was overmatched and visibly frustrated at times.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; above-average player
Realistic Role: Low 5; second-division player
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; unsuccessful in first pass at Double-A; skills to reach major-league level.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The power is still there for Cowart to be a potential 25-homer guy at the hot corner, and if that can even come with a .250 average, it’s a skill set that will make him sought after in all leagues. But another year like 2013 and he’ll be on the fast track to fantasy irrelevance.
The Year Ahead: Cowart needs to hit the reset button and start anew in Double-A. He never looked comfortable at the plate, and his struggles would compound when he started pressing. The defensive profile at third is nice, and if the bat can get back on track, this is a prospect worthy of top 50 consideration.
Major league ETA: 2015
3. C.J. Cron
What Happened in 2013: Cron arrived at the Double-A level and slugged 51 extra-base hits, but his streaky nature and one-dimensional skill set limit his value and leave his long-term projection up for debate.
Strengths: Monster raw; capable of tape measure shots; game power could play to plus; crushes left-handed pitching; body has improved year-to-year; better movement at first.
Weaknesses: Struggles against arm-side pitching; hit tool is below average and unlikely to play to average; power is only carrying tool; well below-average run; fringe defender at first.
Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league regular
Realistic Role: High 4; platoon bat
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; power profile with Double-A experience.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The big man has both his eligibility and his potential hit tool working against him from a fantasy perspective, but the power will be worth all of the headaches if he can become a 25-plus homer guy. His value in the near term also takes a hit as being a 1B/DH prospect in an organization long on age and short on defensive flexibility clouds his path.
The Year Ahead: Cron is a powerful human with plus right-handed power potential, but the overall profile is tough to sell. He’s unlikely to hit for a high average and major-league quality pitching will be able to exploit his weaknesses at the plate, which include putting poor swings on spin on the outer half. But he has the potential to hit 25 bombs, and you can overlook a lot of skill-set deficiencies for 25 bombs. He should start in Triple-A and produce, but the real test will come at the highest level, where the power isn’t as easy to bring into games as it at the minor-league level. He will be tested.
Major league ETA: Late 2014
4. R.J. Alvarez
What Happened in 2013: Alvarez was pure filth in the California League, missing 79 bats in only ~48 innings, holding opposing hitters to a .191 average.
Strengths: Big arm strength; fastball is impact weapon; works mid-90s and higher with ease; good vertical life; shows quality slider in the mid-80s; attacks hitters; late-innings mentality.
Weaknesses: Delivery has effort; arm slot inconsistency; (now throwing from low ¾); slider can flatten out; shows both a curveball and changeup that don’t grade to average; command is below average at present.
Overall Future Potential: 6; late-innings reliever (setup)
Realistic Role: 5; middle relief
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; has the fastball to pitch at highest level
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: As a pure relief prospect, Alvarez has very limited value. He could be a big strikeout guy (think 80-plus in a good season), but using minor-league roster spots on players who are so role dependent for value isn’t the best use of resources.
The Year Ahead: Alvarez is on the fast track to the majors, and could show up as soon as 2014. The fastball is a weapon, working in the 95-97 range with life. The slider flashes plus, and it should get there, giving him two impact pitches to work with in short bursts. The command isn’t sharp, but with a little more refinement he could develop into a late-innings arm, one capable of an eventual setup role.
Major league ETA: Late 2014
5. Mark Sappington
What Happened in 2013: Across two stops and 27 starts, Sappington showed off the impressive arm strength, routinely working the fastball into the mid-90s and backing it up with a very good slider.
Strengths: Big arm; excellent size/strength; fastball can start slow (90-93) but builds as he goes along, often sitting in the 95-96 range by mid-game; pitch has some vertical action; slider is preferred breaking ball; can flash plus in the mid-80s with good tilt; intense competitor; high energy; works fast.
Weaknesses: Command is well below average; slows body down on secondary offerings; will show a curveball and a changeup; neither of which projects to be an average pitch.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter
Realistic Role: 5; middle/long relief
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; fastball to play but command needs improvement.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The stuff is there for Sappington to do some damage in strikeouts, but he’ll give back all of that value (and more) if he doesn’t start finding the plate more consistently. With that said, the ballpark and lack of pitching depth in Los Angeles will help his cause—it’s just not a profile to get all that excited about right now.
The Year Ahead: Sappington should continue to be developed as a starter, as he will offer more value as a no. 4 in a rotation than as a middle or long reliever. But the delivery isn’t sexy smooth, and the command profile and secondary execution are inconsistent, so he might not be able to avoid his long-term fate in the bullpen. But with a very good fastball and a very competitive streak, Sappington might exceed his projection in this role and develop into an arm with late-innings impact potential.
Major league ETA: 2015
6. Randal Grichuk
What Happened in 2013: Grichuk enjoyed good health for the second straight season, allowing him to take a step forward in his development and move beyond the injury issues that slowed his progress after being drafted.
Strengths: Good athlete; can handle the demands of right; arm is solid-average; has good raw strength and power; can drive the ball out of the ballpark; good natural lift to the swing; has some bat speed; good hitter against left-handers; leaves it all on the field.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t make consistent contact; struggles against arm-side pitching; will get aggressive at the plate; susceptible to good off-speed stuff; lacks up-the-middle defensive profile; has power but hit tool could limit utility.
Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division player
Realistic Role: High-4; platoon bat/4th outfielder
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; injury free for two full seasons; 500 at-bats at Double-A level.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Outside of AL-only leagues, Grichuk has minimal value, as the combination of non-sexy eligibility and a fantasy ceiling that is barely above replacement leaves a lot to be desired.
The Year Ahead: Grichuk could develop into an average player at the highest level, which sounds like a pejorative outcome, which is far from the truth. If you assume the hit tool manages to play to fringe-average, but he makes enough contact to let his raw power play, Grichuk could be a .250 type with 15-20 bombs, all from a decent defensive profile in right field. That’s a second-division player, and that’s probably the ceiling here, but that’s still a valuable commodity to have under cost control for six seasons.
Major league ETA: Late 2014
7. Alex Yarbrough
What Happened in 2013: I know it’s the California League, but Yarbrough had a really good season at the plate, hitting 32 doubles, 10 triples, 11 home runs, while also swiping 14 bases.
Strengths: Lacks loud tools but shows baseball skills; fast hands at the plate; can square velocity; can use the entire field; good gap pop; hit tool could reach plus; balanced from both sides of the plate; runs well; instincts for the game.
Weaknesses: Aggressive approach; can get beat by off-speed; power is below average; makes plays, but defensive profile is fringe-average; hit tool is only weapon.
Overall Future Potential: 5; average major-league player
Realistic Role: High 4; below-average major-league player
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; shows baseball skills; ready for Double-A test.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Playing a full season in the California League can pump up a prospect’s trade value in dynasty league formats and Yarbrough’s solid statistical year overstates his fantasy case. Best left for only the deepest of formats, as an okay average and a few steals just isn’t an exciting package, even at second base.
The Year Ahead: Yarbrough has a difficult profile, as he’s a hit-tool second baseman who lacks above-average weapons on either side of the ball. He can play the game, and his bat might be better than people realize; he can square velocity from both sides of the plate and use the entire field, so the bat has a chance to play. The over-the-fence power is unremarkable, but he can put a change into the ball, so you can’t just sleep on him. Thanks to his instincts, Yarbrough’s overall game is better than what the individual tool grades might suggest, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he developed into a decent little player at the highest level.
Major league ETA: Late 2015
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2011, Venezuela
What Happened in 2013: The 19-year-old Venezuelan returned to short-season ball, putting up impressive numbers at the plate and showing scouts his well-rounded defense up the middle.
Strengths: Advanced player; clean actions in the field; smooth; arm is solid-average; can make the throws; has instincts for the game; quick hands at the plate; can drive the ball; has some pop; good approach; not a burner but can run.
Weaknesses: Lacks high-end tools; arm isn’t a weapon; more polish than projection; range could be an issue at short; could grow out of the position.
Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average player
Realistic Role: High 4; utility player
Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; yet to achieve full-season level
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The real-life package at this point looks more attractive than the one for fantasy, especially when you factor in the age/risk. However, if he can continue to show the ability to take a walk and limit his strikeouts, Rondon could become an undervalued player in points leagues—even if he steals only 15-20 bases with a few homers sprinkled in.
The Year Ahead: Rondon is ready for the full-season challenge, as his advanced approach to the game and polish should allow him to have success. He lacks explosive tools, but a solid-average skill set at a premium position has a lot of value, even if the bat ends up playing down the lineup. Rondon is unlikely to develop into a top-tier prospect, but a good performance in the Midwest League could elevate his stock and cement his place on the prospect landscape.
Major league ETA: 2017
9. Ricardo Sanchez
What Happened in 2013: The Angels signed the Venezuelan southpaw for $580,000, using more than a quarter of their international bonus pool.
Strengths: Easy, fluid delivery; fastball velo jumped during instructs; pitch worked comfortably in the low 90s; good movement; good feel for sharp curveball in the upper 70s; shows highly projectable CH; good overall feel for command; high-end poise and makeup.
Weaknesses: Can rush the delivery; leave the ball arm-side and up; CH can get too firm; overthrows it; limited height; offerings can lack plane.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 2/3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4/5 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Extreme; no professional experience
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The Angels’ system is so bereft of players with potential fantasy impact that I’d likely take a gamble on Sanchez over nearly half of the players in front of him on this list. The chance that he’s the pitching prospect everyone’s talking about in 2016 is small, but at least there’s a chance.
The Year Ahead: Sanchez is an exciting prospect, not only because of the promise found in the arsenal but the complete lack of professional experience. Sanchez gets to throw his first professional pitch in 2014, most likely at the complex level, but his showing at instructs was enough to force a Pavlovian prospect response. With a smooth and easy delivery, a present fastball that sits 91, a promising CB that has touched 80, and the beginnings of a changeup that could develop into his money pitch, Sanchez is well on his way to becoming a very high-end prospect.
Major league ETA: 2018
10. Hunter Green
What Happened in 2013: The Angels’ second-round pick struggled in his brief professional debut, but the projectable lefty didn’t even turn 18 until July.
Strengths: He’s a 6’4’’ lefty; projectable body and arsenal; good athlete; fast arm; from ¾ slot, works fastball in 85-92 range; good life to the arm side; fastball projects solid-avg to plus; upper-70s changeup is another plus potential offering; good sink and fade; big confidence in the pitch.
Weaknesses: Command is well below average at present; struggles to stay in his delivery/finish; fastball velo ebbs and flows; curveball is below average; limited depth.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 5 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; limited professional record; underdeveloped at present
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Solely for fantasy purposes, Green fits the bill of a chance to take. He may have plenty of risk, but you’re making a play for the upside—and whether his downside is a back-end starter or a guy who never makes it out of Double-A isn’t of much consequence for fantasy owners. He’s a good use of a later draft pick if you want to take someone with a shot to be a tradable commodity after the 2014 season.
The Year Ahead: The Angels have a lot to work with in Green, a highly projectable left-handed pitcher with good athleticism and feel for craft. He’s clearly raw, with poor command and delivery issues at present, but it’s not a stretch to see a player that develops a consistent low-90s fastball to pair with a plus changeup and a passable breaking ball. The projection is substantial but the journey is long and the risk is high.
Major league ETA: 2018
Prospects on the Rise:
2. RHP Keynan Middleton: Highly projectable and athletic pitcher, Middleton can already work the fastball in the low 90s that touches higher, with multiple breaking ball looks. The command isn’t there yet, and the changeup is still a baby, but Middleton is new to the mound and has already taken big developmental steps forward in a short amount of time. He could be ready for another jump in 2014.
3. LHP Nate Smith: Smith is a relatively unknown name, an eighth-round selection in the 2013 draft out of Furman. While Smith is unlikely to emerge as a name prospect, his combination of present stuff and polish will allow him to move very quickly. Smith is a strike thrower with an upper-80s/low-90s fastball, good changeup, and plus pitchability.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2014)
2. RHP Mike Morin: With good command and a very good changeup, Morin crushed two stops in 2013, and looks to be a on the verge of a major-league contribution in 2014. The fastball isn’t special—working in the low-90s—but he can spot it and set up his secondary arsenal, which includes a slower slider and the aforementioned changeup, a weapon he deploys to both lefties and righties.
3. RHP Cam Bedrosian: When healthy, Bedrosian can look the part of a nasty late-innings reliever, working his four-seamer in the mid-90s, with a low-80s slider and a hard cutter. But the command comes and goes, and when he works up in the zone, he flattens out and becomes hittable. If he can stay on the field, he can move fast through the upper minors, with a chance to reach the majors this season.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/88 or later)
If not for the addition of Mike Trout to the top of this list, the construction of an under-25 ranking for the Angels would represent an extremely depressing endeavor. As it stands, the Angels have precious little young talent at the major-league level, leaving this list much the same as the one provided above.
Trout clearly sits atop this list, as though that would ever be in question, just as he would sit at or near the top of just about any list of the top players in the game today. Behind him are two potentially solid everyday players in Lindsey and Cowart, though both have enough question marks that scouts are not universal in their projection of the two players.
Garrett Richards logged 145 innings in the major leagues in 2013 and could very well slot into the back of the Angels rotation in 2014, assuming the club decides to head in a different direction than running Jerome Williams and Joe Blanton out there yet again. The potential to pitch in the back of the rotation keeps Richards ahead of a late-inning reliever like R.J. Alvarez on this list, but not by all that much.
I can truthfully say that the Angels had no other viable candidates for this list, leaving the remainder of the organization’s under-25 talent the same as the original prospect list. For Angels fans looking for a silver lining in an otherwise disappointing year, all I can do is urge you to continue focusing on Mike Trout’s greatness and hope that players Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols come back strong in 2014 to help pull the team into contention, because considerable help is unlikely to be on the way from the minor-league ranks. –Mark Anderson
A Parting Thought: On the surface, this isn’t a very good system, as the top tier lacks big impact potential and the depth comes in the form of future relievers and second-division types. But the lower minors hold some interesting talent, as players like Rondon, Sanchez, Green, and Middleton could emerge as legit prospects in 2014, taking the farm to a higher level.