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February 17, 2009

Future Shock

Los Angeles Angels Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Four-Star Prospects
1. Jordan Walden, RHP
2. Nick Adenhart, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
3. Hank Conger, C
4. Trevor Reckling, LHP
5. Peter Bourjos, CF
6. Tyler Chatwood, RHP
7. Will Smith, LHP
8. Mark Trumbo, 1B
9. Manuarys Correa, RHP
10. Luis Jiminez, 3B
11. Sean O'Sullivan, RHP

Just Missed: Robert Fish, LHP; Kevin Jepsen, RHP; Alex Torres, LHP

Ranking Challenges: They were numerous. It's very hard to properly value Nick Adenhart's still-optimistic scouting reports against his mediocre performance record. As for Hank Conger-is it fair to assume he's still a catcher? There is a ton of dead wood in the upper levels of the system, and it's hard to determine which of the high-ceiling young players have the best chance to succeed.

1. Jordan Walden, RHP
DOB: 11/16/87
Height/Weight: 6-5/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 12th round, 2006, Mansfield HS (TX)
2008 Stats: 2.18 ERA at Low-A (107.1-80-32-91), 5.71 DERA; 4.04 ERA at High-A (49-42-24-50), 7.69 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 3

Year in Review: This high-profile draft-and-follow shined in his full-season debut last year.
The Good: In a league loaded with talented pitchers, one scout thought Walden was the Midwest League's best pure arm. His fastball often sits at 93-94 mph, touches 98, and features incredible sink and run, turning him into that rare pitcher who is both a strike-out artist and a ground-ball machine. He has a classic power pitcher's frame, clean arm action, and excellent stamina.
The Bad: Walden's development path will depend on how his secondary offerings come along. His slider has promise, but he frequently gets around on the pitch, causing it to flatten out, while his changeup is still pretty rudimentary.
Fun Fact: He made two starts against Low-A Kane County in 2008, allowing just two hits over 13 shutout innings.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a number two starter if the secondary stuff comes around.
Glass Half Empty: He ends up as a bullpen artist if it doesn't.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Angels have four good starters in their prime or younger, but that could change by the time Walden is ready.
Timetable: He'll likely return to High-A to begin the year, and he could reach Double-A by the end of the season.

2. Nick Adenhart, RHP
DOB: 8/24/86
Height/Weight: 6-3/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 14th round, 2004, Williamsport HS (MD)
2008 Stats: 5.76 ERA at Triple-A (145.1-173-75-110), 5.94 DERA; 9.00 ERA at MLB (12-18-13-4), 8.18 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: He was the top prospect entering the year, and got off to a great start, but things went downhill in a major way following a poor big-league debut in '08.
The Good: Scouts still see a lot to like in Adenhart, despite his struggles. He has three pitches that grade as average or above, beginning with a low-90s fastball that can touch 95 mph, a very good slider, and a solid changeup. He has clean, easy arm action and maintains his stuff deep into games.
The Bad: Most of Adenhart's struggles last year can be attributed to his command. Some scouts felt that his confidence plummeted following the stint with the Angels, when he began trying to paint the corners and make each pitch perfect, as opposed to just trusting his stuff and letting it fly. Others saw him as pitching backwards; getting behind in the count by throwing breaking balls in the dirt and then being forced to come in with fastballs.
Fun Fact: He allowed just three earned runs in his first five starts for Triple-A Salt Lake last year, and finished the season by allowing just one earned run in his final two outings. In the 19 starts in between, his ERA was 7.75.
Perfect World Projection: Many scouts still see Adenhart as a third starter, perhaps a little better.
Glass Half Empty: He's been given a bit of a mulligan for 2008, but if he keeps pitching like he did, it's hard to see anything good in his future.
Path to the Big Leagues: If he pitches well, there is an opening at the back end of the Angels rotation.
Timetable: The Angels want to see Adenhart turn it around at Triple-A before they give him another shot. If he does, the opportunity is still there.

3. Hank Conger, C
DOB: 1/29/88
Height/Weight: 6-0/205
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2006, Huntington Beach HS (CA)
2008 Stats: .303/.333/.517, .242 EqA at High-A (73 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 4

Year in Review: He's a slugging catcher who kept on hitting last season while continuing to deal with non-stop injuries that prevent him from playing behind the plate.
The Good: Conger certainly can hit. He has significant strength and a quick, quiet, level swing that has most projecting him to hit for both average and power. He makes consistent hard contact to all fields, and had little trouble hitting Double-A pitchers during the postseason. His arm strength is above average.
The Bad: The biggest question mark for Conger has always been his ability to stay at catcher; a series of injuries, the two largest involving back and shoulder problems, have had him spending more time on the disabled list or as a designated hitter than behind the plate. He has a massive frame, limited mobility behind the dish, and his only other positional option would be first base. He needs to improve his plate discipline, though scouts are optimistic on that front, as he doesn't take many bad cuts.
Fun Fact: Huntington Beach was the first high school to ever have a varsity surfing program, and the school has produced more pro surfers than baseball players.
Perfect World Projection: He'll become an offense-oriented catcher who hits in the middle of a big-league lineup.
Glass Half Empty: If he can't catch, what is he? Craig Wilson?
Path to the Big Leagues: Mike Napoli has a firm grip on the Angels' catching job for now.
Timetable: Conger will begin the year at Double-A, and reports are that he is healthy. More eyes will be on what he does behind the plate, as opposed to what he does when he steps up to it.

4. Trevor Reckling, LHP
DOB: 5/22/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/205
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 8th round, 2007, St. Benedict's Prep (NJ)
2008 Stats: 3.37 ERA at Low-A (152.1-137-59-128), 7.51 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: This little-known eighth-round pick exceeded all expectations in his full-season debut in 2008.
The Good: With his silky-smooth mechanics and plus-plus athleticism for the position, Reckling offers significant projection. His 89-92 mph fastball features significant sink and run, and he already has a quality breaking ball that flashes plus at times.
The Bad: He still has some rawness in him. His control is better than his command is right now, and his changeup could use some refinement. He ran out of gas toward the end of the season, and needs to prove he can hold up under a full starter's workload.
Fun Fact: An all-boys Catholic School in the Newark area, St. Benedict's is known more for having one of the best soccer programs in the country, with many alumni in the MLS and Euro leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He's a future third or fourth starter.
Glass Half Empty: He settles in as a starter at the back end of the rotation, or as a swingman.
Path to the Big Leagues: While the Angels' rotation is full right now, there's not much ahead of him in the minors; the pitching is quite shallow at the upper levels.
Timetable: Reckling will face a tough test this year pitching for the Angels' High-A affiliate at Rancho Cucamonga in the southern division of the California League.

5. Peter Bourjos, CF
DOB: 3/31/87
Height/Weight: 6-1/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 10th round, 2005, Notre Dame HS (AZ)
2008 Stats: .295/.326/.444, .229 EqA at High-A (121 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 7

Year in Review: The best athlete in the system competed for the California League batting title in '08 before a second-half slump, but he still led the circuit with 50 stolen bases.
The Good: Bourjos' all-around set of tools rank with that of anyone else's in the system. He has a quick bat and gap power, and his best tool is speed that grades 60-65 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. His quickness is made even more valuable in center field and on the basepaths due to his outstanding instincts and his strong arm.
The Bad: His tools are that of a leadoff man, but he's an impatient hitter with an uppercut in his swing that results in contact issues. Scouting reports caught up to him in the second half last year, as pitchers began feeding him a steady diet of breaking balls, which led to a significant drop in his batting average.
Fun Fact: The son of a scout, Bourjos was a teammate of Cubs catching prospect Michael Brenly (son of former big-leaguer and Cubs color-man Bob Brenly) at Notre Dame High in Scottsdale.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be an everyday center fielder.
Glass Half Empty: His lack of plate discipline will make him a fourth outfielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: There's no rush, as Torii Hunter is signed through 2012.
Timetable: Bourjos will move up to Double-A in 2009.

6. Tyler Chatwood, RHP
DOB: 12/16/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2008, Redlands East Valley HS (CA)
2008 Stats: 3.08 ERA at Rookie-level (38-25-36-48)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: The Angels' top selection in the 2008 draft was raw, messy, but nonetheless impressive in his full-season debut.
The Good: Chatwood defies the clichés usually attached to small-statured pitchers by featuring a lightning-quick arm that allows his fastball to sit at 91-94 mph, and he's touched as high as 97 without using significant sink on the pitch. His breaking ball is a plus offering right now, and he's an exceptional athlete who also has pro-level talent as a position player with plus speed and gap power.
The Bad: Chatwood has had little need for a changeup so far in his career, so the effectiveness of the pitch is still well behind his other offerings. His biggest problem is with his control; there's already some grunt in his delivery, and when he overthrows he loses track of the whereabouts of the strike zone.
Fun Fact: Batters leading off an inning against him in the Arizona Summer League went 3-for-33 with 14 strikeouts (and seven walks).
Perfect World Projection: A solid major league starting pitcher.
Glass Half Empty: His body can't handle 200 innings, and he ends up in the bullpen.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's too soon for any concern.
Timetable: This spring Chatwood will need to prove that he's ready for a full-season assignment, but it's more likely he'll work on throwing strikes prior to a June assignment to Orem in the Pioneer League.

7. Will Smith, LHP
DOB: 7/10/89
Height/Weight: 6-5/215
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: 7th round, 2008, Gulf Coast CC
2008 Stats: 3.08 ERA at Rookie-level (73-73-6-76)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: Another late pick who already looks like quite the find, Smith had scouts in the Pioneer League wondering how 228 players were selected before him in last June's draft.
The Good: Like Reckling, Smith is a big, athletic lefty with a ton of projection. He fills the strike zone with an 88-92 mph heater that should gain a couple of ticks as he matures. He can miss bats with his hard, slurvy breaking ball, and he also has some feel for a changeup.
The Bad: His excellent control can be a problem, and he needs to improve the way he sets up batters and make better use of his chase pitches when ahead in the count, as he offers too many hittable pitches in each at-bat. He needs to commit more to his breaking ball, with most feeling that it would work better as a true slider.
Fun Fact: Smith faced 73 batters with runners in scoring position at Orem in his pro debut without issuing a single walk.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a mid-rotation starter, maybe a bit more.
Glass Half Empty: His secondary stuff still has a ways to go in order for him to have a true three-pitch mix, and he could end up in the bullpen.
Path To The Big Leagues: He's still at least three years away.
Timetable: Smith will make his full-season debut at Low-A Cedar Rapids.

8. Mark Trumbo, 1B
DOB: 1/16/86
Height/Weight: 6-4/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 18th round, 2004, Villa Park HS (CA)
2008 Stats: .283/.329/.553, .247 EqA at High-A (103 G); .276/.311/.496, .242 EqA at Double-A (32 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: This bonus baby who had been seen by some as a failed prospect suddenly broke out last year by leading the organization in home runs (32) and RBI (93).
The Good: Trumbo's calling card is his plus-plus power, which began to show itself in game situations after he stopped trying to yank every pitch and just allowed his natural hitting ability and strength work for him. He makes surprisingly consistent contact for a power hitter, and team officials praise the work ethic he showed during his previous struggles.
The Bad: This is a pure hitting prospect. He's big, unathletic, slow, and a poor defensive first baseman. He's an aggressive hitter who needs to work the count and wait for more drivable pitches.
Fun Fact: While Trumbo is the only player ever drafted out of Villa Park High, the school does have a baseball connection, having graduated Kevin Costner.
Perfect World Projection: He's a solid everyday first baseman.
Glass Half Empty: The season he had in 2008 was a fluke, his aggressiveness hurts him at the upper levels, and he ends up as a Quad-A type.
Path to the Big Leagues: The loss of Mark Teixeira has created an opening at first base, but Trumbo isn't in the picture yet.
Timetable: He'll return to Double-A to begin 2009, and he could get a look by the end of the year if he keeps on mashing.

9. Manuarys Correa, RHP
DOB: 1/5/89
Height/Weight: 6-3/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007
2008 Stats: 2.65 ERA at Rookie-level (57.2-56-10-67); 6.20 ERA at Rookie-level (20.1-32-5-17)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: The best young Latin pitcher in the system, he excelled in his state-side debut last season.
The Good: Correa has an intriguing combination of polish and projection. His fastball sits at 91-93 mph, touches 95, and with his long, lanky frame, he could develop even more velocity in the future. His slider is a solid offering with good two-plane break, and he has good control of his pitches.
The Bad: Like Smith, Correa has more control than command; he grooves too many pitches and needs to learn to throw his slider effectively out of the strike zone. His changeup is below average, and while he repeats his delivery well, there are a lot of arms and legs in it.
Fun Fact: He faced 34 batters in the fourth inning for the AZL Angels. Six got hits, and 18 struck out.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a third starter in The Show.
Glass Half Empty: There is still a long, long way to go.
Path to the Big Leagues: Well, for now he's at least got a path to a full-season league.
Timetable: Correa will likely join Smith in what is shaping up to be an interesting rotation at Low-A Cedar Rapids.

10. Luis Jimenez, 3B
DOB: 1/18/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005
2008 Stats: .331/.361/.630 at Rookie-level (66 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: He's a little-known Dominican prospect who led the Pioneer League in '08 in doubles (28) and home runs (15).
The Good: Jimenez' hitting skills are highly advanced. He has that special brand of bat speed that allows him to wait on pitches before unleashing his swing, leading to consistent hard contact to all fields with considerable pull-power. Some scouts see more power coming as his frame fills out, and in the field he's a solid third baseman with a good arm.
The Bad: Despite the prodigious numbers that he put up at Orem, most give him average-to-plus scores on his power due to the league and park. He's a highly impatient hitter whose excellent plate coverage works against him at times, as he rarely finds himself in a hitter's count. While he has all of the tools needed to stay at third base, he could use some improvement on his jumps and footwork.
Fun Fact: Usually hitting fourth or fifth in the Orem lineup, Jimenez was strangely ineffective during 11 games out of the three-hole, where he hit .213/.229/.426.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a classic run-producing third baseman.
Glass Half Empty: Prospect history is littered with Pioneer League mashers who proved to be no more than the flavor of the month.
Path to the Big Leagues: If Brandon Wood is a third baseman, Jimenez is blocked. If not, the road is clear.
Timetable: Jimenez has a shot to move way up on this list if he can deliver a repeat performance at Low-A Cedar Rapids.

11. Sean O'Sullivan, RHP
DOB: 9/1/87
Height/Weight: 6-1/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2005, Valhalla HS (CA)
2008 Stats: 4.73 ERA at High-A (158-167-50-111), 7.46 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: He's a finesse righty who had an up-and-down campaign in the tough California League last year.
The Good: Sullivan's fastball grades up from its average velocity due to its location and movement, and he already has a full three-pitch arsenal with a plus curve and an average changeup with nice depth and fade. He understands his limitations, pitches within himself, and has a knack for setting up hitters.
The Bad: Sullivan's velocity has dipped from what it once was, and some question his conditioning, as his body became soft and his stuff even softer during the final month of the season, when he was often sitting at just 85-88 mph. He doesn't have a real knockout pitch, so there is little room for error in his game.
Fun Fact: While Valhalla High also produced slugger Tony Clark, its most famous alum is Olympic diving gold medalist Greg Louganis.
Perfect World Projection: He'll become a back-end innings eater.
Glass Half Empty: He'll settle for being a strike-throwing middle reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: To be determined once it's seen what he can do at the upper levels.
Timetable: O'Sullivan will advance to Double-A Arkansas in 2009.

The Sleeper: Shortstop Andrew Romine's .260/.347/.336 line at the age of 22 in the Low-A Midwest League is hardly anything to write home about, but he draws walks, runs very well, and was the best defensive shortstop in the league.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (as of Opening Day 2009)

1. Howie Kendrick, 2B
2. Brandon Wood, 3B/SS
3. Jordan Walden, RHP
4. Erick Aybar, SS
5. Kendry Morales, 1B
6. Nick Adenhart, RHP
7. Jose Arredondo, RHP
8. Sean Rodriguez, 2B
9. Hank Conger, C
10. Trevor Reckling, LHP

Well, they do still have young talent, and what we have here is a list of players that I more or less still believe in. Howie Kendrick? I still think he's going to get healthy and hit .340 one year. Wood? He'll hit 30 home runs once the Angels just pick a spot for him, put him there, and leave him there. Aybar still has great tools, and I'm also not convinced that first base is going to be an offensive black hole, based on some nice reports on Morales this winter. Jose Arredondo showed that you really can go far if you just have a very good fastball, while I'd like Sean Rodriguez more if he could play on the left side or had shown anything in the majors during his time there.

Summary: The Angels' system is down significantly from previous years, as free-agent signings have severely hamstrung them in the draft, while other prospects have disappointed. Other than for Adenhart, it's going to take the players on this list some time to arrive.

Up next: the Minnesota Twins.


Director of Player Development Abe Flores explains how the Angels reload to avoid rebuilding, and the importance of having an "Angel Way" that starts at the top, on Baseball Prospectus Radio.

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Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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