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December 4, 2009

Future Shock

Angels Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Four-Star Prospects
1. Mike Trout, OF
2. Hank Conger, C
3. Jordan Walden, RHP
4. Trevor Reckling, LHP
5. Fabio Martinez, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
6. Garrett Richards, RHP
7. Peter Bourjos, CF
8. Randall Grichuk , LF
9. Tyler Skaggs, LHP
10. Jon Bachanov, RHP
11. Tyler Kehrer, LHP

Four More:
12. Chris Pettit, OF: This hitting machine is limited to a corner athletically, and a lack of power hurts him there.
13. Tyler Chatwood, RHP: An undersized righty, he can miss bats with plus velocity, but his secondary stuff and command need work.
14. Alex Amarista, 2B: The tiny Venezuelan won the Midwest League batting title, but he has questionable upside.
15. Mark Trumbo, 1B: His power dropped off in Double-A; as first-base prospect, he has to mash.

1. Mike Trout, OF
DOB: 8/7/91
Height/Weight: 6-1/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Millville Senior HS (NJ)
2009 Stats: .360/.418/.506 at Rookie-level (39 G); .267/.421/.267 at Low-A (5 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: After dropping a bit further than expected in June, the first-round pick had an outstanding pro debut in Arizona, leaving many to regret passing on him.
The Good: Trout's well-rounded game is already surprisingly polished. He has a good feel for the strike zone, uses all fields, and already has gap power with projection for a bit more. He's a 65-70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, and it plays even better than that in the field due to excellent jumps, while he's also a very good baserunner. He gets supremely high marks for his makeup and effort.
The Bad: Trout's ultimate power ceiling has yet to be determined. He has strength in his swing and squares balls up, but it's a single plane of mechanics that lacks loft and backspin. Most scouts believe he'll develop the skills, but the wide ranged projections sit between 10-15 and 20-25 annually. His outfield routes tend to have a bit of a hook in them, but that should improve with experience, as he didn't begin to play in the outfield until this year.
Ephemera: When leading off an inning in the Arizona Summer League, Trout went 23-for-49 (.469).
Perfect World Projection: Trout will be a dynamic center fielder who hits leadoff, or maybe more in the middle if the power comes.
Path to the Big Leagues: Torii Hunter is signed through 2012, so if Trout develops as expected, things could line up perfectly.
Timetable: Trout will make his eagerly anticipated pro debut at Low-A Cedar Rapids.

2. Hank Conger, C
DOB: 1/29/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/220
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2006, Huntington Beach HS (CA)
2009 Stats: .295/.369/.424 at Double-A (123 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 3

Year in Review: This 2006 first-round pick recovered from a slow start to put up good numbers while, more importantly, staying healthy.
The Good: Conger has above-average offensive abilities for a catcher. He displayed a much-improved approach in 2009, and for a player with plus power, he makes a surprising amount of contact. He also made great strides behind the plate, showing improved receiving skills while shortening his throwing mechanics.
The Bad: The biggest hope is that Conger can develop into at least an average backstop, as he's currently still below average defensively, especially in his lateral movement. He is a well below-average runner.
Ephemera: Huntington Beach High was the first high school with a varsity surfing team, and produced a number of professional surfers, including Robert August, made famous in the legendary documentary The Endless Summer.
Perfect World Projection: Conger could be an offensive-oriented catcher with enough bat to earn some All-Star consideration.
Path to the Big Leagues: He has to stay behind the plate to get to the big leagues, but the Angels currently have Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis, which creates more of a quantity-based roadblock than a quality one.
Timetable: Conger will begin 2010 at Triple-A, and he should at least be in line for a September big-league audition.

3. Jordan Walden, RHP
DOB: 11/16/87
Height/Weight: 6-5/240
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 12th round, 2006, Mansfield HS (TX)
2009 Stats: 5.25 ERA (60.0-72-29-57) at Double-A (13 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: A top prospect in the system, Walden suffered through arm problems for much of the year, finally getting shut down in mid-July.
The Good: When healthy, Walden is an overpowering arm whose fastball sits at 93-95 mph while touching 98. Beyond the velocity, the pitch features heavy sink and generates plenty of ground balls when contact is made at all. He's a big, intimidating presence on the mound.
The Bad: Walden's forearm soreness (often an indicator for elbow issues) led to a big drop in stuff, as he was more in the 91-93 range at Double-A Arkansas, while his command went backwards as well. With his injury history and inability to find a consistent secondary pitch, some feel his future lies firmly in the bullpen at this point.
Ephemera: Walden had an ERA under four in April and June, but a double-digit mark in May and July.
Perfect World Projection: Hopefully he'll be a starter, but a power reliever is more in the cards than ever after last year.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, the Angels just want to see him stay healthy.
Timetable: Walden has the ability to move back up the prospect lists as he returns to Double-A.

4. Trevor Reckling, LHP
DOB: 5/22/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 8th round, 2007, St. Benedict's Prep (NJ)
2009 Stats: 0.95 ERA (19.0-9-3-16) at High-A (3 G); 2.93 (135.1-118-75-106) at Double-A (23 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 4

Year in Review: Last year's breakout player reached Double-A as a teenager and more than held his own.
The Good: It's rare to find a pitcher so young with two plus secondary offerings. Reckling's fastball has average velocity, but it plays up due to the pitch's sinking action. Both his power breaking ball and highly advanced changeup project as true big-league out pitches. He's a fantastic athlete for his size, and he fields his position well.
The Bad: Reckling's command can completely abandon him at times, due to a combination of a complicated delivery and his inability to control the extreme break on his pitches. With his velocity, some wonder if he'll be forced to pitch backwards as he moves up the ladder.
Ephemera: Big-league reliever Dennis Sarfate is the only player in major-league history drafted 268th overall to record a big-league win.
Perfect World Projection: Reckling projects as a good third starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: Reckling is moving quickly, and he could force his way into a rotation shot by 2011.
Timetable: Reckling could begin the 2010 season as high as Triple-A, still two months short of his 21st birthday.

5. Fabio Martinez Mesa, RHP
DOB: 10/29/89
Height/Weight: 6-3/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007
2009 Stats: 3.26 ERA (60.2-45-36-92) at Rookie-level (AZL) (14 G); 3.86 ERA (7.0-5-2-10) at Rookie-level (PIO) (2 G); 3.33 ERA (67.2-50-28-102) at Rookie-level (both) (16 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Signed out of the Dominican, he was nothing short of dominant in his stateside debut.
The Good: One scout says that Martinez is among the best pure arms he'd seen in the Arizona League over the last decade. His heat sits at 93-96 mph, and he makes it look effortless with a smooth delivery. His slider is already a plus offering with significant two-plane break, and he's shown some feel for a changeup.
The Bad: Martinez still needs plenty of refinement, as he's still much more of a thrower than a pitcher. He can overthrow all of his pitches, which costs him both command and movement. His changeup is well behind his other offerings right now, and it needs to come quickly for him to remain a starter. His slow, deliberate delivery makes him very easy to run on.
Ephemera: Arizona League batters facing Martinez in the first inning went 4-for-47 (.085) with 23 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: This is a serious power arm with as high a ceiling as anyone in the system…
Path to the Big Leagues: …whose path might run longer than anyone else's in the system.
Timetable: Martinez will make his full-season debut in 2010 at Low-A Cedar Rapids, but the Angels won't be slow to promote him should he dominate.

6. Garrett Richards, RHP
DOB: 5/27/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, University of Oklahoma
2009 Stats: 1.53 ERA (35.1-37-4-30) at Rookie-level (8 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: An inconsistent college performer, Richards was drafted highly on stuff alone, and it all looked good in his pro debut.
The Good: Richards combines above-average stuff and command. He relies primarily on a 92-94 sinking fastball, but when willing to sacrifice movement, he can ramp the pitch up to 97 mph. He'll flash a plus slider at times, and he also has a developing changeup. He's a big-bodied right-hander with good stamina, and his mechanics have improved considerably from his early college days.
The Bad: Richard doesn't have a long track record of success, including a 6.00 ERA during his junior year in college. He tends to aim his secondary pitches, which flattens his change and causes his slider to get a bit slow and sweepy. Despite walking only four in his pro debut, he has a history of command problems.
Ephemera: Of the 37 hits surrendered by Richards in his pro debut, 32 were singles, and none went over the fence.
Perfect World Projection: He'll likely be an innings-eating third or fourth starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: If Richards keeps throwing strikes, his progress through the system could get accelerated.
Timetable: Richards is likely advanced enough to be ready for an assignment to High-A in his full-season debut.

7. Peter Bourjos, CF
DOB: 3/31/87
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 10th round, 2005, Notre Dame HS (AZ)
2009 Stats: .281/.354/.423 at Double-A (110 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: The athletic center fielder was having a big season at Double-A before wrist problems slowed him down late in the year.
The Good: Bourjos is among the fastest players in the system, a plus-plus runner who knows how to use his quickness as a weapon on the basepaths and in center field, where he has big-league range and a solid, average arm. He made notable improvement with his plate discipline in 2009, and as the son of a former big leaguer and current Orioles scout, his feel for the game is outstanding.
The Bad: Bourjos is slightly built, and he doesn't project for much power, so he'll need to continue to develop his on-base skills to profile as a leadoff hitter. Good right-handers still give him trouble, and he can still be susceptible to chasing breaking balls.
Ephemera: Bourjos' great uncle, Otto Denning, played a pair of seasons in the majors with Cleveland during World War II and finished second to Ted Williams in the 1938 American Association batting race.
Perfect World Projection: Bourjos can be an everyday big-league center fielder, but not an impact one.
Path to the Big Leagues: With Torii Hunter in front of him and Mike Trout behind, Bourjos is currently sandwiched between two better players in the organization.
Timetable: Bourjos will begin the 2010 season at Triple-A, and his big-league career might start as a bench outfielder.

8. Randal Grichuk, LF
DOB: 8/13/91
Height/Weight: 6-1/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Lamar Consolidated HS (TX)
2009 Stats: .322/.352/.551 at Rookie-level (53 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: An outfielder hailing from Texas, Grichuk made a late surge up draft charts during the spring and had an excellent pro debut.
The Good: Grichuk can hit. With a very quick bat and strong wrists, he hammers balls when pulling to left and projects to hit as many as 30+ home runs annually. He already shows few weaknesses by pitch handedness or type, and scouts love his max-effort playing style.
The Bad: Grichuk's bat is his ticket to the big leagues, as his remaining tools fail to impress. Both his arm and speed rate as average at best, so he'll need to keep hitting, as his defensive projection lies firmly in left field. He's very aggressive at the plate, looking to rip first-pitch fastballs, and he'll need to develop a more sound approach as he moves up.
Ephemera: Other than Rondell White (1990), no player selected 24th overall in the draft has hit more than 50 big-league home runs.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a power source in left field who hits fifth in the lineup.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's a long way to go, but there is little in front of him.
Timetable: Grichuk is yet another reason that the club at Low-A Cedar Rapids will be one to watch in 2010.

9. Tyler Skaggs, LHP
DOB: 7/13/91
Height/Weight: 6-4/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Santa Monica HS (CA)
2009 Stats: 0.00 ERA (6.0-4-1-7) at Rookie-level (AZL) (3 G); 4.50 ERA (4.0-5-1-6) at Rookie-level (PIO) (2 G); 1.80 ERA (10.0-9-2-13) at Rookie-level (both) (5 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: One of the top high school lefties in the draft, Skaggs surprisingly slid out of the first round and into the supplemental round, but he still got his seven-figure bonus.
The Good: Skaggs oozes projection, with a long frame and even longer arms. His fastball has average velocity now, but with his size and smooth arm action, it should gain a few ticks as he grows into his frame. His slow curveball is already a plus pitch, and his command and control rates as above-average for a teenager.
The Bad: Skaggs had an inconsistent spring, with his velocity dipping into the 85-88 range at times, but it was back during his pro debut. His mechanics are a bit long, and most scouts would like to see them simplified. His changeup is rudimentary at this point.
Ephemera: While Santa Monica High has produced plenty of big leaguers, it's list of entertainment alumni is far more impressive, including actors Robert Downey Jr. and Sean Penn.
Perfect World Projection: He can be an above-average lefty starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: Skaggs is a bit more of a project than some of the other young guns in the system, and could spend his minor-league career a year/level behind.
Timetable: The Angels will use this spring to evaluate whether Skaggs is ready for a full-season assignment to begin the 2010 season.

10. Jon Bachanov, RHP
DOB: 1/30/89
Height/Weight: 6-4/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, University HS (FL)
2009 Stats: 3.14 ERA (28.2-26-4-47) at Rookie-level (AZL) (16 G); 2.70 ERA (3.1-5-1-5) at Rookie-level (PIO) (2 G); 3.09 ERA (32.0-31-5-52) at Rookie-level (both) (18 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: A top pick in 2007, Bachanov made a stunning return from Tommy John surgery, showing better stuff than he had pre-surgery.
The Good: Bachanov has a classic power-pitching frame and already sits in the low to mid-90s with his fastball, while his slider generates plenty of swings and misses with its two-plane break, and his changeup is highly advanced. Unlike many Tommy John survivors, he pounds the strike zone, and scouts love the intensity he brings to the mound.
The Bad: Bachanov just needs innings and experience. He relied a bit too much on the fastball during his return, and he will need to mix his pitches better. While he's straight to plate, his delivery is still a bit violent, especially in his landing.
Ephemera: Pitching out of the bullpen, Bachanov retired 15 of the 17 batters he faced in extra innings in 2009, 10 of them by strikeout.
Perfect World Projection: He's going to get big-league hitters out, but whether that's as a starter or reliever is still to be determined.
Path to the Big Leagues: His third pro year will be his first in a full-season league, and he's just one of many young talented arms.
Timetable: If Angels fans needs another reason to be pumped about next year's team at Low-A Cedar Rapids, here's another reason.

11. Tyler Kehrer, LHP
DOB: 3/23/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/210
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Eastern Illinois University
2009 Stats: 4.75 ERA (55.0-57-22-57) at Rookie-level (14 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Kehrer was a sleeper from a small school, and he generated plenty of scouting attention throughout the spring, but he didn't shine as much as expected, so many teams were surprised to see him selected as high as he was.
The Good: Kehrer had one of the best lefty fastballs in the draft, as it sits at 92-94 mph, can get up to 96, and it features a bit of natural sinking action. He throws a slider that gets very good spin at times, and he has that big, athletic frame that scouts like to see.
The Bad: Kehrer rushed his delivery often, leading to control issues. Scouts rarely saw a changeup out of him in college, and most see him as a bullpen arm in the end. His breaking ball could use some tightening, as he can lose feel for the pitch at times, with an equal chance of under- or over-throwing the pitch.
Ephemera: There have been 19 players drafted out of Eastern Illinois since Oakland took Stan Royer in 1988, but none of them have reached the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He projects as an eighth-inning lefty, but there's an outside shot at him sticking as a starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: In a system packed with impressive young arms at roughly the same level, Kehrer, like all of them, has an opportunity to stand out... or get lost in a crowd.
Timetable: As a reliever, he could move quickly, but there's no reason to commit to that role this soon. He could be yet another part of a packed rotation at Cedar Rapids.

The Sleeper: An eighth-round pick last June, catcher Carlos Ramirez is a short, stocky catcher who hit a crazy .376/.500/.638 in the Pioneer League after signing, but he's a non-athlete and below-average defender.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)
1. Brandon Wood, 3B
2. Mike Trout, LF
3. Kevin Jepsen, RHP
4. Hank Conger, C
5. Jordan Walden, RHP
6. Trevor Reckling, LHP
7. Fabio Martinez, RHP
8. Garrett Richards, RHP
9. Peter Bourjos, CF
10. Randall Grichuk , LF

I might be the only Brandon Wood believer still out there, and at this point I'm almost rooting for a trade or Chone Figgins signing elsewhere to finally give him an unfettered opportunity to produce. He still has star potential. Kevin Jepsen has tons of velocity and enough other stuff to be a very good set-up man for a long time.

Summary: The Angels' system is down significantly from past years, but it's also one of the youngest Top 11s you'll see, with seven of the players seeing primarily short-season action in 2009. There's a high risk of collapse here, but also a chance that the system could return to former glory as well if the top prospects live up to expectations.


Next: the Minnesota Twins.

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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