The State of the System: “And as it tells its sorry tale / In harrowing detail / Its hollowness will haunt you”
– The Decemberists: “Los Angeles, I’m Yours”
The Top Ten
- OF Jahmai Jones
- 1B Matt Thaiss
- C Taylor Ward
- LHP Nate Smith
- SS David Fletcher
- OF Brandon Marsh
- RHP Grayson Long
- SS Nonie Williams
- RHP Keynan Middleton
- RHP Jose Campos
The Big Question: How low can you go in other systems and find an Angels Top Ten prospect?
The Angels may not have the worst system in baseball anymore. It’s still really bad though. I’ve already expounded at length on how you get to having one of the worst systems in baseball, and the Angels check every box there. So I won’t repeat myself. Instead, I will turn it over to the staff to find prospects deep in other systems that would make the 2017 Angels Top Ten list…
Malquin Canelo, SS (Philadelphia Phillies)
With a plus arm, lateral range to both sides, and natural instincts, Canelo can play a really good shortstop. He is also a plus runner, which helps him beat out some balls in the infield, he just needs to hit a little. He lacks bat speed, and his slight frame isn't going to contribute much to over the fence power. His swing path is short and he makes a fair amount of contact, so you're hoping for enough to carve out a viable bench role. That’s not nothing, but in a deep Phillies system, he might not even make the top 20. —Steve Givarz
A soft-bodied 6-foot-1 righty who can be described as crafty. The 21-year-old Colombian native opened the season as a swingman in the Penn League, featuring a fastball operating at 88-91, touching 93 later in the season. He has advanced feel for his changeup, but his third offering is a pedestrian, low-70s, lollipop curve. Despite a lack of overpowering stuff, his pitchability and command allowed him to register 74 strikeouts in 65 â…” innings across three levels, while walking just seven batters. He made four appearances in the Sally League, going at least 6 â…” innings in each, while posting a sparkling 0.00 DRA. He capped off his modest breakout campaign with a six-inning, one-run spot start for Double-A Binghamton. He’s the type of arm that can get lost in the shuffle of even an average system like the Mets’, landing at no. 27 on their BP local list, but given the state of the Angels’ farm, Crismatt would garner consideration for the last few spots of the top-10. —Matt Pullman
Imani Abdullah, RHP (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Abdullah was a high-school golfer who transitioned to pitching late, but netted just under $650,000 from the Dodgers as an 11th-round pick in 2015. He’s got the height you look for in a pitcher at 6-foot-4, and uses his extension to make his 90-94 mph fastball all the more potent. He gets good life on the pitch as well, and while he’ll show the ability to generate steep plane, he’s prone to leaving pitches up in the zone as well. His secondaries include a looping curveball that doesn’t have the requisite snap to miss bats at present and a firm change, both of which need significant work. Still, a 20-year-old, with this frame and projectability, who can fill the zone with a potent fastball wouldn’t look out of place on this list. He’s about as raw as they come, which is why he’s more in the late teens as a Dodgers prospect, but the Angels system lacks pitchers with his potential. —Craig Goldstein
Kyle Higashioka, C (New York Yankees)
Higashioka first reached Double-A Trenton in June 2012, and didn’t actually graduate the level until this year. He’s been exposed to multiple Rule 5 drafts. Last offseason, he declared minor-league free agency after hitting .254/.305/.375 for High-A Tampa, which made him freely available to any organization for a non-roster invite and a living wage. He re-signed with the Yankees. Despite all that, he’d make this Angels list with room to spare. Then again, Jose Campos is actually on this list, and he was ingloriously dumped off the Yankees 40-man at midseason for Tyler Clippard on his way to being an Angels waiver claim.
After years of injuries and stagnation, Higashioka showed up in 2016 as a quality catch-and-throw guy with good pop. He’s also a very good receiver and framer, which meshes with his excellent FRAA numbers. The Yankees added him to the 40-man early to protect him from not just Rule 5 but another run at free agency, where he’d have surely done better than a random NRI, and he’ll be battling Austin Romine for the role as Gary Sanchez’s backup. There’s at least a role 4 backup catcher here, and pending continued health, maybe a little more. How different is that from Taylor Ward, really? —Jarrett Seidler
Ronald Herrera, RHP (New York Yankees)
Before I saw Herrera for Trenton this year, I got this message from a colleague “He’s every short Double-A starter you’ve ever seen.” It’s not a bad description, but Herrera’s got a bit more pitchability and a bit less stuff than that familiar trope. The fastball sits in the low-90s, although he has to ramp up the effort to keep it there later in starts, and he can lose his command of it armside. He has a full four-pitch mix, including a humpy curve and a slurvy slider. The change has a chance to be above-average with nice split action. It’s inconsistent, but he can miss bats with it. The delivery is slow-slow-fast with effort at the end, and the frame/stamina suggests that he’s a reliever in the end, although he has a better chance to start than guys in this cohort. He doesn’t make the Yankees Top 20—it’s an obscenely deep system—but he’d be in the back end of a top 20 on your average team’s prospect list. The Angels are not your average team. He makes their Top 10.
1. Jahmai Jones, OF
Height/Weight: 5’11” 200 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 70th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, Wesleyan HS (Norcross, GA); signed for $1.1 million
Previous Ranking(s): #2 (Org) 2016
2016 Stats: .321/.404/.459, 3 HR, 19 SB in 48 games at rookie ball in Orem, .242/.294/.306, 1 HR, 1 SB in 16 games at Low-A Burlington
The Good: Look, this hasn’t been a good system since Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar were eligible, but Jones is a good outfield prospect. He’s a plus runner who could be an asset in center field once he gets more reps (he’s only been a full time outfielder as a professional). The swing is simple and direct, and he’s strong enough to do damage even without a traditional power hitter’s stroke. I think there’s more power in here too, as you’ll see it when he gets a bit longer in batting practice. Advanced baseball IQ for his experience level.
The Bad: Jones is athletic, but it’s “athletic strong safety,” and there may not be quite enough speed for center once he gets into his twenties. The power is mostly theoretical at present. He’s still raw and the profile could go a number of ways in the next two years.
The Irrelevant: While I think he looks like a strong safety, Jones was actually an all-state wide receiver in high school. He’s not the last Georgia high school wide receiver on this list either.
OFP 60—Above-average center fielder
Likely 50—Average outfielder
The Risks: We don’t know if this works in full-season ball yet. More collection of tools than baseball player at present. Possible future corner profile.
Major league ETA: 2020
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Jones has a carrying fantasy tool in his speed and enough else to be of substantial interest to us. He’s years away and is very high risk, but as far as low minors gambles go, Jones is an attractive one. It’s too early to try and project stats or through any comparable lines out there, but Jones is a definite top-150 fantasy prospect and could flirt with the back of the top-100.
2. Matt Thaiss, 1B
Height/Weight: 6’0” 195 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 16th overall in the 2016 MLB Draft, University of Virginia; signed for $2,150,000
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: .276/.351/.427, 4 HR, 1 SB in 52 games at Low-A Burlington, 338/.394/.569, 2 HR, 2 SB in 15 games at rookie-level Orem
The Good: Thaiss was the best-hitting catcher available in this year’s draft class. That’s not just damning with faint praise. The hit tool is potentially plus, due to a combination of above-average hand-eye, barrel control and bat speed. His approach is advanced. He’s already shown some pull power in professional games and will show it to all fields in batting practice. You can dream on 15-20 home run power at maturity. Thaiss has an above-average arm, because he was once a catcher. Oh yeah, about that.
The Bad: Thaiss was a catcher. He is now a first baseman. Those two positions have very different offensive bars to get over. He’s not even a good first baseman yet, although he has the physical tools to be average there with more reps. His power may only end up as a 40 or 45. That’s plenty if you are a catcher, but I direct you to those first two sentences again.
OFP 50—Average first baseman
Likely 40—Fringe starter/lefty bench bat
The Risks: As a first baseman, there will be pressure on the bat to reach a 60/50 projection. He will also have to—you know—learn how to play first base. I’ve been told it’s incredibly hard.
Major league ETA: 2019
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Look, I’ve been pretty hard on fantasy first baseman prospects to this point, but this list is gonna have a whole lotta negative, so let’s stay positive here. Thaiss’ power needs to take a step forward and it’s a bummer that he can’t catch, but I’ve espoused the virtues of betting on hit tools before, and Thaiss has a good one. Consider him a top-125ish fantasy prospect and hope he grows into some more pop as he gets closer to the majors. He could be a top-20 fantasy first baseman or at least a usable CI in time.
3. Taylor Ward, C
Height/Weight: 6’1” 180 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 26th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, Fresno State University; signed for $1.67 million
Previous Ranking(s): #4 (Org) 2016
2016 Stats: 249/.323/.337, 10 HR, 0 SB in 123 games at High-A Inland Empire
The Good: Ward made steady progress across the board at High-A, showcasing maturity and the aptitude to incorporate adjustments on the fly. An aggressive opposite-field approach gave way to greater selectivity and pull-side attention as the season wore on, and Ward started tapping into fringe-average power more consistently. The on-base percentage can play up if demonstrated gains in zone command hold. Behind the plate, Ward’s pop is smooth and his arm plus, helping drive a 38-percent caught-stealing percentage. He improved as a pitch-framer and receiver, and he’s athletic enough to develop his agility and blocking technique as well.
The Bad: The receiving and bat are both still rawer than you’d expect from a collegiate first-rounder. He can struggle to implement a game plan behind the plate, and showed vulnerability to routine sequencing at it. His tendency to punch the ball to right is born out in swings that will frequently lose the hips and drag the barrel through the zone. It’s a fringe-average offensive profile, and the glove still carries a moderate amount of projection to get to average.
The Irrelevant: Ward hails from Dayton, Ohio, home of the Reds’ Class-A affiliate Dayton Dragons, who in 2011 broke the all-time record among North American professional sports franchises by selling out their 815th consecutive game at Fifth Third Field.
OFP 50—Average Starting Catcher
Likely 40—Average Backup Catcher
The Risks: The arm is a standout tool, but the rest of the package lacks for impact and he remains relatively raw even after a full season at High-A. There’s a path to starting at the big-league level, but it’s narrower than you’d like out of a first-round investment.
Major league ETA: 2019 —Wilson Karaman
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Can’t you just pick up Drew Butera or something.
4. Nate Smith, LHP
Height/Weight: 6’3” 205 lbs.
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted in the eighth round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Furman University; signed for $12,000
Previous Ranking(s): #9 (Org) 2016
2016 Stats: 4.61 ERA, 4.77 DRA, 150.1 IP, 166 H, 44 BB, 122 SO at Triple-A Salt Lake
The Good: Smith has some natural deception that helps his modest fastball play up a bit. He repeats well in spite of his long arm action, flashing solid-average command of a fairly deep four-pitch arsenal. The change is an above-average pitch that can play to plus at maturity, thanks to advanced feel, consistent salesmanship with his arm speed, and above-average tumble. He’s made strides in developing a slider, which can flash average with moderate bat-missing potential.
The Bad: The fastball will sometimes fail to scrape 90 in a given start, and tops out around 91. The deficit of raw stuff can lead to nibbling, and he’ll struggle to take hitters out of the zone and put them away. His feel for spin comes and goes, with the curve in particular tending to show with some loop, and his reliance on in-zone command leaves him a thinner margin for error. A fly ball pitcher, he’s shown some vulnerability to the long ball.
The Irrelevant: In 2017 he’ll attempt to become the second Nate Smith to grace a big-league roster, joining Baltimore’s Nathaniel Beverly Smith, who logged 11 plate appearances in 1962 and retired with 0.2 WARP to his name.
OFP 50—No. 4 Starter
Likely 40—No. 5 Starter/Swingman
The Risks: Smith acquitted himself reasonably well in the tough Pacific Coast League and appeared big-league ready, but a sore elbow ended his season abruptly and cost him a potential September call-up. That kind of thing happens, see, because he’s a pitcher.
Major league ETA: 2017 —Wilson Karaman
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Jones is just a tiny bit relevant because of his proximity to the Majors, but that’s the only thing he’s got going for him for our purposes. It doesn’t get better from here, friends.
5. David Fletcher, SS
Height/Weight: 5’10” 175 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted in the 6th round (195th overall) in the 2015 MLB Draft, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA); signed for $406,900
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: .300/.325/.375, 0 HR, 1 SB in 20 games at Double-A Arkansas, .275/.321/.346, 3 HR, 15 SB in 78 games at High-A Inland Empire
The Good: Insert all of the synonyms for small dudes who are better players than their raw tools. Fletcher is a grinder, and he’s scrappy, and fine, he’s basically David Eckstein with a couple extra inches. Fletcher draws high praise for his baseball aptitude. His quick feet and reactions help him break well on balls in both directions, and he’s a fundamentally sound fielder with a swift transfer and consistent accuracy from different angles at short. He plays above his raw speed on the bases, getting good reads and consistently solid jumps. In the box his quiet setup and tight launch angle keep him short to the ball, driving a solid contact profile with all of the skills to log an epic 16-pitch at-bat someday.
The Bad: He lacks for strength or projection, and there are physical limits that leave him borderline on the left side. His throws are max effort affairs, and his average speed holds his range at short in check. It’s a profile that looks a lot better at second, and the club has already begun to give him reps at the keystone. He doesn’t engage his lower half in the box, and combined with a flat path there’s very little power to speak of, which puts an awful lot of pressure on a hit tool that’s just okay.
The Irrelevant: Fletcher has the chance to become the fourth graduate of Cypress High School to make it to the majors. Troy O’Leary is the school’s all-time leader in WARP produced (6.3), Ken Griffey Jr. swing comps, and home runs in playoff elimination games (3).
OFP 45—Second-division second-sacker
Likely 40—Utility Infielder
The Risks: Still fairly high despite a solid Double-A debut on account of profile limitation. Fletcher is a max-effort guy who’s more likely than not to extract every drop of talent out of himself, but a tool set with a couple fives and not much else affords him less rope as he advances.
Major league ETA: 2018 —Wilson Karaman
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: So, like, Jace Peterson with less power? We’re all set.
6. Brandon Marsh, OF
Height/Weight: 6’2” 190 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round (60th overall) in the 2016 MLB draft, Buford High School (Buford, GA); signed for $1,073,300
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: N/A
The Good: Are you still with us? Okay, good, because there are some intriguing tools here. Marsh has a lean, athletic frame with projection left. He’s a plus runner with a plus arm. There’s already some power in the swing, and it could grow into above-average pop as he enters his twenties. He has the physical tools to potentially stick up the middle.
The Bad: This is gonna take a while. Like Mike Trout will be on his next nine figure contract before Marsh is able to help the major league squad. There’s more “tools” than “baseball skills” here at present. He may not hit. He may not be a center fielder (he was a right fielder in high school).
The Irrelevant: Marsh was part of two state championship football teams as a wide receiver for Buford High.
OFP 50—Average major league outfielder
Likely 40—Fourth outfielder that can play all three spots
The Risks: Let’s see. He hasn’t played a professional game yet. At present, he’s more athlete than baseball player. He’s on a very long developmental track. And he may eventually be forced to a corner spot.
Major league ETA: 2021
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: You’re waiting for a train.
7. Grayson Long, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’5” 230 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd round (104th overall) in the 2015 MLB Draft, Texas A&M University (College Station, TX); signed for $548,600.
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: 5.14 ERA, 2.83 DRA, 14 IP, 14 H, 4 BB, 15 K at High-A Inland Empire, 1.57 ERA, 2.41 DRA, 40 IP, 27 H, 16 BB, 45 K at Low-A Burlington, 6.55 ERA, 4.30 DRA, 11 IP, 13 H, 5 BB, 10 K at rookie ball in the AZL
The Good: Long is a polished college starter. He’s not going to fill up the report with 6s, but the stuff is average to solid-average across the board. The fastball sits in the low-90s, but the velocity is sneaky fast and it has some life when he elevates it. His mid-80s change has some fade and he maintains his arm speed well. His slider flashes average with some late 12-6 action at its best. His frame was built to log innings in a rotation.
The Bad: It’s just..ya know…it’s fine, whatever. It’s a backend starter profile. There isn’t going to be much more fastball here. The curve and slider are going to be just average, maybe a tick above for the change. The slider can be a bit of a roller and still needs more consistency. The delivery isn’t all that athletic, and he can struggle to get the ball down in the zone and with his command generally.
The Irrelevant: Long has excellent taste in neckwear
OFP 50—No.4 starter
Likely 40—No. 5 starter
The Risks: The stuff is solid enough, but we haven’t seen it work in Double-A yet. His command issues could give him trouble there (and higher up the ladder). He missed two months with an undisclosed injury, which is always what you want to hear about a pitcher.
Major league ETA: 2018
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: A train that will take you far away.
8. Nonie Williams, SS
Height/Weight: 6’2” 200 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 96th overall in the 2016 MLB draft, Home-schooled (Kansas City, KS); signed for $620,100
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: .244/.280/.282, 0 HR, 8 SB in 38 games at rookie-ball in the AZL
The Good: Nonie certainly looks the part given his body and size. While new to switch-hitting, his swing from both sides is able to produce hard line drives, with more feel from the right side. He flashes above-average raw power from both sides, with a chance for above-average in-game power from the right side. He is a plus runner and flies around when he is under way. His average arm plays up due to a quick release and plays at the six-spot.
The Bad: He is a natural righty and has struggled with his swing from the left-side, as it can get long and he will occasionally cut himself off. His bat-to-ball ability is questionable and might leave his hit tool as a below-average offering. His hands are crude for the infield, as are his actions and instincts, with some scouts projecting him as a future outfielder.
The Irrelevant: Nonie got his nickname after his little sister had difficulty pronouncing “Nolan.”
OFP 50—Average regular at SS/CF
Likely 40—Utility player
The Risks: Williams is a premium athlete but he is extremely raw, and has struggled with making contact thus far. While he boasts an impressive set of tools, they could struggle to translate in-game, which would leave him more of an athlete than a ballplayer. He’s just a dot on the horizon at this point, and is likely to take the long route to the majors.
Major league ETA: 2021 —Steve Givarz
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: You know where you hope the train will take you, but you can’t be sure.
9. Keynan Middleton, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’2” 185 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 95th overall in the 2013 MLB draft, Lane Community College (Eugene, OR); signed for $450,000
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: 4.91 ERA, 3.90 DRA, 14.2 IP, 14 H, 4 BB, 14 K at Triple-A Salt Lake, 1.20 ERA, 2.99 DRA, 15 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 18 K at Double-A Arkansas, 3.72 ERA, 1.62 DRA, 36.3 IP, 22 H, 20 BB, 56 K at High-A Inland Empire
The Good: A move to the bullpen in 2016 did wonders for Middleton. He reportedly touched triple digits with the fastball, and sits comfortably—though I hesitate to use that adverb given his delivery—in the upper 90s. He gets some added deception from his delivery, which involves him turning his back completely to the hitter. His high 80s slider flashes plus.
The Bad: That delivery isn’t going to grant him Greg Maddux’s command and control. His delivery is more traditional, but just as violent out of the stretch as well. The slider can get lazy at times and lack sharpness.
The Irrelevant: Mau will be happy to learn that Middleton was also a basketball player in high school.
OFP 50—Hard-throwing set-up dude
Likely 40—Effectively wild middle reliever
The Risks: Eh. He’s almost major league-ready and he throws 100. That delivery does scare me a bit, as does the fact that he’s a pitcher.
Major league ETA: 2017
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Yet it doesn’t matter. Now tell me why?
10. Jose Campos, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’3” 230 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: Signed by Seattle out of Venezuela in January 2009, acquired by Anaheim off waivers from the Arizona in November 2016.
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: 3.02 ERA, 3.73 DRA, 56.2 IP, 45 H, 14 BB, 48 K at Double-A Trenton, 3.60 ERA, 3.98 DRA, 20 IP, 22 H, 5 BB, 15 K at Double-A Mobile, 3.49 ERA, 3.93 DRA, 59.1 IP, 50 H, 23 BB, 56 K at High-A Tampa
The Good: After stalling for the past three seasons due to injury and inconsistency, Campos conquered two levels before making a brief MLB debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks in August. He has above-average control of his fastball and curveball. His curve grades out as average with 11/5 shape and good downer action. His changeup, ineffective earlier in his career, has become probably his most effective offering as he has quality arm speed and average tumbling action.
The Bad: His command is well behind his control, as he is quite hittable in the zone with all his offerings. He was older for High-A and Double-A, and lacks any remaining physical projection. His body is quite stiff and he isn’t the most athletic when fielding his position. Campos has a lengthy injury history including a stress fracture in his right elbow in 2012, Tommy John in 2014, and a fractured right arm in September. This was the first time Campos has cleared the 100-inning mark in professional baseball.
The Irrelevant: Campos 0.0 WARP is higher than the star of the trade, Jesus Montero, who currently has -2.2 WARP.
Likely 40—Up-and-down reliever
The Risks: While he has value, being claimed off waivers and being an organization’s Top 10 prospect says a lot about your system. The command never gets to better than fringe-average and struggles to maintain major league status. The long injury history leaves causes for concern about his durability. Also concerning is that he’s a pitcher.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2016 —Steve Givarz
Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Because we’ll be together, looking at a different top-10 soon.
Major league ETA: Appeared in 2016
Others of note:
The rain falls down on last year’s man
Joe Gatto, RHP
Everything went wrong for Gatto in 2016. He got shelled in the Midwest League, posting a 7+ ERA in 15 outings before a DL stint. After that, the Angels worked with him in side sessions before instructs to try and fix his issues. It’s possible he comes back in 2017 as a brand new pitcher, and a revitalized pitching prospect. But based on what he showed in 2016, a low-90s fastball that can touch 95 but features little movement and a below-average command profile, a slurvy breaking ball that flashes, and a work-in-progress change, we’ll need to see better stuff or better results before he makes it back onto the Angels list. He is still young—though 21 is hardly “prospect young” for A-ball—and he’s a cold weather arm that you’d suspect would require a more leisurely development path. He still has a good, athletic frame as well. So all hope is not lost. But—politely—it looked bad in 2016, and there were questions about his ability to start even before it all went south.
Yes, he is still eligible for this list
Alex Meyer, RHP
You could make a case that whatever faint glimmer of Alex Meyer’s Top 101 prospect flame still remains, that’s enough warmth to justify him in the Top 10 in the heat death of the universe that is the Angels farm system. He’s still very tall. He still throws hard (though not quite as hard as he did before the arm issues). The curve still flashes plus and can be a wipeout offering at its best. He still doesn’t throw enough strikes. He missed most of the year with vague shoulder issues.. In 2017, he’s likely to be a 27-year-old reliever with a checkered injury history and no track record of commanding the stuff. The 96 mph fastball is nice, but not special in relief nowadays. Seeing him behind Keynan Middleton and Jose Campos is a bit of a shock, but I’m more confident that they have a role on a major league team in 2017 than Meyer.
Nathaniel Bertness, LHP
His peripherals might not stand out immediately, but this is a very raw arm whose ceiling is only going to climb as he gets more repetitions. After playing basketball for most of his prep career, Bertness switched to baseball and showed off a promising body and potential skillset. He is wiry with room to grow into his 6-foot-6, 205-pound frame. His average fastball should improve, pairing well with his potential plus changeup and average breaking ball. While it's a long way off, he could jump by leaps and bounds next year. —Steve Givarz
“Not an exciting profile” but it’s the Angels so
Tyler Carpenter, RHP
While an older arm, Carpenter has showed an interesting arsenal that could play well in a relief role. His average fastball has rise and tail, which isn't something you see from a guy with an over-the-top slot. His slider flashes average with above-average depth and life, but struggled with its consistency in a starting role, it could play higher in a relief role. While not an exciting profile, teams need arms like this and a lot of them out-perform their initial roles and become long-standing relief arms. —Steve Givarz
Michael Hermosillo, CF
A two-sport conversion, Hermosillo displays impressive athleticism, but is as raw as you’d expect a former running back to be. He can go get it in center field, but his approach at the plate needs significant work, though an optimist could appreciate it given the lack of repetitions. He shows encouraging bat-to-ball ability, as well. This is, as ever, a slow-burn type of guy, but given the system at large, he’s a viable lottery ticket, and that ain’t nothin’.
The Rule 5 Draft Pick
This is the time of year where teams can gleefully throw a wrench into your prospect lists. Our Red Sox list was up for a cool four days before Dave Dombrowski did his level best to make extra work for me before we can publish the Futures Guide. This is still better than a blockbuster deal involving a team you haven’t published on yet. The Angels list is being published the morning of the Rule 5 draft. Normally that’s a non-issue. But, well, see everything above. The Angels have 39 players on their 40-man roster and could certainly use a Rule 5 flyer. It’s possible they grab a relief arm in the Keynon Middleton range, or an extra infielder a heck of a lot closer to the majors than Nonie Williams. We can’t prepare for every eventuality this time of year, but we can tell you that there is a pretty good chance the Angels system has added a ‘noteworthy’ prospect by the time you are reading this.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/91 or later)
- Mike Trout
- Tyler Skaggs
- Jahmai Jones
- Matt Thaiss
- Andrew Heaney
- Taylor Ward
- Cam Bedrosian
- Nate Smith
- David Fletcher
- Brandon Marsh
Hoo boy. Well, let’s start with the positive here, right? And no, use of the singular form was not an accident.
For a seventh consecutive winter, Mike Trout is at the top of the list in this, his final year of eligibility. Surprise, surprise. Trout’s 8.7 WARP in 2016 marked his “worst” total for a season since his rookie year in 2012, due overwhelmingly to FRAA shaking its robot fists at Trout’s efforts in centerfield. Our fielding metric was among the most pessimistic in rating his defense, and his cost of 6.1 runs marked a 16-run turn for the worse from 2015. It’s possible that just maybe the first in-earnest conversations should be taking place about a potential move to left in favor of the newly acquired Cameron Maybin? It’s doubtful that conversation actually takes shape, however. At best the statistical universe returns a “reply hazy, try again later” verdict on Trout’s glove, and when you combine that with Maybin’s own not-exactly-spectacular defensive numbers and not-exactly-durable body, a usurpation by Maybin is unlikely. Beyond that option it’s not like the Angels have anyone else within a Scottish oil tanker’s shouting distance who is capable of wresting the position away from Trout anytime soon, either.
Beyond that bar room speculation, let’s just allow that WARP number sink in for a second. 8.7. The second-best mark in baseball. He’s now finished either first or second in all of Major League Baseball in each of his five full seasons. If you take the eight position players not named Mike Trout who logged the most plate appearances at their respective positions in 2016 for the Angels, and you added up all of their WARP, you’d get 5.5. And by VORP he’s been even better, producing the best offensive output in the game in four of the five. He’s…uh, he’s good?
And it’s a really good thing that he is, because the rest of this list is, once again, among the worst in baseball. The Angels arguably battle only the lot put forth by the devastatingly-sans-Jose-Fernandez Marlins for a second straight basement finish, and the club is very certainly among the bottom three in the game for a third consecutive year.
Previous list appearers Nick Tropeano (5), Carlos Perez (8), and Kyle Kubitza (10) all graduated and generated a combined 0.4 WARP last season in Anaheim. That includes a negative effort by Perez and a donut from Kubitza, who hit a combined .212 between the Triple-A affiliates of three organizations and no longer aspires to call the Big A home. Last year’s fourth-ranked player, Joe Gatto, had an atrocious season as outlined above, resulting in a tumble far, far away from even this motley collection. Victor Alcantara, last year’s number seven, stumbled through a mediocre year at Double-A that saw his stuff decay, his whiff and walk rates follow suit, and ultimately his rotation aspirations fade away. He was subsequently shipped to Detroit for Cameron Maybin on the first day of the off-season.
Of the remnants, Tyler Skaggs appears to have emerged none for the worse from Tommy John surgery and rehabilitation. His fastball showed familiar hop, and his hook produced quality late action to coax grounders at a solid rate once again. He struggled to find consistent control and command, as many Tommy Johnners are wont whilst rust-shaking, but his slow and steady ten-game return to the big-league mound counts as a cautiously optimistic win for a franchise with precious few upon which to hang its hat.
In accordance with the kind of requisite karmic balance befitting an organization so far into the doldrums, however, what went (marginally) up simply had to get offset with a hard thud somewhere, and one of the franchise’s only other young pitchers of promise, Andrew Heaney, careened off into the unknown of his own elbow replacement surgery. As of this writing his 2017 figures to stand as a lost season, outside of the possibility for a couple dozen A-ball rehab innings at best next summer. He remains in the middle of this list because, well, we work with what we’ve got.
The only other ostensible success story from the club’s young ranks in 2016 was the emergence of Cam Bedrosian as a potent relief ace in the making. And enthusiasm for even that modest development has to be tempered after the righty lost the final two months of his season to a blood clot in his pitching arm. He showed a vastly improved slider in his time on the bump prior to the injury, though, driving a massive whiff rate that resulted in top-25 DRA and cFIP efforts among pitchers who logged at least his 40 innings. —Wilson Karaman