1. Nick Adenhart, RHP
2. Brandon Wood, 3B/SS
3. Jordan Walden, RHP
4. Hank Conger, C
5. Sean O’Sullivan, RHP
6. Sean Rodriguez, SS
7. Peter Bourjos, OF
8. Rich Thompson, RHP
9. Matt Sweeney, 3B
10. Jon Bachanov, RHP
11. Mason Tobin, RHP
Just Missing: Jose Arredondo, RHP; Chris Pettit, OF; Hanley Statia, SS
Year In Review: Stolen in the 2004 draft because he required Tommy John surgery, Adenhart nonetheless reached Double-A at 20, where he pitched well enough, just not quite as good as expected.
The Good: Adenhart has all the tools to be a front-line starter. He’s tall and long-limbed, has smooth mechanics, and pitches primarily off his fastball, which sits at 92-94 mph and features good movement. His changeup is a second plus offering, with excellent arm action and late fade. His curveball has sharp break at times, flashing the potential to be a future third plus offering. He’s shown no ill effects from the surgery, throwing strikes and maintaining his stuff both in games and throughout the season.
The Bad: Adenhart got hit for the first time in his life in 2007, and didn’t adjust well to it, with one scout describing his reaction as “pitching defensively,” as he’d nibble at the corners and often find himself behind in the count. He often took a while to get going, especially with his control, often not getting into a groove with either his command or velocity until the second or third inning.
Fun Fact: More than one-fourth (17) of Adenhart’s 65 walks were issued in the first inning.
Perfect World Projection: A number two starter and occasional All-Star.
Timetable: Adenhart will join the Triple-A rotation at 21, and should be in line for his major league debut at some point in 2008. He’ll be a rotation fixture by 2009.
Year In Review: Now two years removed from his remarkable 2005 campaign in the California League, Wood’s had no troubles defensively with a switch to third base, but his offensive numbers went down for the second straight year, and he looked downright overmatched during his big league debut.
The Good: Despite being narrow-shouldered and not overly muscular, Wood is a pure power hitter. He has long arms, good bat speed, and exceptionally strong wrists, bringing the bat into the zone with a whip-like motion with a slight uppercut that gives him power from pole to pole. He looked good at third base with good instincts and a plus arm, and still profiles as at least an average shortstop when he plays up the middle.
The Bad: Wood’s approach has been his undoing at the upper levels. He’s impatient at the plate and still highly susceptible to off-speed stuff, leaving many to wonder if he’ll ever hit for much of an average, although the power should more than make up for it. His athleticism is average now, and will likely degrade as his body matures.
Fun Fact: During his brief big league exposure, Wood went 2-for-2 as a pinch-hitter with a double and a home run. Otherwise, he was 3-for-31.
Perfect World Projection: An classic number-five hitter with plenty of power, but not enough on-base skills to be a superstar.
Timetable: Monday’s trade of Orlando Cabrera opened up the shortstop job, but management quickly made it clear that the competition for that job is between Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis. That doesn’t mean Wood is left out in the cold, as he’ll compete for the third base job in spring training.
Year In Review: Considered the top high school arm prior to the 2006 high school season, Walden’s velocity took a precipitous drop, along with his draft status, and the Angels were able to draft-and-follow him in the 12th round. Following his pro debut, he looks like another high school pitching steal for scouting director Eddie Bane.
The Good: Big and physical, Walden pounds the strike zone with his plus-plus fastball, which sits at 93-95 mph and touched 97-98 nearly every time out. Both his mechanics and command have come leaps and bounds from his prep days. He’s aggressive on the mound, working quickly and working inside.
The Bad: Walden’s secondary stuff needs work. He’s shown some feel for a tight slider, but he needs to get more consistent with the pitch, and work harder on not overthrowing the pitch, which costs him break. His changeup is rudimentary, though in his defense it’s a very new pitch for him.
Fun Fact: In his last nine outings for Orem, Walden struck out 44 in 45 1/3 innings while walking just three.
Perfect World Projection: Walden’s ceiling is incredibly high, as is the gap between what he is and what he can be.
Timetable: Walden will be one of the most intriguing arms in the Midwest League in 2008, but he’s at least three years away from being big league ready.
4. Hank Conger, C
Drafted: 1st round, 2006, Huntington Beach HS (CA)
2007 Stats: .267/.267/.333 at Rookie-level (3 G); .290/.336/.472 at Low-A (84 G)
Year In Review: The 2006 first-round pick impressed with the bat in his pro debut when he wasn’t sidelined with back problems.
The Good: Conger is a highly advanced hitter for his age, attacking fastballs early in the count and showcasing plus power from both sides of the plate. He’s an intelligent student of the game who gets high praise for his makeup and field leadership.
The Bad: Conger’s defense is below average. Thickly built and a little stiff athletically, scouts are mixed as to his ability to stay behind the plate in the long-term, although he does have a very good arm. He’ll need to become a more patient hitter and work the count more as he moves up the ladder. He may need to watch his weight as his body matures.
Fun Fact: As a senior in high school, Conger participated in a video project, and the results found their way onto YouTube.
Perfect World Projection: A below-average defensive catcher who makes up for it by hitting in the middle of the order.
Timetable: Conger’s skill set and an assignment to the High-A California League could equal a breakout season offensively. However, it’s his performance behind the plate that will dictate the Angels’ future plans for him.
Year In Review: Command and control specialist had outstanding full-season debut, including a 1.77 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.
The Good: Mature beyond his years, O’Sullivan understands his craft, and sets up hitters like a grizzled veteran. He pitches primarily off his 89-91 mph fastball that features good sinking action while generating plenty of groundballs, and he can dial it up to 93 at times at the cost of movement. His slider is at least an average pitch, and his changeup is highly advanced for a teenager, with excellent arm action and plenty of drop.
The Bad: As dominant as O’Sullivan was in the Midwest League, it’s the best pitcher’s league in baseball, and scouts are wondering what his go-to pitch will be at the upper levels. His body is a little soft and could use better conditioning. O’Sullivan is slow to the plate, does not have much of a pick-off move, and is very easy to run on.
Fun Fact: Valhalla’s most famous alumni is former Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis.
Perfect World Projection: A solid third or fourth starting pitcher.
Timetable: O’Sullivan will join Conger in the California League, which should provide a significant test for a pitcher with his style.
Year In Review: Riding high after last year’s breakout season, Rodriguez came down a good bit with a disappointing showing at Double-A.
The Good: Rodriguez is a well-rounded talent. He shows a patient approach and has average power. While not flashy, he’s a fundamentally sound defender with soft hands and an accurate arm. He’s player occasionally in center field, and surprised scouts with his instincts in the outfield.
The Bad: Rodriguez does many things at an acceptable level, but nothing exceedingly well. He’s prone to strikeouts due to a loopy swing, and will probably always have a high strikeout total. Defensively, he’s not especially rangy, nor is his arm exceptionally strong.
Fun Fact: The minor leagues have an inordinate number of night games due to attendance concerns, but in 17 day contests, Rodriguez hit .379/.453/.591.
Perfect World Projection: An average starting shortstop who might have more value as an outstanding utility player.
Timetable: Rodriguez is slated to start the year at Triple-A, though it’s hard to figure out how he fits into the Angels’ immediate plans from there.
Year In Review: An outstanding athlete, he missed two months of the season when he snapped a ligament in a finger, but showcased impressive tools when he was healthy.
The Good: Bourjos’ package of tools is among the best in the organization. He gets the barrel into the hitting zone quickly and projects to hit 10-15 home runs annually. He’s an absolute burner who accentuates his speed with outstanding instincts in the outfield, making him one of the rangiest center fielders around.
The Bad: Because of his skill set, Bourjos profiles best as a leadoff man, so he needs to work harder at developing a more patient approach at the plate. He has the potential to steal 50 bases a year, but needs to improve his reads on pitchers, as he currently has difficulty getting a good jump.
Fun Fact: During his high school career at a small Catholic school in Scottsdale, Bourjos was a classmate and teammate of Cubs announcer Bob Brenly‘s son Mike, who was drafted in the 43rd round by the Cubs in 2005, but decided to attend college.
Perfect World Projection: An every day center fielder if everything comes together.
Timetable: Like most young Angels players, Bourjos greatly looks forward to a year in the California League.
8. Rich Thompson, RHP
Acquired: NDFA, 2002, Australia
2007 Stats: 0.00 ERA at High-A (2-1-0-3); 2.01 ERA at Double-A (49.1-34-14-50); 2.19 ERA at Triple-A (24.2-17-6-32); 10.80 ERA at MLB (6.2-10-3-9)
Year In Review: The Aussie import went from marginal organizational arm to exciting relief prospect within the course of 12 months.
The Good: Thompson has two plus pitches, and he commands both equally well. His fastball can get up to 94, and he works both sides of the plate efficiently. His spike curve breaks hard and late, and got plenty of swings and misses during his big league stint. He has a little bit of funk in his delivery, giving him a little deception.
The Bad: Thompson tends to work high in the strike zone, and major leaguers feasted on him because of it. He’s not especially projectable, and doesn’t have the arsenal to start or the stuff to close.
Fun Fact: Major league right-handers hit four home runs in 19 at-bats against Thompson.
Perfect World Projection: An effective late-innings reliever, but not a closer.
Timetable: Thompson will be able to compete for a bullpen role in spring training, although no obvious spot for him exists at this time.
Year In Review: Yet another later-round signability pick, this big third baseman showed impressive power in his full-season debut, including a rocket home run off of Dodgers überprospect Clayton Kershaw in the Midwest League All-Star game.
The Good: Sweeney has a rare combination of plus raw power as well as the ability to make contact. He has natural loft in his swing, and good barrel control, showing both the ability to turn on mistakes as well as rip line drives the other way when pitchers try to set him up inside.
The Bad: Athletically, Sweeney is below average, and the fact that he’s still a teenager makes it somewhat of a concern. He’s a well below-average third baseman with poor hands and range, so most project him as a first baseman in the end, which means his bat will need to carry him. He could use a more patient approach.
Fun Fact: In the eighth and ninth innings of games, Sweeney hit .329 (25-for-76) with 13 extra-base hits, including five home runs.
Perfect World Projection: A classic slugging first baseman.
Timetable: Rancho Cucamonga is going to have plenty of prospects next year and put plenty of runs on the board, and Sweeney will be in the middle of much of it.
10. Jon Bachanov, RHP
Drafted: 1st round, 2007, University HS (FL)
2007 Stats: Did Not Pitch
Year In Review: Late bloomer in central Florida had scouts scrambling to see him late, and the Angels were happily surprised that he was still available with the 58th overall pick.
The Good: Bachanov has a classic power pitcher’s frame and he knows how to use it. He gets a good downhill plane on his low-90s fastball that already touches 95. He’s throws a hard slider as well. He’s aggressive on the mound to the point of arrogance, and pitches with something ranging from extreme confidence to reckless abandon.
The Bad: Bachanov is still raw–his slider has good velocity, but is often sweepy, and he shows little feel for a changeup yet. His control comes and goes due to the inconsistency in his mechanics. He attended four different high schools in four years, and plenty saw him as a makeup problem prior to the draft.
Fun Fact: While Orlando is a hotbed for amateur talent, University High is not, as Bachanov is just the second player ever to be drafted out of the school.
Perfect World Projection: Bachanov is your classic high-reward/high-risk high school power arm, but his ceiling is considerable.
Timetable: Bachanov has yet to make his pro debut, and he’s far too raw a product to pitch in a full-season league. He’ll begin the year in extended spring training before pitching for a short-season team.
11. Mason Tobin, RHP
Drafted: 16th round, 2007, Everett CC (WA)
2007 Stats: 0.95 ERA at the Rookie-level Arizona League (28.1-17-7-32); 3.21 ERA at the Rookie-level Pioneer League(28-23-7-23)
Year In Review: Expected to sign as a Braves draft-and-follow, Tobin instead re-entered the draft, got $120,000 as a 16th-round pick, and then wowed scouts during both his pro debut and his instructional league showing.
The Good: Many scouts skipped on Tobin, assuming he’d sign with Atlanta, and now he’s looking like a steal. He’s got size, smooth mechanics, and plenty of arm strength, sitting at 90-94 mph with his fastball, and touching 96 by the end of the year. He shows excellent feel for a changeup, and works efficiently.
The Bad: Tobin needs to find a quality breaking ball to complete his repertoire. He currently throws a slider, which he gets around on too often, leaving it as a hittable pitch as it crosses the plate on a single horizontal plane. For the most part, he lacks experience and just needs innings.
Fun Fact: Tobin gave up all three of his earned runs for the AZL Angels in the first inning. Otherwise, he went 21 1/3 innings with a perfect ERA while allowing 11 hits.
Perfect World Projection: Tobin is one of the better sleepers around, so good that he simply deserves to be ranked, as he projects as a successful third starter.
Timetable: Tobin is ready for his full-season debut at Low-A, but we’ll be into the next decade before he’s ready.
The Sleeper: Nineteen-year-old Dominican catcher Anel De Los Santos has excellent defensive skills and a power bat, though he needs to work on cutting down his strikeouts.
The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies Under 25 (As Of Opening Day 2008)
1. Howie Kendrick, 2B
2. Nick Adenhart, RHP
3. Brandon Wood, 3B/SS
4. Jordan Walden, RHP
5. Erick Aybar, SS
6. Hank Conger, C
7. Sean O’Sullivan, RHP
8. Kendry Morales, 1B/OF
9. Sean Rodriguez, SS
10. Rich Thompson, RHP
Howie Kendrick’s walk rate is downright laughable, and while he’ll never be Eddie Yost, his patience should return to the bad-but-not-embarrassing level of his minor league days, and he has the pure hitting ability to contend for a batting title on an annual basis. Erick Aybar looks like he’ll be handed the Opening Day shortstop job; his luster has worn off a bit, as he’s still an athletically gifted player, but one whose game remains completely out of control both offensively and defensively. There’s no real room for Morales on the Angels roster, and he doesn’t especially profile well for a first baseman/corner guy, but that doesn’t mean that Kendry Morales isn’t a gifted hitter.
The Angels’ system may not be what it used to be, but this is nonetheless a very young list with a number of players capable of taking steps forward and returning the organization to its former glory.
Next: The Minnesota Twins.