Wednesday, January 6, 2010

TEAM #18 – Los Angeles Angels

Trout provides an exciting package of skills and tremendous promise

The Los Angeles Angels come in at #18 on our list. After graduating a number of arms to the big leagues over the last couple of seasons, one would think the cupboard might be a bit bare, but the pitching depth remains the strength of this organization. On the other side, only two hitters have a star-level ceiling. This is emblematic of the problem facing the organization, as a June draftee who was taken with the 25th overall pick heads the list. Speaking of the 2009 draft, it did wonders in stocking this year’s list, with no less than four picks among the organization’s Top 10 talents. The other weakness is the lack of players that are close to contributing at the Major League level, as only 5 of the top 16 picks have appeared above A-ball. Don’t think things are all doom and gloom though, as there are a number of pitchers that appear poised for a breakout season, and few organizations have more players rated ‘C+’ or better. Outside of Hank Conger, and perhaps Trevor Reckling, there isn’t likely much help coming to Los Angeles this season…but give this system another couple of years and it could be one of the stronger systems in baseball.

Grade A-

1) Mike Trout, CF (2009 Performance Scores – Power 44; First Base Rate 76; Discipline 71; Speed 76)

Trout was one of the fastest closing prep prospects by draft day 2009, as he had shot all the way up to #16 on our draft day board. The Angels stole him by getting him at #26, as we wouldn’t have been surprised to see him go as early as #10. The comp that comes to our mind most easily is Rocco Baldelli, but the computer spits out Shannon Stewart’s name first. In any case Trout is a blend of both exceptional tools, with an excellent hard-nosed approach to the game. Offensively, he will likely never develop anymore than average power, but he sprays the ball all over the diamond—seemingly at will. In the AZL this past summer, he was a man among boys at the plate. Add to that an advanced plate discipline, plus speed and tremendous defensive quickness and you have the makings of something special. Look for Trout to play most of this season as an 18yo in the MWL. If he develops as we expect he will, he could be the Angels starting CF as early as 2012.

2) Trevor Reckling ,LHP (2009 – Dominance 57; Stamina 74; HRrate 49; Control 47)

Reckling is finally starting to get his due, after being one of the Minor’s most underrated prospects over the last couple of seasons. In 2009, he played most of the season as a 20yo in AA—yet more than held his own. Reckling’s success comes from some of the Minor’s best secondary offerings, which include both a plus Curve and a knockout Change. The reason that he doesn’t get as much ink as some, is because he has a fastball that is really only a high-80s offering. On the downside, he can overthrow at times and this cause control issues—as indicated by his roughly 4.5 walks per 9 IP. Reckling has a ceiling of a solid Big League #2 starter…something in the mold of the White Sox’s Mark Buerhle. If he is to reach that though, he will have to tighten up his command. Reckling is extremely advanced for his age, so there is not as much projection as one might expect. He should open the 2010 season in the AAA rotation with an eye towards Los Angeles sometime in the second half of the year.

3) Hank Conger, C (2009– Power 54; First Base Rate 72; Discipline 65; Speed 43)

Conger remains one of the games more enigmatic prospects, as he has an incredible ceiling of an adequate defensive backstop with plus offensive abilities. Now four seasons removed from being tabbed as the Angels first round pick, Conger still hasn’t been able to shake the two questions that have lingered since he was drafted: 1) Can he stay healthy and 2) Will his defense materialize enough to allow him to remain behind the plate. 2009 went a long way toward answering the first question, as his 459 ABs were nearly double his first three season average. He even returned to catching, playing almost 100 games behind the plate this year. Defensively, while Conger showed progress, he is still extremely slow behind the plate—both in lateral movement and release. The Angels have shown with Jeff Mathis, that they are willing to live with less than stellar defense at that position. So that is a mark in Conger’s favor. It’s Conger’s bat, however, that will be his true ticket to the Big Leagues, as he posted the #2 Performance Score in the Texas League last season—as a 21yo. Conger possesses above average power, advanced plate discipline, and surprisingly strong contact skills for a player with his size/speed limitations. We believe that, while it would significantly diminish his value, if Conger is forced to move from behind the plate to a corner IF/OF position, his bat is strong enough to play every day at the Major Level. If he comes to the Big Leagues as a backstop, he is a premium prospect. Conger will begin 2010 in AAA, with a chance to make it to Los Angeles before season’s end.

4) Jordan Walden, RHP (2009 – Dominance 64; Stamina 61; HRrate 48; Control 38)

A move to AA proved to be significantly challenging for Walden, as he not only was plagued by arm troubles that held his velocity down, but the more advanced hitters took advantage of his less than polished secondary offerings. 2010 will be pivotal, as Walden must show improved command, and regain the velocity that made his fastball one of the best in the Minor Leagues. When healthy, he has a heater that routinely hit triple digits and usually sat in the mid-90s. Last season it was a low-90s offering. At 22yo, Walden has plenty of time to get it back together. His ceiling remains that of a front of the rotation flame-thrower. Unfortunately, the certainty side of the equation looks a lot less promising than it did a year ago, as we are still worried that there may be more injuries/surgery to come, and if he can’t refine his secondary stuff, he is looking more like a back of the bullpen type of guy. Look for the Angels to take a cautious approach with him and return him to AA to begin the season.

Grade B+

5) Randal Grichuk, OF (2009– Power 73; First Base Rate 35; Discipline 47; Speed 43)

Grichuk was another late riser on the draft boards, as he put on a late season power display that had teams salivating. The Angels were reported to be high on him entering draft day, and had to be thrilled to find him waiting at #25. We aren’t quite as high, as we see Grichuk as more of a one-trick pony with questionable swing mechanics. While his power potential is plus-plus, he has a pull tendency that makes his contact skills questionable. Additionally, he is overly aggressive at the plate, taking few walks, and fanning 26% of the time. He has limited speed or defensive skills and will be relegated to an OF corner r 1B. Actually six days younger than Trout, there is plenty of time for Grichuk to become more patient in his approach, so this is a player with significant upside…there is just a lot of work between here and there. Like Trout, we would expect the Angeles to start 2010 with Grichuk in the MWL.

6) Peter Bourjos, CF (2009– Power 41; First Base Rate 62; Discipline 55; Speed 77)

The Angeles have always loved Bourjos more than we have, grooming him for the eventual everyday CF position. While his glove is first rate, and his speed ranks with anyone in the system, it is his bat that has always drawn concerns for us. Bourjos did post the #11 Performance score in the TXL in 2009, primarily showing good contact skills and an improved plate discipline. There will never be much in the way of power here. Bourjos will begin 2010 as a 23yo in AAA. Based on his speed/defense combination alone, he is likely to reach the Majors—so his certainty score is high. It’s the ceiling that doesn’t do it for us, as we see him as a below average Major League starting CF, or a solid 4th OF type. Maybe the biggest concern that exists for Bourjos is that Tori Hunter is signed through 2012, and Mike Trout should be ready to take over when that contract expires.

Grade B

7) Fabio Martinez-Mesa, RHP (2009 – Dominance 80; Stamina 68; HRrate 50; Control 25)
While the Angels are a system with some high ceiling arms, no one in the system has a higher ceiling than Mesa. Martinez-Mesa finished with the #4 Performance Score in the 2008 DSL, before posting the Top pitching Performance Score in the AZL in 2009. As a 19yo last season, Mesa displayed a mid-90s fastball, that was complimented by a Slider and Change that both have the potential to be plus pitches. Perhaps more importantly, his delivery is smooth and his mechanics are sound. The knock on Martinez-Mesa, and it is not insignificant, is that he, like many young fireballers, can get into patterns of overthrowing—leading to poor command. While Mesa fanned nearly 14 batters per 9 IP in 2009, he also walked more than 5. Look for the Angels to start 2010 with Mesa in the MWL. He has the potential to be a front of the rotation flamethrower, but could nearly as easily flame out if his control doesn’t improve.

8) Tyler Skaggs, LHP

Skaggs spent most of his senior season locked in a battle with Chad James and Matt Purke, for the designation as the best prep-left-hander—not named Matzek. Toward the end of the season, Skaggs hurt his foot, ending his season early, and eventually allowing Purke and James to surpass him. Nonetheless, he was one of the best prep pitchers available and we had him at #40 on draft day—the exact spot where the Angels tabbed him. Not as polished as the previously mentioned lefties, Skaggs may have more projection in him than any of them. He is a slender 6’4”, who already possesses a 90 Mph fastball that should add a couple of ticks to it as he fills out. He has a four-pitch repertoire that, while still very raw, shows promise. At this point Skaggs is more projection than anything. The Angels will be patient with his development, and it would not surprise us to see him remain in extended Spring training when the season begins—making his 2010 around mid-year.

9) Alexia Amarista, 2B (2009– Power 55; First Base Rate 66; Discipline 76; Speed 71)

We often hear various 'experts' claim that you can’t tell anything from rookie leagues—especially the Latin American Leagues. To that we answer that nearly 500 position players participated in the 2007 DSL and the Top 10 Performance Scores looked like this: 1) Alexia Amarista; 2) Sebastian Valle; 3) Luis Jimenez; 4) Jean Segura; 5) Starlin Castro; 6) Edison Rincon; 7) Ehire Adrianza; 8) Abner Abreu; 9) Ron Bermudez; 10) Jose Pirela. Compare that group against any Class A League Top 10 from the same year and see how it stacks up two years later. Then come talk to us about how you can’t tell anything from rookie league performance. While no one else was talking about Amarista after the 2007 season, he went on to post the #5 Performance score in the AZL in 2008…Still barely a peep. Now after posting the #6 Performance score in the MWL in 2009, ‘overnight’ he’s a prospect. He’s still only generously listed at 5’8”, and that is the major knock against him, but there is a history of middle infielders at that size. Amarista displays advanced strike zone management skills, above average speed and contact skills, and surprising gap power for a player of his age and size. Defensively he rates only as average. This isn’t a prospect of tremendous ceiling, but we could rather easily seeing him fit into a Major League club as a utility type player. Look for him in Hi-A in 2010…still fooling the naysayers.

10) Carlos Ramirez, C (2009– Power 79; First Base Rate 79; Discipline 67; Speed 29)

Another player on this list that doesn’t get the credit that he deserves from the scouting community. The Angels liked him so much that they drafted him in back-to-back years, making him their 8th round pick in the June draft. Ramirez has always hit, but gets dinged because of his less-than-fleet-footedness and ‘squatty’ stature. But what he did to Pioneer League pitching in his debut was ‘off the charts’—posting a .376/.500/.638 in 149 ABs. Ramirez shows plus power potential, plus contact skills and plus plate discipline skills, as he walked more times than he struck out. Defensively, while his arm is questionable, he receives well and does a good job of calling a game and handling a pitching staff—a great on-field leader. While Ramirez may not have a tremendous upside, there is plenty to like here. He should begin the season in the MWL, and could move rapidly.

11) Will Smith, LHP (2009 – Dominance 46; Stamina 76; HRrate 48; Control 71)

Smith fought through some nagging injuries in 2009 to post the #11 Performance score in the MWL. He uses a solid three pitch repertoire, but is not likely to avoid the designation of ‘crafty lefty’, as his fastball sits in the upper 80s. His main calling card is impeccable command, as he walked less than 2 batters per 9IP in 2009. Only 20yo, Smith should open 2010 in Hi-A. If he follows his current developmental path, he has the upside of a solid #4/#5 starter—maybe even a #3.

12) Garrett Richards, RHP (2009 – Dominance 50; Stamina 66; HRrate 50; Control 76)

‘Unfulfilled potential’ are the best two words to describe Richards three years at Oklahoma, as he was never able to show the production that matched his raw ‘stuff’. The Angels have a history of ‘harnessing’ a pitcher’s stuff, and took a decent-sized gamble when they selected him in the supplemental first round last June. But Richards not only dominated the younger hitters in the PIO, he did it with surprising control. We don’t want to read too much in such a small sample, but if Richards can command his low-mid 90s fastball and his four pitch repertoire, the Angels will have something special. Richards has the upside of a Major League #2/#3 starter. We will have a better idea of the certainty of that after we see a larger sample in the MWL and CAL next season.

13) Tyler Chatwood, RHP (2009 – Dominance 49; Stamina 70; HRrate 49; Control 27)

Chatwood throws a low-90s fastball and a plus curve…pretty much the end of the story. He is only 5’11”, and doesn’t have a third pitch, leaving many questions as to what his eventual upside is. We could see him as a back of the bullpen reliever, but for that to happen he is going to need to significantly improve upon his 5 walks per 9IP from 2009. Look for him to spend most of 2010 as a 20yo in Hi-A.

Grade B-

14) Jon Bachanov, RP (2009 – Dominance 77; Stamina 34; HRrate 60; Control 72)

Drafted in the supplemental first round in 2007, Bachanov missed the entire 2008 season due to Tommy John surgery. Making a complete recovery this past season, Bachanov posted the huge strikeout numbers that were expected from his mammoth frame (6’5”, 220lbs) and low- to mid-90s fastball. He completes his arsenal with an at least average Slider and Change. An extremely intense figure, Bachanov worries scouts with the violent arm action in his delivery. He also has had a history of off-the-field issues that make one less than thrilled with his ‘make-up’. Not yet 21yo, Bachanov has the upside of a front of the rotation starter. It will be interesting to see if the Angels place him in the rotation at Cedar Rapids in 2010. Our guess is that he ends up in the bullpen, and could be a good one there.

15) Trevor Bell, RHP (2009 – Dominance 42; Stamina 75; HRrate 48; Control 70)

A low-ceiling, high-floor type of pitcher who has already pitched in the Big Leagues (albeit not very well) before turning 23yo, Bell lacks overwhelming raw stuff, doesn’t miss enough bats, and gets by on exceptional ‘pitchability’ and plus control. Look for Bell to compete for an Angel rotation spot in 2010, but likely will return to AAA. He could have a solid, if unspectacular, Major League career in a ‘swing’ role.

16) Jean Segura, 2B (2009– Power 54; First Base Rate 61; Discipline 79; Speed 73)

A little taller than Amarista, Segura lacks the spark that makes us believe so highly in Amarista. Nonetheless, he did post the second best Performance Score in the PIO in 2009. Speed is his best skill, followed by good strike zone management, reasonable contact skills and surprisingly decent gap power. Segura doesn’t have a significant upside, but he could become a Major League average second baseman or solid utility player. Segura will likely spend 2010 in the MWL, where he could, like Amarista, move up this list with a solid performance.

17) Chris Pettit, OF (2009– Power 51; First Base Rate 53; Discipline 60; Speed 68)

Another in the limited-ceiling/high- floor category, Pettit possesses at least average skills across the board, including defense. The downside is that none of his skills grade out extremely high either. We suppose that Pettit, at some point during his career, could find himself with a starting gig. The likelihood, though, is that he is ideally suited for a solid 4th OF role, as he has defensive skills that would allow him to play all three positions. Expect Pettit to compete for a roster spot in spring training, with a likely chance of being in Los Angeles at some point during the season.

18) Tyler Kehrer, LHP (2009 – Dominance 61; Stamina 58; HRrate 47; Control 43)

We had Kehrer graded as a likely third round pick on draft day, but the Angels grabbed him with their third supplemental first round pick. He has a strong frame and a solid low-90s fastball. He will also use an average slider and developing change. We saw him pitch on a couple of occasions in college, and felt that he had the upside of being a mid-rotation starter, as he posted a Top 30 Performance score in his junior season. Still relatively raw for a college pitcher, there is much work to be done here. While he put together a solid performance in his PIO debut, don’t expect Kehrer to move quickly. He’ll likely spend the bulk of 2010 in the MWL where he will be 22yo.

Grade C+ Prospects –

19) Mark Trumbo, 1B; 20) Ryan Chafee, RHP; 21) Patrick Corbin, LHP; 22) Tommy Mendoza, RHP; 23) Fernando Rodriguez, RP; 24) Clay Fuller, CF; 25) James Mallard, OF; 26) Luis Jimenez, 3B; 27) Angel Castillo, OF; 28) Darwin Perez, SS; 29) Michael Korn, RHP; 30) Gabriel Perez, RP; 31) Andrew Taylor, RP; 32) Joshua Blanco, LHP; 33) Pil Joon Jang, RHP; 34) Dillon Baird, 1B; 35) Terrell Alliman, RF; 36) Hainley Statia, SS; 37) Eswarlin Jimenez, LHP; 38) Rolando Gomez, SS.

Grade C Prospects –
Michael Anton; Buddy Boshers; Amalio Diaz; Robert Fish; Manuel Flores; Steven Geltz; Gabriel Jacabo; Young-Il Jung; Jake Locker; Baudillo Lopez; Carlos Martinez; Jeremy Moore; Robert Mosebach; Ryan Mount; Jake Rife; Andrew Romine; Freddy Sandoval; Chris Scholl.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season. For additional information on our rankings methodology, see our recent Mailbag article here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions.

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