It has been an interesting off-season for the Angels, starting with the dismissal of long-time, and highly regarded, scouting director Eddie Bane, and ending with the horrific desperation acquisition of 32yo, Vernon Wells' contract, the one for seven years—at roughly $18 million per. This gives the Halos one of the Major’s top five payrolls, for a team that looks like it may only be the third best in the AL West. GM Tony Reagins took over in 2008, and has seen the Angels record decline in every season since. Don’t expect that trend to change in 2011, and right about now we have to view Reagins 2009 extension with considerable skepticism; as things on the Minor League front don’t appear to offer much of a different view, with the Angels now having posted four consecutive middle of the pack rankings, coming in at #16 this year—a repeat from 2010 (http://baseballnumbers-diamondfutures.blogspot.com/2010/01/team-18-los-angeles-angels.html) .
It’s not as if the system is without talent, as Mike Trout is as good as any prospect in baseball and the likely four Angels in the Top 100 is more than any team we have reviewed thus far. But the system is characterized by two significant trends: 1) a dearth of starting pitching prospects—especially from the left-side, and few high ceiling prospects once you get past the first eight or so names on this list. Add to that a system that ranks in the bottom 25% in regards to depth, and you have the makings of an organization with an arrow pointing downward. The question is whether or not Ric Wilson is capable of even matching Eddie Banes’ performance—yet alone improve upon it. The good news—in addition to Trout—is that there appears to be a number of ready or near ready Major League prospects that should provide roster depth in Los Angeles or capital with which to make trades.
Best Pick from 2010 – This one is a slam dunk, as no one in the industry regarded CF Mike Trout higher than we did, as he was the Angels #1 prospect on our list last year and #43 overall.
Worst Pick from 2010 – While we weren’t the only ones to miss this one badly, Trevor Reckling took a significant step backwards in 2011—certainly not justifying our #4 ranking for him.
1) Mike Trout, CF (2010 Performance Scores – Power 52; Discipline 69; First Base Rate 79; Speed 77)
We rarely get a chance to see comparables of a 19yo that provide the confidence in their lower limits that we find when we evaluate Trout. While that is certainly a positive, if he ends up performing toward the high-end of his comps this is a truly special player in the making. With plus-plus speed, plus contact and strike zone management skills and at least average power, Trout has the makings of a complete offensive force. Defensively, he has plus range and an average arm. 2010 saw Trout finish with the Top Performance Score in two different leagues—the Midwest League (MWL) and the California League (CAL). Trout is expected to open 2011 in the Texas League (TXL). While we don’t like to get too far ahead of ourselves, and Trout is yet to play a game above A-ball, Trout appears to have a floor of an above average top of the order offense igniter, and a ceiling of one of the best middle of the order hitters in the game.
Grade A -
2) Jean Segura, 2B (2010– Power 53; Discipline 75; First Base Rate 66; Speed 80)
We have been watching Segura closely since he posted the #4 Performance Score in the DSL in 2007. From a performance standpoint, he had been somewhat overshadowed by Alexi Amarista, who has been his infield partner during the 2007 and 2008 seasons—but not in 2010, as Segura had a breakout year, finishing with the #4 Performance Score in the MWL. An exciting all-around performer, Segura shows plus speed and strike zone management skills. He has a quick bat that allows him to make solid contact and even generate average power for a middle infielder. Defensively, he has solid footwork and soft hands. The Angels would like to see if he can handle a move to shortstop, but we feel his stocky build is more suited for second base. Segura looks to possess all of the skills that would give him an upside of an above average Major League second basemen. We will be watching for another step forward as he tackles the CAL in 2011.
3) Hank Conger, C (2010– Power 51; Discipline 66; First Base Rate 67; Speed 29)
One would think that the off-season trade that sent Mike Napoli to the Jays would have paved the way for Conger to move into at least a half-time role as Angels’ backstop in 2011, but we fear that Mike Sciosia’s penchant for defense-oriented catchers may see Conger as handicapped for playing time as was Napoli. Offense has never been the issue for Conger, as he has above average contact and strike zone management skills. If he stays behind the plate, his power should also rate at least average. The problem is that many, us included, aren’t convinced Conger can defensively become an average everyday catcher. If that isn’t the case, his near base-clogging speed would limit him to either first base or DH—where his bat is likely to come up short in an everyday role. Conger is ready to hit in the Major’s and will battle for a roster spot this spring.
4) Jordan Walden, RP (2010 – Dominance 53; Control 39; HRrate 63; Stamina 27)
Walden’s 2009 performance had many wondering if he was going to end up falling short of realizing his substantial potential. We still rated him as the Angels’ #4 prospect on last year’s list, believing that a move to the bullpen was in the offing. Sure enough, the Angels returned him to the TXL to open the 2010 season--in the pen, and while Walden did experience an adjustment period with his new role, by the time he was promoted to the Angels in August, he was once again firing bb’s like he did when he was regarded one of the system’s best prospects. Out of the pen, Walden’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and can go as high as triple digits. His next best pitch is a slider that isn’t the devastating variety that would give Walden a lethal fastball/slider combo. He will have to improve upon it—especially with regards to command, if he is to become more than an 8th inning guy. With the Angels’ closer situation unsettled, there is an opportunity for Walden to be their closer. Our expectation is that he opens the season as Fernando Rodney’s set-up guy.
5) Kaleb Cowart, 3B –
Prior to June’s draft, Cowart ranked #14 on our board, although we, like most in the industry, liked him better as a pitcher. Cowart had other ideas, and the Angels were seemingly willing to go along for the time being. Currently a switch-hitter, but no guarantee to remain one, Cowart shows tremendous power as his major offensive skill. Only 18yo, he has an aggressive plate approach and a relatively long swing—both items that crate an excessive amount of strikeouts. Despite being a strong athlete, Cowart’s speed is barely average and is likely to decline as he matures. Defensively, while he has a plus arm, his footwork is questionable and we only see the makings of an adequate defensive third baseman. We don’t want to sell Cowart’s talent short, as he has the potential to develop into a power hitting third baseman. We just believe that he would have been better served on the mound. Look for Cowart to open the 2011 season in full-season A-ball.
6) Fabio Martinez, RHP (2010 – Dominance 75; Control 21; HRrate 55; Stamina 72)
Martinez has been on our radar since finishing the 2008 season with the DSL’s #4 Performance Score. He followed that up with the Top Score in the AZL in his US debut in 2009, and added a #12 finish in the MWL this past season. The point is that he has consistently demonstrated that he stands above the typical prospect crowd. Still tremendously raw, Martinez has a mid-90s fastball that is complimented by a plus slider and a potentially plus change. The pure ‘stuff’ is there for Martinez to develop into a front of the rotation ace. However, if Martinez is to reach his upside, he will have to make significant changes. His delivery is full of motion that, while generating tremendous velocity, leaves him with abysmal command. His change still needs substantial work, and he will have to work on evolving into more pitcher than thrower. Only 21yo, look for Martinez in the CAL in 2011.
7) Randal Grichuk, OF (2010– Power 80; Discipline 56; First Base Rate 26; Speed 42)
While Grichuk may end up being best remembered as the answer to the trivia question of whom the Angels selected ahead of Mike Trout in the 2009 draft, we can’t understand all of the negativity that seems to surround him. Getting the negatives out of the way first, Grichuk has rarely met a pitch that he could resist tacking a hack at. He has extreme difficulty with breaking balls, that often make him look silly. Both his arm and range can only hope to be average in right field, perhaps eventually predicating a move to left. Now for the rest of the story…Grichuk will play nearly all of the 2011 season as a 19yo, with most of it likely in the CAL. His power is the best in the system, bordering on the plus-plus variety. 2010 saw him not only post the #5 Performance Score in the MWL, but after a slow April start, he posted a .350/.370/.659. While far from a sure bet at reaching it, Grichuk has the ceiling of a significant power hitting corner outfielder. He’ll likely return to Cedar Rapids for a couple of months before moving on to Inland Empire.
8) Tyler Chatwood, RHP (2010 – Dominance 38; Control 44; HRrate 62; Stamina 74)
Perhaps on the flip-side of the Grichuk story, we have difficulty understanding all the love heaped on this 2008, second rounder. Yes, Chatwood has a fastball that he runs up into the mid-90s and a curveball that may be the best in the Angels’ system. He is also able to keep the ball down in the zone—generating a 2.02 GO/AO ratio in his three professional seasons. Finally, no one questions his aggressive, attacking, mound approach. That said, at 6’0”, 185lbs, there is little physical upside projectability left with Chatwood. His change still struggles to be an average offering, and his command is often times best described as poor. Despite owning two plus pitches, he misses way too few bats, as three stops in 2010 found him with a .261 Average Against and a meager 6.3 Ks per 9 IP. Still Chatwood managed to post the #5 Performance Score in the CAL and the #7 Score in the TXL. Don’t get us wrong, Chatwood has the ceiling a solid #2 Big League starter. But, given his size, command issues, limited projectability and lack of a Major League change, we can’t help but feel he is destined for a late inning role at the next level. Look for Chatwood to begin 2011 in the PCL.
9) Alexi Amarista, 2B (2010– Power 34; Discipline 78; First Base Rate 57; Speed 56)
Amarista has now posted the #1 Performance Score in the DSL in 2007, the #5 Score in the AZL in 2008, the #6 Score in the MWL in 2009 and now the #11 Score in the CAL and #5 Score in the TXL in 2010. Amarista is a model of consistency that would likely get more notoriety if it weren’t for his diminutive 5’7”, 150lb, frame. Defense is his main calling card, as his soft hands, quick feet and solid arm earned him the designation of top defender at second base in two different leagues in 2010. Offensively, Amarista has excellent strikezone management skills, above average speed, solid contact skills and an energy level matched by few players in the Minors. Only 21yo, the only thing missing from his game is power. Despite that, Amarista exploded this winter in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he not only posted the circuit’s Top Performance Score, but belted 9 home runs in the process. Few in the industry are likely to put much credence in Amarista—given his size, but with him likely to begin 2011 in AAA, we find it difficult to see how he doesn’t get at least a crack at a Big League opportunity by 2012.
10) Garret Richards, RHP (2010 – Dominance 68; Control 63; HRrate 49; Stamina 72)
With a low-90s fastball, two potentially plus breaking balls, a 6’3”, 210lb, frame and an adequate change, Richards has the makings of the quintessential mid-rotation workhorse. Add to that a propensity for batters to beat the ball into the ground against him (2.13 GO/AO ratio as a professional) and solid command, Richards’ floor is extremely high. Our only knock is his ceiling, as his profile comps don’t provide a lot of confidence on the upside. While his 2010 season did see Richards post the #13 Performance Score in the CAL, most of the year was spent in the MWL where he couldn’t crack the Top 30. While he shows solid pitchability with his four-pitch repertoire, it often becomes far too hittable, as opposing batters have hit nearly .250 against him as a pro—despite the fact that Richards has been a tad older than we would like to see at each level. 2011 will be a critical evaluation year for Richards, as he should open the year in AA—against a competition level that will tell us far more about his future.
11) Trevor Reckling, LHP (2010 – Dominance 37; Control 29; HRrate 48; Stamina 71)
Reckling’s 2010 season can be classified as nothing less than an unmitigated disaster, as the 21yos jump to AAA proved more than he was ready for. Coming into 2010, Reckling appeared to be a rather polished lefty, with a high-80s fastball and some of the best secondary offerings in the Minors’—drawing comparisons to White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle. But the jump to AAA and the Angels’ desire to see less of his plus-plus change, played havoc with his season. Finally, he was returned to the TXL in mid-season to attempt to right the ship. Fortunately, Reckling was able to post the TXL’s #5 Performance Score in his return, and still shows significant promise, despite taking a step back this past season. Reckling still has the opportunity to become a solid #2/#3 Major League starter. He will give AAA another try to open 2011, with an eye towards joining the Angels before the season is out.
12) Mark Trumbo, 1B (2010– Power 76; Discipline 34; First Base Rate 41; Speed 37)
Trumbo is an excellent example of just how high the bar is for a player that is likely limited defensively to first base. A converted pitcher, Trumbo had a breakout season in 2008 and has been posting enormous power numbers ever since. Unfortunately, power is his only plus skill, as his long swing is unlikely to ever see him making more than average contact and he whiffs (23% strikeout ratio in 2010) far too often. With below average speed, he is likely stuck as a first baseman. While he could become an adequate everyday player on a second division team, we feel he is likely to be limited to being a right-handed power hitter off of the bench. Trumbo should get a long look this spring, and even if he doesn’t break camp with the Angels, he should see Los Angeles at some point in 2011.
Other Potential Top 300 Prospects – 13) Cam Bedrosian, RHP; 14) Chevez Clarke, OF.
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 and here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season.