Los Angeles Angels Top 20 Prospects for 2012

Los Angeles Angels Top 20 Prospects for 2012

The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!

QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:

Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.

Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.

Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.

A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.

Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.

Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.

1) Mike Trout, OF, Grade A: Complete player: hits for average, hits for power, steals bases, will draw walks, plays great defense. Was rushed to the majors, but there should be no doubts about his star potential. He looked exhausted in the Arizona Fall League and the collapse of his plate discipline there was likely just a glitch.

2) Garrett Richards, RHP, Grade B. Hard to believe this guy couldn't get college hitters out, but he's come a long way in three years. I might be overrating him a tad with the B+, that grade is under review, but he looks like a strong mid-rotation starter to me and possibly more.

3) Jean Segura, SS-2B, Grade B: Same grade he got last year which seems appropriate given the season lost to injury. Adapted well to shortstop although I've talked with people who think he'll still end up at 2B. In person, he looks a lot stockier/bulkier than his listed height/weight data, though the quickness is still obvious. I want to see his bat in Double-A.

4) Taylor Lindsey, 2B, Grade B-: I want to see his bat outside the easy-offense Pioneer League, but a young middle infielder with pop draws my notice. His defense turned out to be better than expected as well. Should develop into some sort of Adam Kennedy/Todd Walker type regular.

5) Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Grade B-: I want to see his bat outside the easy-offense Pioneer League, but a switch-hitting third baseman with power potential and a promising glove is intriguing. Needs to get the strike zone under control to thrive at higher levels.

6) C.J. Cron, 1B, Grade B-: I want to see his bat outside the easy-offense Pioneer League. It didn't impact his production, but his plate discipline wasn't as good as it was in college, and he's not much of a fielder. He should still mash his way to the majors fairly quickly.

7) John Hellweg, RHP, Grade B-: Weird season in the Cal League, was horrible in relief (7.71 ERA, 33/31 K/BB in 26 innings), but suddenly figured out how to pitch as a starter (2.12 ERA, 80/28 K/BB in 64 innings, 5.00 GO/AO). Upper-90s fastball, slider, changeup, 6-9 height. Is the breakthrough sustainable? If it is, will be at least a B+ a year from now.

8) Luis Jimenez, 3B, Grade B-: Doesn't get much attention outside of Angels fandom, but he had a good year in Double-A (.290/.335/.486, 40 doubles, 18 homers, 15 steals) at age 23 and is a solid defender. A candidate to sneak up on us.

9) Nick Maronde, LHP, Grade B-: Third round pick from University of Florida in '11, relieved in college but being converted to starter. Good fastball/slider combo, working on changeup. Number three starter if all goes well.

10) Dan Tillman, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. The best of several relief arms that will be ready within the next year or two. Low-to-mid-90s fastball, very good slider.

11) Kole Calhoun, OF-1B, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Not toolsy but continues to exceed expectations, battered Cal League pitching, steals bases despite average speed. Raise grade if he keeps hitting in Double-A.

12) Randal Grichuk, OF, Grade C+: Better tools than Calhoun and younger, but prone to injury and has serious issues with plate discipline. Could develop into an excellent slugger, but could also fizzle out in Double-A.

13) Fabio Martinez Mesa, RHP, Grade C+: Hard to rank due to health. Big "ifs" with bad shoulder and persistent command issues, but overpowering. My guess is that he ends up in bullpen eventually.

14) Jeremy Moore, OF, Grade C+: Has power, runs very well, steals bases, hits plenty of doubles, triples, and some homers, very good outfield glove despite mediocre arm. A broad range of tools and skills, but inability to control the strike zone keeps him from projecting as a regular. Could still be useful bench player, perhaps more if he shows some late-blooming plate discipline.

15) Ariel Pena, RHP, Grade C+: Hard-thrower, impressive fastball and slider, struck out 180 in 152 innings in Cal League but also walked 81. Could rank as high as 10th if you believe in his ability to develop changeup and improve command.

16) Matt Long, OF, Grade C+: Showed solid speed/power/patience combo in the California League, like Calhoun he plays above his tools and has exceeded expectations. Six months older than Calhoun and not as much pop in the bat, but could be very useful role player.

17) Cam Bedrosian, RHP, Grade C+: Can't rank higher until we see how Tommy John recovery goes.

18) Carlos Ramirez, C, Grade C: Short, stocky catcher hit great in the California League. Former Arizona State star has a very good glove, will take a walk, has some gap power, but probably won't hit enough to be a regular.

19) Trevor Reckling, LHP, Grade C: Former top prospect has seen his stock drop due to loss of velocity, command problems, and a sore elbow. Still young at 22 and it is too soon to give up on him, but he might need a change of scenery.

20) David Carpenter, RHP, Grade C: Posted 0.57 ERA in 48 innings between High-A and Double-A, 52/14 K/BB, 35 hits, 2.10 GO/AO, 16 saves. Stuff doesn't match the stats, but he gets his sinker into the low-90s and could be a solid middle reliever.

OTHERS: Alexi Amarista, INF; Abel Baker, C; Chevy Clarke, OF; Mike Clevinger, RHP; Steve Geltz, RHP; Frazier Hall, 1B; Ryan Mount, 2B; Nick Mutz, RHP; Darwin Perez, SS; Donn Roach, RHP; Andrew Romine, SS; Max Russell, LHP; Chris Scholl, RHP; A.J. Schugel, RHP; Matt Shoemaker, RHP; Daniel Vargas-Vila, RHP; Travis Witherspoon, OF, Austin Wood, RHP.

This system is better than I thought it was at first glance, although it isn't elite right now.

Mike Trout is the big star here, of course, the second-best hitting prospect in baseball behind Bryce Harper. He didn't look like his normal self in the Arizona Fall League, losing the strike zone and not playing with his normal zest, but the general consensus is that he was just tired and will be fine in the spring. Jean Segura should develop into a major league regular, although I'm not quite as high on him as some people are. Lindsey (2B), Cowart (3B), and Cron (1B) are the core of a major league infield, however I want to see what they can do outside the Pioneer League. All three have strike zone issues. If they hit in full-season ball, you could have three B+ prospects next year.

Luis Jimenez strikes me as an underrated prospect worthy of more respect than he receives. Kole Calhoun, Matt Long, and toolsy Jeremy Moore should all be useful role playing outfielders. Recent heavy bets in the draft with tools guys like Grichuk, Clarke, and Ryan Bolden haven't panned out, although Trout shows what happens when you hit on one of those wagers.

The pitching side has one premium prospect in Garrett Richards and more live arms-with-questions behind him. Hellweg could be the best pitching prospect in the system by mid-season if his second-half turnaround as a starter is for real. Nick Maronde should be solid if the changeup comes around. Hard-throwers Fabio Martinez-Mesa and Ariel Pena are enigmatic; they could both be terrific, but only the monkey knows if FMM is healthy, and Pena has to get the walks down. There is a lot of raw material for a bullpen, beginning with Tillman, then continuing with Carpenter. Clevinger, Geltz, Mutz, Roach, Scholl, and Schugel all have relief potential.

Overall, this isn't a bad system and could look much better a year from now if the Orem contingent hits at higher levels. It would also look much worse if they don't.

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