Los Angeles Angels Top 20 Prospects for 2013
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. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 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 reasonable 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. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) 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.
ALL GRADES ARE PRELIMINARY AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE. No grade is final until January 15th, 2013
1) Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Grade B+: Clearly the class of the system. Has developed into a very good fielder, perhaps excellent, and his bat is showing steady improvements. Expect him to be a moderate batting average, solid OBP, good power guy with a great glove. Switch-hitting Mike Lowell?
2) Nick Maronde, LHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. I think he has B+ talent but his durability is questionable and he probably fits best as a reliever, which dings his stock a bit. Still the best pitching prospect in the organization by far.
3) Randal Grichuk, OF, Grade B-: His slash line (.298/.335/.488) was decent but not great by Cal League standards. Good power potential, baserunning and fielding have improved, but scouts still worry about complex swing being exposed at higher levels. I'm putting him ahead of Cron because he has a better balance of skills and is younger.
4) C.J. Cron, 1B, Grade B-: Very impressive power production with 27 homers, although his impatient approach hampers his OBP and his overall numbers (.293/.327/.516), like Grichuk's, were not exceptional by Cal League standards. Limited with the glove, so he has to hit. Will his batting average hold up against better pitching?
5) Taylor Lindsey, 2B, Grade B-: Solid line drive hitter with gap power hit .289/.328/.408 in the Cal League at age 20, with improving defense. Possible Adam Kennedy type player.
6) R.J. Alvarez, RHP, Grade C+: Third round pick from Florida Atlantic was top player in 2012 draft class for Angels, since they lacked first and second round choices. Can hit 100 MPH in relief and has a good slider, but command needs work. Closer potential.
7) Kole Calhoun, OF, Grade C+: Former Arizona State star lacks big tools but has good instincts and polish, hit .298/.369/.507 in Triple-A. Decent on-base skills with occasional pop and underrated glovework, would be an ideal fourth outfielder.
8) Alex Yarbrough, 2B, Grade C+: Former University of Mississippi star lacks big tools but has good instincts and polish, hit .287/.320/.410 in pro debut in Low-A but can improve on that. Decent on-base skills with occasional pop and underrated glovework, could slot in the middle infield someday.
9) Luis Jimenez, 3B, Grade C+: Scouts aren't wild about him but he keeps putting up decent numbers, including .309/.334/.495 in Triple-A. Very nice swing, makes contact, slightly above average power, outperforms his scouting reports defensively. At age 25 his upside is limited, but he can be a good role player.
10) A.J. Schugel, RHP, Grade C+: Strike-thrower with slightly above average stuff, posted 2.89 ERA with 109/55 K/BB in 140 innings in Double-A at age 23. Classic fifth starter or long relief profile.
11) Eswarlin Jimenez, LHP, Grade C+: Under-the-radar lefty but interesting, stats don't stand out (3.38 ERA, 73/20 K/BB in 117 innings, 136 hits in A-ball) but he's young (pitched at age 20 this year), has a clean delivery that he repeats well, gets into the low-90s, throws strikes, and has a good breaking ball. Candidate for improvement.
12) Austin Wood, RHP, Grade C: Stuff is excellent but the results aren't due to poor command, 4.30 ERA with 109/72 K/BB in 128 innings, 125 hits in Low-A. He hasn't been consistently effective since high school, struggling for three different college programs.
13) Mark Sappington, RHP, Grade C: High ceiling arm drafted out of Rockhurst University in the fifth round this year, can hit mid-90s but very raw with awkward mechanics and secondary pitches, posted 5.15 ERA with command troubles in rookie ball.
14) Mike Clevinger, RHP, Grade C: Would rank higher but will miss 2013 season with Tommy John surgery, would be somewhere in the B- range if healthy. Four-pitch arsenal projects as number three or four starter.
15) Travis Witherspoon, OF, Grade C: Super-toolsy outfielder with speed, strong defense, flashes of power had problems adapting to Double-A, where he hit .202/.286/.351 in 54 games. Turns 24 in April, projects best as a reserve outfielder.
16) Dan Tillman, RHP, Grade C: Horrible in Double-A due to command failure (12.10 ERA with 21/19 K/BB in 19 innings), got sent back down to High-A and recovered (1.88 ERA, 32/14 K/BB in 24 innings). Has plenty of stuff but will his command be sharp enough? Closer prospect if it is.
17) Eric Stamets, SS, Grade C: University of Evansville prospect drafted in sixth round this year is athletic, fast, good fielder, line drive hitter. Hit .274/.323/.347 in Low-A, lack of power may relegate him to utility role.
18) Jonathan Walsh, OF, Grade C: 11th round pick from the University of Texas last year, hit .300/.411/.522 in the Pioneer League. Switch-hitter with power and good plate discipline, but rough defense. We need to see him outside the Pioneer League but he has potential.
19) Sherman Johnson, 2B, Grade C: 14th round pick from Florida State, college fans are familiar with him. Excellent strike zone judgment and solid defense at second base, though his tools are limited. Posted .427 OBP in Pioneer League.
20) Wade Hinkle, 1B, Grade C: 27th round pick out of Kansas State, hit .338/.443/.586 in Pioneer League. Having seen him in college, I think the power is real, but his defense is awful and it remains to be seen if that kind of batting average/OBP will hold up against better pitching. The college guys in the Pioneer League all have to prove themselves at higher levels but could advance quickly in a thin system if they do.
OTHERS: Yency Almonte, RHP; Cam Bedrosian, RHP; Ryan Brasier, RHP; Ryan Chaffee, RHP; Chevez Clarke, OF; Steve Geltz, RHP; Ty Kelley, RHP; Matt Long, 2B-OF; Carlos Ramirez, C; Andrew Romine, SS; Jose Rondon, SS; Michael Roth, LHP; Reid Scoggins, RHP; Brandon Sisk, LHP; Michael Snyder, 1B; Wendell Soto, SS; Andrew Taylor, LHP; Zach Wright, C.
Spots from 15 through 20 could be filled by most of the "others" guys but I highlighted some guys from the '12 draft who look interesting.
The big success for the Angels farm system was the stunning development of Mike Trout, from top prospect into superstar far more quickly than any could have hoped. But he's no longer a prospect, and with other top talents shipped off in trades, plus a 2012 draft that didn't have a first or second round pick, the system is now quite weak.
The top talents are obvious and there is a decent group of position players. Cowart is the best of the lot and can be a long-term regular and possible All-Star if his bat maximizes. Cron and Grichuk have power, but their plate discipline will need to work at higher levels and that's an open question. Taylor Lindsey and Alex Yarbrough are second base options, and I like Luis Jimenez as a role player. Several college guys had strong 2012 debuts in rookie ball but will have to prove themselves at higher levels before earning better grades.
Pitching is very thin. Maronde is the best of the lot by far, but he's probably more reliever than starter and that's an issue for a system that lacks a top-flight (or even medium-flight) starting pitcher prospect. Alvarez, Tillman, and Sappington are also relief guys who could help eventually, and some of the "others" guys (Brasier, Chaffee, Geltz, Kelley, Sisk) have middle relief potential but lack the stuff or consistency to close. Schugel could be a fair inning-eater, but the best starting pitchers are hampered by injuries (Clevinger) or serious command problems (Wood). Jimenez is a guy to watch, if he can add some dominance to his control he could take off in 2013.