Los Angeles Angels Top 20 Prospects for 2015
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 2015 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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) Andrew Heaney, LHP, Grade B+/Borderline A-: Age 23, acquired from Marlins, posted 3.28 ERA with 143/36 K/BB in 137 innings in high minors last year, 5.83 ERA with 20/7 K/BB in 29 inning in majors with Miami. Nothing left to prove on the farm, should earn rotation spot, low-90s fastball with slider, change-up, good feel, strong performance record, should be a fine number three starter, one of the "safer" pitching prospects around as if there is such a thing.
2) Sean Newcomb, LHP, Grade B/Borderline B+: Age 21, first round pick from University of Hartford last spring, 6.14 ERA with 18/6 K/BB in 15 innings in pro debut, big lefty with big stuff, fastball up to 96, slider change-up, curve. Cold-weather arm with relatively low mileage, should be a workhorse with additional command polish.
3) Nick Tropeano, RHP, Grade B-/Borderline B: Age 24, acquired from Astros, posted 3.03 ERA with 120/33 K/BB in 125 innings in Triple-A, 1.11 ERA with 13/9 K/BB in 22 innings in the majors. May go Grade B here on final lists, low 90s fastball with excellent change-up, adequate breaking ball, throws strikes, eats innings. Not as much upside as Newcomb but continually beats expectations.
4) Roberto Baldoquin, INF, Grade B-: Age 20, signed out of Cuba this month, scouting reports indicate a middle infielder with more power than typical for the position, however reports on pure hitting skills, strike zone judgment, defensive projection vary from source to source. I’ve watched the same videos as everyone else and read the same reports and he is tough to rank until we see him in spring training. Could be anything, star to sub. Consider this a placeholder grade pending more information.
5) Kyle Kubitza, 3B, Grade B-: Age 24, acquired from Braves, hit .295/.405/.470 in Double-A, nice swing from the left side, draws walks, strikes out a lot, high OBP type, not as much home run power as you’d expect given size/strength but not punchless. Has made progress on defense, not a gold glove but will field well enough to play regularly if the bat produces as expected.
6) Joe Gatto, RHP, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Age 19, second round pick from high school in New Jersey last June, 5.40 ERA with 15/9 K/BB in 25 innings in rookie ball. Fresh arm, low-to-mid-90s, curve and change need work as you would expect but he shows some pitchability. Mid-rotation potential but will need some time.
7) Cam Bedrosian, RHP, Grade C+/Borderline B-: Age 23, fizzled as a starter but took well to relief as you might anticipate given his bloodline background, mid-90s fastball, slider has come along. Will he close eventually or just settle in as a middle man?
8) Chris Ellis, RHP, Grade C+/Borderline B-: Age 22, third round pick from University of Mississippi, 6.89 ERA with 16/8 K/BB in 16 innings in Pioneer League. Scouting reports better than the early stats, hard sinker and slider, change-up okay, strikeout rate was low in college but higher as a pro. Many see mid-rotation arm but my guess is that he winds up as a reliever.
9) Trevor Gott, RHP, Grade C+/Borderline B-: Age 22, sixth round pick by Padres in 2013 from University of Kentucky, posted 2.97 ERA with 60/25 K/BB in 61 innings, 18 saves last year for three clubs, acquired in Huston Street trade. Another low/mid-90s sinker, slider, decent command, ready for middle relief audition with a chance to close long-term.
10) Victor Alcantara, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, high-ceiling arm signed out of Dominican in 2012, 3.81 ERA with 117/60 K/BB in 125 innings in Low-A, mid-upper-90s fastball, slider and change-up erratic but improved compared to ’13, another guy who may wind up in bullpen due to command and mechanical issues.
11) Hunter Green, LHP, Grade C+: Age 19, second round pick from high school in Kentucky in 2013, missed all of 2014 with back trouble. Low-90s fastball, promising curveball, needs innings to iron out secondaries and command, missed season was not good but at least it wasn’t his shoulder or elbow.
12) Kyle McGowin, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, posted 2.93 ERA with 48/16 K/BB in 58 innings in High-A, limited by elbow injury although surgery avoided. Low-90s heat, very good slider, decent change-up, usually throws strikes, number four projection or a middle reliever if durability remains an issue.
13) Jeremy Rhoades, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, fourth round pick out of Illinois State in 2014, posted 4.42 ERA with 40/15 K/BB in 39 innings in Pioneer League. Sense a theme here? Low-90s fastball, good slider, some success as both starter and reliever in college but most likely a bullpen guy in pro ball, could advance quickly if command holds.
14) Alex Yarbrough, 2B, Grade C+: Age 23, hit .285/.321/.397 with five homers, 33 walks, 124 strikeouts in 544 at-bats in Double-A. Steady defender, hits for average and gap power, lacks range to play other positions and aggressive approach may not work too well at the highest levels. Favorite of Texas League observers for hustle.
15) Taylor Featherston, INF, Grade C/Borderline C+: Age 25, Rule 5 pick from Rockies, could stick as utility infielder. Hit .260/.322/.439 with 33 doubles, 16 homers, 14 steals in Double-A. Versatile glove, has some pop, some speed, held back by impatience and contact issues (38/114 BB/K ratio) but could fit in reserve role with some minor adjustments, reminds me of Brent Lillibridge for both good and bad. More versatile than Yarbrough but two years older.
16) Nate Smith, LHP, Grade C/Borderline C+: Age 23, eighth round pick in 2013 out of Furman, 2.97 ERA with 118/44 K/BB in 118 innings between High-A and Double-A. Solid performer thus far though in-person reports emphasize lack of stuff. Best pitch is change-up, small margin for error but could be a surprise four/five starter.
17) Natanael Delgado, OF, Grade C: Age 19, hit .301/.333/.464 with five walks, 34 strikeouts in 153 at-bats in Pioneer League. Part of renewed Angels efforts in Latin America, Dominican outfielder has line drive bat, reports on other tools are mixed, could be a tweener but one of the higher ceilings in the system.
18) Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Grade C: Age 22, former first round pick with second-straight disappointing season in Double-A, hit just .223/.295/.324. He did steal 26 bases and can field his position but his swing is a mess and power just hasn’t developed. Seems increasingly likely that he will wind up as a pitcher. He was a good mound prospect in high school so it would make sense.
19) Andrew Daniel, 2B, Grade C: Age 22, sleeper prospect, hit .340/.408/.510 with 20 doubles, six homers, 13 steals in Pioneer League. 11th round pick from University of San Diego, we need to see him at higher levels but there are some interesting markers here. His bat gets good reviews but he fell in the draft due to poor defense. However, his glove was much better in pro ball than it was in college. Could rise quickly if he keeps hitting.
20) Tyler DeLoach, LHP, Grade C: Age 23, posted 2.99 ERA with 161/66 K/BB in 147 innings between High-A and Double-A. Despite impressive K/IP ratio he doesn’t burn radar guns, relying on deception, funky arm angles and changes of speed. Like Nate Smith his margin for error is thin but he has a chance.
20-A) Drew Rucinski, RHP, Grade C: Age 26, posted 3.15 ERA with 140/41 K/BB in 149 innings in Double-A, got seven-inning big league trial. You could slot most of the "others" here, but I want to point this guy out. Undrafted free agent from Ohio State plucked out of the Frontier League in 2013 and made the majors within a year. Four-pitch mix, throws strikes, if you are looking for another Matt Shoemaker "who the hell is this guy" success story, check him out.
OTHERS: Jett Bandy, C; Harrison Cooney, RHP; Kody Eaves, 2B; Chad Hinshaw, OF; Sherman Johnson, INF; Greg Mahle, LHP; Crucito Mieses, RHP; Carlos Perez, C; Danny Reynolds, RHP; Jose Rodriguez, RHP; Jared Ruxer, RHP; Scott Snodgress, LHP; Eric Stamets, SS; Cal Towey, 3B-OF: Bo Way, OF; Jonah Wesely, LHP; Austin Wood, RHP
Everyone knows the Angels farm system is thin. And it is, but while they lack impact headline talent they actually have some fairly interesting sleeper types, especially on the mound.
Recent trades have brought in some talent. Pitching prospect acquisitions Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano are ready for an extended trials and Trevor Gott could be ready for the bullpen soon. Internal signee Cam Bedrosian is also ready for a full look. There are several potential back-end starters or bullpen values, and while guys like Tyler DeLoach and Nate Smith may not burn radar guns, they do seem to get people out. The Angels have shown the ability to identify under-rated talents that other teams pass up, Matt Shoemaker being the most recent example. 2013 and 2014 draftees Hunter Green, Joe Gatto, and Sean Newcomb have impressive ceilings if they can stay healthy. Overall I rather like what they have done on the mound, finding useful arms on the cheap.
Hitting is another matter; there is a definite lack of impact here. Kyle Kubitza could wind up being the third baseman that Kaleb Cowart was supposed to be. As they have with pitching, the Angels have been able to find some solid budget players in middle and later rounds, with Alex Yarbrough, Sherman Johnson, and Andrew Daniel for example looking to follow Kole Calhoun into major league productivity. Attempts to bring in high-ceiling players have met with less success although the recent signing of Cuban Roberto Baldoquin might change that.
Overall, the Angels need to find a way to add more high-impact talent to the system without compromising their present ability to find bargains, too. Having actual draft picks will help with that, and recent efforts in Latin America should eventually bear fruit.