Continuing with the latest series of Prospect Retrospective articles, we turn our attention today (by reader request) to outfielder Angel Pagan of the San Francisco Giants.
Angel Pagan was drafted by the New York Mets in the fourth round in 1999 from high school in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. He did not sign and went to Indian River State College in Florida for his freshman season, then came to terms with the Mets right before he would have gone back into the 2000 draft pool (this was under the old "draft and follow" system). His pro debut was just 19 games with Kingston in the Appalachian League though he played very well: 361/.410/.458 with six steals.
I didn't write much about short-season players back then so he wasn't graded. Reports at the time praised his speed and said he had some feel for hitting, but power development was questionable.
Pagan played for Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League in 2001 and was solid, hitting .315/.388/.374. He stole 30 bases but was caught 18 times. Here is the very brief report I wrote on him in the 2002 Minor League Scouting Notebook:
Pagan is strong enough to hit for power eventually though he hasn't done so yet. He does make contact and is blazing fast on the bases. We need to see how his bat holds up against faster pitching. Grade C.
By current standards the Grade C was too low and he should have been a C+ given that I did see potential in the bat.
Pagan played for Low-A Columbia in 2002 hitting .279/.325/.338 with 32 walks, 87 strikeouts, and 52 stolen bases in 458 at-bats. Reports praised his speed and were very positive about his defense but there was very little power. A late promotion to St. Lucie gave an impressive .303/.445/.448 in 16 games with an additional 10 steals. I still had him as a Grade C at this point.
That didn't change in 2003 following a very mediocre campaign for St. Lucie: .249/.307/.313 in 113 games. He stole 35 bags but remained an inefficient base-runner with 15 caughts. Reports continued to praise his defense and speed but the bat was looking doubtful for higher levels. Still a Grade C.
Moved up to Double-A Binghamton for 2004, Pagan improved with a .287/.346/.405 campaign with 29 steals. He was more efficient as a stealer and was showing more pop in the bat. Two weeks at Triple-A Norfolk were also productive at .289/.347/.489 in 45 at-bats. I noted in my 2005 report that "he's been effective at times, but less so at others", commenting that his skills were inconsistent and projecting him still as a reserve outfielder.
There was no reason to think differently after his 2005 season: he hit .271/.333/.395 with 27 steals but 15 caught, with a 49/111 BB/K in 516 at-bats for Triple-A Norfolk. His Isolated Power was creeping up gradually as he matured physically, but this profile was still that of a reserve outfielder.
Looking for outfield depth, the Chicago Cubs purchased Pagan from the Mets in the spring of 2006. He saw action as a reserve outfielder, hitting .247/.306/.394 in 170 at-bats. This was very much in line with what you'd expect from his minor league numbers. His 2007 season was similar but with a little more power (.264/.306/.439). He was traded back to the Mets for 2008.
Injuries cost him almost all of the '08 season but in '09 he seized a job, hitting .306/.350/.487 in 343 at-bats. Note that this was his age 27 season, the classic peak of career for many players. He stayed healthy and was a regular player in '10 and '11, then was traded to the San Francisco Giants for 2012. There he has continued to play well when healthy but has been hampered by hamstring and back injuries.
Overall, Pagan has hit .283/.334/.419 in his big league career with 149 steals in 192 attempts, with a fWAR of 17.7. His peak seasons were 2010 (5.0 fWAR)_ and 2012 (4.7 fWAR).
The main difference between Pagan in the majors and Pagan in the minors is power development. His ISO numbers began increasing at age 22, likely a matter of gaining strength with physical maturity. The big step forward occurred at age 27, when it does for many players. Although not a walk machine, his feel for hitting was good enough for him to survive while his strength matured. The speed and defense were always there and he gradually learned how to use that speed more efficiently on the bases.