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Los Angeles Angels Top 20 prospects for 2017

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Matt Thaiss
Matt Thaiss
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Angels Top 20 Prospects for 2017

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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.

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. 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) Matt Thaiss, 1B, Grade B: Age 21, first round pick in 2016 from University of Virginia; hit .292/.361/.462 between rookie ball and Low-A, six homers, 26 walks, 32 strikeouts in 264 at-bats; caught in college but a first baseman now; renowned for excellent strike zone judgment and overall feel for hitting; power is the main question; he should be good for double-digit HRs but won’t be an elite home run bat; polished and should move quickly, one of the few bats in system who projects as a regular. ETA 2019.

2) Jahmai Jones, OF, Grade B: Age 19, second round pick in 2015, hit .302/.379/.422 with four homers, 26 walks, 42 strikeouts in 258 at-bats between rookie ball and Low-A, 20 steals; 60-grade speed, good arm and raw power as well, controls strike zone decently, strong enough to hit for more power eventually although right now he’s a line drive type; highest physical ceiling in the system but not as refined as Thaiss, no surprise given his age. ETA 2020.

3) Taylor Ward, C, Grade C+: Age 23, first round pick in 2015 from Fresno State; hit .249/.323/.337 with 10 homers, 48 walks, 81 strikeouts in 466 at-bats in High-A; effective against runners (38% caught) and makes few errors but still vulnerable to passed balls; has made progress with receiving but more is needed, though in the long run I am confident in his glove; can take a walk but isolated power production was disappointing especially for the Cal League; will get to majors due to defense but role will depend on bat. ETA late 2018.

4) Alex Meyer, RHP, Grade C+: Age 27, acquired from Minnesota Twins in summer deadline trade; 1.86 ERA in 29 minor league innings with 40/6 K/BB, but just 5.68 ERA with 29/17 K/BB in 25 MLB innings; 6-9 right-hander with history of shoulder problems; can be overpowering when healthy but both stuff and command can sag when he’s not at his best mechanically; getting old for a prospect and must solidify a roster spot now; watch for any improvement in K/BB ratio. ETA 2017.

5) Brandon Marsh, OF, Grade C+: Age 19, second round pick in 2016 from high school in Georgia; hasn’t played in pro ball yet due to a back injury; impressive tool set with 60-grade arm, 60-grade speed, and potential to hit for power; considered raw as a player however due to dual sport emphasis in high school; all speculative until we see him play in pro ball but pure tools are on par with Jones. ETA: 2021.

6) Keynan Middleton, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, third round pick in 2013 from Lane Community College; posted 3.41 ERA with 88/28 K/BB in 66 innings at High-A, Double-A, Triple-A; converted starter worked well in relief, showing improve fastball up to 98-100 MPH and a good (if erratic) slider; doesn’t use change-up much in pen and ready for a trial. ETA 2017.

7) Nate Smith, LHP, Grade C+: Age 25, eighth round pick in 2013 from Furman; posted 4.61 ERA with 122/44 K/BB in 150 innings in Triple-A, 166 hits; soft-tosser with fastball that peaks at 91; can play up due to contrast with plus change-up, average slider; low physical upside but command and mound presence maximize his physical ability; number four/five starter projection. ETA 2017.

8) Grayson Long, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, third round pick in 2015 from Texas A&M; posted 3.18 ERA in 65 innings between Low-A, High-A, and rookie ball injury rehab with 70/25 K/BB, 54 hits; low-90s fastball with solid-average slider and change-up, command can be inconsistent but he has stretches where he locates very well; stereotypical number four/five starter but might be more dominant per-inning if moved to bullpen. ETA 2019.

9) Chris Rodriguez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 18, fourth round pick in 2016 from high school in Miami; 1.59 ERA in 11.1 innings in rookie ball with 17/3 K/BB, small sample but a strong debut; fastball 91-94 with peaks at 95-96, mixes in slider and change-up and showed better-than-expected command in debut; obviously we need more data but it is possible that he could leap up the pitching prospect lists in '17; keep a close eye on him. ETA 2021

10) Vicente Campos, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, posted 3.22 ERA with 120/43 KBB in 143 innings, 125 hits; played for five different teams being traded from Yankees to Diamondbacks, now with Angels after November waiver claim; also known as Jose Campos; long history of injuries including Tommy John in 2014 and a fractured ulnar which ended his ’16 season early and puts opening status in doubt; stuff varies on his health, has been clocked as high as 96 but will lose zip when not right physically; very good change-up and under-rated breaking stuff; I like him when he’s healthy but that’s a big when. ETA 2017?

11) Nonie Williams, SS, Grade C+: Age 18, third round pick in 2016 out of high school in Kansas; hit .244/.280/.282 with eight walks, 40 strikeouts, eight steals in 156 at-bats in rookie ball; best tool is speed, 60 or 65 grade; impressive overall athlete and has some switch-hitting power to go with the legs; bat very raw at present, with pitch recognition and swing mechanics all needing much more polish; high ceiling but years away and could develop into just about anything, or nothing. ETA 2021.

12) David Fletcher, INF, Grade C+: Age 22, sixth round pick in 2015 out of Loyola Marymount; hit .280/.322/.351 with 16 steals, 25 walks, 56 strikeouts in 404 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; classic college-trained hustleman with mediocre-to-average physical tools but good feel for the game; tools are stretched at shortstop and will fit better at second long-term; line drive hitter, can be aggressive but makes contact, lacks power; utility profile most likely. ETA 2018.

13) Connor Justus, SS, Grade C+: Age 22, fifth round pick out of Georgia Tech in ’16; hit .276/.394/.358 with 32 walks, 53 strikeouts in 232 at-bats between rookie ball and Low-A; lacks power but controls strike zone well; like Fletcher, he’s not the toolsiest guy in the world but his polished glove has a better chance to stay at shortstop and he’s a more patient hitter; Fletcher will get to the majors first but Justus should not be overlooked. ETA 2019.

14) Abel De Los Santos, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, from Dominican Republic, originally in Rangers system, then traded to Nationals, then claimed on waivers by Reds, then claimed on waivers by Angels this past fall; 2.81 ERA with 64/30 K/BB in 58 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 45 hits allowed; fastball 92-95, throws two different breaking balls, projects as effective middle reliever if he can sharpen his command a bit more. ETA 2017.

15) Eduardo Paredes. RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, signed out of Venezuela in 2012, posted 3.33 ERA with 75/20 K/BB in 70 innings between High-A and Double-A, 64 hits, 12 saves; another middle relief candidate; fastball 93-96 with reported peaks at 98; also has a slurvy breaking ball and deceptive delivery and usually throws strikes; often overlooked despite strong performance record. ETA 2018.

16) Jaime Barria, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, signed out of Panama in 2013; posted 3.85 ERA with 78/21 K/BB in 117 innings in Low-A, 133 hits; impressive control of low-90s fastball along with change-up and curveball; throws strikes but secondary pitches fringy at this point, reflected in low strikeout rate; projects as four/five starter if he can improve his dominance ratios, certainly young enough to do so. ETA 2020.

17) Michael Hermosillo, OF, Grade C+: Age 22, 28th round pick in 2013 from high school in Illinois; hit .317/.402/.467 with six homers, 34 walks, 52 strikeouts in 287 at-bats between Low-A and High-A; line drive type with some bat speed and flashes of plate discipline, a center fielder so far but tools likely fit best in left field, adding pressure to the bat; a project but has some upside. ETA 2020.

18) Elvin Rodriguez, RHP, Grade C+/C: Age 18, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2014; posted 1.53 ERA with 57/14 K/BB in 59 innings in rookie ball, 32 hits; fastball in the low 90s, off-speed needs work although his control is good and he showed enough polish to stay ahead of rookie ball hitters; long way off but worth tracing in a thin system. ETA 2020.

19) Cole Duensing, RHP, Grade C+/C: Age 18, sixth round pick in 2016 from high school in Kansas; posted 1.38 ERA with 11/5 K/BB in 13 innings in rookie ball; projectable 6-4, 175 frame with fastball in the low-90s that may pick up; secondary pitches raw but there’s a good physical foundation here to build on. ETA 2021.

20) Osmer Morales, RHP, Grade C
: Age 24, from Venezuela, originally signed by Mariners but picked up as minor league free agent this winter; 3.32 ERA in 117 innings in Low-A and High-A with 134/27 k/BB, 111 hits; does not throw hard, fastball at just 87-89 but he’s deceptive and mixes in a solid curve and change; old for the levels but has an excellent track record and needs to be watched. ETA 2019.

OTHERS: Nate Bertness, LHP; Alex Blackford, RHP; Tyler Carpenter, RHP; J0esus Castillo, RHP; Tyler DeLoach, LHP; Jared Foster, OF; Julio Garcia, SS; Joe Gatto, RHP; Zach Gibbons, OF; Kevin Grendell, LHP; Keith Grieshaber, INF; Zach Houchins, 3B; Jake Jewell, RHP Jordan Kipper, RHP; Brennon Lund, OF; Troy Montgomery, OF; Hutton Moyer, INF; Oliver Ortega, RHP; Luis Pena, RHP; Brooks Pounders, RHP; Jeremy Rhoades, RHP; Leonardo Rivas, INF; Alexis Rivera, OF; Jose Rodriguez, RHP; Brandon Sanger, INF; Troy Scribner, RHP Jose Soriano, RHP; Jose Suarez, LHP; Kyle Survance, OF; Ryan Vega, OF; Jordan Zimmerman, 2B

Very thin obviously, but the level of depth in C+ types isn’t bad and there are signs of improvement. I’ll be around to answer questions in the comments section.