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Los Angeles Angels Top 20 prospects for 2018

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It is getting better. . .

Shohei Ohtani Farewell Ceremony Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images

Los Angeles Angels Top 20 Prospects for 2018

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) Shohei Ohtani, RHP, Grade A: Age 23, Japanese superstar, limited by ankle and hamstring injuries in 2017 but hit .332/.403/.540 in 202 at-bats when healthy, posted 3.20 ERA in 25 innings, 29/19 K/BB; his healthy 2016 season was superb with 1.86 ERA, 174/45 K/BB in 140 innings, just 89 hits; hit 102 MPH in 2016, setting all-time record for Japan; consistently in mid-to-upper-90s; mixes in slider, splitter, curveball, change-up; all of his secondaries are above-average to excellent and he usually throws strikes; as a hitter, features excellent bat speed/power and a solid approach; a complete player in every respect; only real question is health as he’s dealt with some elbow soreness and the aforementioned ankle injury; if healthy he should be at least a number two starter and could be a true number one; ETA 2018.

2) Jo Adell, OF, Grade B+: Age 18, first round pick in 2017 from high school in Kentucky; hit .325/.376/.532 in Arizona and Pioneer Leagues, with five homers, eight steals, 14 walks, 49 strikeouts in 203 at-bats; a bit raw with the strike zone but bat speed and power potential are excellent and compensated for any approach issues, at least in rookie ball; 65-70 runner, 60-65 arm, complete package as power-hitting outfielder with speed and good defense; my guess is that he’ll face few challenges in A-ball but may have some issues when he reaches Double-A; ETA 2021.

3) Jahmai Jones, OF, Grade B/B+: Age 20, second round pick in 2016 from high school in Georgia; hit .282/.348/.446 between Low-A and High-A with 14 homers, 27 steals, 45 walks, 106 strikeouts in 518 at-bats; like Adell, Jones has a promising power/speed package and a full set of defensive tools; also like Adell, he’ll have to show he can manage higher-level pitching but so far, so good; ETA late 2020.

4) Brandon Marsh, OF, Grade B/B-: Age 20, second round pick in 2016 from Georgia high school; hit .350/.396/.548 in Pioneer League with 10 steals, nine walks, 35 strikeouts in 177 at-bats; another toolsy high-ceiling outfielder with speed, power, and defense; crushed Pioneer League pitching despite aggressive approach and low walk rate; that will probably work in A-ball due to his bat speed and athleticism, but as with Adell and Jones we’ll see what happens at higher levels; physical tools are probably a bit less impressive than his counterparts but still better-than-average; ETA late 2020.

5) Kevin Maitan, SS, Grade B/B-: Age 17, signed from Venezuela by the Atlanta Braves for $4,250,000 in 2016; freed due to contract irregularities and signed as a free agent with Angels this winter; drew praise as a future superstar as an amateur but struggled in pro debut, hitting .220/.273/.323 with nine walks, 39 strikeouts in 127 at-bats in Appalachian League, also had problems on defense; scouting reports weren’t much better than the numbers, with bat speed, strike zone judgment, physical conditioning, and overall athleticism all worse than advertised; he is still very young of course and was making a big jump in competition but not everyone responds well to being rushed and Maitan did not; likely moving to third base; fall reports say he is in better physical condition now but still take a “wait and see” attitude with the bat; it should be noted that some Hall of Famers like Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter played poorly in rookie ball without it harming their long-term outlook but even so it is clear that Maitan will need more time than expected; high ceiling, but a much higher risk than it looked a year ago, still it was a good move for the Angels to sign him; ETA 2022.

6) Jaime Barria, RHP, Grade B-/B: Age 21, signed out of Panama in 2013, posted 2.80 ERA with 117/31 K/BB in 142 innings between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A with equivalent performances at each level; stuff is solid-average across the board, low-90s fastball, workable curve and change-up, doesn’t have a truly plus pitch but entire arsenal will play up due to his command and mound presence, there are guys with better stuff in the system but few have as much polish at age 21 than Barria does; I think he’s a number three starter if he maintains his health; ETA late 2018.

7) Griffin Canning, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, second round pick in 2017 out of UCLA, didn’t pitch in pro ball due to workload management concerns; posted 2.34 ERA in 119 innings for the Bruins, 140/32 K/BB; stereotypical polished college arm with 90-95 MPH fastball, plus change-up, solid curve and slider, should get to the majors quickly as long as he remains healthy; ETA late 2019.

8) Leonardo Rivas, SS, Grade B-/C+: Age 20, signed out of Venezuela in 2015, hit .286/.443/.396 with 19 steals, 59 walks, 44 strikeouts in 227 at-bats in Pioneer and Midwest Leagues; 65-70 speed combined with excellent strike zone judgment/patience makes him potent leadoff force, assuming he develop enough pop to keep pitchers honest; will never be a home run producer but could produce lots of gap line drives as he matures; has range and reliability to remain at shortstop; grade is rather aggressive but I like him; ETA 2021.

ANALYST NOTE: From here on the slots are more or less interchangeable. Think of it as a tiered approach.

9) Jose Soriano, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2016, posted 2.92 ERA with 39/18 K/BB in 52 innings in rookie ball; turns heads with fastball up to 94-95, also throws an above-average curveball, he’s projectable and may add another 2-3 MPH on the heater; change-up is well below average and he needs to sharpen up his command; not a big strikeout pitcher despite his arm strength but his fastball is heavy and he gets a lot of grounders; could develop into number three starter or a power bullpen arm; ETA 2022.

10) Jesus Castillo, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, from Venezuela, acquired in 2016 trade with the Chicago Cubs; posted 3.32 ERA in 125 innings between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A, effective at every level, 118/26 K/BB combined; velocity reports inconsistent, some giving 88-90 readings while others say 90-92 but with unusually good movement; fastball plays up due to very good curveball upsetting hitters timing; reports vary on the change-up as well, some giving solid-average marks while others saying it is distinctly below average; everyone agree he throws strikes, possible number four starter although there is a chance he could move beyond that if his stuff gets more consistent from game-to-game; ETA late 2019.

11) Jose Suarez, LHP, Grade C+: Age 20, signed out of Venezuela in 2014, posted 3.28 ERA with 90/22 K/BB in 69 innings between rookie ball and Low-A; just 5-foot-10 and isn’t going to get much bigger; fastball 88-93 MPH; curveball is mediocre but he has a terrific change-up and throws strikes, which was too much for inexperienced hitters; very high strikeout rate is a good sign but I wish reports on his breaking ball were better; possible number four starter down the line; ETA 2021.

12) Chris Rodriguez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, fourth round pick in 2016 from high school in Miami, Florida; posted 6.16 ERA in 57 innings between Pioneer and Midwest League with 56/14 K/BB, 67 hits allowed; ERA was ugly and he was hit much harder than he should have been, but he’s young and the scouting reports remain positive; pointing to 92-96 MPH fastball and solid curveball and slider combination; throws strikes but change-up needs more polish; very erratic from start to start, looks like a future number two starter on the right day but he has other games where he can’t get out of the first inning; very young of course; ETA 2021.

13) Taylor Ward, C, Grade C+: Age 24, first round pick in 2015 from Fresno State University; hit .258/.368/.398 with nine homers, 57 walks, 60 strikeouts in 326 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; actually hit better at the higher level; draws praise for defensive ability and leadership skills behind the plate; he’ll get to the majors with his glove alone but hitting remains the question; many scouts do NOT like his bat, critiquing his bat speed and swing mechanics, but he has a good eye for the strike zone and held his own in Double-A; fits historical profile of a defensive catching expert whose bat develops in his late 20s, so I would not give up just yet on the hitting; ETA 2019.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Cincinnati Reds
Matt Thaiss
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

14) Matt Thaiss, 1B, Grade C+: Age 22, first round pick in 2016 from University of Virginia; hit .274/.375/.395 with nine homers, 77 walks, 109 strikeouts in 514 at-bats in High-A/Double-A; excellent eye for the strike zone and his swing is pretty, hits line drives everywhere; big negative is lack of home run power compared to most first baseman and optimism that he will add more power is fading; glove is OK at first base but he doesn’t run well enough to be an attractive outfielder, so it will be hard for him to get a full-time job unless power blossoms; ETA 2019.

15) Eduardo Paredes, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, signed out of Venezuela in 2012, posted 2.54 ERA with 55/21 K/BB in 50 innings in Double-A/Triple-A, also 4.43 ERA in 22 major league innings with 17/6 K/BB; still a rookie for 2018; ready for full trial as a middle reliever, with 90-94 MPH fastball and a very good slider; deceptive and easy to under-estimate; ETA 2018.

16) Michael Hermosillo, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, 28th round pick from high school in Illinois in 2013; hit combined .267/.366/.397 between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A with 35 steals, nine homers, 56 walks, 116 strikeouts in 446 at-bats; 60-runner and he uses it very well, could be significant steal threat if he gets on base enough; decent in center field, very good in left or right but might not hit enough for those slots due to lack of impact power; probably a fourth outfielder if his power doesn’t spike; ETA late 2018.

17) Luke Bard, RHP, Grade C+: Age 27, compensation round pick in 2012 by Minnesota Twins out of Georgia Tech; brother of former major league pitcher Daniel Bard; very strong 2017 season with 2.76 ERA in Double-A/Triple-A, 99/24 K/BB; selected by Angels in Rule 5 draft so he has to stick on the roster; older prospect due to injuries and command issues but has been very effective the last two seasons; good stuff with 93-96 MPH fastball and a plus slider; will challenge for bullpen spot; ETA 2018.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Cleveland Indians
David Fletcher
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

18) David Fletcher, SS, Grade C+: Age 23, sixth round pick in 2015 from Loyola Marymount, hit .266/.316/.339 with 20 doubles, three homers, 20 steals, 27 walks, 55 strikeouts in 448 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; easy to under-estimate, old-time scouts would have called him an “intangibles” player; runs well, but throwing arm is nothing special and hitting power is below average; all that said, he is a very reliable defensive shortstop how outplays his mediocre defensive tools with positioning, instincts, and impressive reliability: has a .982 career fielding percentage at short; most likely a utilityman but might surprise eventually; ETA 2018.

19) Osmer Morales, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, originally signed by the Seattle Mariners out of Venezuela, signed by Angel as minor league free agent; decent year in high minors with 4.19 ERA, 121/50 K/BB in 127 innings between Double-A and Triple-A; fastball not that fast at 89-91 but it played up in ’17 due to contrast with good curveball and deception ability; could be viable long reliever if his command sharpens up a bit more; ETA 2018.

20) Brennon Lund, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, 11th round pick in 2016 from Brigham Young University; hit .308/.373/.403 between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A with 43 walks, 100 strikeouts, 20 steals in 491 at-bats; above-average running speed and good defensive instincts are positives; has some pop to the gaps but not likely to be a big home run guy and needs to work on maximizing his on-base abilities; ETA 2019.

OTHER GRADE C+: Joe Gatto, RHP; Torii Hunter, Jr, OF; Jake Jewell, RHP; Luis Pena, RHP; Brandon Sandoval, OF

OTHERS OF NOTE: Stiward Aquino, RHP; Michael Barash, C; Jimmy Barnes, OF; Nathan Bates, RHP; Denny Brady, RHP; Trent Deveaux, OF; Cole Duensing, RHp; Jose Miguel Fernandez, INF; Nolan Fontana, INF; Jared Foster, OF; Julio Garcia, INF; Keith Grieshaber, INF; Adam Hofacket, RHP; Zach Houchins, INF; Sherman Johnson, INF-OF; Connor Justus, SS; D’Shawn Knowles, OF; Conor Lillis-White, LHP; Rymer Liriano, OF; Erik Manoah, RHP; Isaac Mattson, RHP; David MacKinnon, 1B; Jose Natera, RHP; Daniel Procopio, RHP; Jerryell Rivera, LHP; Jose Rodriguez, RHP; Jose Rojas, 3B; Brendon Sanger, OF; Adderlin Santana, INF; Nate Smith, LHP; Livan Soto, SS; John Swanda, RHP; Jonah Todd, OF; Ryan Vega, OF; Jared Walsh, 1B; Harrison Wenson, C; Johan Wesely, LHP; Kevin Williams, OF; Nonie Williams, SS; Hector Yan, LHP; Jordan Zimmerman, INF

This system has improved a lot over the last two years and this winter’s signings help even more.

I will be around in the comments to answer questions.