2014 Top 10 Prospects: Los Angeles Angels

The loss of draft picks due to free agent compensation has hurt the organization over the past few years. The Angels have one of the weaker systems in baseball — both in terms of depth and impact prospects. The pitching depth is much more sparse than the hitting.


#1 Taylor Lindsey | 60/AA (2B)

21 655 157 25 19 54 108 4 .267 .330 .430 .338

The Year in Review: Lindsey produced solid numbers in 2013 at the Double-A level — including a .780 OPS — after he made some changes to his approach from previous seasons. He also played in the Arizona Fall League but was noticeably worn down and produced an OPS of just .632.

The Scouting Report: An offensive-minded second baseman, Lindsey saw his home run total jump from nine in both 2011 and 2012 to 17 last year in the Texas League. The Arizona native tweaked his approach at the plate to sacrifice some contact for the increased home run pop. Although he didn’t hit for as high of an average, his on-base percentage improved because he became more patient. He’ll likely never be anything special at the keystone but he should be an average defender.

The Year Ahead: Angels incumbent second baseman Howie Kendrick is signed through 2015 and the development of Lindsey could allow the organization to save some money by committing to the 22 year old after a season of development in Triple-A while looking to trade the veteran.

The Career Outlook: Lindsey should be a slightly-above-average second baseman at the plate and average-ish on defence.


#2 C.J. Cron | AA/60 (1B/DH)

23 657 175 42 19 31 94 8 .292 .339 .464 .354

The Year in Review: Cron produced respectable overall numbers at the Double-A level in 2013 but he regressed in the power department and his on-base percentage was a disappointment. His home run total dropped from 27 in 2012 to 14 in ’13. He headed to the Arizona Fall League at the end of the regular season and produced outstanding numbers with a 1.167 OPS in 20 games.

The Scouting Report: Cron has more raw power than any other player in the Angels system but he struggled to consistently utilize it in 2013. The hulking first baseman needs to become more selective at the plate, which will give him better pitches to drive and will also (hopefully) increase his on-base percentages. I don’t expect him to hit for an overly high batting average in the Majors so the power tool is by far his most attractive asset. Defensively, he should be fringe-average to average at first base and may end up in the designated hitter role before he turns 30.

The Year Ahead: Cron will move up to Triple-A in 2014 where he look to find a more consistent power stroke and try to add some polish to his defensive game.

The Career Outlook: The native of Arizona will likely develop into a bat-only player with the raw power to hit 25+ home runs per season but his lack of patience at the plate will hinder his overall effectiveness as a hitter.

Additional Notes


#3 Hunter Green | 60/R (P)

17 8 7 16.2 16 0 5.94 8.64 4.32 4.94

The Year in Review: Lacking a first round draft pick in 2013, the Angels were no doubt thrilled to find fringe-first rounder Green available with the 59th overall pick. After signing, he made seven starts in rookie ball but walked 16 batters in 16.2 innings of work. Brought along slowly, the southpaw never pitched more than 3.1 innings in any appearance.

The Scouting Report: Green has a projectable frame and a three-pitch repertoire that could feature three above-average offerings in his low-to-mid-90s fastball, curveball and changeup. The big knock on Green, though, is inconsistent mechanics that lead to both command and control problems. He has a lot of talent but he may need a lot of seasoning.

The Year Ahead: Green, 18, will almost certainly repeat short-season rookie ball for a second time while he looks to smooth out his delivery and show more consistency.

The Career Outlook: Green has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter if he can learn to command his impressive repertoire. Given his frame, he may eventually work more consistently in the mid-90s with consistent mechanics and more experience.


#4 Kaleb Cowart | 55/AA (3B)

21 546 110 20 6 38 124 14 .221 .279 .301 .266

The Year in Review: No two ways about it, Cowart had a dismal season at Double-A in 2013. The raw but promising prospect posted an OPS of just .580 and wasn’t far off from striking out at a rate of once a game.

The Scouting Report: Cowart is an athletic player with a strong arm and good actions in the field but he’s struggled with his consistency at the plate despite impressive bat speed. After beginning to tap into his raw power potential in 2012, the Georgia native regressed in 2013 and managed just 27 extra base hits. He needs to improve his approach and also his pitch recognition, which could help combat the strikeout issues. A former two-way player, Cowart could eventually make his way back to the mound if the bat can’t hack the upper levels of the minors.

The Year Ahead: Cowart should return to Double-A in 2014 and may spend the entire season there while trying to learn from his 2013 mistakes. 

The Career Outlook: Cowart has all the skill in the world… He just needs to figure out how to unlock his full potential. Another dismal season could cause the organization to reconsider his future as a hitter and tempt them to move him back to the mound.


#5 Mark Sappington | 55/AA (P)

22 27 27 156.1 126 11 7.83 4.72 3.45 4.08

The Year in Review: Sappington’s ability to keep the ball on the ground helped him survive a 22-game stretch in the California League. His control was noticeably off (82 walks) but he allowed just 126 hits in 156.1 combined innings. He received five starts at the Double-A level to finish the year.

The Scouting Report: Sappington is a durable sinker/slider pitcher who should be good for 200+ innings a year as a No. 4 starter for the Angels. His fastball works in the low 90s with solid movement, and both his slider and changeup have the chance to develop into average offerings. The biggest issue with Sappington is his lack of command and control stemming from issues with his delivery. There is a potential for the right-hander to find success in the bullpen where he might be able to add a couple ticks to his fastball while sticking the changeup in his back pocket and focusing on a two-pitch mix.

The Year Ahead: The right-hander will likely open 2014 in Double-A but he could reach Triple-A by mid-season if he makes some improvements with his command.

The Career Outlook: Sappington looks like a future innings-eater in the latter half of a big league rotation.


#6 Jose Rondon | 55/R+ (SS)

19 316 81 22 1 30 31 13 .293 .359 .399 .347

The Year in Review: Last year saw Rondon spend a third season in short-season ball (his second in North America). He put on a little more weight and stepped into a few more extra base hits in 2013. He walked almost as much as he struck out.

The Scouting Report: Just 19, Rondon put forth a solid season in advanced rookie ball in 2013 and looks like a future No. 2 hole hitter. He makes outstanding contact — almost to a fault — because of his solid hand-eye coordination. He doesn’t have a ton of over-the-fence pop but he got stronger last year and hit more balls into the gap. He doesn’t have blazing speed but he’s a solid base runner capable of stealing bases in the double digits. Defensively, Rondon has a chance to be an above-average fielding shortstop with a strong arm and good actions.

The Year Ahead: Rondon should receive his first taste of full-season ball in 2014 but he’s not expected to move overly quickly. He’ll likely establish himself in the Majors in late 2016 or 2017.

The Career Outlook: The young Venezuelan may not be more than an average hitter with the bat but his defensive work could earn him a regular gig.


#7 Alex Yarbrough | 50/A+ (2B)

21 615 182 32 11 27 106 14 .313 .341 .459 .350

The Year in Review: Yarbrough’s league-leading 182 hits (27 more than the next closest hitter) helped make up for his allergic reaction to the free pass. Curiously, he spent the entire year in the California League despite coming from a solid college baseball program in 2012.

The Scouting Report: Yarbrough may have only one plus tool but the hit tool could help the switch-hitter force his way into a big league lineup, at least for a few seasons before settling into more of a platoon or bench role. He traditionally makes good contact and uses the whole field but he’s become an aggressive hitter in pro ball and walked just 27 times in 136 games in 2013. He also has surprising pop in his bat. Defensively, Yarbrough’s arm and range are both average at best but he has sure hands and solid foot work.

The Year Ahead: The second baseman will move up to Double-A in 2014 and it will be interesting to see if the more advanced pitching exploits his aggressive nature.

The Career Outlook: Yarbourgh will never be an above-average defender but he might hit enough to earn some regular playing time at the big league level. More likely than not, though, he’ll spend the majority of his career in a part-time role.


#8 R.J. Alvarez | 50/A- (P)

22 47 2 58.2 46 2 13.96 4.45 3.53 2.18

The Year in Review: Alvarez spent the 2013 in the potent California League but he survived to tell about it. He displayed his above-average potential by striking out 79 batters in just 48.2 innings. Despite his lack of downward plane on his fastball and fly-ball tendencies, the Florida native allowed just two home runs on the year. After the completion of the regular season, Alvarez appeared in 10 games in the Arizona Fall League.

The Scouting Report: Alvarez strength as a pitcher is his mid-90s fastball that can touch the upper 90s. He throws with a lot of effort and a low three-quarter arm slot. His slider has its moments but it’s too inconsistent to be considered an above-average offering at this point. It will be interesting to see if he commands the ball well enough to dominate Double-A hitters.

The Year Ahead: Taken with the club’s first pick of the 2012 draft (third round), Alvarez is expected to be a quick mover through the system and will open the 2014 season — his second full year as a professional — in Double-A. There is a chance that he could reach the Majors by the end of the year but don’t expect him to nail down a regular gig until the 2015 season.

The Career Outlook: The lack of reliable secondary pitches could limit Alvarez is a set up role. However, should his slider become an above-average offering, he could develop into a ninth-inning man.


#9 Austin Wood | 50/A+ (P)

22 7 7 26.0 29 1 7.62 5.54 3.81 3.85

The Year in Review: The right-hander suffered through an arm injury last year and appeared in just seven games — none after July 23.

The Scouting Report: Wood has worked as a starter in pro ball but he’s likely going to reach the Majors as a high-leverage reliever. He has a mid-to-upper-90s fastball but it gets too straight at times and his secondary stuff lacks consistency although his slider should be average in time. He utilizes his height to generate a strong downward plane on his offerings — leading to above-average ground-ball rates. Despite his solid frame, questions remain about Wood’s durability.

The Year Ahead: If healthy, Wood should open the year back in the California League but could quickly move up to Double-A if his command is average or better.

The Career Outlook: Despite his background as a starter, Wood projects to develop into a high-leverage reliever if he can avoid repeated trips to the disabled list.


#10 Eric Stamets | 50/A+ (SS)

21 571 142 28 4 34 66 16 .281 .335 .375 .321

The Year in Review: Stamets produced decent numbers in the California League but it was his glove that really caught observers’ attentions. At the plate, he was much more successful against left-handed pitchers than righties (.914 vs .639 OPS).

The Scouting Report: The young shortstop has plus range, good hands and a strong arm. At the plate, though, he doesn’t swing the bat with much authority and he comes too aggressive for his own good. He’ll likely develop into a bottom-of-the-order hitter in the Majors but his defensive contributions could earn him a starting gig with the right organization.

The Year Ahead: Double-A should be a real test for Stamets in 2014. Will the more advanced pitchers be able to knock the bat out of his hands? Only time will tell…

The Career Outlook: Stamets should develop into a glove-first shortstop who might earn a few years of regular playing time before shifting back into more of a back-up role.

The Next Five:

11.Nick Maronde: Maronde began his professional career as a starter but moved into the more appropriate role of reliever in 2013 and reached the Majors. His lack of consistent command and control, as well as so-so secondary stuff will likely keep him in the bullpen as a big leaguer.

12. Reid Scoggins: The right-hander throws in the mid-to-upper 90s with his heater and flashes an inconsistent slider. As a result, Scoggins projects as a future middle reliever or set-up man even though he started 17 games in 2013. If he’s allowed to stick in the ‘pen full time in 2014 he could move quickly.

13. Natanael Delgado: Just 18 years old, the left-handed hitting Delgado is years away from realizing his full potential but he has the skill set to develop into an average or better right-fielder for the Angels. He needs to temper his aggressive nature, which might help him tap into his raw power potential by giving him better pitches to drive.

14. Michael Clevinger: Tommy John surgery ruined Clevenger’s 2013 season. When healthy, he shows a solid four-pitch repertoire and low-90s velocity on his heater that could eventually help him nail down a fourth starter’s role with the Angels.

15. Zach Borenstein, OF: Borenstein benefitted significantly from playing in a hitter’s league in 2013 and will likely develop into more of a platoon hitter at the big league level. He shows flashes of decent pop from the left-hand side of the plate but is probably more of a line-drive hitter than the home run threat he was last year. He’s nothing special in the field but he should be able to play a respectable left field.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Vlad the Impaler
9 years ago

This is, without a doubt, the worst farm system out of 30. Maybe the Brewers could contend for that claim, but it’s pretty much the Angels.

9 years ago

“without a doubt”

“Maybe the Brewers”

9 years ago

I’d prefer the Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson, Tyrone Taylor, Mitch Haniger, Devin Williams, Victor Roache, and Orlando Arcia over this group.

9 years ago

Y-e-a-h. This is what happens when you punt your 1st round pick several years in a bunch, and trade what prospects you have to plug holes on the 25-man. Oh, and the drafting has been lousy too.

Is there a _single_ player in the system who projects as a major league regular? I don’t see him (although guys can break out). This system needs a complete re-build from the owner on down and the area-scouts on up.

9 years ago
Reply to  Balthazar

Yeah, I’m not even sure what to make of Cowart anymore. Cron and Lindsey could both become regulars, but they don’t have a single prospect who projects to be above average at the major league level.

Ryan W Krol
9 years ago
Reply to  Timmy

If you’re always looking for great players/stars in your team’s minor league system then you’ll be a very unhappy fan. Most baseball players are average to good. You can fill an entire roster with average to above average players and be a winning team every time. The Angels proved that late last season because they brought up a bunch of young players who were average to above average at best, and the accumulation of production from those average to above average players resulted in a much more consistent team that plowed through the final 8 weeks of their schedule. And when you have Mike Trout as your center piece, you can actually get a away with building around him with the Grant Greens, the Kole Calhouns, the Alex Yarbroughs, etc of the world.

I. P. Freely
9 years ago
Reply to  Balthazar

The steamer projections for a few of the guys are promising. Funny thing about the Angels is that while they tend to be dimissed, they keep graduating guys to the majors. This has been true since the Bavasi days when the farm teams were never highly ranked by Angels draftees were very well represented around MLB. The Stoneman era saw the farm system really rise, but it’s interesting that while the high profile guys flamed out — the secondary prospects all forged MLB careers.

Wood flamed out but Aybar became a regular. Callaspo flamed out/was traded but Kendrick made it. Casey Kotchman flamed out but Kendrys Morales forged a decent career. Mathis never morphed into the catcher he seemed to be in Low A, but Napoli surprised all of his detractors. Currently, Kole Calhoun and Hank Conger seem poised to be regular contributors, Conger got some praise as a prospect but Calhoun was essentially written off for all the same reasons Borenstein is being written off.

In some ways it seems the Angels are expert at producing system players that can contribute. It may also be that the Angels farm teams are positioned in such a way that players are being underrated a bit. The Cal League has a reputation for being an extreme hitters league but the Angels farm team is a bit of a pitchers park, even more so in years when the Santa Anas are blowing. Ditto their AA park in Arkansas, as severe a pitchers park as there is in MiLB. Conversely, their AAA park seems to massively favor hitters and so, a lot of their pitching seems to crater there.

IMO, that’s where the failings are — there isn’t a lot of help pitching wise. The Adenhart tragedy and the Kazmir, Haren deals costs the Angels some arms, yes they got one of them back via the Trumbo deal but as a whole, they lack projectable pitching.

Ryan W Krol
9 years ago

And yet somehow in 2013 the Angels were still able to get a big impact out of their so-called terrible prospects. They plowed through the final 2 months of their schedule, and the young players they brought up from AAA were a part of that. Successul major leaguers can come from anywhere. The Angels just don’t have top 100 prospects, which is basically what farm system rankings are based on, and is a bit of a farce in itself, because most top prospects don’t pan out any way.