Evaluating the Prospects: Rangers, Rockies, D’Backs, Twins, Astros, Cubs, Reds, Phillies, Rays, Mets, Padres, Marlins, Nationals, Red Sox, White Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Braves, Athletics, Angels, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Tigers, Cardinals, Brewers, Indians, Mariners, Pirates, Royals & Giants
The Angels system is on the rebound, adding Andrew Heaney in a trade for Howie Kendrick this offseason and getting arguably the top value in the the 1st round of the 2014 draft with Sean Newcomb (though Royals LHP Brandon Finnegan is another solid option). The previous regime under Tony Reagins was focused on upside at all costs in the draft, which gets you some guys like Mike Trout, but also a boom-or-bust system with lots of holes and minor league free agents added to fill those holes. That starts to show up on the big league team when the inventory starts to get thin, but that necessary depth is now developing via trades and better amateur talent acquisition. The system is still in the bottom third of the league, but they’ve likely pulled out of the bottom five once I rank all 30 systems, with things looking to be trending up.
Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.
Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.
Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Angels prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Next up is the Dodgers.
27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Mike Trout, CF, Age 23, FV: 80
2. Garrett Richards, RHP, Age 26, FV: 65
3. Kole Calhoun, RF, Age 27, FV: 60
4. Hector Santiago, LHP, Age 27, FV: 50
5. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Age 23, FV: 50
6. C.J. Cron, 1B, Age 25, FV: 50 (Video)
7. Josh Rutledge, 2B, Age 25, FV: 45
8. Mike Morin, RHP, Age 23, FV: 45
9. Cory Rasmus, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45
Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron
A generational talent like Mike Trout covers a multitude of sins. It’s a testament to Trout’s performance that such a weak supporting cast can still project as a contender, but Trout is essentially the equivalent of two All-Stars by himself, so he doesn’t need as much help as every other player in the game. But that roster structure also opens them up to significant risk, so if Trout gets hurt or struggles, the Angels short-term future gets a lot weaker in a hurry. But as long as he stays Mike Trout, the Angels will be contenders in 2015. They’ll need to start doing a better job of surrounding him with talent for the future, though, and the Angels longer-term future is filled with a few more question marks. For now, though, this one man band should be good enough to contend again.
50+ FV Prospects
1. Andrew Heaney, LHP
Current Level/Age: MLB/23.7, 6’2/185, L/L
Drafted: 9th overall (1st round) in 2012 out of Oklahoma State by MIA for $2.6 million bonus
Fastball: 55/55, Slider: 55/55, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 45/50+
Scouting Report: Heaney was heralded in his draft year out of Oklahoma State as an advanced pitchability lefty with above average stuff that could turn into a #3/4 starter in short order and that’s almost exactly what’s happened. He got a big league look in 2014 with Miami, who are typically pretty aggressive with prospects. He was then traded to the Dodgers in the Dee Gordon trade this off-season, then immediately flipped to the Angels for Howie Kendrick. Heaney’s fastball works 90-94 with life and both the fastball and slider will both flash 60 in his best outings, but Heaney relies more on his feel to pitch than his raw stuff to get strikeouts and grounders.
Summation: Heaney should be up at some point in 2015 depending on the big league need, with a good chance he spends the entire season in the big leagues, possibly in the rotation.
FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter, Very Low (1 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AAA/MLB
2. Sean Newcomb, LHP
Current Level/Age: Lo-A/21.7, 6’5/240, L/L
Drafted: 15th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of Hartford by LAA for $2.518 million bonus
Fastball: 60/65, Slider: 50/55, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 40/50
Scouting Report: Newcomb was the Hunter Dozier of the 2014 draft, a player that clubs liked higher than the media consensus had them, partly because teams weren’t sure if they were the only team that had him so high, so they kept it pretty quiet. Sources have indicated that the Mariners probably would’ve taken Newcomb at the 6th pick if RF Alex Jackson wasn’t there and there were a couple more spots where he was the backup choice, before the Angels stopped the slide at 15th overall.
The things scouts like so much about Newcomb are easy to see: he’s huge (6-foot-5/240), athletic, left-handed, has a fresh arm (New England multi-sport kid), flashes three plus pitches (sits 91-94, hits 97 mph) and shows surprising pitchability considering his background. His off-speed stuff plays more to a 55 on a consistent basis, but both the slider and changeup flash plus at times, though usually not in the same start. Newcomb has good control, feel for sequence and a repeatable delivery, but the’s still working on the finer points of pitching and consistency with command and crispness to his stuff. The raw elements are here for an ace if Newcomb can make all the necessary adjustments and stay healthy.
Summation: He should spend all of 2015 in A-Ball, but many scouts see the ability here to be on the fast track by the end of the year and rush to the big leagues faster than I suggest in the projected path below. Many of these scouts pushed for Newcomb over Heaney for this reason and I ranked them close in the top 200 (51 vs. 55), but couldn’t pull the trigger to put an A-Ball pitcher over a possible 2015 200-inning MLB starter. That said, it shows how good Newcomb can be that I have them that close and almost listed them in opposite order.
FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter, High (4 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A/High-A, 2016: High-A/AA, 2017: AA/AAA/MLB, 2018: AAA/MLB
45 FV Prospects
3. Roberto Baldoquin, SS: 20-year-old Cuban shortstop was lower profile than many of the hyped defectors, but Baldoquin had positive workouts for months and got an-at-the-time-record $8 million bonus late in 2014. One scout compared him to Reds 2014 1st rounder SS Alex Blandino while the Angels use Nationals SS Yunel Escobar as a comparable (with better makeup). Baldoquin’s tools aren’t enormous: he’s a 45 runner with enough tools to stick at short, but not so much that some don’t think he might play second or third long-term. He has average raw power that plays down a bit in games, advanced feel for the strike zone, an all-fields approach and projects for an average or better bat, so there’s plenty here to profile everyday if he can play a premium position.
Since he hasn’t played games in over a year, he’ll likely start at Low-A in 2015 and take it slow. Angels officials were really impressed by his private workouts: Baldoquin would call balls and strikes more accurately while he was hitting than the umpire did, he didn’t move the first baseman’s glove once during the 500 ground balls he took and he didn’t swing and miss once despite facing wild DSL pitchers in simulated games. Perhaps most impressively, despite not knowing English, knew about even low-profile MLB players and would casually talk about a lot of them, like Dodgers CF Joc Pederson.
4. Nick Tropeano, RHP Video: Tropeano was acquired from Houston this off-season in the Hank Conger deal and his delivery isn’t pretty, but he commands his pitches well and competes. Tropeano sits 88-92 with sink and will run it up to 94 mph, using a fringy to average curveball and a plus changeup. Scouts round up on the their projections due to the swing-and-miss changeup, the deception and feel to pitch along with the bulldog approach of the NYC native.
5. Kyle Kubitza, 3B Video: Kubitza was acquired this offseason from Atlanta for talented young lefty Ricardo Sanchez, another product of the Angels Latin program that’s trending up. Kubitza is a near-big-league-ready third baseman without huge tools, but is solid across the board with everyday upside. He’s 6’3/210 with longer limbs, has been a bit old for his levels, has some strikeout issues and his actions are a little stiff, but he makes the plays defensively and makes enough contact at the plate. Kubitza has a plus arm, average raw power he’s still learning to tap into in games, and knows how to draw a walk. Scouts like his makeup and the Angels think he can replace David Freese when that contract ends after 2015; Kubitza will start 2015 in Triple-A.
6. Cam Bedrosian, RHP Video: The son of former Braves pitcher Steve Bedrosian was a 1st rounder out of an Atlanta-area high school in 2010. He got hurt soon after signing and missed about a year and a half with Tommy John surgery and came back from surgery sitting at 89 mph, looking uncomfortable and like a different player. The Angels moved him to relief to let him throw hard short stint and get right and Bedrosian took to it quickly, zooming through the system in 2014 to the big leagues, with the Angels holding him at Double-A longer than they wanted to just to make sure everything was in order before promoting him twice more.
Bedrosian sits 92-96 and hits 97 mph with a fairly straight fastball that he often loactes up in the zone, along with a slider that’s about average consistently, but flashes plus, after scraping his curveball that stood out in high school. He rarely uses his changeup, which flashes 55 at times and his command broke down in the majors, though that may have been due to post-TJ fatigue and jitters. Bedrosian has confidence and good makeup and could be a closer but more likely fits in the 8th inning. Teams ask about him in trades pretty often and he could break camp in the big league pen, but guys like Cesar Ramos may fit immediate team needs better, so Bedrosian will have time to fine-tune his command in Triple-A.
7. Joey Gatto, RHP Video: Gatto was a 2nd rounder from a New Jersey high school in the 2014 draft and, like most prep arms, particularly from cold weather states, his stuff backed up a bit after signing, though there’s still positive indicators going forward. Gatto was 90-94, hitting 95 mph with an above average to plus curveball, an inconsistent changeup that was solid average at times, good plane and surprisingly good command for a northern arm with limited innings, due in part to his deliberate, athletic delivery. As expected, he was more 88-91 mph in instructs due to the long season, but it’s more indicative of future returns to look at his mid-season 2015 velocity and there’s mid-rotation potential if this all comes together.
8. Chris Ellis, RHP Video: Ellis has 1st round hype after an excellent summer on the Cape, but his curveball deserted him for the entire draft spring at Ole Miss, allowing him to last until the 3rd round last summer. The breaking ball was back in instructs, though it had morphed into a hard slider at 83-85 mph and it flashed above average at times. Ellis works 90-94 mph and his best pitch is an above average to plus changeup. He made the most positive impressions in instructs of all the non-Newcomb picks from the 2014 draft and could be moving up a few spots on this list next year.
9. Alex Yarbrough, 2B Video: Yarbrough isn’t the most exciting prospect, but he’s close to the majors and has a chance to be a low-end everyday player. He’s has below average power, is a fringy runner and a fringy defender at second base with a below average arm, but you’ll put up with all of that if he keeps hitting and playing a premium position. Yarbrough’s plate discipline isn’t fantastic; he’s an early count hitter that doesn’t walk very much. This is a function of his advanced bat control, so he may need to make some adjustments to lay off that borderline pitch that, in the big leagues, will produce weaker contact that in the minors. Yarbrough will compete with Johnny Giavotella, Josh Rutledge, Grant Green and Taylor Featherston for the big league second base job and may be the guy that wins that job, so it’s hard to call him a 40 FV, but the upside is limited and some offensive adjustments are likely needed.
10. Trevor Gott, RHP Video: Gott has been counted out at each level for being a smallish righty reliever, but now he’s knocking on the door and appears to have figured out a way to succeed. He works 93-96 and hits 97 mph with his four-seam fastball, which he locates well up in the zone, drawing awkward swings as it jumps on hitters. Gott’s 80-82 mph curveball is consistently above average, flashing plus for some, with a rarely used changeup. The Angels have Gott very close to Bedrosian internally and think Gott is better than the recently-traded R.J. Alvarez due to having the same stuff with better command. Gott will be in the upper levels in 2015 and could be a big league option late in the season with a likely 8th inning type role down the road.
40 FV Prospects
11. Nate Smith, LHP Video: Smith doesn’t have huge stuff but is close to the big leagues, has feel and looks to be a good bet to fill some kind of multi-inning role. He works 88-92 and hits 93 mph with an above average changeup, average slider and fringy curveball he uses to move hitter’s eye level. Smith has a solid delivery and good feel for pitching, a nice find for an 8th rounder that signed for $12,000 in 2013 that’s already succeeded in Double-A. Smith should become a big league starting pitcher inventory piece as early as late 2015.
12. Taylor Featherston, SS Video: Featherston was a savvy Rule 5 pick this winter from Colorado that has a real chance to stick as a steady utility infielder. He can play shortstop, but isn’t fantastic and is more of a fill-in than an everyday option, which is fine because the bat profiles more in a utility role as well. Featherston is that typical grinder baseball rat type, though he has a little more size and athleticism than you may expect at 6’1/185 with average raw power, and above average arm and solid average speed. The power plays down in games due to a more line-drive type approach and there’s some awkwardness to his actions, but Featherston fits the bill of under-appreciated utility guy that might surprise people and be a little more.
13. Carlos Perez, C Video: Perez was acquired from Houston in the Hank Conger deal with Tropeano and had a big winter in the Venezuelan League. With the low offensive bar for catchers to clear, Perez’s defensive savvy, his closeness to the big leagues and his upward trend from this winter, Perez looks like a solid bet to be a big league backup in short order with a chance for a little more. The Angels said that after the acquired Perez, they’ve been asked about him more in trades than any other player in the organization, evidence of the industry taking notice of his winter performance. There’s a good chance he breaks camp as the backup catcher, though he has three options left so there’s no rush. Perez has a plus arm and projects to be solid average defensively, though some scouts see some lazy habits to clean up at times. There isn’t tons of bat here, but there’s enough power to punish a mistake and catchers typically take longer to develop on both sides of the ball, so we may see a new player offensively this spring.
14. Kyle McGowin, RHP Video: McGowin dominated in 2013 in lots of innings at Savannah State, the Angels took him in the 5th round and he’s continued to perform in pro ball when he’s been healthy. He was shut down in 2014 with elbow soreness but the stuff is here for a starter. He sits 90-93 and hits 95 with sink and an above average to plus slider along with a changeup that flashes average. McGowin is lean physically at 6’3/180 but flashes all the ingredients to be a league average starter and he’ll move up on next year’s list if he can stay on the mound for a full season in 2015.
15. Scott Snodgress, LHP Video: Snodgress was non-tendered by the White Sox this winter for some reason and the Angels scooped him up, seeing flashes of dominance in short stints that weren’t there when Snodgress was a starter. His stuff was fringy as a starter, which he made work with solid command and made it to the big leagues, but the Angels saw something in short stints from him in 2014 that makes them think his home is in relief. Snodgress was a setup guy at Stanford as an amateur and ran his fastball up to 95 mph before being made a starter, but he works more 90-93 in relief with life and a solid average slider and changeup. If he can do that consistently this year, Snodgress would be a nice pickup and adding some much-needed lefty depth to the Angels pen.
16. Julio Garcia, SS: The Angels’ top international signing in the 2014 period before Baldoquin got $565,000 to wait to sign in this signing period after being eligible in 2013. He’s drawing raves from Angels officials despite underwhelming DSL stats. The switch-hitter is contact oriented with little present power and fringy speed but a plus glove and a plus arm.
17. Natanael Delgado, LF Video: Delgado was a lower profile signing for $280,000 in September, 2012 just before he turned 17, but his tools have further developed since then. Delgado went from a maybe center fielder when signing to a no doubt left fielder that needs some defensive work, but he’s added muscle and now has plus raw power with developing feel to hit. Savvy clubs are already asking about him in trades as he’s still a teenager, but Delgado still has work to do across the board, including making sure that added weight doesn’t turn into bad weight.
18. Kaleb Cowart, 3B Video: Cowart was a high-profile 1st rounder in 2010 as one of the most talented kids in his prep class, flashing 1st round ability as a hitter and pitcher. He was good as recently as a 20-year old in 2012 in the Cal League, but he hasn’t hit a lick since then and there are rumors he’ll head to the mound soon, but the Angels say it won’t be in 2015. There was some expectation that Cowart would take over the big league third base job in 2015 (when Alberto Callaspo’s deal ended) after Cowart’s strong 2012, but Kyle Kubitza has now jumped ahead of him in that pecking order. Cowart has solid average raw power, is a little awkward at third base but makes enough plays to stick there and he has a plus arm.
The Kubitza trade has motivated Cowart to prove what he can do in 2015, with some suggestion his problems have come from getting too mechanical and taking too many suggestions. Some offensive issues have been with his approach and some come from the maintenance of being a switch hitter; he dropped hitting righty for awhile to clear his head, but is back to switch hitting now. He’ll be 22/23 this season, so he is still age appropriate for the upper levels (he may for to Double-A or Triple-A for 2015) and this is a make-or-break year to prove he’s still a prospect. There’s some argument to leave him off the list, but the tools/age are still right and the pitching upside is still considerable, even if it’s been awhile since he was on a mound. A majority of teams had him turned in as a pitcher in 2010, so there will be more than a few that would like to take a shot at him if Cowart if he’s available and willing to convert to the mound.
19. Hunter Green, LHP Video: Green checked a lot of boxes in the 2013 draft as an athletic, projectable lefty that was very young for his class and with starter stuff that was ticking up before the draft. The Angels took him in the 2nd round, but he’s only pitched 16.2 innings in pro ball since then due to a lower back issue. It isn’t anything structural, but it flared back up at one point when Green may have been pushing too hard to return quickly. He’s a hard worker making progress in side sessions and has looked good off a mound in minicamps. At his best, Green worked 90-93 and hit 95 mph with at least an average curveball and a changeup that was above average to plus at times. There’s lots of upside left and he’ll likely stick to short season leagues for 2015 as a 19/20 year old.
Sherman Johnson, 2B
Johnson appears in this season’s inaugural edition of the Fringe Five (available as part of FanGraphs Plus), and much of what make him compelling him is discussed there. In brief, though, here’s what one finds with regard to the Angels infield prospect:
- As a collegiate player, he was most notable for his capacity to draw walks.
- Walk rate isn’t really predictive of future peformance until Double-A.
- Johnson, nevertheless, has been productive in other ways as a professional.
- Also, he plays both second and third base competently.
- All told, he produced the equivalent of roughly 4.0 WAR in 2014 with High-A Inland Empire.
In conclusion, here’s Johnson exhibiting his very simple swing mechanics en route to hitting a triple this year:
There are four position players in the upper levels of the system to watch: SS Eric Stamets (Video he’s an easy plus defender and runner and he’ll be in Triple-A next year, but the bat is light and there’s very little power, so the upside is utility guy and he may be more of an emergency, glove-first type), CF Gary Brown (he was a 1st rounder out of Fullerton in 2010 but the center fielder with 80 speed and a 50 arm simply hasn’t been able to hit at upper levels, tinkering with his swing and lacking the plate discipline, power and base-stealing instincts to allow his ability to show up on the field), C Jett Bandy (still needs to make more solid contact, but 6’4/235 catcher has above average power, a plus arm and an average glove) and RF Chad Hinshaw (a little old for his level, but has 4th outfielder tools and has produced so far, making 2015 in Double-A a nice test for the Collin Cowgill comparisons).
There are four position players in the lower levels of the system to watch: 2B Kody Eaves (Video profile is somewhat limited by second base only fit, but performed well offensively as 20-year-old in Low-A; Angels officials say he has 80 makeup and Eaves has a little more pop, speed and defensive ability than Yarbrough, but the hitting tools are behind), CF Johan Sala (Video signed for $300,000 last July 2nd and the above average runner can stick in center field, has already bulked up since signing and his solid average tools play up due to his instincts), CF Ayendy Perez (Video 5’9/160 center fielder is a 70 runner with little power, but stays within himself at the plate and has a solid approach, defensive upside) and CF Bo Way (2014 7th rounder from Kennesaw State surprised with post-draft performance but the tools are more 4th outfielder type; would continue momentum with big 2015 in the Cal League).
He’s more just a name to keep in mind after what GM Jerry DiPoto said, but the Angels have the baseball rights (they paid $200,00 in the 10th round in 2009) to raw, five-tool talent CF Jake Locker, the former first round NFL QB who recently retired from football due to concussions.
There are five pitchers in the upper levels of the system to watch: RHP Danny Reynolds (smallish righty reliever has some funk to his delivery and his slider ranges from below average to above average with some feel issues, but his 92-96 fastball that he runs up to 99 mph makes up for a lot of shortcomings), LHP Tyler DeLoach (6’6/240 lefty was 26th rounder in 2012 and expected to be a fill arm, but his fringy stuff has missed bats as a starter due to deception and a low 3/4 slot; it plays up in short stints and he’s likely a matchup bullpen fit), RHP Austin Wood (he has huge stuff with a plus plus fastball and curveball that flashes plus, but he just got back on the mound after TJ and has always had command/consistency problems; he’ll head to Double-A for 2015 and it’s a make-or-break season), RHP Austin Adams (above average fastball and plus slider is plenty to fit near the back of a bullpen as a Luke Gregerson type, but the command is a 20 at times) and RHP Drew Rucinski (Cleveland signed him out of the Indy Leagues, then released him, then the Angels signed him out of the Indy Leagues in 2013 and he reached the big leagues in 2014; works 92-94 with a splitter that’s above average at times that helped post good numbers as a starter in Double-A in 2014).
There are eight pitchers in the lower levels of the system to watch: RHP Victor Alcantara (21-year-old righty flashes mid-90’s heat with above average life and has hit 100 mph, but works 90-94 as a starter with a fringy slider and below average changeup and command; he likely fits in relief and has a big arm, but still has work to do), RHP Jeremy Rhoades (2014 4th rounder will be developed as a starter but his below average changeup and command likely lead to relief, where his above average fastball/slider combo can play up), LHP Greg Mahle (2014 15th rounder will move quickly as LOOGY that varies from submarine to high 3/4 with his slot and 83-93 with his fastball; he’s super confident with deception, an average breaking ball that’s tough on lefties and tons of different looks) and RHP Jake Jewell (2014 5th rounder has limited experience on the mound and will be developed as a starter due to a fastball, slider and curveball that all flash plus along with a starter’s delivery, but he’s a long way off).
RHP Garrett Nuss (Video has three average pitches that will flash better at times; he’s a strike thrower that can out-sequence young hitters but it isn’t clear how that will play at higher levels; he was shutdown late in 2014 with shoulder soreness), RHP Keynan Middleton (2013 3rd rounder out of an Oregon Juco also played hoops there as well and is the most athletic guy in the system; still raw but sits 91-93 and hits 94 mph, flashing a 55 curveball and slider, but there’s a long way to go), RHP Jared Ruxer (Video he was trending up before the 2014 draft, sitting 90-94 mph with a solid average slider and changeup, then had TJ right before the draft and the Angels scooped him up for $100K in the 12th round as a rehab gamble) and RHP Austin Robichaux (2014 18th rounder got $100,000 and is crazy skinny at 6’5/170 but has an average fastball and curveball with an above average changeup and feel to pitch but durability questions may push him to the pen).
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.