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So this is my fourth year running this.  At first, I was really full of myself, but as time has passed it has become abundantly obvious that bold predictions are bold for a reason.  They have very little chance of coming to fruition.  A prediction, or even a guess for that matter could be simplified as a 50/50 sort of thing, but each year I go on the hunt for something that’s considerably less likely than 50/50 that I think may happen.  Let’s give a very general background first.

2014: 3/5 (the MWAH days)

2015: 1/5

2016: 0/5

As I said last year, for the sake of my own humility, take these predictions as a source of entertainment value.  Something to ponder, or maybe simply something to get a conversation started.  Just because the first year went well, doesn’t mean any succeeding years would show the same promise.  Now let’s recap my 2017 bold predictions…

1. The Angels will win a playoff game

No way around this one, I got it wrong.  It was bold though.  The Angels were coming off a very down season, and they would finally be getting Garrett Richards back healthy.  We had a new LF and 2B, a remade bullpen, things were looking up.  Looking back now, I think we can all see that 2017, like the seasons before it, were ventures into building a competitive team without spending any money.  The Angels were in it all the way until the end, but the Minnesota Twins (of all teams) ended up overtaking the Angels for the second wild card.  0/1.

2. Ben Revere will dethrone Cam Maybin as the starting LF and turn in one of his prototypical seasons when he was healthy. 

Should have happened, but didn’t.  I think the spirit of this prediction was to say that Ben Revere would outplay Cam Maybin.  No where in there did I expect the Angels to trade for Justin Upton though.  I was totally robbed!  Revere hit .275 and stole 21 bags in a reserve role while Cam Maybin hit .235 and stole 29 bases in an everyday role.  Still, the prediction itself was that Revere would be the starting LF, and that didn’t come to fruition.  0/2


3. Bud Norris will be the Angels best reliever

For a long while, this one looked like it would be true.  Norris found himself closing for the Angels and truly flourishing in the role, until he wasn’t.  The second half of the 2017 season was not friendly to Bud Norris.  The spirit of the prediction was accurate, and it was a good pickup for the Angels, but I think we can all agree that Yusmeiro Petit was likely the Angels best reliever last year, and if not him then Blake Parker.  0/3.

4. Yunel Escobar is traded at the trade deadline, even though the Angels are still in it. 

Escobar simply couldn’t get healthy last year.  He hit the ball pretty well when he was healthy, as he usually does, but the defense wasn’t there, and neither was there a market for an injured third baseman that hit for an empty batting average.  0/4.

5. Ricky Nolasco will have the second finest season of his career.  

Hey, he kept his ERA under 5.00….barely.  It speaks volumes about the Angels 2017 season that Ricky Nolasco managed to toss 180 innings for them. 0/5.

Alright, so now that we know it’s literally been two years since I’ve gotten a single bold prediction right, we can all use the following five predictions as a source of entertainment.


1. The Angels will win more than 90 games in 2018. 

I notice that when it comes to the offseason, everything is the flavor of the moment.  Like back in December, when the Angels had managed to bring in Justin Upton (bring back), Shohei Ohtani, Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart….they were the darlings of the offseason.  The clear winner.  No one could improve as much as the Angels had.  They were going to win the wild card, if not unseat the Astros in the AL West.  The Angels were the flavor of the moment.  Three months later, the Angels aren’t even considered one of the most improved teams by a major news article.  Everything seems to be centered around the Twins, Red Sox and Yankees, which is understandable.

But the games still need to be played, and I think once they’re played, the Angels will win more than 90 games in 2018.  Despite the Spring Training struggles, adding Shohei Ohtani to the rotation should really do wonders over the long run.  A 23 year old with his repertoire is pretty amazing.  The Angels have Garrett Richards apparently healthy (I know we’ve heard that somewhere before), Andrew Heaney is back and on the flip side of the mound, and looks great.  Nick Tropeano is back and ticketed for AAA.  Jaime Barria is knocking on the major league door after another spectacular season in the minors.  Even J.C. Ramirez has managed to escape the TJ bug and is pumping 98 mph heat this Spring.

Every single facet of this team has improved in dramatic fashion, and I think it will lead to 10+ wins over 2017.

Why is this bold?  Because the Angels have won more than 90 games once in the last eight years.

2. Ian Kinsler will record his fourth and last 20/20 season at age 36. 

Kinsler has two 30/30’s and a 20/20 all under his belt so far in his career, but every single one of those occurred during his twenties.  Not a single one in his thirties.  This isn’t to say he’s been a bad player in his thirties.  Not at all, he’s been great player.  But being slotted atop the Angels lineup, playing for October again, hitting in front of Trout and Upton, I think Kinsler has his stage set for the finest season of his thirties.

Though this isn’t part of the prediction, I’ll just throw these numbers out there.  .275/.340 30 doubles 22 home runs and 20 stolen bases.  Good for a 4-win season.

Why is this bold?  Because how many 36 year old middle infielders have ever accumulated this power and speed combination?

3. Justin Upton will lead the AL in RBI’s in 2018.  

Upton had 109 RBI’s playing the majority of last year of the hapless Tigers.  He had a down year from Ian Kinsler hitting in front of him, and that’s about it (Cabrera and J.D. Martinez hit behind him while Castellanos spent the majority of the season at the bottom of the order).  This year, Upton comes with a rejuvenated Kinsler and the greatest player in baseball, Mike Trout, hitting in front of him.  Albert Pujols managed to top 100 RBI’s last year, and he only hit .241.

This isn’t part of the prediction, but I think Justin Upton will clear 140 RBI’s.

Why is this bold?  Considering the contingent of hitters Upton will be battling for the RBI crown (Trout, Springer, Correa, Stanton, Judge, Martinez, Donaldson etc..), Upton will need to have a great year to drive in more runs than all of them.

4. Kole Calhoun will have a career year at age 30. 

We’ve seen a different Kole Calhoun this Spring, and circumstantially, he couldn’t be in a better position.  Kole was always sort of a misfit at the top of the lineup.  Sure, he’s left handed and can be a bit of a pest, but despite the speed, he doesn’t steal bases and despite the patient approach, his career OBP is still just .330.  Not the best person to slot in front of Trout.

But all that has changed this offseason.  Calhoun has tweaked his batting stance a bit, keeping his hands further away from his body, not wrapping the bat and staying more relaxed, more balanced in the batters box.  Teams also really began shifting on him last year, which has led to an offseason worth of focus on hitting the ball the other way, which Calhoun has done an exemplary job of this Spring.  The tall RF wall at Angel Stadium has routinely robbed Kole for five-ish home runs on an annual basis, and now that the Angels have made the awful decision to redo the score board and stick an unsightly yellow line across the bottom eight feet of the wall, Kole’s power output should improve.  The Angels also went out and acquired top of the order hitters, which puts Kole further down in the lineup, where he actually belongs.

Again, not part of the prediction, but I think Kole slashes .280/.350 30 doubles 25 home runs and 100 RBI’s.

Why is this bold? Because Kole hit .244 last year, and his career batting average is .261.  Because Kole has never once hit 30 doubles and 20 home runs in a single season and has never come close to driving in 100 RBI’s.

5. The Angels will have five starting pitchers log more than 100 innings with an ERA under 4.00

This one is going to be pretty hard to accomplish.  As exciting as the six man rotation and all the new additions and healthy options are, it still doesn’t change the fact that there is just so much unproven about this staff.  Richards hasn’t ever pitched a full, healthy season.  Not once.  Shohei Ohtani is 23 years old and has never thrown a single inning in the major leagues.  Andrew Heaney is coming off Tommy John surgery and has also, never pitched a full, healthy season in the major leagues.  Matt Shoemaker is coming off a series of ailments.  Tyler Skaggs has never pitched more than half a season in a row before getting hurt.  J.C. Ramirez has roughly one quarter of a major league season as a starter under his belt, and is coming off a PRP injection to avoid Tommy John surgery.  Nick Tropeano is coming off Tommy John surgery.  Parker Bridwell hid a horseshoe, rabbits foot and four-leafed clover inside his glove during 2017 after being traded for practically nothing, and Jaime Barria is still just 21 years old.

But yes, I believe that somehow, someway, this collection of starting pitchers will assemble into a quality pitching staff.  Starting with Richards.  It’s his last year before free agency, and while he has all the upside in the world, he’d had none of the health.  He’s playing for a paycheck next year.  Ohtani’s stuff is just too good not to play up in the major leagues and he’ll grow into a staff ace as well.  Andrew Heaney was one of the best LHP prospects for a reason when the Angels acquired him.  Before injury, he showed that he was a very good mid-rotation starter.  Now with a clean bill of health and more experience under his belt, Heaney could take yet another step forward in his development.  Tyler Skaggs has potential as a tall lefty with good downward slope, good velocity and a great curve.  Matt Shoemaker has been great for an extended stretch twice in his career.  I’m not saying he will be again, but I am saying the potential is there.  Jaime Barria posted an ERA under 3.00 in the California League and the Pacific Coast League at age 20.  Those are two of the most hitter friendly leagues in the minors and Barria isn’t even old enough to drink yet.  He posted an ERA of 3.21 in AA.  If given a chance in the majors in his age 21 season, anything can happen.  Jaime has ice water running through his veins and won’t be intimidated at all by facing down the best hitters in the world.

Why is this bold?  For all the reasons I explained above.  Health and unproven mostly.



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30 clubs

Following MLB Network’s visit to Angels’ camp yesterday, received some clips from MLBN’s Brian Kenny and Carlos Peña discussing Spring Training and the 2018 season with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols on 30 Clubs in 30 Days, which can be seen here and here.

On what skills he continues to work on during Spring Training, Trout said, “Obviously there’s always things you can always get better at. Defensively: first step. We’re preaching on that pretty good this year, getting good jumps in the outfield. At the plate, just being consistent and try to limit the little skids and just try to work hard on defense and accuracy with the arm.”

On the team’s outlook for the 2018 season, Pujols said, “We have a good team this year. Hopefully we can stay healthy. Last year we had a great team too, but right away we lost Garrett Richards, we lost a couple of guys. When you lose like your starting pitcher, it’s tough to replace those guys. This year, I think we really have a really good team. I think the main thing is to try to take care of our business, don’t worry about the other 29 teams and try to stay healthy. Hopefully we can be one of those eight teams in the Postseason and hopefully win a championship.”

To get all the coverage from 30 Clubs in 30 Days, click here. There are great clips from Simmons on his goal of improving,  Richards on his preparation for 2018, Kinsler on joining the Angels,  Upton on returning to the Angels, Calhoun on his style and what being an Angel means to him, and many more. It is coverage definitely worth watching.  There’s even a segment by Jonathan Mayo talking about the Angels’ top prospects. We’re getting closer to the start of the regular season, and it’s great to be back talking Angels baseball!

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One of the most exciting parts to Billy Eppler’s offseason has been his willingness to fill out the depth chart with fringe major leaguers.  These are the guys that certainly have the talent to be major leaguers, but there’s just a thing or two holding them back.  It makes them all likely destined to spend another year in AAA, but it also opens up the possibility for a late-career breakout.  Let’s check in and see who Eppler traded us fans with this winter.

IF Colin WalshStrengths: Switch hitter.  Great plate discipline, pretty decent pop.  Can play anywhere on the infield and corner outfield.  Weaknesses: Not the greatest hitter for average.  Contact issues.  Not a good defender anywhere.  Lottery: A starting 2B/3B that gets on base 37% of the time.  Current Value: Not only a utility infielder, but one that can get on base.  Offers alternative to Kaleb Cowart.

IF Jose Miguel Fernandez – Strengths: Great plate discipline, good contact hitter, strong pull-power, can spray hits to all fields.  Can play 1B, 2B and 3B.  Strong record of success in Cuba.  Just a strong offensive weapon.  Weaknesses: 30 years old, not a great defender, and simply “ok” speed.  Lottery: Starting infielder that hits .300 with 15 HR’s.  Current Value: Legitimate offensive depth behind Ian Kindler at 2B and Luis Valbuena at 1B.

1B Chris Carter – Strengths: POWER!  So much of it.  Not bad at taking a walk and working the count either.  Sufficient defensive first baseman.  He’s a former HR King as well.  Weaknesses: Hitting the ball.  Atrocious contact rates.  Defensively limited to first base.  Will not hit for average.  Lottery: .230/.330 and 40 HR’s.  Current Value: If he’s hitting the ball, Luis Valbuena becomes expendable.

OF Jabari Blash – Strengths: POWER!  Just an absolute physical specimen.  He has the chance be a very good power hitter in the major leagues.  Solid defensive corner outfielder.  Has logged time with the Padres and the general belief is that he’s only an adjustment or two away from breaking out.  Weaknesses: Contact issues.  Likely will never hit for average.  Despite size and athleticism, not a great runner.  Lottery: Starting corner outfielder that hits .260 and 30 HR’s.  Current Value: Depth with upside.

OF Rymer Liriano – Strengths: He can hit for average, power and is a good baserunner.  A solid all around game.  Good defender in the corners and an adequate defender in centerfield.  Still relatively young, entering his age 26 season.  Former top 100 prospect.  Weaknesses: Has not been able to put it together the major leagues to this point.  Had a poor season in AAA last year with the White Sox.  Lottery: .280 15 HR 20 SB corner outfielder.  Current Value: The same as Blash.  Depth with some upside to it.

LHP John Lamb (technically acquired a year ago, but was recovering from back surgery last season).  Strengths – Left handed, firm, mid-90’s fastball and a great curve.  Can pitch in a starting or relief role.  Great golden locks!  Former Top 100 prospect.  Weaknesses: Back injuries are pretty serious.  Lamb doesn’t miss bats as much as he did before.    He looks a little like a drug dealer.   Lottery: Mid-rotation left handed starter or an effective lefty specialist in the bullpen.  Current Value: Lamb is the first line of defense in the event that Jose Alvarez can’t figure it out in the bullpen.

LHP Ian Krol – Strengths: Good mid-90’s fastball, left handed.  Has had major league success before.  Solid beard.  Weaknesses: Success in the major leagues happened two years ago.  Last year was pretty rough.  Looks like he may have bought some pot from John Lamb.  Lottery: A very effective middle reliever. Current Value: Insurance for Jose Alvarez.

RHP Luke Bard – Strengths: Good mid-90’s fastball and excellent slider.  Great command of his pitches.  Lots of success in high minors last year.  Former first round pick.  MLB bloodlines.  Weaknesses: Spotty injury history throughout the minors.  He’s a Rule 5 pick, so the Angels either have to keep him or lose him.  Can’t be optioned to AAA.  Lottery: Could be a legitimate closer option, or can prove his health and be stretched back out into a starter later on.  Current Value: One of many intriguing relief options.



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By Jason Sinner,

In the wake of the JD Martinez deal, and it’s proximity to our deal with Justin Upton, I though it would interesting to take a look at other nine figure contracts for similar players and how they turned out.

There have been about 70 or so 100m contracts in baseball history. From what I can tell, Kevin Brown was the first in 1999 at 7/105.

First, lets do a quick comparison of the two players.

Upton is the more complete player and certainly a better fit for the Halos. He’s one of those guys who is streaky during the season yet at the end of the year he ends up about where you’d expect an All-star player to be. About 3.5 WAR per season and 17th overall for the last 9 years. He’s a solid defender. Defensive metrics like him better the last couple years. Particularly in LF. Eye test from the small sample in ANA last year was pretty bad, but he’s better than that and will be capable of holding his own out there for at least 3-4 more years. He’s entering his age 30 season but will be 31 in Aug. JUp will swipe about 15 bags for you as well and he’s a very good if not excellent base runner.

JDM is a one dimensional player but that one dimension is pretty damn good. So good that he’s been able to overcome horrible defense and still be a premier middle of the lineup bat. And he’s a poor base runner to boot. He’s also had his issues staying healthy. But that 149 ops+ over the last 4 years is pretty gaudy. Also entering his age 30 season but 31 in Aug as well.

So which of these guys is likely to be worth the money they’re to be paid? Or will either of them be worth it. Trying to find comps in the 100m+ range is actually tough when you subtract out pitchers, roid users, CFers, SS, 2b and 3b. So I included a few guys who got 90mil as well.

So what’s worth it? By the numbers, I’m of the mind that about 8mil per WAR is fair. That would mean each guys has to put up around 13.5 WAR or 2.7 WAR per season. While most free agents cost a bit more than that, I tend to put a bit of a production premium on these high value players.

Upton comps:

Hunter Pence – started his 5/90 deal at age 31 and has one year to go. 6.9 bWAR so far. Avg’d less than 110 games per season. That’s 1.7 WAR per year. While staying healthy is a big part of maintaining value, if he were, prorated, his avg would be about 2.8 WAR per year. So not a complete bust but mostly because he can’t stay on the field

Ryan Braun – I included him because he should be clean now in the middle of his 5/105 deal that started in 2016. 5.6 WAR so far with a big drop last year yet he started his deal at age 32.

Yoenis Cespedes – only starting his 2nd year of a 4/110 contract. 2.1 WAR in his age 31yo season. Gonna have a tough time making his value.

Carlos Beltran – started his 7/119 deal at age 28 putting up 11.2 WAR in the first two years. Yet 21.2 in the next 5 or a avg WAR of over 4. Carlos was a better player than Upton to this point in either of their careers so the expectations were a bit different. But that was a nice contract.

Matt Holiday – his 7/120 started at age 30 and he avg’d 3.0 WAR over the entirety yet 19.7 WAR came in the first 5 years. Another solid deal.

Josh Hamilton – it’s hard to include him as a comp to Upton as he was all over the place with his production and started his deal at age 32. I just wanted to tweak y’all a bit.

Vernon Wells – another tweak. Started his 7/126 at age 29 and probably isn’t a great comp because a huge chunk of his value came as a very good defensive CFer right up until he signed the deal.

Carl Crawford – not a good comp imo but included him because he’s a corner OFer. Crawford parlayed his speed into 7/142. 3.4 total WAR over 6 years. Yuck.

Jayson Werth – 7/126 started at age 32. A stretch deal at the time with the Nats trying to lure players. Made them a home for Boras clients out of this deal. 8.9 WAR over the 7 years, but the first 4 for age 32-35 weren’t awful with 10.8.

So a couple of stinkers but the guys that I think most closely resemble him actually held their own in Pence, Holiday, and Beltran (if you choose to include him). The red flags on Joshy, Wells, Braun and Crawford were pretty obvious and important to bring up because I don’t see any quite so severe as it pertains to Upton.

JD Martinez comps.

You’ll notice that there are a few 1bmen here. I chose to include them because JDM is bat only and basically a DH. A bunch of the 1st base guys fit into that category as well even though they started out at a different position.

Carlos Lee – kind of forgot about him. Started his 6/100 deal at age 31. JDM’s bat over the last 4 years is better, but there are a lot of similarities. 8.4 WAR over those 6 years.

Ryan Howard – 5/125 started at age 32. -4.5 WAR. yeesh.

Shin-Soo Choo – was gonna include him in the Upton comps but after running the numbers, realized he’s probably better suited to be compared to JDM. Poor defending corner OF. Started his 7/130 at age 31. 4.9 WAR in the first four years. Not so good.

Chris Davis – 7/161 started at age 31. Put up -0.1 WAR in the first year. This one is gonna be an all timer.

Matt Kemp – 8/160. probably not a fair comp. Just thought I throw it out there as an obvious red flag example.

Adrian Gonzalez – 7/154 started at age 30. Also not the best comp as he was a very good 1b defender early in the deal but they are similar in that Gonzalez was a premier offensive bat. The ages match up well too. 17.4 WAR for the first 5 years of the deal with no negative value from defense. So worth the money the first 5 years. Now? not so much.

A couple of things to glean from above. One, guys that play decent defense have a much better chance to recoup value. Two, it’s tough to recoup value when you can’t stay on the field. Injury history is important. Three, bat first first basemen rarely live up to their contract regardless of whether they play decent defense. As you know, I didn’t even include a few that clearly aren’t going to or didn’t (Albert, Miggy, Fielder, Tex, even Mauer and Votto are unlikely). Four, anything longer than 5 years is just automatic dead money on books.

At the end of the day, both Upton and JDM have a decent chance of being worth what they are paid. I think Upton has the edge but we’ll see.

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Now that that prospect reports are finished, we’ll look at the prospects with the best individual tools in the Angels minor league system.  If there are any other angles in which fans would like us to view the prospects, as always, let us know!

Best Hitter: Shohei Ohtani – While there are questions about how his bat will translate to the major leagues, Ohtani is likely the best overall hitter in the system at this point.  Japanese baseball profiles to be on par with most AAA teams in the United States, and this past season as a 22 year old, Shohei Ohtani hit .332.  As a 21 year old, he hit .322. So it not only appears that Ohtani is well suited to hit at any level, but it’s likely he’s only getting better.

Honorable Mention: Jahmai Jones, Brennon Lund

Best Power: Shohei Ohtani – Ohtani comes with legitimate 80 grade power.  While everyone loves pull power and it’s quite the spectacle, most reports suggest that Ohtani can hit the ball out to all fields, and is quite adept particularly at driving the ball to centerfield, which also speaks to his general hitting ability.

Honorable Mention: Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell, Kevin Maitan

Best Plate Discipline: Matt Thaiss – Thaiss is again, one of those prospects that no one can seem to agree on.  Floor, ceiling, power, position, glove…..Just about the only thing anyone can agree on is that he has an advanced approach at the plate and will likely reach base at an elite pace regardless of level.

Honorable Mention: Leo Rivas, Michael Hermosillo, Shohei Ohtani

Best/Fastest Runner: Leo Rivas – While Rivas is not the fastest runner in the system, he is very quick.  But he is the BEST base runner in the system.  This past season as a 19 year old split between rookie and A Ball, he had a 20:1 SB/CS ratio.  That’s fantastic.  Rivas picks his spots well, can read pitchers and has the quickest first step in the system.

Honorable Mention: Trent Deveaux, Torii Hunter Jr., Jo Adell, Michael Hermosillo, Jahmai Jones.

Highest Ceiling (offense): Jo Adell – Adell has the highest offensive ceiling of anyone in minor league baseball.  Normally, this title would belong to Shohei Ohtani, as he has more power, is a better hitter and has comparable speed to Jo Adell, but Ohtani appears to be destined for two-way stardom, and thus limiting his at bats to roughly a half season worth.  As a full time offensive player, Adell has the sort of output potential of a legitimate superstar.  He’s one of the few prospects in baseball where someone can predict a 30/30 season in his future and not be laughed at.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Maitan, Brandon Marsh, Jahmai Jones.

Best Fastball: Shohei Ohtani – He’s hit 102.5 mph on the radar gun before and will typically sit 97/98.  The list of starting pitchers that throw as hard as Shohei Ohtani is limited to two: Luis Severino and Noah Syndergaard.

Honorable Mention: Chris Rodriguez, Jose Soriano.

Best Slider: Chris Rodriguez – Simply put, it’s a legitimate “out” or “plus” pitch by scouting standards.

Honorable Mention: Shohei Ohtani, Eduardo Parades.

Best Curve: Joe Gatto – Not too many prospects throw a “hammer” curve (a 12-6 curve with harder than average velocity) but Gatto does, and it’s quite good!

Honorable Mention: Shohei Ohtani, Jerryell Rivera, Griffin Canning.

Best Change: Jaime Barria – Barria’s best pitch is a change up, and Barria is the best pitcher in the Angels system not named Ohtani.  While it’s hard to call any change up an “out” pitch, Barria’s, like Nick Tropeano before him, borders on that.

Honorable Mention: Griffin Canning, Jose Suarez.

Best off-speed pitch: Shohei Ohtani (splitter) – Ohtani could literally be a one-pitch pitcher with his splitter and still be an effective major league pitcher, like Mariano Rivera was with his cutter.

Honorable Mention: Chris Rodriguez (slider), Joe Gatto (curve).

Best Starting Pitcher: Shohei Ohtani – The only one in the system that profiles and a legitimate ace and Cy Young candidate.

Honorable Mention: Jaime Barria, Griffin Canning, Chris Rodriguez.

Best Reliever: Eduardo Paredes – Paredes likely won’t open the season with the Angels because he has options and it’s a numbers game, but this year will likely be the last that he spends at a minor league affiliate.  Parades can do anything the Angels ask of him, close, set up, act a bridge, get lefties out, generate a ground ball, generate  strikeout, go multiple innings.  He figures to be one of the better, more reliable delivers in the major leagues for a long time.

Honorable Mention: Jake Jewell (still a starter), Luis Pena (also still a starter).

Best Arm (defense): Taylor Ward – Likely the best arm of any catching prospect in the minors.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Maitan, Nonie Williams.

Best Defensive Infielder: Livan Soto – The Angels signed him for 800k after the Braves were punished.

Honorable Mention: David Fletcher, Julio Garcia.

Best Defensive Outfielder: Jahmai Jones – Profiles as a good defensive outfielder at all three spots.

Honorable Mention: Torii Hunter Jr., Trent Deveaux.

All Homegrown Lineup in 2022

C – Taylor Ward

1B Matt Thaiss

2B Leo Rivas

SS Andrelton Simmons

3B Kevin Maitan

LF Jahmai Jones

CF Mike Trout

RF Jo Adell

DH Shohei Ohtani/Brandon Marsh

Starting Pitchers: Shohei Ohtani, Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Alex Meyer, Jaime Barria, Griffin Canning, Chris Rodriguez.






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Prospect: Shohei Ohtani
Rank: 1
2016: UR
Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher and Designated Hitter
Level: Los Angeles Angels
Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2018.
Height: 6’4” – Weight: 203 lbs
Floor: #2 starting pitcher in the major leagues, but not a hitter.
Ceiling: The best pitcher and also one of the best hitters in major league baseball.
Likely Outcome: Ace starting pitcher and a good hitter in the major leagues.
Summary: This is the scouting report I’ve been looking forward to writing since the day we placed Shohei Ohtani atop our top prospect list.  I remember hearing about this kid when he was in high school.  It seems like so long ago, that he was some really talented prep kid from Japan that wanted to play here just like any high profile prep prospect from the states.  Then it didn’t happen.  And then two years later his name resurfaced, and he was trying to hit and pitch in Japan, and they were calling him the Japanese Babe Ruth.  The numbers weren’t too impressive so I didn’t pay much attention until he played for Samurai Japan in the MLB Stars tour.  At age 20, he completely laid waste to our MLB stars.  He made them look overpowered and foolish.  From that point on, Shohei Ohtani stuck in my mind.  I knew exactly who he was.  And the stories just got bigger and bigger.  During the World Baseball Classic he hit a ball through the roof of the Tokyo Dome.  That’s impossible.  And he was routinely clocked at 99-100 mph on the mound.
There was some speculation that perhaps Ohtani would jump to the U.S. last year at age 22, but because of an injured ankle, not only did he not play for Japan in the World Baseball Classic, but he also didn’t come stateside.  Whatever, he’d probably end up with the Yankees anyway.  Right?
I paid casual attention this last year, about the “will he-won’t he” about coming to play ball in America.  And then this offseason when he was declared a free agent, I legitimately began to wonder, “Can he do it?  Can he hit and pitch here?”  Never did it cross my mind that this fantasy would actually be a reality, and it would hit closer to home that I had ever dreamt.  Ohtani narrowed his list down to seven teams, mostly along the West coast, and the Angels were one of seven.  That was really exciting, and entertaining, particularly the Yankees fans response on MLBTR.
I think that’s when I really began to understand just how big of a deal Shohei Ohtani is.  Yankee fans, who can already be unbearable to begin with, showed up en masse to voice their displeasure.  That he was wasting everyone’s time and that this was so stupid and that he probably wasn’t even that good anyway.
And then I had to hear what I absolutely had grown to dread.  That Shohei Ohtani would probably pick the Mariners.  I don’t like the Mariners.  Not since the Angels playoff collapse of my early childhood years of the 1990’s that was capped by an utterly dominant performance by Randy Johnson and that mustache and mullet of his.  I mean Ken Griffey Jr. was really cool, but no, I don’t like the Mariners.  And possibly my least favorite person associated with professional baseball, Jerry Dipoto was their GM.
That’s when it became personal.
Every pundit predicted the Mariners.  They’re the safe bet.  They have such a strong Japanese audience and they are Japanese owned and have a history with Japanese players and so on and so forth.  It was enough to make me forget that other than simply being Japanese, Shohei Ohtani was a human that was trying to do something that hadn’t been done in a century.  Then there was Dipoto doing what Dipoto does, which is talk to the media several times a day and making a big show of his pursuit of Ohtani and make statements about how confident his staff was in their pursuit of Ohtani.
But Billy Eppler….that’s an easy guy to like.  He also made no secret that he intended to pursue Shohei Ohtani.  He wasn’t as in your face about it and all over the radio and TV, but he made the simple statement that the Angels would in fact be pursuing Ohtani.  Clear, crisp and to the point.  Then came the trades.  That’s when this wasn’t just personal anymore.
This was a battle royale.
Mariners vs. Angels, winner take the greatest and most fabled player to ever play in Japan (except for maybe Ichiro).
The Mariners’ international budget was huge.  They’d made sure of it.  They had more to offer any team in baseball.  Dwarfing everyone else in fact.  But Billy fired the first shot, trading for Jim Johnson and a whole bunch of international money.  Jerry Dipoto fired back, trading one of his top prospects for even more international money, because that’s what Dipoto does, he trades prospects away.  Then Billy fired again, trading Jacob Pearson, undoubtedly a good prospect, though not a top prospect, in return for more international money from Minnesota.  Then Dipoto fired back again, trading yet another top prospect for more money, because….Dipoto.  Then Billy Eppler fired back again, but in a very confusing way, signing Kevin Maitan and Livan Soto, two of the biggest international free agents for three million dollars.
Did that mean we were out on Ohtani?
As it turns out, because of the special circumstances, MLB had allowed teams to dip into next season’s international budget to sign the former Braves prospects.  So the Angels were still in on Shohei Ohtani.
Wouldn’t that be weird if the Angels got Kevin Maitan and Shohei Ohtani?  Man, the top prospect list would be insane!
And then came the news.
Shohei Ohtani had chosen the Angels.  Billy Eppler had defeated Jerry Dipoto by way of knockout in the third round.  The Angels had defeated the Mariners, and the Yankees, and the Rangers, and the Dodgers, and everyone else.  I announced it to my classroom, to the sound of “Oh my God” and groans from the Giants fans that surrounded me.
And that’s when Ohtani became OUR story.  The new chapter in the story of the Angels franchise.  The last chapter was all about how great Mike Trout is, and how the Angels hadn’t won with him.  The new chapter would be about how the Angels have the greatest player in major league baseball, and the greatest international star in major league baseball, the only two-way player in major league baseball, playing side by side, and ushering in a new era of prosperity for the Angels.
So at this point, you’re probably thinking, this isn’t a scouting report, this is a story.  Well that’s true, but the reason for that is to simply show you the reader that reading about Shohei Ohtani’s scouting report is a lot like reading a story.  It’s like listening to your great grand-pappy talk about watching Willie Mays play.  He was larger than life.  So was the Mick.  So is Mike Trout.  And so is Shohei to the Japanese people.  Hopefully to the Americans soon too.
Well if you want Shohei’s scouting report, then here it is.
First, he throws the ball hard.  Really hard.  He’ll probably be the hardest throwing starting pitcher in major league baseball.  Like Justin Verlander when he first came up.  That hard.  And his mechanics are cleaner than clean.  He’ll throw two variations of a breaking ball, a curve and the slider.  I don’t like the slider as much as everyone else does, but I like Ohtani’s curve more than everyone else does.  But then that’s me, always going against the grain.  Really, my favorite pitch of Ohtani’s (fun fact, my computer auto-corrects Ohtani’s to Octane’s) is his splitter.  It’s the best splitter I’ve every seen.  Better than Shoemaker’s.  Better than Haren’s sort of splitter.  Better than Darvish’s.  As good if not better than Nomo’s forkball.  I grade it as a 70 grade pitch, because 70 is the highest I can go before I start saying lofty things.  “Octane’s” fastball is one of those lofty things.  Mike Trout himself is in fact a very lofty thing.
Back to Ohtani.
Apparently, he can also hit the ball 500 feet.  Watching his swing, his follow through, his loft, I believe it.  I believe Shohei Ohtani can hit the ball 500 feet in practice.  I believe he can hit the ball over 450 feet in games.  There’s a difference between batting practice power and game power, just look at C.J. Cron.  This isn’t to say Ohtani doesn’t have in-game power.  He definitely does.  I just don’t think he has Giancarlo Stanton in game power, where the majority of his home runs seem to travel 450 feet.  This is a moot point really because the only difference between Mike Trout’s 430 foot home runs and Stanton’s 450 footers is that…..well there’s no difference.  Trout usually did it with no men on and so did Stanton.
Back to Ohtani….again.
Yes, he hits for power.  And the last couple years in Japan, he hit for average too.  Fun fact, I was stationed in Japan for a year back in my Marine days (semper fi) and I’d loved baseball my whole life.  But that was the first time I’d ever had the chance to watch Japanese baseball.  It was a whole different ball game.  The fans were absolutely rabid.  Not hateful, but so passionate.  Filled with joy.  The dirt infields, the smaller fields, the turf, the domes, the identical hitting and pitching styles, the manufacturing of runs, the in-game decisions, the defense….it was baseball in a pure form.  And I’ll say this, a vast majority of Japanese pitchers would be successful in America in the major leagues.  The hitters, not so much.  But the pitchers, absolutely.
Back to Ohtani…..again and again.
Ohtani showed a greater propensity to swing and miss the last couple seasons in Japan, but the difference in the results came in what happened when Ohtani made contact with the ball.  He made the adjustments, and was able to square up pitches in a way he couldn’t before.  It’s this ability to adjust that will ultimately lead to success in the major leagues as a hitter.  It’s what Mike Trout is better at than anyone, maybe ever.  Adjusting.  Every plate appearance, every pitch.
Oh and then to top it all off, as if Shohei wasn’t already a kid of mythic proportions, he’s also really fast.  Cool.  Also, he’s extremely humble and likable and focused and works very hard.  You know, like Trout.  And as both his manager and Ohtani himself said…..he’s driven to be the best baseball player in the world.  No better way to do that than to watch the best player in the world from the dugout and pitcher’s mound.
There’s the summary of his scouting report.
What to expect: The Angels and Ohtani have both been clear that the need for flexibility will be paramount in how exactly he is deployed.  The general plan for now will likely mirror what Shohei did in Japan.  That would be to pitch once every six days (the Angels plan to deploy a six man rotation).  So if he pitches on Monday, he won’t bat on Monday or Tuesday.  He’ll DH on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and perhaps Saturday if there’s an off day on Sunday, otherwise he’ll rest on Saturday and pitch on Sunday.  So generally speaking, Ohtani should log roughly a half season worth of at bats and 150 or so innings on the mound, assuming he stays healthy.
That’s one of the paramount debates about Ohtani, if his body can withstand doing that.
We can also expect the Angels to be in the news every night, which will be a pretty big change.  Everyone and their mother will want to know how Shohei Ohtani is doing.  After all, he’s trying to do something that hasn’t been done in 100 years.  A lot of smart people think it can’t be done.  A lot of other smart people think it can be done.  And still, more smart people are googling “What is a Shohei Ohtani?”
We can expect Angel Stadium to be overrun by the Japanese media.  We can probably expect Arte Moreno to do something drastic mid-season to try and accommodate the amount of media attention this will bring, not only from Japan, but from America too.  We can expect a greater Asian presence among fans, and a thousand different narratives but ultimately the one that I care about, “Can Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout bring home a World Series title?”  Oh and also “Did you see Trout and Ohtani laughing and joking?  That’s so awesome!  World peace!”
We can also expect a fair amount of skepticism, especially when Shohei Ohtani slumps.  AngelsWin may not be a pleasant place when that happens.
But as for my own personal expectations, I think Shohei Ohtani will be absolutely brilliant on the mound and surprisingly pretty good at the plate too, as a 23 year old.  By the time he’s 26, this could really be fun.
Estimated Time of Arrival: Right now folks.  Right freakin’ now.  Man I’m excited!
Grade as a prospect: A+.
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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Prospect: Jo Adell
Rank: 2
2016: UR
Position(s): Outfielder
Level: Rookie Ball
Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2018.
Height: 6’2” – Weight: 195 lbs
Floor: Minor League depth.
Ceiling: MVP candidate type of player in the major leagues.
Likely Outcome: A star starting outfielder in the major leagues.
Summary: It’s a rare thing, to have a high school kid with as much upside as  Jo Adell has.  In fact, he has more upside than everyone in minor league baseball not named Shohei Ohtani, who through a series of fortunate events, happens to play in the same organization as Jo Adell.  Of course, when someone so talented plays, there are going to be a lot of doubters, and Adell has had his fair share of them already in his young career.  Though to be fair, even Mike Trout had doubters after his first two MVP caliber seasons in the majors.
The Angels drafted Adell with the tenth overall pick of the 2017 draft, and really the only reason he didn’t go 1-1 is simply a lack of track record.  Adell has been on the collegiate radar since he was in the eighth grade, which is mind boggling itself, but Jo really didn’t begin attracting many major league scouts until his junior year.  Even then, the scouting reports had statements like, “swing is too long”, “lack of pitch recognition”, and “very raw”  included in them.  Sure, there were other terms like “projectable”, “quick hands” and “strong athlete” included, but they didn’t fully offset the negatives.  Teams generally want a more proven entity when picking first in the draft.  No one wants to miss with 1-1.
But by the time Jo Adell’s senior year was finished, he’d led the nation in home runs, shortened his swing, and was just plain bigger, stronger and faster than any of his teammates, and himself a year earlier.  A few prospects could keep with him in terms of foot speed.  A few older prospects could hit the ball with as much authority as he did. And still a few more threw the ball as hard as he did, and played the outfield as well as he did.  But not a single one could do it all.  Not in this draft, and not in any draft in the last few years.
So I can understand why scouts thought it might be too good to be true.
But the Angels were more than willing to take that chance.
Upon signing, Adell went to the Arizona affiliate and started his professional career off with a bang.  An eight game hitting streak, and it wasn’t just a bloop single here or there.  It was 13 hits in eight games and a batting average near .500.  After scattered hits over the next couple games, Adell then followed with a nine game hit streak (14 more hits across those nine games).
After Adell earned himself a promotion half way through the short season, and against the majority of newly drafted collegiate players, Adell collected 34 hits in his last 17 games, which was good for another hitting streak, this one 16 games in length.
So as you can see, it turned out that Jo Adell was even better than the scouting report suggested, which was already a glowing report coming out of high school.  When we start looking for weaknesses in his game, we really have to dig deep.  For example, while Adell is a very good hitter, he does have a tendency to swing a miss.  Not a ton, where it’s a problem, but enough to keep an eye on it.  He also didn’t watch too many pitches, though any hitter with his success swinging the bat would be tempted to swing at everything he saw.  He does have a tendency to get out in front on a breaking ball, and because of his long load and how far he brings his hands back, Adell can be susceptible to a good fastball letter high.
Again, these are little things.  Nothing major.  And I think the biggest advantage that Adell has is time.  Inevitably, more advanced pitching is going to find holes in his approach or his swing, and it will be up to Adell to make the adjustments.  But at just 19 years old, Adell will have several years to develop and get past those.  The top comp that’s been thrown around for Jo Adell is Byron Buxton, and that seems relatively accurate.  When Buxton was first drafted, he had slightly less power than Adell and slightly more speed.  Adell is a better hitter, but Buxton had better pitch recognition.  Buxton covers a little more room in CF, but Adell has a better arm.  But overall, the caliber of player should be similar.
Like Buxton once he reaches his prime, Adell once he reaches his prime will likely threaten to be a 30/30 hitter.
What to expect: With the way he torched rookie ball, Adell should start the year in Class A Burlington.  Stepping up to full season ball this quickly is typically a big challenge for even the best prospects, but I believe Adell is up to the task.  If he plays the way he’s capable of, we may even see Jo cover both levels of A Ball in his age 19 season.  For me, I’ll be closely monitoring his K/BB ratio, because that will tell me if Adell’s success is due to legitimate development, or if his natural ability is simply allowing him to cut through the competition.  And like Marsh and Jones before him, as a fan it will be fun to keep track of the HR/SB numbers.  With a player like Adell, it’s also fun to track triples.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2021, Jordon’s age 22 season.
Grade as a prospect: A
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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By Glen McKee and Nate Trop


(Editors note: this was originally written the week before the Super Bowl but Nate and Glen are slackers and took their sweet time posting it)

At our nonexistent PCP headquarters, we get a lot (or, to be honest, no) mail and one of the favorite things for Nate and I to do, besides thinking up lousy ideas for a PCP that we ultimately reject, is to answer imaginary mail.  Let’s get to it!


You guys suck!  C. Richter, Pacific Northwest

Glen: Well…thanks, I guess!  That’s not a question but I’ll answer anyway.  We’ll try to do better.

Nate: You suck, C. Richter, you sound like the type that takes duck face selfies on the beach and runs a fan site for a baseball team nobody cares about.


Do you think that Scioscia will get an extension before or during the season, given that this is the last year of his contract? O. Land, Orange County

Nate: I really hope not, I still think the Angels need a new voice, even though he did a good job last year.  What… you didn’t expect me to take a cheap shot about lasagna, did you?

Glen: Yes, I do: an extension to the post-game buffet table for more lasagna, amirite?  Somebody shoot me for making that joke.  Seriously, kill me now.  Seriously part II: Giraldi is available, he used to work with Eppler.  You do the math.


Can you guys post your reaction, in gif form, to when the Ohtani signing was announced?

Glen:  dq6v_f-maxage-0

Nate: giphy


Is the team going to be black enough this year?  T. Hunter, Texas

Nate: Vlad is going into the HOF as an Angel, what else can you ask for?

Glen: We extended Justin Upton and we have…uh…is Ian Kinsler black?  What?  No?  I’m gonna have to go with no then.  


I know this question gets asked every year, but is Albert Pujols gonna bounce back this year?, Brownsville, TX

Glen: He’s gonna bounce, all right, like a damn rubber ball!  Seriously though, we all saw the recent pic of him and he looks like he’s in the BSOHAC (AC = Angels Career).  I predict he’ll be slightly better this year than last, stat wise, but he’ll break down sooner from having to play 1B regularly again.

Nate:  A bounce back is unlikely, I think if we are lucky, Mr. Ohtani will take a bunch of ABs away from Pujols and maybe the Angels will take a late run on a 1b/DH.  Otherwise, I suspect it will be a painful season if you are a fan of the back door… err Pujols.


The Angels signed Zack Cozart to a three-year deal.  Who is your favorite Zack?  Z. Braff, formerly in Hollywood

Nate:  We all know that Zack Morris is the one true Zack.

Glen:  I’d prefer to answer this in video form: Guy love


Mike Scioscia told me that he is very flexible and open to trying new things, like letting the pitcher hit, can you confirm? S. Ohtani, Pacific Rim

Glen:  Flexible at the post-game buffet, amirite?  Please, again…kill me.  Sosh has actually gotten more flexible lately, or my opinion of him has changed.  I just don’t want to picture him physically trying to be flexible.

Nate:  He didn’t call for the contact play with a runner on third and one out once.  Or maybe the runner just missed the sign.


I hope Ohtani chokes on the sweet air of freedom. – Jerry D, Seattle

Nate: First of all, Japan is a free country, and this is Anaheim, he is choking on smog.

Glen: Hey Jerry, maybe you can use all that international pool money you hoarded for Ohtani to buy a clue, and a better haircut.


Do you guys know any Russians?  I am fed up with the corrupt Hall of Fame.  B. Bonds, San Francisco

Glen: I think you should be in the HOF, dude.  That said, check here for Russian hookups:

Nate:  I don’t know any Russians but I am sure one of your PED dealers can hook you up.


Mark Gubizfddfwsf Gubizczczaaaca Gubikazaa Gubi keeps begging me to take him to the Super Bowl but he is so annoying, what can I do?  M. Trout, South Jersey

Nate: I don’t think he is that bad, worst case, Glen knows a good place to dump a body.  GO EAGLES!

Glen: Who wouldn’t want to go on a date with Gubi, besides Victor Rojas and everybody else?  Just do a Victor and nod politely, and change the subject.


Which is better, In-N-Out or Five Guys?  S. Straddler, Norco

Glen: Five Guys is great for all of the other stuff they have.  In-N-Out is a classic for a reason.  In-N-Out all the way.  And eff all y’all, I love the fries there too.  I even get my double double protein style (occasionally rarely ok, almost never) so I can feel less guilty about pigging out on the fries.

Nate: Five Guys…

Hey Straddler: middle_finger_salute_retro_postcard-rb9b4162638de46008f79605de2e72d89_vgbaq_8byvr_324

OK, that’s it for this time.  Keep those imaginary questions coming and we’ll do this again soon!  

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Prospect: Jahmai Jones
Rank: 3
2016: 2
Position(s): Outfielder
Level: Advanced A Ball
Age: Entering Age 20 season in 2018.
Height: 6’0” – Weight: 220 lbs
Floor: Average starting outfielder in the major leagues.
Ceiling: 30/30 hitter (HR/SB) that wins a few Gold Gloves and is a perennial all-star.
Likely Outcome: 20/20 hitter that carves out a starting role in the major leagues for a decade.
Summary: Jones is probably the safest, most complete all-around prospect in the Angels system.  There isn’t a ton of deviation between his ceiling and floor.  He looks like a major leaguer.  The comp Andrew Mccutcheon has been thrown around with Jahmai and while I’m also very hesitant to use these comps, this one is probably the best one you can build for Jones because it’s very accurate.  Jahmai is going to be a decent hitter for average.  I don’t think he’ll bat .300 but .280 is well within reason, and at age 19, he’s just begun to really tap into his power.  There is a chance that around age 25 he takes another big step forward in the power department and starts blasting 30+ HR’s a year, but that just isn’t the sort of thing I or anyone else can predict with any sort of certainty.
Jamal will likely always be a good base runner.  He has a quick first step, is very athletic and what I would call “instinctual.”  He makes good decisions on the base path.  This past season he was caught stealing more than expected, but I think that was mostly a product of Jahmai learning that he can’t simply steal second base at will despite increased speed.  He’s a good base stealer but hasn’t yet learned how to become a very good one.  Because Jahmai is as thick as he is in the bottom half, there’s also the chance that he becomes more of a power hitter than a base stealer, but that would require an very unexpected growth spurt and again, is not the sort of thing anyone can predict.
More than likely, Jahmai becomes a very pleasant combination of speed and power with decent contact and on base ability.
Defensively, Jahmai is fearless.  When he first began in the minors, his routes in the outfield needed some work.  He was more of an athlete than an instinctual defender.  But he would close on fly balls and sacrifice his body if necessary to make the catch.  While Jahmai still has that “all out” streak in him, he’s become a very precise route runner.  He’ll make difficult catches look easy, in much the same way Mike Trout does.  There’s something to be said about a player that always seems to have the right alignment and can cut a ball off before it reaches the gap.  It rarely shows up on the highlight reel, but it’s one of those little things during the game that it seems many fans either take for granted or don’t notice.  Jahmai’s arm is solid average and can work at any defensive position while his glove is very good.
Off the field, Jahmai has all of the intangibles that every team in baseball looks for.  He’s a great teammate, a leader in the clubhouse, trains hard, is extremely coachable, media friendly and humble.  It’s this combination of attributes that make Jahmai Jones the sort of player that is more likely to reach his ceiling than even some of his more talented peers (though admittedly, it’s quite difficult to be “more talented” than Jahmai, because he’s already in the upper echelon among athletes in the system).
And if that weren’t enough to make scouts drool over the idea of him trolling the outfield, Jahmai comes from strong bloodlines.  His dad Andre was a professional football player.  So is his brother T.J., for the Detroit Lions.  His brother Malachi was a well known college football player as well.  Even his godfather is Rocket Ismael.  Jahmai himself was an all-state wide receiver as a sophomore in high school.
As I said, Jahmai Jones is the complete package as far as prospects go.  He checks every box you look for if you’re scouting a kid.  He’ll be a good major leaguer.  The only question is really if he’ll be good, very good or great.
What to expect: Jahmai got really comfortable at Inland Empire last year.  As the season wore on he began to put a charge into the ball and run the bases more aggressively.  So I don’t anticipate the Angels putting him back there even though he spent only half the season in the Cal League.  I suspect we’ll see Jahmai start the year in AA Mobile as a 20 year old, which is outstanding.  Still three years ahead of the age curve which more than you can ask for from any prospect.  If the Angels do send Jahmai back to Inland Empire I’ld be shocked, but such conservative placement isn’t out of the ordinary.  But most specifically, I’ll be watching for Jahmai to get himself into good hitting counts and not chase quality breaking balls in the dirt the way that many young prospects do when first introduced to AA.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2020, Jam’s age 22 season.
Grade as a prospect: A-
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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Prospect: Brandon Marsh
Rank: 4
2016: 5
Position(s): Outfielder
Level: Rookie Ball
Age: Entering Age 20 season in 2018.
Height: 6’4” – Weight: 210 lbs
Floor: Minor league depth.
Ceiling: All-star starting outfielder.
Likely Outcome: A good starting outfielder in the major leagues.
Summary: Brandon Marsh is one of the few cases where I just can’t figure out what the rest of the prospect world is missing.  I mean here we have a kid that’ built like Josh Hamilton and is yet a teenager with huge power potential and enough speed to make him a five-tool threat.  He also marks off the intangibles….a former standout wide receiver in high school, absolutely loves the game of baseball like Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun do, and he’s absolutely dedicated in the weight room.  And if that weren’t enough, he hit .350 in his first taste of professional baseball.
So why isn’t this kid on every top 100 prospect list?
I can’t answer that, all I can guess is that scouts simply haven’t seen him play as much as others, and the general decade-old stigma that still comes with being drafted by the Angels.
Whatever the case, someday people are going to know about Brandon Marsh, and AngelsWin will have added another name to the list of prospects they knew about long before the rest of the publication even had a clue.
Drafted out of Buford High School inGeorgia in 2016, many of Marsh’s scouting videos were clearly self made.  We didn’t see him show up at any of the usual suspects (Perfect Game, etc).  He was probably too busy making a name for himself on the gridiron.  Whatever the case, he didn’t garner much attention from professional or college scouts until his senior year, and the Angels definitely liked the upside he brought.  He wasn’t a first round pick, and hadn’t been around long enough to make teams feel comfortable with him in the second round, but the Angels saw the chase to get a first round talent in the second round of the draft and took it (very similar to Jahmai Jones who was drafted a year earlier).
There was a bit of a hold up in Marsh signing a professional contract with the Angels however, because of a tree fracture suffered in his back.  While he was looking for an over-slot bonus, the Angels needed to be more confident in him healing before signing him for that much money.  Eventually they agreed to a slot bonus, but with the caveat that Marsh wouldn’t play any baseball until the injury was healed.  So we didn’t get a chance to see Marsh except for a couple snippets during instructional ball, where he really impressed the staff.
That’s when us fans began to realize the Angels may have really found something here in Brandon Marsh.
Marsh’s power likely won’t show up much in the minors, mostly because it’s the last tool to develop and he’ll hit in a series of pitcher friendly parks before reaching AAA Salt Lake, so Marsh may be able to remain under the radar for a while.  But that shouldn’t bother fans.  He has the type of strength and loft in his swing that he should be a consistent 30 HR threat in the major leagues.  Marsh’s bat in the general sense is what we’d consider “very good.”  He can barrel pitches in the zone and is never cheated, despite having a controlled swing.  Brandon also has the type of speed that could result in as many as 40 SB a year, but will likely hover around 20 on an annual basis.
But, if there is one weakness in his game, it’s his plate discipline.  In Marsh’s first taste of rookie ball, he didn’t see many pitches he didn’t like.  So Brandon is susceptible to a good lefty breaking ball or a slider in the dirt.  That will need to change before AA, otherwise Marsh may stall in his development.  Still, givens work ethic and ability, it may only be a matter of time before Marsh’s plate discipline is satisfactory.
What to expect: First and foremost, Marsh needs to stay healthy, which he’ll look to do this next year at Burlington, his first foray into full season ball.  I’ll be closely paying attention to Marsh’s ability to cut down his strikeouts and take a walk.  We already know he can hit, but advanced pitchers might find holes in his approach that others haven’t yet. So I’ll definitely be paying attention to that.  And just for fun, I’ll be peeking at the HR and SB totals, just because having a talent like Marsh is fun for that.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2021, Brandon’s age 23 season.
Grade as a prospect: B+/A-
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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Prospect: Kevin Maitan
Rank: 5
2016: UR
Position(s): Shortstop
Level: Rookie Ball
Age: Entering Age 18 season in 2018.
Height: 6’2” – Weight: 200 lbs
Floor: Minor League Bust.
Ceiling: Elite, all-star, hall of fame type of superstar infielder.
Likely Outcome: A very good starting 3B/1B in major leagues.
Summary: Some scouting reports are easy to write.  The prospect can be close to a finished product, there is a consensus on tools, or perhaps I’d have had a chance to see them play enough to know for sure what I’m doing.  Maitan’s not that kid.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched every video I can on him, and because of the hype surrounding him since age 14, there’s a ton of video on this kid.  I’ve also spoken to others that have had a chance to see him.  So it isn’t as if I’m working off of nothing here.
There’s just so many different directions Kevin Maitan can go.  So anything I might predict on him is something I can’t place confidence in.  But I do know a bit about picking apart a swing, and I trust what I’ve read and been told from others.
First, let’s provide background.
Maitan has been on major league scouts’ radar since he was 13/14 years old.  At scouting tournaments, during inter-agency squad games, during workouts, he torched any pitching he saw.  Teams knew he was the big prize that every organization would be shooting for.  This kid has the size of a teenage Miguel Sano, Chipper Jones or Miguel Cabrera and athleticism to boot.  He’s a switch hitter with developing power from both sides of the plate and excellent plate discipline.  Teams saw him as the sort of kid that would be a major leaguer by the time he was 21 years old, and a superstar by the time he’s 22.
These kids do not come along but once every decade or so.
The Angels during a previous regime had actually developed a rapport with Maitan’s trainer and were very much in the thick of things while he was 14 or 15.  But because of other teams showing an interest in Maitan, and lofty figures being exchanged, the Angels had come to a crossroads.  See Maitan’s trainer was also training another shortstop.  A young Cuban who would only need a year or two in the minors before being major league ready around age 23.  He didn’t have Maitan’s upside, but he was much more of a sure thing.
His name was Roberto Baldoquin.
The Angels liked what they saw from Baldoquin so much, that they wanted to know how much it would cost for him to simply forget about any other workouts or showcases he may have with another team (Baldoquin was being showcased with fellow countryman Jose Abreu at the time).  8 million dollars was the number floated and the Angels met that number, thus effectively removing them from the Maitan sweepstakes.
But through the twists and turns of this life, the Angels found themselves in a rather unique position.  A new regime was in place, and that GM’s focus has been on rebuilding the Angels farm so that they may become a perennial contender.  The Braves who originally signed Maitan had illegally funneled money through other channels to pay for Maitan and others, and as a result, the Braves lost their rights to Maitan and he was declared a free agent.  The Angels this time, would not be deterred, offering Kevin Maitan a 2.2 million dollar signing bonus.  It’s ironic that they passed on Maitan because they spent 8 million on Roberto Baldoquin who has ended up being a bust and still ended up with Maitan for a fraction of the price.
Next, I’d like to lay all the negatives out there, just so we can enjoy the back half of this write up.  First, Maitan put on a ton of weight last season.  It looked to be a soft 30 lbs.  Not the best thing for a wiry shortstop that already isn’t fleet footed.  He had zero range in the middle infield and was working off of athleticism alone, which isn’t a good place to be in.  The Braves had him on no sort of nutrition or exercise regimen and it definitely shows.  Maitan’s swing was also off.  He was out in front of everything, his timing was off and his swing plane didn’t match where he was contacting the ball.  The swing looked slow too.  Anything on the upper half was thrown too hard for him.  There are reports that Maitan clashed with coaches and coordinators and wasn’t willing to listen, that he acted as if he was too good for it all.  Martian has been commonly referred to as a shortstop that will inevitably move to third base, but last season, scouts weren’t sure if he could play anywhere but first base down the line.  His first exposure to America, and Maitan lives at a fast food joint and occasionally hits the ball field?
This isn’t the next Miguel Cabrera, Chipper Jones or Miguel Sano.  It couldn’t be.
Now, let’s look at the positives.  Let’s allow Maitan to redeem himself a bit here.  First, Maitan has dropped most if not all the weight he put on.  He isn’t thin like he was at age 15, but thinner and more maneuverable than he was at this time last year.  He’s moving around much better at instructs.  Defensively the difference in six months couldn’t be more stark.  Right now, he look like a kid that might actually stick at shortstop.  The Angels put him on a more strict nutrition and workout regimen, and Maitan has reportedly been passionate about following it.  The swing could still use some work, most notably his left handed swing.  From the right side he looks ok.  His timing has improved but there’s still some work to be done there.  The Angels coaching staff and scouts have had nothing but positive things to say about Kevin’s work ethic.  He moved to Arizona and has been living at the Angels Spring Training complex in Tempe continuously all winter.  Also, if we’re being fair, Miguel Cabrera wasn’t terrible impressive at age 17 either.  Or 18.  Or even 19.
So what do I see from Maitan?  The biggest thing I notice from his swing is just the amount of extension he gets on the ball.  Even when his timing is off as it was this past season in Rookie Ball, even in just the BP videos, Kevin Maitan gets his hands extended and can absolutely drive the ball.  It’s a lot like seeing Alex Rodriguez when he was younger.  He stayed inside the ball and kept everything out in front of him.  This doesn’t make him a pull hitter, but it does mean anything on the inner half can fly a very long way.  Kevin swings through the ball in a manner that is largely unseen from prospects his age.  There’s definitely power projection here, from both sides of the plate.  Defensively, his actions are sound and Maitan has one of the better infield arms I’ve seen in the Angels system.  This is partly what generates so much talk about a potential move to third base.
Finally, I’d like to talk about where I see Maitan’s career headed.  There really isn’t anything blocking him from progressing through the Angels system quickly and claiming the starting third base job in three years.  Whether Maitan can do that or not, I don’t know.  But the Angels aren’t going to rush him in the same manner the Braves did.  They want to make sure he’s fully ready, which is just a better way of doing things.  It isn’t as if Maitan wasn’t ready for a stateside debut, but the Braves should’ve been quicker to recognize that rolling him out when he was struggling on and off the field, wasn’t the best idea.
I see Maitan breaking out in a big way in the Angels system.  First of all, it’s a fresh start and he needed it.  Second, he’s experienced failure and his response to it suggests that Maitan isn’t going to fold or shift blame anywhere else.  His actions suggest that he’s taken ownership of his performance and is now preparing for success, whereas before he wasn’t.  Kevin now looks like a shortstop or third baseman again.  He’s as thrilled to be part of this organization as the Angels are of having him.  And not to make excuses, but reworking your swing in the middle of a season is not the best time to be doing it.  Of course he wasn’t experiencing success.  He was using a swing that wasn’t authentically his yet.  He needed to figure out all of it’s subtle nuances and these just weren’t things he could do last year.  It was too new.  Also, it was Kevin’s first time in the U.S., playing against competition that was much older than he was.  Success just wasn’t going to happen.  He wasn’t ready and the Braves hadn’t prepared him of such.  Both Kevin and the Angels won’t be making that mistake.
So the end result in my opinion is that the Angels are going to have an all-star caliber third baseman that hits for average and power from both sides of the plate and is capable of winning a gold glove.  Maitan will be a middle of the order hitter and part of a wave of talent (Adell, Marsh, Maitan, Deveaux) that sweeps through the Angels system and debuts in the major leagues around the same time.
Kevin Maitan is going to be a great hitter, a good defender and an asset that will someday make up the core of the Angels.
What to expect: The Angels will likely send Kevin Maitan to short season Orem this year as an 18 year old, and that’s really going to be a good fit for him.  It’s a hitter friendly environment where he can experience success, it won’t be a stark step up that full season ball would be, and he can find his niche among other players that are also trying to experience success at the professional level for the first time.  The Angels are adamant about developing Maitan as a shortstop, and I actually think if he remains the same size, he has a chance at sticking there until he plays on the same squad as Andrelton Simmons.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2022, Kevin’s age 22 season.
Grade as a prospect: A-/B+
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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Prospect: Jaime Barria
Rank: 6
2016: 14
Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher
Level: AAA Salt Lake
Age: Entering Age 21 season in 2018.
Height: 6’1” – Weight: 210 lbs
Floor: Back end of the rotation starter in the major leagues.
Ceiling: Greg Maddux type of hall of famer.
Likely Outcome: Mid-rotation starter in the major leagues.
Summary: Jaime Barria is one of those pitchers that you really learn to appreciate the longer you watch him.  He’s also one of those pitchers that shows the masses just how important a well-placed pitch is.  In a world full of high octane heat, Barria has cut and carved his way through every level of minor league baseball by the time he’s 21 years old.
He just flat out shoves.
I’ve watched Barria pitch probably twenty times now, and each time he shows me the same thing.  Extreme confidence on the mound.  No cocky celebrations or anything of the nature.  No it’s like bases loaded, nobody out in the 9th inning with a one run lead and general faith in his ability to put up a zero.  That kind of confidence.  You can’t shake him. You might expect to see that from Clayton Kershaw, because he’s great.  He’s been there and done that and proven it already.  But Barria hasn’t reached the majors yet…..and yet that’s how he composes himself.  You can’t teach it, it’s just natural.
Jaime Barria doesn’t really have a “plus” offering.  He has good offerings.  Like his change up……a very good offering.  His fastball that cuts and dives…..a good offering.  His slider that he can throw in the dirt or drop in at the knees.  A good offering.  But nothing that stands out.  yet he continues to put up numbers that show just how he baffles hitters, no matter what level they’re at.  He has pinpoint control.  He just doesn’t walk hitters, and doesn’t give them the pitch they want to hit either.
If we’re in the business of making claims, and as a prospect writer I certainly am, Jaime Barria is ready to be a good major league starter right now.  The only thing that’s stopping me from claiming that Jaime Barria is ready to be an all-star is the fact that he’s a fly ball pitcher.  He doesn’t throw hard, doesn’t have the prototypical “out pitch” and he generates a lot of fly balls.  This could be a recipe for disaster.  It hasn’t hurt him yet, and I don’t anticipate it hurting him.
The reason being, there’s a difference between pop-flys and fly balls.  A fly ball can travel great distances and result in crooked numbers.  A pop-fly is a medium depth fly ball to the center fielder that you aren’t really concerned about.  You’d think he’d be tested by hitting friendly environments but so far, it doesn’t matter where the Angels put him, Barria succeeds, and that includes a stint in the most hitter friendly park in the most hitter friendly league in America, Salt Lake in the Pacific Coast League.
Granted, it was only three starts but it was three utterly impressive starts for a 20 year old child pitching against major leaguers.  And that my friends is why Jaime Barria isn’t a major leaguer yet.  He’s so young he simply hasn’t had the opportunity to be one yet.  But he will, and Angels fans will take to him over time.  The media will largely ignore him until they can’t anymore, then they’ll ask where this kid came from.  Then the next season there will be those that will call his success a fluke because his “stuff” just isn’t that good, and then he’ll do it again.  By his third year in the majors, he’ll develop the “underrated” label.
But we don’t care about that so much.  As fans, we care about how good he’ll be in the majors.  Jaime Barria will be the sort of pitcher that you can pencil in for 180+ innings and a solid ERA on a yearly basis.
What to expect: Word is Barria will have a chance to compete for a spot on the Angels 6-man staff.  I don’t buy it, at least not in the early going.  The Angels have too many arms like Skaggs, Shoemaker and Tropeano that they’d like to see get healthy and contribute.  But the longer Barria puts up solid numbers in Salt Lake, the harder it will be to ignore him.  I envision Barria breaking into the Angels rotation in July and not looking back.
Estimated Time of Arrival: July, 2018.  Jaime’s age 21 season.
Grade as a prospect: B+.
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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Prospect: Griffin Canning
Rank: 7
2016: UR
Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher
Level: DNP
Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2018.
Height: 6’1” – Weight: 170
*20-80 scale.  20 is not existent, Major League average is 50.  Good Major League is 60.  Great Major League is 70.  The best I’ve ever seen is 80.  These aren’t given very often.
Floor: Back end of the rotation starter in the major leagues.
Ceiling: Front of the rotation starter in the major leagues.
Likely Outcome: Middle of the rotation starter in the major leagues.
Summary: Griffin Canning is a fun prospect.  It’s fun when you can draft a kid that’s pretty much major league ready, and you don’t necessarily need to invest a lot of time developing.  It’s fun for me when I can watch a kid and know with certainty that he’s probably going to be a major leaguer.  And it’s fun for the fans when the Angels can draft a  local product that is himself, an Angels fan.  And finally, it’s fun when you get a first round talent at a second round discount and inevitably will get to see the rest of the baseball wonder just how they missed on this kid.
All the signs were there.  Griffin Canning – similar arsenal to that of Zach Greinke, comes from pitching powerhouse UCLA, posts impressive numbers in his career, and before being drafted, reports had him going anywhere from fifth overall to twenty fifth.  There are no durability concerns, he throws strikes, no red flags…
Then the medical report comes out.  There’s no damage at all, just signs of wear, which is expected of a kid that has pitched for as long as Canning has, at the level that Southern California high school and colleges demand.
Other major league teams over-thought it.  They asked themselves too many “what if” questions, which just isn’t healthy for anyone.
Not the Angels.
They scooped Canning up in the second round of the draft and immediately have one of those guys that will inevitably be labeled “steal of the draft.”
Canning has the necessary tools to pitch at any part of the rotation.  His fastball sits 92-93 with a ton of action in on right handers.  Griffin’s best pitch is likely his change up, that he uses the same arm speed and release with, but spins it in at 83-84 mph with sink.  Canning also has an excellent big bending curve that he throws 78-79 and a tight slider that he throws around 82-83.  The curve he can use against lefties and righties, but the slider looks like it can be death on a righty.  Canning has a pre-release hitch that can make his motion a little “herky-jerky”, but it serves to throw the timing off hitters.  Possibly what makes Canning the most dangerous of all, he can throw every single pitch for a strike in every count and every situation.
Hitters really have no choice but to keep guessing.  Scouts believe all four of his pitches are average or better, and really the only part where myself and the larger publications disagree is his curve ball.  I see the making of a “plus” pitch whereas other talent evaluators see it as a major league average pitch. Canning’s change up definitely leads to a lot of routine ground balls, as do all of his pitches but most specifically the change up.  That’s a “plus” pitch no matter who you ask.
Upon selecting Canning, the Angels shut him down.  No more pitching, just stretching and staying loose.  This was for two reasons.  The human body is an amazing organism.  When there’s evidence of wear and tear on most parts of the body, not using that part yet keeping it mobilized allows for healing.  Most specifically for baseball purposes, the elbow and shoulder.  The second reason, Canning had already accumulated a full workload this season.  The Angels try to keep their pitching prospects around 120-150 innings if they are fully healthy.  Canning threw 119.  So he’s good.
With a clean bill of health, we can expect to see the Angels allow Canning to progress as far in 2018 as he’s ready for.
What to expect: It will be interesting to see just how far the Angels will push Canning.  If the Angels choose to be aggressive, Canning has the ability to start the season in AA and pitch in the majors after the all-star break.  If they go the conservative route, we could see Canning spend the year at Inland Empire.  The likeliest route they’ll take is an early placement at Inland Empire, then within a month or two a promotion to AA, then a quick promotion to AAA Salt Lake to end the year.  It will be interesting to see if Canning has to shake off any rust after not throwing competitively for eight months.  I’ll also be interested in seeing what major league hitters make of his fastball.  The combination of movement, velocity and location were way too much for college hitters to handle.  But professionals might find a way to turn on a heater that tails in toward the inner half of the plate.  So while Canning is a ground ball pitcher, if hitters figure him out, he could show a propensity to give up the long ball.  I doubt this will be a problem, but to me it seems like something worth watching.
Estimated time of arrival: 2019, Griffin’s age 23 season.
Grade as a prospect: B
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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Prospect: Matt Thaiss
Rank: 8
2016: 1
Position(s): First Baseman
Level: AA Mobile
Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2018.
Height: 6’0” – Weight: 200 lbs
*20-80 scale.  20 is not existent, Major League average is 50.  Good Major League is 60.  Great Major League is 70.  The best I’ve ever seen is 80.  These aren’t given very often.
Floor: Below average starting 1B in the major leagues.
Ceiling: Borderline all-star caliber starting 1B in the major leagues.
Likely Outcome: Starting 1B in the major leagues.
Summary: Matt Thaiss is a very polarizing prospect.  Anyone that watches him is certain that he’s going to be a major leaguer.  Everyone that watches him comes with their own preconceived expectations as to what a starting first baseman should be and what he is.  Some will insist that he just doesn’t have enough power to play first base and is too small for the position as is.  Others believe that power is almost certainly coming and that Thaiss is a great hitter with good athleticism and will end up being a good starting first baseman.
Personally, I think the further we get away from what a hitter has done in the past at a certain position and using that as a benchmark for future players, the better.  Forget for a minute that Matt Thiass is a first baseman and just look at him as a hitter.  What do you see?  A good hitter that can eventually be a very good hitter.
Now why does it matter if that value comes as a first baseman or right fielder?  It shouldn’t.  The Angels certainly don’t believe it does.
So let’s unpack Matt Thaiss as a player.  He’s an ok hitter right now.  Not great, he has trouble catching up with some pitches and keeping his timing consistent from pitcher to pitcher, but he’s alright.  Thaiss makes hard contact though.  His one-hoppers off the fence in the gap sure look like a strong kid that’s almost ready for the major leagues.  Thaiss as “plus” plate discipline and is great at forcing pitchers to make pitches he can hit.  He can even move a little bit and has dedicated himself to eating right and building muscle.  At first base, he’s improved a lot since being drafted.  He isn’t a gold glover out there right now but he’s ok.
Now let’s unpack where Matt Thaiss might be in three years.  Sure he’s an ok hitter right now, but he’s only been a professional for one full year, that’s it.  He’s probably going to be a very good hitter.  And yeah, he makes solid contact right now.  Some leave the yard, most don’t, but he’s only 22.  He’ll be stronger, better at 25 than at 22.  So the power should be just fine.  That great plate discipline he has?  That’s not going anywhere, he may even get better!  And defensively, he never played first base until he was drafted.  The more reps he gets, the better he’ll be.  Sure, he’s short for a first baseman, but unless we have Yunel Escobar at 3B again, we don’t need a 6’5” first baseman.  6’0” should be fine.
The important thing to take away here is that Thaiss isn’t a finished product.   He’s making adjustments.  He’s narrowed his stance, shortened his swing, learned to punish the ball where it’s pitched and has adjusted to much higher level pitching and playing a new position.  This all happened in one year.
He’s going to be fine, and Angels fans will quickly fall in love with the idea of having an inexpensive young first baseman that gets on base better than 37% of the time batting in front of Trout/Upton/Cozart/Calhoun/Pujols.
What to expect: When you have a player like Thaiss who’s strong compact swing is generated toward barreling line drives and doesn’t chase pitches too frequently, you don’t anticipate there being much of a learning curve.  But there are still a lot of subtle nuances that these players need to make, even if their surface numbers are sold.  Thaiss did a fantastic job in AA to end last year and I expect he’ll return to AA to start this year.  Personally, I expect this is going to light AA on fire and get promoted to AAA almost immediately and will be so successful there that the Angels start toying with the concept of starting him at 1B in July or August.  But that’s expecting a lot.  The casual fan should feel comfortable with Thaiss spending the majority of this next season in AA, and that would be fine too.
Estimated time of arrival: Late 2018, Thaiss’ age 23 season.
Grade as a prospect: B
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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Prospect: Chris Rodriguez
Rank: 9
2016: 9
Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher
Level: Class A Burlington
Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2018.
Height: 6’2” – Weight: 185 lbs
*20-80 scale.  20 is not existent, Major League average is 50.  Good Major League is 60.  Great Major League is 70.  The best I’ve ever seen is 80.  These aren’t given very often.
Floor: A premier reliever that throws in the upper 90’s with good command.
Ceiling: An ace starting pitcher in the major leagues.
Likely Outcome: Mid-rotation starting pitcher in the major leagues.
Summary: Drafting players is frequently a guessing game.  Because of advances in scouting and metrics, it has become an educated guessing game, but it’s still a guess nonetheless.  A team drafts a kid with the idea that if they invest money and time training the kid, he could play for the major league team and make them better, or be traded for a major leaguer that makes them better.
Chris Rodriguez is simply one of those players where the Angels were in the right place at the right time.
If we go back in time just a little bit, Chris Rodriguez was seen as a kid that would be drafted but not near the front of the draft.  He was a skinny yet athletic kid that threw in the high 80’s/low 90’s.  Pretty good, but the draft is full of those.  Major league teams have a lot of kids to watch, so when a team sees a kid like that, they’ll generally scribble his name to memory and send him to the national cross-checker.
The Angels weren’t the only team to see Chris pitch.  Just about every team watched him pitch.  The Angels scouts just happened to stay around the longest.  As teams had already formulated their draft plans, the Angels regional scouts were still keeping tabs on Chris, and as his senior year went on, Rodriguez’s fastball jumped from 90 mph to around 92/93 mph.  That’s pretty significant growth.  He started showing a promising change up too.  The Angels were intrigued.
So when they selected Rodriguez in the 4th round, it didn’t make waves.  Scouts generally believed he’d last a bit later in the draft than that, and 4th round was a small reach but nothing to cause too much attention.  But in post draft workouts, Rodriguez started reaching back and firing 94/95 on the radar gun, and that will get people’s attention.
Enter 2018, and Rodriguez short season throwing 96/97 and averaging 95/96.  That slide row his that was though could be a decent pitch someday began to take shape and tighten and the change up has become a workable option.  And so now the Angels have an 18 year old throwing in the mid-90’s without too much strain and a couple of nice off-speed pitches.  Not bad for a 4th round pick.
While Chris’ arsenal is impressive, he doesn’t come without some warnings.  First, his delivery is high energy.  It can even be described as violent.  There’s a leg kick, fast, intense motion and even a small hitch where he separates his hand from the glove, like a reliever would.  That’s fine became that’s what it takes to throw the ball that hard for most people.  So the risk of injury is always there.  Next, Chris can put the ball where he wants, but in his performance last year, he generally kept the ball up and over the plate.  So despite throwing an outstanding heater, he was hittable.  Of course these are all things that can be worked on.
If Rodriguez isn’t done maturing, and at the same time refines how he goes about getting hitters out, he could be an ace someday that throws in the upper 90’s.  If he’s physically set, but continues to refine, Rodriguez could be a solid mid-rotation starter.  If Chris is maxed out and can’t make the adjustments, he could move to relief and be a very dynamic weapon there too.
What to expect: Chris go his first taste of full season ball a full year year faster than anticipated, which is great to see because it shows his growth and the Angels willingness to appropriately place him.  I expect Rodriguez will spend the entire season at Class A Burlington, even if he outgrows it.  He’s been on an innings limit for the past couple seasons and the Angels have been careful to protect his arm and not overuse him.  But at age 19, Rodriguez appears ready to go 120 innings next year.  There’s a small chance he could move up to Inland Empire, and Chris could certainly merit this promotion, but it would seem to be more aggressive in nature than what we are used to seeing from the Angels.  I’ll specifically be looking for Rodriguez to make some of the very same adjustments Garrett Richards made once he entered full season ball, which is keeping the ball down, trusting his stuff but not also falling in love with just one pitch.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2021, Chris’ age 22 season.
Grade as a prospect: B
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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Prospect: Michael Hermosillo
Rank: 10
2016: 8
Position(s): Outfielder
Level: AAA Salt Lake
Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2018.
Height: 5’11” – Weight: 190 lbs
*20-80 scale.  20 is not existent, Major League average is 50.  Good Major League is 60.  Great Major League is 70.  The best I’ve ever seen is 80.  These aren’t given very often.
Floor: 4th outfielder in the major leagues.
Ceiling: All-star caliber starting outfielder in the major leagues.
Likely Outcome: Starting outfielder in the major leagues.
Summary: Everyone loves the story about the professional athlete that came out of nowhere.  Guys like Matt Shoemaker really are a great story.  Well Michael isn’t that story.  As much as others may want to peddle that story, it simply isn’t true.  Yes, he was a late round draft pick, and yes, he was more known for his accolades on the gridiron and his scholarship to play football at Illinois.  But he was also a ball player that was very much on the Angels (and other teams) radar.
I didn’t get to spend a lot of time as a scout.  I had other goals.  But I made some connections and learned some things over those two summers.  Really I learned two things.
1. Anyone over 6’2” that’s left handed and has a pulse will be drafted.
2. Athletes, athletes, athletes.  Not ball players.  Athletes.
Hermosillo fits neatly into the second, along with Mike Trout, Keynan Middleton, Andelton Simmons, and prospects like Jo Adell, Jahmai Jones and Brandon Marsh.  See scouts watch kids play baseball.  Baseball tells them where the skills are right now.  But it’s everything else that suggests where the skills may be in five years.  Scouts like kids that got good grades school, ones that started on the football or basketball team, ones that have goals outside of major league baseball (like being a meteorologist, Mike Trout).  Athletes just have an easier time adjusting to failure than ball players do.  Plus their natural ability tends to carry them through the low minors at a brisk pace.
Hermosillo was a good running back/wide receiver and a terror at safety.  But he chose baseball.  Smart choice.  The Angels agreed to pay for all of his schooling should he elect to attend school, plus a well above slot bonus.  Smart choice for Hermosillo, smart choice for the Angels.  But it wasn’t easy in the beginning for Michael.  He’d never seen pitchers throw that hard before, or pitches move that much.  Adjustments were needed.  First of all, Michael was a couple inches shorter and considerably lighter at the time, so there was physical development that needed to take place.  But there was also the manner of refinement that was necessary.  Hermosillo’s routes in the outfield were poor, and he showed dead-pull power, but not much else in the way of hitting.
The breakout really didn’t come for two more years until 2016.  Hermosillo’s performance in the weight room and being on a nutrition plan really began to take shape.  He’s a couple inches taller and very well built.  Not only that, Michael quieted his swing and began hitting the ball back up the middle on pitches over the plate and on the outer half.
This past season, Michael was clearly well beyond the competition in Advanced A Ball.  He was automatically the best player to step on the field every night and that was simply a product of development.  The Angels promoted him to AA (all in his age 22 season, which is pretty solid on the age curve), which was a much more appropriate level for Michael to be at.  He really struggled for the first couple months.  This was his first time facing pitching in the high minors which is a huge step up.  He was still getting on base at an outstanding clip which speaks volumes about his selectivity and value at such a young age.  But after three months, Michael finally turned that corner (the way that athletes instead of ball players tend to do).  Hermosillo had officially found his comfort zone.  He was a completely different player.  He had failed to hit higher than .234 in any month in AA before that but in July he hit over .300, was hitting for power, being more aggressive on the base paths, and still flashing the same ability to reach base as before.
The Angels felt the had officially outgrown AA which led to his promotion to AAA.  Again, all at the age of 22.  As it was with AA, AAA proved to be a much more fitting environment for Michael’s development.  While he did hit for more power (the altitude in the PCL is quite favorable to hitters that make solid contact like Hermosillo), Michael’s ability to work a walk wasn’t as effective as it had been at the lower levels.  His overall numbers were solid (.287/.341 6 DB 1 triple 5 HR’s 9 SB in only 30 games!), but it’s clear that Hermosillo can still learn a few things down on the farm.
Still, we do have a good idea as to who Michael is at this point.  He’s a very line drive oriented RHB that can drive the ball up the middle.  If pitchers make the mistake of busting him inside, Hermosillo definitely has the ability to yank these balls out of the park.  Teams will likely begin shifting on him with more data becoming available but it shouldn’t hinder his ability to reach base.  Hermosillo is also a smart, aggressive base runner that gets down the line quickly and can steal when given the green light.  Defensively, Hermosillo is a good defender at all three spots, so it won’t matter where you plug him in at, he’ll get the job done.
What to expect: I expect Hermosillo to spend most of Spring Training in big league camp, learning from the big leaguers and getting exposed and accustomed to what expectations are at the next level (last Spring Training was valuable for him as well).  I expect the Angels will keep Hermosillo in AAA until he’s ready for the next stage of development and they have at bats to offer him.  The Angels outfield is obviously pretty full for the time being, but you never know when or how opportunity may arise.  So Michael might be ready in May, or he may not be ready until the end of the year.  We’ll just have to wait and see.  It’s possible Hermosillo finishes the year in Anaheim and begins taking at bats away from Kole Calhoun.  It’s possible he finishes the year as the Angels fourth outfielder.  It’s possible he spends the entire year in AAA.  Lots of directions we can go here.
Estimated time of arrival: September 2018, this year.  Michael’s age 23 season.
Grade as a prospect: B
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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Prospect: Trent Deveaux
Rank: 11
2016: UR
Position(s): OF
Level: Rookie Ball
Age: Entering Age 18 season in 2018.
Height: 6’0” – Weight: 160 lbs
Since we haven’t had the opportunity to watch Deveaux play in person, we are relying on other scouting reports.  He’s been described as the best athlete from the 2017 international class and a 5-tool player.  The most in depth scouting report on Deveaux comes from Ben Badler…
“Deveaux is an outstanding athlete with a strong but lean, projectable build. There’s quick burst in everything he does. He’s an 80 runner who has been clocked as fast as 6.2 seconds in the 60-yard dash. When Deveaux went to the Dominican Republic, he began training full-time in center field, which has been a better fit for his skill set. He glides to balls and covers a lot of ground quickly. With an average arm and an easy throwing stroke that could allow his arm strength to improve, Deveaux has the attributes to develop into an above-average defender at a premium position. Scouts highest on Deveaux said his hitting ability has taken a huge leap forward. Last year, Deveaux had an upright, open stance and a tendency to either slice or roll over too many balls. He closed off his stance, improved his balance and did a better job of staying through the ball and using the middle of the field. He also shows a solid understanding of the strike zone. Deveaux has the frame to add more power later on, though right now he’s mostly a line-drive hitter who can occasionally hit a ball out. A fluent English speaker, Deveaux picked up Spanish during his time in the Dominican Republic, and his aptitude and athleticism have likely contributed already to his ability to make adjustments.”
Essentially, the Angles purchased a lottery ticket with Deveaux.  It’s no secret that the Angels haven’t been able to make any high profile international signings for close to a decade and the reason for that can be traced to Arte Moreno’s decision to fire every director and scout he had in Latin America and start anew.  While there’s little doubt the Angels employees were guilty of these transgressions, they weren’t any more so than any other club.  Moreno simply took a moral stand against such things, which cost the Angels because as we’ve heard before, when it comes to signing international prospects, it’s all about who you know, and after cleaning house, the Angels knew no one.
So it makes sense that upon the Baldoquin restrictions being lifted, the Angels would enter into bidding wars for these international prospects.  In what seems a savvy move, Eppler and co. began with the Bahamas, where no team has any sort of foothold on those prospects.  It’s a market that is just beginning to produce more and more athletes, and the Angels just signed two of the top three prospects coming out of the Bahamas.  While it doesn’t signal any sort of change in the international scouting scene, it could be seen as the start of something.  In a similar fashion, the Angels may hope that signing Shohei Ohtani may lure more Japanese players to choose the Angels in the future, or that by signing Kevin Maitan they could gain some traction in Venezuela.

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Prospect: Taylor Ward
Rank: 12
2016: 4
Position(s): Catcher
Level: AA Mobile
Age: Entering Age 24 season in 2018.
Height: 6’1” – Weight: 190 lbs
*20-80 scale.  20 is not existent, Major League average is 50.  Good Major League is 60.  Great Major League is 70.  The best I’ve ever seen is 80.  These aren’t given very often.
Floor: AAA/MLB depth at catcher.
Ceiling: A good starting catcher in MLB.
Likely Outcome: A platoon or strong backup catcher in MLB.
Summary: Taylor Ward is one of those prospects that is evaluated a bit unfairly because of where he was drafted.  When a major league team seriously reaches to draft a player, that player is immediately heavily scrutinized.  People want to understand what this organization saw in a player that others didn’t see.  The Angels compounded that curiosity with their reaction to drafting Taylor Ward that went viral among Angel fans.  You’d think they just landed themselves the next Mike Trout.
That’s not Taylor Ward though.
Let’s forget where he was drafted and where he should’ve been drafted for just a moment and analyze who Taylor Ward actually is as a prospect.
Offensively, Ward has quick hands, puts back spin on the ball and enough strength to drive the ball out of the park enough times to matter.  He also has an advanced knowledge of the strike zone and is willing to work counts and take a walk instead of swing away.  While he isn’t fast, he’s faster than most catchers.  As for the swing itself, Ward has worked diligently to quiet his pre-swing motion and even simplify the swing itself.  I know this name is a bit taboo in prospect circles, but the swing reminds me of Brandon Wood.  Similar build, similar ability to lift the ball, same finish.
Now obviously Wood’s minor league numbers are the stuff of legend, as was his inability to translate that into major league success.  Wood’s problems were all mental and Taylor Ward is not Brandon Wood, he just looks like him up there.
Defensively, Ward is an exciting prospect.  His actions behind the plate may only be a tick above average for now, but he gives you a lot to dream on.  When he was first drafted, Ward had a difficult time managing pitchers, framing pitches and keeping the ball in front of him, which is a terrible spot to be at for a collegiate catcher.  However, last year he showed a tremendous amount of growth.  It was really night and day, like he figured out what he needed to do and simply did it.  He did a good job with he staff, got more pitches called strikes and kept the ball in front of him.  But two things Ward has always been good at were his ability to pop out from behind the plate and his arm.  Ward is athletic and his movements behind the dish are fast.  And his farm….goodness gracious that arm. The best in the Angels system at catcher.  Maybe the best in the minor leagues.  Maybe the best in the major leagues and that says something because Martin Maldonado gets the ball down to 2B better than any catcher I’ve ever seen wear an Angel uniform.
The exciting part of Ward’s game defensively are the adjustments he made in only one year.  Like if he can do that one year in the minors, what might happen after a couple years in the majors?  The ability to be a gold glove defensive catcher is certainly there, though Ward currently isn’t there yet.
Ok….now we can all remember where he was drafted and where he should’ve been drafted.  That’s the knock on Ward.  He was drafted in the first round.  Ward likely could have been drafted in the third round.  And because he was drafted in the first round when no one was expecting, he’s come under additional scrutiny.  Ward’s upside was enough to get in him the first round for sure.  I mean a gold glove catcher with a solid OBP and power?  Who wouldn’t want that?  But Ward’s inconsistency as a player has made that ceiling a very difficult outcome to foresee.  No one doubts he’s a future major leaguer.  There just seems to be disagreement on what role he will play as a major leaguer, and that’s a hard question to answer right now.
Ward will likely be a platoon or backup catcher with advanced defensive ability and spotty offensive performance in the major leagues.  You can decide what round he should’ve been drafted in but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s here now and he’s not bad at all.
Another thing we should take into account, Ward’s signing bonus wasn’t exactly huge.  It left some financial wiggle room and allowed the Angels to gamble on an upside player like Jahmai Jones in the second round, which has been a boon for the Angels system.  It could be argued that the Angels wanted Jahmai, but knew he’d last until the second round, and also wanted Ward, but weren’t convinced he’d make it to the second round.  Should the Angels have picked a higher upside player in the first and not had the financial room to pick Jones in the second?  We don’t know.  But the fact that both prospect are now in their top 15, even after the franchise-changing infusion of talent that has occurred over the last three years has to say something.
At the end of the day, Taylor Ward is a good prospect and will likely be a decent major leaguer too.
What to expect: Ward seemed to figure out his swing and approach last year and made his way to AA, where he posted an OBP north of .400 with a .286 batting average, more walks than strikeouts and decent power.  While he is beginning to get a little old for a prospect, it should be noted that catching prospects develop slower than everyone else, particularly ones that must operate under the weight of the watchful eye of Mike Scioscia.  Like him or not, he knows better than anyone in major league baseball right now what it takes to be a major league catcher and how to teach a young player how to grow into that.  I expect Ward will be in AA for most if not all of 2018.
Estimated time of arrival: 2020, Taylor’s age 26 season.
Grade as a prospect: B-
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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Prospect: Leonardo Rivas
Rank: 13
2016: 29
Position(s): Infielder
Level: Class A Burlington
Age: Entering Age 20 season in 2018.
Height: 5’10” – Weight: 150 lbs
*20-80 scale.  20 is not existent, Major League average is 50.  Good Major League is 60.  Great Major League is 70.  The best I’ve ever seen is 80.  These aren’t given very often.
Floor: Utility infielder and outfielder in major leagues, like Alexi Amarista but with more patience.
Ceiling: A very solid starting middle infielder and leadoff hitter in the major leagues.
Likely Outcome: Super utility player or borderline starting 2B in major leagues, like Maicer Izturis.
Summary: Rivas’ stock continues to inflate, the more others have a chance to take notice of this kid.  He was a low profile international signing at age 16 and was really something of an “Angels Special” which is a player that’s smaller in stature that other teams ignore.  In his first season in the Dominican Republic, Rivas flashed solid bat to ball skills, great speed and an advanced instinct for the game.    As an 18 year old, he came stateside and didn’t disappoint, showing the same skills yet more refinement.  This past season as a 19 year old, we saw Leo really begin to blossom.  We saw a more steady, confident fielder at shortstop, the ability to make adjustments, and most of all, he took another step forward in the plate discipline department.  Rivas is giving Matt Thaiss a run for his money as the prospect with the best strike zone judgment in the system, and Thaiss is a few years older and played in college.  Rivas is still a teenager.
And that’s really Leo’s calling card right now, that outstanding ability to reach base.  Of course once he’s on base he’s definitely a threat to steal, but more than that he’s a smart, aggressive runner.  In the field, Rivas has smooth actions, good range and a fringe average glove for  shortstop with enough arm to keep him there.  His long term home is at second base, where he projects to be a “plus” defender in every aspect.
Rivas also figures to be the sort of player that can climb the minor league ladder very quickly and be a major leaguer at a very young age.  Typically, the largest predictor of future success for a position player is the ability to make adjustments.  Consider these facts when evaluating Rivas.
1. In 2016, Rivas has a 39/36 K/BB ratio as an 18 year old.  As a 19 year old at more advanced levels, he recorded a 44/59 K/BB ratio.  That’s more walks than strikeouts.
2. When Rivas first arrived in Burlington for full season ball to finish the season, he began his stint going 2/21.  Over his next 21 games, Rivas recorded a hit in 19 of them.
3. Over Rivas’ last 21 games, he reached base in 20 of them.
4. Rivas recorded a hit in 13 of his final 14 games in A Ball.
5. After hitting .233 and .205 against RHP in his first two seasons, Rivas hit .293 against more advanced RHP last season.
As we can see, Rivas is getting better, not only over longer stretches of time, but also shorter stretches.  Pitchers are trying to figure out ways to get him out and Rivas is adjusting.
What to expect: Rivas should return to Burlington next season as a 20 year, but I don’t anticipate him spending the full year there.  He’ll likely be promoted to Advanced A Ball in June or July and finish out the season in the Cal League, which would set him up nicely to make his high minors debut at only 21 years old.  The big thing I’ll be watching for next season is Rivas’ LD%, how he performs against RHP and in general, his batting average.  Rivas is a very average hitter right now.  He won’t get the bat knocked out of his hands and he’s a lock to reach base and terrorize opposing pitchers on the base paths.  But as far as his ability to hit, it’s only average for now.  But that skill really could take another step forward in 2018
Ultimately, I really do expect Rivas to develop into somewhat of a Maicer Izturis type of infielder.  One that is technically a reserve, but plays so often he’ practically a starter.  Angels fans may remember, Izturis himself was a solid defender and could reach base, no matter where he was batting or what spot in the lineup he was hitting out of.
Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2020, Rivas’ age 22 season.
Grade as a prospect: B-
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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Prospect: Jesus Castillo
Rank: 14
2016: 15
Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher
Level: AA Mobile
Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2018.
Height: 6’2” – Weight: 175 lbs
*20-80 scale.  20 is not existent, Major League average is 50.  Good Major League is 60.  Great Major League is 70.  The best I’ve ever seen is 80.  These aren’t given very often.
Floor: 5th starter  or swingman in the major leagues.
Ceiling: Legitimate #2/3 starter in the major leagues.
Likely Outcome: #3/4 starter in the major leagues.
Summary: As you can see, I’m pretty bullish on Jesus Castillo.  I have been ever since the Angels trades 2 months of Joe Smith for him.  He’s one of those pitchers where I just can’t quite figure out what the rest of the world is missing.  Other sites will rate his curve and change up as fringe average, but every time I see them I think, “Wow, that’s a good off-speed pitch!”
The only reasoning I can think of is simply a combination of factors.  The first being a very generalized ignorance of the Angels system.  I mean we have this kid, who owns a career 2.40 ERA in A Ball, and climbed his way all the way to AA at age 21 and owned a 3.04 ERA while there.  He has a fastball  that sits 92-93 comfortably, a sharp curve and a great change up with fade, all that he can deploy in any count.  Everything about him screams major leaguer, and yet we see pitchers with the same repertoire, same age and less success being ranked as Top 100 prospects or at the very least, being touted as truly valuable assets, that are surefire mid rotation starters.  The second reasoning may simply be that whatever little buzz the Angels system receives goes toward Shohei Ohtani or one of their extremely athletic, huge upside outfielders, so a kid like Castillo goes largely unnoticed.  Perhaps another reason may be due to a former familiarity with Castillo.  He was a high profile signing for the D-Backs when he was 16, but Castillo physically developed very slowly and after being traded to the Cubs, was stashed in Rookie Ball a year too long.  So perhaps those that used to know him in other systems now ignore him.  But that was 3 years, two inches, 25 lbs and 5 mph ago.
He’s a different kid now.
And it isn’t just the arsenal that is so impressive about Castillo.  It’s the little things.  His fastball darts down and in on a right hander, similar to how Richards’ can, though not with the same velocity obviously.  His curve which is more of a tight slurve has the exact opposite movement, and his change up looks exactly like the curve, but fades away with horizontal movement.  Castillo has a fast motion, a hitch to throw off timing and hides the ball extremely well.  But even with these nuances, his delivery is completely repeatable and shows very little stress on the shoulder or elbow. Partially as a result of this, and partially because he’s worked very hard in this area and is good at it, Castillo operates with a manner of pinpoint control that is only rivaled by Jaime Barria in the Angels system and reminds one of the days of Dan Haren.
I think any way you shake it, this kid is a hidden gem, and appears to be very underrated.  But perhaps he’ll begin to catch more attention publicly, as he’s been added to the 40 man roster, and may only be a year away from the majors.
What to expect: While Castillo was successful in AA last year, I wouldn’t expect the Angels to skip him up to AAA so soon.  For on thing, it was only a month or a month and a half worth of starts.  For another, the Angels look to have more depth than they know what to do with in the majors and AAA this season.  And perhaps as a final reason, Castillo isn’t a finished product yet.  Yes, he probably could get major league hitters out and survive in the majors right now. But just because he can at age 22 doesn’t mean he should.  So I expect Castillo to remain in AA for at least half the season, if not longer and finish the season in AAA.  What may be an interesting development will be what the Angels do when Castillo’s fully ready.  Do they stash him in the minors in favor of a Shoe/Skaggs/Bridwell option or do they allow him to claim his rightful spot.  Or perhaps they trade him.  But for now, I’d expect the Angels to hold onto him, especially given the rash of injuries this organization has endured for the past 2-3 years.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2019, Jesus’ age 23 season.
Grade as a prospect: B-
Grades Explained: Grade A player is a future superstar.  Grade B player is a future regular.  Grade C is a fringe major leaguer.

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Prospect: David Fletcher
Rank: 15
2016: 13
Position(s): Shortstop
Level: AAA Salt Lake
Age: Entering Age 24 season in 2018.
Height: 5’10” – Weight: 175 lbs
*20-80 scale.  20 is not existent, Major League average is 50.  Good Major League is 60.  Great Major League is 70.  The best I’ve ever seen is 80.  These aren’t given very often.
Floor: AAAA player.
Ceiling: Starting 2B in major league baseball.
Likely Outcome: Steady utility infielder in major league baseball.
Summary: David Fletcher is a smaller stature player that just seems to come up big when the spotlight is on him.  His diminutive size is more than made up for in his play, and the manner in which he endears himself to teammates and fans alike.  He’s a solid defensive shortstop, with a steady glove, decent arm and good footwork.  Scouts think he profiles better as a second baseman at the next level, and while I don’t disagree, I think it should be noted that Fletcher could likely succeed anywhere you put him on the field.
He plays the game at 100% and will rarely make mental mistakes.
Sure, his ceiling isn’t high.  He doesn’t figure to ever be a future hall of famer right now.  But he does profile to be employed as a major league baseball player for a long time.  Guys like Fletcher tend to stay in the game longer than others.  They do all the little things right.  Fletcher’s bat isn’t as bad as advertised.  He isn’t a power hitter, but he has a very short, simple, compact swing that lends itself to a contact and line drive oriented approach.  This is the sort of bat that will not need a ton of adjustment in the major leagues.  He could be of value from the beginning. David keeps it simple.  He makes contact and drives the ball into the gaps.
He did a rock solid job in AA and continued to play very high quality defense at SS and 2B in AAA.  But AAA pitching did expose some flaws in Fletcher’s early count approach, or more specifically he was being a bit more aggressive with the bat than we’d like to see from more of an on-base oriented player.  So David will need to shore that up before being promoted to the big stage.  But everything about him suggests that David will be able to make those adjustments this season.
He’s climbed the ladder so quickly that it’s easy to forget that last year was just his second full season of professional baseball.  To make it to AAA that quickly is fantastic.  You have to think that’s what the Angels were hoping for when they selected him in the 6th round out of Loyola Marymount.
What to expect: Fletcher should spend most, if not all of next season in AAA.  He needs to improve his approach at the plate and get on base more frequently.  The hitter friendly environment in Salt Lake doesn’t benefit players of Fletcher’s ilk, so the numbers that we see him put up will likely be authentic.  I’d love to see Fletcher up with the angels in a utility role at some point next season, because fans are gonna love this guy.  But if it takes one more year, I could understand why.
Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2018.  David’s age 24 season.
Grade: C+

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Prospect: Jake Jewell
Rank: 16
2016: UR
Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher
Level: AA Mobile
Age: Entering Age 25 season in 2018.
Height: 6’3” – Weight: 200 lbs
Floor: Middle reliever.
Ceiling: Back of the rotation starter.
Likely Outcome: Middle reliever that covers multiple innings.
Summary: If you’re looking for a prospect that just confuses the heck out of me, you’ve found him in Jake Jewell.  Back when the Angels drafted him in the 5th round of the 2014 draft, Jewell was coming out of a college I’d never even heard of, and that college used him primarily as a reliever.  I figured, big kid, strong, has a mid-90’s fastball, he’s definitely a reliever.  But the Angels have used him as a starter.  Now we see this sometimes with guys at the lower levels, just to get them more innings, but the Angels appear to be very serious about keeping him in the rotation.
The first opportunity I had to watch Jewell pitch, was in relief in Burlington.  He had a very solid fastball, 92-94, sometimes popping 96, a great slider and nothing in the way of a change up.  Later in the year the Angels moved him into the rotation and the results just weren’t as promising as they were in relief, so I just figured it was a failed experiment.
The next season, Jewell is at Inland Empire and I see the Angels using him as a starter again, and that was just a head scratcher for me.  But after further review, I sort of get it.  Jewell has the stamina to throw quality pitches late in the game.  Relievers don’t have that.  As for the offerings themselves, I saw someone that was quite the opposite as the year before.  Jake couldn’t find the strike zone anymore like he had in Burlington, and the great slider I’d witness, now looked soft and loopy, and the non-existent change up suddenly looked like a very solid offering.
So I was confused.
Enter 2017, I figure since Jake’s ERA was over 6.00 the last season, the business of using him as a starter was over and done with.  Not so.  He was back in the rotation and had a solid three starts at Inland Empire before moving up to AA.  Jewell’s experience in AA was up and down to say the least.  It doesn’t appear he found any sort of consistency.  Like Ervin Santana early in his career, he might have one start where he goes seven strong and keeps them off the scoreboard, and the next he can’t make it out of the third.
And I don’t get it.  His mechanics and arm slot are clean.  He attacks hitters and throws strikes.  He should have a much better K/9 than 7.2, which is solid, but not evident of a pitcher with as many quality offerings as Jake has.  Speaking of those offerings, I feel 2017 cleared up some of my confusion.  The quality slider I saw before appears to be gone, replaced by one that’s simply ok.  He gets it over for strikes.  The change up is real though.  There isn’t a ton of movement in his, but the speed differential and keeping it low in the zone is enough to generate weak contact in any count.  The fastball, Jake effortlessly delivers at 93-94, but it’s plain to see there’s a lot left in the tank there.  But this might be the velocity he’s comfortable at which is fine.
The Angels protected Jewell from the Rule 5 Draft by adding him to the 40 man roster, and with good reason.  This is the type of kid that if he suddenly figures it out, you’ll want him on your staff at the major league level.  If he does stay in the rotation, I think he can be a back end starter.  If he switches to relief, I picture Jewell’s fastball climbing to the 96-98 range pretty comfortably, and I think he can be very effective in that role.
At any rate, this looks like a major leaguer to me.
What to expect: Jake started the season in the Cal League and AA Mobile pretty strong, but the wheels fell off right around the all-star break, so I think we’ll see a return trip to AA.  Normally, I’d say we can expect to see Jewell in relief, but speaking with members of the front office, they’re still committed to keeping him in the rotation.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2019, Jake’s age 26 season.
Grade: C+

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Prospect: Livan Soto
Rank: 17
2016: UR
Position(s): Shortstop
Level: Rookie Ball
Age: Entering Age 18 season in 2018.
Height: 6’0” – Weight: 160 lbs
Floor: Utility infielder.
Ceiling: Gold Glove caliber starting shortstop in MLB.
Likely Outcome: Elite defensive utility infielder or “second tier team” starting shortstop.
Summary: Livan Soto has had a very interesting ride through major league baseball so far.  He signed at age 16 with the Atlanta Braves for an even one million.  We aren’t sure how much Soto actually received, as the Atlanta Braves have been severely penalized by signing prospects for less and channeling funds through other foreign entities to these plays as an extra bonus.  We don’t know who received more money than reported and who didn’t.  This much doesn’t matter.  What does matter is the Braves lost their rights to Livan (and all others who were signed for more than $300,000), and he was declared a free agent, while getting to keep the money the Braves sent his way in the first place.
The Angels saw a unique opportunity set before them.  They never had a chance to sign Livan when he was 16 because the Angels were still under the Baldoquin restrictions.  And if by chance he were a free agent and they could only use this season’s international spending budget, they wouldn’t have been able to afford Soto without going over and thus, receiving the same restrictions they had under Baldoquin.  So Major League Baseball, understanding the predicament many teams would find themselves in, allowed teams to eat into next season’s international budget.
And so, the Angels decided to spend next year’s international budget money to acquire a couple high profile Braves prospects, Livan Soto being the lesser of the two.
So who did the Angels acquire and what can they expect to see?
Consider this, Soto at age 16 was 5’9” and 140 lbs, and was considered a marquee defensive shortstop.  In the last year, Soto has grown to 6’0” and 160 lbs.  There’s a chance that Soto could turn into a better than marquee defensive shortstop.  I’ll let your imagination figure out exactly what that is.  I don’t think Soto is Andrelton Simmons, mostly because I’ve only watched one shortstop that captivated me the way Andrelton does (Ozzie Smith).  But I do think Soto could be part of the next tier down, guys like Francisco Lindor or Brandon Crawford (defensively speaking).
Soto grades as “good” in every aspect of the defensive game, but by the time he’s in his mid 20’s, he could be great.  Offensively, Soto has some things to dream on.  He has a very solid,  contact oriented approach.  He won’t strike out very often.  He also has excellent plate discipline, particularly for a Latin American teenager.  They say “you don’t walk off the island” and while Soto isn’t from the island, the saying applies to all foreign prospects not from the Orient.  They’re collectively very good at swinging the bat and most don’t emphasize taking a walk until later in their development.
But not Soto, he’s already very good at it.  But when Soto does swing, he does have some whip to his bat and quick hands.  some scouts believe he’ll grow into some power, but that’s far from a foregone conclusion.  There’s potential, but given Soto’s build, we have no idea if that can come to any fruition.  Inevitably, that’s probably what will determine Soto’s future.  He’s of very slight build, he needs to add strength, and a lot of it.
But the good news is at 17, it’s highly likely he will over the next five years.  Soto isn’t a good hitter right now.  He’s a disciplined hitter, but not a good hitter.  When we compare him to Andrelton at a similar age (Simmons didn’t play professional baseball until age 20), Simmons had the same discipline, but was stronger, with better defensive tools across the board.  so the prevailing thought is, perhaps Soto can develop into a poor man’s Andrelton Simmons.
What to expect: Soto will likely be ticketed for short season Orem in an effort to build his skill with the bat and add strength and stamina before going to full season ball.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2023, Livan’s age 23 season.
Grade: C+

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Prospect: Jose Soriano
Rank: 18
2016: UR
Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher
Level: Rookie Ball
Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2018.
Height: 6’4” – Weight: 170 lbs
*20-80 scale.  20 is not existent, Major League average is 50.  Good Major League is 60.  Great Major League is 70.  The best I’ve ever seen is 80.  These aren’t given very often.
Floor: Middle reliever.
Ceiling: #2/3 starter in MLB.
Likely Outcome: #4/5 starter or multi-inning reliever.
Summary: Soriano is a product of the last part of the “dark times” for the Angels in terms of international presence.  In the Latin American baseball scene, it’s really all about who you know, and long tenured relationships.  Several years ago when scandal rocked the Angels minor leagues, owner Arte Moreno fired every scout, director, training, everybody in the Dominican Republic.  The Angels are just now beginning to reestablish a presence in the Dominican Republic (their scouts in Venezuela, Panama and the Bahamas are still well placed and influential).
Soriano was part of a surprisingly deep 2015 international class, and the Angels managed to land him for just $70,000.  Granted, that is a lot of money, but compared to the multi-million dollar bonuses top prospects are getting, it meant Soriano was more than just under the radar, he wasn’t even on the radar.
And it makes sense.  As a 16 year old, Soriano was 6’1” and 150 lbs.  His fastball sat 88-89 and his curve was loopy.  But the Angels signed him because they saw a ton of projection, and in this case they ended up being quite right.  As a 7 year old, Soriano was standing 6’3” and 160 lbs and his fastball sat 91-92 and a curve ball that he could get over for a strike, but no feel for a change up.  Extraordinary development in just one year.  Last year as an 18 year old, Jose was 6’4” and 170 lbs with a fastball that sat 93-94, a sharper breaking ball that he throws for strikes and the more consistent ability to throw a change up.
It’s this sort of development that excites scouts and begs the question, where might Soriano be at age 22……or how about age 25?  He could be 40 lbs heavier, pumping high-90’s heat.  Or he could be right where he is right now.  Who knows?  I think it’s a fair guess to say Soriano all put on another 30 lbs and gain another tick or two on that fastball of his.
Soriano’s success will ultimately dictated by him ironing out some of the rough patches in his game.  Specifically, his balance, landing spot and release point are all very inconsistent at this point.  And while he gets the curve over for a strike, it can still get a little loopy at times.  The change up shows promise, but he’s still years away from effectively deploying it as an “out pitch.”  So there definitely is development needed from Soriano.
But the early results are promising to say the least.  A 1.58 ERA as a 17 year old in the Dominican Republic and a 2.92 ERA in his first year stateside.
What to expect: Soriano pitched all but one game in Arizona and he did a fantastic job.  Despite the quality arsenal, he didn’t log a ton of strikeouts.  In his lone appearance in Orem, Soriano’s end result was pretty solid but he couldn’t find the plate at all.  I’d expect a return trip to Orem for Jose, unless he settles his delivery this year.  The Pioneer League is a very unforgiving environment for prospects that either can’t find the plate or find too much of it, so it should be a great learning environment for Jose.  Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Burlington this next year.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2022, Jose’s age 23 season.
Grade: C+

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Prospect: Jose Suarez
Rank: 19
2016: UR
Position(s): Left Handed Pitcher
Level: A Ball
Age: Entering Age 20 season in 2018.
Height: 5’10” – Weight: 170 lbs
*20-80 scale.  20 is not existent, Major League average is 50.  Good Major League is 60.  Great Major League is 70.  The best I’ve ever seen is 80.  These aren’t given very often.
Summary: The Angels have had a penchant for signing undersized players in the past.  Sometimes it works to their advantage, and sometimes it doesn’t.  Generally speaking, prospects that are under 6’0” don’t garner a ton of recognition because scouts have a prototype they prefer in a ball player.  6’2”, 180 lbs, and athletic.  Kole Calhoun would be a great example of this.  Kole played for one of the premier college baseball teams, Arizona State.  Not only did he play, he starred.  Leading his team to the College World Series, Kole never hit below .300, flashed very good power, good speed, great patience and great defensive ability.  But because he was short and stocky, Kole lasted until the 8th round of the draft, as a college senior.  Of course the rest is history, he flew through the minors and became a very slid starting major league outfielder by the time he was 25.
Had Calhoun been three inches taller, he’d have gone in the first ten picks of the draft.
Now obviously pitchers and position players a little different.  The prospect we are talking about right now, Jose Suarez is more the result of the Angels having no foothold in the D.R., Venezuela or Puerto Rico for the longest time.  They ended up having to get creative and signing the kids other teams have passed on.  Suarez, was one of them.  Short and thin in stature, only throwing in the mid-80’s.
Where other teams focused on a lack of projection, I’m guessing the Angels saw the mechanics and the ability to locate and believed there was more in the tank.  And that’s really where we are today.  Suarez has grown much stronger, and still hasn’t maxed out physically.  His fastball has climbed up to 89-91, which is just a tick below average for a lefty, but we could see him climb to 91-92 by the time he’s done maturing.  But the big thing, Suarez can locate, locate, locate.  He’s generated gaudy strikeout numbers based off an exceptional change up and keeping the ball down and keeping hitters off balance, but my guess is that doesn’t last much longer.
More likely, as Suarez reaches the higher levels of the minors, the strikeouts go down, but the routine groundouts to shortstop and third base go up.  Jose doesn’t have the curve ball you’d expect from such a prospect.  It’s slow and loose, but he does get it over as a third option.
Typically, I shy away from making comps, but I think a fair one for Jose Suarez would be Jason Vargas (if Suarez can further develop that curve of his).
What to expect: Suarez pitched well enough in A Ball last year to garner a promotion to Advanced A Ball.  The Angels may keep him in A Ball for a month or two as it will be his first season in playing a full minor league schedule.  Either way, Suarez should finish 2018 either in AA as a 20 year old, or ticketed for AA.  He won’t get a ton of recognition because crafty guys such as himself don’t in most top prospect lists, but because you’ve read this and you’re “in the know” I’m sure you’ll keep tabs on him.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2020.  Jose’s age 22 season.
Grade as a prospect: C+

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