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Entries in this blog’s 2017 Top-30 Los Angeles Angels Prospects

Following Angels prospects requires an unhealthy obsession with uncertain possibilities, an unjustifiable optimism in a brighter future, a unnatural curiosity and an eye to see things that may or may not be there.  And so of course, only a few Angel fans are actually crazy enough to undertake this mission.  From myself (going on seven years in a row), DocHalo’s memory of obscure details, Inside Pitch’s calculations, Dave’s traveling to different minor league parks and interviewing guys other people never heard of, and finally Chuck for organizing all of it, this year’s Top 30 is a conglomeration of countless man hours and different areas of expertise.  There’s no “one” person that can take credit for making this list, which offers readers a different perspective.  This isn’t one knowledgeable person’s perspective, this is, and this is a list of men we’ve debated over and assigned a value to. Without any further ado, here are your AngelsWin Top 30 Prospects! 1. 1B Matt Thaiss
2. OF Jahmai Jones
3. RHP Alex Meyer
4. C Taylor Ward
5. OF Brandon Marsh
6. RHP Keynan Middleton
7. IF Nonie Williams
8. OF Michael Hermosillo
9. RHP Chris Rodriguez
10. LHP Nate Smith
11. RHP Grayson Long
12. LHP Manny Banuelos
13. IF David Fletcher
14. RHP Jaime Barria
15. RHP Jesus Castillo
16. RHP Vicente Campos
17. RHP Cole Duensing
18. OF Troy Montgomery
19. RHP Eduardo Paredes
20. IF Hutton Moyer
21. OF Brennon Lund
22. RHP Brooks Pounders
23. RHP Joe Gatto
24. LHP Chris O’Grady
25. LHP Jonah Wesely
26. OF Jared Foster
27. OF Zach Gibbons
28. RHP Jordan Kipper
29. IF Leonardo Rivas
30. IF Sherman Johnson     #1 Prospect: Matt Thaiss    Position(s): First Base Level: Class A Ball     Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017. Height: 6’0”   Weight: 195 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         50  65 Power                       40  55 Base Running         40  40 Patience                    40  55 Fielding                    50  60 Range                       50  60 Arm                           55  60 Overall                     50  60 Floor: Pinch hitting specialist in AAA/MLB.  Ceiling: All-star caliber first baseman that hits in the middle of the lineup. Likely Outcome: Above average starting first baseman that is best suited to bat 2nd, 5th or 6th in the order. Summary: Thaiss spent his time at Virginia behind the dish, and while reports were divided as to his ability to remain a catcher in the major leagues, the Angels brass felt his bat was more than enough to play up at first base.  This is a very similar scenario the Cubs found themselves in with Kyle Schwarber, though the difference being Schwarber’s upside considerably outweighs that of Thaiss, and the Cubs were willing to at least roll the dice on his questionable defense behind the plate. Thaiss shouldn’t be the type of player that needs to spend a lot of time in the minor leagues before a promotion, and perhaps this, along with a decreased price tag was the Angels motivating factor in selecting Thaiss as high as they did.  There were questions surrounding Thaiss’ ability to play a competent first base, but those have since been answered by Thaiss’ impressive showing in Spring Training.  The Angels brass raved at his hard work and athleticism he showed in learning a new position.  Part of the reason they were willing to pick him s high as hey did was because Eppler and company asked him to play first base for them before the draft and felt he had the necessary instincts and approach to someday become a passable first baseman.  After camp, the hope now is that Thaiss could eventually be a gold glove level first baseman. There were also questions as to whether his power will show as the over the fence variety or the gap to gap sort.  Early showings indicate a bit of both.  During big league camp, Thiass was found spraying the ball to all gaps with authority.  His approach at the plate is highly simplistic.  Couched low in the zone, with feet spread apart, Thaiss’ feet don’t extend, but remain in place as his weight transfers and he rotates the bat through the zone.  Thaiss’ bat spend a ton of time in the strike zone and his swing is geared toward high line drives. What isn’t questionable however. is Thaiss’ floor.  He’s a safe bet to become a major league ball player.  The only question is when, and how good will he be? In my opinion, Thaiss will a very good starting first baseman in the major leagues, and if the Angels do end up moving him off first base, I think he could succeed in the corner outfield. What to expect next season: Before Spring Training, I would’ve told you Thaiss is a solid bet to begin next season at Advanced A Ball Inland Empire.  After the performance he put on this Spring, and what he was able to do last year after being drafted, I wonder if Thaiss should start the year in AA Mobile.  If Thaiss continues to hit, it shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see him in Anaheim later this year.  I admit, this isn’t likely though.  The most likely path will be a full yea rat Inland Empire and another full year next year in AA, and onto the majors after that.  I still think he climbs higher than that. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2018, as a 23 year old. Grade as a prospect: B+ — #2 Prospect: Jahmai Jones Position(s): Outfield Level: Class A Ball    Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2017. Height: 6’0”    Weight: 215 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         40  55 Power                       40  55 Base Running         60  60 Patience                    40  55 Fielding                    50  60 Range                       60  60 Arm                           40  50 Overall                      45  60 Floor: Defensive specialist/4th outfielder in MLB/AAA.  Ceiling: All-star caliber top or middle of the order hitter with gold glove level defense. Likely Outcome: Above average starting outfielder and top of the order hitter in the major leagues. Summary: Jahmai is a perfect example of what happens when a team drafts high upside players coming out of high school.  For such a long time under the Dipoto regime, the Angels focused on pitching, specifically collegiate pitching.  This approach netted the organization a dearth of back of the rotation starters and swingmen, and not much else.  The philosophy was that you can never have enough pitching, and prep hitters took too long to develop and were too big of a risk.  And while this is true in theory, in practice it actually means that you’ll never come away with game changing talent (this is normally the part where I’d say “Like Mike Trout”, except of course, there isn’t any player like Mike Trout). The Angels spent over their bonus in the second round two years ago to bring in Jones, and ever since, he’s been wowing scouts with his blend of unique athleticism, understanding of the game and general personality and work ethic. Jahmai has all the necessary physical tools to be a star someday.  He’s strong enough to develop into a power hitter, fast enough to steal 30 bases a year, athletic enough to implement adjustments on the fly, and smart enough to recognize real-time changes and play an instinctual game.  Jones’ older brother is a wide receiver in the NFL and his father was a standout football player at the University of Notre Dame.  Jones is still a raw player.  His mistakes aren’t so much mental as much as they’re related to experience versus top level play.  Though he can use the whole field, his power is almost exclusively pull side.  Defensively, he plays a solid CF and LF, though his arm plays up better in LF. The Angels knew they had a good player on their hands entering last season, but upon reaching Orem, they experienced just how good of a player Jahmai is at such an early stage.  In 48 games, Jones hit .321/.404 with 12 doubles 3 triples 3 home runs and 19 stolen bases and a high amount of walks to go with a low amount of strikeouts.  Though this isn’t applicable, if Jones were to play a 150 game season, he would’ve been on pace for 36 doubles 9 triples, 9 homeruns and close to 60 stolen bases.  That’s the Pioneer League for you. Once he was promoted for a short stint in A Ball, Jones had to face more refined pitching for the first time in his career. This resulted in a .242 batting average with a double, homer and a stolen base across 16 games.  It still was a solid performance though.  He clearly wasn’t over-matched by the competition, and he was beginning to make adjustments as the season concluded. What to expect next season: Jones had a breakout season at Rookie Level Orem playing against competition that’s generally a few years older than he island his play warranted a late season promotion.  Unless Jones takes another giant step forward in a short amount time, I’d expect him to play at Class A Burlington for most of this season as a 19 year old.  This park, and the Midwest League in general suppresses offensive numbers, so don’t be surprised if Jones numbers don’t mirror those that he put up in the hitter friendly Pioneer League.  There’s a slight chance that could be bumped up to Advanced A Ball this season as a 19 year old, but I wouldn’t count on it. Even Mike Trout spent a full season in A Ball before being promoted (he played in Advanced A Ball in the playoffs that year). Estimated Time of Arrival: 2021, as a 23 year old. Grade as a prospect: B   Check out our interview with Jahmai Jones — #3 Prospect: Alex Meyer Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: AAA Salt Lake/ LA Angels    Age: Entering Age 27 season in 2017. Height: 6’9”     Weight: 220 lb.    Present – Future Fastball          70  70 Slider             65  65 Change          50  50 Mechanics    40  50 Command    40  50 Control         45  50 Overall         50  60   Floor: A power reliever/closer in major leagues. Ceiling: Ace starting pitcher. Likely Outcome: An inconsistent but extremely dynamic #3/4 starter. Summary: Meyer is a former first round draft pick out of the University of Kentucky and consensus Top 50 MLB prospect.  With his long, lean, 6’9” frame, Meyer delivers power fastballs clocking in at over 100 mph, but typically sitting around 96-97.   Because of his abnormally large frame, mechanics have always been an issue with Meyer, but it didn’t truly begin leading to control problems until he reached the high minors.  Meyer’s slider has always been a true “out” pitch, as it comes in with high 80’s velocity and a big break.  What’s more impressive is that Meyer has never had any trouble throwing this pitch for a strike.  Even as a kid just learning the ropes, Meyer’s slider has left major league hitters with buckled knees. Upon being traded to the Angels, Meyer began sacrificing velocity for control.  What was once a 98 mph unguided fastball is now a 95 mph semi-guided fastball.  His ability to command this pitch is key to Meyer’s future.  After moving to the bullpen in the Twins organization, the Angels believed in Meyer’s arm, and have placed him in the rotation, and fully intend to allow him to develop as a starter. Though it’s a bit abnormal for a prospect of Meyer’s age to be so well regarded, it should be noted that at age 24, Meyer had breezed through AAA and was ready for the majors.  The Twins kept him down to manage her service clock.  In his age 25 season, shoulder injuries and fatigue robbed him of effectiveness.  At age 26 this past season, injuries again struck, though in his brief time in AAA, Meyer was again dominant. The Angels have tinkered with Meyer’s delivery a bit to try and save his shoulder from becoming completely detached.  Typically, I’m opposed to altering any elite pitcher’s delivery, but in Meyer’s case it’s a completely worthwhile gamble.  If the Angels can harness his frame, reach, torque/whipping motion and strength while take the pressure off his shoulder, Meyer could very well join Garrett Richards atop the Angels rotation.  And if the new motion saves his shoulder, yet Alex is still unable to fully command his pitches, then he still would make for an Andrew Miller-level reliever.  You know the type, tall lanky, former starting pitcher that throws in the high 90’s and can go multiple innings. The early results are pretty much exactly what you would expect.  His first outing was shaky, but he got through it.  Meyer’s second outing was a disaster, walking four batters and sacrificing velocity in an attempt at control.  His third outing was about as good as it gets.  Two scoreless innings, velocity back up at 96-99.  Scioscia described him as throwing “BB’s” (not base on balls, but the smaller metal projectiles).  And that’s how good Meyer can be.  He can be completely, and utterly dominant when it’s going right. What to expect next season: Meyer appears to be destined for AAA Salt Lake to begin the season.  This is a shame, because Meyer has never been challenged at AAA, and sending him there as a 27 year old is just silly.  But other factors have played a part in this assignment.  For one, Jesse Chavez, his primary competition for the 5th starter spot has looked very good this Spring, and there are indicators that suggest that Chavez may be in line for a career year in Anaheim.  There’s also Meyer’s new throwing motion that he’s ironing out and getting more comfortable with.  It’s better to get this under control in AAA than the majors.  Inevitably, Meyer will be up with the Angels at some point this season. Estimated Time of Arrival: He has arrived. Grade as a prospect: B — #4 Prospect: Taylor Ward   Position(s): Catcher Level: Rookie Ball    Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2017. Height: 6’1”     Weight: 190 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         40  50 Power                       50  55 Base Running         40  40 Patience                    45  50 Fielding                    50  60 Range                       50  60 Arm                           70  70 Overall                      45  55 Floor: Defensive specialist/back up catcher in MLB.  Ceiling: All-star caliber catcher that is capable of winning multiple gold gloves and hitting for considerable power. Likely Outcome: Platoon catcher with good defensive and solid power. Summary: The Angels were certainly an excited bunch when they had the opportunity to draft Ward, despite the rest of the baseball world scratching their head, trying to figure out just what the Angels saw in Ward.  Taylor was a very good defender in college at Fresno State, and as he grew older and filled out, the power began to come into into play.  While most of baseball rated Ward as a 2nd or 3rd round pick that may become a backup catcher in the major leagues, the Angels felt they’d landed a future star backstop.  During his first taste of pro ball, Ward lit the world on fire, and larger audiences began to take notice of Ward.  He was sent to Inland Empire this year, and we really got a handle on who Ward actually is as a player. His game calling and defense weren’t quite as good as previously believed, though the arm is unquestionably strong.  Offensively, Ward had no timing whatsoever in the first half of the season, and appeared destined to be a Jeff Mathis type of backup catcher, which is something many Angels fans feared when they selected Ward in the first round.  Then the second half of the season came, and Ward made an adjustment with his stance and timing mechanism.  The end result was a batting average 50 points higher and nine of his ten homers hit in a matter of 63 games, leading many to believe that Ward could end up hitting 20+ homers a year. It’s also important to note that Ward’s home field in San Bernardino was the only pitching friendly park in the Cal League.  At home, he hit a meager .187.  On the road, he hit .304.  Upon arriving in Arizona for the heralded Fall League showcase, scouts raved over Ward’s ability to hit the ball with authority and “howitzer” arm.  Clearly, there’s something here to work with.  Until Ward can put it together for a longer stretch of time, scouts will remain skeptical, but putting up numbers in the Texas League could go a long way in silencing those pesky critics. What to expect next season: Ward will be ticketed for AA Mobile.  The game tends to speed up considerably when reaching the high minors.  I won’t be paying attention to Ward’s offensive or power output as much as I’ll be focusing on his defensive progression.  The Southern League and Hank Aaron Stadium are both generally unfriendly toward the long ball, so I don’t expect Ward to do much to impress the box score checkers. But it’s his defense that will get Ward to the major leagues, and most scouts agree that he is a major league quality catcher.  The big thing to take away here is that Ward has considerably more growth needed in order to reach his potential.  He isn’t as polished as many collegiate players.  So Ward’s path to the major leagues likely won’t be a quick ascension as much as it will be a slow progression. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2019, as a 25 year old. Grade as a prospect: B-   Check out our interview with Taylor Ward — #5 Prospect: Brandon Marsh  Position(s): Outfield Level: Rookie Ball  Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2017. Height: 6’2”             Weight: 190 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         40  50 Power                       50  65 Base Running         60  60 Patience                    TBD Fielding                    50  60 Range                       50  60 Arm                           60  65 Overall                      45  55 Floor: Toolsy minor league outfielder Ceiling: All-star caliber outfielder Likely Outcome: Too early for any sort of prediction. (NOTE: I have not had a chance to watch Marsh yet, other than short video snips of him taking BP, playing the OF, etc.  The scouting grades are a consensus taken from other sites.  I should have a more accurate reading on Marsh and can update his profile after Spring Training, or once short season starts in June. Summary: Marsh is a very strong, ultra-toolsy outfielder the Angels were able to grab in the second round of the draft.  The most notable thing we can say so far about Marsh’s career is that there was quite a lot of drama surrounding him signing with the Angels.  Marsh had a commitment to Kennesaw State (not exactly a powerhouse), and most expected him to sign.  He even said upon being drafted, “I will sign with the Angels.”  When they met with Marsh a couple weeks later to go over his physical and sign the contract, the Angels discovered a pre-existing back injury.  The blog “Halos Heaven” which has come under turmoil multiple times for hateful rants and false rumors quoted Marsh as saying “I won’t sign”.  Marsh quickly quoted with a more reputable source that he was working things out with the Angels.  While Marsh was obviously looking to sign for above slot, he ended up singing for right at slot value with the Angels, but did not play in Rookie Ball, in an effort to fully heal the back injury.  He worked out in the instructional league and reports indicate that Marsh is very strong, much more so than previous reports indicated and extremely fast.  He’s eager and has a strong work ethic and has impressed coaches so far.  He also reported to Spring Training visibly stronger than he looked back in high school where his form was more built for speed, like the all sate wide receiver he is. What to expect next season: Marsh is likely ticketed for Rookie Ball Orem next season, though a trip to the AZL wouldn’t be a huge surprise either.  It’s important to remember that despite the immense tools, Marsh is as raw as they come.  If he makes tremendous strides, a trip to Burlington could be in the cards, though I’d call that a long shot, just from where I’m standing right now.  A trip to Arizona would slot the Angels second round pick a year behind the developmental curve, which is certainly not what you’d expect to see from a high draft pick. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2022, as a 24 year old. Grade as a prospect: B- — #6 Prospect: Keynan Middleton Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: AAA Salt Lake    Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2017. Height: 6’2”      Weight: 190 lb.    Present – Future Fastball          70  70 Slider             50  60 Change          40  40 Mechanics    50  50 Command    40  50 Control         45  50 Overall         50  65   Floor: Dynamic, yet inconsistent middle reliever. Ceiling: Dominant, elite, all-star caliber closer. Likely Outcome: A very good set up man. Summary:  Once upon a time, Keynan Middleton was a projectable Junior College arm out of Oregon of all places.  In 2014, he topped out at #21 on MWAH Top 30, never to return again until now. He was a standout collegiate basketball player and sat in the low-90’s on the mound.  His off-speed pitches showed promise, but no polish.  The same could be said for his mechanics and his command.  In 2014 and 2015, the Angels tried keeping Middleton in the rotation, but it just didn’t go as planned.  His velocity was inconsistent, his breaking balls were nothing more than “show me” pitches which were hit hard, and Middleton never materialized as the mid-rotation starter they thought he could be.  The Angels made the wise decision to move Middleton to relief in Spring Training, and he opened some eyes with his velocity climbing up over 95 for the first time in his professional career last March. He returned to the Cal League where he was torched as a starter, only to dominate for long stretches.  The Angels moved him up to AA, and he was even better, posting an ERA of 1.20 with more than a K per inning. More importantly, Middleton found the strike zone and his fastball went from 95-96 to 97-98.  The dominance in AA was short lived however, as the Angels saw enough and moved him up to AAA.  In AAA, Middleton was inconsistent.  At times, his fastball sat at 100, and others it sat 95-96.  Some appearances he was unhittable, and others his stuff just did not move or break.  On the whole, it was enough to excite scouts (and myself). A 22 year old hitting 102 on the radar gun is pretty serious.  While it has occurred to me the radar gun was probably hot, it has also become clear that Middleton can bring high 90’s heat night in and night out.  That alone is enough to merit a major league appearance.  It should be noted, that the slider is an average pitch at this point.  Middleton has progressed with his slider to the point where we saw a rather sharp break with the pitch, but until he can consistently spot it where he wants, it remains simply an average pitch, which could leave him susceptible to major league hitters.  We can equate this with Cam Bedrosian’s recent breakout as a reliever.  The velocity was always there, but it was Cam’s developed ability to spot his slider that made him a weapon, and effective in the majors. I also believe that Middleton began to tire at the end of the year, which was the reason behind the velocity fluctuation.  It’s hard to picture one night throwing 98-99 and the next night throwing 94-95 and not think there’s something wrong.  With Middleton, it comes down to the adjustments he’s made, and keeping his stamina in check.  If he can do this, he should be able to hang around 97-98 on a regular basis, which is the building block for something special.  At the end of the day, I think the Angels have a lethal set up man on their hands, one that can bridge the gap, or take the ball in the 9th if necessary. What to expect next season: Middleton should return to AAA next season unless he’s promoted to the majors.  The Angels will for sure be focusing on Middleton’s command of his slider and if he can repeat his mechanics and spot the fastball.  If he locates his slider, it’s reasonable to expect the Angels to break camp with Middleton.  If they’re worried about controlling his clock (typically a moot point with relievers) then they may choose to wait a month or two.  If Middleton does return to AAA, keep an eye on his GB% and HR/9.  Both looked solid in the PCL, which is a bit of a revelation.  If that continues, it’s reasonable to expect to see Middleton in Anaheim for the majority of the year. Estimated Time of Arrival: June, 2017. Grade as a prospect: B- — #7 Prospect: Nonie Williams Position(s): Shortstop Level: Rookie Ball    Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2017. Height: 6’2”              Weight: 200 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         40  50 Power                       50  65 Base Running         65  60 Patience                   40  50 Fielding                    50  50 Range                       50  50 Arm                           60  65 Overall                      45  55 Floor: Utility Infielder in the high minors. Ceiling: All-star caliber infielder or outfielder. Likely Outcome: A starting third baseman in MLB. Summary: Nonie Williams may have the highest upside of any player in the Angels minor league system.  And believe it or not, that actually means something now, with other upside prospects like Jahmai Jones, Matt Thaiss, Brandon Marsh and Michael Hermosillo in the system.  While he was taken in the third round of the draft, the consensus was that the Angels genuinely got a steal when they scooped up Williams.  It is true that several sourced had Nonie ticketed for the second round, and it’s also true the Angels signed him for borderline first round money.  That’s what it costs to get someone with Williams potential.  Had Williams waited one more year, it’s hard to say where he might’ve gone in the draft.  He technically would’ve been a high school senior but because of home-schooling schedules being slightly modified, he’d also be 19 years old instead of 18 like the rest of the prospects he’d be compared with.  The age difference certain could’ve hurt him, but one additional year of development, one additional year of scouts having the opportunity to come watch him play, it’s likely Nonie would’ve left the board in the first round. Upon reaching the Angels training facility, they immediately realized what they have, may truly be special.   It starts and ends with his bat speed, which has long been observed but only recently quantified.  Not only did Williams come with the highest bat speed in the 2016 draft class, but also the highest amount of bat speed in perhaps all of minor league baseball.  We’ve yet to fully understand whether or not this will transfer over to game time production, sometimes it does sometimes it doesn’t.  But what we do know is that it makes for a potential offensive juggernaut.  Comparable bat speeds in the last five years are Randal Grichuk and Bryce Harper, who both are incredibly strong individuals, but as we’ve seen, sometimes it just doesn’t transfer into the game.  So we’ll see with Williams. Nonie’s intangibles are off the charts, but in a more tangible sense, his foot speed, bat speed and power are very well charted, and very impressive.  He has the chance to hit 30 homers in the future and steal 30 bases.  While he began his career as a shortstop, few scouts envision this being Nonie’s permanent home.  He has the athleticism, arm strength and glove to stick at shortstop, but not necessarily the grace or range.  It’s for this reason scouts openly wonder where his future home may be.  He has the size and tools of a third baseman, but the range to potentially be an excellent second baseman as well.  There’s also some talk of moving out to the outfield.  As of right now, third base and second base seem the likeliest future homes for Nonie.  Williams is a switch hitter and offers different looks from each side.  From the right hand side, Williams is more contact oriented, with a more line-drive approach.  From the left side his natural power comes into play and he whips the bat through the zone with eye-popping speed and loft.  This swing is longer and more prone to a swing and miss, but there also seems to be more power from the left-handed side. Most of the time, there’s at least some discussion as to whether a player will hit for power or not, but with Nonie, there’s only observation.  He has the strength to hit oppo homers or turn on a ball.  Williams can also fly down the line.  It isn’t a freight train type of fly like Mike Trout or a dear gracefully gliding across the land like Peter Bourjos was, but it is somewhere in between.  There’s effort, but as Williams gets bigger and stronger, he’ll likely lose a step, which is fine, he’ll always likely have above average speed, at least until his mid-30’s if he’s fortunate to still be playing ball.  While Nonie’s numbers from this past season aren’t terribly impressive (.244 BA, gap power and speed, but no home runs and poor plate discipline), he continued to improve as the year went on, enough so that there shouldn’t be any cause for concern. What to expect next season: Nonie should be ticketed for Orem next season, though there is some talk about him making the jump to A Ball.  While the talent is certainly there, I’d expect Williams to continue to refine his approach at the plate in the Pioneer League in 2017.  It’ll be interesting to see where the Angels decide to play him.  It usually isn’t good to move players around too much this early in their professional career, as it’s a lot to take in, so the Angels won’t give him the utility role just yet.  But my guess is Williams will play the majority of his games at third base in the future.  As for the pace of his development, that’s really dictated by his own progression.  Being as raw as Nonie is, it’s probably best to simplify the game by keeping him at shortstop for now, and allowing him to really get his feet under him by spending an additional season in short season ball in Orem.  I know Angels fans are likely clamoring to get this upside talent into A Ball as soon as they can, but with guys like Williams, you just have to let them grow first. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2021, as a 23 year old. Grade as a prospect: B- — #8 Prospect: Michael Hermosillo Position(s): Outfield Level: Advanced A Ball      Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017. Height: 5’11”     Weight: 190 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         45  50 Power                      45  55 Base Running         55  55 Patience                   55  60 Fielding                    50  60 Range                       55  60 Arm                           50  50 Overall                      40  50 Floor: 4th OF in MLB. Ceiling: Starting OF in MLB and top of the order hitter. Likely Outcome: Starting OF in MLB, bottom of the order hitter. Summary: There really wasn’t much in the way of expectations for Hermosillo coming into 2016, but that’s simply a reoccurring pattern in his career.  Hermosillo wasn’t expected to be a baseball player at all coming out of high school.  While he was obviously a good athlete, Michael experienced far more success on the gridiron, so much so that he had a scholarship offer to play running back at Illinois.  The Angels picked Michael up late in the 2013 draft (the 28th round) and shocked many when they signed Hermosillo to an over-slot bonus to play baseball rather than play football collegiately.  Even after he signed, it was the consensus that while Michael was athletic, he lacked the necessary refinement to someday be a major leaguer. Undeterred, Michael did a solid job in the Arizona Summer League. Still, there was a belief that he was more of an athlete than a ball player. The next season in Orem, Michael again surprised many when he showed an advanced feel at the plate and increased pull-power (.358 OBP and 17 XBH in 54 games), you know, some of that “refinement” they like to talk about with baseball players.  This was done against competition that was generally a couple years older than him and for the first time, there were actually some expectations, though not many given his lack of pre-draft hype, and his unsightly .244 batting average.  The next season as a 20 year old in A Ball, Michael struggled.   Sure, he got on base and ran a little, but his batting average dwindled down to .218 and his defense was subpar in the outfield.  This sort of experience isn’t uncommon, as it was Michael’s first time in full season ball, and the step up from Rookie Ball to A Ball can be pretty steep.  In fact that sort of performance is generally what’s expected from players from the prep ranks that come off the draft board in the late rounds as Hermosillo did. Michael entered 2016 with no hype or expectations yet again.  In his career, he’d been a Top 30 prospect only once (by yours truly back in the MWAH days), and even then it wasn’t a repeat performance.  The plan in 2016 was for Michael to perhaps get some time in at Orem and maybe give it another go in A Ball.  Except this time, through circumstances out of his control, Hermosillo was sent to A Ball without ever going to Orem, which turned out to be a very good thing.  Once Hermosillo landed in Burlington, he lit the Midwest League on fire.  In 37 games as a 21 year old (which is still younger than the average player in the league), Michael hit .326/.411 with notably better defense.  This was a surprise, not only because no one was expecting Hermosillo to do it, but also because he was doing this in rather considerable pitcher friendly conditions.  There was no way to fake that sort of success, Michael had clearly turned a proverbial corner. In yet another surprise, the Angels found themselves promoting Hermosillo to Advanced A ball.  Typically, the Cal League would be a more inviting environment for hitter, except Angels prospects play their home games at Inland Empire, the only pitcher friendly park in the league.  This tends to even things out a legitimize their numbers.  Against better competition, Hermosillo hit an astounding .328 at Inland Empire with four doubles, four triples and a home run.  Hermosillo was equally as successful on the road, doing more damage with the long ball.  The end result here was a .309 batting average with a .393 OBP.  As if on cue, it appears the Angels brass, much like the fans, wanted to see more of Hermosillo’s breakout than a half season.  So the Angels sent him to the Arizona Fall League, to test his abilities against minor league baseball’s best talent.  Hermosillo didn’t disappoint, hitting .267/.353 with his signature solid blend of speed, power and defense. Michael passed every test he faced in 2016.  And what we’re left with is a bit of an enigma.  Michael can hit for power, but he isn’t a power hitter (yet).  He can flat out run, but he isn’t a base stealer (yet). Michael is a good hitter, but typically won’t wow you in the batting average department as much as he will in the on-base department.   He’s a good defender, but not a defense-first outfielder.  What we can say is the way Michael plays, is reminiscent of Mike Trout went his was 18 or 19.  Now obviously we aren’t claiming Hermosillo will be Trout, in fact I don’t think any prospect anywhere deserves that connection (though to be fair, many said the same thing when Trout was compared to Mickey Mantle).  But Hermosillo’s strength, grace of movement, coordination, athleticism, and effort are all reminders of the most exceptional athlete to ever grace the Angels system. And that in a nut shell wis why Hermosillo looks like a major leaguer out there.  It’s one thing to be strong and athletic, it’s another entirely to have that, plus strike zone judgement and a good head on your shoulders. As for the tools, Michael has exceptional “quick twitch” reflexes, solid pitch recognition and bat control.  He’s lowered his hands and narrowed his stance slightly from earlier in his career.  This has created a clearly stronger load than he had before, but also more control.  Michael absolutely explodes through the ball.  There’s a ton of power here, but it’s the line drive type, so you won’t see many moonshot home runs because of a lack of loft.  A perfect example of this was against the Cubs this Spring when Michael turned on an inside fastball.  The ball got out in a hurry and wasn’t a wall-scraper, but at the same time, coming off the bat, it didn’t look like anything more than a line drive.  That’s how strong this kid is. What to expect next season: Michael will likely be promoted to AA Mobile to begin next year, thought it wouldn’t surprise me if the Angels had him spend a month or so at Inland Empire.  Given what I saw Hermosillo do in, Spring Training, the Fall League and Burlington, another trip to Inland Empire would appear to be a waste of time.  But the Angels have been known to take such conservative routes before.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Hermosillo torched AA pitching, because of his ability.  It also wouldn’t surprise me if Michael struggled in high minors because it’s his first time facing this quality pitching.  But if I were to give it an official prediction, I’d say he goes to AA Mobile, and has a solid season for the Bay Bears. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2018, as a 23 year old. . Grade as a prospect: B- Check out our interview with Michael Hermosillo — #9 Prospect: Chris Rodriguez   Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: Rookie Ball      Age: Entering Age 18 season in 2017. Height: 6’2”       Weight: 190 lb.    Present – Future Fastball          60  65 Slider             50  60 Change          45  55 Mechanics    50  50 Command    55  60 Control         50  60 Overall         45  55   Floor: Middle reliever in the high minors Ceiling: A front of the rotation starter in MLB. Likely Outcome: A mid-rotation starter or a late inning reliever in MLB. Summary:  The Angels made a slough of upside picks in this past draft, which is the first time this has happened is five years.  It’s no coincidence that many consider the 2016 Angels draft class to be the strongest since 2009.  Chris Rodriguez is a big piece of that puzzle. He’s a prep right handed pitcher from Miami with a fastball that ranges from 91-93 to 94-96 (should likely reside in the middle, around 93-95) with lots of movement,  a good slider and tons of upside.  Rodriguez does throw a change up more frequently than one might expect from a prep pitchers, but so far, it doesn’t appear to be anything more than a “show me” pitch.  Rodriguez uses a hitch in his hands right after his leg kick that will temporarily disrupt the timing of the hitter.  He uses it in a little over half his pitches, but it adds just another wrinkle to the potential task of batting off this kid.  As a 17 year old in the Arizona Summer League, Rodriguez tossed 11 innings, gave up only 2 earned runs, walked only three batters and struck out 17!  This small sample size makes it evident that not only did hitters just not make any consistent contact with Rodriguez, but Chris likely wasn’t challenged enough at the lowest levels. Scouts are split on whether Rodriguez profiles best as a relief pitcher or starter.  Many side with reliever because a slightly unorthodox motion, firm fastball with life and sharp slider.  Still, others see an athletic kid with good command of all his pitches, and the right stuff to play up in the front of the rotation.  Regardless of where he profiles, there’s a strong contingent (myself among them) that believe with the exception of Alex Meyer, Rodriguez is currently the best pitching prospect in the Angels system.  In fact, with a strong showing this Spring, Rodriguez could find himself in the Midwest League next year, and if pitches as well there as I think he can, Chris could be a Top 100 prospect before long. I’m really excited about what the future holds with Chris Rodriguez and Cole Duensing pushing each other. What to expect next season: In his age-18 campaign, I’d expect Rodriguez to spend half of the season at instructs, refining his game and the other half of the season in Orem.  The gaudy strikeout numbers can be expected to continue, but a fair warning; if you’re someone who fancies ERA, it might be best to look away.  The Pioneer League is notoriously brutal on even the best pitching prospects, and Rodriguez is our best.  It only really says something if a pitcher comes to Orem and is dominant, like Garrett Richards was.  Otherwise, don’t bother looking at the numbers.  Pay more attention to LD%, BB/9, and if Rodriguez can effectively deploy a change up. Having said that, I hope to see Rodriguez in Burlington instead. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2021, as a 22 year old. . Grade as a prospect: B- — #10 Prospect: Nate Smith  Position(s): Left Handed Pitcher Level: AAA Salt Lake      Age: Entering Age 25 season in 2017. Height: 6’3”     Weight: 210 lb.    Present – Future Fastball          45  50 Slider             55  60 Curve             50  50 Change          60  60 Mechanics    60  60 Command    55  60 Control         55  60 Overall         45  55   Floor: Swing Starter or lefty specialist in MLB. Ceiling: A workhorse #3/4 starter in MLB Likely Outcome: A consistent #4/5 starter in MLB Summary:  It’s been difficult for Nate Smith to get any love as a pitcher, which is unfortunate because there really isn’t much more he could’ve done up to this point.  Drafted in the 8th round out of very little known Furman University, Smith was tabbed as a finesse lefty.  And for the most part, that was true.  He came to the Angels throwing 86-89 with a decent curve and solid change up.  Since then, Smith has gotten stronger at every level.  Now his fastball sits 88-89, and on nights he’s feeling particularly good, he’ll throw 92-93. which would classify him as a hard throwing lefty.  His curve ball is still decent, but has since been surpassed in effectiveness by his slider, which at times can resemble a plus pitch.  The solid change up has also turned into a legitimate plus pitch.  All of this progression was accomplished while still maintaining his roots in attacking the strike zone. Until this last season, Nate Smith had never once posted an ERA above 3.86 in the minor leagues. He even played for Team USA and led them to an eventual silver medal in the Pan-Am games.  Still, every talent evaluator doesn’t classify Smith as anything remarkable.  And that’s true, Smith isn’t a high upside pitcher.  He simply doesn’t have any real weakness to his game either, and that’s why he doesn’t get any love from big publications the way he should.  Smith is basically the Kole Calhoun of pitchers.  Nate’s just that pitcher other teams don’t have a ton of success against, but they also don’t remember why.  Well the truth is, Nate’s stuff isn’t that bad, and he spots his pitches in a manner that generates weak contact or swings and misses. If the Angels were in any sort of contention last season, it’s likely Nate Smith would’ve been promoted.  But since they weren’t, and Nate was injured down the stretch (which also explains the poor showing in August he had), the Angels chose to play it safe and delay his promotion until 2017.  While Billy Eppler has done a solid job building depth around Nate Smith like Manny Banuelos, Victor Campos, Alex Meyer and Jesse Chavez, we can still expect to see Nate Smith with the Angels in some capacity in 2017. What to expect next season: Nate was navigating the extremely hitter friendly environment in Salt Lake and the PCL until August, when I suspect Nate was injured and attempted to just pitch through it.  Smith can strike batters out, but for the most part he out-smarts them and allows hitters to get themselves out by keeping them off balance and hitting his spots.  If he continues this gameplay, we should see Smith in Anaheim by the all-star break, but regardless, I expect Nate Smith to break camp in AAA again.  But with all the uncertainty involving the Angels pitching staff, Smith finds himself in a free-for-all competition for the 5th starter spot and bullpen spots.  He’ll need to outpitch Alex Meyer, Manny Banuelos, Vicente Campos, Yusmeiro Petit, Brooks Pounders, Daniel Wright and more….  But he can do it, Smith has that capability to be sure. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2017, as a 25 year old. . Grade as a prospect: C+   Check out our interview with Nate Smith — #11 Prospect: Grayson Long  Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: Advanced A Ball     Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2017. Height: 6’5”       Weight: 230 lb.    Present – Future Fastball          55  55 Slider             50  55 Change          55  60 Mechanics    50  50 Command    55  60 Control         55  60 Overall         45  55   Floor: Swing Starter in AAA Ceiling: A workhorse #3/4 starter in MLB Likely Outcome: A workhorse #4/5 starter in MLB Summary:  Long is one of those prospects that’s constantly overlooked when the rest of the world is too busy talking about how terrible the Angels farm system is.  The apparent lack of depth doesn’t apply to Grayson Long I guess.  Long is a big bodied strike thrower that pumps a 91-93 mph “heavy” fastball.  It’s a difficult pitch to square up because of it’s strong downhill action, though hitters do make consistent contact due to a relative lack of side to side movement.  It’s a straight, heavy fastball with a downward plane.  Low-ball hitters probably love it.  But for the average prospect in the lower ranks, it can give them fits and cause a lot of early count groundouts to the shortstop. Long will also throw a good slider, which he gets over for strikes consistently.  His best pitch however, is his change up.  While he uses it to generate weak groundouts and popups, Long was able to generate a fair amount of swing and miss with it at the lower levels.  This likely won’t last as he reaches the upper minors, but it’s still a solid pitch. After being drafted by the Angels in the 3rd round out of Texas A&M, the organization really limited his innings in Rookie Ball due to fatigue.  The Angels somewhat surprisingly opted to keep Long in A Ball after Spring Training this year, which was absolutely puzzling.  As expected, Long was completely and utterly dominant in Burlington.  Across eight starts, he carried a 1.58 ERA with 45 K’s in only 40 innings.  Then injury occurred, and Long was shut down for much of the rest of the season, save for a few rehab appearances and short-lived promotion to Inland Empire. What to expect next season: Unfortunately, since Long was injured for a large chunk of the season in 2016, he lost what was essentially a half season to a full season worth of development.  I anticipate Grayson making a return trip to Inland Empire, at least for a couple months in 2017.  If things go well, we should see him spend a large chunk of the season in AA in 2017. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2019, as a 25 year old. . Grade as a prospect: C+   Check out our interview with Grayson Long — #12 Prospect: Manny Banuelos  Position(s): Left Handed Pitcher Level: AAA Salt Lake    Age: Entering Age 26 season in 2017. Height: 5’10”     Weight: 215 lb.    Present – Future Fastball         55  55 Curve            55  55 Change         55  60 Mechanics    50  50 Command    45  50 Control         45  50 Overall         45  55 Floor: Lefty Specialist in MLB. Ceiling: A #3/4 starter in MLB Likely Outcome: #4/5 starter in MLB Summary: Tommy John surgeries aren’t always a complete success.  Though the success rate is drastically higher today than it was 10-20 years ago, there are still some players that have trouble coming back, if ever making it back.  Manny is one of those stories.  Before surgery, Banuelos was part of the Yankees “Killer B’s prospects, all of which were labeled “front-line” starters.  It didn’t work out for any of those three, but then again, Yankee prospects in general are pretty overrated so it didn’t come as a complete surprise.  Still, in Betances and Banuelos, I can certainly see why the distinction was given.  In Banuelos, New York had a young lefty that sat in the mid-90’s and could reach back and touch the upper 90’s if needed.  He had decent control and an average curve, slider and “plus” change up. Manny went under the knife in 2013 though and missed the entire season.  When he returned in 2014, the kid just wasn’t the same.  What was once a dominant fastball and difficult collection of off-speed pitches had turned into a very average fastball and no feel for his other pitches whatsoever.  The Yankees traded Manny to the Braves, and after he was dealt, Banuelos began to recover the lost control of his curve and change up and began to dominate in AAA.  Once he reached the majors, Manny’s fastball velocity began to dwindle back into the high 80’s as he tired out.  Banuelos entered 2016 in the mix for a rotation spot with the Braves again, but the fatigue he experienced in the latter half of 2015 still hadn’t subsided.  He tried to pitch through it, he even reared back and started firing in the mid-90’’s for a hot moment, but none of it was sustainable. Upon being let go by the Braves, former Yankee AGM and current Angels GM Billy Eppler was eager to bring Banuelos in.  Though he was able to sit 91-92 at instructs in Arizona and expressed a willingness to transition into relief, Eppler made certain that Banuelos would have the chance to finally undergo a full recovery.  No one would press him into duty and there was no pressure put on him by prospects behind him or players in front of him.  So Banuelos has been given a very extended off-season of sorts.  The current plan is to have Banuelos remain in the rotation, but he could also see time in the bullpen.  It’s unlikely that Banuelos, even with rest, will ever recover the mid-90’s velocity he once had, but he should also throw harder than the 88 mph he was tossing back in 2015 with the Braves.  It’s more likely that 91-92 is the new norm for Banuelos.  But he’s proven in AAA before that he can still mow hitters down at that velocity.  The change up will be his go-to off-speed pitch to generate weak contact and quick outs, so as to keep his pitch count down.  The slider and curve are expected to be inter-mixed as he sees fit.  Both are average major league pitches. For Manny, this appears to be his last shot at the majors.  The Angels aren’t counting on him, but they also don’t have anyone so nailed down in the 5th starter spot that Banuelos couldn’t claim it with a healthy, and solid Spring.  Equally as important, the Angels also appear to have quite a few openings in the bullpen, so if Manny handles short appearances better, there’s nothing preventing him from claiming a spot.  For the Angels, Banuelos is a lottery ticket.  They certainly aren’t counting on him, because they still have Jesse Chavez, Alex Meyer, Nate Smith, Brooks Pounders and Bud Norris around him.  But if Banuelos regains his form, none of those players I mentioned, with the possible exception of Meyer, could out-pitch Manny. It is also important to note that across 42 career starts in AAA, Banuelos owns a lifetime 3.39 ERA. What to expect next season: Banuelos will likely be ticketed for AAA to start the season, and will be in a continual open competition for the 5th rotation spot or swingman in the bullpen all season long.  I expect we’ll see Banuelos in Anaheim at some point next season, but at this point it’s almost importable to predict which version of Banuelos we’ll see. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2017, as a 26 year old. . Grade as a prospect: C+ — #13 Prospect: David Fletcher Position(s): Infield Level: AA Mobile   Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2017. Height: 5’10”   Weight: 175 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         45  50 Power                      30  30 Base Running         55  55 Patience                   45  50 Fielding                    65  70 Range                       60  60 Arm                           60  60 Overall                      40  50 Floor: Defensive Specialist in MLB Ceiling: Starting second baseman or shortstop in MLB Likely Outcome: High quality, glove first – utility infielder. Summary: Fletcher is one of the few prospects where what you see is inevitably what you get.  Normally we use this in the context that a prospect simply won’t improve, but with Fletcher it’s not a bad thing.  Coming out of unheralded regional powerhouse Loyola Marymount, Fletcher was so far developed that he gave scouts a bit more certainty in who they were drafting than is common.  Fletcher is a very good defensive middle infielder with solid bat to ball skills, but little in the way of power and speed.  It isn’t the sexiest package, but he is a near certain lock to be a major leaguer, especially under an Eppler-led organization that puts so much emphasis on defense.  Fletcher continues to draw comparisons with Angel legend David Eckstein and those comps are pretty fair.  Fletcher has a very short path to the ball and is a line drive hitter.  His offensive game is rather simplistic.  If it’s a strike, he’ll hit it.  If it isn’t, he won’t swing. Defensively, Fletcher has a sure glove, quick transition, good footwork and a strong arm.  His range is above average at best, but the rest of his game is solid, consistent.  Fletcher profiles best as a utility infielder because of his defense first skill set, however, there are some that believe Fletcher has enough bat to hold down a regular job in the majors.  I don’t completely disagree with this.  Fletcher reminds me a lot of David Eckstein or even Maicer Izturis, and coming up they both profiled as utility infielders, but once in the majors, they made the adjustments and were capable of holding down a regular job.  At any rate, Fletcher is a major leaguer, is some capacity. From a production standpoint, Fletcher was highly successful last year.  He really opened some eyes in Spring Training, and logged some time in major league camp.  Every time the Angels got him into the game, he started getting clutch hit after clutch hit, including a run scoring double off Dodgers super-prospect Julio Urias.  Fletcher had injury woes while in the Cal League and thus the numbers didn’t match his ability.  Once he was healthy, he started to really get into a groove.  That .300 batting average in AA is a result of Fletcher coming in hot and staying hot.  David was simply ok in the Arizona Fall League, he was a reserve so he didn’t get the playing time other more hyped prospects got.  Still, he was solid. What to expect next season: Fletcher is expected to make a return trip to AA next season.  He logged 20 games in Arkansas last year, and he hit .300, and it doesn’t look like it was a fluke.  But Fletcher could still use a little more time to fine tune his current skills.  We’ll see if David can see the same success next year as he did last year.  If he does, we may see Fletcher in the majors in 2017.  There’s also the off chance Fletcher opens camp in AAA, which makes his appearance in Anaheim next year all but certain.  Though it’s completely unlikely, Fletcher could potentially unseat Cliff Pennington as the utility infielder at some point this season.  More likely, he’ll inherit the job next year. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2018, as a 24 year old.   Grade as a prospect: C+ — #14 Prospect: Jaime Barria  Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: A Ball      Age: Entering Age 20 season in 2017. Height: 6’1”      Weight: 210 lb.    Present – Future Fastball         50  55 Curve            45  50 Change         55  60 Mechanics    60  60 Command    70  70 Control         70  70 Overall         55  60 Floor: Fifth starter or swingman in the majors. Ceiling: A #3 starter in the major leagues. Likely Outcome: Reliable #4 starter in the majors. Summary: Barria is one of those prospects every system should have.  Normally, when I think of a Latin American pitcher coming stateside, I think of a kid that was signed at age 16 from the Dominican Republic that pumps mid-90’s gas but has no idea what an efficient throwing motion might be, or what he needs to do to keep throwing strikes and getting hitters out.  Those guys are good.  They mostly end up as relievers, but there’s just a ton of room for error when you can throw 97.  Barria on the other hand is from Panama, he’s already physically mature, throws in the low-90’s with a beautiful throwing motion, and has the look of a starting pitcher in the long run.  He gets hitters out by locating his pitches in parts of the zone that hitters are forced to swing at, but can’t necessarily do a ton of damage with.  Furthermore, because he gets ahead in the count so often, Barria frequently forces hitters to hit the type of pitches they’ll tend to roll over on or pop up. Jaime will pitch backward or traditional in the count, which is to say he’ll throw any pitch he wants at any time, and he’ll throw them for strikes.  While his fastball  sits 91-93, it’s the location and movement that have given hitters fits.  Barria frequently will spin off a curve ball, and while he throws it for strikes, it doesn’t strike me as anything more than a change of pace pitch.  It’s his change up that is the “plus” pitch.  Hitters spend 7 innings a night rolling over at the third baseman or first baseman because of this pitch, and while he doesn’t necessarily use it as a strikeout pitch, hitters are left so off-balance that Jaime will rank of a few K’s during the game.  The arm speed, angle and delivery all closely mirror his fastball, so it’s darn near impossible to detect when he’ll drop a change up.  To make matters worse for hitters, he’ll throw it whenever he thinks he can get an out, and not just with two strikes. Now admittedly, at first, when Barria was on the Burlington roster, I didn’t give it a ton of thought.  He seemed like filler to me, someone that I’d seen a couple times but really didn’t separate himself.  But as a 19 year old in full season ball, once he started to get rolling, I began asking myself what it was about this kid that was generating such success especially against older competition.  The more I watched Barria, the more I became curious, why minor league hitters just couldn’t square him up.  This is what eventually made his starts that were broadcast on a must see, at least for a few innings until the major league game came on.  It was in these starts that I began to acquire an appreciation for Barria.  Nothing shakes his nerves or gets to him.  He’s calm and collected at all times.  He goes about his business methodically, and gets a lot of 2-3 pitch at bats that result in outs.  He works quickly so as to stay in a rhythm and not bore his fielders and gets back to the dugout as quickly as he can.  He isn’t flashy, isn’t striking out 12 batters a night, he’s just getting outs, quickly, and a lot of them. Typically, I avoid making specific playing comps, but this one is just so accurate, it’s hard not to make this connection.  Jaime Barria, reminds me a lot of Nick Tropeano.  Nick wasn’t exactly heralded when the Angels acquired him from the Astros, but his track record spoke for itself, and the longer you watch his starts, the more masterful you begin to see him as.  That’s the way Barria is.  He isn’t quite at Tropeano’s level in terms of quality pitches, but in a couple of years, he could go toe-to-toe with Tropeano and be a worthy comp. What to expect next season: Barria should head to the Cal League as a 20 year old, and typically, this would be a recipe for disaster.  A contact heavy pitcher in a very friendly offensive league.  But Barria works so quickly, and doesn’t get rattled that I doubt he’ll be as torched as other pitchers when they reach Advanced A Ball.  In fact, after he turns 21 late in the season, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Angels bumped him up to AA. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2019, as a 22 year old. . Grade as a prospect: C+ — #15 Prospect: Jesus Castillo  Position(s): RHP Level: AAA/MLB     Age: Entering Age 21 season in 2017. Height: 6’2”         Weight: 165 lb.    Present – Future Fastball         50  55 Curve            45  55 Change         55  60 Mechanics    70  70 Command    50  60 Control         60  60 Overall         55  60 Floor: Swingman or long reliever in the majors/AAA depth. Ceiling: A #3-4 starter in the majors. Likely Outcome: A steady #4-5 starter in the majors/ Summary: The work Billy Eppler has done so far to restock a barren and broken Angels farm system has been nothing short of amazing.  In only one season, he’s managed to draft eight of out Top 30 Prospects, and traded for another five.  Roughly half (7) of our Top 15 Prospects were acquired by Billy Eppler in the last year alone.  Jesus Castillo is just one example of Eppler knowing when to strike.  Joe Smith was pitching half-way decent for the Angels in the final year of his contract, and at the trade deadline, teams were looking to get deeper in the bullpen.  So Eppler dealt Smith, who really wasn’t going to make a difference for the Angels at that point in the season, for a promising 20 year old pitcher that the Cubs had buried so deep on their depth chart, they might’ve forgotten they even had him. After being a high profile signing as a 16 year old by Arizona, Castillo was traded to the Cubs and simply wasn’t developing as quickly as they thought he would.  At 16, he was skinny, under-sized with beautiful mechanics, and mid-80’s fastball and a solid change up.  That works for scouts, because they project more growth.  But for Castillo, he was still generally the same kid up through age 19, which had caused the Cubs to keep him buried in Rookie Ball, and even a transition to the bullpen.  Then Castillo started his age 20 season.  He showed up to camp more filled out (I’m guessing the 165 lb listing is dated at this point), and his 86-87 mph fastball had crept up to 90-92.  His curve which had been a “show me” pitch before came in with tighter spin and bigger break to it.  Castillo was maturing as a pitcher, and not a moment too soon. The Cubs still chose to keep him in short season ball, and Castillo responded with tossing 33 innings, striking out 38, walking only three batters per nine innings, and carrying a sparkling 3.27 ERA.  Then he was traded to the Angels at the trade deadline and things got really interesting.  The Angels aggressively moved him to full season A Ball in Burlington, and he hurled 29 innings with 23 K’s, cut his BB/9 down to 2.1 and his ERA down to 2.43.  What’s even more impressive, the reported 90-92 mph fastball in Chicago’s camp was showing up as consistently 92-93 with the Angels.  His change up was as advertised and the curve ball started to turn into a “swing and miss” pitch. While we can’t say for sure that Castillo’s transition will continue, we do know he’s a better pitcher than he was a year ago, and he was awfully impressive as a 20 year old down in A Ball.  But it is fair to expect physical maturation to continue.  Of course, hardly anyone is done growing at age 20, but if he is, Castillo has enough strength to succeed at the upper levels.  There’s always the chance that Castillo could hit another physical maturity level in another couple years and start pumping mid-90’s heat, you never know. What to expect next season: The Angels can go a couple different directions here.  If they feel Castillo’s ready for the pressure the California League offers pitchers than they can move him up.  In fact, I think this is probably the likeliest scenario as Castillo just didn’t look challenged at all in A Ball.  The curve could use a bit more polish and command so he could generate more swings and misses, but that’s really nit-picking.  The Angels could also opt to go a more conservative route with Castillo and keep him in A Ball a full year.  I’ve been critical of the Angels seeming unwillingness to promote or challenge prospects in the past, but honestly, I think they’d be justified in either case here. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2020 season, Castillo’s age 24 season. Grade as a prospect: C+ — #16 Prospect: Vicente Campos   Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: AAA/MLB    Age: Entering Age 24 season in 2017. Height: 6’3”        Weight: 230 lb.    Present – Future Fastball         65  65 Curve            50  60 Change         55  55 Mechanics    50  50 Command    60  60 Control         60  60 Overall         55  60 Floor: Middle reliever with upside in the majors. Ceiling: A #2-3 starter in major leagues. Likely Outcome: A late inning reliever or a dynamic #5 starter. Summary: Campos is an easy prospect to get excited about.  Let’s just get the single most important detail out of the way first.   EVERY single potential outcome for Campos is dependent upon his health.  If Vicente Campos is healthy, you have yourself Garrett Richards-lite.  Someone that can come in and dominate for 7 innings every fifth day.  If Campos can only stay healthy in short spurts, and his physical prowess deteriorates with increased use, then he can be one of the best relievers in baseball.  If the repeated elbow injuries take their toll and his tuff is diminished, his career could be over. Now obviously the reasons for excitement, and for the Garrett Richards-lite and elite receiver possibility is based off his stuff.  Campos’ fastball is an ever changing pitch that he can dial up and back at will.  Sometimes, he’ll come in and blow upper-90’s heat by you.  At other times, he’ll decide to take a little more off, and stay at 90-91.  For the most part, he seems to use two different fastballs that he can spot basically wherever he wants.  The first is a firm 4-seam fastball that hovers around 95-96, and the second seems to be a cut fastball that he throws 93-94.  Lately, he’s been using the second option more liberally, and has found success with it.  Campos throws a very firm curve ball that he can spot at the knees or bury in the dirt.  This is a true swing-and-miss pitch and is already at least an average major league pitch with the possibility of being more.  Personally, one of my favorite offerings (other than the high heat), is Campos’ change up, which tails down and in on a RHB.  It’s lethal against LHB with two strikes as it acts as almost another breaking ball.  He can also push it down at the feet of a RHB as another look in what can be an uncomfortable at bat. I think what makes Campos so special are all the ways he can get you out.  If he isn’t feeling his fastball on a particular night, he’ll dial back to 90-91 and live off movement.  IF the curve is working especially well, he’ll snap it off in any count, because it doesn’t matter if a batter is keying on it, it’s still a tough pitch to hit.  IF he’s feeling aggressive, he’ll attack under a batter’s hands in the mid-90’s.  If he’s facing a lefty heavy lineup, he’ll typically live firm on the inside to set up his change up away.  With righties, he’ll rely a little more on what looks like a cutter and get K’s via the curve. But again, this all depends on his health, and that’s a big question mark.  After signing with he Mariners at age 16, Campos blossomed into a very promising prospect, before being dealt to the Yankees in the Pineda-Montego deal.  Just a few starts into his Yankee career, he suffers an elbow fracture, and loses basically all of 2012. Vicente returns in 2013 after a surprisingly quick rehab and is back in form for the Yankees down in Advanced A Ball.  But clearly, the rushed rehab from 2012 had taken it’s toll and Campos needed Tommy John surgery, which ended his 2014 season before it even began.  He returned for half of 2015, and showed diminished stuff and less command than before, which can be expected. Campos again returned to form in 2016 and dominated in AA before being dealt to the D-Backs for Tyler Clippard.  After successful stints in AA/AAA for Arizona, he got the call to the major leagues and operated as a mop up man in the bullpen.  However, after just one appearance, where he did well without his best stuff, Campos was shut down again and again diagnosed with a fractured ulnar.  Upon hearing this, the D-Backs were under a bit of a roster crunch and tried to slip the injured Campos through waivers, which obviously didn’t work because Billy Eppler was very familiar with his kid from his days as the Yankees AGM. Now the good news with this is apparently there hasn’t been any damage sustained tot he ligament, just the bone.  So the rehab for Campos is supposed to be shorter.  However, as we saw from his first Ulnar fracture rehab, if he’s pushed, injury can follow.  Rehab for this type of break is expected to be around eight months, so more than likely, we won’t see Campos in Spring Training.  It’s likely he’ll spend April on site in Arizona getting his own mini-Spring Training and return to active duty in May. What to expect next season: Normally, this would be where I tell you what’s likely to happen next year, but if we’re being honest, I don’t have a clue with Campos.  Sure, he isn’t expected to be healthy until May, but what if he’s ready to start his rehab in March instead of April and gets time in Spring Training?  What if he’s so dang impressive (as he definitely can be) that the Angels choose him over Chavez, Meyer, Smith and Pounders for the 5th starter position?  I couldn’t tell you if the Angels are going to move him to relief or have him start again. There are just too many directions this can go to confidently provide you with what to expect. The only thing I will say is that Campos is one of my personal favorites among the Top 30, and I expect to see him in Anaheim at some point, in some role this year.  If he’s healthy, he’s just too good not to be a major leaguer. Estimated Time of Arrival: July, 2017. Grade as a prospect: C+ — #17 Prospect: Cole Duensing  Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: Rookie Ball     Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2017. Height: 6’4”      Weight: 190 lb.    Present – Future Fastball         55  65 Curve            45  55 Change         50  60 Mechanics    60  60 Command    50  55 Control         50  55 Overall         50  55 Floor: Lefty Specialist bouncing between upper minors and majors. Ceiling: A #2-3 starter in major leagues. Likely Outcome: A mid-rotation starter in the major leagues. Summary: When I see Duensing throw, I see a lot of Tyler Skaggs when the Angels first drafted him (minus the left-handedness).  Long, lean, flexible, fiercely competitive, tons of projection, room to grow physically, and an already impressive low-90’s fastball from a kid that still looks like a kid.  I don’t mean any offense by that, it just means that when this guy turn 21 or 22, there will be a lot of scouts attending his games, which explains why the Angels offered Duensing a well above slot bonus to sign.  Also similar to Skaggs, Duesning’s name is probably going to be brought up if the Angels wanted to make a trade in the future.  He’s the type of kid that’s good now, and has the work ethic and God-given ability to be great soon.  Blessed with a fastball that sits 91-92, already solid change up and a looping curve that with some tinkering and command could become a third viable pitch, there won’t be any question as to whether Duensing has the stuff to compete.  While he weighed in at just 175 lbs upon being drafted, reports indicated that late during the instructs and on into the winter, Cole had put on almost 20 lbs of muscle and added a tick or two on his fastball.  As for his performance this year, there wasn’t a lot to be gained from limited exposure.  He was good in the Arizona Rookie League, both the stats (1.38 ERA 13 IP 11K’s), and scouts said so.  During the Fall Instructs,  Mike LaCassa called Duensing one of the “breakout pitchers”.  So obviously since signing, this kid has impressed the team.  There don’t appear to be any current plans to use Duensing in any role other than starter, which looks like the role he’s meant for.  Angels fans that follow the minor leagues will want to make their way over to the minor league fields this Spring Training to check this kid out.   As a side note, though it isn’t quantifiable, some guys just look like major leaguers, if that makes sense.  Like you see them pitch, and you kind of just know, that’s going to be a major leaguer someday.  That’s what Duensing looks like, just someone you expect to see toeing the slab at Angels Stadium in the future. What to expect next season: This really depends on if the Angels plan to be aggressive or if they want to offer maximum opportunity to develop.  Judging by the reports, and Duesning’s sparkling performance, there’s little doubt he’s probably ready to make the jump to A Ball.  But if the Angels don’t feel the need to push him, and still want him to really get his feet under him and keep a closer eye on his development, he could be sent to short season Orem.  Either choice is justifiable.  Personally, I’d love to see the Angels move him up to A Ball, but it’s only for selfish reasons (more opportunity to catch him on  But if I were the Angels, I’d take it slow with Duensing.  With his sort of projection, and the maturity still to come, there’s nothing wrong with allowing Cole to fully develop at every level. Estimated Time of Arrival: Middle of 2021, Cole’s age 22 season. Grade as a prospect: C+ — #18 Prospect: Troy Montgomery    Position(s): Outfielder   Level: Class A Ball    Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017   Height: 5’10”      Weight: 185 lb.   Present –  Future    Hitting Ability: 40 – 50 Power: 45 – 50 Base Running: 65 – 65 Patience: 55 – 60 Fielding: 60 – 60 Range: 60 – 60 Arm: 60 – 60 Overall: 45 – 60   Floor: AAA Depth. Ceiling: Starting outfielder and leadoff hitter in the major leagues. Likely Outcome: Dynamic 4th outfielder   Summary: Montgomery is one of my favorite types of players to get drafted.  The type that don’t have any hype, and don’t come with the over-used “5-tool” moniker.  Just really good ball players, that do just about everything average or better on a baseball diamond.  The type that perform well at a big-time college, but fall to the 8th round of a draft because they’re only 5’10” tall.  The type that play a game with such intensity, that others can’t help but look up to this player.  Just good old fashioned, blue-collar hard work and the will to win.   If you haven’t caught on, I just described Kole Calhoun.  In fact, Troy even looks a bit like Kole Calhoun out there, minus the fiery red hair, and slightly less muscular.  Same left-handedness, similar skill-set, athleticism, same passion and competitive spirit.   That’s what we’ll see if everything breaks right for Troy Montgomery, a Kole Calhoun type of regular.  It’s no wonder the Reds asked for Montgomery in return when they were discussing trading Brandon Phillips to the Angels.  At Ohio State, Montgomery logged more BB than K, stole 56 bases between his junior and senior season, owned an OBP well north of .400, played in competitive scouting leagues during the offseason and performed spectacularly, and to top it off, was an elite defender.   It still makes me shake my head that guys like this last until the middle rounds of the draft when at bare minimum, you have yourself a useful depth piece between AAA and the majors.  Once drafted by the Angels, Montgomery torched Orem and the Pioneer League in general, and was promoted to Burlington, where he was quite solid, if not “pretty good”.   From the scouting side of things, Troy is a left handed hitter with more pop than the numbers show. Sure, he’s a speedy leadoff hitter that reaches base and can hit for average, but Troy swings hard, yet under control.  There’s “plus” bat speed and an advanced feel at the plate.  Every once in a while he’ll swing out of his shoes, but not too often.  Defensively, Montgomery can cover a ton of ground in CF and has a rocket for an arm, though the Angels have been using him in the corner outfield to start.   What to expect next season: Montgomery should head to Advanced A Ball at Inland Empire next season, and I’m guessing he’ll put up the gaudy HR/SB numbers (at least on the road) that will really open the eyes of more casual fans, and thus his ranking as a prospect will climb.  Personally, I’ll be watching to see how much contact Troy makes, if he’s using the whole field, and continues to show patience as many patient hitters don’t do in the Cal League environment.  With Troy, there is the off-chance the Cal League is too easy and he’ll be bumped up to AA for the season, but I wouldn’t count on it. Even Kole Calhoun was kept at Inland Empire for a full year.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Mid 2019, Troy’s age 24 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+: Projects to be a borderline MLB starter. — #19 Prospect: Eduardo Paredes    Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher   Level: AA      Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017.   Height: 6’1”      Weight: 190 lb.      Present – Future   Fastball         65  65 Curve            50  60 Change         50  50 Mechanics    60  60 Command    55  60 Control         70  70 Overall         55  65   Floor: Middle Reliever in the Major Leagues Ceiling: A closer in the Major Leagues. Likely Outcome: A 7th-8th-9th inning option, doesn’t matter.   Summary: It’s a shame we don’t rank relievers as high on prospect lists, otherwise Paredes would be getting a lot more notoriety among fans.  Everywhere Eduardo has gone, he’s succeeded, and he’s still very young.  When the Angels signed Eduardo as a 17 year old, he was completely and utterly dominant in the Dominican Summer League.  For reasons unknown, the Angels decided it would be a good idea to have Paredes repeat the DSL as an 18 year old, which he did and was again dominant. The Angels then brought him stateside as a 19 year old and put him in the hitter paradise that is Orem in the Pioneer League.  No matter, Paredes dispatched them with no problem at all. In fact, he finished with a 1.33 ERA and 31 K’s in one 20 innings.  That’s how easy Orem was for Eduardo.   You’d really think by now the Angels would start aggressively promoting Paredes, but still they’re going a level a year, and so for most of the next season, Eduardo Paredes fools hitters in A Ball to the tune of a 1.77 ERA with a 12.6 K/9 and an even more impressive 1.7 BB/9.  The Angels decide it might be a good idea to promote Paredes after he’s completely fatigued from an unusually large workload in A Ball and he gets to the Cal League and is simply “OK” for the first time in his career.   The Angels send him back to Inland Empire to start 2016 and Paredes, armed with a fresh arm sits batters down with no issues, so he is promoted to AA, as a 21 year old, which is pretty remarkable. While in Arkansas, we see a strange thing happen.  Parades’ ERA remains a very solid 3.35, but for the first time in his career, he isn’t striking out as many batters, which suggests that after five years of the Angels playing it conservative, they seem to have finally found a level in which Eduardo can grow by facing competition that challenges him.  It’s about time.   From the scouting side of things, Paredes attacked hitters with a low three-quarters, borderline sidearm release.  He still uses his legs to generate plenty of momentum going forward, and there doesn’t appear to be too much stress put on his shoulders or elbow.  Eduardo uses two different fastballs.  The first is a 4-seam fastball that sits 95-97 with cut action, the second is a 2-seam fastball that sits 92-94 with sinking action.  Both are regarded as “plus” pitches.  Parades also throws a curve that he keeps low in the zone.  It isn’t a “plus” pitch, but it does serve as a consistent change of pace pitch.  Finally, Eduardo has been experimenting with a change up the past couple seasons that has improved to the point where he can use it.   Paredes is a guy that has a few different ways to get a hitter out.  The heat will generate lots of swings and misses, but the curve and change up have created quite the uncomfortable at bat for both lefties and righties.   What to expect next season: Eduardo should head to AAA after being protected on the Angels 40-man roster this offseason.  But, with the way the Angels have handled Paredes so far in his career, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back in AA again, even after showing that he should be promoted.  If the Angels bullpen doesn’t round into form, and if they find themselves contending for a playoff spot, we should see Paredes in Anaheim this season.  If things go south quickly, it’s likely the Angels will delay Paredes’ arrival until 2018 so as to gain an additional year of control.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Middle of 2017, Paredes’ age 22 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+ — #20 Prospect: Hutton Moyer    Position(s): Utility Infielder   Level: Advanced A Ball      Age: Entering Age 24 season in 2017   Height: 6’1”       Weight: 185 lb.   Present –  Future    Hitting Ability: 45 – 50 Power: 45 – 50 Base Running: 50 – 50 Patience: 40 – 40 Fielding: 50 – 50 Range: 50 – 59 Arm: 50 – 50 Overall: 45 – 50   Floor: AAA Depth. Ceiling: Starting second baseman in the major leagues. Likely Outcome: Offensive-minded utility infielder.   Summary: Moyer had a pretty good year.  That’s me putting it in the simplest terms possible.  To elaborate, Moyer proved a lot of doubters wrong/  He still has a way to go, but the foundation is set for justified future promotions.  When Moyer was selected in the 7th round by the Angels out of Pepperdine, I was immediately intrigued, but surprised. For starters, Moyer wasn’t that great at Pepperdine.  It took until his final year there before we saw any sort of  promising tools, that being his power, begin to manifest. So yeah, there was a degree of suspicion that perhaps Moyer was selected as a bit of a hat tip to his father, Jamie Moyer, who spent 23 years pitching in the big leagues. This notion was only further supported by Moyer’s poor showing at Orem last year after being drafted. But a guy I talked to kept saying Moyer has some power, that I’ll be surprised.  And he was right.   Hutton hit 33 doubles 17 home runs and stole 13 bases between two levels of A Ball this year.  As a middle infielder, that’s pretty awesome.  His .276/.341 batting line isn’t too shabby either.   What’s even more impressive is Moyer’s performance in the Cal League.  Most of the extra base hits came at home, at Inland Empire, the only pitcher friendly venue in the California League.  This only serves as more proof that the power Moyer displayed is real.  More accurately, Moyer’s pull power is real. When his timing is down and he turns on a pitch, it can fly a very long way.   But speaking of timing, here’s where my skepticism creeps right back into the picture.  It’s Moyer’s approach at the plate.  There are a ton of moving parts.  Pre-pitch, his hands are all over the place. While the pitcher is mid-delivery, we see Hutton’s hands drop down to his waste before returning to shoulder height.  While this is happening, we see a very high leg kick and then a swing.  I’m certainly not opposed to leg kicks, but when you see Moyer’s you realize his timing mechanism is about as complicated as the come.  In fact, it’s likely a big reason why Moyer struck out 143 times in only 124 games!  This is something the Angels will need to iron out before Moyer reaches AA and AAA next season, because more advanced pitchers will be better prepared to exploit these timing and contact issues.  The trick here will be to keep his timing, while eliminating the movement and still maintaining the power he had before.  Not an easy thing to do.   Defensively, Moyer can be seen at second, third and shortstop. At second base, he’s a plus fielder, showing the range, arm, footwork and instincts of a truly impressive defensive asset.  When he moves over to third base, we see a lot more of an unsteady approach.  It seems like Hutton isn’t sure of the path the ball is taking or how much time he has to throw it to first base, or what to do with his feet.  At shortstop, Moyer is certainly better than he is at third base, but so much of this seems based purely off of Hutton’s athleticism and not his actual familiarity with the position.  Undoubtedly, Moyer will need to improve at third base if he wants to be a utility infielder in the major leagues, but if his bat continues to produce the way it did last year, then Hutton may not have to worry about it so much.  Most of his playing time should come at second base, where he is clearly comfortable.   What to expect next season: Moyer will be on the move to AA Mobile.  This is where we separate the prospects you dream on versus the prospects you can actually count on.  Success at the AA level is much more transferrable to the major leagues than anything in  A ball or Advanced A.  It’s the biggest jump in the minors.  I also expect Hutton to be able to settle in second base, seeing as he’ll have more gifted defenders around him to play shortstop and third base.  If Moyer cuts down on the stirekoputs and continues to hit for power, I’d be looking at a possible starting second baseman in the majors.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2019, Moyer’s age 26 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+: Projects to be a reserve infielder.   Check out our interview with Hutton Moyer   — #21 Prospect: Brennon Lund    Position(s): Outfield   Level: A Ball     Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017   Height: 5’11”    Weight: 185 lb.   Present –  Future    Hitting Ability: 50 – 55 Power: 30 – 40 Base Running: 60 – 60 Patience: 50 – 50 Fielding: 50 – 50 Range: 55 – 55 Arm: 45 – 45 Overall: 45 – 50   Floor: AAA Depth. Ceiling: Borderline starting outfielder. Likely Outcome: 4th/5th outfielder.   Summary: Brennon Lund is a case study in when do the numbers become legitimate? From a tools standpoint, he shouldn’t be THAT good.  He should be decent, but not team leader type of good.  He’s smaller in stature in terms of professional athletes, he doesn’t have any power, there’s some speed but not enough to be a base stealing threat at the highest level.  He’s a good defender, but not so good that you’d consider him a defensive replacement that will give you anything but decent performance.   When we take all of that into account, Lund is just minor league depth.   Except for the simple fact that he just keeps hitting.  His freshman year at BYU, he hit .303.  Not bad, especially considering it was his first year of college ball. His sophomore year, we see a modest jump up to .308, again, pretty good.  Then in his junior season, Lund just exploded, hitting .387 with career highs in every offensive category.  The Angels picked him up in the 11th round, which worked out in their favor.  Apparently other teams were scared off because he’s mormon, and kids that are mormon and his age tend to wear ties, ride bicycles and knock on doors.  But Lund made it clear to the Angels that he doesn’t intend to make a mission trip.   Just breaking down Lund’s swing, we see extremely simple mechanics.  His hands remain pretty close to the chest, he doesn’t have a big load which can elongate his swing.  In fact, Lund has barely any load mechanism at all.  It’s simple.  Hands fly through the zone, barrel of the bat to the ball, finish with hands high to ensure driving through the ball and not to the ball.  Lund uses the whole field, but being left-handed, occasionally he’ll drop the barrel of the bat on a low and inside pitch and get himself a round-tripper.   Lund’s first stop after signing with the Angels was the offensive paradise which is Orem in the Pioneer League, where he hit .397.  That’s over 18 games, which is a bit of a small sample zine, but still, .397, this kid was crushing the competition, even against his fellow collegiate athletes.  Then as a sort of mercy to everyone else, Lund was sent to Burlington.  His performance against competition quite a bit older and more experienced than him led to Lund’s numbers dropping to a modest .271/.320, but it still came with 9 doubles and 8 stolen bases in just 45 games.  Extrapolated across a full season, and without any improvement whatsoever (which is silly because of course Lund would improve, he was just drafted), Lund would’ve hit 27 doubles and stole 24 bases on the season.  Again, just solid numbers, especially for a kid that’s young and inexperienced for his league.   So this leads to the logical question, that if Lund continues to hit so well, when do the numbers become legitimate?   When do we just say, he’s a good hitter.  Good hitters are in the majors.   And that in a nut shell is exactly why Lund is ranked #21 on our list.   What to expect next season: Lund will almost assuredly find himself at Inland Empire next season. Since he isn’t a power hitter, the environment really shouldn’t have much of a positive effect on his overall performance.  I expect Lund should post numbers rather similar to Bo Way.  At Inland Empire he hit .277/.349 with 27 stolen bases.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2020, Lund’s age 25 season   Grade as a prospect: C: Projects to be a reserve outfielder. — #22 Prospect: Brooks Pounders   Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher   Level: AAA        Age: Entering Age 26 season in 2017.   Height: 6’5”      Weight: 265 lb.   Present – Future   Fastball         55 55 Curve 50 50 Change 60 65 Mechanics 60 60 Command    45 60 Control         55 55 Overall         50 55   Floor: Swing Starter or bullpen depth. Ceiling: A mid-rotation, workhorse starter.   Likely Outcome: A back-end starter, or swing starter. Summary: Pounders may end up being quite the steal for Angels GM Billy Eppler, a man known to have an eye for buying low.  The Angels traded Top 30 Prospect Jared Ruxer to Kansas City for Brooks Pounders early on in the offseason, and so far, it looks like a very interesting swap.  In Ruxer, the Angels dealt a pitcher with mid rotation upside (or better) that has been bit by the injury bug thus far in his career (very similar profile to former Angel prospect Michael Clevinger who was traded to Cleveland when his value was low after injury).  Ruxer still has a way to go before ever reaching the majors, so the Angels traded him for more of a sure thing in Pounders.  Pounders has shifted between the bullpen and rotation in his career, and always seems to be a guy that’s overlooked, which isn’t an easy thing to do considering his size and draft position (2nd round).  It’s likely that Pounders’ weight is precisely the reason why he gets overlooked by many scouts.  They have this idea of an ideal pitcher’s body being tall, lean, flexible, like a quarterback in football.  But when a player comes in that might be bigger or smaller than that, they can be met with skepticism.  Pounders mechanics have always been clean, and he comes downhill hard on his delivery, which gives the illusion of a ball “jumping” on a batter.  Because of his hight, there is a bit of sink or downhill motion to his pitches which can make Pounders a ground-ball specialist in the future.As far as arsenal, Brooks throws a heavy fastball at 92-93, a pretty decent slider in the low-80’s and a “plus” changeup in the mid 80’s.  To give you an idea of what the Angels managed to land her win Pounders, consider that in 2015, across 8 starts in AA he pitched to a sparkling 2.19 ERA, which the peripheral numbers seem to support.  That Fall, he went to the heralded Arizona Fall League, and pitched three consecutive scoreless outings before being shut down for the Winter.  Last season in AAA, posted a 3.14 ERA in the Pacific Coast League, logging 90 strikeouts across only 80 innings, working as a spot starter and piggy-necking other starters, so as to limit his innings.  His brief foray into the major leagues didn’t go well, but if nothing else, we can say that Pounds can strike batters out. And so we have a very good prospect on our hands, that is major league ready.  He won’t project to be much more than he is now, and that’s ok because right now, Pounders is already good. What to expect next season: Pounders will enter Spring Training in open competition for the 5th starter and long reliever spot along with Jesse Chavez, Alex Meyer, Nate Smith, Manny Banuelos, Chris O’Grady, Vicente Campos and more.  Naturally, only tow of these guys are likely to open the season with the Angels, so Pounders is going to need to be incredibly impressive to leapfrog Chavez and Meyer on the depth chart.  The likeliest outcome here is that Pounders goes to AAA, where he’ll again serve as a piggy-back starter or swingman along with Chris O’Grady.  Pounders’ previous success in AAA probably puts him first in line for a promotion, though admittedly, he’s going to have some very talented pitchers around him in AAA, so it could go any direction.  Inevitably, because Eppler likes to keep his arms fresh, Pounders will be part of a carousel of pitchers that log a lot of miles between Salt Lake and Anaheim.  But as it goes with the rest of those pitchers, all Pounders has to do is impress in his time in Anaheim, and Eppler will be forced to keep him around.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Middle of 2017, Pounders’ age 26 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+ — #23 Prospect: Joe Gatto   Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher   Level: A Ball     Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017.   Height: 6’3”     Weight: 220 lb.   Present – Future   Fastball   55 60 Curve       55 60 Change    40 50 Mechanics 60 60 Command    45 60 Control         45 50 Overall         45 55   Floor: Swing Starter or bullpen depth. Ceiling: A mid-rotation, workhorse starter.   Likely Outcome: A back-end starter that can go 180+ innings. Summary: Gatto’s career hasn’t taken off the way many thought it would after being taken in the second round of the draft.  Generally speaking, prep pitchers taken in the second round have quite a bit of upside and can climb the ladder rather quickly.  Gatto sort of bucks that trend.  While he has some upside, it isn’t the front of the rotation type attached to prep arms from his draft position.  But his floor is also higher than that of most pitchers taken in that position, because it looked like from the get-go that Gatto is all starter.  He has the right frame, mechanics and arsenal to log a lot of major league innings.  His upside is that of a John Lackey type of starter, which Angels fans are familiar with.  Joe comes straight downhill with his pitches, all of which have sink or a straight downward break, which makes Gatto a ground-ball inducing machine.  His fastball sits 92-93, his curveball in the low 80’s with a 12-6 break and his change up at times can look like a bugs-bunny type of pause.  For the most part, his change up still isn’t a consistent weapon yet, and he’s missing low a lot with his fastball and curve (could be worse).The results this past season in A Ball weren’t quite what I or anyone else was expecting.  Gatto was shelled in a pitching friendly environment to the tune of an ERA over 7.00 and only 15 starts.  The Angels mercifully shut him down for the remainder of the year to rest his arm and try to figure out exactly what was happening.  But the thing that Gatto has in his favor is time.  He’s only 21 years old, and repeating A Ball wouldn’t be the worst thing for a pitcher like himself.  Once Gatto is settled in and figures out how to get hitters out, he should have a steady climb to the majors.  At that’s something we can say with a degree of relative certainty, is that Joe Gatto looks like a future major leaguer.  He has all the tools, now he just needs to put it all together. What to expect next season: We should see Gatto get another shot as a starting pitcher in the Midwest League this year.  He’ll likely spend the entire season there, which isn’t a bad thing by any means.  What Gatto needs right now are quality innings, and if he can rack those up in A Ball and get his season innings up into the 150 range, the foundation will be set and we could see Gatto experience considerable future success.  It may not be a make or break season for Joe, but I do think this will likely be his final opportunity to show he can succeed as a starting pitcher before the Angels try tinkering with him in the bullpen.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Middle of 2020, Gatto’s age 25 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+   Check out our interview with Joe Gatto — #24 Prospect: Chris O’Grady   Position(s): Left Handed Pitcher   Level: AA      Age: Entering Age 27 season in 2017.   Height: 6’4”     Weight: 225 lb.   Present – Future   Fastball        50 50 Slider           45 55 Change        50 55 Mechanics  50 50 Command   55 60 Control        45 55 Overall        45 55   Floor: Lefty Specialist. Ceiling: A setup man, or potentially a back-rotation starter.   Likely Outcome: A 7th inning setup man. Summary: O’Grady’s had a pretty interesting ride in professional baseball so far.  As a mid-round draft pick out of George Mason, there weren’t a ton of expectations on O’Grady to perform.  He’s a tall lefty with a pulse, and those tend to get drafted.  But it’s O’Grady’s growth as a pitcher that’s truly led to a surprising run toward a major league roster.  O’Grady sits 89-90 with both sink and cut on his fastball (referred to as his cutter – definitely his best pitch), and can generate more weak contact than swing and misses with it.  In fact, it’s the re-development of his cutter which has led to so much success.  He used it in college, but moved away from the cutter early in his career because he couldn’t get a feel for it with MLB’s standard baseball.  However, upon being shown a new grip, O’Grady re-integrated the cut fastball to his arsenal and took off.  Chris also throws a “show me” slider to keep hitters off balance and a surprisingly effective change up that can generate its fair share of swings and misses.O’Grady is what I refer to as an “average” pitcher in that his velocity or breaking ball aren’t the sort that stand out.  But O’Grady gets outs by spotting his pitches and staying ahead of hitters, which makes him considerably better than your average pitcher.  He still lives low in the zone. which is good in that O’Grady can make hitters hit his pitches, but it also tends to lead to control issues due to less room for error. If all this were taken into consideration, O’Grady would probably still be a Top 30 prospect, but more specifically, it’s what he did in 2016 that has him placed on this list.  O’Grady was picked up in the Rule 5 Draft by the Reds.  It may not have gone as well as he or they had hoped in Spring Training, but it does make it clear that other major league teams feel O’Grady is big league caliber.  But the most surprising development was the Angels use of O’Grady in the rotation. It makes sense because O’Grady has the arsenal of a starting pitcher, but in this specific case, once O’Grady moved to the starting rotation in AA, he posted a 1.68 ERA across 50+ innings.  Though this was a small taste (roughly one third of a season), it was still enough to show fans and scouts that O’Grady can successfully operate in multiple roles, which makes him more valuable, and more likely to have a career in major league baseball.  He can be used as a situational lefty, a set up man, a closer, or a starter. What to expect next season: If he remains a starter, Chris will likely be back in AA this year, though not because his performance bears repeating the same level.  This is more of a result of Billy Eppler building a great deal of starting pitching depth in the majors and AAA this offseason.  If the Angels intend to deploy him as a reliever, or in a variety of roles, he should be in AAA Salt Lake.  The pitching environment won’t be so favorable, but if O’Grady keeps the ball in the yard and spots his pitches as well as he can, he could find himself in Anaheim this season.  For what it’s worth, when asked, O’Grady hadn’t been informed by the team if they intend to keep him as a starter or even if he’ll be invited to big league camp.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Beginning of 2018, O’Grady’s age 28 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+ — #25 Prospect: Jonah Wesely   Position(s): Left Handed Pitcher   Level: A Ball     Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017.   Height: 6’1”      Weight: 215 lb.   Present – Future   Fastball  50 55 Slurve    65 70 Change  40 50 Mechanics 50 50 Command    40 55 Control         45 55 Overall         40 55   Floor: Lefty Specialist. Ceiling: A closer, or potentially a mid-rotation starter.   Likely Outcome: A 7th inning setup man. Summary: It feels like we’ve been talking about Jonah Wesely forever, and that’s because in the ever-changing baseball world, it has been forever. Wesley was drafted three years ago, and was seen as the “steal” of the draft by numerous non-Angel experts.  Here’s a kid with a large frame, left handed, throws in the low-90’s with a great off-speed pitch, coming out of the baseball mecca that is California, and was signed away from his commitment to UCLA.  For good reason, most teams steered clear of Wesely in the early going precisely because he was likely a 3rd or 4th round talent (or better) that should require 1st or 2nd round compensation to forego college, where it’s likely he would’ve been a first round pick in a few years.  Still, the Angels scooped him up in the 11th round and in a surprising turnoff events, managed to sign him.  even more surprising, the Angels felt Wesely fit better as a reliever than a starter.As a reliever, Jonah throws in the low-90’s, reaching as high as 94 before needing Tommy John surgery.  He has an excellent “slurve” (slider-curve mix) that is death on lefties, but is similarly intimidating to RHB.  Wesley also throws a change up than he’ll “push” too much at times, and thus it isn’t anything more than a “show me” pitch right now, but if he ever gets a handle on it, it could be a third major league caliber pitch.  Jonah has a good head on his shoulders and has a fiery competitive nature that cannot simply be taught, which is a big reason why the Angels felt a future as a reliever could be the way to go.  Coming back from TJ surgery, Wesely will likely remain a relief pitcher in the near future, but there is still the possibility that he makes the transition back to the rotation at some point. Still, Jonah has a long journey ahead of him.  He’s going to need to fully recover from his surgery first, and once that happens, he’ll need to fully get a handle on his off-speed pitches again.  Then, Wesely will still need to progress normally as a prospect would, which means throwing more strikes, hitting his spots.  But even then, it’s easy to dream on what Wesely could be someday, which is a dominant, hard-throwing reliever that racks up a high number of strikeouts, is effective against both LHB and RHB, and can go multiple innings at a time.  Basically, as a reliever, Wesely’s ceiling could be that of lite-version of Andrew Miller. What to expect next season: Jonah made several appearances in Orem this year, but there were no expectations there.  Just him shaking off the rust.  I’d expect Jonah to return to Burlington (A Ball) for a bit, just to get his feet under him at first.  This may seem like a step backward because Wesely was already so effective in Burlington before his surgery, but this is a process that takes time.  It wouldn’t be surprising if Wesely truly didn’t round back into form until after the all-star break.  If he does before then, it’s basically just a bonus.  I’d expect Wesely to spend the second half of the season at Inland Empire.  I’ll be specifically looking at his second half stats for numerous reasons.  He’ll be fully recovered, and I’d like to see if he becomes too fatigued as the year rolls along.  Baseball season can be long and grueling.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Mid 2019, Jonah’s age 24 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+   Check out our interview with Jonah Wesely — #26 Prospect: Jared Foster  Position(s): Outfield   Level: Advanced A     Age: Entering Age 26 season in 2017.   Height: 5’10”     Weight: 190 lb.   Present –  Future    Hitting Ability: 40 – 45 Power: 50 – 55 Base Running: 50 – 50 Patience: 40 – 50 Fielding: 55 – 60 Range: 55 – 55 Arm: 55 – 55 Overall: 45 – 50   Floor: AAA Depth. Ceiling: Borderline starting outfielder.   Likely Outcome: 4th/5th outfielder.   Summary: Jared Foster is a completely different prospect depending on who you ask.  When the Angels drafted him, they were excited to get a player of Foster’s raw talent.  There’s power, speed and athleticism to work with (all pointing back to his days as QB at LSU), but not much in the way of refinement.  Foster was basically a lottery ticket.  He’d played baseball sparingly the two years before being drafted, but the Angels felt that if he focused all of his talents on one sport, that he could take off.  In his first full season, we’ve seen that the Angels weren’t totally wrong in this line of thought.  Foster really did improve by leaps and bounds throughout the season.  He didn’t necessarily because a superstar talent, but he did show glimpses of being a quality major leaguer on his way to a combined .276/.317 line, which included 27 doubles, 9 homeruns and 9 SB.  Not overly impressive numbers, but enough to show that Foster could hold his own.  But now that he’s had a full year and a half under his belt of focusing solely on professional ball, it’s time to see if Foster really has the breakout potential envisioned.   As far as Foster in a specific scouting sense, there is some to be liked.  His batting stance is open and when he gets a pitch to hit and stays within himself, he produces as easy flowing yet beautiful swing, capable of line drives and putting back spin on the ball (homeruns).  His hands begin high, then move back, which offers plenty of extra whip in his swing, but also makes him highly susceptible to anything up.  His timing is choppy, and he tends to foul off a lot of pitches he should be driving, but this is something that can be corrected with further instruction and development.  Defensive, Foster has a very good glove, covers his fair share of ground and can competently play any of the three outfield spots.   What to expect next season: Foster had a pretty successful campaign overall.  His numbers were skewed from playing in Burlington, but at the same time, his numbers were inflated by the Cal League (.247 BA at home in the only pitching friendly park, .342 elsewhere).  I’d expect Foster to spend a few months at Inland Empire just getting his feet wet before moving onto AA Mobile.  I’ll be particularly interested in seeing if his power further develops, or if Foster can picks his spots better when running.  He also needs to reach base at a better clip.  All of this will be taken into account for a promotion, because moving up to AA is the real test for prospects.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2019, Foster’s age 26 season   Grade as a prospect: C: Projects to be a reserve outfielder.   —   #27 Prospect: Zach Gibbons    Position(s): Outfield   Level: AA         Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2017. Height: 5’8”     Weight: 186 lb. Present         Future    Hitting Ability: 50 – 55 Power: 35 – 40 Base Running: 55 – 55 Patience: 55 – 65 Fielding: 50 – 55 Range: 55 – 55 Arm: 50 – 50 Overall: 45 – 50
Floor: AAA Depth. Ceiling: A leadoff hitting starting OF in the major leagues   Likely Outcome: A solid 4th OF.   Summary: Gibbons won’t be ranked as high on other prospect list mostly because other prospect lists tend to focus on potential rather than present ability.  And present ability is precisely why Gibbons makes it into our top 30.  There isn’t a ton of question about what Zach’s abilities are and aren’t.  He’s exactly what you see, and when you watch him, you see a ball player, through and through.  He’s smart, he works counts into his favor, and if he doesn’t get the pitch he wants, Gibbons will walk to first base.  Once he reaches base he’s of course a threat to steal, but much more than that, he’s aggressive, he’ll get bigger leads and annoy pitchers, he’s hustling and taking that extra bag.  Gibbons is also just a rock solid defensive outfielder with plus athleticism.  His swing is the most basic, compact, straight-to-the-ball approach you can imagine.  He’s a pure line drive hitter that will use the entire field, but can get into one and pull it over the wall.  Zach clearly wasn’t challenged by the Pioneer League, and given his success at Arizona, that was no surprise.  In fact, he just flat out torched the Pioneer League, hitting .351 with 17 SB and more walks than strikeouts.  Gibbons should be abler to climb the minor league ladder rather quickly, I don’t anticipate him being too caught up on any level.  Minor adjustments are always needed, especially as the quality of play increases, but Gibbons’ present ability suggests that with continued coaching and development, he should be a major leaguer.  I don’t think you’re looking at the next Mike Trout by any means, but a career as a Reggie Willits type is certainly within play.  That’s something the Angels have been without for a while.  A true reserve outfielder that can pinch run, pinch hit, pinch bunt, is a defensive replacement, and won’t hurt you if he gets a few starts to rest the regulars.   What to expect next season: Gibbons should be at Inland Empire next year, and I expect him to do pretty solid there.   The Angels may go the conservative route as they did with Jared Foster this year and give him a half season in A Ball before moving to the Cal League, but regardless, I think Gibbons can be done with the low minors by the end of next year.  I’ll keep an eye on his BA/OBP.  They were definitely inflated in Orem, but at the same time, it’s reasonable to expect Gibbons to hit .280+ at any level.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2020 – Gibbon’s age 26 season.   Grade as a prospect: C: Projects to be a 4th OF. — #28 Prospect: Jordan Kipper   Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher   Level: AA         Age: Entering Age 24 season in 2017.   Height: 6’4”     Weight: 185 lb.   Present – Future   Fastball         50 55 Slider            55 55 Change         40 50 Mechanics  65 65 Command   55 55 Control        55 55 Overall         40 50   Floor: AAA Depth or long reliever. Ceiling: #4 starting pitcher.   Likely Outcome: A 5th starter or swing man in the majors.   Summary: Kipper is an easy pitcher to like from a scouting perspective.  He’s just solid across the board.  He doesn’t need any major tweaks to his delivery, he has a good head on his shoulders and is projectable.  After serving as a de facto ace for TCU, Kipper was drafted for the third time in four years back in 2014.  The Dodgers and Phillies didn’t have any luck singing him, but the Angels fared better after selecting him in the 9th round.  Kipper is a tall, lean (though not skinny) pitcher.  He has a very clean, fluid delivery without excess effort.  Jordan’s fastball is of the hard sinking variety, sitting 90-91.  As he fills out, some in the organization believe he could sit 93 regularly.  There’s also some question as to whether he’ll continue as a starter or move to relief.  But after last season, it appears the Angels best bet is to keep him in the rotation, despite a lack of a third pitch.  Kipper throws a decent slider.  It comes in around 83, with similar downward motion as his fastball, and he keeps it in the strike zone, which is particularly dangerous.  Kipper’s been messing with a change up or curve ball as a third pitch, but neither appear to be something he can use with any consistency at the top level yet.  Even if they develop into a “show me” pitch, Kipper could experience more success than he has so far.  The big thing for Jordan will be surviving AAA Salt Lake.  Kipper is a smart pitcher that pitches to contact, and generates a metric ton of weak grounders and pop ups in foul territory.  This works at the lower levels, and especially in AA. where hitters are more confident and will swing at a pitch, even if it results in a two-hopper to shortstop.  In the PCL, pitching to contact is a very dangerous game.  Those shallow flys turn into medium depth sac flys, and the medium depth flys will go into the gaps or over the fence.  The pop ups in foul territory will leave into the stands.  It’s pretty much the hardest place to succeed.  But because of Kipper’s heavy downward motion on both his fastball and slider, he shouldn’t be as affected by the environment.    What to expect next season: Kipper should be in AAA.  Currently, the Angels have a lot of pitching depth on the back end with Jesse Chavez, Alex Meyer, Nate Smith, Manny Banuelos, Troy Scribner, Vicente Campos and Kyle McGowin.  This means there’s the off chance that Kipper could find himself repeating AA after so thoroughly succeeding at that level.  I still expect to see Kipper in Salt Lake though, and if he does succeed there, we could see him in Anaheim soon.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2018, Kipper’s age 25 season.   Grade as a prospect: C: Projects to be a long reliever or back end starter. — #29 Prospect: Leo Rivas   Position(s): Shortstop, Second Base and Third Base   Level: Rookie Ball Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2017.   Height: 5’10”   Weight: 150 lb.      Present – Future    Hitting Ability        40    50 Power                      30    40 Base running         65    60 Patience                  70    70 Fielding                  60    65 Range                    60    60 Arm                        45    50 Overall                   45    55   Floor: A defensive specialist and pinch runner.  Ceiling: Starting second baseman.   Likely Outcome: A utility infielder and pinch runner.   Summary: Rivas didn’t exactly come out of nowhere as much as he came from relative obscurity.  He wasn’t signed as a 16 year old the way most Latin American prospects are, instead Leonardo had to wait until age 17, and even then he signed with the Angels, a team that’s only signing the players that other teams don’t want.  That’s what happens when you repeatedly have to rebuild your scouting staff and have restrictions due to the Baldoquin signing.  Still Rivas made a nice first impression at age 17, but last year he really took off. Before coming stateside midway through the season (an uncommon practice), Rivas was among the best hitters in the DSL.  Upon reaching stateside, he played in the Arizona Summer League, and again was pretty solid there.  He’s shown a knack for getting on base, being put in motion and being a sure handed fielder.  While he doesn’t have the arm to remain at shortstop at the major league level, he offers more than enough to be a solid candidate for second base or a third baseman like Chone Figgins.  Rivas isn’t a slap hitter like Ayendy Perez is, but he is a light-hitter.  Leo has a solid line drive approach and is more of a ground ball hitter.   What to expect next season: Coming into his age 19 season, I expect Rivas to play in the instructional leagues and at Orem.  If things go right, he may even make an appearance in Burlington.  So far, he’s proven capable at all three infield positions he plays, so I’d expect more of him moving around.  Inevitably, second base should be his home though.   Estimated Time of Arrival: 2021 – Leo’s age 24 season.   Grade as a prospect: C: Projects to be a utility infielder.   —   #30 Prospect: Sherman Johnson    Position(s): 2B, 1B, 3B, OF   Level: AAA      Age: Entering Age 26 season in 2017.   Height: 5’10”   Weight: 190 lb.   Present –  Future    Hitting Ability: 45 – 50 Power: 45 – 50 Baserunning: 55 – 55 Patience: 60 – 60 Fielding: 60 – 60 Arm: 50 – 50 Overall: 45 – 50   Floor: AAA Depth. Ceiling: Starting second baseman in the majors.   Likely Outcome: A utility infielder.   Summary: Sherman Johnson has generated a cult-like following among Angels fans and FanGraphs due to his reoccurring appearance in their “Fringe Five” articles, which detail five fringe major leaguers that could end up being better than expected.  Sherman is basically the prototype for this type of article because Sherman isn’t supposed to be this good.  As an under-sized high school graduate, Sherman had to work his way onto Florida State’s team, and even then he wasn’t supposed to be a star.  But then he was, and even then, he wasn’t supposed to be drafted, his skills just didn’t translate.  Except he was drafted in the mid-rounds by the Angels and his skills are translating.  So of course, the next step in this progression will be “he shouldn’t be a major leaguer, he isn’t good enough”, except he likely will be a major leaguer, precisely because Sherman Johnson is good enough.  Sherman Johnson wants it more than you and I, he wants it more than the guys standing next to him in the field.  As if the grit he’s shown weren’t enough, it should be noted that Sherman is regarded as a clubhouse leader for every team he’s played for.  He’s just a natural, someone that gets along with everyone, and can be counted on to remain level headed and do his job.   From a baseball-specific standpoint, Johnson is a left handed hitter with considerable strength for his frame.  He uses the whole field, but the majority of his homeruns come when he gets his hands inside of a fastball on the inner half.  He’s fast on the bases, but not overly fast.  His speed plays up because he’s such a smart, aggressive baserunner.  Johnson is a very good defensive second baseman, showing decent range with a “plus” glove and arm for the position.  As a third baseman, he grades out more as average.  His range is “plus” on that side of the field, but his arm grades out slightly  below average.  At shortstop, Johnson is simply good enough not to hurt you for a few games.  He isn’t necessarily a shortstop, but his tools and athleticism allow him to play the position.  Sherman has also recently added LF to his resume, and by most reports he’s passable there too.   What to expect next season: Johnson is typically old for each level, but one thing is undeniable, Sherman will adjust and conquer each level of the minors.  it may not be in his first go-around, but he’ll make it happen. For example, Sherman hit just .204 in his first stint in AA.  Last year in a 19 game stretch, he hit .369/.481 with 10 XBH and more BB than K’s.  He may have only hit .226 in AAA this past season, but it’s safe to assume that if he’s healthy, Sherman Johnson will likely prove worthy of promotion beyond AAA.  So I expect Sherman Johnson to play a few months in Salt Lake before receiving his first promotion shortly before the all-star break and another promotion in September.  Come 2018, Pennington’s spot at the utility infielder will be Johnson’s to have and to hold onto.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2017, Johnson’s age 26 season   Grade as a prospect: C: Projects to be a utility infielder.   Grades are given from the 20-80 scouting scale.  20-being non-existent ability, 80-being the best I’ve ever seen.  MLB average is 50. And now, our Honorable Mentions…. SS Connor Justus – A fine defensive shortstop with the tools to stay there permanently.  A refined approach at the plate.  The only question is, will he hit enough to make it to the majors?   LHP Kevin Grendell – A left handed reliever that can touch the mid-90’s and the mentality to attack hitters. OF Johan Sala – 18 year old outfielder from the Dominican Republic that just oozes upside.  He should come stateside next year. RHP Jose Rodriguez – Soft tossing righty with a solid curve and change up.  Spots his pitches well.  An efficient pitcher, gets the easy outs. RHP Jared Ruxer – Would have been a first or second round pick out of Louisville, but needed TJ surgery.  Back in action now.  Sits 92+ with a good breaking ball and advanced feel for a change up. Dominant in A Ball, roughed up in Cal League, though still logged strikeouts. 2B Jordan Zimmerman – 7th round pick from Michigan State.  A middle infielder with considerable power. RHP Troy Scribner – Soft tossing righty with a chip on his shoulder.  Upper 80’s to low 90’s fastball, good change up and good curve ball.  Has succeeded at every level despite an average arsenal.  Buried on the depth chart, but if he continues to out-pitch his competition, he’ll make it to the majors. Good trade for the Angels.
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Last Week in Angels Baseball: The “Loss of Optimism and Return of Boobs” Edition

By Glen McKee, Realist I’ve often (or occasionally, or maybe just once or twice) said that optimism doesn’t cost you anything.  You can be hopeful, but the key is that you have to be realistic as well.  For example, going into this season I was optimistic that the Angels would do reasonably well, but realistically I knew they were a sub-.500 team.  Last week, the optimism was crushed by the realism and here we are, four games under .500 and without a realistic shot at the wild card.  Since my optimism has been crushed, much like an alcoholic going back to the bottle I’m going back to what made everyone read this column in the first place: boobs.  You’re welcome, gentlemen (and ladies, if that’s your thing, I’m not here to judge). What the hell happened last week?  In a week that could have gone 4-2 for the Angels, they instead went 2-4.  That change was driven by Bud Norris giving up not one, but two walk-off grand slams, one in Cleveland (what a steamer!) and one in Toronto (also a steamer, but not nearly as funny for some reason).  Bud decimated whatever trade value he had, which makes him the most annoying person of the week.  He’s almost as annoying as, I dunno, Kim Kardashian: You know else was annoying for almost all of last week?  Albert Pujols.  Going into Sunday’s game he was hitless but then on Sunday he suddenly found his bat again, hitting two HR and helping to give the Angels what looked like a safe lead.  He’s still batting a woeful .233 this season and hit a miserable .107 last week.  Did you know that according to his birth certificate, Albert was born in 1980, which makes him the same age as Macaulay Culkin and Gisele Bundchen?  Yeah, you know who you’re gonna get the picture of: Ah, I’m just screwing with ya, here’s what you were expecting (nice hat, Gisele!): You know who else was terrible last week?  Jesse Chavez.  Much as with Bud Norris, the magic has run out with Jesse.  We know he couldn’t keep putting up solid numbers and this week he crapped the bed.  Two starts, 7.1 IP, 11 ER.  That’s a 13.50 ERA and a 5.43 ERA for the year.  Our injured starters can’t get back fast enough.  Fun fact: according to official records Chavez is only three years younger than Albert Pujols, being born in 1983.  You know who else was born in 1983?  Jamie Chung.  No, I don’t know who she is either but she’s acted in something, so here ya go. So what went right last week?  Glad you asked because despite the record there are still some reasons for optimism.  Kaleb Cowart was finally called up and given plenty of starts, causing a collective orgasm on the board.  He responded by going 8-18 and playing some solid D at 2B.  I know, sample size, but I’m cautiously optimistic that he could stick this time.  Kaleb was born in Georgia, and you know who else was born in Georgia?  No, not Frank Stallone, but Kim Basinger: Andrelton Simmons also had a great week posting similar numbers to Cowart, hitting .458 to bring his average for the year up to .302.  Dude is on fire and if he was a Red Sox(k) or Yankee we’d be hearing about him like he was Aaron Judge.  He’s the second-best player on the team next to…I know, the suspense… Mike Trout.  Trout posted a .360 average last week, bringing his season average up to .332 with a season OBP of .452.  Mike Trout gets on base 45.2% of the time.  That makes him the sexiest man in baseball, the male equivalent to…whomever is the sexiest woman alive right now.  Look it up yourself, I’ve already posted enough pics.  By the way, next Monday (August 7) is Mike Trout’s birthday, and he also shares it with another awesome person.  I’ll keep you in suspense until next week about who that other person is. Yusmeiro Petit had another solid week and he’s been one of our best relievers lately (slim pickings, there) which makes him the Guy Most Likely to be Traded Today, with today being the non-waiver trade deadline.  We’ll miss you, Yusmeiro.  I just barely learned how to spell your first name. What’s next?  A day off today, in which Brooks Pounders has to be optioned, right?  Do we really have room in the bullpen for a guy with a 10+ ERA?  After that, three at home versus the Phillies (38-64) (they’re gonna be really good soon, just you wait!) followed by three at home versus the Aths (46-59) (they’re gonna be…uh…maybe moving to a new stadium soon, just you wait!). Predictions.  This week could go one of two ways.  Either the Angels play down to the competition or they play to their capabilities.  I’m guessing one of each.  3-0 versus Mike Trout’s next team (the Phillies, not Oakland) and 1-2 versus the Aths.

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The importance of the 2017 MLB Draft for the Angels

The Major League Baseball Amateur Draft is the most complex draft among all the major american sports. The draft lasts 40 rounds, partially due to the necessity to fill out various minor league baseball rosters. Teams have allotted amounts of money to spend for each pick, so picking the best available talent in every single round isn’t a realistic option, although it’s a bit easier to pick the best available early on this year thanks to the new CBA agreement on slot values. The trickiest part of the draft, however, is trying to evaluate what these players will do 2-6 years down the line. Unlike the NFL and NBA draft, MLB teams aren’t selecting players who will be ready to play in the big leagues from Day 1. Projecting how a player will progress through the Single A, Double A, Triple A and eventually the MLB levels of baseball is without a doubt one of the toughest job in professional sports. For the Angels, the draft has been a major weak spot for nearly a decade now. The 2017 MLB Draft might represent the most important draft in recent memory for the Angels. The 2009 MLB Draft brought the Angels Mike Trout(along with Garrett Richards, Randall Grichuk, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin), a draft that is reaping major benefits today. Since then, however, the club has been one of the worst, if not the worst, at evaluating talent in the draft. Since the 2010 MLB Draft, the only players the team has drafted to appear in the major leagues include: Cam Bedrosian, Kaleb Cowart, Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron, Nick Maronde, Mike Clevinger, R.J. Alvarez, Michael Roth, Mike Morin, Keynan Middleton and Greg Mahle. That is simply not a good enough crop of talent to supplement a MLB roster and the results have shown. The Angels had 5 picks in the top 40 in 2010 but then general manager Tony Reagins and scouting director Eddie Bane botched several picks. Only Cam Bedrosian and Kole Calhoun have been real impact talents at the big league level. In Ric Wilson’s first draft in 2011, he selected C.J. Cron, who was a fine pick but he’s the only impact player so far. Jerry Dipoto took over in 2012 and essentially botched back to back drafts that year and in 2013, without the luxury of having 1st round picks those years. The 2014 draft netted the Angels Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis, who were flipped for 5 years of Andrelton Simmons, so you can view that draft in a positive manner. Jahmai Jones’ selection in the 2015 draft was a big one and the rest of the draft class actually looks ok. The Angels have been to the playoffs once in that 2010-2016 span, winning 98 games in 2014 but getting swept by the Kansas City Royals in the division series. The Angels organization needs to follow up a very good 2016 draft with another good 2017 draft to get the health of the organization in a better place. The Angels have the 10th pick in the 2017 draft. They also select 47th and 85th in the top 100 picks. The 10th overall pick represents the highest pick since they picked 12th in the 2004 draft, when they selected selected Jered Weaver, who had one of the best careers in Angels team history. Luckily for the Angels, the crop of 2017 players is filled with a lot of similarly valuable player after the top 3(Hunter Greene, Brendan McKay and Kyle Wright)and the team has the chance to draft a high talent with the 10th pick. There’s no question the team will be able to draft a good player. The real question is who will they select and what kind of strategy will the team abide by? In the 2016 draft, new general manager Billy Eppler clearly showed his influence on the draft, helping Ric Wilson select some bigger talents in Wilson’s final year of of being the Angels scouting director. Unlike his previous predecessor in Jerry Dipoto, Eppler showed a propensity to acquire high upside talent rather than draft players with higher floors. While the Angels selected Matt Thaiss in the first round, a lower ceiling 1st baseman with a higher floor, the team saved that money to acquire high school talents with big upside who commanded more money(Brandon Marsh, Nonie Williams, Chris Rodriguez and Cole Duensing). This is the type of strategy that had been lacking since the glory days of Angels drafting, when they targeted high upside talents such as Mike Trout, Howie Kendrick, Jered Weaver and various others. Jerry Dipoto and Ric Wilson, the previous general manager/scouting director duo, stuck to their guns and wanted to pick high floor players who had the chance to advance quicker and fill holes at the major league level. That duo developed neither high floor players nor high ceiling players so kudos to them on that achievement. That group also played at a gigantic disadvantage after signing numerous high level free agents, costing the Angels the 2012 1st round pick(Albert Pujols), a 2012 supplemental round pick(C.J. Wilson) and the 2013 1st round pick(Josh Hamilton). The 2010-2015 draft period looks completely barren of real impact level(so far) outside of Kole Calhoun, Cam Bedrosian, C.J. Cron and Keynan Middleton. The 2017 draft features a ton of talent, which is mostly heavy on college pitching, but the Angels can go a number of different ways with the #10 pick. A blueprint of the 2016 draft could be realistic, with the Angels possibly exploring the advanced college position player route(Virginia outfielder Adam Haseley, Virginia first baseman Pavin Smith, North Carolina shortstop Logan Warmoth). Going that route likely signals the Angels don’t like whoever is available at #10 or they just potentially trust going the college hitter route. This would allow the team to save funds, grab high upside picks in the later rounds and have a more balanced draft approach. Last year’s draft looked great on paper and with the Angels selecting 47th overall as well, they have a very good opportunity to grab a high upside pick at that spot. The 2nd scenario would be to draft a college pitcher, considering this draft is flush with pitchers from the college ranks. J.B. Bukauskas, Alex Faedo, Seth Romero, Tanner Houck and David Peterson all represent pitchers who may be available at the 10th pick, with several of them offering high floors and the ability to move through the system quick. The Angels system is very thin on impact pitching and the MLB club is also lacking in this area, causing some draft experts to think the Angels could go this route. This tends to be the most controversial approach to the draft, basing your pick on needs in the farm system rather than drafting the best available talent you can grab. The Angels might opt for drafting players who can help supplement Mike Trout quicker, which is a questionable strategy but given the absurd amount of college pitchers, this might be the likeliest scenario. It’s also possible Billy Eppler likes college pitching, although he certainly didn’t show that last year, selecting only 1 college pitcher in the first 10 rounds. The 3rd scenario is the one many fans would like to see the Angels go and it’s very possible it happens. This is the first time in 17 years the Angels will have a pick in the top 10 of the draft and based on how much talent is available that early, it seems more feasible that the team will draft one of the talented players who manage to fall to them at 10. This could be the local Royce Lewis from Junipero Serra High School, the top prep left handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore, toolsy outfielder Jordon Adell, or Austin Beck, who possesses the best bat speed of any player in this draft. Billy Eppler showed his desire to acquire high upside talent in last year’s draft and with new scouting director Matt Swanson drafting for the first time, the Angels may want to start off the draft with a bang. It’s unlikely Lewis or Gore manage to fall that far but if they do, it completely changes the complexion of this draft for the Angels. At the 10th pick, there are so many different scenarios that could play out for the Angels. When you’re selecting within the top 5 picks, you can target 3-5 players who you really like and have an easier time drafting. When you’re down at #10, however, there are seemingly endless scenarios which can play out, leading to players you expected to be there to be gone or players you didn’t expect to be sitting in your lap. Recent mock drafts believe the Angels will explore the college route, based on how heavy the college ranks are this year, but there’s no indication on who they may want to take. Baseball America had the Angels selecting 2B/DH Keston Hiura from UC Irvine, RHP Alex Faedo from Florida and J.B. Bukauskas from North Carolina in separate mock drafts. John Sickels had the Angels taking Pavin Smith in his recent mock draft. Teams never lead you to believe they want a particular player because keeping their lip tights may help their particular draft strategy but pundits aren’t really sure which way the Angels will go. Whatever the Angels decide to do this draft will shape the future of the organization in a huge way. A big draft would go a long way in helping transform the farm system, adding talent to a system that got a much needed boost in 2016. With a good draft this year and an active international signing period, which will begin in July following the draft, the organization can start to get back to its’ roots of the mid 90’s and 2000’s, when the team drafted and signed players with the best of teams. While the team should certainly be focused on trying to maximize Mike Trout’s window, the organization desperately needs to start hitting on some draft picks to create an influx of young players down the road. The biggest issue for the club in recent years has been payroll and roster inflexibility, not having the young players to call up to fill spots nor the available funds to plug holes across the roster. If Billy Eppler and Matt Swanson can nail this draft, it will create some optimism for the team going forward. If the draft is another bust, it will continue the recent trends of the MLB club not having enough young talent to build a winning roster. No pressure Angels.

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2017 Season Primer Part XV: Lineup Construction

By @ettin, Senior Writer Before we dive into the projected probable lineups for 2017 it would be good to have a conversation about lineup optimization, batted ball data, balls in play, and hitter contact. In 2007, a groundbreaking baseball novel, The Book, was written by three esteemed statisticians, Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman, and Andy Dolphin. The Book took long-held baseball traditions, such as lineup optimization, platooning, and batting/pitching match ups for example, and placed a spotlight on them to determine if they are really true or need an updated approach and strategy. One chapter of that book speaks to a topic relevant to the Primer series regarding lineup optimization. Rather than spell out everything The Book says it would be easier to point you to a tidy summation written here by Sky Kalkman in 2012. Take a moment to go read it so that the following discussion makes more sense. In regard to the Angels let us examine what The Book’s authors suggest for each spot in the lineup and which players on the team best fit the mold against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers. If you stick strictly to the authors recommendations the lineups might look something like the following: Per, in 2016, the total number of plate appearances for hitters that reached on error (ROE) via ground balls, fly balls, line drives, and bunts are noted below:To be clear you could make good arguments for and against the placement of these players in different spots of the order. One lineup randomization might prefer Trout hitting lead-off while another might like him in the 2-hole. What virtually all the systems agree with is that Mike Trout should be in the Top 3 to maximize his production. There are also other factors to consider in this lineup optimization discussion including balls in play, batted ball data, and quality of contact. 2016 League Totals and Averages by Hit Type           Ground balls are the most likely type of hit, by far, to produce an error by the opponent’s defense. Whether the defender takes their eye off the ball, does not field it cleanly, takes a bad route, or succumbs to the pressure to throw it efficiently and quickly to the appropriate bag, ground balls are the #1 source of errors in baseball by a huge margin. However ground balls are also the least productive type of hit. These facts are likely the primary drivers of why teams prefer ground ball pitchers with infielders playing strong defense behind them because the tradeoff of errors for double plays and low tOPS+ has probably been proven to be the best in-game strategy (although Dipoto might have felt differently with the fly ball staff he had in his final years). When you break BABIP apart into its constituent components it becomes readily apparent that line drives are hands down the best type of hit a batter can execute at the plate as seen above. Bunts and ground balls are a distant 2nd and 3rd with fly balls bringing up the rear. Your ideal hitter should be one that hits a high percentage of line drives and ground balls while limiting fly balls. The only time this might not be as desirable is if you have a really big bat in your order (high ISO, above average exit velocity) who can regularly make the ball leave the park. Recent research into launch angles supports the line drive argument as the ideal angle at contact generally falls somewhere between 15 to 25 degrees to maximize quality of contact (barreling the ball). As part of the research put into the Primers the author has plunged deep into the statistical abyss in search of information and data to support the idea that Billy Eppler has a strategy in place for the offense and there is some evidence that indicates, yes, there is one. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently published one of his weekly articles and at the end of that article he pointed out that over the last 10 years strikeouts have increased year to year with 2016 being the highest strikeout rate per 9 innings ever recorded (8.03 K/9). This immediately caught my attention because prior to reading that article, while visiting, I exported a bunch of data including Balls Put in Play/Strikeouts (I/STR) and Contact% for the entire League in 2016. If you sort by a minimum of 50 plate appearances and I/STR, three Angels players, Simmons, Escobar, and Revere, appear in the Top 20. In fact every Angels hitter, except Mike Trout and Danny Espinosa, are above League average and the Angels as a whole led all teams at 31.4%. The Angels were also ranked 2nd lowest in Swinging strikes without contact on a per strike basis at 15% and also ranked 2nd in total contact rate at 79.8%. In regard to the former, it is considered the best method of striking a hitter out. Essentially what this is saying is that in an era of baseball where strikeout rates are consistently rising, primarily due to pitchers throwing harder, Angels hitters are more efficient at making contact, swinging only at pitches in the zone, and putting the ball into play on a per strike basis. It is a counter-method to employ against rising strikeout rates. The next question should be is this a good thing? Putting the ball in play is always a good goal. It is better than striking out. The potential problem is that if you do not have a good all-fields approach or you make soft contact, you will hit the ball into defensive shifts or weakly bounce it right into the hands of the opponent’s defense, possibly even resulting in a double play. A hitter with a high I/STR needs to have some combination of bat manipulation, ability to barrel the ball, hitting ability to all-fields, decent exit velocity, or speed to make those balls in play turn into actual hits. We constantly hear from hitting coaches about teaching players a good “up-the-middle line drive approach” in combination with good athleticism. This certainly is not a new concept but only in the last few years have modern day measurements and statistics proven out and supported this long held adage. All of this conversation leads back to Billy Eppler’s construction of the 2017 lineup and what we can expect in terms of offensive performance from the 25-man roster. About 70% of the pitchers in baseball are right-handed. This of course means 30% are left-handed. This simply means that teams, in general while ignoring the specific percentages of handedness within their own Divisions, want to have more hitters that perform well against right-handers than they do left-handers. Typically this takes the form of looking at a hitters platoon splits, which we did above, and determining how good their splits are, over preferably large sample sizes, to get a more accurate read on expected player performance. In a lot of cases you find that left-handed batters tend to perform better against right-handed pitchers and right-handed batters tend to perform better against left-handed pitchers. This is simply a general rule of thumb and there are exceptions to it like Kole Calhoun in 2016 (and notably over his Minor League career too). In order to continue it would be best to take a snapshot of individual Angels player offensive contributions by handedness over the last three seasons as seen in the table below. Please realize that some players like Carlos Perez and Jefry Marte have not been in the Majors that long so their career numbers are shown to date. Others like Kaleb Cowart, Ryan LaMarre, and Nolan Fontana either have a limited history of at-bats or no Major League experience at all so the author has made best-guess projections based on Major and Minor League history: That offensive performance was obviously above average and if the Angels had not suffered such devastating injuries to their pitching staff and bullpen it may have been enough to get them into the playoffs.In 2016 the Angels offense was ranked 9th overall in Major League baseball with a wRC+ of 100. By handedness the Angels ranked 10th versus LHP with a wRC+ of 101 and ranked 12th versus RHP with a wRC+ of 99. The question now becomes can the Angels at least maintain that level of performance or, better yet, improve it for the 2017 season? So with this thought in mind let us start building and examining the projected lineup by placing our core four of Trout, Pujols, Calhoun, and Simmons in their likely hitting spots vs. LHP and RHP, respectively: Simmons will likely hit out of the 9-hole this year because of his ability to put the ball in play, as mentioned above, and as an above average base runner to hopefully be driven in by the top of the lineup when he does manage to get on-base. If Andrelton is able to carry over his 2nd half performance and raise his isolated power a bit he could turn into a new version of Yunel Escobar which would be immensely useful.So first of all the order you place your hitters in will probably not make or break your season. As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register noted batting order generally doesn’t overtly impact the season (unless you completely mismanage it of course). Eppler and Scioscia are not likely to break the mold of success that drove the 2016 lineup and will probably run Trout, Pujols, and Calhoun back-to-back-to-back against LHP and slide Kole down a spot against RHP (mostly due to Cron probably hitting 5th as we will discuss below). Update: Based on late spring returns it appears Scioscia will run Calhoun out of the 2-hole which is not ideal but should produce above average results. Some, such as the authors of The Book, would argue that Trout belongs in the 2-hole since he is the best hitter on the team and they would probably be right. Trout is a unique specimen who is an excellent hitter and hits for significant power. He is without a doubt a run creator and producer all wrapped up in one. However his ability is so great that he can hit anywhere in the top of the order and he will add value with the differences in position being minimal. Mike produced a wRC+ of 170 in 2016, so the 3-hole seems to be the best combination of plate appearances and run-producing opportunities but it defies statistical logic to a degree. The author would make a strong argument that when the team faces a LHP, they should put Trout in the 2-hole and have Escobar hit 3rd but we are discussing what Scioscia is likely to do not me, so Mike will hit 3rd. Based on all of that the Angels need to decide who is leading off and who hits out of the 2-hole if Mike is permanently in the 3-hole. Escobar did an excellent job hitting leadoff last year and it is possible Eppler and Scioscia do not want to upset the apple cart by having him hit second. However the numbers do not support this argument if you believe, as Eppler clearly does, that Maybin’s revamped swing mechanics, as discussed in Part XI of the Primer series, are legitimate improvements. It is the author’s recommendation that, despite his early Spring Training struggles, Cameron should start the season hitting leadoff based on his recent returns. Maybin is an efficient base stealer against RHP with a career 83.6% success rate (65.8% vs. LHP). However based on some old research found here stolen base success rates, as related to run production, should vary based on who is at the plate. Basically if you have a power hitter or a high walk rate player at the plate, the stolen base success rate needs to be higher because, in the case of the former, a home run will drive in the runner anyway and, in the case of the latter, stealing a base and then having the batter walk defeats the purpose of the steal. Yunel Escobar does not walk much and does not strike out much. He gets on base through his excellent contact ability to spray hits around the field. Having Maybin on-base in front of him not only brings down Cameron’s minimum stolen base success rate (about 63% in front of Yunel) it also allows Scioscia to harken back to the good old days of the hit and run and going first to third. If Maybin can recreate at least a .340 OBP from both sides of the plate (he was .384 and .383 respectively in 2016) and use his speed too tactically and selectively steal bases in front of Escobar, the top of our order will have a dynamic impact on early run scoring for the team. Basically it breaks down into a percentage game of scoring at least one run in the 1st inning of any game. If you put Mike in the 2-hole and have, say, Escobar hit in front of him, the odds that Yunel will even be on-base in the 1st inning is about 35%. By having both Maybin and Escobar hit in front of Trout you are raising the odds of one of them being on-base from about 35% to 57%. Maybin is an efficient base stealer so if he gets on-base he will likely have the green light on most days to try and take second base in front of Yunel (if he is not already there!). Notably you could substitute Ben Revere here with the same general results as he has a very high stolen base success rate against RHP. Additionally Escobar is fantastic at hitting singles and doubles so this should create a lot of situations where Trout comes up to the plate with runners in scoring position. Under this assumption let us update the lineups vs. LHP and RHP, respectively: Logically if they are getting to Albert often the Angels probably want to set up their next best group of hitters for follow-on innings behind Pujols.The top of the lineup on both sides looks pretty strong based only on these running averages. If Maybin recreates his 2016 magic, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols will have plenty of RBI opportunities in 2017. In fact if the Top 3 in the order play to these 3-year running average OBP numbers, Pujols should come up in the 1st inning approximately 75% of the time with at least one runner on-base (or more) or one or more of the hitters in front of him have already scored. This top four of the order should be able to threaten opposing pitchers on a regular basis. If the team is not getting to Pujols in the 1st inning often then clearly there is something wrong that needs correction. Against both sides you could make a logical argument that Calhoun should hit out of the 5-hole and The Book agrees with a hitter like him. It is likely that Kole would be the leadoff hitter to start a subsequent inning after the first four have batted and we all know that he is capable of hitting both at the top and middle of the order. He ranks 3rd on the team in total hits plus walks (regular and intentional) plus hit by pitches on a per plate appearance basis so he is productive. This versatility allows him to hit anywhere which certainly appeals to Scioscia and Eppler (and is yet one more reason why they extended him). C.J. Cron, as we discussed in Part VI of the Primer Series, has had fairly wide platoon splits across his career, hitting a wRC+ of 119 vs. RHP and 91 vs. LHP. Although Kole appears to be a reasonable choice, Scioscia will probably put Cron in the 5-hole against RHP to create a double home run threat to drive in the top of the order. If Christopher continues to struggle against LHP as he did last year (wRC+ of 79) the Angels could have Jefry Marte step into a platoon role with him. C.J. will likely be given the opportunity to hit against both sides of the mound to start the season until he succeeds or plays himself into the platoon but for the purposes of this exercise we will pencil Jefry in against LHP. Luis Valbuena is nearly a clone of Cron with a little more positional and defensive versatility. He too puts the ball in the air a lot especially against RHP so you can simply substitute one out for the other as needed and achieve the same goals. The primary difference for Luis would be as a possible 2 or 3-hole hitter against RHP as his OBP is superior to Cron’s giving Scioscia a little more lineup flexibility. Danny Espinosa has hit LHP a lot better than RHP over the course of his career. He will likely pick up a full season’s worth of at-bats playing at the keystone so we will pencil him in against both sides hitting out of the 7-hole. Espinosa could possibly hit higher in the order vs. LHP (for instance hitting in front of Marte) but against RHP he will likely be relegated to the back of the lineup along with Perez and Simmons where any production those three create will simply be “bonus” runs for the team. The Book agrees with placing a player like Danny in the middle-back of the order who has some base stealing capability to hit in front of singles hitters like Perez or Simmons. Finally the Angels currently have Martin Maldonado and Carlos Perez as their projected tandem behind the plate. As seen in the splits chart above Martin hits LHP better (wRC+ of 95) while Perez hits RHP better (wRC+ of 76). To finish off this projected lineup we will pencil in both Maldonado and Perez leaving us with the following projected lineups: Now to be clear they will not hit that mark in all likelihood. Injuries and replacement players will probably bring down that 108 number down about 5%-7%. Also, technically, this number could fluctuate based on the number of plate appearances each hitter receives but the impact should be minimal once the 5%-7% attrition reduction is applied.First of all to be distinct, there are certainly cases to be made of placing other Angels hitters in the spots above. Nothing is sacrosanct this is just a discussion This leaves the Angels with an approximate combined projected wRC+ of 108 for the 2017 season. When you consider the Angels ended 2016 with a wRC+ of 100 there is an above average probability that the 2017 squad will outperform their numbers from last season which would be a positive outcome for the team’s playoff aspirations. The offensive upgrade in LF actually makes a significant difference compared to what we rolled out last season. Maldonado should provide increased production against LHP. Beyond those two areas the only remaining one the Angels could potentially upgrade offensively is Carlos Perez against RHP but payroll may limit the team from executing on that initiative. Hypothetically if the Angels acquired a catcher like Miguel Montero, who has a career wRC+ of 108 vs. RHP, it would be a big upgrade offensively over Perez but that type of move might not be in the cards. A free agent like Matt Wieters might have made sense as well, as was discussed here, but that move no longer appears to be in the cards. In the end the Angels should excel, as they did in 2016, against left-handed pitching. Against right-handers the Angels will have to consolidate their on-base and run producers into the top and middle of the order to create optimal scoring opportunities and just be happy with whatever they can squeeze out of the bottom of the order on a daily basis. Eppler’s strategy is to have the team utilize a line drive, all-fields approach with the goal of reducing strikeouts and putting the ball into play through high, efficient contact rates, particularly on balls in the zone. Many teams want this approach but the Angels are the ones executing it well right now. The bottom line is, barring injuries or poor performance, the Angels have the capacity to be a Top 10 offense again in 2017. View the full article


Shohei Ohtani sings 'Despacito' on team bus for rookie hazing (Video)

All eyes have been on Angels rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani this season, and he continues to amaze, both on and off the diamond. Ohtani continues to crush home runs, and he’s been doing this with UCL damage, which will cause him to undergo Tommy John Surgery in the offseason. Most players would have called it quits during that time, but not Ohtani, who continues to amaze. Speaking of amazing, you need to see this video of him signing “Despacito” on the team bus, which his teammates talked him into doing as rookie hazing. That’s a heck of a lot better than dressing up in some eccentric outfit, as many teams have rookies do.  
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2019 Primer Series: Financials

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer Now that we have established some of the Angels primary goals, restrictions, and needs we can take a deeper dive into the teams projected finances heading into the off-season. Below is the projected, 40-man roster, financial table that includes team benefits and all payouts (option buyouts, dead contracts, etc.) owed and is based on the assumption that the Angels bring back all of their guaranteed, contractually-controlled and current pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players: Under these premises, as seen above, projected salary (actual) and Average Annual Value (AAV) will be approximately $161M and $143.3M, respectively. Here are some notes regarding the table above: The roster does not consider or include any potential acquisitions, only those who are likely to stay based on the current 40-man roster at the time of publication. The ‘Payouts’ number has only one input, which is the $500,000 buyout of Luis Valbuena’s 2019 option. The arbitration numbers for Shoemaker, Skaggs, Parker, Heaney, Ramirez, Alvarez, Bedrosian, Tropeano, and Robles were obtained from annual Projected Arbitration series, which is an annual snapshot of all arbitration controlled players, by team, and their projected salaries. Their system has proven to be reliably accurate over the years and the projected salaries for each of the Angels players, listed above, should not vary too widely, resulting in a negligible impact to this payroll discussion. It is the author’s opinion that the Angels will reward Shohei Ohtani for his superior performance by giving him a higher than normal pre-arbitration salary in the $570,000 range. This is merely speculation but it is not unprecedented in MLB history and would be warranted in Ohtani’s case. Finally, in regard to the Finances table above, we need to discuss the ‘Benefits’ number. Here is the relevant excerpt from the MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA): and the following page: In last and this year’s Primer Series the author has been calculating team ‘Benefits’ using the base sum for 2017 ($219.3M above) and then adding a presumed 6%, as listed in Part (2), based on the low spending during the 2017-2018 off-season, to apply to this one. Based on brief discussions with the OCRegister’s Jeff Fletcher on and upon further review of the relevant excerpt above, it is possible that Section (1), Part (a) may contain an elusive, additional sum that should be a part of the ‘Benefits’ number listed in the Finances table at the top of the article. This sum may be close to $5M which has a marginal impact on this payroll discussion but is not a deal breaker overall. It is very probable that Jeff is correct based on discussions he has had with Major League General Managers in the past on this subject. The reader should be advised that Eppler’s ability to spend is probably less than what is advertised above based on Fletcher’s knowledge. Moving on, the league minimum player salary for 2019 is $555,000, a $10K increase over last year, and is reflected in the Finances table, above. This, of course, applies to the pre-arbitration players except, possibly, for Shohei Ohtani. Please remember that any player not on the 25-man roster receives only Minor League pay unless their contract says otherwise. This simply means that the total payroll number, above, will be offset by about $2M-4M due to roster fluctuation throughout the 2019 season, so please keep that in mind. As the 2018 season began, the Angels installed a new video board and offered a new series of food concessions which is a continuation of the renovations that the team committed to, as was discussed in last years Financial section of the Primer Series. These and other upgrades were supposedly in lieu of a new stadium which may have limited significant expenditures elsewhere as the author cited in a report that indicated Moreno was committed to staying in the current stadium for the next 13 years and would not opt-out. However, Arte did, in fact, opt-out recently, setting the potential for some off-field drama if the team and the new mayor and reconstituted city council cannot arrive at an amicable agreement for the Angels to stay. This move, by most appearances, seems to be a non-event and is probably a small-scale leverage tool to extract an additional concession or two from the city to convince Moreno to stay in Anaheim. Unless Arte has secretly negotiated a new stadium deal somewhere else, it seems to be in the best interests of both sides that the Angels stay put in Anaheim moving forward. Ultimately, it needs to make financial sense to Arte Moreno. The city needs to avoid bad political optics, so they need to ensure that the taxpayers are not screwed and that the city receives tangible benefits in terms of employment, business, and land development opportunities. Stay tuned with the OCRegister’s Jeff Fletcher and for updates on this topic moving forward. So, based on the above, Billy Eppler should have above average payroll flexibility once the current financial year closes on December 2nd, 2018. This will allow him to target virtually any player he likes whether it is in trade or through free agency to help reinforce the 2019 Halos squad. As was stated over the last several years, the caveat to this financial discussion is that Arte has consistently and fully funded team payroll during his time as owner so these perceived cash-related issues and thresholds may just be guidelines and could be violated at Moreno’s whim. In fact Arte did go over the Luxury Tax threshold once back in 2004, albeit, by a measly $927,000. One potential roadblock that could curtail spending overall is actual team payroll, which is about $17M-$18M higher than AAV. If Moreno does not allow Eppler to go over a specific number, say $190M-$195M (versus the CBT threshold of $206M) in actual payroll, then Billy may not be able to fully utilize all of the Luxury Tax space available. Arte probably could authorize and handle a measured increase but by how much is anyone’s guess due to our lack of complete team financial information and insight into Moreno’s approach to spending under this current set of circumstances. Keep in mind that one way Eppler can utilize the extra Luxury Tax payroll space is to extend one or more players (Trout being the prime target) on the roster while keeping their 2019 and 2020 actual salaries close to their current and projected numbers. For example if the Angels extend Andrelton Simmons to a 6-year, $102M deal, they can keep his 2019 salary at $13M but raise his AAV from $8.3M to $17M per season, thereby keeping actual payroll even while sponging up some of the excess AAV dollars available. Remember, as we discussed last year, the team pulls in an annual sum of $150M from their cable deal plus an unknown amount from their partial control of the Fox Sports West Regional Sports Network (RSN) in addition to ticket and merchandise sales. In the end Moreno completely controls how far the Angels dive in, but it seems crystal clear that Eppler has set a path that will allow Arte to choose exactly how much money is spent, how many resources are expended and where they are applied, and even how long we stay in the deep-end of the pool, which gives Moreno a great deal of leeway to get involved as much or as little as he desires. To illustrate how Eppler has positioned the team heading into 2019, here is a snapshot of the guaranteed contractual money owed to Angels players in the coming seasons: The Angels currently have six guaranteed contracts to pay in 2019 for Trout, Pujols, Upton, Simmons, Calhoun, and Cozart, totaling $98,569,048. In the following year, which is Trout’s last season (currently) of contractual control, if the Angels do not hand out any more guaranteed deals before December 2nd, 2020 and they trade Kole or decline his team option, the total guaranteed money owed that season will decrease to $90,235,714. If they retain Calhoun it will rise to $104,235,714. In the following year, which is Albert’s last season of contractual control, the total guaranteed money projects to be $45,200,000. After that only Justin Upton’s $21,200,000 remains, in the final season of his 5-year deal. The good news here is that the Angels are in a better place financially heading into this off-season. In order to compete in 2019 they will spend more, resulting in more commitments, but the trend appears to be heading in what the author would describe as a positive direction. It will even leave room for other extensions, trade acquisitions and free agent signings. The freedom of those decreasing guaranteed commitments leaves enough room for the Angels to extend Mike Trout this year, likely before Opening Day 2019, after the free agent market has dolled out record contracts to Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Frankly there are virtually zero roadblocks in Eppler’s way to re-sign Trout other than Moreno’s willingness to spend which, honestly, has never been an issue and Mike’s alacrity to put pen to paper. It should also be noted that the Angels have a few qualified players entering their 1st and 2nd years of arbitration control. This will result, dependent upon whom the Angels tender contracts to, in about $20M-25M in additional payroll for the upcoming season. It is not a huge amount for the Halos but it will have an impact on team payroll. This arbitration situation will worsen a bit in 2020 when a lot of these players hit their 2nd and 3rd years of arbitration which will likely result in Eppler trading one or more of them away for other areas of need or perhaps not tendering a contract at all. Certain arbitration players could potentially be extended soon, as well, including Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney for example, eliminating unknown arbitration numbers and adding fidelity to team payroll in succeeding seasons. The bottom line is that Billy Eppler continues to re-tool the team year-to-year as the Angels continue to compete in the American League West. As a large market team with solid financial flexibility, a core group of competent players, and a rapidly improving farm system the team is set on a path for success despite the setbacks, performance issues, and injuries that have plagued the Halos over the last couple of seasons. Fans should, however, temper their expectations on whom the team will acquire. As Eppler said recently, “… I’m not going to jeopardize the health of the organization to make sure I check a box.” This simply means that the Angels have set a path to sustainable success and they will not readily deviate from that path on a whim. Also, if an opportunity to truly upgrade the 2019 team materializes, Moreno may extend the financial rope a modest amount if it involved his proverbial “… right player, in the right situation…”. Again this type of player is unlikely to be acquired by the Angels this off-season. However, if they hit the Trade Deadline and have the opportunity to add one or two finishing pieces to push all-in to make the playoffs, Arte could put his blessing on pushing past the artificial CBT threshold and trading away one or two quality prospects to give a solid nudge to a playoff-caliber squad. A “Big Splash”, as seen in the movie Draft Day, should not be expected in the months leading up to Opening Day 2019. Based on this outlook the Angels are likely to start the year by staying within their means, remaining under the 2019 CBT threshold of $206M (AAV) with an actual team payroll of about $190M-195M, give or take. Finally, if the Angels are able to extend Mike Trout this off-season (or next) every Angels fan should rejoice. That, by itself, would be the crown jewel of an exciting off-season. In the next section we will discuss team Production.
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Los Angeles Angels Prospect Hotlist (6/24-7/7 2019)

By Tres Hefter, Columnist Many new names dot the hotlist this week, especially among the hitters. Notably, the top three are all former top prospects from other organizations that the Angels have pilfered away through various means recently, further evidence of the strong efforts to rebuild the farm and find under-the-radar, high-upside talent. The lower levels continue to show promise for the next offensive wave, and our A/A+ pitching continues to produce well, with a few starting to graduate to AA. 1) Gareth Morgan – OF, Inland Empire A+:  Plucked from the Mariners organization a few weeks ago, the 6’4″, 220 pound right-handed hitting 2nd Rounder from the 2014 draft has demonstrated absurd power, even for the hitting-friendly California League. Playing all three outfield positions, Morgan has been on an 82-HR pace over 162 since joining the Angels org. 25 games ago, hitting seven homers in the last two weeks alone. Plate discipline, however, continues to elude Morgan – as he drew only two walks against 25 strikeouts in that time. Still, his .333/350/.719/1.069 slash since June 24th is good enough to earn him the top spot on this hotlist. It’s unlikely Morgan ever becomes more than a Jabari Blash-type (Japan and Korea could hone in on him) but he’s still worth keeping an eye on, if only for the fun HR rates. 2019 hitting (IE, A+): .301/.333/.660/.994 with 1 double, 12 HR, 29 RBI, 4 BB, 52 K in 25 G/111 PA 2) Adrian Rondon – 3B, Orem Rookie: Rondon was the #1 ranked international prospect by Baseball America in the 2014 class when the Rays signed him for ~$3m, but he never produced with Tampa, with his best season producing a mere .731 OPS in Rookie ball in 2016. The Angels swung a deal for Rondon this winter, sending cash to Tampa, and the early returns are promising. Only 20 years old, Rondon is still a bit younger than the average Pioneer League player, and he’s starting to demonstrate the offense many had dreamed on, slashing .378/.385/.676/1.060 over the last two weeks, collecting three doubles, a triple, and two home runs along the way, as well as a couple stolen bases. Playing primarily 3B now, Rondon could become what the Angels had hoped for when they signed Kevin Maitan. 2019 (Orem Rk.): .325/398/.506/.904 with 6 doubles, 1 triples, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 10 BB, 15 K in 21 G/88 PA 3) Jhoan Urena – 1B, Mobile AA: Urena does not come with the same prospect pedigree of Adrian Rondon, but he was once a highlight of the Mets international spending. Only 24, Urena has turned in a solid AA campaign, recently slashing .375/.444/.604/1/049 over the last two weeks, demonstrating a blend of contact, power (6 extra-base hits), and discipline (6 walks, 13 strikeouts) in 54 plate appearances. Playing primarily first base in that span, Urena has mostly seen time at the corners. He’s unlikely to impact Anaheim, but should the Angels wind up buyers and offer names like Thaiss, Ward, and Rojas, Urena could find his way to the PCL and produce some intriguing numbers, perhaps earning a Cesar Puello-type audition for some MLB team in the near future. 2019 (AA): .273/.347/.410/.756 with 16 doubles, 3 triples, 6 HR, 38 BB, 33 BB, 87 K in 80 G/326 PA 4) Jose Rojas – DH/1B/2B,Salt Lake AAA: Rojas continues to let up in his ever-relentless quest to beat the odds and reach the big leagues with the team he grew up rooting for. While his defense has led to increasing use as a DH, Rojas recently saw time back at 2B, a position he’s played sparingly, as well as first base. Offensively, though, Rojas refuses to let up, as he powered through the last two weeks with a .283/.353/.630/.983 slash, with 5 doubles, a triple, and three more home runs. Rojas might not have the prospect shine to come up substantially in trade talks, but it’s not hard to imagine some teams taking notice, and he may yet wind up on the MLB depth charts if the Angels are forced to deal away Ward or Thaiss for pitching help. Rojas will be eligible in the Rule 5 draft this offseason if he is not added to the 40-man. He is now sixth in the PCL in total bases with 177. 2019 (AAA): .289/.357/.562/.919 with 25 doubles, 5 triples, 17 HR, 68 RBI, 36 BB, 82 K in 78 G/356 PA 5) Raider Uceta – RF, Arizona Rookie: Jumping stateside this year, Uceta was one of the Angels international signees in the 2017 class, drawing interest due to his offensive-ceiling with above-average raw power. Only 18, the power has yet to take root, but recent weeks has started to hint at that potential. Uceta has slashed .368/.455/.526/.981 with four doubles and a triple, while maintaining strong contact and discipline (6 BB, 10 K) skills. Paired up with other young outfielders like Rainier Rivas, Trent Deveaux, D’Shawn Knowles, and Alexander Ramirez, the Angels could have a whole new generation of outfield talent soon ranking behind Trout, Adell, and Marsh. 2019 hitting (AZL Rk.): .300/.373/.417/.790 with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 9 RBI, 7 BB, 17 K in 16 G/67 PA Honorable mention, hitters:
Rainier Rivas (RF, DSL Rk.): .455/.556/.636/1.192 with 2 3B, 3 BB, 5 K – not enough PA to qualify, but a great start for the 18-year old
D’Shawn Knowles (OF, Orem Rk.): .424/.474/.545/1.019 with 4 2B, 4 BB, 7 K – also not enough PA to qualify, but he continues to impress
Jared Walsh (1B/LHP, AAA): .286/.446/.524/.970 with 4 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 12 BB, 13 K – solid discipline, also one scoreless inning pitched
Taylor Ward (LF, AAA): .316/.400/.561/.961 with 5 2B, 3 HR but only 8 BB, 15 K
Kaleb Cowart (IF,  AAA): .326/.360/.565/.925 with 5 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB, 10 K, 2.2 IP, H, 0 R, 2 BB, K
Connor Fitzsimmons (1B, A): .222/.317/.528/.845 with 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 4 BB, 16 K
Michael Hermosillo (OF, AAA): .261/.370/.478/.849 with 2 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 7 BB, 17 K – playing mostly RF
Will Wilson (SS/2B, Orem Rk.): .263/.317/.500/.817 with 3 2B, 2 HR, 3 BB, 9 K 6) Kyle Tyler – RHP, Burlington A:  This 20th Round pick from the 2018 draft has not come with much attention, but Kyle Tyler has turned in a solid sophomore campaign, one in which he’s been converted to the rotation like many Angels low-level pitchers. Recently, he’s been boosted by three straight solid starts, allowing only one earned run in 17 IP (0.53 ERA) with only 11 hits and four walks (.88 WHIP). Tyler doesn’t boast big strikeout numbers, but he’s kept walks and hits in check, and could find himself following a Jesus Castillo-type path in the minors. 2019 (A): 3.41 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .209 BAA, 23 BB, 62 K across 71.1 IP in 15 G/12 GS 7) Andrew Wantz – RHP, Mobile AA:  Recently promoted to AA Mobile, Wantz is another 2019 convert to the rotation, and he’s been consistent throughout, enough so that he is probably starting to slot in behind Sandoval, Castillo, and Madero as the next-closest Angel SP prospect, perhaps even being in-line for action in 2020. Like Tyler, Wantz has delivered three straight solid starts, going five innings in each, allowing a 3.60 ERA and .214 BAA, striking out 18, and walking only 5. His prior success in relief roles could turn Wantz back towards the bullpen in the long-term, but he’s quickly becoming one of the better SP prospects in the org. 2019 (A+/AA): 3.73 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .226 BAA, 25 BB, 86 K across 72.1 IP in 16 G/11 GS 8 ) Oliver Ortega – RHP, Inland Empire A+: An electric performance in the A+ All-Star Game brought some attention to Ortega, who is quickly opening eyes and showing promise as, at worst, a future reliever. His 90 strikeouts on the year rank second across the entire organization – majors and minors – and in the last two weeks, his two appearances have continued to trend in the right direction, as he pitched 11.2 IP with a 1.54 ERA, .175 BAA, allowing only 2 walks against 16 strikeouts. Ortega will need to be added to the Angels 40-man this winter in order to be protected in the Rule 5 draft, so the Angels might promote him to AA Mobile sooner rather than later, or, Ortega could follow a trajectory similar to that of Luis Madero, joining the 40-man while in A+ as a one-year-from-MLB-readiness multi-inning RP or SP option. 2019 (A+): 3.21 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .207 BAA, 37 BB, 90 K, across 75 IP in 16 G/12 GS 9) Hector Yan – LHP, Burlington A: The strikeouts continue to rack up for Yan – 20 in three starts and 13.2 IP – who now leads the entire organization – MLB and minors – with 98 on the year. Walks continue to be a bit of an issue for Yan, who allowed 7 over the past two weeks along with 7 hits (.240 BAA) and a 4.61 ERA, but the 20-year old’s upside is apparent. While his control might limit him to a future in the bullpen, he is no doubt the Angels third-best LHP SP prospect at this time, behind Suarez and Sandoval. 2019 (A): 3.38 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, .194 BAA, 38 BB, 98 K, only 2 HR allowed across 69.1 IP in 17 G/13 GS 10) Isaac Mattson – RHP, Mobile AA: Promoted to AA in mid-May, Mattson hasn’t skipped a beat, and has been dominant over the last two weeks, making 4 scoreless appearances, allowing only two hits and a walk while striking out 12 in 11.1 IP. He is undoubtedly pitching himself into the MLB relief depth charts, and could even be in the mix later this year – a 5 hits per 9 innings, 0.4 HR per 9 innings, and a 2.7 BB/9 paired with a 13.6 K/9 will do that for you. 2019 (A+/AA.): 1.72 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .160 BAA, 14 BB, 71 K across 47 IP in 22 G Honorable mention, pitchers:
Alejandro Duran (RHP, DSL Rk.): 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 12 K, 0.00 ERA in 2 games – 17-years old with 4 BB, 32 K, 2.16 ERA in 25 IP
Tyler Smith (RHP, A): 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 11 K, 3.52 ERA in 5 games
Jeremy Beasley (RHP, AA): 10 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 12 K, 3.60 ERA in 2 GS
Cristopher Molina (RHP, A+): 16 IP, 15 H, 3 BB, 10 K, 4.50 ERA in 3 GS
Tyler Carpenter (RHP, AA): 14.1 IP, 14 H, 4 BB, 13 K, 2.51 ERA in 3 GS 
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Five reasons why Mike Trout will be an Angel for life

By Jason Sinner, Contributor 5. Most baseball players don’t run home to mommy – There is quite a bit of hoopla around Trout being from the east coast. So what. Most players are on a team that isn’t close to their home town. Even after they’ve hit free agency. Especially superstars. A lot of them chase the money. But otherwise they chase wins. The distraction of being at ‘home’ can actually be a detriment. For a superstar like Trout, it certainly seems like it could be. 4. The Angels are going to be good – We’ll win a wild card spot in 2019 and we’ll win the division in 2020. You heard it here first! 3. Arte will pay him – there won’t be shenanigans. When it comes time, Arte will back up the truck and give him enough to where becoming a free agent won’t even be something he will consider. 2. Albert Pujols – yes. Albert Pujols, but not for the reason you think I mean. Albert should have stayed in St. Louis. He was beloved by the fans and when you are a declining superstar, that’s important. Why? It’s called grace. It the reason why David Price hates Boston. Or any other free agent isn’t as happy as where they were when they came to the bigs. He’ll impart this on Mike. If Albert is worth anything over the next 4 years, it will be this. 1. Mike Trout wants to win HERE. Most players want to win with the team they’ve been with. Not all, but I think Mike does. Because of points 2-5 and because he’s loyal. He wasn’t the the top pick in the draft. The Angels believed in him and he will return the favor. Money and wins need to a be a non issue and they will be. He has no loyalty to the Phillies or Yankees or any any other teams. So if you remove all the other variables, he will stay. Connect with Angels fans to discuss this topic here

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Angels Most Underrated Prospects

The Angels suddenly have a system flush with fringe major leaguers and upside after Eppler started his career as Angels GM with two spectacular drafts and one impressive foray into the international market.  As a system, they still aren’t in the upper echelon because the majority of their top prospects are lower than AA, but in a year or two, with another solid draft and international class, as well as the inevitable promotions, we should see the Angels become a very well regarded system. But even in systems where you need to dig for talent, there are still some diamonds that are left in the earth (Matt Shoemaker, Kole Calhoun, etc).  These are some of the guys you may see in the major leagues someday, but not atop any top prospect lists. IF Keith Grieshaber – Drafted in the 16th round out of community college, Grieshaber hasn’t made a ton of waves in the low minors yet.  But he is a decent defensive middle infielder with gap power, speed and plate discipline.  If he can put these tools on display in AA next year, people might start catching on. C Jack Kruger – Last season, it took a well above slot bonus to bring in Kruger, a catcher at Mississippi State.  His defensive abilities at catcher were already thought to be in the “plus” range, and he has a highly projectable bat that could grade “plus” in power.  As of right now, that hasn’t manifested itself, but Kruger could eventually progress into a Chris Iannetta type. RHP Erik Manoah – 13th round pick by the Mets, traded to the Angels in the Fernando Salas deal last year.  Manoah has a solid three-pitch mix (91-92 mph “heavy” fastball, tight curve, change up with fade) and has turned the corner this year in Burlington, lowering his ERA down to 3.70 over 80 innings.  If Manoah can continue to throw strikes, he could emerge as a strikeout-happy back of the rotation starter in the major leagues. 2B Jordan Zimmerman – Once we all move on from the fact that he shares a name with a good major league pitcher, we can appreciate Zimmerman as a prospect.  He comes fully armed with moderate gap and over-the-wall power, as well as speed, solid defense and a good eye at the plate.  Zimmerman was drafted in the 7th round out of Michigan State.  He could eventually insert himself into the conversation for second base in a couple years, though admittedly, he’ll need to overcome some swing and miss habits before then. OF Kyle Survance Jr. – Kyle lost any momentum he might’ve had coming out of college two years ago, but has since finally gotten healthy and is progressing nicely at Inland Empire.  There are definite contact issues that need to be dealt with, but Survance is an excellent defender that has 70-grade speed within 90 feet and 80 grade speed rounding the bases.  He could serve as a Jarrod Dyson type of fourth outfielder in the majors leagues. LHP Conor Lillis-White – Lillis-White is a big bodied, pitch to contact lefty that can be used across multiple innings or as a left handed specialist.  Both he and the Angels are still trying to identify what capacity he should be used in, but so far you have to like the results. RHP Mike Kaelin – Pretty much the opposite of Lillis white.  Small statured righty with a 98 mph fastball that doesn’t tend to jump off bats even when hits make contact.  We like to call that  heavy fastball and generally speaking, those are the ones with les vewlicty and spin.  So the idea that he’s throwing that kind of ball at that velocity is worth keeping an eye on.  Kaelin could be a solid middle reliever in the major leagues by the end of next year. RHP Adam Hofacket – Hofacket is a sinker ball pitcher that generates a lot of weak contact and swing and misses.  His fastball sits 92-93, and high-80’s sinker that acts like a splitter.  He’s been used as a closer, middle reliever and multiple inning option so far in his minor league career, and has worked well in all roles.  Adam has experienced a high degree of success in AA this year, so it shouldn’t be long at all before he’s gracing the Angels with his presence in Anaheim (assuming he isn’t traded). C Wade Wass – Wass has always been a very stronger backstop since the Angels drafted him.  But all that physical strength will frequently take some seasoning before it manifests itself into game-time home runs.  Wass at the age of 25 has progressed that far, and has now entrenched himself firmly into the Angels catching depth chart.  Wass has Mike Napoli type of power but with more swing and miss and more agility behind the plate.  With Maldonado and Perez in the majors and AAA, and Ward in Advanced A, Wass may find it difficult to find any playing time in Anaheim, but trades happen all the time and we could see him in the majors as soon as next season. 3B Zach Houchins – Houchins has always been a power hitter, and he’s very athletic for a third baseman.  But he’s always struggled with making contact and laying off pitches out of the zone.  If his pitch recognition progresses, he could make for an interesting bench piece or even challenge Cowart as the future starter at third base. 2B Tim Arakawa – While Arakawa lacks tools, he makes up for it with versatility, athleticism, hustle, great plate discipline and a beautiful contact oriented swing.  He’s a good defensive second baseman, but has also worked himself into being a solid left fielder as well.  You could do worse for a utility player.  He could eventually be a David Eckstein type. RHP Troy Scribner – Scribner is a study in being productively pissed.  This guys was a good pitcher in college, and wasn’t drafted – pissed.  So he signed a minor league free agent with the Astros, and out pitched the kids who were drafted – pissed.  Then, he had an off-year and the Astros gave up on him and sold him to the Angels – pissed.  In coming to the Angels, he dominated AA and should’ve been in the majors last year – pissed.  Now, he’s one of the best pitchers in the PCL and still hasn’t been promoted – should still be pissed. Every part of his career, he’s been met with skepticism.  I hope that continues in the majors and he uses it to fuel his success.  Scribbler throws in the upper 80’s with a solid curve and good change up.

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2017 Trade Deadline Series: Final Thoughts

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer Starting now at the 2017 Trade Deadline and for the next three years that follow the Angels primary, perhaps even their only, goal should be to build a contending team around the once-in-a-generation-talent that is Mike Trout. Nothing else matters. Money doesn’t matter. The farm system doesn’t matter. Only winning a World Series Championship with the best player in baseball, nay, perhaps one of the greatest players ever, matters, period. Now certainly the Moreno-guided payroll Billy Eppler needs to manage and the prospects he needs to develop and/or trade will contribute to this One Goal to Rule Them All. But the only way the Angels become the Lord of the World Series Rings is if we improve in every possible area we can through intelligent spending, identifying the prospects we absolutely have to keep, and trading away the prospects we can afford to part with in order to fill our other areas of need in this very well defined window of contention. Angels fans need to be prepared for the team to spend money whether it is now or in the off-season. They also need to be prepared to see one or more of their favorite prospects names heading out the door to another team in trade over the next 3 years. Nothing else matters but Trout and winning it all. This is our time to shine. It is time for Eppler to pull out all the stops. It is time for Arte Moreno to open up the pocketbook and, just like in the movie ‘The Natural’, say to his General Manager, “Pick me out a winner Billy!” Our ‘Savoy Special’ could actually turn out to be a big bat! It could also turn out to be a starting pitcher. Perhaps even a high-end bullpen piece. Heck with the amount of payroll Eppler has to work with now and in the off-season it could be a combination of all three, perhaps more. According to the team payroll sheet I use for the Annual Primer Series, the Angels currently project to have approximately $145M-150M in Average Annual Value on the books heading into the off-season. Currently the CBT threshold is $195M and will rise to $197M in 2018, which means Billy Eppler has roughly $47M-$52M in AAV below the threshold. Additionally, if Eppler decides to decline Street’s and Nolasco’s options or trade them prior to the start of the 2018 season, he will save an extra $20.925M. If he also trades Cron that would save another $2M-4M creating a net increase of nearly $25M to the 2018 off-season payroll space, resulting in an estimated gap of $70M-77M in AAV that Billy can potentially utilize and spend either now, making trades, or more likely on free agent contracts and/or trades in the off-season. The really important factor will be in how the Angels distribute this vast sum to help fill the holes in their lineup, rotation, and bullpen. Do they drop it on a couple of superstar type players like J.D. Martinez and Yu Darvish? Or do they spread the love around and sign some borderline star players like Mike Moustakas, Zack Cozart, and Cameron Maybin? The method and way Eppler applies this payroll will be critical in succeeding seasons so he has to be smart in how and whom he applies it too. Let me ask the audience a question: What do players like Jose Quintana, Julio Teheran, Jedd Gyorko, Kolten Wong, Christian Yelich, Matt Carpenter, Brandon Belt, Freddie Freeman, Dee Gordon, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, and even Giancarlo Stanton have in common? The answer is controllable contracts with Average Annual Values that are at prices better than you can find on the free agent market or, in some cases, trade. This is why, in particular, the Angels have already been associated with Belt, Quintana, and Gordon. Eppler wants and needs at least one of the controllable players, above, to fill a hole around the diamond or in the rotation as it will incrementally boost our available budget in the off-season. Any equivalent player in free agency would cost a lot more in terms of AAV (think Quintana’s AAV of $5.3M versus, say, Darvish at $25M AAV). Clearly some of the players listed above are not available at this time such as Carrasco and Kluber for instance. The Cubs struck and landed Quintana so he is not available anymore. The rest of those names belong to teams that are already out of the playoff race or are on the bubble so they may or may not be available in trade. The important thing is that every single one of those names is controlled through at least 2020, aligning with our only real goal. Of course Eppler could go after pre-arbitration players or prospects, to gain years of control and cost savings, but there is higher risk to total team performance (wins) with a lot of those options but, they too, would align with our Trout window of contention. As we stated in the previous articles Eppler is surveying the landscape to determine if one (or more) of those players is obtainable now leading up to the deadline. If he finds a price he likes it is almost a certainty he will pull the trigger to give the 2017 team a chance to grab a Wild Card berth. If however the deadline prices prove to be too high on these players, or other pre-arbitration players of interest, Billy may be forced to make the decision to do a complete sell-off of expendable assets and punt the rest of the season. Both options help polish the team for 2018, they just take different routes to do it. Hopefully it does not come down to a complete sell-off of short-term assets. When you consider the possibility that, later in the 2nd half, we might see the return of Huston Street, Garrett Richards, Andrew Bailey, and even Andrew Heaney, adding one (or more) of the star players above or even one of the names listed in the Big Splash/Small Splash articles would significantly improve the Angels win-curve in 2017 increasing the odds to secure a Wild Card berth. Most importantly, as one member put it, it improves the team now and tomorrow. Perhaps even more importantly it could weaken one of our rivals if we acquire a player that one of them really needs (Notably Quintana to the Cubs prevented the Astros from acquiring him). That was one of the primary reasons I suggested that the Angels could make one or more lateral trades at this season’s deadline. Using one or more of our expendable assets, such as a reliever for instance, allows Eppler to target specific teams and prospects (or players even) that we can choose to keep or flip in a different trade for another asset Billy prefers. For example say the Giants are willing to trade Brandon Belt to the Angels but in addition to the package of players and prospects already negotiated we need to provide a starting pitching prospect that is near-MLB ready with mid-rotation upside. Someone like Nate Smith doesn’t quite cut it, so Eppler sends Bud Norris to the Nationals in exchange for AAA RHP Erick Fedde and uses him to complete the Belt deal. This improves the Angels now and in the future and prevents one of our rivals from obtaining him and using him against us the next three years. This is an example of the type of idea that Eppler may try to use here in the last two weeks of July. This trade deadline market was expected to be a busy one with transactions happening early and often but that has not materialized (yet anyway). In the National League, the Division and Wild Card leaders have fairly extensive leads and few weaknesses that require an upgrade and, in the American League, there are a slew of teams that could potentially compete for the Wild Card and their GM’s are facing difficult decisions on whether to go for it or not. It has frozen the trade market a bit leading into the All-Star Break. For the Angels this may have been a blessing because it has allowed them to really take stock of the trade market and the available opportunities and costs associated with it. It also allows them to take the maximum time in evaluating our performance after the All-Star Break. What happens next will give Angels fans clues to what awaits in the off-season. For instance if Eppler manages to acquire 2B Dee Gordon now, at the deadline, we obviously know that his focus in any other trades or in the off-season free agent market will be pointed at LF, SP, 1B, and 3B. More importantly we will not only need to fill those positions but one or more of those players will need to be able to hit out of the lead-off spot and/or the 2-hole as well since both Maybin and Escobar are in their final seasons. If Billy can check off some boxes now, at reasonable prices, he will. Otherwise it is a fire sale of any or all of the remaining names listed in the first submission in this series. Finally I want to take a brief moment and talk about the future. Before the 2020 season begins we will almost certainly have our answer on whether or not Mike Trout will be here the rest of his career or not. In fact I would postulate that if he has not signed a new or even lifetime extension by Opening Day 2019 we will have our answer then. First of all, in my heart, I believe Mike Trout just wants to win. Everything I have ever observed about Mike is that he wants himself and his team to win a championship. Secondly, it also appears that he is not quite comfortable being in the limelight and having a lot of attention focused on him personally. That is a testament to how he was raised in my opinion but it is also, if true, a personality trait that could work in the Angels favor in terms of retaining him in a less visible MLB market here in Anaheim. Third I do not feel that Trout is all about the money, he seems like a very good, loyal man, but an athlete of his caliber needs to be paid commensurately. By the beginning of the 2019 season Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, and Manny Machado will probably all have shiny, new record-breaking contracts and the currency market for Mike will be set, removing the last possible road block for the Angels to strike with a top-of-the-line offer (if they have not done so already). In 2019 the Competitive Balance Tax threshold will be at $206M. The Angels will likely spend a lot this upcoming off-season but there should be plenty of room available to allocate towards a Trout extension. That extension, if the Angels do it, will likely be a 10-13 year deal (possibly with option years) at an AAV of approximately $40M give or take. Basically a $400M-500M contract. That would, in 2019, equate to about 20-22% of a projected $190M team payroll. It is a lot for one player but this is not a normal guy. This is a guy who shapes the future of any team he is on. A once-in-a-generation talent. If Arte thought the fan-base would get mad when Torii Hunter left he needs to consider what will happen if he lets Mike Trout walk into free agency. If the unthinkable does happen the players that Billy Eppler acquires between now and then will set the table for what could become one of the greatest trade deadline sell-offs in the history of baseball. In one fell swoop the Angels, at the 2020 trade deadline, could trade multiple Angels players including Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Andrelton Simmons, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, and Cam Bedrosian, among others and instantly rebuild our farm system to compete in the following seasons. This is not the ideal outcome but Angels fans should take some heart in knowing that if our world shatters in a Trout-less Anaheim that some of the shards can be reclaimed and put back together again. The important thing to remember is that the Angels future is bright moving forward. Billy Eppler has a growing set of resources, particularly in expanding payroll but also a rapidly blooming farm system, now to support the currently, shrinking tenure of Mike Trout and the long-term outlook that screams more success is to come in the next 10 years.  

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The Angels Top Prospect is….

Last year the debate was Matt Thaiss vs. Jahmai Jones.  It was your classing prep vs college, potential vs actual, age vs refinement.  I personally chose Matt Thaiss, but did so knowing that there wasn’t a wrong answer.  Others on the staff disagreed with me, and agreed with me.  And here we are a year later, and it hasn’t gotten any easier.  In fact, it’s become much more difficult. This year, it’s Jahmai Jones vs Matt Thaiss va Jordon Adell vs Brandon Marsh vs Griffin Canning vs Jaime Barria vs Grayson Long vs Trent Deveaux vs Chris Rodriguez….. Yeah some of these names are outside shots, but they call come with at least some justifications as to why they should be the top prospect. Jahmai Jones – He was #2 on our list, and #1 on a bunch of others lists.  This year, as a 19 year old in the Midwest League, he’s held his own.  Jahmai should be the top prospect because he has a ton of potential and seems likely to capitalize on it.  He shouldn’t be our top prospect because he doesn’t have th most potential and is only having a mediocre season. Matt Thaiss – He was #1 on our list #2 on a bunch of others.  This year, Thaiss held his own in Advanced A ball as a 22 year old, but made measurable progress and has began his tenure with AA Mobile with a bang.  Matt should be our top prospect because he’s the safest bet here to be a solid contributor at th major league level and will be doing it the soonest of anyone.  Matt shouldn’t be our top prospect because he’s only average on the age curve, doesn’t have the highest upside and his bat doesn’t play exceedingly well as a 1B. Jordon Adell – Adell is off to an explosive start in the Arizona Summer League.  In fact he’s crushing the ball, flying around the bases, showing tons of bat speed and athleticism.  It’s easy to see why the Angels picked him tenth overall.  Jo should be our top prospect because he has the highest upside, was picked with the highest overall selection of any prospect in the system, and is crushing the ball in his first taste of professional ball.  Jo shouldn’t be our top prospect because he’s far from the major leagues, and we don’t know if he’ll make good on any of that production. Brandon Marsh – Fans have been eager to see Marsh in action, and so far, they’ve been left wanting.  Btu still, in the few games that we’ve had the chance to see him play, Marsh has lived up to all the expectations and then some.  He played is seven games, put up numbers across the board while hitting .500.  He should be our top prospect because he’s the best combination of upside and performance (limited) so far.  His upside might be higher than anyone besides Adell.  He shouldn’t be the top prospect because he just hasn’t been healthy enough to justify it, and he isn’t a first round pick. Griffin Canning – Canning had a great season at UCLA, but accumulated enough innings that the Angels didn’t see any upside in making him pitch.  Canning has a good combination of upside and closeness to the majors.  He should be our top prospect because there’s a good chance he’s our best pitching prospect with the most upside.  He’d probably be able to get major league hitters out right now.  He shouldn’t be our top prospect because he hasn’t thrown a single professional pitch, and even though the Angels felt comfortable with his medical report, other teams passed on him due to potential shoulder concerns. Jaime Barria – I don’t think any prospect in the season has as much helium as Jaime Barria does.  He’s just flat out a good pitcher.  He gets hitters out any number of ways and already carries himself like a professional.  Jaime should be our top prospect because he’s only 20 years old and is nearly dominant in AA.  He made his way onto the Future’s Game roster, and Jaime had a really good outing.  He could be a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues at age 21.  Barria shouldn’t be our top prospect because he just doesn’t have the upside as others. Grayson Long – Long is a big bodied starter that keeps the ball on the ground, gets ahead in the count, keeps his composure and is great at putting hitters away in the most efficient way as possible.  He’s climbed his way up to AA and probably could be in the starting rotation right now as a 23 year old.  Long should be the top prospect right now because he’s the most consistent, reliable option for the rotation right now, is young and could be a fixture in the rotation for years.  There’s no risk of him being a reliever. Grayson shouldn’t be our top prospect because he isn’t as young as Barria, doesn’t have the upside as Rodriguez, and wasn’t drafted as high as others. Trent Deveaux – Trent is the highest international signing since Roberto Baldaquin, and before him, Kendrys Morales.  The Angels simply didn’t have the men on the ground to sign many of the top Dominican or Venezuelan prospects.  So they jumped head first into the biggest emerging market in the prospect world right now, which is the Bahamas.  Deveaux should be the top prospect in the Angels system because they spent 1.5 million of their international budget to acquire him.  When you compare that someone like Adell in terms of percentage, the Angels risked a lot more to bring in Trent Deveaux.  Deveaux also has maybe the highest upside in the system, and the Angels themselves said they picture Trent breaking into the major leagues at age 20.  Trent shouldn’t be the top prospect because he hasn’t had a single professional at bat, and is still a long way away from the majors. Chris Rodriguez – Rodriguez has everything you’re looking for from a  pitching prospect.  Premium fastball, great breaking ball, developing slider, athleticism, and youth.  He’s mad this way to Orem this year and in his last three starts has flashed that extreme upside of his.  Chris should be the top prospect because he has the highest upside of any pitcher in the system and has already started showing he can make good on it and develop into a front of the rotation starter.  Rodriguez shouldn’t be our top prospect because he isn’t close to the majors, we have no idea if he’ll make good on that potential, doesn’t have a viable third pitch yet, and still has some reliever potential in him.

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Minor League Prospects in Need of a Promotion

The Angels have historically been ultra-conservative when it comes to promoting their promising talent.  With each new regime that comes in, comes a different approach.  While Eppler’s regime has shown to be more aggressive in its promotions than its predecessors (Reagins regime was comically bad at this, and everything else) they’ve still shown to take longer than most other organizations. First, let’s start with the players the Angels have recently promoted. 1B Matt Thaiss – Thaiss wasn’t exactly tearing up the Cal League, but he had shown a great deal of growth in the last few weeks, so it was refreshing to see the Angels act on that. OF Brendon Sanger – Sanger was quietly having a very solid season at Inland Empire.  He doesn’t grab too many headlines, but he’s a lefty with pop and athletic ability. SS Artemis Kadkhodaian – First of all, all-star level name.  He should be proud of his parents because that’s a name you won’t soon forget.  Anyway, he hasn’t played a ton, but has been promoted ahead of much more hyped prospects and already finds himself in Burlington.  Let’s hope he keeps hitting. Now, onto those who need to be promoted, organized by their current level. AAA Salt Lake Bees that need to be in Anaheim 3B/2B/1B Kaleb Cowart – Enough already.  His time will come, but at the same time, the Angels are really drawing this one out to unnecessary lengths.  He’s hitting .306/.379 with 22 doubles 10 home runs and 18 stolen bases, to go along with elite defense at third base and solid enough defense at second base. C Carlos Perez – He’s a name most Angel fans are familiar with.  When the Angels traded for Maldonado, it relegated Perez to bench duty, and rather than having him ride the pine, the Angels have opted to get him everyday at bats in AAA.  Well, he’s hitting .392/.463 with as many walks as strikeouts and gold glove level defense.  At some point, you’re just wasting everyone’s time, and when a guy is hitting close to .400 over a large sample size, you’re officially wasting time. OF Cesar Puello – Yeah, I get it, he’s blocked.  Still, .310/.363 18 doubles 10 home runs and 14 stole bases. AA Mobile Bay Bears that need to be in AAA Salt Lake OR Anaheim OF Michael Hermosillo – His overall line isn’t great because of a slump and some bad luck (.258/.379 16 doubles 3 home runs and 19 stolen bases on the season), but over his last 10 games, Michael is hitting .324 with more 2 home runs, 2 stolen bases, 11 walks and 8 strikeouts.  Since the AA all-star game, he’s hitting .319 with 4 more doubles and 5 stolen bases.  They may want to consider a September call up or at the very least move him up to AAA so he can refine his skills further. RHP Grayson Long – 15 starts, 78 IP 72 K’s 2.79 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.  Tonight he hurled 6 more shutout innings.  His has the arsenal to back up these numbers, and if the Angels are truly serious about contending, they may want to promote him to Anaheim. RHP Jaime Barria – 5 starts 30 innings, 26 K’s 1.78 ERA, 0.82 WHIP.  Those numbers are ridiculous for a 20 year old.  And he did more of the same earlier this year at Inland Empire.  He also just had a very solid outing in the Future’s Game.  Again, if the Angels are serious about competing this year, they need look no further than Barria. Advanced A Ball Inland Empire 66ers that need to be promoted to AA Mobile. OF Troy Montgomery – Montgomery began the year in A Ball.  He started slow, then got into his groove and started crushing the ball before he was promoted to Inland Empire.  Again, he started slow, then made the adjustments and now he’s putting up great numbers again. .283/.350 9 doubles, 7 triples, 6 home runs and 7 stolen bases.  Over his last 10 games he’s batting .419.  There’s a reason I compared him to Kole Calhoun in the offseason.  Same build, left handed, same position, similar swing, same round of the draft, similar skill set. 3B Jose Rojas – An Anaheim native, hitting .322 on the season, including .442 over his last 10 games.  Had a 20 game hitting streak.  Currently in the midst of a 20 game hit streak.  After looking at what he did in Orem last year, and what’s doing in San Bernardino, this kid hasn’t hit below .300 in the minors yet, and he’s swinging the bat with pop. I’d say he’s ready to be challenged now, wouldn’t you? OF Kyle Survance Jr – 80 grade speed and solid defense.  He was injured his first two years as a pro, and his overall line on the season isn’t pretty.  But over his last 10 games he’s hitting .302 with 7 stolen bases.  May want to consider it. RHP Jesus Castillo – It was pure ridiculousness when Castillo began the year in A Ball again.  After mowing those hitters down for the second consecutive year and forcing the Angels hand, he’s now having his way with Cal League hitters, which is a hard thing to do.  59 IP 52 K’s 3.34 ERA, 1.33 WHIP.  Time to get this 21 year old up to AA.  And by the way, the Angels won that trade with the Cubs when they sent Joe Smith in return for Castillo a year ago.  Thank you very much. LHP Jonah Wesely – 17 IP 20 K’s, 2.65 ERA, 1.41 WHIP.  If it weren’t for the TJ surgery, Jonah would be beating down the door to Anaheim right now.  What’s not to like, he’s big, left handed, throws hard and strikes hitters out.  He’s allowed a .192 BA against LHH this year.  I mean at the very least he can be a lefty specialist, though he’s probably much more. RHP Sean Isaac – Still don’t know anything about this guy, but the numbers are saying enough right now.  45 IP 59 K’s 1.20 ERA, 0.78 WHIP on the season.  Not a typo. Prospects at Class A Burlington that need to be at Advanced A Inland Empire RHP Mike Kaelin – Hard thrower from New York, he has a 1.89 ERA over his last 10 outings with 20K’s in 19 innings to go along with all sorts of upside. Prospects that need to be promoted from either Orem or Arizona and to A Ball OF Brandon Marsh – We saw enough before he injured his hand.  7 games 3 doubles 2 triples 1 home run 4 stolen bases and a .500 BA.  Move him up once he’s healthy. OF Torii Hunter Jr – His first time playing professional ball and he’s hitting over .300 with a doubles, triples, homer and a stolen base.  He’s a little old for his league but extremely projectable.  Let’s see what he can handle. 3B David McKinnon – He has 14 walks and only 5 K’s, and is batting .468.  I’d say he’s seeing the ball pretty well right now. RHP Chris Rodriguez – His last three outings – 15 IP 16 K’s 1 ER 3 BB.  HE has the stuff to back that up and then some. RHP Elvin Rodriguez – Great name.  Great line too.  19 IP 21 K’s 3.32 ERA, 1.05 WHIP in Orem.  That’s hard to do.  Only 19. OF Jo Adell – He’s hitting .462 with 2 doubles in his first taste of pro ball.  There was some concern how he’d handle elite competition.  I’d say those concerns are melting away.  Insane bat speed. SS Nonie Williams – Absolutely monstrous for a shortstop.  Great bat speed, great foot speed, and improved plate discipline.  Time to promote him.    

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2017 Trade Deadline Series: Angels as Buyers? (Big Splash Version)

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer We just spent a lot of time discussing the Angels as sellers (and probably rightfully so) but what if Billy Eppler does the opposite and positions the team as buyers? Or even both, as sellers and buyers? There is an argument to be made that with the probable return of Mike Trout after the All-Star break combined with the return of RHP Cam Bedrosian and the feasible reinstatement of RHP Huston Street, SP Tyler Skaggs, SP Andrew Heaney, and/or possibly SP Garrett Richards, that the Angels could make a more sustainable run in the 2nd half of the season to compete for a Wild Card berth. If the team treads enough water leading up to the deadline it would not be surprising for the Angels to make one or more lateral moves that may, on the surface, look like a sell-off but in actuality would be a move towards contention not only in the 2nd half but in future seasons. They could even be outright, in-your-face upgrades. Billy Eppler currently has about $25M of open cap space in terms of Average Annual Value as team payroll sits at about $170M and the threshold is at $195M for the 2017 season. Josh Hamilton comes off the books this year so there will be a flood of cash available going into the off-season. Make no mistake the Angels are well positioned to increase salary now and after the World Series ends. This simply means that the Angels have room to make a significant addition to the team now, if Eppler prefers, rather than wait for the season to end. Once the season is over the Angels still have options so Billy will approach this deadline as a market of opportunity rather than necessity. This payroll flexibility should transform the team into a perennial contender over the next 3 1/2 years. Acquiring at least one long-term controllable player at the deadline could help our Wild Card chances if the price and player are the right fit for the Halos. To illustrate some possibilities let us discuss some hypothetical trade scenarios that would be lateral, or an upgrade, in nature. Proposed Trade #1 – Angels send RHP Bud Norris to the Cleveland Indians and A RHP Joe Gatto and AAA 3B Kaleb Cowart to the Cincinnati Reds Indians send AAA SS Eric Stamets and A LHP Juan Hillman to the Cincinnati Reds Reds send 3B Eugenio Suarez to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Why? Every position player the Reds have is controlled for four or more seasons except CF Billy Hamilton (controlled through 2019) and 3B Eugenio Suarez (controlled through 2020). The Reds are rebuilding so unless they are planning to extend either one of these players (which is possible) they are likely open to trade conversations. Suarez in particular strikes me as a target candidate because the Reds have young Nick Senzel, recently promoted to AA, who tore up the lower circuit earlier in the season and is widely seen as their future at 3B. Eugenio was originally a SS so the Reds could certainly move him there but Cincinnati, like most teams, would probably want to put the absolute best defensive player they can find in that position. Suarez is an above average SS but there are better defensive options that the Reds could acquire or, as is the case with Cozart, extend. One of those players is former Angels farmhand Eric Stamets. Even back when he was with the Halos he was an incredibly gifted defensive SS. The knock was always that his bat was too light. However in Stamets age 24 season (2016) things began to change. Whether it was a mechanical fix, his body maturing, or some other factor or combination of factors he has improved his hitting profile. This leap in offensive growth combined with his elite defense now places Eric in the conversation of an everyday regular player in the Majors. The only thing blocking Stamets in the Cleveland organization is a young man named Francisco Lindor. In Cincinnati Eric could spread his wings and would provide insurance for the Reds front office if they are unable to convince Cozart to sign an extension contract. The Indians, who project to win the A.L. Central Division, have a pretty good core group of starters and relievers but could use some help in their bullpen against left-handed hitters in particular. Someone like Bud Norris, who is currently running a 24.2% K-BB% against LHH’s (and a solid 18.7% vs. RHH’s) would add an even greater level of reliability to a very dangerous team, not to mention in a short series during the playoffs where relievers play a critical role. Sacrificing Stamets and Hillman to acquire an additional closer at the deadline is not a terrible price to pay when you consider that Jason Kipnis has three more years of contractual control and Lindor four more years of team control. The bottom line is that the Indians will improve when and where they can to maximize their chances to make the playoffs and Eric is a luxury they can afford to part with in 2017. The Angels would part ways with four prospects (two from the Indians) in order to obtain the three years of team control over Eugenio. In 2017 Suarez broke out, both offensively and defensively, playing the hot corner for the Reds. Eugenio’s remaining years of control align perfectly with the current remaining contractual years of Mike Trout. More importantly Suarez gives the Angels an impact player at a position of need who can hit anywhere in the lineup and, based on previous history and actual 2017 results, is strong defensively which fits the mold of player that Billy Eppler likes to put in each and every position around the diamond. It also adds depth around the infield due to Eugenio’s positional flexibility. Yes the Angels lose Bud Norris but it is fairly immaterial since Cam Bedrosian is back from the disabled list. Bedrosian is an improvement even. Also we lose a young SP in Gatto who has mid-to-back end rotation talent, a heavy fastball, and easy, repeatable mechanics but you have to pay to play in the trade market. Finally we also lose Cowart who seems to be breaking out but has not consistently proven it at the highest level and is still too much of a wild card (read: risk variance) for a team that intends to compete through 2020. Moving him to Cincinnati gives him a change of scenery and a less stressful environment for him to get Major League playing time, until Nick Senzel is ready at third base, approximately 2 years from now. Kaleb is a lottery ticket that a rebuilding team like the Reds could take a chance on because if he flames out they don’t lose much and probably incrementally improve their draft position. If he provides at least utility value or even excels they have more depth or a trade chip to help them long term. Proposed Trade #2 – Angels send RHP David Hernandez and 2B/3B Sherman Johnson to the Twins Twins send AAA OF Zack Granite to the Diamondbacks Diamondbacks send 2B Ildemaro Vargas and A RHP Wei-Chieh Huang to the Angels Why? For the Twins they have been abysmal against left-handed hitters and David would give them a reliable middle/back-end reliever to roll out against them. Sherman would provide middle infield depth and a possible solution at 2B when Dozier leaves after this season. In order to acquire Hernandez and Johnson they give up Granite to Arizona. Zack will provide a long-term center field solution for the Diamondbacks if and when A.J. Pollock hits free agency after next season (or is potentially traded). The Twins have Byron Buxton so the loss of Granite, while painful, is mitigated by the improvement against left-handed hitters this season and Johnson’s future development and contributions. Meanwhile, the Angels pick up a possible 2B solution that could be brought up immediately to help the Halos in 2017. Vargas has been tearing up AAA and plays above average defense at the keystone. Arizona has Domingo Leyba in AA who can be called up at some future point in time when the Diamondbacks ultimately make a decision on the future of Brandon Drury at 2B or if they move him to 3B in the event Jake Lamb is traded this off-season. Additionally the Halos pick up Huang who is a longer term pitching (likely a reliever) prospect for their future. Again the Angels loss of Hernandez is mitigated by the return of Cam Bedrosian (and to a much lesser degree by the possible returns of Street, Bailey, Heaney, Richards, and Tropeano in the 2nd half) and their production at 2B will likely improve with the addition of Vargas and in 2-3 years with the hopeful emergence of Huang. Proposed Trade #3 – Angels send 1B C.J. Cron and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Royals
Royals send 3B Mike Moustakas and A C Meibrys Viloria to the Angels
Why? It has been clear for months now that the Angels view C.J. Cron as a potential trade chip and if Billy Eppler believes the team can compete for a Wild Card spot in the 2nd half of 2017, a trade like this could be in the works. The Royals themselves are on the verge of the Wild Card bubble and if they fall out of the race in the next couple of weeks, despite their bravado about going for it all, they won’t need a 3B in the last year of his control. Additionally they will almost certainly trade their 1B Eric Hosmer creating a void to fill and Brandon Moss, their DH, has been incredibly disappointing in the first year of a two-year deal. They will need long-term options and Cron fits the bill. Moving three years of team control for C.J. and a 2nd half replacement at 3B in Escobar is probably worth 1/2 year of Moustakas and a low-level, long-term prospect like Viloria for the Angels. It helps the Angels compete, if that is their goal, and the Royals rebuild for their future by adding Cron if they are out of the playoff race. Proposed Trade #4 – Angels send RHP Bud Norris and AA RHP Osmer Morales to the Brewers Brewers send 2B Jonathan Villar to the Angels The Brewers are currently the N.L. Central Division leader and Villar has been quite the disappointment in comparison to his 2016 season. He is only 26 years old and is just a few months removed from a .285/.369/.457 (.373 BABIP) slash line with 62 stolen bases (77.5% SB%). This season his BABIP is down a full 92 points which is a contributor to his woes (it should be noted Villar consistently posted .350-.360 BABIP’s in his Minor League career). Just as importantly Eric Sogard, Jonathan’s replacement while on the DL, has been spectacular for the Brew Crew making Villar a potentially expendable asset and a potential buy-low candidate for Billy Eppler particularly when you consider that the Brewers have rapidly promoted young prospect Mauricio Dubon this season and he has been playing a lot of 2B down in AA/AAA. Jonathan is making the League minimum in 2017 and has three years of arbitration control left making him an interesting target for Eppler to fill the keystone long term. If he is “running right” he is a switch-hitting, lead-off hitter with on-base skills that can create havoc on the base-paths which is a spot in the lineup the Angels need to replace once Maybin is gone (unless they really plan to sign him as a free agent in the off-season). In return for Villar the Brewers add a strong reliever to their bullpen as they defend their current position in the standings and add a RHP with upside for their emerging future as a regular N.L. Central contender. Proposed Trade #5 – Angels send AAA 3B Kaleb Cowart, AA RHP Grayson Long, and A+ OF Brennon Lund to the Phillies Phillies send 2B Cesar Hernandez to the Angels Why? Per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, the Angels inquired about Hernandez during the off-season in their broad search to acquire a defensive-minded keystone player before the 2017 campaign. Unfortunately that fell through but that does not mean the conversation is dead, just delayed perhaps. Scott Kingery, the Phillies likely future at 2B, was recently promoted to AAA and appears to be on the verge of being called up either this season or the next. In fact Philadelphia appears to be reaching critical mass in terms of competitiveness as early as next year but probably the following season in 2019. Certainly they could keep Hernandez at 2B and possibly move Kingery over to the hot corner (he has been seen shagging balls at 3B recently) but that is likely more about positional flexibility, not a long term move. Cesar is slowly turning into a road block that the Phillies will need to address and the Angels have shown interest. As Fletcher pointed out Hernandez is a very good defensive keystone player who can switch hit and is more dominant on his left-hand side which is an area the Angels need to improve upon. Cesar is not a huge stolen base threat but he can take the extra bag on a regular basis. Sending Cowart gives the Phillies another option at 3B behind Maikel Franco whom the Phillies are reportedly shopping in trade as well. Long gives the Phillies a potential back-end starter with a touch of upside and Lund has been showing well recently and presents them with a potentially above average outfielder for their future. Proposed Trade #6 – Angels send RHP Cam Bedrosian, 1B C.J. Cron, AA OF Michael Hermosillo, A+ C Taylor Ward, and R RHP Chris Rodriguez to the Braves and C Carlos Perez to the Rockies
Rockies send A+ OF Wes Rogers and A RHP David Hill to the Braves Braves send 1B Freddie Freeman and RHP Jim Johnson to the Angels
Why? Atlanta values Freeman very highly and rightfully so. In fact they have stated he is off limits but that could always be front office bluster to raise his price. The fact of the matter is that Atlanta has a large number of prospects that are at least 2 years away from making an impact in the Majors. This simply means that Freddie, despite his immense talent, may, for the most part, go to waste hitting cleanup for a 75-85 win team in 2018 and possibly 2019. Now, the Braves could certainly wait it out and get some back-end value out of Freeman but that would be burning $20M+ per year in the meantime and not reaching the goal of the playoffs much less the World Series. Perhaps the smarter move for Atlanta would be to trade Freddie and reallocate that money to one or more of the players available in the 2018-2019 free agent class which would likely better fit their emerging window of contention. This is certainly a long shot in the trade universe but it is the type of lateral upgrade the Angels could make to boost the team now and through Trout’s controllable years and increase the odds of reaching the playoffs. Certainly the Angels will have to give up a lot of value to receive a lot. First of all the Braves would receive Cam Bedrosian and his remaining 4 1/2 years of team control. The move would take Cam to his father Steve’s former team (and notably their home town) and allow him to chase his father’s legacy. Additionally, unlike Freeman, Bedrosian is a strong candidate to receive a team friendly extension as a likely Super Two player so the Braves could probably buy out those likely four years of arbitration and tack on a couple of option years to keep him in Atlanta through their likely window of contention in the 2019-2023 time frame. The Angels would also give up C.J. Cron and his remaining three years of arbitration control as a replacement 1B for the Braves. This would allow C.J. to get MLB playing time in a less stressful environment and the upside for the Braves is that if his bat takes off they would have a reasonably productive MLB 1B on their hands who they could either extend, use as a trade chip, or simply as a place holder for when they acquire/promote another 1B. Also the Angels would be sending three Minor League prospects with good upside in Hermosillo, Ward, and Rodriguez. The latter in particular has front of the rotation upside, Michael has broken out in his recent games, and Ward could wind up a low-end regular player with some upside that would add value long term to the Braves future seasons. The Rockies would get Carlos Perez to help provide better defense behind the plate in a year they are trying to win it all. Recently their young catcher Tom Murphy was optioned to the Minors due to poor performance and adding a veteran catcher like Perez, who would likely thrive in a hitter’s park like Colorado, would give them greater, experienced depth behind young left-handed hitting Tony Wolters. In return Colorado would send two young prospects to the Braves that could provide value to them long term and would help ease the amount of value the Angels have to provide directly from their farm system. Finally the Angels would get 4 1/2 years of control of a premier left-handed 1B in Freeman who would instantly transform the middle of our order hitting behind Trout (sorry Albert you’d get bumped to fifth here). Freddie is in his prime years (he’s 27 now) and has elevated his offensive profile in 2017 making him an even greater threat, particularly to right-handed pitchers which is an area the Angels need to improve in per the Methodology article. In order for our bullpen to stay relatively intact the Angels would also acquire 1 1/2 years of closer Jim Johnson. This would maintain the quality of our bullpen in 2017 and give us a late inning option in 2018 to mitigate the loss of Bedrosian. It would also allow Eppler to explore an extension with someone like Blake Parker or Keynan Middleton (or both) to take over long term high leverage duties out of the bullpen. The final tally is that the Angels are losing a lot of long term prospect and MLB player value but they are gaining long term control of an elite hitter and short term control of a good reliever. The net value to the 2017 season is increased tremendously and transforms the average Angels into a threatening Wild Card contender this year and a significantly improved team in the 2018-2020 seasons. Proposed Trade #7 – Angels send CF Cameron Maybin and RHP David Hernandez to the Nationals and A OF Jahmai Jones, AA RHP Jake Jewell, R RHP Chris Rodriguez, AAA 3B Kaleb Cowart, and A+ C Taylor Ward to the Marlins Nationals send AAA RHP Erick Fedde, AA 1B Jose Marmolejos, and A LHP Tyler Watson to the Marlins Marlins send OF Giancarlo Stanton to the Angels Why? More like why not, right? Ami-rite!?! Actually this is a potentially unique opportunity for the Angels or any big market team to acquire one of the premier power hitters in the game. First of all the Miami Marlins are on the verge of being sold to a new owner (a blessing for baseball probably) and as typical in sales like this the new owners generally like to enter the situation with a clean slate in terms of payroll. This means that many of the Marlins players could be on the market particularly Stanton and his mega-contract. When you examine Stanton’s 13 year, $325M contract it clearly overwhelms you in both the commitment of money and length. That is an Average Annual Value of $25M per year which only the richest teams in baseball can afford. Luckily the Angels actually have that room right now and even more after the season ends. The greater complication in this calculus is how much surplus value does Giancarlo really have and what does that equate too in terms of a return of prospects and players? If you use a very basic dollars per WAR analysis with the assumption of a free agent dollar per WAR value for 2017 of $10.5M and increase it by 10% per year using a base, remaining, 2 WAR for 2017, 4.75 WAR for 2018-2020 and then decrease the WAR projection by 0.5 WAR per season after that, Stanton is virtually impossible to move for fair value because that comes out to about $280M in surplus. Basically 4-7 top prospects or some combination of MLB players and prospects. There are perhaps only a couple of teams in baseball that could currently afford that in terms of prospects and players and it would gut those teams so much it probably is not worth it. However there is a catch here! Stanton, as pointed out recently by member ‘Dochalo’, has an opt-out clause after the 2020 season. This simply means he can exit this current contract in favor of free agency and, assuming he is healthy and productive, he will almost certainly do so because he can very likely make more money at that time. There has been great anticipation regarding the 2018-2019 free agent class featured by players like Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw. That group will raise the bar and shatter the ceiling on all future free agent contracts which is the primary reason Stanton can and should expect a larger payday the following year if he opts out. Because of this very likely fact of Giancarlo re-testing the free agent market, any team that wants to acquire him will likely only be willing to pay for the opting-out-in-2020 version of Stanton and rightly so. Why fork out 6 high quality prospects and then watch him walk away after only three years, it does not make sense. So what this means is that teams will only be paying for Giancarlo’s surplus value over the next 3 1/2 seasons. That surplus value, using the basic dollars per WAR calculation is about $140M which is more manageable, is essentially 2-3 top prospects or a larger quantity of prospects and players that meet Miami’s asking price. Acquiring Stanton’s age 28-30 seasons (plus the last half of his age 27 season) would be good for any team including the Angels. In fact particularly the Angels because it aligns with Mike Trout’s remaining controllable years. Oh and if Stanton does not opt out? Well the acquiring team should still get enough value out of the contract over those remaining years of control to have made the whole thing worth it. His production should last well into his mid-30’s and if that happens it was money well spent. The problem for the Halos in all of this is Miami will almost certainly demand good prospects in trade and the Angels do not have many. What we may not have in quality we do have more in quantity, particularly if we use our best trade deadline chips to acquire additional talent from one or more teams to send to the Marlins (i.e. a lateral move). You may be asking why the Nationals would do this and I would offer the opinion that they would do anything in their power to move Stanton out of their Division and weaken one of their rivals right now, so you would have to think losing three prospects is an afterthought if they win it all in 2017 (or succeeding seasons) with Maybin and Hernandez on board and a significantly weakened Marlins team. Make no mistake this is a true long shot for any team much less the Angels. The opportunity is unique however as no one could have predicted Loria would sell his team now, making this opening a matter of being in the right place at the right time for those clubs fortunate enough to have enough payroll and enough assets. Offering eight prospects of varying quality gives the Marlins a wide base of possibilities across multiple positions. It probably will not be the best offer they get but we are one of the few teams that can afford to add Stanton’s salary and that gives us a small, sliver of a chance if he is really available. Do not hold your breath on this. I would hate to be responsible for a bunch of Angels fans passing out or the breakout of a mass sponge migration. Proposed Trade #8 – Angels send RHP Bud Norris to the Nationals and 1B C.J. Cron, C Carlos Perez, A OF Jahmai Jones, AA RHP Grayson Long, AA RHP Osmer Morales, and AA OF Michael Hermosillo to the White Sox Nationals send A- OF Juan Soto and AA 1B Jose Marmolejos to the White Sox White Sox send LHP Jose Quintana to the Angels Why? As another example of the use of lateral resources (converting Bud Norris into prospect currency) this is another stretch-your-imagination example of what Eppler would have to do to have a shot at a big name acquisition at the deadline. It is obviously another quantity over quality offer that the Angels would likely make on some of these big names. Certainly a team like Milwaukee or Houston could offer up a couple of really premium prospects like Brinson and Hader or Martes and Tucker, for instance, that could prove too tempting to Chicago but that does not mean that the Angels do not have a chance at it. Offering up Major League talent has its own value particularly when the White Sox are likely to move Abreu in trade as well creating a void at 1B or DH that they would need to fill immediately. Taking a flyer on inexpensive players like Cron and the defensive-minded Perez allows them time to develop their prospects of the future and potentially reap some trade value if either should blossom during their stay. Although it is not the best offer in terms of quality it is not an insignificant one. I think any team would stop and think about an offer of 2 Major League players with long-term control and 6 prospects of varying quality. Whether they think long and hard is a different matter but that is the challenge of the trade market and the corresponding negotiations. Other Long-Term (2+ years) Players Considered: LHP Daniel Norris, 1B Brandon Belt, 2B/3B Josh Harrison, RHP Michael Fulmer, OF Christian Yelich, 2B Jonathan Schoop, RHP Marcus Stroman, 1B Jose Abreu, OF Avisail Garcia, RHP Jeff Samardzija, RHP Jacob deGrom, 2B Scooter Gennett, RHP Carlos Martinez, OF Adam Duvall, 1B Justin Bour, UTIL T.J. Rivera, RHP Sonny Gray, OF Marcell Ozuna, RHP Gerrit Cole, OF Khris Davis, RHP Michael Wacha, OF Robbie Grossman, 1B Matt Carpenter, OF Denard Span, 1B Justin Smoak, RHP Dylan Bundy, 2B/3B Yangervis Solarte, and RHP Dan Straily Although these lateral/upgrade trade scenarios may or may not be realistic (perhaps even ludicrous) they represent a cross-section of what Billy Eppler might be able to pull off as we near the trade deadline. It will simply come down to the acquisition price. If he can pull off a mega-trade for someone like Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Quintana, Freddie Freeman, or Brandon Belt it would not only transform 2017 but the following seasons, from 2018-2020, in the Mike Trout window of contention. Trading for one of those big names is not impossible. All of them, minus Quintana, have really significant money owed over their remaining years of control and all four of them have 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 years of team control left, making them valuable to the Angels in particular since that aligns well with our strategic plan. Perhaps more importantly acquiring a big hitter like this would not impede our payroll in terms of possibly extending Mike Trout. The Angels have a lot of money coming off the books at the end of this year and there should be plenty of payroll available to make a run at keeping Trout here the rest of his career. In the next section we will discuss some of the short term opportunities which also include some big names but also provide more inexpensive options the team could potentially acquire to improve 2017 and 2018.

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Last Week in Angels Baseball: The “Heading Into the ASB Like…” Edition

By Glen McKee, Staff Writer So it’s the All-Star break now, which means a few things: first, I won’t be writing this article next week and reliving the misery, and B, the Angels will have Mike Trout back on Friday (no whammy).    It was a bad week, a very bad week, as if the Angels decided to just say “eff it” until Trout gets back.  How bad was it?  Let me count the ways. The record.  2-4 against two teams the Angels are, judging by record, in the same neighborhood.  Well, they were before the week started. The offense.  16 runs in six games, or an average of 2.66 runs per game.  11 of those runs came in three games in Minnesota.  Against the Rangers, they managed 1.66 runs per game and yet still somehow won one of them. The starting pitching.  In six games, the starters tallied 28.2 IP and 20 ER.  True, those stats are skewed by Nolasco’s horrible start in Arlington: 1.2 IP, 8 ER.  And if you want to look at the positives there were a few (more on that below), but in addition to Nolasco’s fiasco, three times last week the Angels had a starter go only five innings and in those starts they gave up 5 ER, 4 ER, and 3 ER.  Hey, at least the trend line is encouraging, right? Cameron Maybin.  There’s a thread right now talking about extending Maybin and as I’ve said in that thread, let’s wait and see a bit on that, shall we?  Last week Maybin went 2-20 with 5 BB and 8 K.  He’s hitting .148 with a .273 OBP in July.  Sure, a hot week or two can make those numbers a lot better and I certainly hopes he returns to his June form (.284, .333), but he’s more likely to bounce back to his career averages of .258 and .324.  That .324 OBP would be the best for an Angels leadoff hitter in quite a while, so I’d be happy with that. Kole Calhoun.  .240 last week, .194 for July.  He’s hot then he’s Kole.  If he warms up after the ASB the Angels have to think about trading him, as much as I’d hate to see him go. Mike “Get a Brain” Morin.  He’s the new Kevin Jepsen, but worse.  Last week he had 3 IP, 6 H, and 2 ER.  He is who his stats say he is, a career 4.49 ERA pitcher with a strangely low (for that ERA) 1.25 WHIP.  I get that he has options, but he’s not a good option for the Angels.  It’s easy to predict: the Angels will release him and then some other team will pick him up – probably Oakland – and turn him into a dominant closer and trade him for a prospect that turns into the next Sunny Grey.  Que sera sera. Danny Espinosa.  0-8 last week, but his “replacement” didn’t do much better (Nick Franklin: 1-10).  Seriously, who does Caleb Cowart have to blow to get a legitimate shot in the bigs?  Neither of these guys is a solution or even a good option. OK, enough with the negatives, what went well last week?  I’m glad you asked!  Well, there was…um, let’s see…yeah, there were these few things: Parker Bridwell.  Not to be confused with Blake Parker or Peter Parker or even Peter Piper, Parker Bridwell threw six shutout innings in Minnesota and the Angels hung on for one of their two wins last week, 2-1.  For the season Bridwell, Parker is 3-1 with a 3.24 ERA, 10 BB and 19 K.  The 7 HR, while in keeping with the tradition of Angels pitchers year, is a bit worrisome but he has potential. Mike Trout rehabbing.  If he isn’t back this Friday then something is very, very wrong. Albert Pujols.  Last week he hit .381 (!) with 2 HR but only 2 RBI (that last stat is for you, Claude).  If Pujols stays hot with Trout getting back, that bodes well for the offense.  If only some other hitters could warm up as well, that is. Ben Revere, CJ Cron, and Martin Maldonado.  Both of them hit .250 last week, which means they were tied for second place behind Albert Pujols.  Yunel Escobar was fifth with a .238 average.  That’s how moribund the offense was. What’s next.  Four merciful days off, perhaps a trade, and then three at home versus the 47-43 rays. Predictions.  I don’t think the Angels will make a trade although it wouldn’t surprise me to see either Escobar or Calhoun gone before the Angels play again.  Last week I predicted a generous 3-3 and I was only one game off, but what a difference one game makes. Worth noting.  Even after that miserable week, and even though it matters not, the Angels are still tied for second place in the AL West.  They’re only 16.5 games behind the Astros!  To close out this miserable week, here’s Kate Upton illustrating where we stand in the AL West: I’ll be taking next week off because there are only three real games, and possibly the week after that due to personal reasons (what other kinds of reasons are there?).  Please, feel free to relive the misery on your own until I return.  Cheers.

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2017 Trade Deadline Series: The Leftovers

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer Frankly when this trade deadline series started there were more trade candidates to discuss. But, oh, how a few weeks can change the landscape. In the first submission we discussed Cameron Maybin, perhaps the Angels greatest pure rental asset, and also, in the same article, we discussed how Eric Young Jr. is similar to him but with less value (particularly after he has tanked over the last two weeks). Check! The second article touched on reliever Bud Norris, also a valuable trade chip, and, additionally, we included RHP David Hernandez, nearly equally as valuable as Bud, and RHP Yusmeiro Petit, who has been more dominate against RHH’s than either of those two. Check! After that we wrote about our favorite style guru Yunel Escobar and how his market is potentially a difficult one to predict due to competition in the trade market. The Royals, owner of the last 1/2 season of Mike Moustakas, have surged recently so the odds of Escobar being traded may have improved a bit but we will see how the cards fall. Check! Next and most recently we checked in on RHP Ricky Nolasco who has had some good and rough starts but should be a decent trade piece at the deadline if Eppler chooses to sell, especially when you consider his extra year of control. In that same article we mentioned how similar J.C. Ramirez is to Nolasco and how their markets could be similar but the former’s value will be greater due to the additional three years of team control. So much greater that the Angels probably will not trade Ramirez. Check! In the original Introduction article we listed all of the more probable trade candidates but unfortunately some of these potential trade chips have taken their names out of the hat leading up to the deadline. These are the leftovers of the Trade Deadline Series. Huston Street came back from the disabled list and pitched well over a small handful of appearances but has now hit the DL again making it a lot more difficult for Eppler to find an interested suitor. At this point the Angels just need him to get better and perform. If he comes back soon and does well he could be a revocable waiver candidate prior to the end of September. Otherwise the Angels can hope he excels, exercise his option, and then trade him in the off-season or, simply, pay his inexpensive buy out. No matter what, it is pointless writing him up as he is very unlikely to be moved by the deadline. Unfortunately the same thing happened to Matt Shoemaker who hit the disabled list himself with some nerve issues in his throwing arm. At this point you simply hope that Matt will be able to recover and return this season, hopefully avoiding surgery of any sort. Based on this it is immaterial to write him up as well and, to be frank, he and his 3 1/2 years of team control seemed unlikely to be traded from the get-go. C.J. Cron was a possibility back in early June but then he was demoted and to be straightforward he has not been performing well, reducing his overall value. C.J. could still draw interest and has upside but at this point expending the effort to identify the meager group of trade suitors in a currently saturated market is a low-value added proposition for this series. I think Eppler will definitely trade him before next season, as he is out of options, but this is looking more and more like an off-season transaction unless Billy tries to acquire a big bat like Brandon Belt, Freddie Freeman, or Jose Abreu where we could send Cron back to the selling team as a replacement 1B player. We mentioned Martin Maldonado and Blake Parker as possible candidates but after further reflection the likelihood of either one being traded is pretty remote. Maldonado has emerged as the better successor to Jeff Mathis in Scioscia’s eyes and despite having only 1 1/2 years of team control remaining, which would normally make him a likely trade piece, it just seems improbable that Eppler would move such a great backstop after the job “Machete” has done. If anything they are more likely to give him an extension contract in the off-season. He too is crossed off the Trade Deadline series list. Blake Parker has done some amazing high leverage bullpen work this season. He has been the “go-to” guy for Scioscia, when the team has to shut down an opponent’s offense in high risk run scoring situations, of which he has done a fantastic job. Blake has three years of arbitration control left and although he just turned 32 years old it appears the Angels are much more likely to keep him, barring a blow-me-away offer by another team. Throughout the series you may have noticed I mentioned Parker in some of the trade scenarios but at the end of this analysis he looks a lot more valuable in the Angels 2018 bullpen than the prospects he would command in return. Parker is off my to-do list. Finally the dregs of our original list (Espinosa, Pennington, Revere, Chavez, Young Jr., Bailey, and Perez) might be moved but are not really worthy of a write up simply due to the fact that they will not bring back a whole lot of value if they are. As we discussed in the Methodology article there is likely to be strong interest in defensive-minded players so our utility guys like Espinosa and Pennington could be moved for a lottery-ticket type prospect. Revere and Young Jr. could be veteran pinch-runner and reserve outfielders off the bench for a competing team. Chavez would likely do better in the bullpen but could provide rotation depth to a playoff-bound squad. Bailey might be a revocable waiver candidate if he gets healthy. Carlos Perez has value as a defensive-minded catcher, is hitting well in AAA, and has 4 1/2 years of team control, so he might fetch the “biggest” return out of this group if Eppler moves him. All of this “what-if” trade talk leads us to ask where do the Angels stand today compared to the Projected Standings we introduced in the Methodology Article? First we will post the original graph from that article, published on June 10th, 2017, and then the updated one as of July 7, 2017: June 10th, 2017 Projected Full Season W% July 7th, 2017 Projected Full Season W% At the top of the projected standings not a lot has changed. Besides the Red Sox leapfrogging the Yankees for the A.L. East Division lead everything remains the same on top of the heap. In the Wild Card race the N.L. stays the same with the Rockies and Diamondbacks currently projected to each secure a spot. However in the A.L., besides the Red Sox and Yankees swapping spots, the Blue Jays have slumped in recent weeks and the Rays have surged ahead in the interim time since the Methodology article was published. As part of the criteria set in the Methodology article we arbitrarily selected the cut-off point for a team’s inclusion in the Trade Series at 5 wins. Realistically that number may have changed but if you apply it here anyway the following teams are still technically in the running: American League Royals Blue Jays Rangers Twins Angels Mariners Tigers Orioles National League Brewers Cardinals Essentially it is the same group of teams that are within the arbitrary 5 game cut-off. The only two additions are the pick-me-up-by-my-bootstraps Royals and the Cardinals who were just outside the cut-off on the original graph. What the current chart means for the Angels is twofold: 1) We managed to keep ourselves in the Wild Card conversation despite the loss of Mike Trout (big shout out to the rest of the team for fighting hard!) and 2) If we do not start winning a lot over the next 2 weeks it will be a full fire sale on all of our expendable assets before July 31st. The Angels are on the bubble and the clock is starting to wind down. A fire sale would likely help us long term as we have some assets, as described in the previous submissions in the series, that have real value and should return usable prospects and players. However any time you have a chance to sneak into the playoffs anything can happen in a short series including some real magic (see 2002). Billy Eppler will probably not waste our budding farm assets on pure rental pieces (i.e. only 1/2 year of control) simply to chase a diminishing shot at a Wild Card spot. In most cases that would be destructive to our farm rebuilding efforts. If we win a lot in the next 2 weeks he is more likely to target and acquire a long term asset or two that can become a part of the team’s core group of players for the next 2+ years. This would be a much more practical transaction because our farm assets would be used towards a controllable MLB player who can make a greater difference in one or more full seasons moving forward. In the end Eppler’s decisions will reside on what baseball analysts call the win-curve. Using our current projected standing of 79 wins the Angels will need to improve by at least 3 wins between now and the end of the season to catch the 2nd Wild Card spot. That is a large difference to make up when you only have 1/2 season left to play. Trading for one or more pure rental pieces will cost you a lot and might leave you with nothing at the end of the year except a standings board showing you at 81 wins (i.e. nothing). However if you trade for a long term controllable asset you not only give yourself a chance to win now, no matter how remote that may be, but also in succeeding seasons. In particular trading for one really good, controllable, piece is probably the way Billy needs to go if he feels the team is serious about competing the rest of the way in 2017. To illustrate that the next part of the Trade Deadline Series will focus on lateral and upgrade moves to help the team compete now and in the future.

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Mike Trout’s Rehab Game Notes 7/6

Wednesday July 5th marked Mike Trout’s first professional baseball game since he tore a ligament in his left thumb sliding into second base in Miami on May 28th. Trout’s journey back to the big leagues started with the Inland Empire 66ers, the Angels High A ball affiliate, as he batted 3rd as the team’s DH Wednesday night. Trout ultimately went 0-3 but reported no pain after the game, a welcomed sign for the Angels and their premier player. Mike Trout was the 66ers DH again on Thursday night as he continued to get more reps of game action. Angels fans are obviously excited to see Mike Trout in action, evidenced by the 300+ Inland Empire 66ers Trout t shirts that have sold already. In his first at bat of the night, Trout faced off against Chris Bassit, who made a rehab start for the Stockton Ports after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2016. Trout saw 4 pitches in his first at bat, striking on a 94 mph fastball up in the zone. The 2nd at bat was even more anticlimactic for the 66ers fans in attendance as the first pitch Trout saw was a curveball that hit him in the back. The fans were audibly upset and reasonably so. In his 3rd at bat, Trout reached base again, this time on catcher’s interference. In his first 3 at bats, Trout failed to make contact with any baseball, due to some very strange circumstances. Trout rolled over on a pitch to the shortstop in his 4th at bat, ending his night. The 66ers blew a 6-3 lead in the 9th inning, as the Ports dropped a 4 spot and took home the win by a score of 7-6. Trout met post game with the press to discuss his night. Luckily, he was able to answer some questions for myself and Angels Win. Trout reported no pain after the game on Thursday night but was scheduled to have a day off Friday and play again on Saturday night. On any potential benefits or experiences he had while watching from the bench rather than playing on an everyday basis: “You know, it was frustrating. I wanted to be out there with the team. I did get to go up in the replay room and get all the angles of the game. You know other than that, it was pumping the guys up and cheering the guys on. When they’d come home, I’d watch them in the dugout. When they were on the road, it was a little weird watching them on the couch.” On the adversity the 2017 Angels team has had to face with major injuries to the club and what that says about the team: “They keep fighting. They fight to the end. They guys are staying positive, they know their roles and they’re all doing their roles. It’s fun to watch as a player, as a teammate. I just can’t wait to get back out there.”  

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Angels Top 30 Prospects Mid-Season Edition

The Angels farm system is frequently overlooked by many experts, which was warranted two years ago but has since become an outdated look of the farm system.  With high draft picks and multiple prospects acquired via trade, the farm system is now well on its way to becoming one of the best in baseball. *Note – Recent international signees such as Trent Deveaux would certainly rank among the Top 30, however, because we haven’t had a first hand look and there are either vague or conflicting reports regarding these prospects, we’ve held off from including them in this version of the Top 30.  International prospects WILL be included in the Winter Top 30, which includes in-depth scouting reports of all the Angels prospects.  To see an example, click this link to see last season’s Top 30 Angels Prospects.   Grade Explanation A – A future major league that profiles as a better than average starter in the field, front of the rotation starter on the mound, or one of the elite bullpen arms in major league baseball. B – A future major leaguer that profiles to be an average starter in the field, mid-rotation starter on the mound, or a very good closer or setup man in relief. C – A fringe major leaguer that profiles into a reserve role in the majors, a back-end of swing starter on the mound, or a middle reliever or mop up duty in relief.  “C” grades are frequently given when a prospect hasn’t yet shown which way he’ll break in the majors. ______________________________________________________________________ 1. OF Jahmai Jones – High ceiling former second round pick, currently in A Ball.  Brother is an NFL wide receiver.  55 grade power, speed and arm.  Impressive set of tools and refinement considering he’s only 19.  Grade: A- 2. OF Jo Adell – First round pick out of a prep high school in Kentucky.  Looks like an NFL wide receiver.  60+ grade power, speed and arm.  Superstar potential, but considered raw, may need lots of development time, or may need very little depending on how he adjusts. Grade: A- 3. RHP Griffin Canning – Second round pick out of UCLA.  Considered one of the best pitchers in the country, but a pre-draft medical screening scared teams away due to potential shoulder issues down the road.  Tumbled out of the first round and into the Angels lap.  Fringe-plus fastball, plus curve, plus slider, plus change up.  Funky delivery.  Won’t need much time in the minors.  Grade: A-/B+ 4. OF Brandon Marsh – High ceiling former second round pick currently in Rookie Ball.  Former standout wide receiver in high school.  55 grade power, speed and arm.  Great work ethic, had been called a “gym-rat” multiple times.  “Loud tools”.  Needs to stay healthy.   Grade: B+ 5. RHP Jaime Barria – International signing from Panama.  Still only 20 years old and seeing a great deal of success in AA.  Has breezed through the low minors.  Praised for his work ethic and maturity.  Average fastball with good off-speed pitches and good command.  Could be front of the rotation starter or back of the rotation starter, depending on who you ask.  Looks like a solid #3/4.  Grade: B+ 6. 1B Matt Thaiss – Former first round pick out of Virginia, currently in Advanced A Ball.  Great plate discipline and contact.  Has turned into a very good defensive first baseman in a short amount of time.  Solid gap power, but has struggled with using the whole field.  Starting MLB first baseman and top of the order upside, bench bat floor.  Grade: B 7. RHP Chris Rodriguez – Former fourth round pick from Miami area high school, currently in Rookie Ball.  Tremendous upside on the mound with mid-90’s fastball, plus slider and fringe-plus change up.  Good control and refinement.  Front of the rotation upside.  Some reliever potential too as his delivery is high effort.  Grade: B 8. OF Jacob Pearson – Third round selection from a Louisiana high school.  Great swing from the left side of the plate.  Strong kid with good blend of power and speed.  Has long been known in showcase circuits as potential first round pick before injury.  Torn labrum two years ago and arm still hasn’t fully recovered.  Grade: B 9. OF Michael Hermosillo – Former late round selection from a high school in Illinois.  Was a standout running back in football and was expected to stay on the gridiron before signing.  Very good speed and pull power.  Good eye at the plate and solid defense at all outfield positions.  Great showing in AFL last fall.  Is performing much better than his numbers in AA show.  Grade: B 10. RHP Eduardo Paredes – Low profile international signee has climbed the minor league ladder much quicker than expected.  Pure reliever, with great command of all of his pitches.  Low three-quarters/borderline sidearm delivery.  Fastball clocked in the mid-90’s with extreme sinking and tailing action.  Can go multiple innings if needed.  Grade: B 11. SS David Fletcher – Former sixth round pick from Loyola Marymount, currently in AA.  Fletcher has great bat-to-ball skills, plate discipline, footwork and glove work.  Sprays pitches to all fields with his line drive oriented swing.  Fletcher will be a major leaguer someday soon, the only question is what his role will be.  He has the capability to be a starting shortstop or second baseman, but may end up serving in a utility role.  Draws comparisons with former Angel David Eckstein.  Grade: B- 12. RHP Grayson Long – Former fourth round pick from Texas A&M.  Big bodied starter with three quality pitches.  When he’s healthy and throwing strikes, he can breeze through an order.  Having an easy time with AA hitters, may be time for a promotion soon.  #4/5 starter upside.  Clean delivery.  Looks perfectly capable of 180+ innings a year.  Grade: B- 13. RHP Parker Bridwell – Former ninth round pick originally by the Orioles.  Baltimore failed to develop him as a competent starter, and tried him in the bullpen, which itself turned into a disaster.  Angels GM Billy Eppler bought low, believing a change of scenery could help Parker.  It has and he’s since transitioned back to a starter.  Bridewell has done quite well in his spot starts with the Angels, and has cemented his place in the depth chart with some impressive showings in AAA Salt Lake as well.  Fastball sits 92-95 with cutting action.  Good slider.  As long as he throws strikes, he can be effective.  Grade: B- 14. C Taylor Ward – Former first round pick by the Angels, currently in Advanced A Ball.  Ward has loud tools for a catcher.  Great, athletic build, quick behind the plate.  One of the best arms in minor league baseball.  Power at the plate, and good plate discipline.  The biggest issue with Ward is that these tools haven’t translated to game time performance the way the Angels had hoped.  Trouble with keeping balls in front of him, power hasn’t played up.  Still a lock to be a catcher in the majors at some point, but unless he can capitalize on tools, he may amount to only a backup option.  Grade: B-/C+ 15. SS Nonie Williams – Former third round pick repeating Rookie Ball.  60+ grade speed, power and arm.  Switch hitter, but has struggled with quality pitching so far.  Lacking refinement at the plate and actions in the field to reach full potential yet.  May work better as a third baseman, second baseman or center fielder if he can’t stay at shortstop.  Could become a 30/30 threat in the middle infield or amount to nothing.  Grade: B-/C+ 16. LHP Nate Smith – Could easily be ranked one of the best pitchers in the Angels organization when he’s healthy, which he hasn’t been in a year.  Every level of the minor leagues was too easy for Nate before an ignored shoulder injury began to take its toll.  Still, when Smith is healthy he combines a mediocre 90 mph fastball with great slider, good curveball, good change up and good command.  Future back-end starter in the majors.  Grade: B-/C+ 17. RHP Jesus Castillo – Former high profile international prospect acquired at the trade deadline from the Cubs in return for reliever Joe Smith.  Slow developing but turned the corner last year at age 20.  Has carved up Class A and Advanced A Ball hitters this year.  Average fastball with average slider.  Plus change up and control.  Grade: B-/C+ 18. RHP Cole Duensing – Former sixth round pick from last draft, Duensing’s post-draft stock exploded upon seeing him, and hearing of his exploits over the summer.  After a great performance in the Arizona Summer League, Duensing hit the weight room and turned a 175 lbs frame and 91 mph fastball into a 190 lbs frame and 94 mph fastball.  Not bad for his first offseason.  I’m not entirely sure why the Angels have held him back in the Arizona Summer League after such an impressive showing last year, or why he’s pitching in relief now when everything about him suggests he’s a starter.  Still, a ton of upside here, but clearly a lot of development left.  Grade: B-/C+ 19. RHP Jake Jewell – Hard throwing righty that we always assumed would end up in the bullpen due to rough delivery and control issues.  The Angels stuck with him in the rotation through some rough times.  Now that he’s in AA, we’re seeing Dan Haren-esque pinpoint control and a smooth, easy, repeatable delivery.  Jewell sits 94-95 on the radar gun with a solid slider and a “show me” change up.  Grade: C+ 20. SS Leo Rivas – Low profile international signee, Rivas wasn’t signed until 17, a year later than many international prospects.  By the time he was 18, he had already made it stateside and was holding his own with recent high school picks in the U.S.  Now at age 19, Leo is laying waste to the Pioneer League and angling for a promotion.  Great bat to ball skills, plate discipline, speed, footwork and glove.  Rivas lacks the arm to remain at shortstop long term.  Grade: C+ 21. RHP Elvin Rodriguez – A low profile signee form the Dominican Republic, Elvin looks all arms and legs on the mound.  Tall, and thin.  Rodriguez’s fastball sits 92-93 with what looks like a curve ball but is called a slider, and a change up he hasn’t shown a willingness to use frequently.  Has received plus marks for his attitude, work ethic and ability to attack hitters and control the zone.  Rodriguez quick work of the Dominican and Arizona Summer Leagues as an 18 year old and is having his way with hitters in the Pioneer League as a 19 year old, which is a very difficult thing to do.  Grade: C+ 22. RHP John Swanda – Not much we know about him beyond his draft videos and scouting reports (we prefer to see things first hand).  Low-90’s fastball, good curve and above average control is what we read about on the internet.  Swanda was a Nebraska commit, but has since signed with the Angels.  Grade C+ 23. OF Brennon Lund – Former eleventh round pick by the Angels, likely would’ve gone as high as the fourth round if signability concerns weren’t present coming out of BYU.  Has breezed through Rookie Ball and A Ball already.  Having a very easy go of it in Advanced A as well.  Very simple swing mechanics, and great instinct for the game in general.  Could be a starting outfielder in the major leagues if he continues to hit the way he has his whole life.  Tools aren’t loud enough to call him a future starting OF yet, but guys that keep hitting force their way into those roles.  Grade: C+ 24. OF Troy Montgomery – Former eighth round pick by the Angels out of Ohio State.  Surprising power/speed/defense combination.  Strongly built, he can cover some ground in the outfield and put a charge into a ball.  Contact ability has become a red flag in Advanced A Ball, and adjustments are needed.  He could still turn into a Kole Calhoun type of player.  Grade: C+   25. RHP Joe Gatto – Former second round pick out of a New Jersey high school.  Gatto has a 92-93 mph fastball, 12-6 curve and a “plus” change.  Big bodied, and strong, Gatto has the type of upside that could make him a dependable #4/5 starter in the big leagues for years to come.  After a rough start to his professional career, Gatto has turned things around this year in Burlington and appears ready to begin climbing the minor league ladder.  Grade: C+ 26. LHP Jose Suarez – International signee with intriguing three pitch blend.  Fringe fastball, but a big bending curve and a solid change up to go with clean mechanics and good command of all of his pitches.  Grade: C 27. LHP Jonah Wesely – A big lefty that many thought would be developed as a starter but has since been moved to relief and flourished in that role.  Jonah has a fastball that can touch 95 and a big, sharp bender that leaves hitters guessing whether it’s a strike or not. He likely would already be knocking on the door to the majors by now (given Alvarez’s struggles) if it weren’t for needing Tommy John surgery.  The first year back is typically a pretty rocky experience, but Jonah’s been quick to put any struggles in his rearview.  As has become par of the course, we’re seeing a lot of strikeouts and an ERA around 3.00.  Grade: C 28. OF Brendon Sanger – Former fourth round pick by the Angels, blessed with a beautiful left-handed swing, great plate discipline, very good raw power and solid athleticism.  Angels experimented with putting him in the infield last year, but Sanger just didn’t take to those positions very well at all, and that got in his head at the plate too.  He’s since been moved back out to the outfield, and is putting up really solid numbers at Inland Empire.  Grade: C 29. RHP Vicente Campos – Campos is one of those guys teams keep around as a letter ticket.  If Vicente is healthy, he’s coming at you with three “plus” pitches and outstanding command.  He has what it takes to be a very good mid-rotation starter or back of the bullpen reliever.  But it’s been quite a while since Campos was healthy for any stretch of time, which explains why other teams were willing to jettison him.  Grade: C 30. OF Jonah Todd – Sixth round pick by the Angels out of Auburn.  Todd shows very little in the way of power, and was most certainly a safe pick designed to offset the potential costs of drafting other upside players in the first ten rounds.  Still, Todd does have some things working for him.  He’s got a great approach at the plate, has a very simplistic, repeatable line drive swing.  He sees the ball very well and is a hustler down the lines.  Jonah plays solid defense and is a good bet to make it to the upper levels of the minor league ladder very quickly, so he’ll give us an idea as to what he can do in the major leagues sooner than others.  

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Last Week in Angels Baseball: The “Please Hurry Back, Mike Trout!” Edition

By Glen McKee, Chronicler of Mediocrity Last week was yet another week of Angels baseball in which they showed signs of the possibilities but ultimately ended up disappointing us.  Once again, the Angels start a new week with a perfectly mediocre record of 43-43, amazingly enough still in second place in the AL West, as if that mattered.  Let’s break down how the past week gave us some hope but then reminded us of what this team is. – The big deal at the stadium on Saturday was the celebration of Albert Pujols’ 600th HR, which feels like it happened a month ago.  Wait a minute, it was a month ago, June 4th.  The Angels celebrating Pujols hitting his 600th HR is a bit like a real estate agency celebrating an agent selling his 600th house, but he sold 445 of those houses at a different agency and sold those 445 at a much better rate.  Last week, Pujols hit a miserable .136.  HIs average for June was .196, with a .543 OPS.  Hence the title of this post.  He needs Mike Trout hitting in front of him or he goes to complete shite, as opposed to partial shite.  HIs season OPS of .646 is eighth for Angels starters.  He’s one of the elephants in the room that the Angels need to address. – OK, enough about Pujols, who else on the team is miserable?  Kold Calhoun is back, hitting .167 last week and .242 for the season.  Calhoun actually had a very good June, let’s hope that last week was an aberration. – Speaking of Mike Trout, it appears that all systems are go with him and he’s ready to be back.  He was selected to the All-Star team and I have a feeling he wants to both be in that game and playing with the Angels before then.  Expect him to be activated Friday before the Rangers game. – It’s worth noting that going into last week the Angels were facing the hottest team in the league for four games, the Dodgers.  There’s a bit of a rivalry thing between the respective fan bases, if you hadn’t noticed.  The Dodgers had won 10 in a row prior to that, and the Angels slowed them down.  After the Angels, the Dodgers took two of three from the Padres and the Angels lost two of three from the Dipotos.  Make of that what you will. – You know who is on the Angels and underrated?  Nobody, really.  That’s why the Angels are so mediocre.  That said, let’s heap a little praise on Ricky Nolasco.  He was the brightest spot of last week and it’s surprising to type that.  6.1 IP against the Dodgers, 0 ER, gets the win.  CG SO against the Mariners, gets the lone win of that series.  Last year he finished the season impressively.  This could be a turning point for him or a fluke, but I’m hoping for and believing it’s the former. – Kenyan Middleton had a brutal week.  It started off well but then he gave up an inconsequential run in one inning against the Dodgers, and on Sunday he gave up 3 ER in one inning in a game the Angels lost, 5-3.  That hurt, but you know what?  He’s a rookie reliever.  Give the kid some time. – Biggest potential trade target Yunel Escobar kept increasing his value, hitting .381 last week and showing some above-average defense at 3B.  I love Luggage Guy and I kinda hope he isn’t traded, but if he is gonna be traded now is the time. As in, this week.  Don’t give him the chance to cool off. – How about that Blake Parker?  If there’s one thing you have to give Eppler credit for, it’s finding bullpen pieces that nobody expected to be good.  Parker has a 1.98 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP on the season.  In three games last week Parker had 2.1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K.  Along with David Hernandez, he’s been the biggest surprise in the ‘pen. The binnacle list.  Matt Shoemaker may or may not return soon.  As I mentioned above, I’m betting on Trout being activated Friday.  Andrew Heaney could be back this season.  Tyler Skaggs could be back in a few weeks.  Garrett Richards might be back in August.  I hope hat clears everything up. What’s next?  Three games in Minnesota against the equally mediocre (41-40) Twins, a day off, and then three in Texas versus the slightly-less-than-mediocre (40-42) Rangers.  Both teams are 4-6 in their last 10 games, versus the Angels 5-5.  Edge: Lowell. Predictions.  It’s six games so the Angels have to go 3-3, so I have to decide which team they’ll choke against.  Usually it would be the division-rival Rangers but I’m predicting 1-2 in Minnesota and 2-1 in Texas, with that one loss being the last game before the All-Star break, because that’s how we roll.  It’s worth noting – let me pat myself on the back here – that I got last week exactly right, so you know I’m good for this week.

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2017 Trade Deadline Series: Yunel Escobar

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer 2015-2017 Split vs. LHP as of June 27, 2017 2015-2017 Split vs. RHP as of June 27, 2017 As we continue the Trade Deadline Series we will move back to the position player side of the equation and examine the market for 3B Yunel Escobar. So far in 2017, Escobar’s platoon splits have been a bit more pronounced as he has improved a bit against LHP (145 wRC+) but has dropped an equivalent amount against RHP (90 wRC+), decreasing his overall offensive production by about 2% from last year. This difference may be BABIP related in both directions as he appears to have been extra lucky against LHP and unlucky versus RHP so those splits may smooth out as the season wears on. Yunel’s defense has continued to be an issue in 2017 but FanGraphs DEF rates him Rest OF Season (R) anywhere from ZiPS -2.8 to Steamer’s -2.1, which is actually an improvement over 2016 (-3.9). UZR/150 currently has him at -6.0 as compared to 2016 at -8.6. None of this hides the fact of what the eyes see on a regular basis which is a player who can still make an occasionally good play but consistently suffers on more difficult fielding attempts and is unable to make steady, quality transfers from glove to hand and execute accurate throws across the diamond. Most teams know at this point they are playing Yunel for his bat control, contact ability, and on-base skills which he still does well. Once those go or he is completely unable to play 3B his playing days might be numbered. You just cannot lose defensive versatility or your offensive skills if you want to stay in the Majors. Let us take a look at the contending teams that might need Escobar’s services. Diamondbacks At a quick glance you would not think that Arizona needs a player like Yunel especially when you consider that they have the young, budding star Jake Lamb at 3B. What is disguised deep beneath the Diamondbacks strong success so far this season is the fact that they currently rank 28th in the Majors against LHP. You know you probably have an issue when your two catchers, first baseman, and utility MIF are the only players on the team that have positive wRC+ numbers against lefties. Now certainly Arizona is going to continue playing Lamb mostly full-time but adding a corner utility infielder like Escobar would be very wise for a team that plays in a Division that tends to be a little more lefty-heavy than others, particularly their fiercest rivals like the Dodgers and the Rockies. Although they will view him as a utility guy who can play 3B and maybe 1B and LF it is quite probable that the Angels can get Yunel’s relative value despite the fact the Diamondbacks won’t play him full-time. Diamondbacks Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, UTIL Danny Espinosa, and  UTIL Cliff Pennington
Angels Likely Target(s): AAA LHP Anthony Banda, AA Domingo Leyba, AA RHP Taylor Clarke, A RHP Wei-Chieh Huang, A+ RHP Jon Duplantier, AAA RHP Matt Koch, A C Jose Herrera, A OF Marcus Wilson, AA LHP Jared Miller, A+ RHP Jose Almonte, AAA 2B Ildemaro Vargas, and AA RHP Brad Keller
Trade Scenario(s): The Diamondbacks have a pretty darn good team overall but if they wind up in the playoffs against a team like the Dodgers, heavy in left-handed starters, they will likely go home early so a hitter like Escobar, who destroys LHP, makes sense. Also with Nick Ahmed fracturing his wrist they might need a lefty-mashing hitter like Espinosa as a defensive utility backup.
Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar to the Diamondbacks in exchange for AAA 2B Ildemaro Vargas
Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar and UTIL Danny Espinosa to the Diamondbacks in exchange for AAA RHP Matt Koch and A+ RHP Jose Almonte
Yankees Chase Headley has not been performing to his previous norms but he has been solid against RHP so far this season with declining defense. They have no full-time need for Yunel but they might be interested in bringing him in as a backup corner INF to provide depth and the ability to hit LHP of which Chase has been terrible against this year and to back up Chris Carter or possibly Tyler Austin who just hit the disabled list. Yankees Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Blake Parker, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, and RHP David Hernandez
Angels Likely Target(s): A+ RHP James Kaprielian, A+ SS Jorge Mateo, AAA OF Dustin Fowler, AA LHP Justus Sheffield, A+ RHP Albert Abreu, AAA RHP Chance Adams, AAA 3B Miguel Andujar, A+ RHP Dillon Tate, AAA UTIL Tyler Wade, A OF Estevan Florial, AAA RHP Domingo Acevedo, R 3B Dermis Garcia, A+ LHP Ian Clarkin, AAA RHP Gio Gallegos, R RHP Rony Garcia, A+ SS Kyle Holder, AAA RHP Ben Heller, A- RHP Jorge Guzman, AA RHP Yefry Ramirez, R SS Eduardo Torrealba, A RHP Nick Green, A SS Diego Castillo, AA RHP Zack Littell, AAA RHP Adonis Rosa, R RHP Deivi Garcia, AA RHP Travis Hissong, AA RHP Nick Rumbelow, A+ RHP Erik Swanson, and AA 2B Thairo Estrada
Trade Scenario(s): The Yankees might take a flyer on Escobar as part of a platoon with Chase Headley but if they were to inquire on anyone first it would probably be one of our available relievers, particularly one that can get RHH’s out well.
Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar to the Yankees in exchange for A+ RHP Dillon Tate Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar to the Yankees in exchange for AA RHP Travis Hissong
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Yankees in exchange for AAA OF Dustin Fowler, A- RHP Jorge Guzman, and AA RHP Travis Hissong Red Sox Boston has run out multiple players at 3B to no avail in the first half of 2017. The group as a whole holds a meager wRC+ of 81 and it has been a black hole of production that the Red Sox, if they want to seriously compete, need to fill. Unfortunately the Angels will face some competition in the market from other pure rental players like Mike Moustakas, Todd Frazier, and Jed Lowrie, all three of which are equal or better defenders than Escobar and will likely be available at the deadline. Red Sox Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, RHP Bud Norris, RHP David Hernandez,  UTIL Danny Espinosa, UTIL Cliff Pennington, and RHP Blake Parker
Angels Likely Target(s): AA 3B Rafael Devers, A LHP Jay Groome, A 3B Bobby Dalbec, A SS C.J. Chatham, A+ RHP Roniel Raudes, AA RHP Travis Lakins, A+ 1B Josh Ockimey, AAA RHP Ben Taylor, AA 3B Michael Chavis, AAA RHP Kyle Martin, A RHP Bryan Mata, A+ RHP Shaun Anderson, A+ OF Trenton Kemp, AAA RHP Chandler Shepard, A+ RHP Marc Brakeman, A+ RHP Stephen Nogosek, R 1B Pedro Castellanos, and AAA RHP Jaime Callahan
Trade Scenario(s): The Red Sox are running out their 5th 3B over the last week and might have serious interest in Yunel Escobar as a less expensive option. Also Boston almost assuredly would like to beef up their bullpen for a stretch run in the very competitive A.L. East, preferably a two-way type reliever that can impact both sides of the plate. Finally Boston might have interest in a quality defensive utility player so Espinosa and Pennington might be in play too.
Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar to the Red Sox in exchange for AA 3B Michael Chavis
Angels trade RHP David Hernandez and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Red Sox in exchange for A LHP Jay Groome, A+ 1B Josh Ockimey, and AAA RHP Kyle Martin Angels trade RHP Blake Parker and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Red Sox in exchange for AA 3B Rafael Devers and A LHP Jay Groome Angels trade RHP Bud Norris, 3B Yunel Escobar, and UTIL Danny Espinosa to the Red Sox in exchange for AA 3B Rafael Devers, A+ RHP Stephen Nogosek, and R 1B Pedro Castellanos Orioles Baltimore has lost their regular shortstop J.J. Hardy for at least 4 weeks with a fracture in his right hand. This may be a blessing in disguise because J.J. was not providing his usual elite defense (good but not great) and his offense has been abysmal, sitting at a wRC+ of 43 over 239 plate appearances. The reality at this point is if the Orioles want to compete they need to find a replacement solution at either SS or 3B to rectify the situation. Moving Machado to shortstop is one move they could make to take advantage of the available options (potentially Moustakas, Lowrie, Frazier, and Escobar) at 3B, including Yunel. Orioles Likely Target(s): LF Cameron Maybin, SP Ricky Nolasco, SP Jesse Chavez, SP J.C. Ramirez, 3B Yunel Escobar, and SP Matt Shoemaker Angels Likely Target(s): AA OF Cedric Mullins, AAA C Chance Sisco, A+ OF/1B Anthony Santander, AAA LHP Chris Lee, AA LHP Tanner Scott, A+ LF Ryan Mountcastle, A+ 3B Jomar Reyes, A+ OF Austin Hays, AA RHP Ryan Meisinger, AA C Austin Wynns, AA C Yermin Mercedes, and A- RHP Hunter Harvey Trade Scenario(s): The Orioles have many needs including a corner outfielder, starting pitcher, a productive 3B or SS (Machado can play either), and at least one starting pitcher.
Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar to the Orioles in exchange for AA C Austin Wynns
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin, SP Ricky Nolasco, and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Orioles in exchange for AAA C Chance Sisco, AA OF Cedric Mullins, AA RHP Ryan Meisinger, and AA C Yermin Mercedes. Angels absorb $4MM of Nolasco’s remaining 2017 salary Conclusion First and foremost Yunel is crushing LHP this year to the tune of a 145 wRC+. He still does reasonably well against RHP but destroying left-handed pitchers is his thing. His run creation would improve any team in the League against LHP, period. He has also proven he can hit out of the lead-off position. If a team does not see him as a regular 3B for the remainder of 2017, one or more should, at the very least, view him as a good choice to be a utility corner infielder. That however would diminish his sparse value even further making it questionable if it is even worth it for the Angels to move him. So if the Angels cannot find a team that wants to fully utilize Escobar in a full-time role the only way they might still get fair value is if they trade him to a team as part of a larger package to obtain a player with longer term control. In that scenario Yunel would wind up as a replacement player, likely on a team that is out of contention. Escobar’s market is thin and complicated further by better options on the trade market. It is possible that the Angels could include Yunel in a deal for one of those other rental third basemen, so it is not a completely lost cause, but it probably won’t be easy for Eppler to find a suitor. This is a situation that may result in Escobar simply playing out the rest of the season in Anaheim. It could really go either way at this point barring an injury to a third baseman on another team in contention. Author’s Best Guess: This is a difficult one to try and predict so I will go with the Angels, if they are playing for a Wild Card spot, trading both 1B C.J. Cron and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Royals in exchange for 3B Mike Moustakas and A C Meibrys Viloria. The Royals get three years of control of Cron to fill their probable 2nd half of 2017 and 2018 and beyond needs at either 1B or DH, Escobar replaces Moustakas for the remainder of the season and the Angels pick up a pure rental in Mike and a long-term prospect in Viloria.

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2017 Trade Deadline Series: Bud Norris

2015-2017 Split vs. LHH as of June 20, 2017 2015-2017 Split vs. RHH as of June 20, 2017 We started the Trade Deadline Series with Cameron Maybin because he probably has the most overall value in trade out of all of the players with less than one year of control but right-handed reliever Bud Norris is not too far behind him in the market. Bud has taken to the closer role quite well once Street and Bedrosian hit the disabled list. Not only is his fastball velocity sitting in the mid-90’s but he is complimenting that pitch with a quality cut fastball and slider. The four-seam fastball has been a weakness against both RHH’s and LHH’s but the cutter and slider have been very effective against both sides of the plate per Perhaps a lot less noticeable is the fact that, as a reliever, his LOB% has risen significantly against both sides of the plate and his batting average against has gone down considerably particularly against LHH’s. Norris has less than $1M left on his contract so he is a very attractive asset from both a performance and team payroll point of view. Relievers are almost always in high demand at the deadline so there should be quite a strong market for someone like Bud who can effectively get LHH’s and RHH’s out. After we have executed our basic analysis we will also discuss David Hernandez and Yusmeiro Petit who happen to have profiles that are similar to Norris so keep that in mind when reading the rest of the article. Let us take a look at some teams that have a need for Norris’ services. Twins Minnesota is in dire need of relief help against both sides of the plate. Overall their rotation and bullpen rank 25th vs. LHH’s and dead last vs. RHH’s in K-BB%. When you dig deeper the only member of the Twins bullpen getting it done against both sides of the plate is Tyler Duffey. Even Brandon Kintzler, the team’s current closer, is struggling against left-handed hitters. All of this simply means that Minnesota needs to solve its bullpen woes if they really want to compete, particularly in a playoff series where reliever use is critical. Twins Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, RHP Jesse Chavez, and RHP David Hernandez Angels Likely Target(s): AA LHP Stephen Gonsalves, AA LHP Tyler Jay, R OF Alex Kirilloff, R SS Wander Javier, AA RHP Fernando Romero, AA RHP Kohl Stewart, AAA C Mitch Garver, AAA OF Zack Granite, A+ LHP Lewis Thorpe, AAA RHP J.T. Chargois, AA RHP Nick Burdi, A 1B Lewin Diaz, AA OF Lamonte Wade, AA RHP Felix Jorge, R RHP Huascar Ynoa, A+ LHP Lachlan Wells, R RHP Brusdar Graterol, AAA RHP Aaron Slegers, AA RHP John Curtiss, A+ 2B Luis Arraez, R RHP James Jax, and A RHP Sean Poppen Trade Scenario(s): The Twins really could use a more productive outfielder and are in dire need of right-handed and left-handed relief help. Additionally adding a lead-off hitter would move Dozier to the 2-hole and strengthen and lengthen their lineup as a whole.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Twins in exchange for AA LHP Stephen Gonsalves and R RHP James Jax
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris and RHP Yusmeiro Petit to the Twins in exchange for AAA OF Zack Granite, A+ LHP Lewis Thorpe, and A+ 2B Luis Arraez
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RP Bud Norris to the Twins in exchange for AA LHP Stephen Gonsalves, R OF Alex Kirilloff, A+ 2B Luis Arraez, and R SS Wander Javier Rangers Standing literally right behind the Twins in rotation and bullpen suck-age is our A.L. West opponent, the Texas Rangers. They currently rank 27th versus LHH’s and 29th against RHH’s in our tables we generated in the second submission of the series (the Methodology article). Obviously this is an issue that needs to be addressed if the Rangers want to succeed moving forward. When you examine the Rangers bullpen two names, Jeremy Jeffress and Dario Alvarez, stand out as under-performers. The former is a bit surprising as he was the other guy in the Lucroy trade (and boy is that looking not so good for Texas now) and there was an expectation he would make an impact. Most of Texas’ woes are in the back-end of the rotation and in set-up (Jeffress) and middle relief (Alvarez). Normally the Angels might not want to bargain with a team in their own Division but if the trade asset is only a pure rental it should not be an issue for Billy Eppler to strike a deal (although Texas may be loathe to do so). Rangers Likely Target(s): RHP David Hernandez and RHP Yusmeiro Petit Angels Likely Target(s): AA LHP Yohander Mendez, A OF Leody Taveras, AA RHP Ariel Jurado, R LHP Cole Ragans, AA C Jose Trevino, A+ LHP Joe Palumbo, A+ LHP Brett Martin, AA 2B Andy Ibanez, AA RHP Connor Sadzeck, A RHP Michael Matuella, RHP Josh LeClerc, AAA UTIL Drew Robinson, R 2B Kole Enright, A+ RHP Jonathan Hernandez, AAA C Brett Nicholas, A RHP Kyle Cody, AA OF Jose Cardona, and AA RHP Pedro Payano Trade Scenario(s): The Rangers, just like the Angels, are on the outskirts of the Wild Card race. If they do close the gap adding one of our relievers as a pure rental piece is the most likely outcome if Eppler chooses to do business with a Division rival.
Angels trade RHP David Hernandez to the Rangers in exchange for AA RHP Ariel Jurado and A RHP Michael Matuella
Angels trade RHP Yusmeiro Petit to the Rangers in exchange for A+ RHP Jonathan Hernandez and A RHP Kyle Cody
Tigers Detroit is doing a touch better than the previous two teams as their pitching staff is ranked 16th against LHH’s and 27th versus RHH’s. Clearly they need to improve as a whole against the latter but a deeper look shows where the real problem lies. When you peel back the layers you quickly realize that 40% of the Tigers rotation (Zimmerman and Verlander) are really under-performing against both sides of the plate as are relievers LHP Daniel Stumpf and RHP Alex Wilson. There may be very little the Tigers can do about the former when you consider the contracts owed but the latter could be alleviated by acquiring a reliever or two to reinforce their bullpen if Detroit stays in it. Tigers Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, OF Eric Young Jr., RHP David Hernandez, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, RHP Blake Parker, and RHP Bud Norris Angels Likely Target(s): R RHP Matt Manning, AA RHP Beau Burrows, AA LHP Tyler Alexander, AA OF Mike Gerber, RHP Joe Jimenez, SS Dixon Machado, A+ RHP Kyle Funkhouser, AA RHP Adam Ravanelle, A+ RHP Gerson Moreno, A+ RHP Sandy Baez, R 2B Hector Martinez, A+ RHP Spencer Turnbull, R RHP Wladimir Pinto, AA RHP Myles Jaye, AA LHP Jairo Labourt, A+ RHP Drew Smith, A+ LHP Matt Hall, and AA RHP Artie Lewicki,
Trade Scenario(s): Detroit, in the current standings, are still in the mix for a shot at the Division and Wild Card. If that holds they could certainly use a shot in the arm in center field. Additionally the Tigers rotation has been quite ineffective against RHP so that is likely a concern for their management although it is unclear how they can address the issue. Finally Detroit probably needs an additional reliever or two if they want to make a run at a Wild Card spot.
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RHP Yusmeiro Petit to the Tigers in exchange for RHP Joe Jimenez, R RHP Wladimir Pinto, A+ RHP Kyle Funkhouser, and A+ LHP Matt Hall Angels trade RHP Yusmeiro Petit to the Tigers in exchange for AA RHP Adam Ravanelle Angels trade RHP David Hernandez to the Tigers in exchange for A+ RHP Kyle Funkhouser and A+ RHP Spencer Turnbull Brewers Milwaukee, like Anaheim and Texas, sits on the fringe of the Wild Card race waiting to see how things firm up before the All Star Break. If the Brew Crew finds themselves as buyers at the deadline they will have to account for their current 13th place ranking versus LHH’s and 26th place ranking against RHH’s if they want to sustain a run through the rest of the year. Relievers like Carlos Torres, Paolo Espino, and Wily Peralta along with starters Zach Davies and Junior Guerra are dragging down Milwaukee’s pitching numbers due to bland results and under-performance. Brewers Likely Target(s): RHP Bud Norris, RHP David Hernandez, RHP Jesse Chavez, RHP Blake Parker, and RHP Yusmeiro Petit
Angels Likely Target(s): RHP Brandon Woodruff, A+ 3B Lucas Erceg, A+ RHP Marcos Diplan, A+ RHP Phil Bickford, AAA OF Ryan Cordell, AA RHP Jorge Lopez, A+ RHP Cody Ponce, AAA OF Brett Phillips, AA RHP Corbin Burnes, A+ LHP Kodi Medeiros, AA RHP Freddy Peralta, A C Mario Feliciano, A+ RHP Jordan Yamamoto, AAA OF Kyle Wren, AA RHP Adrian Houser, R RHP Nash Walters, A+ OF Troy Stokes, AA RHP Jon Perrin, and AA RHP Aaron Wilkerson
Trade Scenario(s): Milwaukee has been hanging in the playoff hunt and recently they have indicated they are open to potentially adding bullpen help as they near the deadline. The caveat to that need is that they are unwilling to trade any of their top tier pieces, per, so in light of that we will only consider certain Brewers prospects and players in this discussion. The Brewers primary need is relievers that can put away right-handed hitters.
Angels trade RHP Yusmeiro Petit to the Brewers in exchange for AA RHP Aaron Wilkerson and A+ LHP Kodi Medeiros
Angels trade RHP David Hernandez to the Brewers in exchange for AAA OF Ryan Cordell and R RHP Nash Walters Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Brewers in exchange for AA RHP Jorge Lopez and A+ RHP Phil Bickford Angels trade RHP Blake Parker to the Brewers in exchange for AAA OF Ryan Cordell, AA RHP Corbin Burnes, and A+ RHP Cody Ponce Rays
When you look closer at Tampa’s bullpen you see a group that is a little bit split in their efficiency against both sides of the plate. Danny Farquhar in particular has had his troubles and frankly this is an area where the Rays could improve by adding a reliever that can get both LHH’s and RHH’s out if they want to compete more effectively down the stretch and especially if they make the playoffs. Rays Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, OF Eric Young Jr., SP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, and RHP David Hernandez Angels Likely Target(s): AAA RHP Brent Honeywell, RHP Jose De Leon, A OF Jesus Sanchez, AAA RHP Chih-Wei Hu, AA OF Justin Williams, RHP Jacob Faria, AAA RHP Ryne Stanek, AAA RHP Diego Castillo, R LHP Resly Linares, A+ 3B Kevin Padlo, AAA RHP Taylor Guerrieri, AA RHP Hunter Wood, AAA RHP Jaime Schultz, AA RHP Greg Harris, A+ C David Rodriguez, LHP Jose Alvarado, A+ RHP Brandon Koch, A+ LHP Genesis Cabrera, AAA LHP Ryan Yarbrough, A RHP Deivy Mendez, A- Vidal Brujan, A+ RHP Blake Bivens, A RHP Adrian Navas, A RHP Kevin Gadea, A RHP Peter Bayer, R C Ronaldo Hernandez, and A LHP Kenny Rosenberg Trade Scenario(s): The Rays have had their fair share of bullpen injuries so reinforcing their relief corps by adding one good, two-way reliever might be prudent.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Rays in exchange for AAA RHP Jaime Schultz and A+ RHP Brandon Koch
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RHP Bud Norris to the Rays in exchange for AAA RHP Diego Castillo, AAA RHP Jaime Schultz, and R C Ronaldo Hernandez
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin, SP Ricky Nolasco, and RHP David Hernandez to the Rays in exchange for AAA Chih-Wei Hu, AAA RHP Jaime Schultz, LHP Jose Alvarado, and A+ LHP Genesis Cabrera. Angels absorb $2MM of Nolasco’s remaining 2017 salary Mets New York has been taking on water recently and finds themselves on the bubble of completely falling out of the Wild Card race. Realistically the Mets season might be done but like every other team on this list they are one large winning streak away from putting themselves back into the discussion. When you examine New York’s bullpen you can see that they are more match-up based with only their closer, Addison Reed, being a true two-way reliever. It would probably be in their best interest to acquire one more bullpen piece if they are in it at the deadline. Mets Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Blake Parker, and RHP David Hernandez
Angels Likely Target(s): AAA 1B Dominic Smith, A+ RHP Justin Dunn, A SS Andres Gimenez, A OF Desmond Lindsay, A LHP Thomas Szapucki, AA C Tomas Nido, OF Brandon Nimmo, R SS Gregory Guerrero, AAA 2B Gavin Cecchini, A+ 1B Peter Alonso, A+ OF Wuilmer Becerra, A RHP Merandy Gonzalez, AA RHP Marcos Molina, UTIL T.J. Rivera, A C Ali Sanchez, A RHP Harol Gonzalez, AA RHP Chris Flexen, R OF Anthony Dirocie, R RHP Michel Otanez, R OF Raul Beracierta, A+ RHP Nabil Crismatt, and A+ 3B Jhoan Urena
Trade Scenario(s): The Mets need another reliable reliever and based on the lackluster performance of some of their middle infield, someone like Yunel Escobar might be a rental they would be interested in.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Mets in exchange for AAA 2B Gavin Cecchini and R RHP Michel Otanez
Angels trade RHP David Hernandez to the Mets in exchange for OF Brandon Nimmo and R OF Anthony Dirocie Angels trade RHP Bud Norris and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Mets in exchange for AAA 2B Gavin Cecchini, A+ 1B Peter Alonso, and AA RHP Chris Flexen Yankees The Bronx Bombers actually have a pretty good bullpen with the likes of Chapman, Betances, and Chad Green being able to control both sides of the plate. However when you look a little closer it is clear they may want to beef up their middle right-handed relief before the deadline as they are a little heavy the other way. To be clear New York does not have to do anything here and they could probably get by adequately particularly in a playoff situation with the three listed above. A move to increase the length and breadth of their bullpen would be a depth one, perhaps even a luxury, which, of course, the Yankees can afford. Yankees Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Blake Parker, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, and RHP David Hernandez
Angels Likely Target(s): A+ RHP James Kaprielian, A+ SS Jorge Mateo, AAA OF Dustin Fowler, AA LHP Justus Sheffield, A+ RHP Albert Abreu, AAA RHP Chance Adams, AAA 3B Miguel Andujar, A+ RHP Dillon Tate, AAA UTIL Tyler Wade, A OF Estevan Florial, AAA RHP Domingo Acevedo, R 3B Dermis Garcia, A+ LHP Ian Clarkin, AAA RHP Gio Gallegos, R RHP Rony Garcia, A+ SS Kyle Holder, AAA RHP Ben Heller, A- RHP Jorge Guzman, AA RHP Yefry Ramirez, R SS Eduardo Torrealba, A RHP Nick Green, A SS Diego Castillo, AA RHP Zack Littell, AAA RHP Adonis Rosa, R RHP Deivi Garcia, AA RHP Travis Hissong, AA RHP Nick Rumbelow, A+ RHP Erik Swanson, and AA 2B Thairo Estrada
Trade Scenario(s): The Yankees might take a flyer on Escobar as part of a platoon with Chase Headley but if they were to inquire on anyone first it would probably be one of our available relievers, particularly one that can get RHH’s out well.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Yankees in exchange for AAA 3B Miguel Andujar and R RHP Deivi Garcia
Angels trade RHP David Hernandez to the Yankees in exchange for AAA RHP Domingo Acevedo and R RHP Rony Garcia
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Yankees in exchange for AAA OF Dustin Fowler, A- RHP Jorge Guzman, and AA RHP Travis Hissong
Nationals Washington’s bullpen woes have been fairly well documented since the beginning of the season. When you look at the current state of their bullpen it becomes clear that they probably need one more reliever that can get lefties out and preferably that person should be a two-way guy that can get RHH’s out too. Nationals Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, UTIL Danny Espinosa, UTIL Cliff Pennington, RHP David Hernandez, RHP Blake Parker, and RHP Bud Norris Angels Likely Target(s): A+ OF Victor Robles, A OF Juan Soto, AAA RHP Erick Fedde, DSL SS Luis Garcia, A 3B Carter Kieboom, RHP Koda Glover, AAA C Pedro Severino, AA 1B Jose Marmolejos, A OF Daniel Johnson, A C Jakson Reetz, A LHP Tyler Watson, and AA RHP Ryan Brinley Trade Scenario(s): Certain members of the Nat’s bullpen are not performing well so adding someone like David Hernandez or Bud Norris would give them more firepower, particularly against left-handed hitters, in later innings. Also Washington may be a serious player to acquire Cameron Maybin if the Angels are out of it near the trade deadline. Finally a left-handed hitting defensive-minded utility backup like Espinosa (questionable considering the way he argued with Nat’s management before they traded him to the Halos) or Pennington might be in the cards.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Nationals in exchange for AAA RHP Erick Fedde and A C Jakson Reetz
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RHP David Hernandez to the Nationals in exchange for RHP Koda Glover, AA RHP Ryan Brinley, A OF Juan Soto, and A LHP Tyler Watson
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin, UTIL Danny Espinosa, and RHP Bud Norris to the Nationals in exchange for AAA Erick Fedde, RHP Koda Glover, A OF Juan Soto, and A LHP Tyler Watson
Red Sox Boston has the best reliever, hands-down, in baseball right now in the form of Craig Kimbrel so they are operating off of a great base. However behind Craig the only other two-way guy is Heath Hembree. The rest of the bullpen can play match-ups reasonably well but the Red Sox could use a third two-way reliever to add depth and prepare them for a playoff run. Realistically the Sox are a likely trade partner as they may be on the lookout for a 3B to replace the struggling Pablo Sandoval so they may have interest in Yunel Escobar if the Angels are out of it at the deadline or decide that Kaleb Cowart or Luis Valbuena can replace his production. Red Sox Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, RHP Bud Norris, RHP David Hernandez,  UTIL Danny Espinosa, UTIL Cliff Pennington, and RHP Blake Parker
Angels Likely Target(s): AA 3B Rafael Devers, A LHP Jay Groome, A 3B Bobby Dalbec, A SS C.J. Chatham, A+ RHP Roniel Raudes, AA RHP Travis Lakins, A+ 1B Josh Ockimey, AAA RHP Ben Taylor, AA 3B Michael Chavis, AAA RHP Kyle Martin, A RHP Bryan Mata, A+ RHP Shaun Anderson, A+ OF Trenton Kemp, AAA RHP Chandler Shepard, A+ RHP Marc Brakeman, A+ RHP Stephen Nogosek, R 1B Pedro Castellanos, and AAA RHP Jaime Callahan
Trade Scenario(s): Boston almost assuredly would like to beef up their bullpen for a stretch run in the very competitive A.L. East, preferably a two-way type reliever that can impact both sides of the plate. Also the Red Sox are running out their 6th 3B over the last week and might have serious interest in Yunel Escobar as a less expensive option. Finally Boston might have interest in a quality defensive utility player so Espinosa and Pennington might be in play too.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Red Sox in exchange for AA 3B Michael Chavis and A+ RHP Marc Brakeman
Angels trade RHP David Hernandez and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Red Sox in exchange for A LHP Jay Groome, A+ 1B Josh Ockimey, and AAA RHP Kyle Martin Angels trade RHP Blake Parker and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Red Sox in exchange for AA 3B Rafael Devers and A LHP Jay Groome Angels trade RHP Bud Norris, 3B Yunel Escobar, and UTIL Danny Espinosa to the Red Sox in exchange for AA 3B Rafael Devers, A+ RHP Stephen Nogosek, and R 1B Pedro Castellanos
Indians Cleveland’s pitching as a whole, despite the actual results, has been pretty darn good and is a testament to the front office and coaching staff. However like many teams they do have some holes and one of them may be a lack of middle relief that can effectively close out LHH’s. The Indians have a strong and competitive playoff team and they may be in need of a utility infielder that can hit LHP in addition to a bullpen arm. Indians Likely Target(s): RHP Bud Norris, RHP David Hernandez, RHP Blake Parker, LHP Jose Alvarez, RHP Cam Bedrosian, UTIL Danny Espinosa, and UTIL Cliff Pennington
Angels Likely Target(s): AA C Francisco Mejia, AAA 3B Yandy Diaz, AA OF Greg Allen, AA 1B Bobbie Bradley, A- 3B Nolan Jones, AA SS Yu-Cheng Chang, A LHP Brady Aiken, A LHP Juan Hillman, A+ OF Anthony Santander, AAA RHP Shawn Armstrong, A+ RHP Triston McKenzie, A LHP Sam Hentges, A- OF Oscar Gonzalez, A C Logan Ice, A RHP Yoiber Marquina, AA RHP Perci Garner, A+ RHP Shane Bieber, A+ RHP Aaron Civale, and A+ OF Andrew Calica
Trade Scenario(s): Cleveland could certainly use another strong reliever that can get left-handed hitters out at the minimum. The Indians are one team that have a plethora of different prospects that the Angels actually need (OF, 3B, and C) so certain Angels players that Eppler may not be offering to other teams might be in play here. Besides relief pitching Cleveland may want a more experienced, defense-first utility player like Espinosa or Pennington that can hit LHP.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris and A RHP Joe Gatto to the Indians in exchange for 3B Yandy Diaz and A+ RHP Shane Bieber Angels trade LHP Jose Alvarez and UTIL Danny Espinosa to the Indians in exchange for AA OF Greg Allen and A RHP Yoiber Marquina Angels trade RHP Blake Parker and UTIL Danny Espinosa to the Indians in exchange for 3B Yandy Diaz and A+ RHP Triston McKenzie Angels trade RHP Cam Bedrosian to the Indians in exchange for AA C Francisco Mejia, AAA 3B Yandy Diaz, and A LHP Juan Hillman Conclusion In terms of overall trade value, Bud Norris certainly has a lot for any team looking to strengthen their relief corps leading up to the trade deadline. Realistically Norris, like Maybin, should bring back a good quality prospect plus a secondary piece of some sort. It won’t be quite the return Cameron generates but it will be in the ballpark. The 10 teams above, the Twins, Rangers, Tigers, Brewers, Rays, Mets, Yankees, Nationals, Red Sox, and Indians are all likely suitors based on our initial analysis. Certainly a couple of these teams are close to being out of the running for Norris’ services but that could mean that there are other teams inching closer to competing that could have a need. To be clear the author examined each of the non-listed teams in detail to determine if they had a need. A bit surprisingly certain teams such as the Astros (Giles, Devenski, and Feliz), Diamondbacks (Bradley, Chafin, and Delgado), Cubs (Davis, Edwards Jr., and Duensing), and Blue Jays (Osuna, Smith, and Barnes) have excellent bullpens with, in the author’s opinion, virtually no holes at this point in time. Essentially this is a season of the have’s and the have not’s which will add a layer of complexity to the trade market. However reliever volatility and injury is quite random and occurs often so any of those squads not mentioned could, at a moment’s notice, become a buyer for an Angels bullpen piece if the need arises. Bud will definitely not be the only reliever on the market so trade competition will be fierce. This is one area the Angels have been very strong in and when you consider the return of Cam Bedrosian to the bullpen, the Angels, if they stick in the playoff hunt, can afford to part with one of their other relievers to bolster the team now or continue building the farm system with prospects. Also what applies to Bud Norris would also apply to David Hernandez as seen below: 2015-2017 Split vs. LHH as of June 20, 2017 2015-2017 Split vs. RHH as of June 20, 2017 In fact there is a compelling case that Hernandez should bring in slightly more than Norris based on the comparison of their splits in 2017. Norris obviously has the more recent high leverage (closer) experience but Hernandez is no stranger to that role either as he spent some time closing for the Diamondbacks a few years back. Based on this similarity between Bud and David we will forego writing a separate article on the latter and simply use this list of teams as a guideline for interested trade partners. One or both should bring in a reasonably good return on investment for the Angels, netting at least one mid-tier prospect and perhaps a secondary piece. We should all applaud Billy Eppler and his staff for the great cherry-picking effort off of the free agent market and waiver wires last year. One other Angels pitcher that does not have closer experience but is, to a lesser degree, similar to Norris and Hernandez is RHP Yusmeiro Petit who has more of an extreme platoon split as seen below: 2015-2017 Split vs. LHH as of June 20, 2017 2015-2017 Split vs. RHH as of June 20, 2017 Yusmeiro has been lights out against right-handed hitters this year in relief. He has given up a large number of walks (12.5%) to left-handed hitters but has managed to suppress their batting average against (.194) through poor contact. Teams in need of specific right-handed relief should find Petit quite appealing in terms of price and ability. Some of those clubs would include the Tigers, Twins, Brewers, and Rangers among others. Yusmeiro will not bring in as much value as Norris or Hernandez but he could snag a reasonably decent prospect in a deadline sale. Because of Petit’s similarity to Norris and Hernandez, he too will not have his own separate article written for this series. Yusmeiro’s interested suitors, as noted above, will be a sub-set of Norris’ gentlemen callers but should draw just as much interest based on his stronger ability to punch RHH’s out. Author’s Best Guess: This is a close call between the Red Sox and the Nationals. I’m going with the former because if the Angels are still in the playoff race Boston still makes some sense as a deadline trade partner for 3B Yunel Escobar (who can be potentially be replaced by Valbuena or Cowart) and one of either Bud Norris or David Hernandez (because one or the other is expendable with the return of Cam Bedrosian).
If the Angels sell-off completely here are my predictions for all three: Bud Norris to the Red Sox David Hernandez to the Nationals Yusmeiro Petit to the Brewers

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Angels Minor League All-Stars

We’ve reached the relative all-star break (at least for the farm system, not the major leagues) and the Angels system isn’t short on top performers this year.  *Please note: this is NOT a top prospect list, just a list of which players have performed the best up to this point of the season.  The only stipulation for being qualified for this list is that a player must still have their rookie status intact at the major league level.  So guys like Carlos Perez or Dustin Ackley aren’t eligible. Catcher: Wade Wass – AA Mobile.  .245/.361  7 DB 10 HR 6 SB.  Wass was scarcely on the the prospect radar before this season.  Aside from being well built with good actions behind the plate, the offensive contributions simply weren’t there.  Until this season. First Base: Matt Thaiss – Advanced A Ball Inland Empire.  .258/.349  10 DB 7 HR.  Thaiss is the Angels first round pick from last season, and despite possessing the tools to succeed, his season has been a bit underwhelming to date.  Still, he’s outhitting any other first baseman in the system. Second Base: Tim Arakawa – AA Mobile.  .311/.411 1 DB 1 triple 4 SB.  The Angels really haven’t had any solid contributions coming from second base this season, which is a shame considering the talent at this position (Hutton Moyer, Jordan Zimmerman, Sherman Johnson).  Still, we shouldn’t overlook Arakawa.  All this kid has done is hit since the Angels drafted him. Shortstop: David Fletcher – AA Mobile.  .285/.359  9 DB 1 triple 11 SB.  Fletcher can be a wizard int he field, and tenacious at the dish, which has drawn him unique comparisons with former Angel David Eckstein.  So far this season, he’s showing his performance in AA last year wasn’t a fluke, that he can handle himself at the plate, as well as pretty much any position on the diamond you decide to put him at. Third Base: Kaleb Cowart – AAA Salt Lake.  .321/.393  19 DB 7 HR 15 SB.  I think at some point the Angels are just going to be forced to promote Cowart and let him play, or lose him to another organization.  Either way, I’m not sure AAA is offering him anything beneficial other than the chance to get everyday at bats.  Good thing he just got promoted though, right? Outfield: Forrest Allday – AA Mobile.  .323/.452 5 DB 5 SB.  Another one of those players that just hits the ball at every level, but has garnered very little recognition for it.  The jump to AA is supposed to be the most difficult but Allday has more walks than strikeouts and is making it look easy. Outfield: Zach Gibbons – AA Mobile.  .278/.342 15 DB 3 triples 3 HR 9 SB.  Gibbons is on here not only because his stat line is solid, but also because he’s the only Angels player drafted from last year to be promoted to AA.  That’s impressive considering the Angels didn’t pick him until the 17th round of the draft. And while Gibbons has experienced hills and valleys in AA, his numbers at Inland Empire put his more hyped peers to shame. Outfield: Brennan Lund – Advanced A Ball Inland Empire.  .303/.392 10 DB 4 triples 4 HR 14 SB.  Lund was slotted in A Ball to begin the season, which was a mistake on the Angels part, but his performance quickly corrected their error when he forced his way into a promotion, and still hans’t stopped hitting since.  Lund isn’t a “5-tool player” as much as he just doesn’t have any real weakness to his game, similar to Kole Calhoun. Designated Hitter: Keith Grieshaber – Class A Burlington.  .369/.494 7 DB 11 SB.  Keith was a 16th round pick out of a community college in Missouri, and while ehe put up excellent numbers in Rookie Ball last year, the general belief was that those weren’t sustainable.  Grieshaber got a late start to his season, but so far, he’s put up some video game type of numbers that will leave us asking again, are those sustainable?  The answer is always yes, until he stops hitting. Reserves: OF Jahmai Jones, SS Roberto Baldoquin, OF Michael Hermosillo, C Taylor Ward. Starting Pitchers 1. RHP Jaime Barria.  AA Mobile.   85 IP 73 K’s 2.12 ERA – Scouts can talk about Barria only throwing low-90’s, only having slightly above average off-speed pitches or already maxing out of his projection until they’re blue in the face.  The fact is Barria is only 20 years old and is already in AA, and through his first couple starts, is having his way with those hitters in the same manner he has at every single level. 2. RHP Greyson Long.  AA Mobile.  60 IP 53 K’s 3.30 ERA – Long is one of those guys that scouts knew was going to be a major leaguer in some capacity, even before he was drafted.  Despite dealing with injuries across his first couple years in the minors, Long has still climbed to AA and is still throwing quite well.  Expect to see him in an Angels uniform in the next couple seasons. 3. RHP Jesus Castillo.  Advanced A Ball Inland Empire.   67 IP 65 K’s 3.34 ERA – Castillo was held in A ball too long last year, so to see him begin this year in Burlington was laughable.  Even more comical was his stat line there.  He’s since been moved to the Cal League, which is normally a nightmare for pitchers, but Castillo has more than held his own. 4. RHP Jake Jewell.  AA Mobile.  77 IP 56 K’s 3.51 ERA.  Can I first just say that I love players from obscure colleges?  Jewell has to take the cake here.  Northeast Oklahoma A&M College in Miami, Oklahoma.  Just awesome.  Anyway, Jewell has always projected better as a reliever in my opinion, and the Angels just keep rolling him out there as a starter, which has made them look very smart and me look very foolish this year.  I’m pretty happy about that.  Jewell first conquered the Cal League, a place that plagued him all last year before moving up to AA Mobile, which is the biggest jump in minor league baseball.  He’s definitely held his own in AA. 5. RHP Alex Klonowski.  AA Mobile.  66 IP 49 K’s 3.24 ERA.  There isn’t a ton of information on Klonowski, but we know one thing for sure, he can handle AA hitters. Honorable Mention: RHP Joe Gatto.  He was one of the worst pitchers in minor league ball last year, and this year, he’s holding his own in the same place as his previous nightmare outings.  There’s something to be said about a kid that confronts his issues and has the sort of upside Gatto has. Bullpen.  Eduardo Paredes.  AAA Salt Lake.   38 IP 43 K’s 1.89 ERA Connor Lillis-White.  AA Mobile.  37 IP 47 K’s 3.58 ERA Tyler Warmoth.  AAA Salt Lake.   30 IP 27 K’s 2.64 ERA Adam Hofacket.  AA Mobile.  34 IP 38 K’s 2.62 ERA Samil De Los Santos.  Advanced A Ball Inland Empire.  27 IP 35 K’s 1.62 ERA Sean Isaac.  AAA Salt Lake.  37 IP 51 K’s 1.21 ERA  

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Cameron Maybin: Extension Candidate

Cameron Maybin has been good. The Angels left fielders of years past have not been good. Cameron Maybin, therefore, has been better than the Angels left fielders of the recent past. These are facts. When Maybin was brought on board this past offseason in a trade that sent minor leaguer Victor Alcantara to the Detroit Tigers, the hope was that Maybin would just provide some real production and not be an anchor in the lineup and in the field. As an impending free agent who had inconsistent results in his career, the general hope was he could provide near league average value. The Angels have received far more than they probably even expected, with Maybin having something of a career year so far. Before talking about Maybin’s contributions and his potential future with the team, it’s worthwhile to look back at the production the Angels received from the left field position before this year. From 2015 to 2016, the Angels struggled mightily to find an everyday left fielder who provided value. In fact, the Angels struggled to find a left fielder who could produce better than a replacement level player. During this time frame, the collective group of left fielders put up a putrid -0.7 fWAR(Fangraphs version of Wins Above Replacement), the 3rd worst mark among left field production among teams. They were, however, the worst offensive unit, putting up the worst wRC+ at 67. Whoever they brought in-Daniel Nava, Matt Joyce, David Murphy or David DeJesus- didn’t provide any meaningful production. The left field problems for the Angels didn’t just begin in 2015 though. After the 2010 season, the Angels made the abomination of a trade that brought Vernon Wells and his albatross contract to Anaheim. Wells put up 0.7 WAR in 208 games in Anaheim before his tenure in Anaheim ended. After Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson couldn’t help bring the Angels to the playoffs in 2012, management brought in Josh Hamilton to fix the left field problem. Hamilton had 3.1 WAR in 240 games before he was sent back to the Rangers along with his entire contract. The Angels spent approximately 200 million dollars to receive 4 wins above replacement, a nightmare-ish waste of resources. The team did receive roughly league average production from the left field unit in 2014, thanks to a solid combination of Collin Cowgill and Josh Hamilton. Mike Trout’s 114 games at the position in 2012 and 2013 were obviously great as well but other than that, it’s been a giant hole since for a while. Cameron Maybin appears to be the answer the Angels have been trying to find in left field as he’s on pace to be the most productive non-Trout left fielder since Garret Anderson in 2003, when Anderson racked up 5.1 WAR. By traditional stats, maybe Maybin doesn’t appear to be that great, evidenced by his .270 batting average, 6 home runs and 17 runs batted in. With the wealth of statistics we have access to now, we can look past those and see just how productive Maybin has been. Offensively, Maybin has gotten on base at a well above average .377 clip while slugging .433. His 124 wRC+ is the 2nd best mark on the team, behind that Trout fellow. He’s walking more than ever, pulling the ball with more authority and his exit velocity is up. All 3 of those results have led to a far more productive Cameron Maybin, who is on pace to set career highs in on base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs and wRC+. Maybin has also been a force on the bases, which has been a huge addition for the Angels lineup that lacked any speed for a few years. Maybin’s 23 stolen bases rank 4th in the majors and he’s on pace to break his career high mark of 40 bases set in 2011 with the Padres. He ranks 33rd in Base Running Runs with 2.0 BsR, which is partially lower than you’d think due to the 9 double plays he’s hit into. Still, he’s running the bases quite well and he’ll likely finish top 25 in Angels team history for stolen bases in a season. Defensively, Maybin has shifted over to center field to cover for Mike Trout and has done an admirable job. His numbers in left field have been great so far too(5 defensive runs saved and 0.7 UZR). Statcast has backed up the idea of Maybin providing quality defense as he’s caught 28.6% of his 4 star catch opportunities and 85.7% of his 3 star catch opportunities, both above average numbers. He hasn’t had any 5 star catches but only a limited set of players have even made one such catch this season. You combine all of the different aspects of Maybin’s production and you get great results, with Maybin accumulating 1.8 WAR in 57 games. Even if he plays around 100 games, he’s set to rack up around 3-3.5 WAR, which is a vast improvement over the previous left fielders occupying an Angels uniform. Obviously, the Angels are enjoying the production they’re getting from Cameron Maybin this year but they also have to keep an open mind about the future with him. With free agency coming up, Anaheim seems like an almost perfect fit for Maybin, who also fits in with the Angels since he’ll likely cost less than the premier free agents. While the Angels have plenty of spending money this coming offseason, around 50 million dollars, they’ll have to fill holes at 2nd base, 3rd base, left field and on the pitching side of things. While Maybin has produced at an above average rate the past 2 years, his shorter track record and injury history means he probably won’t receive the big contract he might be expecting. If the Angels were smart, they’d try to start exploring a deal for Maybin before he reaches free agency and finds other suitors who can pay up. With all of the potential outfield minor league options far away(Jordon Adell, Brandon Marsh and Jahmai Jones are all in the lower levels of the minors), Maybin might represent a real 2-3 year option for this Angels team after 2017. It’s unclear what market he may have but a 2 year deal for around 25-30 million dollars with a club or player option may be enticing enough to keep Maybin around for a few more years. Regardless of how the Angels do in the following weeks, bringing Cameron Maybin back for beyond 2017 should be a high priority for the team.  

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2017 Trade Deadline Series: Cameron Maybin

2015-2017 Split vs. LHP as of June 10, 2017 2015-2017 Split vs. RHP as of June 10, 2017 Although he got off to a horrid start, Cameron Maybin has turned his season around in a big way and has been an excellent catalyst hitting lead-off over the last few weeks. Out of all of the Angels players with less than a year of team control remaining he probably has the most trade value heading into the deadline. Maybin, in 2017, has great splits, posting a wRC+ of 115 and 118 versus left-handed and right-handed pitching, respectively. These splits are a continuation of his excellent 2016 numbers that Cameron previously credited to a mechanical change he made in late 2015. Also he has stolen 17 bags and has only been caught once for a very efficient 94.4% SB%. On top of that Cameron has played mostly left field (-0.6 UZR/150) and some center field (3.7 UZR/150) with a touch of right field (-28.2 UZR/150) thrown in, good for a FanGraphs DEF score of -2.5. Notably Maybin has spent over 90% of his career in center field, until this year, so those 2017 numbers above reflect a ‘newness’ to the corners and have improved as the season has wore on. When you combine this defensive ability with his on-base skills and other offensive tools there should be a considerable amount of suitors lining up for his services. His batting splits alone would help greater than 90% of the teams in baseball so he has real value and versatility that a lot of teams would need and make room for. In the end, if the Angels are still in contention at the deadline, it is highly probable Maybin will stay with the team unless Eppler makes a lateral trade move that involves him. Otherwise the Angels will trade Cameron and possibly try to sign him in the off-season out of free agency. There is also a greater than 0% chance the Angels extend Maybin but, if the Angels are out of the Wild Card race, Eppler would probably prefer to get back value and give him a chance to get a ring on a contending team. Let us take a look at some of the potential trade partners for Cameron’s services. Orioles Baltimore is one team that could use a hitting upgrade versus LHP and RHP as well as a boost in team defense. When you examine their outfield situation it is pretty clear that Adam Jones is not going anywhere and Seth Smith has performed decently enough in a platoon role, with Rickard, versus RHP. However Hyun Soo Kim has floundered offensively in left field this season and the Orioles, who are fighting for a Wild Card spot, may not be able to afford to wait despite his above average defense. On top of that Kim is in the last year of his contract and is only owed about $2MM through the remainder of 2017. This simply means that if the Orioles can upgrade, then left field is a position to potentially do so. As a bonus it would give the Orioles a real lead-off hitter for the remainder of the season instead of running out Seth Smith at the top of the order. Orioles Likely Target(s): LF Cameron Maybin, SP Ricky Nolasco, SP Jesse Chavez, SP J.C. Ramirez, and SP Matt Shoemaker Angels Likely Target(s): AA OF Cedric Mullins, AAA C Chance Sisco, A+ OF/1B Anthony Santander, AAA LHP Chris Lee, AA LHP Tanner Scott, A+ LF Ryan Mountcastle, A+ 3B Jomar Reyes, A+ OF Austin Hays, AA RHP Ryan Meisinger, AA C Austin Wynns, AA C Yermin Mercedes, and A- RHP Hunter Harvey Trade Scenario(s): The Orioles need a more reliable left fielder and lead-off hitter and could use at least one, if not two, starting pitchers. Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin to the Orioles in exchange for AA OF Cedric Mullins and AA C Austin Wynns Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin to the Orioles in exchange for AAA C Chance Sisco and A+ 3B Jomar Reyes Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and SP Ricky Nolasco to the Orioles in exchange for AAA C Chance Sisco, AA OF Cedric Mullins, and AA RHP Ryan Meisinger. Angels absorb $3MM of Nolasco’s remaining 2017 salary Twins Minnesota is fighting tooth and nail for first place in the A.L. Central and although FanGraphs is not very fond of their run differential moving forward (the site believes they will fall out of the race) the fact that they are in the thick of it means they could be buyers at the deadline. The Twins can definitely use more offense from their outfield. They have stuck with the offensively struggling Rosario and Buxton in left and center field, respectively, in order to preserve the team’s defensive alignment but this doesn’t seem like it can last if the Twins are serious about competing. Adding a lead-off hitter like Maybin would deepen their offense and allow them to ease the burden on the youngsters Rosario and Buxton moving them to platoon and part-time defensive roles. Defense might suffer to a small degree but the added offensive firepower could be a real boost to an already above average lineup. Twins Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, and RHP David Hernandez Angels Likely Target(s): AA LHP Stephen Gonsalves, AA LHP Tyler Jay, R OF Alex Kirilloff, R SS Wander Javier, AA RHP Fernando Romero, AA RHP Kohl Stewart, AAA C Mitch Garver, AAA OF Zack Granite, A+ LHP Lewis Thorpe, AAA RHP J.T. Chargois, AA RHP Nick Burdi, A 1B Lewin Diaz, AA OF Lamonte Wade, AA RHP Felix Jorge, R RHP Huascar Ynoa, A+ LHP Lachlan Wells, R RHP Brusdar Graterol, AAA RHP Aaron Slegers, AA RHP John Curtiss, A+ 2B Luis Arraez, R RHP James Jax, and A RHP Sean Poppen Trade Scenario(s): The Twins really could use a more productive outfielder and are in dire need of right-handed and left-handed relief help. Additionally adding a lead-off hitter would move Dozier to the 2-hole and strengthen and lengthen their lineup as a whole.
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin to the Twins in exchange for AA LHP Stephen Gonsalves and A+ LHP Lewis Thorpe
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin to the Twins in exchange for AAA C Mitch Garver and AAA RHP J.T. Chargois
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RP Bud Norris to the Twins in exchange for AA LHP Stephen Gonsalves, R OF Alex Kirilloff, A+ 2B Luis Arraez, and R SS Wander Javier
Rockies Colorado started off the season with an enviable selection of outfield options and, after a short 2 1/2 months they find themselves with an injured David Dahl and Gerardo Parra and a troubling and wildly, offensively-ineffective Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Desmond. Only Charlie Blackmon has been performing up to snuff. If the Rockies continue to compete despite their outfielders best efforts to stay on the disabled list and under perform, Colorado may have to add a short term bridge, probably in one of the corner spots. Cameron Maybin might be the solution to a team that will likely want to make a sustained run at their Division by adding significant depth pieces to absorb the injuries and poor production that has plagued their outfield in the first half. Rockies Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, OF Eric Young Jr., UTIL Danny Espinosa, UTIL Cliff Pennington, RHP David Hernandez, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, and RHP Bud Norris
Angels Likely Target(s): R OF Pedro Gonzalez, A+ 2B Forrest Wall, AA RHP Ryan Castellani, A LHP Ben Bowden, A+ RHP Peter Lambert, AAA 1B/3B Ryan McMahon, AAA LHP Sam Howard, AA C Dom Nunez, A- RHP Robert Tyler, A 3B Colton Welker, A RHP Julian Fernandez, A RHP David Hill, A+ OF Wes Rogers, A- RHP Javier Medina, and AAA OF Mike Tauchman Trade Scenario(s): Frankly the Rockies may not wind up needing someone like Maybin as they have a potentially capable group of outfielders but baseball is a really funny sport and fortunes can flip at a moment’s notice. It is also possible the Rockies could use a defensive-oriented utility guy that can backup at shortstop so Espinosa or Pennington, as left-handed bats, would compliment Amarista’s right-handed production. Finally and most remotely Chad Qualls has disappointed and Adam Ottavino is on the disabled list so they may have interest in one of our right-handed relievers to bolster their middle bullpen depth for a stretch run.
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin to the Rockies in exchange for AA RHP Ryan Castellani and A LHP Ben Bowden
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RHP David Hernandez to the Rockies in exchange for AAA LHP Sam Howard, AA C Dom Nunez, A RHP David Hill, and A+ RHP Peter Lambert
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin, UTIL Danny Espinosa, and RHP David Hernandez in exchange for AAA 1B/3B Ryan McMahon, A LHP Ben Bowden, A+ OF Wes Rogers, and A- RHP Javier Medina
Rays If the Rays are in it at the deadline they could decide to pick up a more reliable producer in CF rather than trust a youngster like Mallex Smith. This is, of course, contingent on Kevin Kiermaier’s health but, as reported on, he is out 6-8 weeks and only after that can he even begin to ramp up baseball activities so he is effectively out for at least 8 weeks minimum which is touching September. By acquiring Maybin they can keep Smith down in the Minors as an injury reserve (and to continue his development) and depth. If Kiermaier manages to come back on the lower end of this timetable Cameron can enter a timeshare with Rasmus and Kiermaier as needed. Rays Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, OF Eric Young Jr., SP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, and RHP David Hernandez Angels Likely Target(s): AAA RHP Brent Honeywell, RHP Jose De Leon, A OF Jesus Sanchez, AAA RHP Chih-Wei Hu, AA OF Justin Williams, RHP Jacob Faria, AAA RHP Ryne Stanek, AAA RHP Diego Castillo, R LHP Resly Linares, A+ 3B Kevin Padlo, AAA RHP Taylor Guerrieri, AA RHP Hunter Wood, AAA RHP Jaime Schultz, AA RHP Greg Harris, A+ C David Rodriguez, LHP Jose Alvarado, A+ RHP Brandon Koch, A+ LHP Genesis Cabrera, AAA LHP Ryan Yarbrough, A RHP Deivy Mendez, A- Vidal Brujan, A+ RHP Blake Bivens, A RHP Adrian Navas, A RHP Kevin Gadea, A RHP Peter Bayer, R C Ronaldo Hernandez, and A LHP Kenny Rosenberg Trade Scenario(s): The loss of Kiermaier may force the Rays hand especially if Mallex Smith does not perform to expectations. On top of that the Rays could use a starter primarily to avoid beginning service clocks on one of their AAA options which is important for a small market team like Tampa Bay. Finally the Rays could use bullpen help and someone like Norris or Hernandez seems like a good fit.
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin to the Rays in exchange for AAA RHP Chih-Wei Hu and A RHP Deivy Mendez
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RHP Bud Norris to the Rays in exchange for AAA RHP Diego Castillo, AAA RHP Jaime Schultz, and R C Ronaldo Hernandez
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin, SP Ricky Nolasco, and RHP David Hernandez to the Rays in exchange for AAA Chih-Wei Hu, AAA RHP Jaime Schultz, LHP Jose Alvarado, and A+ LHP Genesis Cabrera. Angels absorb $2MM of Nolasco’s remaining 2017 salary
Nationals Overall the Nationals are not hurting too bad in terms of overall production so replacing the injured Adam Eaton, who is out for the season, is not a do or die priority. However Washington is not getting the offensive production they need out of Michael Taylor, Adam’s replacement in center field, so adding Maybin would deepen their lineup even further and give them a steady veteran as a stop gap measure for the remainder of the year. Nationals Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, UTIL Danny Espinosa, UTIL Cliff Pennington, RHP David Hernandez, RHP Blake Parker, and RHP Bud Norris Angels Likely Target(s): A+ OF Victor Robles, A OF Juan Soto, AAA RHP Erick Fedde, DSL SS Luis Garcia, A 3B Carter Kieboom, RHP Koda Glover, AAA C Pedro Severino, AA 1B Jose Marmolejos, A OF Daniel Johnson, A C Jakson Reetz, A LHP Tyler Watson, and AA RHP Ryan Brinley Trade Scenario(s): The Nationals are in a pretty good place overall but every team in contention wants to do all it can to help seal the deal in October. Washington could use a stop gap center fielder and Maybin could be a slightly cheaper version of Lorenzo Cain at the deadline. Also certain members of the Nat’s bullpen are not performing well so adding someone like David Hernandez or Bud Norris would give them more firepower, particularly against left-handed hitters, in later innings. Finally a left-handed hitting defensive-minded utility backup like Espinosa (questionable considering the way he argued with Nat’s management before they traded him to the Halos) or Pennington might be in the cards.
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin to the Nationals in exchange for AAA RHP Erick Fedde and AA 1B Jose Marmolejos
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RHP David Hernandez to the Nationals in exchange for RHP Koda Glover, AA RHP Ryan Brinley, A OF Juan Soto, and A LHP Tyler Watson
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin, UTIL Danny Espinosa, and RHP David Hernandez in exchange for AAA Erick Fedde, RHP Koda Glover, A C Jakson Reetz, and DSL SS Luis Garcia
Tigers Detroit, surprisingly, has kept their heads above water and are still within striking distance of a vulnerable A.L. Central Division race. The Tigers need for an outfielder like Maybin rests solely in center field as the offensively productive Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez are embedded in their positions. Fortunately for the Angels, Detroit has run out a haphazard group of young players trying to fill the position. Cameron would clearly be an offensive upgrade and probably a slight defensive one over Presley, Romine, and company. Also Maybin could slot in at lead-off in front of Kinsler, creating an even deeper offensive lineup. For Maybin it would be a return to the team that drafted him and traded him to the Angels late last year so it may be a bittersweet return but it would be a familiar one especially patrolling in center field which may have appeal for a potentially contending Tigers squad. Tigers Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, OF Eric Young Jr., RHP David Hernandez, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, RHP Blake Parker, and RHP Bud Norris Angels Likely Target(s): R RHP Matt Manning, AA RHP Beau Burrows, AA LHP Tyler Alexander, AA OF Mike Gerber, RHP Joe Jimenez, SS Dixon Machado, A+ RHP Kyle Funkhouser, AA RHP Adam Ravanelle, A+ RHP Gerson Moreno, A+ RHP Sandy Baez, R 2B Hector Martinez, A+ RHP Spencer Turnbull, R RHP Wladimir Pinto, AA RHP Myles Jaye, AA LHP Jairo Labourt, A+ RHP Drew Smith, A+ LHP Matt Hall, and AA RHP Artie Lewicki
Trade Scenario(s): Detroit, in the current standings, are still in the mix for a shot at the Division and Wild Card. If that holds they could certainly use a shot in the arm in center field. Additionally the Tigers rotation has been quite ineffective against RHP so that is likely a concern for their management although it is unclear how they can address the issue.
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin to the Tigers in exchange for AA LHP Tyler Alexander and A+ RHP Spencer Turnbull
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RHP Yusmeiro Petit to the Tigers in exchange for RHP Joe Jimenez, R RHP Wladimir Pinto, and A+ LHP Matt Hall Blue Jays Toronto has experienced two key injuries recently with the loss of Carrera (fractured foot) in left field and Travis (right knee procedure) at 2B. The Jays have thrown Steve Pearce out in left field and Ryan Goins in at second base but Toronto may be better off moving Pearce to 2B, where he has recent experience playing, and find a replacement outfielder. Alternatively they could keep Pearce in LF and find a replacement 2B. In the case of the former Maybin makes a lot more sense in terms of improving overall team production from both sides of the plate. More importantly it would give them a true lead-off hitter. Blue Jays Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin and OF Eric Young Jr.
Angels Likely Target(s): A 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., AA OF Anthony Alford, AA RHP Sean Reid-Foley, AA RHP Jon Harris, A+ RHP T.J. Zeuch, AA RHP Conner Greene, A 2B Bo Bichette, A RHP Justin Maese, A OF Joshua Palacios, A OF J.B. Woodman, AA C Reese McGuire, A+ C Max Pentecost, A+ RHP Zach Jackson, A+ LHP Ryan Borucki, AA OF Jonathan Davis, and A RHP Yennsy Diaz
Trade Scenario(s): The Blue Jays are sitting in the 2nd Wild Card spot at the moment so they are likely to be buyers and, in order to get what they need for the stretch run, they will have to pay through the nose. Offensive improvement is key for Toronto and LF and 2B are the two areas they can upgrade.
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin to the Blue Jays in exchange for AA OF Anthony Alford and AA C Reese McGuire
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin to the Blue Jays in exchange for A 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Conclusion Based on Cameron’s stellar performance in 2017 it is fair to say that he would add significant value to any team attempting to acquire him and, in return, cost that club at least one, good quality prospect (think Top 50-100 range) plus a mid-tier secondary piece. It could be more or less but that is probably in the ballpark based on the added value he can provide for the stretch run. The seven teams listed above, the Nationals, Blue Jays, Tigers, Rays, Rockies, Twins, and Orioles could all be probable, potential suitors based on our analysis. Cameron faces some competition on the market from Lorenzo Cain and possibly someone like Billy Hamilton but for the relative price and value he brings, Maybin should be a fairly hot commodity. For the other teams not listed, Cameron does not seem like a great fit. For instance the Mariners could possibly replace Herredia in left field but it is not a necessity. The Brewers might have interest if they are in the race by temporarily upgrading over Hernan Perez in left field as well. The Yankees are unlikely to seek out Cameron as it would purely be a luxury to upgrade their backup outfielder Torreyes which does not make sense. Arizona is about to get Pollock and Tomas back so they have a crowded outfield situation. Texas got Carlos Gomez back so they do not appear to have a need at this moment in time. Also the Dodgers, Indians, Cubs, Red Sox, Mets, and Astros all have significant depth in the outfield and prospects they could pull on if they have a need making them much less likely as well. This does not completely rule these teams out but unless they move one of their existing outfielders it makes a trade improbable. Finally most of what applied here to Cameron Maybin would also apply to teams that are interested in Eric Young Jr. with the only difference being in value where Eric would not pull in quite as much in trade (although if he keeps hitting like this he may get close to, or exceed, Maybin’s return). It may turn out that the Angels hold onto Ben Revere and sell off both Maybin and Young. Based on this similarity we will forego writing up an article on Eric Young Jr. and simply use the same set of team trade candidates found here because his skill set and 2017 splits are nearly indistinguishable from Maybin’s although Eric’s total value will be a bit less because of the difference in name-brand recognition and MLB time. Young could pull in a nice mid-tier prospect. Author’s Best Guess: The Nationals because their farm system is nearly exhausted and they probably do not want to pay the price for Cain or Hamilton and certainly do not need the latter’s additional years of team control with Eaton returning next year.

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2017 Trade Deadline Series: Methodology

In order to gain some insight into the trade market we first need to determine which teams are in contention using projected standings, where they need help, and then examine each Angels trade chip and determine if there is an actual fit and opportunity for any of those clubs. Later in the series we will use this same information as a basis for how the Angels can improve if they are within striking distance near the deadline. To get started we first need to define which teams are most likely to be in contention. In order to do that we will utilize for our information and set a couple of ground rules for determining which teams are most likely to be in the playoff conversation and some of the criteria we will use to identify areas of need. For the former we will use FanGraphs 2017 Projected Standings sorted by 2017 Projected Full Season Win Percentage (W%). Any team that is, as of June 10th, 2017, within 5 games of the 2nd Wild Card spot will be considered a contending team for the purposes of this exercise since we still have approximately 6-7 weeks to play before the deadline. Those teams are listed below: The color scheme is as follows: Green indicates a team that projects to win their Division. Yellow specifies a team that is expected to win one of the two Wild Card spots in each League. Light red designates a team that is projected to be out of the playoff race but is within 5 games of the 2nd Wild Card berth and hypothetically has a reasonable chance of sneaking into the playoff conversation over the next few weeks. No color, of course, means the team is 6 or more games back of a Wild Card spot and has greatly diminished chances to turn their season around. As you can see the Angels are right on the brink of the cut-off but are still in the Wild Card conversation. If they can tread enough water until Trout returns (and they have managed to do that so far) Eppler could be both buyer and seller at the deadline (i.e. lateral moves). To be clear the choice of a five game cut-off is an arbitrary one by the author. A lot can happen between now and the end of July. All it takes is one huge winning streak for a team to put themselves back in the race so this exercise, while worthwhile, is not the end all, be all, of how the trade deadline will play out. It is a basic numbers-based analysis to give Angels fans greater insight into the potential opportunities leading up to the trade deadline. Speaking of numbers-based analysis, in this series the author has selected K-BB%, wRC+, and DEF as the basic metrics in the analysis. Strikeout minus walk percentage is generally a good measure of pitcher performance while weighted runs created plus is also a fine measure of hitter performance. DEF isn’t as good a measure, particularly over small sample sizes, but it does give some perspective when you look at the entire team. To compliment DEF the author will consider Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 innings and recent, previous, player defensive history in the articles to come. Using those metrics we can determine areas of need by creating the following five tables, generated via, to show team pitching versus left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters sorted by K-BB%, team hitting versus left-handed pitching and right-handed pitching sorted by wRC+, and team defense sorted by DEF, respectively. Team Pitching vs. LHHs as of June 10, 2017 Any team outside of the Top 10 on any of these lists is probably a team that would like to upgrade in that category prior to the deadline. The Rangers, Orioles, Twins, Mariners, and Tigers, in particular, are in the bottom half of this first list and more likely in need of a pitching upgrade against left-handed hitters. Team Pitching vs. RHHs as of June 10, 2017 Here the Twins, Rangers, Tigers, Brewers, Orioles, Mariners, Rays, and Rockies are all in the bottom half and will likely need to improve their pitching against right-handed hitters if they decide to go all in on the season. Team Hitting vs. LHPs as of June 10, 2017 A bit surprisingly one of the projected Division winners, the Indians, is in the bottom half of this list along with the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Blue Jays, who are all projected Wild Card winners, and the Rangers, Twins, Rays, and Mariners. All of them may be on the lookout for right-handed bats at the deadline. Team Hitting vs. RHPs as of June 10, 2017 Here the projected Division-winning Cubs surprisingly find themselves in the bottom half versus right-handed pitching along with three projected Wild Card winners, the Rockies, Red Sox, and Blue Jays as well as the Orioles and Angels. If the Angels find themselves still in it at the deadline this is probably an area for Eppler to focus on. Team Defense as of June 10, 2017 Our final category, team defense, shockingly has 5 of the 6 projected Division-winners, the Astros, Indians, Nationals, Yankees, and Cubs, in the bottom half along with two projected Wild Card winners, the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks, and bubble contenders, the Brewers, Orioles, and Mets. Defensive metrics, especially in less than full season sample sizes, should be taken with a grain of salt but defensively sound players could be in high demand at the trade deadline. Again we will use these tables to match team needs to each Angels trade candidate in the coming series of articles. Also, even if a team does not have a pressing need in one or more categories, they may have a very specific positional need to fill so we will consider that in the analysis too. Ultimately, General Managers like to stack the deck so if a move is value-added, even a luxury perhaps, that will factor into the conversation. Lastly, once we have scrutinized each Angels trade candidate, we will evaluate some of the lateral moves Billy Eppler might make if the Angels are still in the playoff discussion in early to mid July to wrap up our rudimentary study.

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2017 Trade Deadline Series: Introduction

As the Angels enter mid-June, with July slowly creeping towards them, they find themselves 13 games back in the A.L. West behind the dominating Houston Astros. Clearly this deficit will be a steep hill to climb and combined with the loss of superstar Mike Trout to the disabled list for at least the next 5-8 weeks it is becoming increasingly clear that, barring a massive winning streak between now and the middle of July that keeps the team in the Wild Card conversation, Billy Eppler needs to position the team as a seller leading up to the trade deadline on July 31st, 2017. This trade deadline, as Ken Rosenthal detailed in late January, could prove to be a busy one. The Angels are actually reasonably well positioned to make either some lateral moves, if they are still in the Wild Card hunt, or conduct a full fire sale of their short-term assets if they are out of the race by mid-to-late July. With this potential sell-off positioning in mind, would like to present the 2017 Trade Deadline Series where we will focus on and pinpoint a set of teams that are the most likely to be in the playoff discussion, identify their general areas of need, and determine which, if any, Angels players might be of interest to them in possible trade deadline deals. As described in the Primer Series over the winter, Billy Eppler accumulated several players to compete in 2017 and, if the teams season did not break right, act as potential trade chips at the deadline. The following players seem like surefire trade candidates that Eppler will shop to the other 29 teams: Bud Norris Yusmeiro Petit David Hernandez Danny Espinosa Doug Fister Yunel Escobar Cameron Maybin Ben Revere Jesse Chavez Eric Young Jr. Andrew Bailey Cliff Pennington Most of these guys have low range trade value but could bring back needed depth, role players, and prospects that could be contributors in the future. In addition to these twelve players, the following members of the team could potentially be bandied about in trade discussions as well: Huston Street Ricky Nolasco Matt Shoemaker C.J. Cron Blake Parker Martin Maldonado Carlos Perez J.C. Ramirez Now to be clear this second group of players is less likely to be traded than the first group above. This is primarily due to the fact that all eight of these guys have more than one year of control and/or they could be important contributors to the Angels future success. Billy Eppler has and will be busy as he attempts to move rental and, perhaps, controllable assets to re-position the Angels for the second half of 2017 and the remainder of Mike Trout’s years of control. The team, despite being 13 games back in the A.L. West, is only 2 games back of the 2nd Wild Card berth as of June 10th, 2017. If they can stay afloat until Trout returns Eppler will almost assuredly deal one or more players in an attempt to improve the squad at the deadline without expending prospect capital or unnecessarily hamstringing the team. In the likelihood we are out of the race expect a sale of any and all expendable short term assets. In the next section we will discuss the basic methodology used for this series to help with our trade analysis.

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