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AngelsWin.com’s 2017 Top-30 Los Angeles Angels Prospects

AngelsWin.com

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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 AngelsWin.com, 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 
 c9_lttmxcaaewvl.jpg?w=640&h=360

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

jahmai-jones.jpg?w=640&h=427

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
 

#3 Prospect: Alex Meyer

alexmeyer.jpg?w=640

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  

ward.jpg?w=640&h=480

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-
 

#5 Prospect: Brandon Marsh 

bmarsh.jpg?w=640&h=360

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

middleton.jpg?w=640

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

nonie.jpg?w=640

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

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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  

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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 

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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+
 

#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+
 

#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 MiLB.tv 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 MiLB.tv.  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.
 
 
#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.
 
PresentFuture
 
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.
 
PresentFuture
 
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+
 

#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.
 
PresentFuture
 
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.
 
PresentFuture
 
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+
 

#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.
 
PresentFuture
 
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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