If you look up the term “prospect” in the dictionary, you’ll come to the realization that what scouts have been saying for years is accurate: A good organization may have 10-to-15 prospects, and a weak one may have five or less. I asked a long-time Scouting Director what he would dub as the guys who may not be prospects but show the prospect of being a Major League role player. He responded, “Suspects.”
The Angels organization is filled with suspects over prospects mostly in part to recent graduations (Jo Adell, Chris Rodriguez, Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, Jared Walsh, etc.), and the amount of upside based on youth and tools. It’s a projection-based farm system that will have some – maybe one or two – blossom into their long-term projection, while many others will simply burn out or plateau into a role position.
A farm system built by two differing regimes between Billy Eppler and Perry Minasian, with the help of Matt Swanson, Nate Horowitz, and Carlos Gomez – among others – will lean heavily to the low minors where recent international signings and high-variance draft picks share the majority of enthusiasm and optimism for a bright future.
* AUTHOR’S NOTE: All statistics and reports are effective as of 8/12/2021. Listed heights, weights, and age are based on the player’s Baseball-Reference page and may not be fully updated. Future Value (FV) will express a similar pattern to that of FanGraphs where you will see 40+/45+ which is solely a separator between middle grades. Players who have exceeded 130 at bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days on the active roster at the Major League level are exempt from prospect rankings. All reports are from Taylor Blake Ward who either shares in-person evaluations or those shared by scouts employed by Major League organizations. Taylor Blake Ward is not a professional scout or evaluator. He is not affiliated with any Major League Baseball organization. *
|1.||Reid Detmers||LHP||L/L||6’2||210||22||2020 Draft 1st Rd – $4,670,000||60|
|2.||Brandon Marsh||OF||L/R||6’4||215||23||2016 Draft 2nd Rd – $1,073,300||60|
|3.||Jordyn Adams||OF||R/R||6’2||180||21||2018 Draft 1st Rd – $4,100,000||50|
|4.||Arol Vera||SS||S/R||6’2||170||18||Int’l Signing 2019/20 – $2,000,000||50|
|5.||Sam Bachman||RHP||R/R||6’1||235||21||2021 Draft 1st Rd – $3,847,500||50|
|6.||Kyren Paris||SS||R/R||6’0||165||19||2019 Draft 2nd Rd – $1,400,000||45+|
|7.||Adrian Placencia||2B||S/R||5’11||155||18||Int’l Signing 2019/20 – $1,100,000||45+|
|8.||Jeremiah Jackson||SS||R/R||6’0||165||21||2018 Draft 2nd Rd – $1,194,000||45+|
|9.||Ky Bush||LHP||L/L||6’6||240||21||2021 Draft 2nd Rd – $1,747,500||45|
|10.||Alexander Ramirez||OF||R/R||6’2||180||18||Int’l Signing 2018/19 – $1,000,000||45|
|11.||D’Shawn Knowles||UT||S/R||6’0||165||20||Int’l Signing 2017/18 – $850,000||45|
|12.||Jack Kochanowicz||RHP||L/R||6’6||220||20||2019 Draft 2rd Rd – $1,247,500||45|
|13.||Alejandro Hidalgo||RHP||R/R||6’1||160||18||Int’l Signing 2019/20 – $30,000||45|
|14.||Denzer Guzman||SS||R/R||6’1||180||17||Int’l Signing 2020/21 – $2,000,000||45|
|15.||Davis Daniel||RHP||R/R||6’1||190||24||2019 Draft 7th Rd – $172,500||40+|
|16.||William Holmes||RHP/OF||R/R||6’2||185||20||2018 Draft 5th Rd – $700,000||40+|
|17.||David Calabrese||OF||L/R||5’11||160||18||2020 Draft 3rd Rd – $744,200||40+|
|18.||Packy Naughton||LHP||R/L||6’2||195||25||Trade w/ CIN – 2020||40|
|19.||Orlando Martinez||OF||L/L||6’0||185||23||Int’l Signing 2017/18 – $250,000||40|
|20.||Ryan Smith||LHP||L/L||5’11||185||24||2019 Draft 18th Rd – $3,000||40|
|21.||Werner Blakely||SS||L/R||6’3||185||19||2020 Draft 4th Rd – $900,000||40|
|22.||Erik Rivera||LHP/OF||L/L||6’2||200||20||2019 Draft 4th Rd – $597,500||40|
|23.||Landon Marceaux||RHP||R/R||6’0||179||21||2021 Draft 3rd Rd – $765,300||40|
|24.||Robinson Pina||RHP||R/R||6’4||180||22||Int’l Signing 2016/17 – $50,000||40|
|25.||Michael Stefanic||2B||R/R||5’10||180||25||Undrafted Free Agent 2018||40|
|26.||Aaron Hernandez||RHP||R/R||6’1||170||24||2018 Draft 3rd Rd – $547,500||40|
|27.||Janson Junk||RHP||R/R||6’1||177||25||Trade w/ NYY – 2021||40|
|28.||Mason Albright||LHP||L/L||6’0||190||18||2021 Draft 12th Rd – $1,247,500||40|
|29.||Jose Salvador||LHP||L/L||6’2||170||21||Trade w/ CIN – 2020||40|
|30.||Jose Bonilla||3B||R/R||6’0||185||19||Int’l Signing 2019/20 – $600,000||40|
1. Reid Detmers, Left-Handed Pitcher
Seen as a polished pitchability college southpaw who could move through the system quickly, not many expected Reid Detmers to be establishing himself in the rotation just one year removed from his draft selection with improved stuff across the board. Detmers has a simplistic and athletic delivery that he repeats which helps him throw strikes at an immensely high rate. He has shown the ability to command all four of his pitches east-to-west and north-to-south, working them all in and out of the zone with ease with great sequencing leaving hitters constantly guessing. Detmers worked 88-94 in college, but has found a new gear to his velocity, averaging 92-94 and touching 97, which is only improved by his ability to command the pitch. The pitch has flattened with the new velocity making him more home run prone but with something as new as this velocity, it will have these growing pains. His low-to-mid 70’s curveball is his best swing-and-miss option as it arcs like the Gateway with five plus feet of vertical drop and he can land it both in and below the zone at any given time. It can be identifiable due to its big hump but to date of publishing has been near unhittable against Major Leaguers, with a whiff rate of 38%. With a focus of development of his slider and changeup once hitting pro ball, some scouts have dubbed his slider as his best pitch even while being a work in progress. It’s a mid-80’s offering that he can alter, and has used it well against right-handers, burying it on their back foot. His changeup has taken massive strides forward as well, with arm-side sink best utilized against right-handers. All four pitches have distinct break and with one sure fire swing-and-miss breaker, and two growing in his back pocket, Detmers has already shown a knack for missing bats. Well advanced at a young age (he turned 22 in July), Detmers gives the Angels something they haven’t had in years – a homegrown pitching talent who could be a mid-rotation option for multiple years.
2. Brandon Marsh, Outfielder
Dealing with minor injuries throughout his career, it seems Brandon Marsh still has yet to fully tap into his baseball skillset which is already impressive and showing above-average tools or better across the board. A solid athlete, Marsh shows glimpses of being a plus-defender at a premium position at center field. He’s an easy glider and covers plenty of ground in all directions (he’s particularly better than most going back on the ball) with his plus speed. Equipped with a strong arm that also grades plus, he has the makings of a well above-average defender at all three outfield positions (Marsh got time at first base at the alternate site, but his defensive value lies in the outfield). At the plate, Marsh has always shown a natural feel for hitting and finding the barrel. He flashed plus raw power in his early development, and after an alteration to his load in mid-development, has started to tap into his natural strength and power which should grade out as above average. In 2019, Marsh altered his hands and stance which permitted him to be a bit freer in his swing. Though it added some length, Marsh’s bat speed helped allow for his power to show without hindering his hit tool. He is now a more balanced contact and power hitter with power to all parts of the field. A patient hitter, Marsh will draw walks and be a constant on-base threat, making him one of the most well-rounded hitting prospects in baseball. Getting his first Major League experience in July, Marsh has yet to see his offensive traits translate in a small sample (less than 100 PA), which could be in part to not getting enough regular reps through development due to injuries, leaving some question as to how much untapped potential still remains (Marsh has average just over 100 games per full minor league season). On tools alone, Marsh has All-Star upside. * Of note: I was asked by a retired scout who the long-haired/bearded kid on the Angels was. When I returned with Marsh as the response, the scout replied with “he’s going to be a good one.” *
3. Jordyn Adams, Outfielder
A standout wide receiver recruit, Jordyn Adams was expected to head for the gridiron at North Carolina where his father coached. Then, at the 2018 NHSI Tournament, Adams showed the ability to compete against superior talent. The raw baseball skillset and other worldly athleticism was enough for the Angels to take him in the first round of the 2018 Draft, signing him well overslot. Raw as frozen chicken from a baseball perspective, Adams over performed in his first full pro season in Low-A, hitting above league-average (110 wRC+), earning him a last week promotion to High-A, and an invitation to the alternate site during the pandemic. There likely aren’t enough superlatives to explain Adams’ athleticism, and simply saying he’s one of the best athletes in baseball probably isn’t justice enough. He’s a real 80 runner, who uses his speed well in all aspects of his game. In center field, he looks like a pro-level receiver tracking downfield deep passes and has become more consistent getting to the ball and knowing what to do when he gets there. His speed should permit him to be a constant base-stealing threat and place him among league leaders with full playing time. Adams arrived at Spring Training as a non-roster invite with new swing mechanics, with similarities to his original armsy swing and linear bat path but a lengthier load making him longer but with more loft. His bat-to-ball skills are impressive for someone so raw, but there’s a lot of work left in his swing development. Adams possesses natural strength and has plenty of bat speed which gives him some average-or-better power projection, and the tweaks to his swing have already showed more of his raw power. In his first pro season, Adams showed a well-advanced skillset at identifying strikes and will commonly work deep into counts and gain his fair share of walks. At first, he would be too passive and strikeout looking (18 of his first 51 strikeouts in Low-A were looking), which is something that will only improve with reps and baseball growth. For someone who was viewed as a football player trying out baseball just two years ago, the Angels are happy with how Adams has developed into a ballplayer as he’s already shown the ability to adjust and compete against much more advanced talent. Athletes such as Adams rarely come along, but it does take time for their skillset to translate. With hopes of gaining more reps, Adams lost over a month early this year with a leg injury and he has not been as up to speed in High-A this season, which may be a lost year of development as he’s clearly not comfortable upon return to action. With less than 200 pro games under his belt, there is time to tap into his athleticism and make him an impact player at the Major League level, though he’s already shown signs of doing so at a quicker rate than expected.
4. Arol Vera, Shortstop
After being financially handicapped on the international front after the Roberto Baldoquin signing in 2014, the Angels have been aggressive on the international front the last handful of years. Arol Vera received the second largest bonus of any international signing for the Angels since being lifted of their limitations, only trailing some guy named Shohei Ohtani ($2.315M). Vera, who signed for $2 million, was part of a $3.1 million investment to the middle infield depth and came with lofty expectations that he has been able to keep in check in his brief time with the organization. Vera, a switch-hitter, is seen as a better hitter from the left side where he stays short to the ball with intent and builds energy through the barrel giving him some explosion at extension. He has lessened his movement from the right side with a minimal swing tweak that has quickened his load, but there is still a lot of work before he can get to much power from that side. He is contact over power at the moment, as he has above-average bat-to-ball skills but has bat speed from both sides and decent raw power to believe in average-or-better power down the road. Praised for his strike zone judgement prior to signing, the early returns have had Vera a bit aggressive which could be in part to the success he’s having making hard line-drive contact. Vera has enough twitchy athleticism and actions to stick at shortstop long term with the best odds of anyone in the organization to stick at the position. He has soft hands, a plus arm with a quick release, and can throw from different angles, looking very natural at the position. There have been concerns about Vera’s mass, as he put on some excess weight during the pandemic but has already trimmed down a bit and still has the up-the-middle athleticism that made him so alluring to the Angels in the first place. He’ll stick at shortstop through early development, but a move around the infield may not be an unexpected move deeper into development.
5. Sam Bachman, Right-Handed Pitcher
Showing up to fall ball with newfound premium velocity, Sam Bachman started to establish himself as one of the biggest and best arms in the 2021 draft class. As fall turned to winter, and winter turned to spring, Bachman’s stock continued to rise, as he showed improved command and control while flashing two 70-grade pitches. It was enough for the Angels to pass on some more well-known names in the draft and take him ninth overall. Bachman now works 95-97 with his fastball with serious arm-side run and sink, touching 99-100 regularly enough to say it’s going to be there at any given time (he has been 94-97 in his brief pro outings). With an opposing break to his fastball, he’ll throw a mid-to-upper 80’s power slider with late life, giving it almost cutter action when it’s not getting its full break, making it a real weapon against hitters on either side of the plate. Coming in on the same plane and altering paths as they reach the plate, Bachman has a pair of 70-grade pitches that make for an uncomfortable at bat. Bachman’s changeup is a distant third pitch and is already openly the focal point of development for him. It’s a mid-80’s offering with some depth but could be a key marker to working through an order multiple times over instead of just being a third pitch to lob in from time-to-time. There is relief risk with Bachman as he’s a bit undersized – though he has a durable frame and has improved his overall physique – throws hard with only recently improved command of his primaries, some recent arm fatigue, and a funky arm action that doesn’t always translate to rotation future. If he can throw strikes consistently, and improve his changeup, there’s some faith. If not, he has an aggressive nature on the mound with two premier pitches that screams high-leverage reliever, which is not a bad fallback option (he could even be a relief option as early as next year).
6. Kyren Paris, SS
Draft models favored Kyren Paris in 2019, where he was in the conversation for multiple first round picks, including the Angels at 15. The Halos were able to swing him 40 picks later, signing him for near $100,000 over slot as the youngest player in the draft class by nearly two months. Three games into that first summer, Paris broke his hamate bone ending his first taste at pro ball. He was given an invitation to the alternate site where he hit a now well-known home run to dead center off Patrick Sandoval – at Blair Field nonetheless which is not a common feat. Paris has a compact swing from the right side which is more oriented to line drives to the gaps. Aided by strong wrists and good bat speed, Paris tends to show most of his power driving pitches away (breaking balls included) to right-center where his greatest asset – speed – plays its part in his overall slugging. There is current strength in his swing as he has added plenty of muscle to his athletic frame, though his power is fringy and will likely never grow to average. Paris is a real burner who often uses his speed on the base paths, whether it be turning routine singles into doubles, or doubles into triples. He is an aggressive base stealer who has shown a knack for having a constant green light and could be a regular 20+ base stealer. With his speed and balanced approach, he profiles as a potential throwback leadoff man who rarely strikes out and utilizes his speed. Paris has a natural feel for the middle infield where he covers the middle of the diamond well, and his arm is likely enough (though I think arm strength will be needed) to remain at shortstop. Spending the season in Low-A as a 19-year-old (minus two months with a lower leg injury), the Angels have plenty of time to work with Paris to gain strength, something he has already done, and tap into more power and arm strength which should answer some long-term questions. He has the initial makings of a two-way impact player, particularly with his speed and on-base ability, but it will take time.
7. Adrian Placencia, Second Baseman
Part of the $3.1 million international investment to their middle infield depth, Adrian Placencia has held his own as an 18-year-old, showing advancement beyond his years against older competition. Placencia, a switch-hitter, looks natural from both sides of the plate with excellent plate coverage and barrel control, staying short to the ball and showing natural loft as he extends. Mixed in with his advanced feel for hitting, he has a good pitch recognition and has already shown a tough guy to put away. His offense will be limited to what it is until he adds some bulk to his miniscule frame, though he has already worked towards some added muscle and physical growth. It’s unlikely Placencia will ever get to average, or below-average power, but he has already run into a few over-the-fence home runs in his early career leaving some doubt about what I just said (probably moderate power at best still). It’s likely that he profiles offensively as a secondary leadoff man with some on-base skills you place near the back of your lineup to reset the front of the order. Placencia has some naturalness at shortstop with side-to-side range and soft hands, but his arm is somewhat limited to a quick release and is probably a tick below average which should lead to a second base defensive profile and shortstop only in a pinch. Signing just after his 16th birthday, Placencia is in his debut season and doing it stateside, holding his own against elder competition. He’s limited for the time being due to lack of physicality but is continuing to impress as someone who is regularly the youngest guy on the field.
8. Jeremiah Jackson, Shortstop
Seen as a hit-over-power prospect when taken in the second round of 2018, Jackson flipped the script by hitting a Pioneer League record 23 home runs in 2019. Though the offense friendly league usually merits inflated power numbers, the raw exit velocities and swing angle suggested real power output. Jackson can do damage at the plate due to explosive bat speed and strong wrists that has impressed the Major League coaching staff, but his swing has some work to do as he’ll often dip his front shoulder and cut open with his hips leading to minimal contact or abrupt misses entirely. The foundation of his swing is there, but it’s distanced from being enough to hit his way to his ceiling or even the next level. Of note, Jackson did improve steadily at the alternate site with repetition as he did in his short playing time this year with Low-A Inland Empire. That chance for repetition has been lost due to an oblique injury at the end of 2020, and a current high leg injury that has held him to just 39 games in 2021. Playing time (health), some tweaks to the swing, and a bit more refinement in his approach (he’ll chase breaking balls away at times as is common for power hitters), will be a difference maker in lessening the sky-high variance on Jackson. Defensively, I think Jackson has a good chance to stick at shortstop after seeing him in Spring Training and early Low-A season. He’s athletic and moves well side-to-side and comes in on the ball well. He has a strong enough arm and can throw from different angles giving me more reason to believe. Prospects of this kind of variance exist in each organization, and some flame out to lengthy development careers, but mixing Jackson’s age and foundation, it’s like starting with an upside college pick who already has three years of professional coaching and performance under his belt.
9. Ky Bush, Left-Handed Pitcher
Throwing for his third collegiate program in three years, Ky Bush suddenly skyrocketed up draft boards his junior year after showing an improved delivery, better command, and an arsenal pickup, that nearly landed him in the back of the first round. A physical specimen (there’s a lot in the Angels system) at six-foot-six and 240 pounds (listed weight, looks trimmer), Bush has the look of a durable strength-based back-end rotation option, with the Angels hoping for more as he continues to refine his game. Bush can get long in the back of his delivery but remains balanced with an athletic finish – especially for a guy his size. His fastball will sit 93-95 with some boring action and late sink, and he commands it well to the bottom of the zone and will work it in the hitter’s kitchen. Though he is physically peaked, belief is he could get into the upper 90’s in relief stints. Bush’s best pitch off of his fastball is a slider with more depth than horizontal break, which seems to have a second gear mid-way through travel and revs up to finish. He does well in throwing it to the backfoot of right-handed hitters, making it more effective and giving a better chance to play multiple times through an order. He’ll throw a fringe-average changeup and curveball that gives him some third and fourth options, with the curve being the better of the two due to his ability to land it for strikes. Repetition and consistency will be key for Bush to reach his ceiling, but with his arsenal and current ability to command his primary pitches, he should remain a back-end rotation option.
10. Alexander Ramirez, Outfielder
Alexander Ramirez signed with the Angels the day he turned 16-years-old for $1,000,000, giving the Halos one of their biggest international upside bets in some time. Ramirez, already physically mature, came into professional baseball as a teenager who possessed present plus raw power due to solid bat speed and has now grown into his large athletic frame to see that power upside increase. Often, Ramirez will take harsh daddy hacks, hoping to explode on balls left in his hot zones, but will come unraveled and roll over or simply miss too often. He can simplify at the plate, which seems to be a focus point of his development, but that explosiveness and power to all fields is what makes him so intriguing in the first place. The strikeout rates aren’t sustainable, so swing refinement – as well as a more reasonable aggression with his approach – will be vital to Ramirez becoming anything more than a violent swinging project. Only 18-years-old though, the Angels have plenty of time to work out the kinks and hope to get enough contact to let him become even a middling product of his potential peak upside. Ramirez is enough of an athlete with enough speed to handle himself in center field with an off chance of remaining there, but it’s likely he’ll move to a corner where he should be better suited with his strong arm. It’s a real boom or bust profile, but the boom is too exciting to ignore.
11. D’Shawn Knowles, Utility
Part of the Bahamian duo that signed for a combined $2.1 million, D’Shawn Knowles has well surpassed his island counterpart, Trent Deveaux, as his tools have translated giving him impact upside. A switch-hitter, Knowles is a better hitter from the right side with more power from the left side. The lefty swinging Knowles has a bit of bat speed which will keep pitchers honest – though his power is limited and 40-grade – and from my perspective is more based on armsy and strength based than natural flow. From the right side, Knowles has excellent north-to-south plate coverage and contact skills from a compact swing. He knows how to work counts but can be passive which has been challenged by more advanced pitching, which should be something checked during development to get him into better hitting counts and taking walks when present. Knowles is a burner on the base paths (6/7 runner) and uses that speed well when finding the gaps making him a more doubles and triples threat in the slugging department. Improving his baserunning during the pandemic and instructs, Knowles is now also a threat to steal bases at mercy as he is aggressive and smart, which should lead to regular double-digit stolen base output. That speed is also used in the outfield where he has a chance to be a plus defender at all three outfield positions, as he gets to the ball in a hurry and can make late surges towards the ball with aggressive and flashy plays when prompted. He has a plus arm which will keep runners honest. Knowles played some second base during the 2019 instructs and has seen time at shortstop this year. That new versatility, and potential to be an on-base threat who can steal bases, give him a utility upside. I rarely drop former Angel comps on Angels prospects, but the swing (from both sides), speed, and defensive versatility scream Eric Young Jr. vibes for me.
12. Jack Kochanowicz, Right-Handed Pitcher
One of the physical standouts among many physical specimens in the Angels organization, Jack Kochanowicz was an overslot third-round cold-weather prep arm who became a popular mention among scouts after instructional league in 2020. Kochanowicz has added velocity to his fastball, now sitting 93-95 and touching 97 early in outings, and has a good feel for commanding it north-to-south, though it can flatten out making it more hittable. His best pitch is a big and loopy high-spinning curveball that regularly flashes plus and only plays up more due to his ability to command it; however, the development of his changeup will be prominent in his future success, as his curve can be easy to identify due to its shape. Kochanowicz’s changeup has progressed well as he shows good feel and enough forward signs of being an average-or-better offering but needs plenty of refinement and will be key to his future as a starter. As big-bodied as Kochanowicz is, he already has a sound foundation for his mechanics on the mound with on-mound athleticism which has helped with his ability to work around the zone and project regular strike-throwing in the future as he already works around the zone and will only continue to progress as he gets more reps. The performance hasn’t been there this year for Kochanowicz as he hasn’t missed as many bats as expected and has been hittable (mostly his fastball), but at 20-years-old, reps are going to be the biggest focus for him in development in hopes he can reach his massive rotation ceiling.
13. Alejandro Hidalgo, Right-Handed Pitcher
It was instructional league where the Angels saw value in some of their lesser-known international signings when Jaime Barria and Jose Suarez popped up as prospects during their early development. In 2020, Alejandro Hidalgo stood out among evaluators for his ability to miss bats and put hitters away in different ways. Hidalgo is a lean pitcher who repeats his delivery and is able to throw all three of his pitches for strikes regularly, commanding each with some relative ease. He’ll throw his fastball 92-94, with some physical based projection that it could gain some more velo in the future. He’s shown an advanced feel for his off-speed pitches, with the high-spin downer curveball – that regularly shows above-average – being his primary swing-and-miss option as his changeup progresses. Hidalgo commands his changeup well east-to-west and is already advanced enough to project a long-term starting development. An advanced projection arm, physical maturity will be part of Hidalgo reaching any higher ceiling than a back-end rotation arm, but the early returns from competitive reps in Arizona have only allowed him to blossom within the system.
14. Denzer Guzman, Shortstop
Due to the International Signing Period being moved from early-July to mid-January, Billy Eppler’s final transaction as General Manager came 110 days after his departure from the club, as most verbal commitments from the initial July date stayed intact through January, and the Angels were still able to sign Denzer Guzman for $2,000,000. An offense-first infielder, Guzman drew attention to himself during extended spring, and has been performing in remarkably small sample with the Dominican affiliate. Guzman has an advanced feel for hitting and utilizes his rhythmic and loose cut (almost looks lackadaisical due to its natural cut) from the right side to spray the ball with line drives. He has strong barrel and zone control, which leave little holes in his current swing. He’s been swinging with more intent this spring, and matched with his good bat speed, you could see average power appear in time, though it will take physical maturity to reach those levels (I question his 180-pound listing, particularly looking at his upper half and arms). Guzman has a good plan at the plate, and has shown to be a bit more aggressive, but has a good enough approach and minimal holes to believe strikeouts will ever be problematic, and more walks will come. Guzman should stay on the left side of the infield due to his strong and accurate arm (plus grade) and decent lateral movements, though he’s a lesser athlete than most who stick at the position and lacks the twitchiness you’d expect. He’s likely a third baseman in the future, though he’ll be at shortstop through development.
15. Davis Daniel, Right-Handed Pitcher
Following Tommy John surgery during his junior season at Auburn, Davis Daniel didn’t make his organization debut until instructional league of 2020 where he impressed and eventually earned a spot in Spring Training as a non-roster invite. Since then, Daniel has dominated Single-A and Double-A hitters with a predominantly two-pitch arsenal, but a good one at that. One of many high-release pitchers in the Angels system, Daniel creates good angle and spin with his fastball that sits 92-93 and can touch the mid 90’s (was mid 90’s in relief in college). It has good action up in the zone (be ready to hear this a lot), and he commands it well in all quadrants of the zone. He’ll live mostly off of his fastball, and will scarcely use his changeup that is improving, but still has a long way to go. Daniel’s curveball has improved with a high arch that breaks late and away to his glove side, proving his best swing-and-miss offering. Daniel is an easy operator on the mound with a clean delivery and has the physicality to be a workhorse, with steadily improving control, giving him a better chance at starting long term. With improvement of his changeup and effectiveness against left-handed hitters, he could be a back-end rotation option in the coming years, or year, as he’s started to establish himself in the depth charts for 2022. He’ll likely close out the season with his current affiliate (Rocket City) where he’ll work to be more pitch efficient with already promising returns.
16. William Holmes, Right-Handed Pitcher/Outfielder
Unorthodox to baseball for nearly a century, Billy Eppler and staff decided to take chances on supreme athletes and transform them – not from being a hard-throwing catcher into a pitcher or a pitcher with bat skills into a hitter (i.e. Kenley Jansen, David Peralta) – into players who could both hit and pitch at the same time through development, better known as a “two-way player.” Beyond the obvious Shohei Ohtani who is doing both at the highest level, the Angels made attempts with a handful of their minor leaguers in turning them into two-way players and opted to draft William Holmes in the fifth-round of 2018 with the same plan to develop him in both facets of the game. A superior athlete, Holmes was a Detroit-based prep who showed promising signs of both hitting and pitching, though the hitting option has started to fall back, and his upside is on the mound. Holmes did get a chance to hit competitively in 2019 where he showed a disciplined approach and some above-average raw power that matched up well with performance. That part of his development has been put on hold though, as the Angels are having him focus on pitching.
Any conversation about Holmes starts with his frame and athleticism, and it is present on the mound. He has a clean and repeatable delivery, which suggest (and has been the case) ever-improving command and the potential to be a regular strike-thrower. Holmes has added velocity since high school and will work in the low-to-mid 90’s with his fastball, touching 97-98. He has big hands which aid his changeup, which is already flashing plus due to its run and forking action, and 10-15 MPH difference from his fastball. He has the workings of a breaking ball, though it has a long way to go. It’s going to be a long development for Holmes, who has thrown in only one game in Arizona this year but is throwing regular bullpen sessions, but the Angels are hopeful he can reach his upside of being a mid-to-backend starter. Hitting is a fallback option but may be put on the back burner for quite some time as he focuses on pitching.
17. David Calabrese, Outfielder
Reclassifying to the 2020 draft class, Calabrese was a late riser from the Canada prep ranks who was in the conversation for some teams in the second round, but the Angels were able to snag him in the third and sign him at full slot, leaving the organization excited for an upside outfielder with plus speed and defense drawing traits. Calabrese is a 70-runner who should be a base stealing threat, and someone who can track down more challenging fly balls in center as he gets to the ball in a hurry while taking efficient routes to make plays on the run with ease. He has a strong arm and makes accurate throws, giving him a lot of defensive upside at a premium defensive position. Calabrese’s size, at five-foot-eleven and 160 pounds (note: he grew two inches from junior to senior season), may limit his offensive potential, though he has a compact swing that allows him to drive the ball to all parts of the field with some present strength and intent. He stays low throughout his swing and has some bat speed that could lead to gap power where his speed will be the larger trait to garner extra-base hits. As a prep, he showed a good approach against top-level amateur competition, and rarely struck out which should only improve with more reps against better talent. Physical development will be important to Calabrese as he fills into his stocky, yet athletic, build. Calabrese missed time early out of spring with a hamstring pull and the lost time has caused him to not be up to speed with the Arizona League affiliate. Drafted very young, he doesn’t turn 19 until late September, giving the Angels plenty of time.
18. Packy Naughton, Left-Handed Pitcher
One month prior to his removal of General Manager duties, Billy Eppler utilized minimal impact expiring contracts to build up the Angels internal pitching depth by trading Jason Castro and Brian Goodwin. The Goodwin trade brought a young projectable arm in Jose Salvador (more on this later), as well as Packy Naughton. Naughton’s biggest strengths come in his command and funky and deceptive delivery – reminiscent to Joey Luchessi, but more exaggerated. With a see-saw delivery, Naughton keeps the ball hidden throughout his motion, with his arm dropping to his back pocket before catapulting across his body towards the plate with a low three-quarter arm slot creating deception for a harder to read middling arsenal. This delivery can suggest struggles in command, but Naughton – a good athlete – does a solid job of keeping all his pitches down and placing them where he wants, mixing a full average three-pitch arsenal in any given count. Naughton will work mostly in the upper 80’s and lower 90’s with his fastball, touching 94 at times. His best weapon is his changeup, in both its fading action and how he manipulates it to play with his fastball, coming in with a fastball look from the left side making him effective against right-handed hitters. He has the ability to spin a breaking ball and throw it for strikes, though it falls behind his fastball-changeup combo as it flattens out too often. He got a cup of coffee with the Angels in 2021 (one inning) after above league-average run prevention in Triple-A despite gaudy inflated numbers of the PCL (Triple-A West, whatever). Due to his underwhelming velocity and pure stuff, it’s likely Naughton is only a back-end rotation option who is more set for piggyback and swingman roles, but he is already in the depth charts and is likely in the conversation of regular MLB time in 2022.
19. Orlando Martinez, Outfielder
Orlando Martinez is an easy player to forget because nothing comes overtly flashy, but he just generally does everything natural and well. Average works, and you can tend to ignore or miss a guy who is at times the best player on the field. Martinez’s offense is based on a smooth and well-synced swing from the left side that is mostly based for barrel-driven contact. He’ll sell out for power at times and loose his rhythm, leading to some swing-and-miss and a downward bat angle, but it’s not common enough to be problematic. He has a balanced approach, leaning more towards aggression, but will draw his fair share of walks. Though he’s a fringe/average runner on the base paths, he has enough quickness in the field to play all three outfield positions and does so with ease. He takes direct routes, doesn’t overdo things, and simply plays fine defense with a strong and accurate enough arm to manage the corners. It’s likely his offense will hold him to a fourth outfield or platoon/bench bat (his splits aren’t bad but show enough to suggest he’d struggle against lefties at the upper echelons) and could be similar to a non-switch-hitting Robbie Grossman who blossoms more around peak ages and repeats Double-A without being a threat to be taken in the Rule-5 Draft.
20. Ryan Smith, Left-Handed Pitcher
One of the best $3,000 investments the Angels have made, Ryan Smith was an 18th-round senior sign out of Princeton who has done nothing short of miss bats and limit runs in his professional career. Smith is an undersized lefty who has overpowered younger hitters with a high-spin fastball that plays best up in the zone and in the hitter’s kitchen, sitting 92-94 with arm-side run. Smith is an aggressive strike-thrower who works quick and mostly off of his fastball. He’ll flash an above-average slider that he’ll try and play off his fastball, letting it break into the lower parts of the zone for swing-and-misses or weak contact. His changeup is a work in progress – but he replicates his arm speed – and could be the difference maker between remaining an undersized starter into the upper levels of the minors and beyond or being an aggressive power arm in the bullpen. The organization took notice of him right away in Rookie Ball and now have a larger focus on him, aggressively promoting him to Double-A after dominating Single-A batters.
21. Werner Blakely, Shortstop
The second of two Detroit-based prep selections in back-to-back years, Blakely is a speed/power project who could stick at a premium defensive position. The Angels have worked with Blakely to find a more rhythmic swing and load – lowering his hands – to assist in better timing, while Blakely himself has worked towards finding a more consistent bat path to avoid his natural uphill swing from the left-side. Though it’s loose, there are moving parts in Blakely’s current swing that have caused length to the swing and timing problems. Since being drafted, Blakely has added some general strength to his already tall and athletic frame (first thing that stands out to scouts), which has aided in his power projection which is now above-average raw, including samplings of easy triple-digit exit velocities with wood bats. He has already shown a better approach than expected in Rookie Ball, and the early returns show some promise to potentially sustaining his high swing-and-miss rate. With above-average speed, Blakely is a smart baserunner who utilizes his speed both offensively and defensively. With quick feet, Blakely’s vertical range is strong suited for shortstop where he has easy and fluid actions, backed by soft hands, a strong arm and quick release. His glove will need some work, which is standard for young infielders. He looks natural at the position, and plays at an advanced defensive pace, but his size and minor inconsistencies may move him to third base where he could be a plus defender. The Angels have time with Blakely at only 19-years-old and will utilize that time by developing inconsistencies in Rookie Ball.
22. Erik Rivera, Left-Handed Pitcher/Outfielder
As noted with William Holmes, Billy Eppler’s allure for athletes who can play baseball in multiple facets made Erik Rivera enticing enough for a fourth-round selection at a third-round bonus rate. The two-way player has much more upside on the mound, though the Angels do like his left-handed power potential. He takes daddy hacks with present man-strength, and produces plus raw power, though it’s unlikely he’ll ever be able to hit enough to remain more than a pitcher with loud raw power at the plate. It seems undecided on Rivera’s future development at the plate and whether it will continue, but repetition and refinement are needed for anything to come of him as an offensive player. Defensively, he would fit well in the corner outfield where he makes strong and accurate throws, and enough athleticism and natural defensive traits to dream on being an average or better fielder.
The real upside for Rivera is on the mound. He has an athletic and easy to repeat delivery that – along with his natural strength – could lead to a long-term rotation development and future. Working from a 3/4 arm slot, Rivera relies heavily on his fastball currently, regularly eclipsing the mid 90’s and touching upwards of 97. Growing into his already compact frame could allow him to tap into a new gear and make that average range rise. He has shown some feel for a breaking ball with a slurvy action, but the development of his above-average changeup has given some idea to him staying as a starter and competing against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. Still raw in most aspects, control and command will be the defining mark of his ability to stay a starter, but power relief could remain an option. He threw one competitive outing this season but was shut down due to a throwing elbow sprain that did not require Tommy John surgery. He is rehabbing in Arizona.
23. Landon Marceaux, Right-Handed Pitcher
A three-year starter and performer at a premiere SEC program, Landon Marceaux signed with the Angels for $2,500 under slot after being taken in the third round. The common terms of being either a thrower or a pitcher, Marceaux is as far to the latter you can be. Marceaux has a low-effort delivery that looks like he’s playing catch in the backyard. With middling stuff in general, he is a control artist who has pristine command of his fastball and an advanced touch for his off-speed. Marceaux will sit in the low 90’s with some later outing fluctuation into the upper 80’s and very early touches of 93-94, all with command east-to-west in the lower quadrants of the zone. He comes equipped with three off-speed pitches, with arguments as to which is the better pending which scout you speak to and what night they saw him, but all essentially range average with flashes of above. He’ll manipulate his changeup similar to his fastball and will show tendencies to use it as a swing-and-miss pitch. His slider comes in like his fastball and changeup with a short late break, which is part of his success in keeping those three pitches in line and tunneling each throughout a single battle. Marceaux’s curveball is loopy, and can be predictable at times, but has been his primary out pitch when used. It’s purely floor over ceiling for Marceaux, who would need a velocity jump to really establish himself as more than a future back-end rotation option.
24. Robinson Pina, Right-Handed Pitcher
Needing a full reset, the Angels sent Robinson Pina to Low-A after he struggled to find the zone in his first handful of outings in High-A to start the year. The reboot worked perfectly, as Pina regained confidence and command over four starts, earning him a return to High-A where he has gotten back on track throwing strikes. With a starter’s kit physique, Pina added some bulk that led to his fastball reaching the lower 90’s during his first full season in 2019. His fastball – which now sits 90-94 and touches the mid 90’s – plays well up in the zone (won’t be the first time you hear that) and can show some sink low-in-the-zone. Velocity and command can fluctuate deeper into games, leaving some questions about his long-term ability to stick as a starter and work through the order multiple times. The Angels added a splitter to Pina’s repertoire in 2018, helped by an overhead delivery. The splitter doesn’t show the prototypical late deadening that you’ll see from others, but it has been effective against left-handed hitters. Pina has a swing-and-miss power curveball when he can stay on top of it and doesn’t lose its depth. He’s athletic with a repeatable delivery, but there’s still a long development plan if the Angels expect him to be a starter overall. He will likely be a three-pitch multi-inning reliever down the road.
25. Michael Stefanic, Second Baseman
Talk about placing trust in yourself and becoming a feel-good story. Michael Stefanic sent multiple emails to all 30 teams after going undrafted out of Westmont JC in 2018, with his baseball resume and scouting video. The Angels called within about two weeks with a need for infielders at their lower-level affiliates. Acting as a reserve infielder, Stefanic made it through the usual cuts of undrafted college players the following spring and was sent to full season Burlington as a bench infielder. Injuries and position changes in High-A led to a regular playing spot where Stefanic took charge with his bat. He has now hit his way to Triple-A and has the attention of the organization. Stefanic has solid barrel control and zone coverage. He has gone from a bit of a placement slap hitter with minimal power to a more intentful swinger showing at least fringe power. Stefanic has spent time at all infield positions but may not have the range to play shortstop or arm to play third on a regular basis at the highest level, but it does give him a bit of defensive versatility that could be best suited with the shift being in play so often. It’s not David Fletcher levels of zone coverage and barrel manipulation or premium defense, but it is enough to expect him to be given a chance at a utility or bench infield opportunity come 2022, or September this year. He’s a throwback player, and Joe Maddon loves these type of guys (i.e., Fletcher, Rojas, Gosselin), giving even more reason to expect some Stefanic noise out of Spring Training 2022, not only from the Front Office but also the coaching staff.
26. Aaron Hernandez, Right-Handed Pitcher
There were lofty expectations for Aaron Hernandez after he was showing a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball and three potentially above-average or better off-speed pitches in his late college years – enough for the Angels to take him in the third round in 2018. After his first full season in High-A, those expectations fell as his fastball ranged in the low 90’s and he couldn’t find command of his off-speed. Now, a pandemic later, Hernandez’s velocity is returning to the mid 90’s with regularity, averaging 95, while his off-speed still show average or better potential with his changeup flashing plus, all only showing that potential when located. Everything with Hernandez comes down to control and command, as he can work around the zone, but doesn’t find it often enough to show impact and is destined for a pure relief role. Still green with less than 300 combined innings between college and pro ball, Hernandez has the raw makings of a power reliever with command improvement who would give you a mid-90’s fastball (though minimal movement) and three distinct off-speed pitches that could be swing-and-miss. The bigger problem isn’t for Hernandez himself, but for the Angels, who will have to make a decision on his 40-man status this winter as he is Rule-5 eligible. Teams tend to covet these kinds of high-ceiling arms who they figure can be helped with drastically quick development in spring which hinders the original team’s development program for the player if returned.
27. Janson Junk, Right-Handed Pitcher
The Angels managed to acquire two potential “top-30 guys” in the Andrew Heaney trade with the Yankees, getting Elvis Peguero and Janson Junk. In college and early development, Junk was a power arm with some potential in his changeup. After the pandemic, he became one of the biggest risers from the YPDF (Yankees Pitching Development Factory (looking to Trademark)) in 2021 after showing better fastball command and more refinement of his breaking balls. He now works 92-94, topping out around 96, with a fastball that plays best up in the zone (a trend the Angels have looked at in acquiring outside of organization talent), and improved command have led it to being a better setup pitch for varying breaking balls. Junk now incorporates a slider and curveball, with the slider being the better of the two, staying on a fastball line and breaking below the zone which helps to lead to swing-and-misses. His curve gives him an altering pitch for hitters, and is used more on lefties than righties, and is seen as more of a replacement pitch for his changeup, which has regressed to a show me offering. Junk is now near the top of the Angels depth chart for starting pitchers and will likely get some looks during Spring Training to break camp in multiple roles pending the Angels pitching situation come April 2022. Junk is currently with the Angels Double-A affiliate, Rocket City Trash Pandas, so make your jokes now about him taking out the trash for the racoons (dads everywhere are laughing).
28. Mason Albright, Left-Handed Pitcher
Signed for a post 10th-round record bonus of $1,247,500, Albright received late second-round slot money as an 12th-round pick. Transferring to an advanced prep sports program at IMG Academy, Albright has an advanced feel on the mound where he shown the ability to locate his pitches as desired, and change tempos, which is likely part of the top-notch coaching staff at IMG. He’s a bit smaller statured for a pitcher at six-foot, but he does create good angle to the plate. His long and funky arm action (somewhat similar to Paco Rodriguez in college) helps create deception which is his bread-and-butter. His fastball on paper isn’t really remarkable in any fashion, sitting 89-94, but it was his primary out pitch through a strong summer showcase circuit and spring mostly due to the deception. Albright shows good arm speed and feel for his changeup, and the organization believes it can be a good pitch. His mid 70’s curveball has a long way to go and is a fringe offering at best currently. Not turning 19 until the end of the 2021 campaign, the Angels have a long time to tap into the low ceiling pitchability prep. If he ends up being a two-pitch undersized southpaw, he could play a multi-inning role with continual changeup advancement.
29. Jose Salvador, Left-Handed Pitcher
Acquired in the trade for Brian Goodwin that also netted Packy Naughton, Salvador was a projectable rookie ball arm who is now seeing his first full season of professional baseball. He’s thin as a rail with present athleticism, and everything comes at hitters from an over-the-top arm slot that creates good angle to the plate. His trebuchet arm action (similar to the catapult you would build in middle school), and high release allows his low 90’s fastball (89-93) to play up in the zone despite premium velocity and makes his rainbow 12-6 curveball particularly hard on lefties and play well against right-handers. He uses his changeup sparsely, and it is distanced from his fastball/curve combo, acting more as a fringe changing of speed offerings. There’s plenty of refinement left in his command – particularly with his off-speed – but he throws enough strikes to dominate Low-A hitters with a mostly two-pitch mix. Without a true third pitch, it’s hard to project Salvador as a starter as he gets deeper into development and is likely a two-pitch middle reliever in the long run.
30. Jose Bonilla, Third Baseman
The Angels pivoted some of their international bonus pool around as to acquire Kevin Maitan and Livan Soto during the 2018/19 signing period. That led to a full year of patience and waiting for Jose Bonilla to keep his verbal commitment and sign for $600,000 – about third-round money on the domestic front. He is an offense-first infielder who utilizes a line-drive swing and approach that lends itself to keeping the ball through the middle of the field, a bit balanced and advanced for a young hitter. Likely near his physical peak, Bonilla is broad in the beam and heavy footed (he may be a 2/3 runner for me), making it clear he will not be a shortstop and may be challenged at third base despite a plus arm. The power is present at raw, and he has quickened his separation which should show some fringe or better power in time. He struggled mightily against older pitching during full season play and is currently trying to get back into his natural game at the Arizona complex. It’s a long road, but the Angels have time to tap into his offensive potential, likely as a corner infield bat.
These are the guys who will likely jump into the top 30 once the likes of currently listed prospects – Chris Rodriguez, Brandon Marsh, and Reid Detmers – have surpassed their rookie status and are no longer seen as prospects.
Gabriel Tapia burst onto the scene following the 2019 Instructional League, displaying an advanced skillset beyond his years that brought his name to the forefront of conversation of projection. He is polish over power at the moment, sitting 89-92 with his fastball. He’s a gangly fellow who has plenty of room to fill, so there is likely more velocity in the tank. Tapia shows good feel for his off-speed offerings, with his changeup showing above-average due to his ability to use it against hitters on both sides of the plate. His curveball is data supported to improve, but lacks consistency, though is improving. Tapia is a long-term project, but he is showing much of what Jaime Barria did at the same age.
The Angels spent a little over $3.6 million on outfielders during the 2017/18 International Signing Period. Their lower minors took a power hit following the trade of Rainier Rivas and Raider Uceta in exchange for Max Stassi at the 2019 Trade Deadline. However, not all was gone as fellow international outfield classmate, Jose Reyes, still provides offensive potential. The 20-year-old Dominican signed for $425,000, which can be equated to fourth or fifth-round money on the domestic front. Reyes has an aesthetically pleasing swing and movements in the field, which make him so alluring, though the overall tool set is still yet to blossom. He has a good eye at the plate, looks pretty when swinging, and puts together a professional batting practice that gives glimpses of gap and some over-the-fence power. He’ll have to cut down some of his free-swinging tendencies to see his performance tick up, but he’s another young player with signs of platoon or bench value down the road.
The Angels splashed on pitchers in the 2019 MLB Draft, and the early picks have either been traded to Baltimore for Dylan Bundy or Jose Iglesias or have shown some promising signs and have been dubbed prospects, or in this case, a suspect in Zach Linginfelter. Linginfelter is a tall, physical right-hander, who has plenty of arm strength and a highly active delivery that must be toned down to have any chance at remaining a starter long-term, though the Angels will give him every chance to start long term through development. Though he can throw strikes, his semi-violent delivery has challenged his ability to command pitches and find a consistent rhythm on the mound. His arsenal mostly comes equipped with a mid-90’s fastball that averages 94 and touches 98, as well as a power breaking slider that flashes above-average and fringe changeup. He’ll stick in the mid-level affiliate rotations for the time being, but there’s a lot of work on command and a true third pitch to get more than a reliever look.
I’m probably the high man on Edgar Quero, but I don’t really care. The kid, and when I say kid I’m being literal because he only turned 18 in April, is more than impressive on tape and his performance merits some attention even in such a small sample. He is a switch-hitting catcher who has remarkably strong wrists for a young man and explosive bat speed. He has a feel for hitting but I do question if the contact will stay consistent throughout his career. So far, the approach seems solid, as he’s hitting the pitches he’s supposed to and staying patient in doing so. It’ll be a while before we really know what Quero is and if he can stick behind the plate, but so far, I like what I see – enough to put him in this category.
PERFORMANCE OF NOTE:
Jhonathan Diaz is an undersized lefty with fringe stuff outside of a potential above-average curveball. His fastball sits upper 80’s to low 90’s, and his changeup is average at best. However, he throws strikes – a lot of strikes. Due to this – and a bit of weaker opposing talent in the Southern League, or Double-A South, or whatever, I don’t care – he’s striking a ton of dudes out. Diaz on the season has 12.9 strikeouts-per-nine, a 33.5 K%, and a 4.6 BB%. His ERA is 2.22. His worst outing all season was an Opening Night relief stint where he allowed three runs all coming in the fourth inning of four. It may not be more than performance unless he can suddenly find extra velocity at the age of 24 which is unlikely, but it can’t go ignored.
Kyle Tyler has performed everywhere he’s gone, this year not excluded. In Double-A, Tyler started the year with a 1.96 ERA over his first eight starts, which included a span of 23 2/3 innings of consecutive scoreless work. He got a bit roughed up over the three starts after those eight which inflated his season numbers a tick, but he got back to where he was in recent weeks and is now pitching in relief. He has a lively fastball that ranges 91-94 and is now touching mid 90’s in relief, along with a splitter-like changeup that can be effective. Another guy who throws strikes and is dominating inferior talent, Tyler is quietly making his way up the depth chart.
A two-sport stud and four-year performer at Hartford, David MacKinnon is one of my must follows and has been for some time. He was a really good soccer goalie, and it shows in the field, as he has good vertical movement at first base. His bat though is showing a lot more promise than ever expected. He scrapped a high leg kick and has really simplified his swing to be more contact-oriented, which may be a knock since he’s a first base only player and you’d like to see more power, but he continues to hit everywhere he goes. This year, he has reached base in 58-of-67 games (to date), and on his career he’s reached base safely in 210-of-246 (85.4%). It’s likely not much more than a up/down depth or bench first baseman which doesn’t offer a lot of value, but I’m still on board.
When asking about the Angels catching depth, it’s usually brought back with two responses: None, or Anthony Mulrine. The Angels do have a handful of gifted defensive catchers, but Mulrine has separated himself and is now about sixth in line on the depth chart for the Angels catching, and by the winter, could be as high as third or fourth. He doesn’t hit much, but he’ll get his share of walks and could be useable as a backup when needed and should get the offensive reps to improve. Of note, if you look at Reid Detmers’ year in Double-A, you will see one name as his battery mate: Anthony Mulrine. He’s not Jeff Mathis level defense, but he’ll probably hit around the same as Mathis and provide solid defense as well.
POWER TOOLS FROM BINFORD, FOR TIM ALLEN’S GARAGE:
Connor Higgins kind of popped out of nowhere after being taken in the 30th round in 2018. He served as a reliever for Arizona State with little fanfare, but upon hitting pro ball, he performed well out of the low affiliate bullpens and showcased the kind of stuff you look for in a power reliever at the Major League level, or as Tim Allen would say: “A Rolex-quality screwdriver.” Higgins fires on all cylinders, working from an over-head arm slot in the mid-to-upper 90’s, touching 99, with an upper 80’s power slider that regularly shows plus. He’ll miss bats, but there is still a focused development on landing his pitches where he wants – in short: refine the command. He’s Rule-5 eligible this year and is the kind of arm teams find interesting for their 40-man, so the Angels will have to make a more non-development decision on him come November.
Oneil Cruz is probably the only player in professional baseball who has a physical figure as near-awning as Edwin Yon. He’s actually more reminiscent of Andrew Wiggins of the Warriors. He’s listed at 6’5, but there’s no way. He’s an easy 6’7 or taller. There’s not much prospect fanfare on Yon, as he’s a bit one dimensional with mass raw and in-game power being his only drawing asset, but you can’t ignore a physical specimen such as this.
Two guys I have to note are Coleman Crow and Adrian Almeida. Almeida has been on scout’s radars for a while because he’s one of the hardest throwing left-handers in baseball with an 80-grade fastball; that also comes with 20-grade command, leaving little to the imagination of his future impact. Crow was brought to my attention by a pal (you can guess who), and I was impressed. He was a 28th-rounder who ended up signing for about fifth-round money, one of those unexpected high school draftees you don’t expect to sign but swing late in negotiations when your bonus pool is all figured. His fastball has good running action with some velocity, and he has a nifty little breaking ball. I need to see better command, but from a pure movement standpoint, I can start buying in a bit.
NEWLY ACQUIRED VIA TRADE:
At the 2021 Trade Deadline, the Angels shipped Andrew Heaney to the Yankees and Tony Watson to the Giants in a full exchange of two-for-five, though obviously separate. The returns merited some Major League relief depth in Sam Selman, and the ranked Janson Junk as you’ll see above. The other trio in the returns all came as big-bodied relief prospects in the mid-minors who have some intrigue based on velocity and physicality.
Including Junk, Elvis Peguero also came to the Angels in the Heaney trade. Peguero uses differing grips with his fastballs that both simmer in the mid 90’s that help setup a good slider (though inconsistent) to accumulate strikeouts which have been on a drastic rise this season compared to earlier in his career. Junk and Peguero were seen as the better returns of the five based on industry consensus and are believed to be within the Angels depth charts by next season.
Perry Minasian – who was looking for “opportunities” during the deadline – noted the Watson trade came very late on deadline day, but a three-for-one on a rental reliever seems like fair trade on paper that would lean to the more opportunistic team. Ivan Armstrong emits an odd player comparison as he has the same frame, arm strength, and throwing style as Josh Allen, the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. Armstrong does have a tough low 3/4 slot to pick up on and lives off his mid 90’s fastball but will show a little slider that has been a swing-and-miss offering that helped him dominate Low-A this year. Jose Marte is another big-bodied reliever who lives off his fastball and may have the most relief upside of any of the returns due to his explosive upper 90’s fastball that touched 101 in his Angels system debut. He also comes equipped with an upper 80’s slider that he can bury in on left-handed hitters and work away on righties. His command leaves plenty to be desired but his strike-throwing is up, as is the case for all the returns, but may never be enough to merit more than some temporary callups in the future.
NEWLY ACQUIRED VIA DRAFT:
Twenty pitchers in twenty picks. That was the Angels draft. Recap finished.
No, I’m just bad at jokes. The Angels brought in loads of talent to fill their pitching depth throughout the system. 19 of the 20 signed, which only excluded their final pick of the draft (Marcelo Perez, TCU), and will likely sustain the majority of the lower affiliated rotations next season. Not all will pan out as starters, and some are already clearly going to be sent out as relievers through development, but what the team paraphrasing called “out-getters” are pretty much just that which will be greatly beneficial for their own development as they’ll get reps they may not have gotten elsewhere.
College relievers are rarely coveted in the draft room, but Luke Murphy provided some excess that led to the Angels drafting him in the fourth round and signing him for $765,300, some $237K+ over slot. Murphy is a bit of a one-dimensional pitcher at the moment who thrives on a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball that plays up due to his deceptive cross-body delivery. His off-speed pitches are hardly worth mentioning at the moment and will be a focal point of development. Murphy didn’t pitch much until 2021, but he possessed the closer role for the College World Series runner-up and finished some big games in dramatic fashion for Vandy, sometimes in multi-inning situations. If a glimpse of an average secondary pitch shows through development, he will be someone you could project as a high-leverage reliever.
Braden Olthoff became baseball internet famous after Jomboy Media broke down a fun little outing where he tormented Mississippi State (watch video if you haven’t already). Away from being social media famous, Olthoff comes with some of the best control in the draft class along with a real plus slider that stays on a fastball plane and breaks dramatically late making it an almost impossible pitch to hit for right-handed hitters when thrown glove side, something he can fall in love with at times. Olthoff has a plus changeup that he let’s play off of his low 90’s fastball that has good running action but may lack enough velocity to play as well in pro ball as it did in college. When watching Olthoff pitch, you may think he’s just out for a throw around in the park, his delivery is that simplistic. He has minimal use of his lower half which could mean development focuses on that and sees if they can get more drive that could lead to a tick up in velocity despite some physical peak.
After signing Mason Albright to a record post-10th-round signing bonus, they used the remaining capital of their bonus pool on Chase Silseth, signing him for $485,000 with about $17,000 left before going over the 5% taxed allowance (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, teams can go up to 5% over their draft bonus pool with the only slap on the wrist being a tax on the excess – every team does it). Silseth is a violent power arm who can struggle with command and is slightly undersized for a starter which already gives him relief vibes. With that power arm though comes a loud arsenal that kickstarts with a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball with minimal movement. Silseth also has a trio of off-speed pitches with his changeup being the best of the group, and his breaking balls often running into each other. He’ll likely be sent out as a starter through development, but it’s easy to project him as an aggressive hard-throwing reliever.
Mo Hanley on paper may not be as intriguing as Mo Hanley on the mound. He walks more dudes than his fair share at the D3 level, but he strikes dudes out at a colossal rate. He throws mostly in the low 90’s but can touch the mids and has the makings of a tight slider that flashes above average or better. When he’s on, he’ll work around the zone, but he tends to pull his fastball and end up all out of whack in his delivery. He’s athletic so there will be some intrigue in his mechanical development, though he had Tommy John surgery this year so the start to his pro career will be a bit delayed.
One of the more fascinating arms of this year’s draft class was Glenn Albanese. Each team was working with an extremely limited sample due to Albanese’s injuries that held him just over 35 collegiate innings over three years. What he showed when healthy though had teams wanting more. In relief, he can sit in the mid 90’s and touch 98. As a starter, that would trend down to 92-95 but not enough to push teams away. He has a plus curveball. He has solid command for a guy his size, and his size and athleticism suggest he could start and maintain his stuff when healthy. Everything is pending a clean bill of health, but with Albanese’s raw package, he could have a rise in the system, ala Davis Daniel.
UNDRAFTED BUT NOT UNINTERESTING:
No team was busier this year than the Angels when it came to signing players who went undrafted. To date of writing this, the Angels have brought in 20 extra players who didn’t hear their name in the draft, with a large focus on building some needed catching depth. Leading the charge on the catching front is Myles Emmerson of Cal Poly. Emmerson is a contact-oriented hitter who shows little signs of any power output, but if he can hit a little it could lead to a backup role as he’s one of the better catch-and-throw guys in the nation and has been a solid receiver. Mike Peabody, an outfielder from UC-Irvine, has plenty of tools that could grade out as average, but his hit tool lags well behind. An interesting follow, but he’ll have to hit enough to merit more attention. Kenyon Yovan was drafted by the Angels in 2019 as a highly touted pitcher, but injuries have kept him from the mound, and he transitioned to hitting for Oregon where his power production was near tops across the nation. Of note, he is the cousin of former Angels reliever: Keynan Middleton. Vojtěch Menšík was a grinding middle-infielder for NC State and doesn’t have much in terms of being a prospect, but he is a Czech-born baseball player which there are not many of. I’ll openly claim some bias towards him, as it’s just cool to see the game grow in Europe. To my knowledge, Martin Cervenka of the Mets is the only Czech player in professional baseball right now and there hasn’t been a Czech-born player in the Majors since 1952, so I’m rooting for him to break that spell no matter how unlikely it may be.
Each organization has a group of former prospects who didn’t pan out into expectancy. The Angels are no different and have a multitude of these dudes. Among the Angels crop includes a pair of first rounders from 2012; Gavin Cecchini who went 12th overall to the Mets and got his fair shake with the club but never blossomed, and Mitch Nay who was the 58th overall pick by Toronto (Minasian connection), and got some 40-man time but hasn’t played much above Double-A and is in his third organization since being a waiver claim by Cincinnati in 2018.
The Salt Lake roster has Mitch Walding – who was a fifth-round pick by Philly in 2011 and has missed most of the season with an injury – and Tyler Danish who has pitched reasonably well and was a second-round pick by the White Sox in 2013. Also on the Salt Lake roster is Jake Gatewood, a former first-round pick by Milwaukee in 2014, who is actually showing some interesting signs of life with his explosive bat speed (though very limited hit tool) and athleticism which has led him to playing all over the field including shortstop and center.
Gareth Morgan went on a power tear with High-A Inland Empire in 2019 following his release from Seattle, the team that took him in the second round in 2014. He hit 20 home runs in 44 games before a quick promotion to Double-A, but with the home runs came the strikeouts as he was going down via strikeout in over 48% of his plate appearances. After the pandemic and the return of Minor League Baseball, Morgan is hitting below the Mendoza line in High-A Tri-City. He’ll always be worth watching though as 80-grade raw power doesn’t just suddenly pop into your system.
Matthias Dietz was an intriguing projection arm in the 2016 Draft, and Baltimore scooped him up in the second round. He struggled throwing strikes and was a Spring release by Baltimore just prior to the pandemic. After some time in Indy Ball, the Angels signed him and he’s currently in Double-A Rocket City striking plenty of dudes out with a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball and decent little breaker. Command remains a question, but he may be one of those late bloomers worth monitoring.
Kevin Maitan and Adrian Rondon were both viewed as the top international free agents for their respective classes. They also both warranted unfair comparisons (and I’m a comparison guy) to Miguel Cabrera – which I believe was more based on Maitan’s frame than skillset – and Hanley Ramirez. Maitan’s body regressed, and the tools soon followed. Rondon just never hit. Both are still hanging tight in the organization and have youth to their advantage.
“GIVE ME JUST ONE MORE LAST CHANCE BEFORE YOU SAY WE’RE THROUGH”:
This is honestly just my excuse to use Vince Gill lyrics I’ve been trying to place in an article for about five years, and realistically, only one or two of you may actually know the song, so, whatevs. The top of the depth chart for each team just below the Majors has a grouping of guys who are talented enough to crack the 40-man and find their way into becoming a Major Leaguer. For the Angels, Kean Wong, Andrew Wantz, and Austin Warren are those guys.
Wantz and Warren are commonly put together because they were taken around the same time, in the same draft, have moved up together, and have similar arsenals – oh, and they’ve been minor league roommates since the start. They’ve each gotten some time in the Majors, and even been replaced on the Angels roster by each other. It’s likely they stick around and are part of the 2022 pitching staff to some extent due to options if they can remain on the 40-man roster through the winter. Both have the command and off-speed pitch to make it so even if they’re depth arms, they have value. Kean Wong’s versatility has been an asset to the Angels this year as he subbed in the outfield and did a serviceable job. It’s not likely he’ll ever hit his way into a starting spot, but he’s a good asset to have on the bench since he can play some good defense at multiple positions and give you speed on the base paths.
Brennon Lund was an 11th-round pick by the Angels during Billy Eppler’s first draft as GM. His amateur tools translated immediately in pro ball, and he hit his way to Double-A in his first professional season with no hiccups, spent a full year in Double-A, and is now in his second full stint with Triple-A Salt Lake. Playing fine defense with some speed to burn on the basepaths, the Utah-born outfielder has struggled offensively at the Utah-based affiliate. All the while, he’s been passed over on the depth chart by some bigger upside prospects and veterans who are getting some of their last looks in pro ball. It’s likely Lund is a fourth outfielder at best, but it may serve him well to be in a differing organization for the opportunity to get that look and become a Major Leaguer.
Gerardo Reyes was the going cost for Jason Castro during the 2020 Trade Deadline. Reyes got a sip of coffee with the Padres in 2019 and was mapped out to be a potential reliever for the Angels in 2021 before wincing after a pitch in Spring Training that ended up being a sprain in his throwing UCL that required Tommy John surgery. It could be a long road of recovery for Reyes but if he returns to form, he could be a relief option down the road for the Angels while hitting the standardized talent peak age for most pitchers.
Following a breakout year in Low-A, Hector Yan was placed on the 40-man roster in November of 2019, protecting him from the Rule-5 Draft. Since that point, Yan has regressed. Living off of fastball usage, his velocity – that used to sit 91-94 and touch 96 – is now in the upper 80’s and capping around 91-92. His off-speed pitches have never been real weapons but have been used well off the fastball. Above everything, Yan cannot find the strike zone right now. It could be a lost season and it could be signs of one young player being impacted by time off from the pandemic (though he was at the alternate site), but at the moment, he has the looks of an org arm.
Oliver Ortega is a high tempo reliever who had a standout season in 2019 that led to some higher praise in prospect circles. There’s little doubt his arsenal – that includes a 95-99 MPH fastball and low-to-mid 80’s power knuckle-curve – could play in the Majors, but there’s been too much command inconsistency and his arsenal has backed up at random times over the year.
Initially seen as the superior of the two Bahamian outfielders who signed for a combined $2.1 million, Trent Deveaux was a supreme athlete who showed raw glimpses of a threatening power-speed combination. The Angels took a patient approach with Deveaux and tinkered with his swing a handful of times (literally) which included a full upright position with his knees touching, similar to Jabari Blash during his brief stint in the Angels organization. The goal was to find rhythm in his swing, but it still hasn’t come to fruition and there’s questions as to whether he’ll ever be able to hit his way into Single-A. There’s still plenty of time to work with the tools and over-the-edge athleticism and try and turn Deveaux into something, but it is all pending the hit tool and whether he can harness an approach at the plate.
The final pick of four for the Angels in the abbreviated (sighs) 2020 MLB Draft, Adam Seminaris had the amateur development help of Eric Valenzuela at Long Beach State, the man who aided in the early development of Tony Gonsolin, Corbin Burnes, and Addison Reed. Seminaris is a pitchability southpaw with below-average velocity but average-or-better off-speed who has thrown a few too many strikes this year in Low-A and has been hit a bit too hard. He’ll be constantly tested with limited fastball velocity, but as he gets his reins in pro ball, he should expect quick advancement to reach those tests.
Livan Soto has always been glove-over-bat, but there were enough signs on offense to expect some bench outcomes. The key sign was that he rarely struck out and walked just as often as he did strikeout, up until this season where he’s striking out nearly three times as often as walking. There isn’t much physical impact to believe more than fringe-or-worse power could come so the strikeout numbers can be alarming. The positives are that Soto is still just 21-years-old and in his fourth year of professional baseball. There’s plenty of time to work out the offensive kinks, but it may be that he’s a high-energy middle infielder with a good glove and that’s it.
Consistently outperforming expectations, Denny Brady intrigued the team enough to receive invitations to both the alternate site and Spring Training. He’ll work mostly in the low 90’s with his fastball that averages around 92 and has the ability to manipulate his breaking ball(s) and turn his slider into a cutter or slurve and add power to his curveball giving it a more two-plane look. He throws strikes and works quick. After missing the final part of 2019 with a forearm injury, Brady has been shut down with an unknown injury (I haven’t been able to track down what it is) following just five starts in Double-A.
Stiward Aquino and Sadrac Franco were two low-level arms the Angels were excited about not too long back. Aquino was more about upside pitchability and feel with while Franco was a shorter power arm. Both are near the end of rehab from Tommy John surgery (second TJ for Aquino).