Los Angeles Angels Top 10 Midseason Prospects
The Angels were in good shape on June 9, with a 37-28 record that had them hanging around with the Astros in the American League West. If they could upgrade the bullpen and add a potent left-handed bat, they seemed poised for a playoff push.
Then Shohei Ohtani, Garrett Richards and Nick Tropeano went on the disabled list, an injury-plagued, overworked and inexperienced bullpen cracked, and the Angels lost 14 of 19 games to tumble down the standings. They haven’t been able to recover, and through 100 games stood 50-50 with a 10-game deficit in the wild card standings.
The Angels look more like trade deadline sellers than buyers, but, they have a much deeper farm system to tap if they do want to swing a trade or two.
Under third-year general manager Billy Eppler and second-year scouting director Matt Swanson, the Angels have developed a surplus of high-ceiling, high-risk outfielders such as Jo Adell, their first-round pick in 2017, Jordyn Adams, their top pick in 2018, and Brandon Marsh, a second-round pick in 2016.
They’ve bolstered their pitching depth with high-end prospects such as righthander Griffin Canning and lefthander Jose Suarez, who both jumped from high Class A Inland Empire to Triple-A Salt Lake this season.
A farm system that ranked last among 30 clubs in three of the previous four years jumped to 14th entering this season, and it appears to be a solid middle-of-the-pack organization this summer.
"It starts with the athleticism we’re bringing in,” said Mike LaCassa, director of minor league operations. "We’re targeting high-quality makeup, plus-athletes—position players with more power and speed, pitchers with more velocity, wipeout secondary pitches and better stuff.
"If you look at our top 15-20 prospects, there’s an impressive group of players who have a chance to be impactful big leaguers.”
SEE ALSO: Midseason Top 10 Prospects
1. Jo Adell, OF
High Class A Inland Empire
The Angels believe Adell has the raw tools—power, speed, arm, defensive instincts—to be a superstar. After dominating Rookie ball last summer, Adell has compiled a .313/.366/.586 slash line with 17 home runs, 25 doubles, 66 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 75 games in his first full season as a professional. The center fielder destroys fastballs but needs more plate discipline to avoid chasing breaking balls out of the zone. He’s working on getting better jumps and running more efficient routes in the outfield. If Mike Trout leaves as a free agent after 2020, Adell is in line to replace the two-time MVP.
2. Griffin Canning, RHP
Triple-A Salt Lake
The former UCLA standout shot through the system from high Class A to Triple-A in his first two months of pro ball. His fastball velocity took a big jump and now averages 94-95 mph and touches 98 mph. He has two above-average secondary pitches—an 85-87 mph slider that runs down and away from righthanders and an 80-82 mph curveball with 11-to-5 shape—and his fourth-pitch changeup is improving. He is fearless and dials up his velocity and command in big spots, giving him the total package of one of the top pitching prospects in the game.
3. Brandon Marsh, OF
High Class A Inland Empire
Marsh was the best athlete in the system until the Angels drafted Adell and Adams, but even then Marsh still has an argument for the title. Though scouts love his raw tools, especially his power, speed and arm, Marsh is still turning his potential into performance. He got hot recently to up his slash line to .272/.364/.409, but his six home runs and 113 strikeouts in 91 games cause concern. Plate discipline is a strength, but Marsh needs to fine-tune his approach so he’s ready to attack his pitch more often.
4. Jahmai Jones, 2B
Jones went to his first big league camp this spring as an outfielder. In March, he was moved to second base. Jones needs to improve his double-play pivots and get more comfortable with the arm angles required of an infielder, but evaluators believe he has a chance to eventually be playable at second. Jones has plus bat speed, respectable power and a good feel for the strike zone, but his offensive performance has dropped off as he’s focused on his defensive transition.
5. Jose Suarez, LHP
Triple-A Salt Lake
What the 5-foot-10 Suarez lacks in size, he makes up for with stuff and an advanced feel for pitching. He mixes a fastball that averages 92.4 mph and touches 95 with a plus low-80s changeup he throws with deception and sinking action and an improving 76-mph curveball. He increased his strikeout rate from 10.7 batters per nine innings in 2016 to 11.8 in 2017 to 12.1 this season, and he shot up to Triple-A after just nine starts. He’s now working on throwing all three of his pitches in the different quadrants of the zone.
6. Jordyn Adams, OF
Rookie-level AZL Angels
The 17th overall pick in the 2018 draft spurned a scholarship to play football and baseball at North Carolina to sign a well-above-slot, $4.1-million bonus. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Adams is highly athletic, with size, speed and strength and has excellent bat speed. Scouts think he will hit for more power as he adds muscle to his wiry frame, but he might project as more of a leadoff man than a middle-of-the-order bat in the big leagues.
7. Matt Thaiss, 1B
Triple-A Salt Lake
The 2016 first-round pick has the best plate discipline of any player in the system. The biggest question was if he would develop the kind of power that warranted his move from catcher to first base. Thaiss is providing an answer, with 14 homers and 46 extra-base hits in 89 games at Double-A and Triple-A, both career-highs already. He’s also progressed to an average to above-average defender at first base, helping solidify himself as the Angels’ first baseman of the future.
8. Jose Soriano, RHP
Low Class A Burlington
The results haven’t been there in Soriano’s first try at full-season ball (0-4, 7.64 in seven starts), but Soriano still shows tantalizing ingredients. He is averaging 94-95 mph on a heavy fastball that induces a lot of ground balls, and he should gain velocity as he adds size and strength to his 6-foot-3, 170-pound frame. Soriano has always flashed a plus curveball, but he is gaining confidence in an improved changeup that he’s using more in games.
9. Luis Rengifo, SS
Triple-A Salt Lake
The speedy Rengifo, acquired from the Rays for C.J. Cron, jumped from high Class A to Double-A to Triple-A with no decline in production. Though evaluators don’t see huge tools, Rengifo’s guile and instincts are proving more than enough as he’s hit .315/.420/.482 with 37 steals. The switch-hitter has a steady line-drive approach from both sides of the plate and defensively is solid at shortstop, profiling ultimately as a utility infielder for most evaluators.
10. Taylor Ward, 3B
Triple-A Salt Lake
Ward’s breakout season finally came after he stopped catching and moved to third base. Freed from the mental and physical burdens of catching and allowed to focus on his offense, Ward made mechanical adjustments to his hands and stride, improved his strike-zone discipline and began keeping his bat in the zone longer, resulting in a .349/.445/.544 slash line. Evaluators believe in Ward’s offensive improvements but note that he is still learning the intricacies of third base, particularly when it comes to reading hops, and has a ways to go to get to average.
Six Observations From Team USA Training Camp
Here are six observations from Team USA’s scrimmages, and what to watch for as it attempts to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
- 1B Jared Walsh has gone from a fringe prospect with pull power to a guy who is hitting the ball with authority to all fields. He rose from high Class A all the way to Triple-A and has a .921 OPS, 21 home runs and 69 RBIs in 91 games.
- C Jack Kruger has impressed as an athletic catcher who can turn around velocity, drive the ball with authority and even swipe a bag. He’s hit .299/.361/.418 with seven home runs and 13 stolen bases between high Class A and Double-A, although his well below-average arm creates questions whether or not he can stay behind the plate.
- INF Jose Rojas( continues to hit everywhere he goes and .302/.375/.565 line with 14 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A while moving around the infield.
- SS Kevin Maitan arrived at Rookie-level Orem listed at 222 pounds—47 pounds heavier than when he signed with the Braves two years ago. He’s hit just .267/.307/.374 in a repeat year in Rookie ball and been a mess defensively at shortstop with 16 errors in 17 games.
- OF Jonah Todd has struggled to make contact and posted a .212/.301/.273 line with 103 strikeouts in 87 games at high Class A Inland Empire, and that’s with a recent hot streak.
- LHP Greg Mahle, who appeared in 24 games with the Angels in 2016, was demoted to Mobile for the first two and a half months of 2018 and has an 6.52 ERA in 13 games for Salt Lake.
- RHP Chris Rodriguez suffered a stress reaction in his lower back in spring training and has been confined team’s Arizona training complex. He was nearing the end of his rehabilitation in early July and expected to join the Burlington rotation sooner rather than later.
- RHP Jake Jewell, who earned a big-league promotion with a 3.60 ERA in 19 games at Salt Lake, fractured his right fibula while covering home plate on a wild pitch in a June 27 game in Fenway Park and is out for the season.
- RHP Stiward Aquino, a 19-year-old from the Dominican Republic, had Tommy John surgery last winter and is expected to return in the spring of 2019.
- RHP Jaime Barria, who has an advanced feel for pitching and pinpoint control, has helped shore up an injury-plagued Angels rotation, going 5-6, 3.55 in his first 13 big-league starts.
- INF David Fletcher slashed .350/.394/.559 with 36 extra-base hits in 58 games at Salt Lake to earn his first big-league promotion on June 12, and he has played well enough to take over as the starting third baseman with Zack Cozart out for the year.
- RHP Justin Anderson, with a fastball that touches 99 mph and a nasty slider, has emerged as a valuable late-inning reliever for the Angels, with a 3.34 ERA in 35 games.