Here’s the fourth installment of the Top 10 lists (check the header for the others as well as the explanation), with special thanks to our own Garrett Wilson from Monkey With a Halo.
Due to a variety of injuries, production issues, and normal promotions, the Los Angeles Angels farm system looks worse than it did last season, but it’s not all bad. When Kendrys (I think that’s what it was changed to or was to begin with or whatever, right?) Morales went down, Mark Trumbo filled in ably. Tyler Chatwood responded when Scott Kazmir apparently forgot what pitching was. Jordan Walden cemented a spot in the bullpen. Hank Conger got his chain yanked again, but he still has a promising future. And Mike Trout even got some time, though he remains a “prospect” as he only had 123 at-bats at the major-league level (130 is the cut-off). Infusing the major-league team with young talent is the goal of every farm system, so in that way, this year was a success.
Down on the farm, there wasn’t much luck, but there were a few solid performances. Trout continued his domination of the minor leagues. CJ Cron and Nick Maronde made successful debuts after signing. Garrett Richards performed well and earned a major-league promotion. And Luis Jimenez continued to hit.
But the Angels’ system had their fair share of injuries and stalls, highlighted by Jean Segura, Cam Bedrosian, Fabio Martinez Mesa, and Randal Grichuk who spent the majority or all of the season injured. Chevez Clarke took a step back. If you are looking for a bright side, however, all of those players were young and, with the exception of Martinez Mesa, did not suffer injuries that should seriously alter their ceilings.
Though the Angels farm system doesn’t look particularly good at the moment, there’s still quite a bit of hope. Trout, Segura, and CJ Cron have All-Star potential, and Kaleb Cowart and Cam Bedrosian have some exciting developing to do. There is quite a bit of talent in the lower levels, and with some better seasons, the system can look much better without adding much else, though that would obviously help. With a pretty solid major-league team and a healthy payroll, the Angels don’t need a massive influx of cheap talent, but it would help to reload over the next few years with strong drafts.
Mike Trout CF
Age/Level (as of 4/2012): 20/MLB or AAA
Projection: 5+ WAR
A whole 7 at-bats shy of not being a prospect any longer (130 is the cut-off), Mike Trout is still one of the best prospects in the game. His 80 speed is his calling card, and it helps him cover a lot of ground in center for plus defense. What’s so shocking about that is that he’s built like a linebacker, which makes scouts believe he could develop average or more power as he gets older to go along with a plus hit tool and an advanced approach. About the only thing not to like is his arm, which is fringe-average, but that’s nitpicking. Trout had a rough introduction to the major leagues, but there’s absolutely no reason that should continue. He only turned 20 on August 7th, after all.
Jean Segura SS/2B
Age/Level: 22/AA or High-A
Projection: 3-5 WAR
When it comes to Segura, there are two major questions. One, can he stay healthy, which he didn’t yet again in 2011? Two, can he play shortstop, which we didn’t get to see much of because of the injuries? These are essential because Segura has plenty of tools and skills to be a very successful major-leaguer. With excellent bat speed, the 21-year old Dominican can hit and has average power despite his smallish stature, and he adds plus speed to help him on the bases. Defensively, he can pick it and has the arm for short, but he hasn’t really played there in pro ball, though he looked fairly good there early in the season. If he can stick at short (and stay healthy), he’s an All-Star, but even if he has to move back to second, he’s still an above-average regular.
CJ Cron 1B
Projection: 2-4 WAR
Even though the Angels knew he needed shoulder surgery at some point, they still selected Cron with their first round pick. Cron was a catcher, but despite the shoulder surgery, he was going to have to move anyway. Defensively, he’s not very good (or mobile, which is probably why someone stuck him behind the plate), but no one’s really worried about that. The Angels just want Cron to hit, and he has an average or better hit tool to go along with plus to plus-plus power and an advanced approach. He waylaid the Pioneer League, but we’d expect such from elite college hitters in Rookie Ball. I’m being a bit cautious here, though I really like Cron, until I see how the shoulder responds to surgery and how Cron does against better pitching. It’s also just hard to be a first base prospect because the bat has to develop perfectly.
Nick Maronde SP
Projection: 3/4, Late-Inning Reliever
A reliever in college, Maronde returned to the rotation in Rookie Ball and dominated. With a low-to-mid-90s fastball (it sits more in the low-90s out of the rotation) and a disgusting breaking ball, Maronde certainly has pro stuff, but the development of his change will be key as he rarely used it in college once he was put in the bullpen, though he did use it in high school. As for his mechanics, he uses quite a bit of effort, and he doesn’t finish his delivery well, which means most of his pitches remain up. I certainly hold out hope that he can go back to the rotation (it was mostly the other talent at the University of Florida that put him in the bullpen), but I want to see a season’s full of innings while dominating hitters that aren’t at least two levels below him.
Garrett Richards SP
Age/Level: 23/AAA or MLB
Richards certainly has the stuff to be an awesome starter. His fastball sits 91-93 and can hit the mid-90s, and he adds an above-average to plus slider. Unfortunately, his curve and change are below-average and may mean a move to the bullpen, and having only two pitches seemed to cost him in AAA, as his 6.5 K/9 wasn’t impressive. He had some trouble as well when he moved up to the majors, and he doesn’t have the command (he throws across his body substantially, especially affecting his command to his glove side) to get away with that. Richards is more of a back-end starter, though improvement in his change-up and command could raise his ceiling, or a late-inning reliever.
Luis Jimenez 3B
Projection: 1-3 WAR
If there is one thing Jimenez has always done, it’s hit. With averages around .300 wherever he goes, he plowed through a good AA season, and he adds average power. The walks and approach, however, are concerning as there aren’t many pitches he doesn’t like, but while he doesn’t walk much, he also doesn’t strike out a lot. Defensively, he’s not a particularly good defender, but he has enough arm and range to stay at the hot corner. Jimenez has a lot of tools, but at age 24 for all of next season, he’s probably past the developmental stage. He is what he is, and it’s just time to see how he does against AAA and MLB pitching with the skills he has.
Taylor Lindsey 2B
Projection: 2-4 WAR
As a 19-year old, Lindsey shredded Rookie Ball to the tune of .362/.394/.593, so he can obviously hit. Lindsey demonstrated more power than anyone expected, but his approach was very aggressive. Once he gets into better competition, pitchers will be able to take advantage if Lindsey doesn’t make adjustments. He’ll need to because he’s not particularly good at the keystone. He has enough range and arm for the position, but scouts worry it’s just enough of both and that a move to left may eventually be in order. That’s still a ways off, however, and as long as he stays at second (guys get better on defense, too), Lindsey could be a very nice player.
Kaleb Cowart 3B
Projection: 2-4 WAR
The 19-year old third baseman had a decent first season in rookie ball. While he can hit, he also strikes out a lot, and he didn’t provide as much power as hoped. But when you’re only 19 and essentially in your first season as a pro, no one will hammer you for it. Cowart still has plenty of offensive potential, but he could use some work on defense, though he does have a plus arm that could allow him to pitch if he doesn’t succeed at the plate. 2012 will give us a better understanding of who Cowart is–a potential superstar or more of an everyday guy.
Cam Bedrosian SP
Projection: 3/4/5, Late-Inning Reliever
Bedrosian reminds me a little of farm system-mate Garrett Richards. With a fastball that sits in the low-90s but can touch the mid-90s, an above-average slider, and two other uninspiring off-speed pitches, his stuff is only the beginning of the comparison. Bedrosian’s mechanics also require a lot of effort, which may have been a reason that he needed Tommy John surgery this season, and he throws across his body quite a bit, which could hinder the development of his command. Bedrosian is 3 and a half years younger than Richards, but Richards has pitched in the majors and Bedrosian may have to move to the bullpen. Still, Bedrosian still has some developmental potential, and Tommy john survivors often come back just fine.
Jeremy Moore OF
Age/Level: 24/MLB or AAA
Projection: 1-3 WAR
While Moore isn’t likely to be a starter, he should be a really good 4th outfielder that gets more than usual playing time for a guy off the bench. He has improved his hitting as he’s moved up, and he shows fringe-average power. But he doesn’t walk, and he doesn’t really have the speed to play center. Essentially, he’s a good player without a real spot to play in. On the 40-man roster and having played all of 2011 in AAA, he’s a good bet to be in LA at some point this season.
Big Question – Front Office Turmoil
Their general manager resigned. They fired his assistant general managers. And they let go their farm director. If that wasn’t enough, their owner is one of the more controlling and unpredictable in the game. The farm system lost most of its upper-level talent to the majors and to attrition, and it needs substantial investment to develop the talent growing in the low minors and to draft and sign amateur talent, which owner Arte Moreno doesn’t seem to want to give. It would really help if Jerry DiPoto and the new front office were given some rope to rebuild it, but no one’s sure if that will happen.