|Original Published Date: January 6, 2015|
Let’s not sugar coat it; the Angels minor league system is weak. Yeah, it got better when the Angels acquired Andrew Heaney but after that, things fall off fairly quickly.
The Angels 2014 first round draft pick, Sean Newcomb, is a legitimate starting pitching prospect with a chance to be a solid number three starter. While he’s got a great pitchers body and a solid arsenal, the lack of quality college competition could cause the Angels to move Newcomb slowly through the system. Nick Tropeano already has big league experience and should get a chance to compete for a rotation spot in spring training. While the arsenal says back-of-the-rotation, he has advanced pitchability and could eventually profile as a number four starter.
The two positional bats that I find the most intriguing are Sherman Johnson and Cal Towey. Johnson has solid average-skills across the board and could make a very intriguing middle infielder in the mold of Howard Johnson. Towey has a beautiful lefty swing and while he doesn’t have the secondary tools of Johnson, can really hit. The Angels also dipped into the Cuban market and signed Roberto Baldoquin in November and while the reports I have on him are mixed, the consensus is a second division middle infielder or utility player.
Finally, there is Cam Bedrosian and Jario Diaz. Both have electric stuff with a chance to pitch at the back of the bullpen. While Bedrosian is the more complete pitcher, Diaz has a crazy two-pitch arsenal with great control and could prove to be extremely hard to hit.
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 185||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2014|
When Andrew Heaney was promoted to the big leagues on June 19th, I wasn’t convinced he was ready. After an impressive inaugural game against the Mets where he gave up one earned run over six innings, I thought maybe I was wrong. However, things went south in his next three starts and Heaney found himself back in New Orleans.
Heaney isn’t a flame thrower as his fastball sits 90-92 MPH. However, he is able to spot it to both sides of the plate allowing the pitch to move up a grade. The command is actually quite impressive and he is therefore able to get plenty of swings and misses with the pitch. His curve ball is his bread and butter pitch that has great movement and shape and had a 26.61% whiff rate in his 29.1 innings in the majors. The change-up is behind the other two pitches but I’ve seen it flash plus and gives hope to a third above average pitch.
Heaney’s athleticism works very well in his pitching mechanics. The delivery is very smooth with excellent balance on the landing which is helping him repeat his delivery. His career 2.36 walk rate per nine shows his ability to throw strikes.
Fantasy Impact: Heaney should get his chance in 2015 and while it’s always risky to count on too much contribution from a rookie, Heaney has the stuff and polish to contribute almost immediately. You should expect seven to eight strikeouts per inning with better than league ratios given his ability to throw strikes. There should also be opportunities for wins given the offense that Trout, Pujols and Calhoun should produce.
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-5 Weight: 240||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2016-17|
Drafting with the highest pick in a decade, the Angels selected college left-hander Sean Newcomb with the 15th pick in the 2014 first year player draft. Newcomb was the Friday starter at the University of Hartford where he posted a 13-6 record, a 2.35 ERA while striking out 10.80 per nine in 27 games. His biggest problem in his college career was the ability to throw strikes as he walked 75 in 165 innings. This coupled with him attending a small Northeast college scared off a lot of teams.
At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Newcomb has the size and physicality you want in a pitcher. The arsenal is promising and starts with a fastball that sits 90-93 MPH. His best secondary pitch is a slider that has good cutting two-plane action, although at 81-82 MPH, it could be even more effective if he threw it with a bit more velocity. The change-up is also developing nicely.
Newcomb’s delivery is very smooth and easy. In fact, I was watching a close-up video of his delivery and thought he was doing his warm-up when the ball was hit back at him. It’s amazing he’s able to get the level of velocity he does with such ease in his delivery. He pitches from a traditional three-quarters delivery and despite staying on top of his pitches, he has a tendency to pitch up in the zone. This makes him fly ball prone as was indicated in his limited 11.2 innings at Burlington.
Fantasy Impact: Newcomb has the arsenal to get plenty of swings and misses and the pitching mechanics that should allow him to repeat his delivery. He does pitch up in the zone which will make him fly ball prone, but playing in Anaheim should help limit the damage.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: #4 starter|
|Ht: 6-4 Weight: 200||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
Nick Tropeano posted one of the best statistical seasons in the entire minor leagues in 2014. As a member of the Oklahoma City RedHawks in the PCL, the right-hander maintained a 3.03 ERA in 124.2 innings, which was the fourth lowest in the league for starting pitchers. The great season earned Tropeano both a September callup and then a trade to the Los Angeles Angels. I believe the trade was more about the Astros acquiring Hank Conger; and the price was a pretty good pitcher.
At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Tropeano doesn’t have the body of a power pitcher nor does he have the arsenal of a power pitcher. The fastball sits 91-93 MPH and comes out of his hand a little flat. Despite his height, he doesn’t get great plane on his pitches and does have a tendency to pitch up in the zone. His best secondary pitch is a plus change-up with some splitting action. It’s his primary out pitch and generated nearly 17% WHIFFs in his limited big league experience. The slider also took a big step-up in 2014 and now has a chance to be an average pitch.
The pitching mechanics are a little funky and creates deception in his delivery. His poor balance leads to a significant fall-off to the first base side with Tropeano almost throwing back across his body. It’s surprising he’s able to get as much velocity as he does, but the deception definitely helps keep batters off balance.
While Tropeano doesn’t have overwhelming stuff and his pitching mechanics are less than desirable, he throws strikes and has a very good feel for pitching. Moving to Anaheim, he’ll be pitching in a better ballpark which should help keep the ball in the ballpark and give him a chance to be a number four starter.
Fantasy Impact: Tropeano should get a chance to start for the Angels in 2015 and while Dynasty owners are hoping to see the strikeout per inning and plus control he showed in the minor leagues, I just don’t see it. While he has a great feel for pitching, I think the ceiling is a number six starter on your fantasy team with league average ratios and six to eight strikeout per nine.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: Closer|
|Ht: 6-0 Weight: 195||Bats: Both Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
Another big arm that finished the year in the Angels bullpen was 23-year-old right-hander Jario Diaz. As with Cam Bedrosian, he’s been successful at closing games in the minor leagues, racking up 11 in 27 games in Double-A.
While Diaz only stands 6-foot and 190 pounds, he throws the ball hard with the ability to hit triple-digits. In his brief exposure in the major leagues, his fastball averaged 97.75 MPH with multiple triple digit readings. His strikeout pitch is a slider that has great velocity separation with his fastball and has become a real swing and miss pitch. In his 32.2 innings in Double-A during 2014, he struck out an impressive 13.22 batters per nine.
Fantasy Impact: While Diaz is not large in stature, he has a power arm that could easily profile as a closer down the road. Given the number of arms in front of him in the Angels bullpen, he’s a tough player to own in a Dynasty League. However, owners should jump on him once he starts to see high-leveraged situation.
|2015 Age: 19||Ceiling: Solid-Reg
|Ht: 5-10 Weight: 180||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
Sherman Johnson had one of the better seasons in the Angels system. In 136 games in the California League, he posted an .847 OPS with 17 home runs, 26 stolen bases and a 104K/88BB strikeout-to-walk ratio.
While Johnson doesn’t have a carrying tool, he does have a very good approach at the plate with the ability to make solid contact with excellent plate coverage. The ability to work a walk has always been there and is maturing as he gains more experience. While he belted 17 home runs in the Cali League, the swing lacks leverage and at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, he doesn’t have the size or strength to profile for more than 10 to 12 home run power. The speed also took a step up, but again, he has average speed with a ceiling of 15 to 18 stolen bases.
Johnson should start the 2015 season in the Texas League with an outside chance to see Los Angeles later in the year.
Fantasy Impact: As with Towey, Johnson is likely an extra bat at the highest level but could see regular playing time given his plus on-base skills. He’s also a very good defensive infielder and that usually plays well with Mike Scioscia. The ceiling is a 12 HR/15 SB middle infielder with the ability to get on-base at a .360 clip.
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: Solid-Reg
|Ht: 5-11 Weight: 175||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016-17|
The Angels decided to join the cool kids and blow past their international signing bonus budget to sign Cuban émigré Roberto Baldoquin. The signing not only cost the Angels the $8 million dollar signing bonus, but also will limit their ability to sign other international players for the next two years; not to mention the fines they will have to pay. So Baldoquin was expensive and the logical questions is…was he worth it?
It’s a tough question to answer as Baldoquin has only had 123 plate appearances in the Serie Nacional league over the past two years. He was basically a backup player, filling in at both second and shortstop. Because of his lack of experience, Baldoquin could easily start 2015 in Low-A.
The early reports that I have received indicate that Baldoquin has a decent understanding at the plate with good bat speed, but with more of a contact oriented swing. He’s athletic enough to play both shortstop and second with reports split on where he plays long-term. The foot speed is above average but with Baldoquin’s frame, he’s likely to add weight which will reduce his speed.
Fantasy Impact: Owners will be all over Baldoquin due to the success that Abreu, Puig, Cespedes, and Soler have had. However, since we have so little data about the player, I would read the market conditions and tap the brakes. You have a red hot market that is over valuing Cuban born players but yet he cost only an $8 million signing bonus. While I would value Castillo very high in upcoming drafts with Tomas down from there, I have to place Baldoquin much further down my draft board.
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: Closer|
|Ht: 6-0 Weight: 205||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
The Angels spent a first round pick on Cam Bedrosian and hoped he would repeat the success his father Steve had in his 14-year career. While Cam could still eventually win a Cy Young like his father did in 1987, it’s going to have to come as a reliever.
Cam’s career really took off after the Angels moved him to the bullpen in 2013. Pitching in shorter burst, his fastball played up a grade and now sits 94-96 MPH and touching higher. He also ditched his curve ball and now throws a hard slider that sits 84-87 MPH with a sharp two-plane break. He also throws a changeup that has splitting action and could eventually be a plus pitch. It’s an arsenal that shows a lot of promise and led to nearly 10 strikeouts per nine in his minor league career.
His control has been the problem. While he looked good in Double-A, walking 2.78 per nine in 32.1 innings, his career 4.71 walk per nine is a better indicator of his struggle. In fact the walks came back to bite him in the majors and help to balloon his ERA to 6.52 in 17 appearance. At the heart of the problem is his inability to find a consistent release point and until he corrects that, he’s going to struggle.
Fantasy Impact: Bedrosian’s a tough hold in a Dynasty League. While the stuff has closer potential, the control is a real problem and until he gets that under control, he’s a middle reliever. Plus Bedrosian is behind some pretty good relievers in Los Angeles and plays for a manager who isn’t tolerant of blown saves. That said, he’ll get saves in the majors. When, I’m just not sure.
|2015 Age: 19||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 205||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2018|
With the 53rd overall pick in the 2014 first year player draft, the Angels went to the great state of New Jersey and drafted prep right-hander Joe Gatto. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Gatto has the projectable frame that teams love to draft and develop and based on report from fall instructs, the velocity is already starting to tick-up.
Gatto’s stuff is sushi raw but holds a lot of promise. The fastball sits 90-94 MPH but reportedly was hitting 95 in the fall. The pitch has a lot of wiggle and movement with natural sinking action which in turn should produce a lot of ground balls. Gatto shows the ability to spin a curve but he’s not able to throw it consistently for strikes and therefore, it’s not very effective.
While the stuff is raw, the pitching mechanics show a lot of promise. Gatto has a traditional three-quarters delivery with great momentum to the plate. The balance and posture are both very good. He does have a salon door trailing leg that should smooth out over time. Overall though, it’s the delivery combined with the raw stuff that gives Gatto the ceiling of a number three starter. However, he’s so raw that the ceiling could easily go up or down as he matures.
Fantasy Impact: If you like to invest in projectable talent with excellent athleticism and pitching mechanics, then Gatto should be on your radar. He’s at least four years away from the big leagues and could easily start the 2015 season in the Complex League.
|2015 Age: 25||Ceiling: 2nd-Div.
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 215||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
I first saw Cal Towey in a 66ers game over the summer. During batting practice, the swing looked good and he showed definite pop in the bat. I quickly started reading up on him and saw he was 24-years old, a four-year graduate out of Baylor and only in High-A. I shrugged and wrote some scribble down on my note pad. During the game he went two for five with a double, a stolen base, while playing a very good outfield, including a plus arm. I kept trying to put out of mind the natural biases – that he’s 24-years-old, still in High-A and old for the league.
I was pleased to see Towey again in the Arizona Fall League and once again, he impressed. The swing is solid with a level swing suggesting that the power is more double-oriented than over-the-fence. However, he can sting the ball and if he builds some leverage, average power could result. He’s clearly not a burner as I got him at 4.21 to first from the left-side but he has good instincts on the basepath that could lead to low double-digit stolen bases at the highest level.
The total package gives Towey the ceiling of an extra bat or second division starter. Despite being 25-years-old to begin the 2015 season, the bat is fairly advanced and Towey could see time in Los Angeles if injuries hit.
Fantasy Impact: Towey is not really ownable in anything outside of an AL-Only Dynasty League. The upside is the Rays Kevin Kiermaier, or a 15 HR/12 SB player with a .280 batting average if given full-time at-bats.
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: 2nd Div.
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 225||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2015-16|
Kaleb Cowart is barely hanging on to his spot on the Angels Top 10. In fact, in most every other system, Cowart would have fallen off but the Angels system is weak and Cowart survives.
That said, Cowart is still likely to see the major leagues but his lack of power and his ability to square velocity was exposed when he hit the upper minors. He does make good contact but his swing does not take advantage of the bat speed he generates, resulting in him rolling over on too many pitches. The net effect? He slugged .312 with a .277 BABIP over the past two seasons in Double-A. I can’t explain the 26 stolen bases as he’s a 45 runner.
Fantasy Impact: One of my readers suggested that Cowart should go back to the bump. He does have a plus arm and threw in the mid-90’s in high school, but at 23-years-old, those days might be behind him. While I’m pulling for Cowart as he does have intriguing tools, his ceiling is a second division starter with a realistic role as an extra bat.
2015 Emerging Prospect:
The Angels signed Venezuelan Ricardo Sanchez in 2013 for $585,000 and the reports to-date have been very positive. Though he has a slight build at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, his fastball sits 93-94 MPH and can touch higher in smaller bursts. He also shows the ability to spin a curve and a bit of touch for his emerging changeup. He’s very raw and doesn’t turn 18 until next April and therefore is a mile away from making his big league debut. While there is upside in the young Venezuelan, his slight build might eventually force him to the bullpen.