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Los Angeles Angels

Despite having two of the best players ever to lace up cleats, the Angels are a poor baseball team.  They primarily lack pitching but also need several positional bats to fill out their lineup.  In reviewing their minor league system, some interesting positional bats should be able to help and help soon.  But, regrettably, the pitching is thin, with only Ky Bush and Sam Bachman having a chance to be impact pitchers.  Sure, if both get called up and perform, you win.  But is that likely?

I love Logan O’Hoppe; he has the tools to be an impact performer as soon as next season.  Zach Neto, the Angels’ first-round pick last season, has the defensive chops of former Angles Brandon Marsh and can also really hit.  The Angels are pushing him hard, so don’t be surprised if he is in Anaheim next season.  They’ve also done well recently in the Latin market with several high-upside players who played well in the lower minor leagues.

Is it enough to allow the Angels to compete with the Astros and the other elite American League teams?  From a hitters-perspective, I say yes.  The pitching needs help…but it always does.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Logan O’Hoppe
  • Biggest Mover: Edgar Quero
  • Emerging Prospect: Nelson Rada

1. Logan O’Hoppe (C)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 Catcher with upside
  • Tools Summary: First, there was the contact improvement in 2021, and then in 2022, he put it all together.

Logan O’Hoppe was one of my biggest risers in 2021 and did nothing but get better in 2022.  He continued to improve his approach at the plate with an uptick in contact.  In 447 plate appearances, he walked as much as he struck out while posting a 16.5% strikeout rate.  He also slugged .544 with 26 home runs while stealing seven bases.  The best news, though, happened off the field when he was traded at the deadline to the Angels, which should give him a more straightforward path to the Major Leagues. He received a September call-up and did not look out of place, getting four hits in 14 at-bats.  The upside is a Top 15 fantasy catcher, maybe more.

2. Zach Neto (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 Shortstop
  • Tools Summary: He’s a hit-first prospect with above-average speed and enough power to hit 10 to 15 home runs annually.

Campbell University is a small liberal arts school in eastern North Carolina, about two hours from my home.  I had planned to travel there last spring to see Zach Neto and Thomas Harrington, but alas, I was lazy and didn’t make it.  It’s a shame, as any school offering Cedric Mullins a scholarship to play baseball should have your attention.

The Angels clearly made the trek, as they made Neto the 13th pick last July.  He had an impressive junior year, slashing .407/.514/.769 with 15 home runs, 19 stolen bases, and twice as many walks as strikeouts.  While he pitched a little, he will not follow in Ohtani’s footsteps and will focus on being a positional player in professional baseball.

He’s a hit-first prospect with a chance to hit for average power while stealing 15 to 20 bases annually.  His swing and ability to make contact should give him a high floor of a .280 hitter, and with his ability to stay at shortstop, there’s a lot to like from a baseball and fantasy baseball standpoint.  Finally, it appears he’s on the fast path as the Angels had him play the final 30 games in Double-A and he didn’t look lost.

3. Ky Bush (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: He has the size and arsenal to develop into a number three starter.

Ky Bush took a nice step forward in 2022, throwing more strikes and showing better secondary pitches.  At 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, he’s a presence on the mound, and with the improved control he showed in Double-A last season, he’s starting to look like a nice number-three starter.  While the delivery has some effort, I like the over-the-top delivery that should make him difficult to square, although he gave up 93 hits, including 14 home runs in 103 innings last year.  Assuming health, he should be a candidate for starts in Los Angeles.

4. Sam Bachman (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP or Closer
  • Tools Summary: He throws hard with a nasty slider.  His size, violent delivery, and lack of a third pitch could push him to the bullpen.

Sam Bachman started the season on the IL with back spasms and then looked great in his first three starts before missing two months with a bicep injury.  After that, he didn’t pitch well until the last game of the season.  Assuming health, he has great stuff with a fastball that can touch triple-digits and a nasty, boring slider.  His change-up is still a work in progress, but if that can become an average pitch, the ceiling is a number two starter or a lock-down closer.  However, there is much effort in his delivery, and he’s only 6-foot-1, so despite the high-end velocity, he could be homer prone.  Plus, let’s face it, guys that throw as hard as he does usually have arm problems at some point.  Yeah, I know, you can say that about anyone.

5. Kyren Paris (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS
  • Tools Summary: Intriguing fantasy tools that, if he could reduce his tendency to strike out, could develop into a 20-20 player, maybe more.

The Angels continue to be aggressive with Kyren Paris, their second-round pick in 2019.  He’s always been young for each level and, in 2022, was one of the youngest players in Double-A.  He’s athletic with plus speed and plenty of bat speed to suggest he could grow into 20 home run pop.  He is prone to chasing pitches out of the strike zone and consequently struck out nearly 30% of the time last season.  The fantasy upside is intriguing, but the Angels need to work with him to stay more controlled at the plate, or his production could be muted at the highest level.

6. Jeremiah Jackson (2B)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 2B
  • Tools Summary: He appeared to trade power for better contact, and while he didn’t post a great stat line, he might be on the right path.

Those who have read my capsules over the years should know that I rank players like Jeremiah Jackson lower than others.  Why?  He has 70-grade raw power but has a poor approach at the plate and has always struck out at least 30% of the time. With that as background, last season was encouraging.  He cut down his strikeout rate (22%) and maintained his improved walk rate in 2021.  He only hit .215 and posted a .404 SLG, which would imply that he traded power for contact, but with his ground ball percentage spike, he was also beating many balls into the ground.  If this is indeed a change in his approach, 2023 should tell us a lot more about how successful he will be.

7. Edgar Quero (C)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 Catcher with risk
  • Tools Summary: He had an impressive 2022 season, showing a mature approach at the plate with power and speed.

Edgar Quero put his name on the map with an impressive 2022 campaign.  The 19-year-old catcher from Panama slashed .312/.435/.530 with 17 home runs and 12 stolen bases in the hitter-friendly California League while showing a mature approach at the plate (91K/73BB).   He’s a solid average runner, so early in his career, there could be some stolen base potential, and his athleticism should allow him to stay behind the plate.  Everyone is looking for a sleeper, and while some will dismiss Quero because he’s a catcher, I’m not and would suggest you do the same.

8. Jordyn Adams (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Toolsy athlete that showed some signs of making better contact.

It’s easy to dismiss Jordyn Adams as another toolsy athlete who didn’t hit enough to make it.  However, he made some strides in 2022.  He cut his strikeout rate nearly in half from an unsustainable 38% to a reasonable 22% in High-A, and while it spiked upon his promotion to Double-A mid-season, he did keep it under 30% (just barely).  He did trade off some power, but given his bat speed and physicality, he should develop at least average power.  He’s an 80-runner, so if he can just hit a little, he’ll have fantasy value.

It’s going to come down to contact.  If he continues to make strides, then he’s a legitimate prospect.  If not… 

9. Denzer Guzman (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Middle Infielder
  • Tools Summary: He has a little speed and power to go along with a feel to hit.

The Angels signed Denzer Guzman for $2 million in January 2021.  At 18, he primarily played in the Complex League and held his own, slashing .286/.341/.422 with three home runs and stolen bases.  He did get a late, 5-game promotion to Low-A to end the season.  He’s athletic with enough skills to stay at short long-term with above-average speed and the chance to hit for average power as he gets stronger.  The swing is short to the ball, and he shows a semblance of an approach.  The upside is a middle infielder in 15-team fantasy leagues if it all comes together.

10. Brett Kerry (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP or Reliever
  • Tools Summary: He doesn’t have the big fastball, but Statcast gives his stuff high marks.

The Angels selected Brett Kerry with the fifth pick in the 2021 draft and had to be pleased with how he pitched last season.  In 103 innings, he pitched to a 4.46 ERA striking out over 10 per nine while limiting his walks to 2.6 per nine.  He doesn’t have the big fastball, but it does grade out higher as it has a high spin rate.  He’s also only 6 feet tall, and that, combined with his fastball, might give him a career as a bullpen arm.  While he did start most of the year, he spent time in the bullpen in the second half but then finished the year back in the rotation.  The Angels are always looking for pitching, so I expect a promotion to the Major Leagues might be in the cards for next season.

11. Nelson Rada (OF)

  • Highest Level:  DSL ETA: 2026+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: He’s a hit-first player who walked as much as he struck out as a 16-year-old in the DSL last summer.

Nelson Rada was the Angels’ top international signee last January.  He’s a hit-first prospect with limited current power, but he could add bulk to his body as he matures.  He’s a well above-average runner currently, but if he does fill out, you can expect the speed to dimmish.  He played well as one of the youngest players in the DSL last summer (he turned 17 in August), slashing .311/.446/.439 while walking as much as he struck out.  He’s a kid to monitor.

12. Adrian Placencia (2B)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 2B with risk
  • Tools Summary: He is toolsy with plenty of bat speed.  He expands the strike zone too much, which needs to be addressed before getting too excited about the upside.

Adrian Placencia has plus bat speed and runs well but currently expands the strike zone too much and, consequently, struck out 30% of the time last year.  He was very young for the level, only turning 19 in June.  He also walked 16% of the time.  While I didn’t see him play live, many times, players with a high walk and strikeout rates are too passive at the plate, putting themselves into poor hit counts.  As he moves up levels, pitchers will take more advantage of this, so adjustments must be made.  While the tools are exciting, there is plenty of work left.

13. Arol Vera (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 SS with risk
  • Tools Summary: He shows a feel to hit with some speed.  However, he rolled over on too many pitches, which indicates that there is still much work left.

Arol Vera played most of the 2022 season as a 19-year-old in Low-A.  It was an aggressive assignment, and he sometimes seemed overwhelmed, slashing .209/.291/.281.  The .281 SLG was disappointing and shows that he needs to get stronger to succeed as he moves up the chain.  He does show a feel to hit with an approach that should allow him to hit enough to succeed.  He’s still a high-risk, high-reward player at this point.

14. Livan Soto (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Utility Player
  • Tools Summary: He’s a plus defender who needs to get stronger to have a full-time role at the highest level.

Livan Soto is a plus defender still searching for an offensive game.  He does make a ton of contact, but he lacks the bat speed to impact the ball with force.  I would not get too excited about his 18-game September call-up, which was impressive. Just remember the theory of small sample sizes.

He’s a solid runner and, with full-time at-bats, should be able to steal double-digit bases yearly.  He needs to get stronger to have a chance to be a full-time regular. 

15. Orlando Martinez (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Platoon Outfielder
  • Tools Summary: He makes solid contact with a semblance of an approach.  There’s average power, but the platoon splits point to a platoon player at the highest level.

Orlando Martinez made it to Triple-A last season. While the tools are limited, he makes solid contact, runs well, and has enough power, particularly against right-handed pitchers; he could get playing time at the highest level.  The splits are significant.  He slashed .291/.346/.456 against RHP and .230/.304/.330 against LHP.  I don’t think there is much in the way of fantasy appeal, but guys get hot, and Martinez should get a chance next season.  In fantasy baseball, knowing the name and the background is a big part of the battle.  Consider yourself informed!

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