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Los Angeles Angels

Original Published Date: Nov. 28, 2012

Question:  If you develop one of the best prospects in recent history, how much Goodwill do you build up with your fan base?  We might find that out very quickly as the Angels minor league system is very thin at all levels of the organization.

The best prospect is third baseman Kaleb Cowart.  While he’s not in Mike Trout’s class, he has a chance to be a solid regular at the highest level with a ceiling of 25 home runs and .280 batting average.  Right-handed first baseman Christopher Cron has plus raw power and surprisingly good contact, however he has yet to learn how to take a walk.  After these two prospects, things fall off quickly.

Nick Maronde had a taste of the Major Leagues in 2012 and performed well but it looks like the Angels view him more as a bullpen guy.  However, I think he has a chance to be more, as the stuff and the mechanics hint at a mid-rotation starter profile.

The good news for fans is that money no longer appears to be an issue for adding big league talent.  That’s good as their minor league system is squarely in the bottom third of the league.

1. Kaleb Cowart (3B)

2013 Age: 20 BP: Georgia
Ht:6-3  Weight: 195 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2012 A-A+ 526 90 16 103 14 .276 .368 78.9 14.6 .320

Drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft for a $2.3 million dollar signing bonus, Kaleb Cowart had a breakout year in 2012.  Across Low-A and High-A, he had a 79% contact rate to go along with an excellent walk rate of 15%.    He also hit for power with 16 home runs as well as stealing 14 bases.  While he continued to hit in the first couple of weeks of the Arizona Fall League, he tired towards the end of October and wound up hitting a disappointing .200.

Cowart demonstrates nice bat speed from both sides of the plate, although he looks more comfortable from his natural right side.  When I saw him at the Arizona Fall League, he did not handle off-speed pitches well from the left side.  The swing is compact and while his current raw power is a 50 on the 20-80 scouting scale, I could see this improving as he matures.

I am surprised at the 14 stolen bases as I clocked him at 4.32 down to first base from the right side, which is average to slightly below average raw speed.  Therefore the stolen bases were based more on skill than raw talent which usually means that the results are not sustainable.

Fantasy Impact: Cowart has the ceiling of a first division third baseman.  If he reaches his full potential, you are looking at 20-25 home runs and a .280 batting average with a handful of stolen bases.  Since Cowart is not yet a household name, you should be able to get him late in a Dynasty Draft.

2. C.J. Cron (1B)

DOB: 2013 Age: 23 BP: Arizona
Ht:6-4  Weight: 235 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2012 HiA 525 73 27 123 3 .293 .327 86.3 3.2 .295

When the Angels drafted Christopher (C.J.) Cron with the 17th overall pick in the 2011 draft, his primary calling card was his plus-plus raw power that he demonstrated by hitting 46 home runs in college.  However, after his first full year in professional ball, he appears to have the ability to make solid contact which should help him get to the raw power.

Cron is a big boy at 6-foot-4 and a generous 235 pounds.   With that size and the ability to hit balls a long way, I was expecting to see a very long leveraged swing.  However, it’s actually fairly compact which should allow him to shorten up his stroke and not get beat on inside hard stuff.  Plus, he can recognize off-speed pitches and looks willing to take those to the opposite field.  All of this bodes well for the ability to hit for not only power but average; except for one thing.  He walked 17 times in 525 at-bats.  When I did the math, my calculator simply said…not a valid number.

In scouting his at-bats, I would not have guessed he was that aggressive as I saw him layoff pitches and even have some long at-bats fouling off seven pitches at one point.  But a 3.2% walk rate is going to put severe pressure on not only his batting average but his on-base percentage as well.  The Angels need to work with Cron to find a better balance between his aggressiveness and working a count or Double-A will prove extremely difficult.

Cron will start 2013 in Double-A putting him in-line for a call-up later in the year or in 2014.  Of course, the Angles have Albert Pujols signed for another nine years at first base and several candidates to fill the DH position.  So what happens to young Mr. Cron?  While you can never predict the future, I would think it’s likely that he becomes a trade asset.

Fantasy Impact: I love the power and swing but with his aggressiveness at the plate, he could be a significant drain on your batting average.  2013 will be an important year for him to work this out and if he does, he could become an important asset to your minor league roster.  In a Dynasty League, I’m drafting Cron later in the draft.

3. Nick Maronde (LHP)

2013 Age: 23 BP: Kentucky
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 205 Bats: Both Throws: Left ETA: 2012
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 A-Maj 99.2 82 26 5 2.00 8.80 2.36 1.05

Drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft, Nick Maronde made his Major League debut in 2012 and pitched well in his six innings in the bullpen.  Primarily used as reliever in college, Maronde started all 11 professional games in 2011 and 18 games in 2012 before his call-up.  The big question is will the Angels use him as a starter or relegate him to the bullpen?

Maronde has good stuff that plays up because of his ability to command all of his pitches.  In his brief big league call-up, his fastball averaged 93.24 with decent velocity separation with his changeup and slider.  His slider is an average offering with not a tremendous amount of movement and tilt.  The changeup looks slightly better and may ultimate be a better secondary pitch.

In looking at Maronde’s delivery, you can quickly see why he has good control and command.  He has nice posture and balance on his landing while finishing off his pitches well.  His delivery is a little whippy and might put extra stress on his shoulder or elbow, but I’ve not heard of any problem to-date.

Fantasy Impact: Once he got called to the Majors, people started adding Maronde to their rosters in Dynasty and Keeper Leagues.  While this was a wise move based on his stuff and pitchability, unless he in fact becomes a starter in the Major Leagues, he’s really not rosterable.  Ultimately, I think he will be a starter with a ceiling of a number three.

4. Taylor Lindsey (2B)

2013 Age: 24 BP: California (HS)
Ht:6-0  Weight: 195 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2014
2012 HiA 589 79 9 58 8 .289 .328 87.9 5.3 .313

The Angels started 2010 supplemental first round draft pick Taylor Lindsey career off slowly but then hit the acceleration button in 2012 as they skipped him over Low-A to start the year in the hitter-friendly Cal League.  He performed well by batting .289 with an 88% contact rate as one of the youngest players in the league.

Lindsey has a nice compact swing that enables him to get the bat in the zone for a long time.  While his bat speed is average, he makes great adjustment in his swing to make elite contact.  While there isn’t much leverage in the swing, Lindsey should be able to hit for a high average with 8-10 home runs at the highest level.   That said, I think there could more power in his bat.  Lindsey has a definitive leg kick that he uses to keep his timing and ultimately to make adjustments in his swing.  While this helps in making elite contact, he loses kinetic energy and ultimately power in the process.

Fantasy Impact: Lindsey’s ceiling is a second division starter with a good batting average (.280+), single digit home run, and a handful of stolen bases.  From a fantasy standpoint, this is marginal production and therefore he should be ignored in all leagues.

5. Randal Grichuk (OF)

2013 Age: 21 BP: Texas
Ht:6-1  Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2012 HiA 537 79 18 71 16 .298 .335 82.9 4.3 .332

It will be interesting to see if Randal Grichuk becomes the modern day Wally Pipp – who was the player that the Angels selected ahead of Mike Trout in the 2009 draft?  While Grichuk does not have the upside of Mike Trout, he’s finally starting to carve out a name for himself.

In 2012, Grichuk was finally healthy enough to play a full season.  Fortunately for him, it was the Cal League where he batted .298 with 18 home runs and 16 stolen bases.  His swing is a long leveraged swing with a lot of natural loft.  He does have nice bat speed and good hand-eye-coordination and was able to make nice contact at 83%.  However, I’m not sure the hit tool will ever be plus but should be good enough for him to get to the raw power in the swing.

Grichuk will move to Double-A in 2013 and we should learn a lot more about his ability to make contact.  I did get a chance to see him this fall during the Arizona Fall League and he looked good.  However, the stats indicate he really struggled to make contact, striking out 18 times in 56 at-bats.

Fantasy Impact:  On the surface, Grichuk has a chance to be a fantasy contributor with a nice power/speed combination.  However, he’s not yet draftable in a Dynasty League until we see how he makes out against advanced pitching.

6. Luis Jimenez (3B)

While Kaleb Cowart is probably the third baseman of the future for the Angels, Luis Jimenez might get a chance at the hot corner if Alberto Callaspo gets injured.  The free swinging right-handed batter has both power and speed potential which he demonstrated in 2012 in the PCL by slugging 18 home runs and stealing 17 bases.  He makes nice contact (86%) but only walked 17 times in 485 at-bats in 2012.  From a fantasy standpoint, he might be a guy to jump on if he gets called up and receives playing time as the short-term potential is there.

7. Mark Sappington (RHP)

Sappington was drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 draft and has a live arm to go with his 6-foot-5, 210 pound frame.  He throws a fastball that sits 92-93 MPH with a lot of arm side run and a curve ball which I would rate as a plus pitch.  While the arsenal is good, the delivery is one of maximum effort and Sappington in the end might be destined for the bullpen.  However, the Angles will continue to work on his delivery in hopes of keeping him as a starter.

8. Austin Wood (RHP)

At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Austin Wood has the prototypical pitchers body with a mid-90’s fastball to boot.  Signed in 2011 after failing to sign in both 2009 and 2010, Wood lost valuable development time and it showed in his control where he walked 5.08 per nine in Low-A as a 21-year-old.  While the arm is electric, his mechanics needs work as does his secondary pitches.  His ceiling is a back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever.

9. Travis Witherspoon (OF)

Travis Witherspoon has one plus tool and that’s speed where he stole 46 bases in 2011 and 34 in 2012.  The question is will he make enough contact to become a useful player at the highest level.  In the first half of 2012 in the Cal League, the answer looked like yes as he batted .319 with a .399 OBP.  However, upon his promotion to Double-A, things fell apart as he batted .202 in 208 at-bats.  The contact rate was decent at 74% but a very unlucky BABIP of .242 ultimately killed his batting average.   The projection for Witherspoon is likely a fourth or fifth outfielder who can steal bases.  While this has marginal baseball value, he might provide sneaky fantasy value due to his ability to steal bases.

10. R.J. Alvarez (RHP)

After signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Angels first pick in the 2012 draft was not until late in the third round.  With that pick, the Angels selected college reliever R.J. Alvarez who has the ability to run his fastball to the upper nineties with a lot of sink.  He also throws a hard slider and a plus changeup that looks to be his out pitch to both RHB and LHB.  Given his experience and solid arsenal, Alvarez could be in Los Angeles sometime in 2013 even though he only pitched 23 innings in Low-A in 2012.

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