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Los Angeles Angels

Original Published Date: January 5, 2016

Let me be clear, the Los Angeles Angels have the worse farm system in the game…and it’s not close.  After trading away Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis, the top prospect is Joe Gatto.  While he has upside, he has the ceiling of a number four starter.  After that, it’s a list of bullpen arms and fringy positional players.

Clearly the Angels are using former Washington Redskins football coach, George Allen adage that “The Future is Now” to build their team.  I hope it works because there is nothing in the farm system that can help them much in the future.  Additionally, they will likely sign several free agents during the off season, resulting in lost draft picks and no talent infusion in the farm system.  While Mike Trout is the best player in the game, he needs guys around him to make this work.  Their window appears to be 2016 and 17.  I hope it works.

1. Joe Gatto (RHP)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 205 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2018
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 SS 54.1 73 26 4 2.82 6.29 4.31 1.66

Drafted in the second round of the 2014 first year player draft, Joe Gatto sits on top of the Angels Top 10 list.  He spent 2014 in rookie ball and the hope was that he would have been given a full-season assignment to begin the 2015 season.  However, the Angels decided to hold him back at the Complex and then sent him to Orem to continue his development in the Pioneer League.

In 12 starts, he posted a 4.31 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 17 walks.  Not a great stat line by any stretch but not awful either.  The performance should be good enough for the Angels to start him in Cedar Rapids to begin the 2016 season.

Scouting Report:  What impresses me most about Gatto is his athleticism.  I had a chance to see him play in New Jersey as an amateur and you could see the athleticism play both on the mound and in the field.  As the Angels have refined his delivery, his velocity has taken an uptick and now sits 91 to 93 (T95).  Additionally, the Angels still believe there is more and the tank and that eventually he will sit 93 to 95 while touching higher.  His secondary pitches are very raw but he does show an ability to spin a curve.

Fantasy Impact:  The ceiling of Gatto is a number three starter but there is still a lot of work to be done.  With three years at a minimum left in the minors, he should only be owned in Dynasty Leagues that roster 400 minor league players.

2. Jahmai Jones (OF)

2016 Age: 18 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 5-11 Weight: 210 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2019
2015 R 160 28 2 20 16 .244 .330 79.4 9.3 .294

I almost made Jahmai Jones the number one prospect in the system.  While he’s still sushi raw he does have skills that could land him in the major leagues.

He was taken in the second round of the 2014 draft and signed for an overslot bonus of a million dollars. He played well as a 17-year-old draftee (turned 18 in August) by hitting .244 with 33 strikeouts and 17 walks in 160 at-bats in Rookie Ball.  He also showed off his plus speed by stealing 16 of 23 bags.

Scouting Report:  At 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, Jones is built more a football player.  In fact, part of the reason the Angels had to overpay for him was his commitment to play football in college for North Carolina.  So, he’s clearly athletic but more importantly, his swing is solid.  He’s short to the ball with good bat speed but is easily fooled by breaking pitches and has a long way to go before he can handle more advanced pitching.  He’s an above average runner with a chance to have average future power.   That said, he’s still very young and a lot can happen.

Fantasy Impact:  If it all comes together. Jones could be a 15 HR/15 SB player at the highest level.  However, at 18-years-old, and a young 18-year-old, he has a long way to go before he can be owned in a Dynasty League.  I would put him on my scout team and monitor his progress.

3. Victor Alcantara (RHP)

2016 Age: 23 Ceiling: Middle Reliever
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A+ 136.0 152 85 10 3.84 8.27 5.63 1.54

Dominican Victor Alcantara easily has the best arm in the system and is slowly starting to translate his talent into performance.  In the difficult setting of the California League, he pitched well.  In 27 starts, he posted a 5.63 ERA while striking out 8.3 per nine and walking 3.8 per nine.  The problem was too many batters were able to square him up.  In 136 innings, he gave up 152 hits but did manage a 2.53 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio.

Scouting Report:  Alcantara throws hard with his fastball sitting 93 to 94 MPH and touching higher.  His best secondary pitch is his slider that sits 85 to 86 MPH with a nice two-plane break.  He is still working on his change-up and is starting to show a feel for it.  While the arsenal is promising, Alcantara’s inability to throw consistent strikes is currently holding him back.

His control problem goes back to his delivery. It’s a max effort delivery with 30-grade balance.  He loses his release point and the result is bouts of wildness.  If the Angels can’t correct it, Alcantara could be bullpen bound.  That might not be the worse thing as that would allow his fastball/slider combination to play up a grade.

Fantasy Impact:  While Alcantara has some upside, he should only be considered in Dynasty Leagues that roster 400 or more minor league players.

4. Jake Jewell (RHP)

2016 Age: 23 Ceiling: #5 starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 200 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2018
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A 111.1 110 59 8 2.51 8.89 4.77 1.27

The Angels drafted Jake Jewell in the 2014 first year player draft in the fifth round out of junior college.  He was primarily used as a closer in college but the Angels have been stretching him out as starter since he turned pro.  By the end of the 2015 season, he was averaging four to five innings a game and pitching effectively in Low-A.

The final stat line was very good.  In 111.1 innings, he posted a 4.77 ERA and struck out nearly a batter an inning while striking out 2.5 per nine.

Scouting Report:  Jewell has a good arm and good stuff.  His fastball sits 93 to 95 MPH as a starter with a slider that flashes plus and a change-up that also flashes.  When he repeats his delivery, he can throw his entire arsenal for strikes.   He also uses his 6-foot-3 frame well, pitching with plane and inducing a lot of ground balls.

Jewell’s biggest growth opportunity continues to be finding consistency in his release point.  He can get out of sync and when he does, he loses his release point and can become wild.  If he stays within himself and throws strikes, he can be effective.  I think that can be as a starter and for now, so do the Angels.

Fantasy Impact:  Jewell is a player to keep on the fantasy radar.  He has a good arm with improving control.  While I would only roster him in a Dynasty League that rosters 400 or more minor leaguers, that might change as he continues to move up the ladder.

5. Taylor Ward (C)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: Backup
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017-18
2015 R,A 201 30 3 31 6 .348 .457 88.6 9.4 .381

The Angels drafted Taylor Ward with their first pick (pick 26) in the 2015 first year player draft.  Known more for his defensive chops, he did post an .821 OPS in his three year college career including hitting 16 home runs in 162 games.

In his first exposure to professional ball, he played well posting a .348/.457/.438 in 56 games across Low-A and Rookie Ball.  More importantly, he walked more than he struck out; 39 walks to 23 strikeouts.

Scouting Report:  Ward defensive is currently ahead of his offensive chops with a double-plus arm being his best asset.  Some sources I spoke with put his ceiling as a backup catcher but I did hear from one amateur scout who liked his bat enough to see an everyday player.  He believes Ward will eventually hit and while he’ll likely have below-average power, he could still hit 10 home runs annually.  He possess athleticism, showing off the ability to steal the occasional base.  In fact, he stole six in his first exposure to professional ball.

Fantasy Impact:  The Angels could start Ward off in Inland in the Cali League to begin the 2016 season.  While his ceiling is likely a backup, he’s a player that fantasy owners should monitor as he could be rosterable in two-catcher deep Dynasty Leagues.

6. Kyle Kubitza (3B)

2016 Age: 25 Ceiling: Extra Bat
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 210 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2018
2015 AAA 457 63 7 50 7 .271 .357 70.5 11.4 .355

I saw Kyle Kubitza play a couple of years ago and really like what I saw.  He had that great lefty swing, showed some pop and was able to really work a count.  He was working his way through the Braves system when they traded him to the Angels for Ricardo Sanchez.

Kubitza had a solid year in 2015 that resulted in a September promotion where he played in 19 games but did not produce much.  In his 117 games in Triple-A, he hit .271/.357/.433 with seven home runs and seven stolen bases.  While he’s never demonstrated much power, I was surprised that he didn’t hit for more power; particularly in the PCL.  If his ceiling is a high on-base guy with below average power which will likely make him an extra bat in the big leagues.

Scouting Report:  Kubitza has a nice swing and shows excellent plate patience, however he does strikeout too much.  Part of the problem is that there is length in his swing.  If he hit 25 home runs, that would be fine, but his swing is more oriented for double-power, so he either needs to add some leverage or shorten his swing.  Personally, I would love to see him add some leverage and try and hit for more power.  Until one of those two things happen, he’s an up-and-down guy for me.

Fantasy Impact:  Kubitza is only rosterable in Dynasty Leagues that roster 450 or more minor league players.

7. Roberto Baldoquin (SS)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: Utility
Ht: 5-11 Weight: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
2015 A+ 289 23 1 27 4 .235 .266 75.8 2.9 .303

Last year, 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 limited 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 it worth it?  So far…it wasn’t.

In 77 games in the California League, Baldoquin really struggled.  He hit .235/.266/.294 while striking out 70 times and walking nine times.  His inability to control the strike zone was a little shocking given his age and pedigree in Cuba.  However, he had not played in two years and played sparingly while in Cuba.  Also, he lost playing time in May in June with a wrist issue that didn’t help in his development process.

Scouting Report: I’m not sure I get Baldoquin.  I’ve seen him play and while there is some athleticism the swing isn’t good and he has one of the more aggressive approaches at the plate that I’ve ever seen.  I also don’t think there will be much power and only modest stolen base totals.  While any player can develop and I never give up on athletes like Baldoquin, he has a long way to go before he has any chance of making the big leagues.  In fact, I expect the Angels to start him back in San Bernardino to begin the 2016 season.

Fantasy Impact:  I know he was signed for eight million dollars and cost the Angels twice that, but I don’t think Baldoquin is rosterable in a Dynasty League at this point.  I would have him on my radar but not on my roster.

8. Natanael Delgado (OF)

2016 Age: 19 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 170 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2018
2015 A 411 32 6 46 2 .241 .276 74.7 4.3 .304

If I were to dream on one player in the Angels system, it would be Natanael Delgado.  Signed for $280,000 during the 2012 J2 signing period, Delgado hasn’t yet put it all together but does show flashes that he could one day be a big leaguer.

In his first exposure to full season ball, Delgado struggled.  In 108 games, he hit .241/.276/.355 with only six home runs.  He struck out 104 times and only walked 19 times.  That strikeout-to-walk ratio will not work long term and Delgado will need to spend time learning to control the strike zone better in order for him to be successful.

Scouting Report: At 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Delgado should grow into the profile of a physical right fielder.  While he has not demonstrated much current power, he has the bat speed and natural loft in his swing to project future above-average power.  However, his ultra aggressive approach and long swing need a lot of work.

As with many young players, the ability to hit enough to get to his power will be the key on whether Delgado makes it or not.  While the odds are against him, I think there’s something there and believe he has at least a 25% chance to become a 2nd Division performer at the highest level.

Fantasy Impact:  While Delgado is the one player in the system in which I could dream-on, I’m not ready to put him on my Dynasty League team.  Therefore, he should only be rostered in leagues that have 500 or more minor league players.

9. Nate Smith (LHP)

2016 Age: 23 Ceiling: #2 starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 205 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 AA,AAA 137.2 130 59 17 2.81 6.80 3.86 1.26

Nate Smith dominated Double-A hitters in the first half of 2015 only to run into a buzz saw in the second half after being promoted to the Pacific Coast League.  How bad was it?  In 17 starts in Arkansas, he posted a 2.48 ERA with a 3 to 1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  Once he was promoted, he posted a 7.75 ERA in seven starts in Salt Lake City, giving up seven home runs in only 36 innings.  His usual excellent control also left him as he walked 3.8 per nine, nearly a walk more per-nine than he did before hitting Triple-A.

Scouting Report: Smith is more of a command and control pitcher, relying on pitch sequencing and pitching to contact to be effective.  While this will work in the lower levels of the minor leagues, velocity becomes more critical the further you advance through the development process, particularly once you make it the majors.

Making matters more difficult for Smith is that he is a fly ball pitcher.  While some of the larger ballparks in the AL West will help, it’s just not a recipe for success. Just ask Tommy Milone.

Fantasy Impact:  Smith role in the major leagues will likely be as a long man out of the bullpen or an up-and-down guy; swing pitcher if you will.  He’s only rosterable in Dynasty League that roster 500 or more minor leaguers.

10. Kaleb Cowart (3B)

2016 Age: 20 Ceiling: Extra Bat
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 225 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2015 A+,AAA 414 67 8 68 12 .285 .363 74.2 10.8 .361

Three year ago, Kaleb Cowart was the top prospect in the Angels system.  Now, it’s debatable whether he should even be there.  However with a very down system, Cowart sneaks in.  One thing that nobody can take away is that Kaleb Cowart is a big league baseball player.  He made his debut with Los Angeles in August, hitting a home run, stealing a base while batting .174 in 34 games.

The year did not start off well for the 23-year-old.  He began the year back in High-A after two miserable years in Double-A.  He didn’t play well but the Angels promoted him to Triple-A where he hit .323/.395/.491 in 62 games.  Did something finally click?  Perhaps, but more likely the .422 BABIP he enjoyed helped push his stat line up.

Scouting Report:  I’ve seen Cowart play in High-A, Double-A, and the AFL.  There’s a lot to like. First, he’s a good defender, a switch hitter with a decent understanding the strike zone.  The problem is that he just hasn’t developed any power.  In 585 minor league games, he’s hit 44 home runs, slugging .385.  If he played shortstop, that might be ok, but as a third baseman, it’s a tough profile.  The upside is a David Feese type player (remember, he won a World Series MVP), but in the end, the upside is a second division starter.

Fantasy Impact: There are still a lot of Dynasty League owners hanging on to Cowart.  I get it…three years ago we all thought his upside was a first division performer.  I just don’t see that playing out and if you still own him, it might be time to finally move on.

2016 Emerging Prospect:

Jeremy Rhoades (RHP)
After pitching very well in Low-A to begin the 2015 season, Jeremy Rhoades the Angels 2014 fourth round pick struggled in his introduction to the California League.  He did strike out over 10 per nine with a reasonable 3.2 walk rate, but an 11.5 hit rate and 14 home runs in seven starts did him in.  He is a fly ball pitcher but is better than what he showed to close out the season.  While the ceiling is limited, he should be someone to keep an eye on as he can pitch and has a good arm.

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