|Original Published Date: January 6, 2017|
I no longer write my Top 10’s in order. In other words, I don’t finish one team, publish, and then start the next system. Instead, I write them based on the notes that I have from scouting trips, as well as the notes I get from sources. However, I wrote one system differently – I wrote it in one sitting from beginning to end. Not only was I dreading writing it but I just didn’t have many notes in which to draw content for my capsules. That system of course belongs to the Los Angeles Angels.
It’s a bad system…the worse in baseball and besides Jahmai Jones and Matt Thaiss, I’m not sure there are any sure-fire big leaguers in the system. Having done this formally for five years, I find that remarkable.
The Angels have the best player in the game with little surrounding him. Sure, there’s Albert Pujols, Anderlton Simmons, and maybe Kole Calhoun, but the pitching is just not very good. They are a .500 team, maybe a little more, but they are far from a Championship team. Making matters worse, they have the seventh highest payroll in the league and no prospects to even consider a Chris Sale type of trade. In a word they are stuck…stuck in the middle and that’s the worse place to be.
The obvious but unthinkable solution is to trade Mike Trout and start over. However, can you do that? Will you ever get even close to full value for the best player in the league? Would a team ever give up a Chris Sale times two haul for Trout? Plus, how many teams can afford his $33 million per year salary that starts in 2018?
While you can think of many reasons not to trade Trout, it is the best way to get out of the middle. In fact, it might be the only way to get out of the middle and not subject your fans to a decade long rebuild? They have salaries to shed and a farm system to rebuild. It’s just going to take a long time.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
The Angels drafted Jahmai Jones in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft and signed him to a $1.1 million dollar signing bonus. They played it safe with the athletic outfielder, holding him back in extending spring training before assigning him to the Pioneer League. He showed little trouble in adjusting to the league, hitting a robust .321 in 48 games, slugging three home runs and stealing 19 of 25 bases. His performance earned him a promotion to Low-A where he struggled in 16 games, hitting .242 and only slugging .306.
Scouting Report: At 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, Jones is built more like 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/20 SB player at the highest level. That should put him as a number four outfielder on a fantasy team. That’s not a star but one of the few Angels that could help your fantasy team.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder
Drafting out of the 16th slot last June, the Angels went conservatively and selected first baseman Matt Thaiss out of the University of Virginia. He had a nice college career, hitting 10 home runs and walking over twice as much as he struck out. In fact, he struck out only 16 times in 60 games which equated to a 93%, Altuvian-like, contact rate.
The Angels got his feet wet in the Pioneer League for a few games before moving him to Low-A. He did what he did in college. He walked a ton, posted an 88% contact rate and hit a few home runs (six total). If he was a catcher, which he was in college, I would be pretty excited but it appears the Angels will play him at first and with a projected future power at 15 to 20 home runs, that’s puts him on the edge of being a full-time regular.
Scouting Report: Thaiss is an interesting prospect. He can really hit and has enough strength to eventually hit 20 home runs as the highest level. The problem is he plays first base and that might prove to be a little light to make him an impact bat. However, you never give up on guys that can hit and get on base at the frequency he does. Potentially, the Angels could add a little loft to the swing and who knows, 25 home runs could follow.
Fantasy Impact: Thaiss should be owned in most Dynasty League formats. While his upside is likely a corner infielder in the fantasy game, I’m going to put his ceiling as a Top 20 first baseman. He can hit and that is the most important thing.
Highest Level: DNP, ETA: 2021-22, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF but with extreme risk
The Angels followed up the drafting of a Matt Thaiss in 2016 with the addition of Brandon Marsh in the second round (60th overall). While Thaiss added an advanced college bat to the system, Marsh brings raw athleticism in a player that just turned 19 in December. Unfortunately, a back reaction sidelined him for the 2016 season and he has yet to produce a stat line.
Scouting Report: At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Marsh looks like he just walked out of central casting for a baseball player. He is seriously tooled up with plus bat speed, plus raw, and plus running speed. The downside is he split his time between the gridiron and diamond in high school, so his approach is very underdeveloped. Plus, the swing is very long and he would likely be eaten up by pitchers in any full season affiliate.
If the Angels can shorten up his stroke and he learns the strike zone, Marsh could easily jump into the top spot on this list. While that’s not saying a whole lot, he has the package that teams dream on.
Fantasy Impact: Marsh is a total bet for fantasy owners at this juncture. He has the kind of talent that Michael Gettys had when he was drafted a few years ago; but is even more raw from a baseball-skill standpoint. If you like em young and raw with upside, Marsh is your guy. If you want to see what happens for a year or two, you might want to put him on your watch list.
Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2015, Fantasy Ceiling: SP in deep fantasy leagues with some upside
If you lost track of the much traveled Alex Meyer, you found him. Selected in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Nationals, he made his big league debut in 2015 with the Twins before being dealt to the Angels last season. Shoulder inflammation limited his innings to 54.1 last season, splitting time between Triple-A and the big leagues. He turns 27 in January, so it’s a stretch to even call him a prospect, but he still can hit the upper-90’s, and when he throws strikes, can be effective.
Scouting Report: There are certain physical attributes about players that will dictate the strengths and weaknesses of their game. Tall pitchers, like Meyer, should have good plane on their pitches because…well, they are tall. Better plane brings the ball in at an angle and makes it more difficult for batters swinging a cylindrical bat to make contact. However, tall pitchers will struggle to repeat their delivery as it’s harder to sync up their long limbs.
Throughout his career, Meyer has demonstrated both of these attributes. He has good stuff and is hard to hit but has never been able to consistently throw strikes. Will he be able to do that for the Angels? I honestly don’t know, but the arm is good and he flashed periods of good control last season. Perhaps, 2017 will be his time…or maybe not.
Fantasy Impact: Meyer should be left on the waiver wire in most fantasy leagues except for NFBC Draft and Hold formats. If he’s healthy, he’s worth a gamble.
Highest Level: Rookie, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Bullpen arm, maybe a closer
Chris Rodriguez was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft and could wind up as the best player the Angels drafted last June. While he only pitched 11.1 innings in the AZL, he was impressive. He posted a 1.59 ERA with 17 strikeouts and three walks. It was a fine performance and the Angels were indeed pleased with their $850,000 investment.
Given he only turned 18 in June, the Angels will likely hold Rodriguez back in extended spring training to begin the 2017 season.
Scouting Report: At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Rodriguez has a nice athletic body to go with pretty good stuff. He can run his fastball up to the mid 90’s with a decent hard curve. His delivery though is a problem. It’s violent with a lot of moving parts and I question how well he’ll be able to maintain his arm slot so that he can consistently throw strikes. The Angels will likely work on toning the delivery down, and given his athleticism, he should be able to adapt to those changes.
For me, the upside is a reliever. However, he throws hard and I believe the Angels will have him ditch his curve ball and introduce a slider. If that happens, he could see some high leveraged situations as he moves through the system.
Fantasy Impact: Rodriguez should be monitored in all Dynasty Leagues. I like the arm and with some mechanical adjustments, there could be something there.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Waiver Wire catcher
The Angels drafted Taylor Ward with their first pick (pick 26) in the 2015 MLB 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.
2016 was a good season for Ward. He started off slowly in the California League but turned it on in the second half. Of the 10 home runs he hit, nine were hit in the second half and he improved his batting average by over 30 points – .233 -> .265. He did enough to earn a promotion to Double-A to begin 2017 with a chance to be a backup catcher at the highest level.
Scouting Report: Ward’s defense 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 him as 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.
Fantasy Impact: I think the upside for Ward is a backup major league catcher, so he’s a player to be ignored in most fantasy leagues.
Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Middle reliever or spot starter
The Angels invested $12,000 in drafting Nate Smith in the 2013 MLB Draft and assuming health, he should make his major league debut next season. While I’ve not been very complementary on the Angels farm system, it’s an impressive accomplishment from both their amateur scouting team as well as their player development process.
Scouting Report: Smith’s ceiling is likely a middle reliever, a LOOGY if you will, but he could also be used as a spot starter early in his career. However, his stuff is average with a fastball that sits in the upper 80’s, bumping 90 with a curve ball that just has never been consistent. He does have a good change-up and that should allow him to get big league batters out. However, the stuff is just not good enough for him to turn over a lineup and therefore, I think he’ll be better in the bullpen. Given how bullpens have quickly become the sexy role in baseball, it could work out just fine for Smith.
Fantasy Impact: Smith should be ignored in most fantasy league formats.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Waiver Wire SP
Jaime Barria made his full season professional debut last season in Low-A, posting a 3.85 ERA in 25 starts as a 19-year-old. Signed out of Panama in 2013 for a modest $60,000 signing bonus, Barria is another example of how the Angels have extracted value out of small investments.
If it all comes together, Barria has a chance to be a back-of-the-rotation starter or a middle reliever in the major leagues. He’ll likely start 2017 season in the tough California League.
Scouting Report: Barria doesn’t have overwhelming stuff and relies more on elite control for success. In 117 innings, he walked 21, but he also gave up 133 hits. His high hit rate demonstrates that his current stuff is not good enough to profile at more than a back-of the-rotation starter. His secondary pitches could develop and change that, but for now, the ceiling is a number five starter.
Fantasy Impact: Barria should be ignored in most fantasy league formats.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Waiver Wire SP
Grayson Long had a nice college career at Texas A&M where he posted a 3.09 ERA in 44 games, striking out 199 batters and walking 92. While he pitched well, he never showed the stuff that would make him one of the better pitchers in his draft class. In fact, the Angels took him in the third round and one could argue that it was several rounds too early.
Scouting Report: What the Angels do like about Long is that at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he has the size to pitch at the major league level. However, his stuff has never turned heads as his fastball tops out in the low-90s and is pretty straight. Plus, he doesn’t use his height well and pitches too much up in the zone. If he had a fastball that sat in the mid-90s that might work, however, he doesn’t and as he moves to the upper minors, it’s likely to become a problem.
Fantasy Impact: Long should be ignored in most fantasy league formats.
Highest Level: Rookie, ETA: 2021-22, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF but with extreme risk
The Angels went back-to-back in the second and third round of the 2016 MLB Draft when they selected two athletic high school players. First, they selected Brandon Marsh in round two and then came back 30 picks later to draft an equally athletic and raw talent in Nonie Williams.
Williams got a chance to show his stuff in 38 games in the AZL and looked overwhelmed. He slashed .237/.275/.276 with no home runs while striking out 24% of the time and walking only 5% of the time. He did manage to steal 9 of 12 bases.
Scouting Report: Williams is an athlete that needs to learn to play baseball. His baseball skills, primarily his ability to hit are extremely raw. He does have good bat speed and is a plus runner, but the question will be whether he can translate those tools into baseball skills. The Angels bet nearly a million dollars that he could. In baseball math, that’s a modest investment and given how poor their system is, why not swing for the fences; and that’s what they did. Is that the right strategy? Time will tell.
Fantasy Impact: As with Marsh, Williams could be a regular fantasy contributor. However, the odds are long, super long and Dynasty League owners should make bets somewhere else.
2017 Emerging Prospect
Some 2017 Angels draftee
I’m hoping that Billy Eppler will find a diamond-in-the-rough late in the next year’s draft who will become our emerging prospect. For now, I don’t feel comfortable listing anyone.