|Original Published Date: January 5, 2018|
November and December were very good for the Los Angeles Angels. In November, they signed former Braves farmhand Kevin Maitan and then in December, they won the Ohtani sweepstakes. Quickly, they went from a bottom 10 system in the game to a Top 15 system. Ohtani gives them a potential number one starting pitcher and Maitan, whose star has dulled slightly, still has huge upside.
Jo Adell, their first pick in last June’s draft along with Jahmai Jones gives them two young, athletic players with a ton of upside. I also like Griffin Canning, the Angels second-round pick last season as someone who could become a mid-rotation starter. Matt Thaiss and Brandon Marsh are two other players who have a chance to be major leaguers with Marsh having huge upside despite a ton of risk.
After signing Ohtani, the Angels clearly believe they have a chance to win. Consequently, they are signing major league players that can surround Mike Trout for a playoff run over the next couple of years. Is it enough? I don’t know, but when you have the best player in baseball on your team, anything is possible.
Highest Level: Japan, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Fantasy Ace
Shoeni Ohtani was the talk of the offseason and in a highly publicized bidding process, chose the Los Angeles Angels as his home for at least the next six years. While we will never know for sure what the Angels said or did to convince him to come, it was clear he wanted to stay on the West Coast. I personally loved the process as it was the purest of a free-market bidding process. Every team was virtually on the same playing field, although you can argue that teams who could only bid 300K were at a distinct disadvantage. He chose the place and team he wanted to go to. For me, that’s pretty cool.
Scouting Report: I’ve only seen Ohtani pitch on television but have spoken with several sources who have seen him live. The triple-digit velocity that has been discussed a lot is true, but his fastball sits anywhere from the low 90’s to occasionally running it up to the upper 90’s or triple-digits. I have heard that it’s a true four-seamer and pretty straight. It does play up because he’s able to change speeds to provide different looks to batters.
As with many Japanese pitchers, his secondary pitches are varied and very good. His out pitch is his forkball that is delivered with great deception and movement. He also throws a plus slider with good movement and deception.
His delivery is smooth and while it’s not one that screams arm trouble, the Angels have already confirmed reports that he will enter the season with a sprained UCL in his pitching elbow. For now, the Angels are simply going to rest him and he’ll enter the season without any restrictions. Will that change? Candidly, there’s a good chance that it will.
As a hitter, there are a lot of open questions. His swing is powerful and leveraged with a ton of swing and miss. Will he be able to hit major league pitching? I don’t think anybody knows but it’s far from guaranteed. If he can’t, his at-bats will obviously be limited. If he can, then it opens up not only amazing possibilities but complications in managing his pitching innings and at-bats. For fans, it’s all fun and goodness.
Fantasy Impact: Ohtani has the ceiling of a Fantasy Ace. How much of it is hype vs. reality? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is I’m taking him with the number one overall pick in a Dynasty League redraft. But, and this is important, if I were to get a ton a value for that pick, I would not hesitate to move the pick. I would not have done this when Bryce Harper or Kris Bryant were available, but with Ohtani, if I could get a Kings Ransom, I would.
Highest Level: Short Season, ETA: 2020-21, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 Fantasy Player
With all the hoopla surrounding Ronald Acuna, people seem to be forgetting about last years can’t miss prospect, Kevin Maitan. It was a quiet season for the 17-year-old playing for the first time in the United States. He started the season in the GCL and after nine games was moved to the Appy League where he struggled. In 33 games, he hit just .220 while striking out nearly 30% of the time.
But remember, he’s 17-years-old and already playing in short-season-ball; one step higher than rookie ball. Plus, he started the season on the bench with a nagging hamstring injury. While Ronald Acuna might have surpassed him on the Braves depth chart, Maitan’s future is very, very bright.
Scouting Report: At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds (he is already much heavier), Maitan is going to fill out and eventually he’ll have to move off shortstop, most likely to third. He has the size, bat speed and hand-eye coordination to be a special player. 2017 production aside, the upside is an above-average hitter with 30 home runs hitting in the middle of a lineup.
While it’s so hard to evaluate 17-year-old kids, the one concern I have with Maitan is the length of his swing. The load is long and he definitely is swinging with all his might. I think he needs to cut down the swing and get shorter to the ball and do it now. His premium bat speed combined with his sheer size and strength will carry the ball a long way.
Fantasy Impact: While fantasy owners will have to wait for three, maybe four years, the payoff should be worth it. You’ll see or hear comparisons to Miguel Cabrera for Maitan and while I see the similarities, it’s so hard to put that hype on a 17-year-old kid. Cabrera is having a hall of fame career with a lifetime .314 batting average and closing in on 500 home runs. Those are crazy numbers, particularly the .314 average. I just don’t see Maitan being that level of player. I see his ceiling as a .260/.350 with 30 home runs hitting in the middle of a really good Braves lineup. That’s a really good player, maybe a Top 40 fantasy player, but not the number one overall player, who Miggy Cabrera was for several years.
Highest Level: Short Season, ETA: 2021-22, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF with risk
With a minor league system that was one of the worst in the league, the 2017 Draft will prove to be one of the more critical events for the long-term success of the Los Angeles Angels. Teams must build their organization through player acquisition and development and with the 10th pick in last year’s draft, the Angels needed a win. I believe they did that with Jo Adell.
It didn’t come without risk and in fact, many believe he was over drafted. While Adell is a toolsy raw talent, his feel for hitting has a long way to go. Whether it works or not is now up to the development process.
So far so good. In his first 49 games, he came as advertised. He slashed .325/.376/.532 with five home runs and eight stolen bases while splitting his time between the AZL and the Pioneer League. It did come with a 75% contact rate and his .325 batting average was propped up by an unstainable .407 BABIP.
Scouting Report: There’s a lot to getting excited about with Adell. He’s a great athlete, a plus runner with excellent bat speed. His swing does get long and as with many young players, has trouble with off-speed pitches. If he can get shorter to the ball, there’s enough bat speed that average future power should result.
Defensively, he has a chance to be a well above-average outfielder with enough arm to play right. His defensive ability should be his ticket to the major leagues while his offensive ability will determine whether he’s a starting outfielder or a bench player.
Fantasy Impact: Adell has very friendly fantasy tools. As an owner, you have to bet that the Angels will be able to develop his hit tool enough to make him at least an average hitter. But what are the chances this will happen? That’s the unknown, which unfortunately doesn’t help fantasy owners, particularly when you are at the draft table. So what to do? For me, because of the upside of Adell, I would be willing to roll the dice. If I’m drafting in the bottom three of the first round, I’m might consider drafting him in the first round, but in general, I think he’s a high second round talent, assuming a 15-team mixed format.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 OF
After a slow start to the season, Jahmai Jones turned it on in May and never looked back.
When the dust settled, Jones posted an impressive slash line of .282/.348/.446 across Low and High-A. He also added 14 home runs and 27 bases. It also came with a 20% strikeout rate and an 8% walk rate, so there is clearly work left on Jones ability to control the strike zone.
The Angels will likely start the year back in High-A and will likely spend most, if not the entire season at that level. He just turned 20 in August, so there is no reason to rush Jones.
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 during his draft year 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.
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 instead a sneaky good player that also has some upside.
Highest Level: DNP, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
Whereas some believed that the Angels reached when they drafted Jo Adell in the first round in June, some of those same people believe that they got a bargain when they drafted Griffin Canning in the second round.
Canning was a three-year starter at UCLA winning 19 games in 47 starts. 2017 was his most impressive season where he started 17 games, posting a 2.34 ERA. He showed improved swing and miss stuff striking out over a batter an inning while showing excellent control. The performance should have gotten him first round money, but instead, he dropped to the second round where the Angels snagged him with the 47th overall pick.
Scouting Report: Canning shows a solid four-pitch mix with a fastball that sits 91 to 93 MPH and can touch higher when he needs something extra. His best off-speed pitch is his changeup but his curveball shows real promise. All of his pitches play up as he’s able to throw each for strikes.
Physically, Canning is not an imposing pitching standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 170 pounds. His delivery is far from smooth but he does repeat his delivery. The lack of plane will always be an issue and therefore, he could be a little homer-prone. But, the success he had at a major college program in conjunction with a nice arsenal with excellent control give him a solid mid-rotation upside.
Fantasy Impact: Canning has skills and should be considered in all leagues that roster 200 or more minor leaguers. The stuff is solid and with his ability to throw strikes, he has a high floor and a likely accelerated path to the majors. He could be a solid number three pitcher on a fantasy team.
Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 1B
When UVA coach Brian O’Connor decided to make Matt Thaiss his primary catcher in college, fantasy owners got excited. With his above-average hit tool and modest power, Thaiss could easily become a Top 15 catcher at the highest level. Sure, you want 15 home runs out of your catcher, but most catchers hit .230, so a player that could potentially hit .280 at the catching position, even with average home run power is a big win.
Unfortunately, Thaiss was a below average defensive catcher and after he was drafted by the Angels, they moved him to first and designated hitter. All of a sudden the calculus gets complicated. Now, you have a hit-first player at a power position and the math gets troubling. Look no further than James Loney and Joe Mauer to see the problem.
Scouting Report: Thaiss is an interesting prospect. He can really hit and has enough strength to eventually hit 15 to 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: Triple-A, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
Jaime Barria is an intriguing prospect. He has ripped through the minor leagues after being signed out of Panama in 2013. In fact, last year, he pitched in High-A, Double-A and finished with three starts in Triple-A.
The results were impressive. Across 141.2 innings, he posted a 2.80 ERA striking out 7.4 while walking only two per nine. He also kept the hits down by giving up less than a hit per inning. The one blemish was the 14 home runs he gave up.
Scouting Report: While the results show a potential top of the rotation performer, the scouting report shows something less. First, at 6-feet-1, his delivery lacks plane and helps to explain the high home run rate he showed last season. Secondly, his fastball sits 90 to 92 MPH and only plays up because of his ability to command the pitch. His best secondary pitch is his changeup that has a chance to be a plus pitch.
If you add it all up, he’s a smallish command and control pitcher who throws from the right side. In general, those pitchers are more a four/five starter than a number two starter. Barria does have a little funk in his delivery, so that might help push up his ceiling.
Fantasy Impact: Barria is a perfect guy to add to an NFBC draft-and-hold format. Because he throws strikes, he could surprise some teams early in the season. However, long-term, Dynasty owners need to consider him a Top 60 starting pitcher.
Highest Level: Short Season, ETA: 2020-21, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 OF with extreme risk
I loved tooled up players like Brandon Marsh. He becomes somebody you can dream on and systems need players like this. Candidly, there are always Jaime Barria type players that can be a back of the rotation starter or a fourth outfielder, but teams need stars to win and Marsh has that kind of upside. Of course, it comes with a ton of risk as he’s not only very young but also has a below average hit tool.
With all the risk, Marsh performed very well in his 39 games in the Pioneer League. In 177 at-bats, he slashed .350/.396/.548 with four home runs and 10 stolen bases. The performance also came with an encouraging 18% strikeout rate but a poor 4.7% walk rate. He also had a .419 BABIP.
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.
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 rawer 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: Low-A, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Bullpen arm, maybe a closer
Chris Rodriguez split his time between the Pioneer League and the Midwest League and saw mixed results. He showed nice swing and miss stuff striking out nearly a batter an inning and good control walking just over two per nine. But he was hittable giving up well over a hit per inning. That led to an inflated ERA and WHIP.
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 are working on toning down his delivery, and given his athleticism, some positive results can be seen.
That said, for me, the upside is a reliever. However, he throws hard and I believe the Angels will have him ditch his curveball 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: Rookie, ETA: 2020-21, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 OF
In the third round of last year’s draft, the Angels selected prep outfielder Jacob Pearson. While Pearson had an excellent high school career, he was old for a high school graduate and teams, therefore, shied away from him at the draft table.
Once drafted, the Angeles started him off in the AZL where he struggled. In 40 games, he hit .226 while showing no power. In 155 at-bats, he only had eight extra-base hits resulting in a .284 SLUG.
Scouting Report: Despite his poor initial showing, Pearson has a nice lefty swing with enough bat speed and natural power to project at least average future in-game power. He’s also a solid runner, so projecting double-digits, if not 20 stolen bases seems like a good baseline. Given his poor throwing arm, he’ll likely be pushed to left field which means he’ll have to hit to make it. I think he will.
Fantasy Impact: While it was a poor initial statistical showing, Pearson is better than what he showed. I think there is upside and while I’ve given him a fantasy ceiling of a Top 50 outfielder. He can hit and if his power develops, he has the upside of a 20/20 player.
2018 Emerging Prospect
I’ve never seen Jose Soriano but when reaching out to industry contacts, his name was constantly mentioned as a kid to watch. He has an electric arm with a fastball that he can already run up to the mid-90’s. As he puts on weight, the velocity is likely to improve a grade. Currently, his control is erratic and his secondary pitches are not yet developed. But, he throws hard with natural sink and wiggle. That’s something to get excited about.