|Original Published Date: January 11, 2019|
Just two years ago, the Angels system was one of the worse in baseball. However, over the past 24 months, they have added some much-needed athleticism to their system and with some great coaching, that athleticism is turning into baseball players.
The best example of that is Jo Adell, their 2017 first round draft pick. His tools are immense and based on the success he had last season, the tools have turned into in-game production. There is still work left to do on his hit-tool, but he’s still a teenager and if it all comes together, he could be an impact Major Leaguer.
It doesn’t stop with Adell as there is Brandon Marsh, Jahami Jones, D’Shawn Knowles and probably the most athletic of all of them, Jordyn Adams. Adams is an 80-grade runner with significant bat speed. If he can learn to hit and develop an approach, the upside could be one of the best leadoff hitters in the game.
While the pitching is not nearly as deep, there is still a ton of big arms in the system that should develop into at least high-quality bullpen arms.
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1. Jo Adell (OF)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 OF
Jo Adell was one of the significant movers last season in the minor leagues. While the Angels invested $4.3 million dollars to sign him after the 2017 MLB Draft, they still must have been thrilled, and probably a little surprised that he blitzed through Low and High-A to finish the season in Double-A as a teenager.
The performance was indeed impressive. In 99 games, he slashed .290/.355/.543 with 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases. If you’re looking for issues, he didn’t control the strike zone very well striking out 25% of the time while walking only 7% of the time. But given his age and the competition in which he played, the year can only be deemed a huge success.
In my opinion, 2019 is the critical year for Adell. If he gets off to a fast start, there will be pressure to push him to Triple-A and then to the Majors. I think that would be a mistake, in a Byron Buxton kind of way. He should not be rushed and instead, should be allowed to develop the hit tool that still needs growth. Granted, the tools are crazy, but the difference maker at the highest level is the ability to hit and I think that will take time.
2. Brandon Marsh (OF)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF
Brandon Marsh continues to be more of a “tools that you can dream on player” but 2018 saw a definitive improvement in his approach at the plate. Across Low and High-A, he walked 12.5% of the time which is bordering on a plus ability to work a walk. The problem continues to be his swing and miss tendency which ran at 27%. That will put significant pressure on his batting average and ultimately could limit his power and speed impact.
The good news about his swing is that he seems to recognize spin and understands the strike zone. The swing is also not too long but lacks the natural stroke you like to see. It’s like he’s thinking too much as he swings. This is likely a hangover from not focusing on baseball throughout his high school years. For me, he just needs more repetition.
3. Jahmai Jones (2B)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 2B
After batting over .300 as a 19-year-old in High-A last year, Jahmai Jones became an instant “Hot Prospect” that everyone had to own. Spin forward a year and after posting a .235 average on a second visit to the California League and a .245 average upon his promotion to Double-A, people have soured on the second baseman. However, when you dig under the surface of the stats, his season was better than it looked.
First, he showed an excellent ability to control the strike zone in High-A (18% K% and 11.3% BB%) and based on his low BABIP, his batting average should have been higher. When he moved to Double-A, he maintained his walk rate, he was not able to maintain his nice strikeout rate. While his swing and miss still needs work, I still maintained he has a solid-average hit tool that should yield a .260 to .270 batting average with a .340 to .350 OBP. When you combine that with plus speed and enough power to hit 15 home runs, I still believe there is impact potential.
4. Luis Rengifo (2B)
Highest Level: Triple-AAA ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 2B
The Angels have a history of pushing their players hard and Luis Rengifo was no exception. Last season he spent time at three levels, excelling at each stop. In 127 games he slashed .299/.399/.452 with seven home runs and 41 stolen bases. If you’re an owner of Rengifo in Dynasty League, you might have a Top 10-second baseman. However, for that to happen, the Angels will have to cooperate and find him full-time playing at-bats.
It’s not all perfect as Rengifo biggest drawback is his lack of strength. Several sources I spoke with saw him as a utility player in the big leagues as they don’t believe he’ll be able to handle elite velocity. How many times have we heard this? For me, the upside is a Dee Gordon. However, if these scouts are correct and he becomes a Chone Figgins type of player, his value will take a hit. Then again, before Figgins became a utility player, he had some massive fantasy years and even received MVP votes. But the game has changed since then as velocity is king and with high velocity, a hitter needs to have the strength to adjust to the “heat”.
5. Griffin Canning (RHP)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
Griffin Canning fell to the Angels in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft when an MRI showed some irregularities that scared teams away. Because of that, the Angels decided to hold him back from competition in 2017 and the decision looks like a good one.
Supposedly now healthy, Canning blew through two levels to wind up in Triple-A to end the season. He showed significant swing and miss stuff, striking out nearly 10 batters per nine, but his control still needs some work as he walked 3.5 per nine.
He has good stuff with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s with a plus slider. He also throws a nice downer curveball but has yet to incorporate a changeup to his in-game arsenal. Assuming health and improved control, the ceiling is a mid-rotation starter with a chance to see Los Angeles sometime next season.
6. Jordyn Adams (OF)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF if you believe he will hit
Jordyn Adams might have been the best athlete in last June’s draft which convinced the Angels to select him in the first round. It was a gamble because like fellow Angel Brandon Marsh, Adams was a multi-sport athlete and never focused exclusively on baseball.
He’s already an 80-grade runner and while he doesn’t have a ton of raw power, he has quick hands and plenty of bat speed that suggest he could develop double-digit power in the future. What he needs to work on his approach and contact. In limited action in rookie ball, he did strikeout 25% of the time which was to be expected. Unfortunately, his season got cut short due to a broken jaw he suffered in an outfield collision.
The upside is extremely high for Adams, but the risk is equally as high. If it all comes together, he could be a 15-40 leadoff batter and a potential monster fantasy player. However, it’s more likely he falls well short of that and becomes a fourth outfielder. But, championships in Dynasty League are won by taking risks, and for me, I’m willing to take a risk with Adams as candidly, the Angels have a history of turning athletes into baseball players.
7. D’Shawn Knowles (OF)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
Under the leadership of Billy Eppler, the Angels have gotten serious about signing International talent. In 2017, they signed D’Shawn Knowles out of the Bahamas for $800,000. In his first taste of professional baseball, the 17-year-old performed. The Angles started him off in the AZL and after 30 games and a .301 batting average, promoted him to the Pioneer League where he played even better. His carrying tool is his double-plus speed and stole eight bases. While he’s only 17, he has demonstrated an advanced approach at the plate walking at a 12% rate. The strikeouts are a little high but as he gains experience and strength, he has the skillset to hit at the top of a lineup with 30 plus stolen bases and enough power to have double-digit power.
8. Jose Suarez (LHP)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP or Reliever
Jose Suarez had an impressive 2019 season. He started the year in High-A but was quickly promoted to Double before ending the year in Triple-A. While he was effective, his fastball only sits in the low-90’s and his breaking pitch is below-average. So, what gives? Why was he so effective?
I see two things. One is he has a cross-fire delivery that batters, particularly lefties cannot pick up. Two, he has a double-plus changeup that when combined with his deception, is a significant swing and miss pitch. Unfortunately, given his size, he’ll likely wind up in the bullpen as a LOOGY. We have also left his ceiling as a number four starter. Given his deception and double-plus changeup, he could have success early in his career as a starter. Long-term, though, we see a move to the bullpen as the best path.
9. Matt Thaiss (1B)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 1B
Drafted in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Matt Thaiss has always shown the ability to control the strike zone, but it came with 40-grade power. In 200 games in 2016-2017, he hit 15 home runs with a .418 SLG. While the slugging wasn’t horrible, the swing was definitely geared more for contact than power.
That changed last season as he added more leverage and the results were a 50-point increase in his slugging but also more over-the-fence power. However, it was still only 16 home runs in 125 games and as a first base only prospect, that might not be enough to warrant full-time at-bats.
Thaiss is on the bubble for Dynasty League owners. If you believe he will continue to develop power, then he should be owned. If not, you believe he’ll be an injury fill-in player with 15 to 20 home run power and a solid .270/.340 average.
10. Jeremiah Jackson (SS)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS
Drafted in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft, Jeremiah Jackson showed impressive tools in his first introduction to professional ball. In 43 games across the AZL and Pioneer League, he showed good power by slugging .491 with seven home runs as well as plus speed by stealing 10 bases in 12 attempts. On the negative, he struck out 30% of the time and that is where the Angels will focus his time.
Like Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh, Jackson is a premium athlete with tools to spare. Like Adell and Marsh and Knowles, he also needs to improve his approach and make better contact. But the Angels seem to have a knack for this and therefore, I’m bullish on Jackson as a sleeper prospect with significant upside.
11. Ty Buttrey (RHP)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
Originally drafted by the Red Sox in the fourth round in 2016, he struggled to find control of his plus arsenal and was eventually moved to the bullpen. After finally showing control in Pawtucket last season, the Red Sox cashed in their investment to add Ian Kinsler for their playoff run. Buttrey quickly made his way to the Los Angeles where he flashed his plus fastball/slider combination to get Major League batters out.
12. Jose Soriano (RHP)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP or bullpen arm with extreme risk
With an ERA of 4.47 and a walk rate of 6.80, I’m clearly betting on the come with Jose Soriano. He has a great arm with a fastball that sits 94 to 95 MPH while flashing two quality secondary pitches. The problem, of course, is he has no idea where the ball is going.
The thing that gives me hope is that the delivery is not horrible. It’s an easy delivery with decent balance on the landing. He just doesn’t repeat the delivery very well and that is causing his release point to move all around. He is athletic so I will conclude with more experience his control will also improve. If it all comes together, there is a mid-rotation ceiling, if not more.
13. Michael Hermosillo (OF)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
Michael Hermosillo has made our list in the past as an athletic player with tons of tools but questionable strike zone judgment. He’s worked hard on his craft since being taken in the 28th round in 2013 and made his Major League debut last September.
He’s always had plus speed and now that his power has started to develop, there is something to get excited about. He’s never going to have a plus hit tool, but if he can post a .320 OBP, his power-speed combination might be enough to give him full-time at-bats in the Major Leagues. More than likely though, he’ll be an extra outfielder but he should be monitored by all fantasy league owners in case the hit-tool takes a step forward.
14. Jared Walsh (1B)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder
When drafted in the 39th round of an MLB Draft, your either an organizational depth or a pick that a scout convinced someone in the room to take a flyer on. As a four-year starter at Georgia, Jared Walsh was more of the former. He’s always been able to make solid contact with a good approach but in his four-year college career, he hit seven home. When your primary position is first base, that’s a problem. It was more of the same in the minor leagues until 2018 when Walsh added more leverage to his swing, trading off some contact for power and things started to come together.
In 128 games across High, Double and Triple-A, he slashed .277/.359/.536 with 29 home runs. As stated, he traded contact for power and his .277 batting average was fueled by a high BABIP. However, it’s reasonable to project he could hit .250/.340 with 25 plus home run power. If he does that, he might become fantasy relevant as a platoon player or full-time player on a rebuilding team.
15. Kevin Maitan (SS)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: It depends on him
Originally signed by the Braves in 2016 for a whopping $2.6 million dollars signing bonus, things have gone all wrong for the Venezuelan shortstop. In fact, including him on the Top 15 was likely a stretch but since he made our Top 100 list last year, I thought it necessary to include him to pre-answer the question…where is Maitan?
It wasn’t just me who was enamored with him, most everyone thought he had the tools to be an impact performer. However, while he’s shown some power, there just hasn’t been very many other positive reports. He has put on significant weight which has caused him to be a 40-runner and lose bat speed in the process. Plus, I’ve talked with several sources who say there are some “want” issues. Translation – big makeup problems.
While he’s still young and had the tools at one point, regaining them could prove difficult. Could he? Sure, but that is going to require a lot of hard work and dedication. As I said in the header, his ceiling, depends on him.