|Original Published Date: January 10, 2020|
The Angels system continues to improve and has become once again fun to write about. At the top of the list is Jo Adell, a top-five prospect in the game. He has all the ingredients to become a star and assuming health, he should see the Major Leagues at some point in 2020. Not far behind is Brandon Marsh. Yes, I said, not far behind. Like Adell, Marsh is extremely athletic with a ton of tools himself. He doesn’t have the natural hitting ability as Adell but is an elite defender that might eventually move Mr. Trout to rightfield. If Adell and Marsh are not athletic enough for you, then Jordyn Adams surely will be. He’s another toolsy outfielder that if it all comes together, could be an impact performer.
The depth in their pitching ranks is not nearly as deep as their hitters. Jose Soriano has a great arm, but with his poor control, the Angels will likely move him to the bullpen to move him quickly to the Majors. If Chris Rodriguez can ever get healthy, he has the best chance to help their big league rotation in the future.
Prospect Quick Shot
- Top Prospect: Jo Adell
- Biggest Mover: Stiward Aquino
- Emerging Prospect: Arol Vera
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1. Jo Adell (OF)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 Fantasy Player
- Tools Summary: Double-plus runner with plus power. He has all the tools to be a star.
After injuring his hamstring and ankle running the bases in Spring Training, it was all but certain that Angel fans would not be seeing Adell manning left field in 2019. Indeed he did spend the entire season in the minor leagues and played well. Across three levels, he slashed .289/.359/.475 with 10 home runs and seven stolen bases. It wasn’t a blow-out performance by any stretch, but given he played the entire season as a 20-year-old, I’ll take the results.
One of the concerns entering the season was his high strikeout rate. While he controlled that well in Double-A, his strikeout rate spiked to 33% in 27 games in Triple-A. Again, he was very young for the league but it does show that there is development still left. Which of course brings us to his arrival date in Los Angeles. Assuming health, it should be sometime in 2020. If he gets off to a fast start in Triple-A, that could be by May 1st. If not, he could be delayed a little longer. However, I see his arrival to be mid-June at the latest. I believe the Angels are thinking the same thing as they gave him as much extra work as possible. Not only did he spend September and October in the Fall League, but he was also on Team USA that extended his season into mid-November.
The ceiling is a Top 10 fantasy player. I don’t think it’s quite Ronald Acuna, but there are a lot of physical similarities.
2. Brandon Marsh (OF)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF, maybe more
- Tools Summary: An elite athlete with power and speed. If the improved contact he demonstrated in 2019 is real, he could be an impact performer at the highest level.
Brandon Marsh has always been labeled a “tools that you can dream on player” but starting in 2018 and continuing in Double-A in 2019, we saw a definitive improvement in his approach at the plate. The walk rate is a solid 12% and his strikeout rate, which is still on the high side at 22% has also improved. While some might ask where the power is, it’s in there and as he matures and adds more loft to the swing, it should emerge.
While there are risks, the ceiling is a 20-20 performer with both power and speed upside. If he can continue to cut down on his strikeouts, he could become a monster performer at the highest level.
Finally, for fantasy owners, few people are talking about Brandon Marsh. Why? When you have a stud performer like Jo Adell in the organization, you get lost. Look at Vlad Jr and Bo Bichette. Sure, most people knew who Bichette was, but all the talk was about Vlad. Guess what? Bo Bichette can really play and so can Marsh.
3. Jordyn Adams (OF)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with risk
- Tools Summary: An elite athlete who is still learning to play baseball. He’s an 80-grade runner with premium bat speed with a swing that just might work.
The Angels gambled when they selected Jordyn Adams with the 17th overall pick in the 2018 June draft. A premium athlete, Adams was also a high-end football recruit and thus, never focused his full attention on baseball. In April, he showed his rawness. In 21 games in the Midwest League, he hit .182 with a 26% strikeout rate. What was interesting, is he also walked 15% of the time. While many times you can hang your hat on a nice walk rate, but Adams was being passive at the plate and that passiveness was working against him as it put him in bad hitters count and ultimately led to poor performance.
As the season progressed, Adams changed his approach. He’s become more aggressive at the plate and the results were encouraging. In 97 games he slashed .229/.325/.400 with seven home runs and 12 stolen bases. Don’t’ worry about his counting stats as he’s an 80-grade runner and has significant bat speed. If he can continue to develop his hit tool, I’m confident the other skills will follow.
If you believe in Adams, you believe that he’ll convert his tremendous raw talent and athleticism into baseball skills. It’s by no means a slam dunk that this will happen, but the swing isn’t bad and that’s a big part of the battle.
4. Will Wilson (2B/SS) – TRADED to the San Francisco Giants
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 2B
- Tools Summary: Good power with some on-base skills but he needs to cut down on his strikeout rate.
After the Angels went back-to-back with Jo Adell and Jordyn Adams in the 2017 and 2018 draft, I was curious if the Angels would draft another athletic high school talent. Drafting 15th, they decided to go in a different direction and selected Will Wilson, a middle infielder from the ACC (North Carolina).
Wilson showed solid power with good on-base skills but also struck out 20% of the time in his draft year. In his professional debut, he showed similar skills. In 46 games in the Pioneer League, he slashed .275/.328/.439 with a 23% strikeout rate. He also added five home runs.
Wilson for me is a second baseman that could develop 15 to 20 home run power. He could also hit .240 to .250. He’s an average runner and while he didn’t steal many bases in college or in his debut, he could steal a handful of bases annually going forward.
5. Jeremiah Jackson (SS/2B)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS with risk
- Tools Summary: Athletic middle infielder that is cranking out home runs but striking out a ton.
In 65 games in the Pioneer League, Jeremiah Jackson hit 23 home runs. The problem is that his big power came with a 33% strikeout rate. Unless it’s Joey Gallo power (which it’s not), it’s a problem.
Jackson doesn’t turn 20 until next March and still has time to resolve his tendency to swing and miss. He’s athletic with great bat speed but the swing is “rare back and swing”. He needs to get shorter to the ball and tighten up the swing, which was more his profile when he was drafted. He was never projected to be a 40 home run threat. Perhaps things have changed, or perhaps the Angels need to have him refocus his tools.
Regardless, I’m still very intrigued as the tools are indeed exciting.
6. Jose Soriano (RHP)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP or Closer
- Tools Summary: Intriguing pitcher with two double-plus pitches. However, he currently has 30-grade control, but there is enough athleticism to dream of better results.
Jose Soriano has some of the best stuff in the minor leagues. He has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, touching 97 and a curveball that also projects to be a plus pitch. The problem though is he has no idea where either pitch is going. In 238 career innings, he’s walked over five per nine. Last season it was more of the same. Big strikeout totals and high walk rates.
The good news is that he shows plenty of athleticism on the mound with simple and clean delivery. He just doesn’t repeat his delivery. Sometimes, he’s locked in. Other times, he overthrows and gets off-balanced. Overall though, it’s not a terrible delivery and through repetition, I think he improves.
He’s an interesting add for me in a Dynasty League. The ceiling is a mid-rotation, but if his control only improves marginally, the stuff will play in the bullpen at the highest level.
7. Kyren Paris (SS)
- Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS
- Tools Summary: Intriguing skills with double-plus speed and potentially a little power in the future.
While the Angels went with a college player with their first pick last June, they went back to a pattern that has been working over the past three drafts – drafting young athletic players. Now Kyren Paris doesn’t have the upside of Adell, Marsh, or Adams, he does check off the athletic box.
He’s a plus runner with good bat-to-ball skills. He only got in one game after being drafted but didn’t turn 18 until November, so the missed competitive time shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
The upside is a top of the order bat who can get on base and disrupt the game with his legs. He doesn’t have a ton of current power but has enough bat speed that he could develop a little bit of pop down the road.
8. Stiward Aquino (RHP)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: Great size with a chance to have a plus arsenal. Just returned from TJ Surgery and stuff appeared to take a step up. He currently has 30-grade control but is athletic enough to predict improvement.
Stiward Aquino might be the most intriguing player on the Angles list. He missed all of 2018 recovering from Tommy John Surgery, finally getting back on the mound in June. The Angles monitored his workload, only allowing him to push his pitch count to 75 in August. He responded by putting up gaudy strikeout totals (12.0 K/9) but also showing poor control (3.9 BB/9).
What makes him an intriguing talent is he’s 6-foot-6 (might be taller) with a plus fastball and curveball. In fact, his fastball moved up a solid grade after he returned to the mound. Given his size and long levers, it’s going to take him time to synch his delivery. He’s a little stiff on the mound and his release point is not consistent at all. While I wouldn’t label him “athletic”, I do think he’s athletic enough that you can predict improved future control.
He’s still a lottery pick in Dynasty Leagues but might be an interesting bet to make in deeper leagues.
9. Patrick Sandoval (LHP)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP
- Tools Summary: Solid-average arsenal with poor present control.
Patrick Sandoval split his time between Double and Triple-A in 2019 and pitched well enough to get a call to make his Major League debut on August 5th against the Cincinnati Reds. While his debut went well (5 IP and three earned runs allowed), overall, he pitched to a 5.03 ERA striking out over a batter an inning but walking over four per nine.
Sandoval has a solid-average arsenal with a fastball that sits 92 to 94 MPH with three average secondary pitches. His fastball is fairly straight and major league batters got a good look batting .318. His best secondary pitch was his changeup, but it doesn’t have a great downward fade.
If you add it all up, it’s the profile of a back-of-the-rotation-starter. As a lefty, he’ll get a lot of chances to compete, but in the end, he’s not a target for me in Dynasty Leagues or fantasy redraft leagues.
10. Robinson Pina (RHP)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP or Closer
- Tools Summary: Plus fastball/slider with poor control.
20-year-old Robinson Pina is one of the best arms in the lower levels of the Angels system who has swing and miss stuff to go along with not always knowing where the ball is going. In 26 games in 2019, he pitched to 3.83 ERA striking out over 12 per nine while walking 5.1 per nine. He did improve as the year progressed pitching to a 2.78 ERA in five August appearance striking out 39 and walking 12.
Pina has good stuff with a fastball that sits 92 to 94 MPH with a slider that is his primary out-pitch. His stuff is tough to pick up as he has an exaggerated stride to the plate that coupled with his length, can be very intimidating to batters. When he can find his release point, he can be dominating, but once he loses it, things quickly go bad. Long-term, the delivery, and control will likely work better in the pen, but he’s someone to monitor.
11. Jahmai Jones (2B)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
- Tools Summary: The shine is off the apple as Jones has really struggled to make hard contact as he’s moved to the upper minors. There still are intriguing skills, but it’s time to start making hay.
For the second straight season in a row, Jahmai Jones has put up a sub .250 batting average and in 2019, he slugged .324. In 2017, Jones looked like a different player when he hit nearly .300 in the lower levels of the minor leagues. But, when you dig a little deeper, his results have really been about his BABIP. In 41 games in High-A, he posted a .379 BABIP and therefore hit over .300. In 2019, he posted a .288 BABIP and hit .234.
Sometimes BABIP fluctuations can be explained by bad or good luck. In Jones’ case, it’s likely some of that, but he’s also not driving the ball and is late on a lot of pitches he should be able to hit. The good news is that he reduced his strikeout rate while continuing to post nearly a 10% walk rate. So, while I don’t like guys hitting .234, I’m more worried about his .324 SLG.
Jones still shows good raw power in batting practice and is still an above-average runner. Plus, he just turned 22 in August, so there is still time for him to sort things out. For fantasy owners, 2020 will be the pivotal year. If he can start driving the ball (75% of his hits were singles), then we can argue that he’s turning the corner. If not, then it might be time to cut him loose.
12. Chris Rodriguez (RHP)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: Hasn’t pitched much in two years with ongoing back issues. He had surgery in April and hopefully, that resolves his problem.
I debated whether I should include Chris Rodriguez in the Angels Top 15 List. He’s barely pitched in two years, being limited to three starts (9.1 innings) in 2019 before missing the regular season with back surgery. Hopefully, this resolves his health problems. If it does and he comes back healthy, he has premium stuff and he’s always been able to throw strikes.
Losing two years of development is difficult, but he just turned 21 in July and has already pitched in High-A. If he repeats High-A in 2020, then moves on to Double-A as a 22-year-old, he’ll be very age-appropriate. First, he needs to get healthy.
13. Hector Yan (LHP)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP
- Tools Summary: Smallish lefty with a solid arsenal. He didn’t show good control last season but the delivery is simple and his control should improve.
After spending the first three years of his professional career in short-season ball, Hector Yan got his first taste of full-season ball pitching for Burlington in the Midwest League. He pitched well posting a 3.39 ERA striking out over 12 per nine but also walking over four per nine.
At 5-foot-11, he’s undersized but has a solid arsenal with a fastball that will touch the mid-90s with the ability to spin a curveball. His delivery is simple and while the walk rate doesn’t show it, he does repeat his delivery well.
Given his size, the ceiling is likely a back of the rotation pitcher or even a bullpen arm.
14. Arol Vera (SS)
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling: Unknown
- Tools Summary: Top international free agent with a solid hit tool and promise of solid pop.
Arol Vera was the Angels big international free agent signee in 2019. The switch-hitting shortstop from Venezuela is a solid up the middle player and should be able to stay in the dirt as he progresses through the development process. He has a solid approach, shows more power from the left side with a swing that should be able to make solid contact. He’s not a burner but does show solid speed on the bases.
15. Jose Rojas (IF)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Extra Bat
- Tools Summary: He’s old, but can hit and showed impressive power last season.
Jose Rojas will be 27 years old in February and was not protected on the 40-man roster. Ok…er, so why is he on this list. Well, he’s always been able to hit with solid strikeout and walk rates and last year, he popped 31 home runs. Yes, I know, it was done with a “juiced ball”. But, I still think he can hit and if he gets picked up in the Rule 5 draft, he might be a kid I’d jump on an NFBC Draft-and-hold format.
Holding down his ceiling is he’s not a great defender. Therefore, he might work best in the American League where the team is looking for hitters.