Last year the Angels Top 15 was fun to put together, only because it gave me yet another excuse to talk to industry folks about the greatness of Mike Trout. It really was fun. You could start talking about any prospect in the organization and it always circled back to talking about Trout. That fun was gone this year. The Angels system is flat out bad. The top of the list offers a couple of players with solid profiles but the talent falls away quickly and you’re left to sort through a pile of relievers and fringe big leaguers.
1. Kaleb Cowart – 3B (Last Year’s Rank: 5)
Cowart is far and away the top prospect in the Angels system, and as great as that sounds because Cowart is a quality prospect, it’s not a ringing endorsement. Cowart has the potential to be a good everyday third baseman with a decent average, some patience and a good amount of pop, but he’s not a star in the making. Cowart has made significant developmental strides as a professional and he could be ready for Double-A in 2013, putting him on the big-league radar late the following season.
2. Nick Maronde – LHP (8)
Maronde brings good size to the mound and two promising pitches from the left side. While his fastball has peaked at 94-95 mph in short bursts, he sits more in the 90-92 range with good angle to the plate. His slider is a legit plus offering, with the ability to miss bats in any count. Maronde pounds the strike zone and can locate to all four quadrants of the strike zone. His biggest weakness is a well below-average change-up that has made little progress and may force him to remain in the bullpen long term. If the change-up improves to the point of being a show-me pitch, he could fit in as a number four starter.
3. Randal Grichuk – OF (7)
I’ve been a fan of Grichuk for quite some time, keeping him higher in my rankings than I probably should have. Hell, maybe he’s higher than he should be right now, but in a system as thin as this, his skill set stands out. Though his offensive approach can border on atrocious at times, he makes good contact and can drive the ball from line-to-line with above-average to plus raw power. He is a solid runner that has improved his outfield defense, though he may profile better in left field long term. Grichuk doesn’t project at an above-average level, but he could be a solid big league contributor.
4. Austin Wood – RHP (10)
Wood is the type of prospect I typically fall fore. He can pump his fastball up to 97-98 mph and regularly sits in the 94-95 mph range, giving him the power arm that scouts covet. His slider is a second plus pitch with excellent spin and late bite. He has flashed an average change-up at various points in his career, leaving some scouts to believe in him as a starting pitcher. His inability to throw strikes consistently tempers that projection but it’s hard not to like the arm and occasional feel he shows on the mound. Wood could be anything from a mid-rotation starter to a setup reliever in the end.
5. CJ Cron – 1B (3)
Cron carries a tough profile, one that I frequently have trouble pushing up my board. He is a bat-only prospect that is a plodder on the bases and a below-average defender at first base. He has 70-grade raw power and can blast balls out of any park at any time. He also shows an innate feel for contact that allows him to hit for a solid average. His hitting ability gets him in trouble at times, causing him to be too aggressive at the plate and taking him out of some at-bats, leading to weak contact. With a first base-only or DH profile, Cron has to maximize his offensive abilities, and that can’t happen without an improved approach, something he will have to demonstrate higher levels to become an impact big leaguer.
6. Mike Clevinger – RHP (14)
Even though Clevinger remains in the midst of his recover from Tommy John surgery, he is still one of the better prospects in the Angels system. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 215 pounds, Clevinger has a quality four-pitch mix that consistently flashes at least average across the board. He can pound the strike zone with his fastball, slider and change-up and can throw his curveball out of the zone as a chase pitch. His best pitch is his slider that earns plus grades from scouts. Clevinger needs to refine his command and demonstrate improved durability. If he does those things, he could be a number four starter.
7. RJ Alvarez – RHP (NR)
The Angels top pick last summer, Alvarez has a huge fastball that sits in the 94-97 range and touched triple digits in college. His slider is a second pitch with at least plus grades and he can miss the barrel of quality hitters with both pitches. His change-up is below-average and will likely be scrapped as a professional. Alvarez is a reliever all the way, but he could be an impact setup or possibly a closer down the line, and he could reach that ceiling quickly.
8. Mark Sappington – RHP (NR)
Last year’s fifth round pick, Sappington is another tall pitcher (6-foot-5) with good angle to the plate. He can run his fastball up to 95 mph and sits 92-94 in most outings. He has good sink to his heater, a trait that is accentuated by the leverage he gets on his fastball. His slider and change-up both flash at an average level but need additional consistency. Most pro scouts are convinced Sappington ends up in the bullpen where his fastball could play up and he could max out as a setup man.
9. Eric Stamets – SS (NR)
Stamets draws most of his attention from scouts for his defensive abilities. He is a true shortstop that has good range to both sides and soft hands. He could stay at the position in pro ball, but outside of his plus-plus speed, he lacks additional tools, leaving him with more of a utility profile. Stamets swing is weak and doesn’t impact the ball with any authority, leaving him vulnerable to being overpowered in the batter’s box.
10. Taylor Lindsey – 2B (12)
Lindsey is a quality hitter with exceptional bat-to-ball skills. He rarely strikes out and can make contact on a variety of pitches in all parts of the strike zone. He doesn’t have a lot of juice in his bat, but he has enough to pick up 20+ doubles and 5-8 home runs a year at his peak. While Lindsey can hit, he lacks a strong defensive profile, with few scouts believing he will remain at second base long term. At second base, he is a fringe prospect that could reach the big leagues. In the outfield, he loses considerable value.
11. Reid Scoggins – RHP (NR)
Scoggins was the early talk of the junior college season in 2012, with reports of him reaching 101 mph. While that velocity may have been mildly exaggerated, he can still pump 95-96 mph in short stints. He has the strong frame to suggest he can sustain that velocity at the pro level, though that may come in the bullpen, where both his fastball and potential above-average slider could play up a half grade. Scoggins represents a bit of a developmental project but one with an overpowering fastball as a base from which to work.
12. Wendell Soto – SS (NR)
Often overlooked, even in a poor system, Soto could make a name for himself with a strong season at Low-A Burlington in 2013. He is a defense-first prospect right now with true shortstop actions and plus-plus range both on balls on the ground and in the air. He has a solid arm that works at shortstop. Offensively, Soto needs some work. He has the potential to hit for average and occasionally pick up some doubles. He projects as a quality defender that hits at the bottom of the lineup if it all comes together.
13. Alex Yarbrough – 2B (NR)
Much like Taylor Lindsey, Yarbrough offers good contact skills and lacks power. He has a better offensive approach than Lindsey, but may have even less punch at the plate. Some scouts I spoke with were concerned that Yarbrough’s slappy offensive approach would lead to him getting the bat knocked out of his hands at higher levels. He is a solid defender that does most things well at the position and he could move quickly if he proves he can continue to hit for average against advanced pitching. Yarbrough projects as a fringe Major Leaguer.
14. AJ Schugel – RHP (NR)
A 25th round pick in 2010, Schugel jumped two levels in each of his first two seasons and settled in to make 27 starts for Double-A Arkansas last year. The 23-year old right-hander won’t blow anyone away, working with an average fastball that he locates well throughout the zone. His best pitch is a plus change-up that he can throw in any count. His breaking ball is below-average and has made little progress as a pro. Schugel could max out as a number five starter but everything would have to break right for that to happen.
15. Yency Almonte – RHP (NR)
Given $250,000 in the 17th round in 2012, Almonte is one of the more projectable arms taken by the Angels. A Florida high school product, Almonte has shown a fastball up to 92 mph and he has the long, loose arm action that makes scouts believe he could sustain that and possibly have more in the tank. His slider and change-up both require work. Almonte is a long shot but has the projectablity to intrigue at this point in time.