Once the owners of an impressive group of prospects, the Los Angeles Angles’ minor league system has slipped into disarray. The club still has some interesting prospects, but most of them are in A-ball or short-season leagues. In recent seasons, offensive prospects have been overrated in part due to some minor league teams that play in very good hitter’s parks and leagues.
Right-hander Nick Adenhart was rushed to the Majors in 2008 (and possibly even to Triple-A) and it showed. Adenhart allowed 18 hits and 13 walks in just 12 innings (three starts). Opponents offered at his pitches outside the strike zone (there were a lot of them) just 14.1% of the time and he pumped in first-pitch strikes less than 50% of the time (42.9% to be exact). His numbers are Triple-A were not inspiring, either. Adenhart allowed 173 hits in 145.1 innings with a walk rate of 4.64 BB/9. His strikeout rate has also dropped significantly since 2006 when it sat at 8.41 K/9 in A-ball. His rate in 2008 was 6.81 K/9. The good news is that Adenhart is still young at 22; he just needs the time to become a better pitcher.
First baseman Mark Trumbo had a breakout 2008 season in terms of power after slugging 32 home runs between High-A ball and Double-A. The 23-year-old prospect spent the majority of the season in High-A and hit .283/.329/.553 with 26 homers in 407 at-bats. While that homer total is impressive (along with the ISO increase from .155 in 2007 to .270 in 2008), cautioned must be used because Trumbo was playing in a hitter’s park in a hitter’s league (the same park and league that inflated Brandon Wood’s numbers in 2005 to the tune 43 homers). Trumbo’s career average of .262 also suggests that he won’t hit for much of an average at the Major League level. The .316 career OBP and 2008 walk rate of 6.0 BB% does not instill a lot of hope either. For his sake, that power surge had best be for real.
Jordan Walden, 21, had an impressive season in A-ball in 2008. He posted a 2.18 ERA (2.85 FIP) and allowed 80 hits in 107.1 innings of work. He also allowed just three home runs and posted solid rates of 2.68 BB/9 and 7.63 K/9. Walden earned a nine-start promotion to High-A ball and he survived the hitter’s environment by allowing jut 42 hits in 49 innings. The right-handed pitcher did, though, allow four home runs and his walk rate jumped to 4.41 BB/9. Impressively, his strikeout rate improved to 9.18 K/9. Walden may return to High-A in 2009, or the Angels may choose to be aggressive with him and have him begin the year in Double-A. He features a mid-90s fastball that can touch the upper 90s, as well as a slider and seldom-used change-up.
Sean O’Sullivan’s stock has dropped in recent seasons due mainly to a decrease in fastball velocity. He now works in the 87-92 mph range. That velocity is more than enough to survive as a starter in the Majors, but a pitcher needs reliable secondary pitches, and O’Sullivan has yet to develop those. Pitching in a very good hitter’s park in 2008, the right-hander allowed 167 hits in 158 innings of work. He posted rates of 2.85 BB/9 and 6.32 K/9. O’Sullivan has solid control and understands how to pitch with average stuff so he has the chance to be a No. 4 or 5 starter or middle reliever at the Major League level.
Trevor Reckling had a solid first full season in pro ball in 2008. The southpaw allowed 137 hits in 152.1 A-ball innings and posted rates of 3.49 BB/9 and 7.56 K/9. His fastball is average for a lefty at 87-91 mph and his two secondary pitches both have the chance to be reliable, plus pitches: a curveball and change-up. Reckling will likely begin 2009 in High-A ball, which will be a big test.
It might seem a little surprising that you don’t hear more about Hank Conger. The (just turned) 21-year-old catcher is a former No. 1 draft pick, who was selected out of high school in the 2006 draft. He has a career line of .296/.337/.491, which is excellent for a backstop. But Conger has never played more than 84 games in a season after struggling with injuries in each of the past two seasons, and there is significant doubt that he will be able to remain behind the dish. He does have above-average arm strength so there is hope – but the Double-A test in 2009 will be huge.
Like most of the offensive prospects on this list, Peter Bourjos’ breakout season came in High-A ball, where he hit .295/.326/.444 in 509 at-bats. The speedy outfielder also slugged 10 triples and stole 50 bases in 60 attempts. Unfortunately, he has yet to grasp the appropriate approach at the plate to take advantage of his speed, having posted a walk rate in 2008 of just 3.6 BB%, which was down from 7.8 BB% in 2007. The soon-to-be 22-year-old prospect is an excellent defensive center fielder but he is headed for a MLB career as a fourth outfielder if he maintains the same approach at the plate.
The organization has a trio of impressive arms in short-season ball: Manuarys Correa, Tyler Chatwood, and Will Smith. Correa, a Dominican right-hander, had an impressive North American debut in 2008 and features a fastball that can touch the mid-90s, as well as a slider and change-up. He just turned 20 and should open 2009 in A-ball. Chatwood was the club’s second-round pick out of a California high school last season. He allowed just 25 hits in 38 innings during his debut. He needs to develop a changeup to go with his mid-90s fastball and slider. Smith showed exceptional control in rookie ball in 2008 and walked just six batters in 73 innings (0.74 BB/9). The 19-year-old southpaw was a seventh round pick last season out of a Florida community college. His fastball can touch 91-92 mph and he also has a curveball and change-up.
Luis Jiminez, 21, led his short-season league in doubles and homers in 2008, but it was a solid hitter’s league so some scouts question just how much power he actually has. Regardless, the Dominican third baseman deserves some attention, especially considering he also hit .335. His defense needs work, but Jiminez should be able to remain at the position, although he has a long way to go.
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