Prospect ranking season is just around the corner. In anticipation of that, we present an intro series looking at some of the players who deserve mentioning but probably will not be appearing on their teams’ Top 10 lists. The popular series is back for a second year.
The Graduate: Kevin Jepsen, RHP
Despite being a rookie in ’09, Jepsen was one of the Angels’ best relievers – especially with the loss of veteran set-up man Scot Shields to injury. Jepsen was a little too hittable with 63 hits allowed in 54.2 innings, but he maintained solid walk and strikeout rates: 3.13 BB/9 and 7.90 K/9. He kept a lot of balls out of the air with a 57.1% ground-ball rate. Jepsen’s ERA of 4.94 was misleading; his FIP was just 2.86.
The Riser: Chris Pettit, OF
We could talk about a number of prospects here, including shortstop Rolando Gomez and pitcher Ryan Chaffee, but let’s focus on the more MLB-ready player: outfielder Pettit. He doesn’t have a huge ceiling but the 25 year old has been a consistently-good hitter, save for an injury-marred 2008 season. In 2009 at triple-A, Pettit hit .321/.383/.482 with 30 doubles in 371 at-bats. His usually-solid walk rate took a hit down to 7.7% but he kept the strikeouts in check: 16.7%. Pettit doesn’t have a huge ceiling but should be an excellent fourth outfielder (along the lines of the Cubs’ Reed Johnson) in an organization that has aging starting outfielders who could need plenty of rest.
The Tumbler: Mason Tobin, RHP
It wasn’t really Tobin’s fault that he stumbled in 2009, thankfully one of few top-rated prospects to do so. The talented right-hander has been inundated with injury problems since turning pro and has appeared in just 11 games in the past two seasons. Tobin, 22, has solid stuff, including a low-90s fastball, slider and changeup, and the Angels organization was converting him from starter to reliever when his latest DL stint occurred.
The ’10 Sleeper: Manuarys Correa, RHP
Correa’s numbers were not as flashy as some of his teammates (Chaffee, Tyler Chatwood) but he maintains a high ceiling thanks to a repertoire that includes a 90-93 mph fastball, plus slider and changeup. Just 20 years old, Correa allowed 176 hits in 163 innings of work in low-A. He showed good control with a walk rate of 2.37 BB/9 but his strikeout rate was puzzling (given his stuff) at just 3.81 K/9. Correa had nice numbers against southpaws with a .247 average allowed and a ground-ball rate of 50.7%. The Dominican Republic native just needs experience and time to learn the nuances of pitching to professional hitters.
Bonus: P.J. Phillips, 2B/CF
Listed as the sleeper in the ’08 review series, I had high hopes for Phillips from the time the Angels nabbed him in the second round of the 2005 draft. Unfortunately, the athletic brother of Brandon Phillips just has not been able to make the necessary adjustments against professional pitchers. His chronically-low on-base percentage and hack-tastic ways negate most of the value in his bat. Not even a repeat season in the hitters’ haven known as Rancho Cucamonga could light a fire under this faltering prospect.