Top 10 Prospects: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

1. Mike Trout, CF
Acquired: Drafted 1st Round 2009 (New Jersey HS)
2010 Level: A/A+
Opening Day Age: 19.9

Notes: Twenty three teams passed on Trout in the 2009 draft, and looking back less than two years later, it’s hard to believe a player with Trout’s combination of tools and skills could last until the end of the first round. Despite being listed at 215 pounds, Trout is one of the fastest players in the minor leagues. He gets down the line so quickly that fairly routine ground balls to the left side can quickly become an adventure. Once he’s on base, he continues to put pressure on the defense, stealing 56 bases in 2010. There is some sentiment that Trout may slow down as he ages, but he should always be a plus runner. At the plate, Trout has exceptionally quick hands and the coordination to consistently barrel the ball. Seeing him play, his line drives seem to have 5-10 more mph on them than anybody else. So although he only hit only ten home runs last year, he could wind up slugging 20-25 a year as he learns to look for pitches to drive. Just as impressive, Trout shows an extremely patient approach for such a young hitter, posting a BB% of over 12 percent last year. Defensively, his speed allows him to cover a lot of ground, and his arm is good enough that he should be able to stay in center.

It is remarkable that in a mere 807 minor league plate appearances, Trout has established himself as one of, if not the best prospect in baseball. Not only does he have the realistic shot to post wOBAs north of .370, but by all accounts the energy and enthusiasm with which he plays makes him the ideal candidate to be the face of a franchise.

2. Jean Segura, 2B/SS
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent 2007 (Dominican Republic)
2010 Level: A (Midwest League)
Opening Day Age: 21.1

Notes: Throughout his pro career, Segura’s biggest problem has been an inability to stay healthy. Coming into 2010 he had amassed only 239 plate appearances in two seasons. Finally healthy in 2010, Segura had a breakout season, putting up a 313/365/464 slash line to go with 50 steals in 60 attempts. Despite those impressive numbers, Segura was overshadowed by teammate Mike Trout for much of the season. In some respects, both players have a similar skills sets. Both can run and project to hit for average with a little pop, but Segura doesn’t have Trout’s patience or quite the same offensive ceiling. Still, Segura is an extremely exciting prospect. He has the tools to play short, and the Angels have indicated they may move him there in 2011. If he can handle the shift, his bat could make him one of the premier short stops in the game.

3. Hank Conger, C
Acquired: Drafted 1st Round 2006 (California HS)
2010 Level: AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 23.2

Notes: No stranger to top-prospect lists, Conger’s scouting report hasn’t changed much since he was drafted in 2006- he’s a solid bet to hit, but questions remain about his ability to stay behind the plate. He was considered raw defensively when he was drafted, and injuries early in his career limited the number of innings he caught, stunting his development. As it stands now, he’ll likely be able to stay behind the plate, but he figures to always be below average there, putting pressure on his bat to provide value. The good news for Angels fans is that the bat looks solid. In 452 AAA plate appearances, Conger put up a .300/.385/.463 slash line, good for wOBA of .374. It’s important to take those numbers with a grain (or two) of salt, because Salt Lake is one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast league (remember the numbers Brandon Wood put up a couple years ago), but Conger has the swing and track record to suggest he’ll be able to hit in the big leagues. A switch-hitter, he has a smooth swing from both sides of the plate with more power from the left-side. His walk rate has shot up from 5.5 percent in his first two seasons all the way up to 12.2 percent in AAA last year, while striking out in only 15 percent of his at-bats. Conger has little left to prove in AAA with the bat, but the Angels value defense from their catchers, so he might find himself back in AAA to start the year. Regardless of where he begins the 2011 season, I see Conger putting up wOBAs in the .330-.340 range to go with below average defense. That overall package won’t send him to any all-star games, but it should be enough to make him an everyday catcher for years to come.

4. Tyler Chatwood, RHP
Acquired: Drafted 2nd Round 2008 (California HS)
2010 Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 21.4

Notes: An extremely good athlete, Chatwood was set to play center field as well as pitch for UCLA before he signing with the Angels as a second-round pick. His athleticism eases some of the durability concerns that come with his 6 foot, 185 pound frame. Despite his slender build, Chatwood has power stuff. He can rush his fastball up to the mid-90s, and his hammer curveball has the potential to be a swing-and-miss offering. While his stuff suggests he should rack up big strikeout totals, his strikeout rates were curiously pedestrian in 2010. His K/9 was 7.75 in high A, and it fell all the way to 4.75 after being promoted to AA. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that, at 20 years old, he was facing more experienced hitters, but inconsistency and a lack of command also contributed. As his BB/9 rate of 3.8 suggests, Chatwood has a ways to go in refining his control. If he can maintain his 7.75 K/9 at higher levels, he could profile as high as a number 2 starter, because of his ability to generate ground-balls. In over 80 innings in the California League, Chatwood posted a Tim Hudson-like 64% ground-ball rate. Even with only modest improvements in his strikeout and walk numbers, Chatwood’s ability to generate ground-balls should allow him to profile in a big league rotation.

5. Garrett Richards, RHP
Acquired: Drafted 1st Round Supplemental 2009 (University of Oklahoma)
2010 Level: A/A+
Opening Day Age: 22.10

Notes: Richards was tough for scouts to peg coming out of the University of Oklahoma. His stuff has always been good, but in three collegiate seasons his ERA was never below 6, and it was only during his junior year that he was given a spot in the rotation. The Angels believed in his potential and took him with one of their supplemental picks in 2009, and the early returns have been promising. In 143 innings across Low and High A, Richards put up a K/9 of 9.38 to go with a ground-ball rate of 56 percent. While he battled with his control for much of his college career, he seems to have made some adjustments in pro-ball, as his BB/9 was a much more manageable 2.7 in 2010. Richards is poised to begin the 2011 season in AA, and he profiles as a solid mid-rotation starter.

6. Fabio Martinez Mesa, RHP
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent 2007 (Dominican Republic)
2010 Level: A (Midwest League)
Opening Day Age: 21.5

Notes: Martinez has one of the most electrifying arms in the minor leagues. He lead the Northwest League in strikeouts in 2009, and, despite making his last start of 2010 in July, he fell only ten strikeouts short of the Midwest League’s strikeout crown this year. All told, Martinez posted an outstanding 12.3 K/9 in 103 innings. What prevents Martinez from being an elite prospect is an utter lack of control. He walked 6.6 batters per nine last year, and without significant improvement in that area, it’s almost impossible to envision him remaining a starter long-term. Still, Martinez should provide value out of the pen. His fastball and slider give him the classic, power arsenal of a late-inning reliever, and it’s not hard to envision him racking up huge strikeout totals in a relief role. He and Jordan Walden profile similarly, but I think Martinez has the higher upside.

7. Kaleb Cowart, 3B
Acquired: Drafted 1st Round 2010 (Georgia HS)
2010 Level: RC (Gulf Coast League)
Opening Day Age: 18.10

Notes: Coming into the draft, the industry consensus was that Cowart profiled better on the mound than at the plate, but the Angels liked his athleticism and power potential and decided to take a shot with him as a third baseman. As his pitching background suggests, Cowart has plenty of arm for the hot corner, but he hasn’t had as much experience there as the typical prep third baseman, so the learning curve may be a bit steeper than usual. At the plate, the switch-hitter features impressive raw power, but concerns linger about his ability to make contact. Cowart signed late, only making 28 plate appearances as a pro, too small of a sample to make any meaningful inferences. But judging from his background as a pitcher, it’s likely the Angels will play it conservative with Cowart, sending him to the Northwest League to start the season. As a switch-hitting third baseman with plus power and a strong arm, Cowart reminds me a little of Josh Bell.

8. Jordan Walden, RHP
Acquired: Drafted 12th Round 2006 (Texas JC)
2010 Level: AA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 23.5

Notes: Coming into the 2009 season, Walden was considered one of the elite prospects in the Angels’ farm system. But after an injury-marred 2009 season, the Angels moved him to the pen, and he seems to have excelled in that role, ending the season as arguably the Angels’ best reliever. In 15 big-league innings, Walden posted a K/9 of 13.5 and a ground-ball rate of 60 percent. Those numbers, and a fastball that averaged over 98 mph in the big leagues, have some projecting Walden as a future closer. But a look at his larger body of work suggests that a more modest projection is in order. In 43 innings at AA in 2010, Walden’s K/9 was below 8, his walk rate was 4.6, and his ground-ball rate was only 53%. It’s possible that Walden’s stuff got better as the season wore on, or maybe with the adrenaline of pitching in the big leagues, his stuff played up once he got there. But I think it’s more likely that Walden simply performed over his true talent level in a small sample size. Going forward, I think Walden is more of a 7th-8th inning guy than a true closer.

9. Cam Bedrosian, RHP
Acquired: Drafted 1st Round 2010 (Georgia HS)
2010 Level: RC
Opening Day Age: 19.6

Notes: The Angels appear to be more willing than many teams to draft undersized right-handed pitchers, selecting Chatwood and Bedrosian with early picks in two recent drafts. Like Chatwood, Bedrosian has a live arm, but his secondary stuff is inconsistent. Cam’s father, Steve Bedrosian, closed for the Phillies in the late-80s, and there is some sentiment that Cam may eventually end up in the pen depending upon the progress he makes with his command and his change-up. He only threw 12 innings after signing, before he was shut down with soreness in his arm. The injury is not expected to be serious, and Bedrosian should begin 2011 in the Midwest League. He has the upside of a mid-rotation starter or a late-inning reliever.

10. Trevor Reckling, LHP
Acquired: Drafted 8th Round 2007 (New Jersey HS)
2010 Level: AA/AAA
Opening Day Age: 21.10

Notes: Coming off an impressive showing in AA as a 20 year old, Reckling entered the season as one of the more promising pitching prospects in baseball. But the wheels came off in 2010. Promoted to AAA to start the year, Reckling struggled mightily. He walked more batters than he struck out, his GB% dropped from 48 percent in 2009 to 40 percent, and his FIP stood at 6.36 before he was demoted back to AA. Back in AA, Reckling began to right the ship, his K/9 increased from under 6 to a more respectable 7.06 and he regained some of his control, lowering his BB/9 from 6.5 in AAA to 4 in AA. Despite the poor season, there is still plenty to like about Reckling. When he’s on he shows the arsenal to profile as a mid-rotation starter. His fastball sits in the low 90s, he has a solid change-up, and his above-average curveball gives him an out-pitch against lefties. Plus, he’ll still be only 21 years old to start the season, so there is time for him to get back on track. The Angels should give him every opportunity to prove himself as a starter but if he does not make the necessary strides, Reckling could become a solid, left-handed option out of the pen.

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