Five Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Prospects to Watch out for
When the then-Anaheim Angels won their first-ever World Series title in 2002, they did it with plenty of home-grown talent. Guys like Darin Erstad, Troy Glaus, Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, Troy Percival, Jarrod Washburn, John Lackey and Francisco Rodriguez were all either Angels draft picks or amateur free-agent signings who worked their way through the Halos' minor league system and ultimately played enormous roles in winning a World Series crown.
However, in the decade since that magical run, the Angels have somewhat strayed from developing their homegrown talent, opting in favor of bringing in lucrative free-agent signings.
Some of the Angels' big free-agent splashes netted them high returns, like Vladimir Guerrero's MVP campaign in 2004, Bartolo Colon's Cy Young season in 2005 and Torii Hunter's two Gold Gloves years in 2008 and 2009 to name a few.
More recently, the Angels made substantial investments in Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. Both are only one year into their lucrative contracts, so it still may be a bit too early to judge how successful either player ends up being.
However, not all the Angels' signings turned out to be everything they wanted. Case in point: Gary Matthews. Jr. Yikes.
After a couple of highly-touted former first-rounders ended up being monumental flops (Brandon Wood and Jeff Mathis among others), the big league club is beginning to see more homegrown players in their everyday lineup. Mike Trout became a household name almost overnight following his early season call-up, Mark Trumbo had an incredible first half, Jered Weaver is a top Cy Young candidate (again) and GM Jerry DiPoto says out-of-favor Peter Bourjos will be a constant in the Angels' outfield in the 2013 season.
In 2012, the Angels saw homegrown products Kole Calhoun and Nick Maronde get some time on the field.
So, who's next in line to become a future everyday player for the Angels?
Honorable Mention: Randal Grichuk, Inland Empire (A+)
The Angels had back-to-back first round picks in the 2009 MLB Draft.
Remember that stud outfielder they drafted with their first of those two picks?
Well, it wasn't Mike Trout oddly enough.
It was Randal Grichuk, a power-hitting high school outfielder from Rosenberg, Texas.
He had an incredible senior season for Lamar Consolidated High School, hitting to the tune of a ridiculous .613 average (even if you read that backwards, it's still darn good), while hitting 21 home runs and driving in 46 runs.
Grichuk floated right over .300 with 18 home runs and 99 RBI his first two years with the Angels (a total of 107 games), with time spent in Rookie ball and Class-A Cedar Rapids.
In 2011, Grichuk struggled, hitting only .256 with 3 home runs and 25 RBI in 53 games.
But, Grichuk found himself back on the radar with a quality 2012 campaign. His power numbers skyrocketed, totaling 57 extra-base hits. In his 135 games with the Inland Empire 66ers, he'd hit .298 with 18 home runs and 71 RBI. He'd even swipe a career-best 16 bags.
For a good, quick read on Grichuk, check out MiLB Prospective Blog's write-up on him in their "Lost and Found" series.
The 21-year-old seems likely to start the 2013 season in Double-A with the Arkansas Travelers, and if he can build off his impressive 2012 season, Grichuk may finally be able to shake his sole title of being known as "the guy drafted before Mike Trout."
Don't expect Grichuk to crack the bigs for a few years, but if he continues to develop, he could factor into the Angels plans in a major way in 2014 or 2015.
No. 5: Chevy Clarke, Cedar Rapids (A)
Chevy Clarke has baseball in his blood—major league, in fact.
Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Scott Hairston are his cousins, and just like them, Clarke can play the outfield quite well.
Clarke was the last of the Angels' three first-round picks in the 2010 MLB Draft, but that doesn't mean that his game was any worse than those taken before him. The product of Marietta, Georgia is an extremely toolsy player, but has struggled at the plate to start his professional career.
He has hit only .222 through his first three seasons in rookie and Class-A ball.
Last year, he was hitting so poorly for Class-A Cedar Rapids that he was demoted to rookie ball.
Clarke, who turns 21 in early January, will likely begin his fourth minor league season at Class-A Cedar Rapids.
Will Clarke have a Randal Grichuk-like season where he finally starts to turn things around and begins to show those flashes that made him a first-round pick?
He likely won't be a factor at the major league level for at least another three years, but that gives the young switch-hitter plenty of time to hone his skills at the plate.
No. 4: Cam Bedrosian, Cedar Rapids (A)
The Angels selected the fire-balling Bedrosian with the 29th pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, just one pick before the previously mentioned Chevy Clarke.
The son of former Cy Young winner Steve Bedrosian, Cam has a fastball in the mid-90s and a good curve to highlight his arsenal.
But unlike his father, Cam has been used primarily as a starter. However, his career got off to a brutal start after he needed Tommy John surgery just 12 innings into his professional baseball career.
The injury forced Bedrosian to miss all of the 2011 season, but he was able to come back in 2012, playing with Class-A Cedar Rapids. Bedrosian had a rough first full season, going 3-11 with a 6.31 ERA. He'd walk more batters than he'd strike out (52 to 48 respectively), but let's cut the youngster some slack; the 21-year-old did just have to undergo the most difficult surgery for a pitcher to come back from.
Look for him to start back in Cedar Rapids this season and get a chance to truly gather his bearings on the bump. The future looks bright for the young hurler, but like Chevy Clarke, don't look for him to factor in to the Angels' big league plans for at least another three seasons.
No. 3: C.J. Cron, Inland Empire (A+)
To put it lightly, C.J. Cron was an absolute terror for California League pitchers in 2012.
The 2011 MLB Draft's 17th overall pick mashed the ball for the 66ers all season, finishing with 61 extra-base hits. Cron finished a gaudy 2012 season with a .293 average, 27 home runs and 123 RBI en route to being named the California League Rookie of the Year.
The power-hitting first baseman was originally a 44th round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2008 out of the talent hotbed that is Phoenix, Arizona and its surrounding cities. Cron was wise in opting to play college ball at the University of Utah, skyrocketing his draft stock all the way to being a first round pick in 2011.
Cron, despite playing with a torn labrum in his first season, still hit .308 with 13 homers and 41 runs driven in, all in 34 games with the Orem Owlz.
What will happen with Cron in a few years remains to be seen, given the cluster of impact first basemen currently on the Angels roster (Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales and an outfield-transitioned Mark Trumbo). But if Cron continues to produce and develop, the Angels will most certainly have to find at-bats for him when the time is right.
After a monster 2012 campaign, Cron looks primed to start the 2013 season in Double-A with the Arkansas Travelers, but doesn't look to be MLB-ready for at least another two seasons.
No. 2: Taylor Lindsey, Inland Empire (A+)
Taylor Lindsey followed up his incredible 2011 season with the Orem Owlz with a productive 2012 campaign.
In 2011, Lindsey was named MVP of the Pioneer League after hitting a remarkable .362 with nine home runs and 46 RBI in just 63 games.
His big season prompted a call-up to Class-A Advanced Inland Empire, and he did not disappoint. In 134 games, Lindsey hit .289 with nine home runs, 58 runs batted in and 79 runs scored.
With Jean Segura being a major part of the package to bring Zack Greinke to Anaheim, that makes the left-handed hitting Lindsey the Halos' top second base and middle infield prospect.
But due to having three years remaining on Howie Kendrick's recently-extended contract, that means Lindsey, who turns 21 in early December, will likely have to wait a few more years before he gets significant playing time at the big league level.
The 37th overall pick in the 2010 draft from Scottsdale, Arizona looks to start the year in Double-A with the Arkansas Travelers, who could have a lethal lineup this season.
No. 1: Kaleb Cowart, Inland Empire (A+)
The No. 1 Angels prospect to watch out for has to be the young and extremely talented Kaleb Cowart.
Cowart was the Angels' first of three first-round picks in the 2010 MLB Draft (No. 18 overall), all of whom were Georgia high school products.
Cowart, used primarily as a third baseman in the Angels' farm system, also has a rocket of an arm. His fastball topped out around 95 mph with some solid movement, while also having a changeup and a slider in his arsenal of pitches.
Following a huge senior season for Cook High School, Cowart was named as Gatorade's High School Player of the Year.
His first full year of play in 2011 was a productive one with the Orem Owlz, batting .283 with seven home runs and 40 RBI in 72 games.
His 2012 campaign with the Kernels and 66ers was even more productive.
The switch-hitter would bat .276 between the two clubs, with 16 home runs, 103 runs driven in and 90 runs scored.
Cowart would commit 16 errors last season, but his .958 fielding percentage was way up from his 2011 mark of .917.
Cowart, who will not turn 21 until June of next year, is showing all the signs of why the Angels valued him as their top pick in 2010, and all at an exceptionally early age.
Barring any future trades or free agent signings, third base appears to be wide open for Cowart to take when he is ready, although that is likely at least three years into the future.
MLB.com ranks him as the No. 6 third base prospect in all of Minor League Baseball, and the No. 46 prospect overall.
A quick word to all of the pitchers in the Texas League: Watch the heck out for the Travs.
They could potentially be adding some big bats to their lineup in Cowart, Cron, Grichuk and Lindsey. If that's the case, Dickey-Stephens Park could see some seriously high scores for the home team this season.