Los Angeles Angels' Top 10 Prospects: Rankings, Spring Forecasts
As was the case with Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals last season, the Los Angeles Angels’ farm system was crippled with Mike Trout's graduation to the major leagues. Their system took another big hit when general manager Jerry Dipoto tapped into the prospect pool and traded shortstop Jean Segura, as well as right-handers Ariel Pena and John Hellweg, to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for the two-month rental of Zack Greinke.
Furthermore, the Angels didn’t make their first pick in the 2012 entry draft until the third round, as the previous offseason's signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson cost the organization their first- and second-round picks. Considering all of aforementioned factors, it should come as no surprise that the Angels system ranks as one of the worst in the game.
The lone standout is their top prospect, third baseman Kaleb Cowart, who made impressive strides while reaching High-A Inland Empire in his full-season debut. After Cowart, though, the system thins out in a hurry.
They do have some talented but raw arms in Mike Clevinger and Austin Wood, as well as two infielders with a projectable hit tool in second basemen Taylor Lindsey and Alex Yarbrough. Their lone power-hitting prospect, first baseman C.J. Cron, could be a big-time run producer, but he’ll first have to stay healthy and prove himself at higher levels in 2013.
Luckily, the Angels have a monster payroll and one of the best assemblages of major league talent in the game. Having said that, don’t expect any of their top prospects—except for possibly Nick Maronde (as a reliever)—to reach he major leagues in 2013.
10. Alex Yarbrough, 2B
DOB: 8/3/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 180
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2012 (Mississippi)
Scouting Notes: The Angels had to wait until the fourth round to draft their first position player last year, where they selected an advanced switch hitter in Yarbrough. He was assigned to Low-A Cedar Rapids after signing with the club, where he batted .287/.320/.419 with 12 doubles, nine triples and 20/10 K/BB in 58 games. He received a late-season promotion to Double-A Arkansas and collected two hits in 18 plate appearances.
Advanced from both sides of the plate; college experience most evident in his plate discipline and ability to control the strike zone; consistent approach; pure hitter with a line-drive swing; adept at using the whole field from both sides of the plate; bat speed is only average, but he’ll keep the head in the zone for an extended period of time; doubtful that he’ll ever hit for more than modest gap power.
Decent athlete who will likely be limited to second base due to lack of speed and range; arm strength is average while his hands are soft and his release is fluid; won’t impress with range but is a reliable overall defensive second baseman; could move quickly through the system if he continues to hit and develops better on-base skills.
Spring Training Forecast: Yarbrough’s first career spring training will be spent in big league camp, where he stands to receive decent playing time in the early going.
2013 Outlook: Despite finishing his professional debut at Double-A, Yarbrough will likely head to High-A for his full-season debut. But if he continues to showcase an advanced bat from both sides of the plate, the 21-year-old could return to the more advanced level at some point during the second half of the season.
9. R.J. Alvarez, RHP
DOB: 6/8/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 180
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2012 (Florida Atlantic)
Scouting Notes: The Angels made Alvarez their top draft pick in 2012, though they had to wait until the third round to do so. He emerged as one of the top relievers in the nation as a junior at Florida Atlantic, and turned in a strong pro debut for Low-A Cedar Rapids after signing last season, registering a 3.29 ERA and .216 BAA with 38/11 K/BB in 23 games.
Undersized right-hander at 6’1”, but features electric stuff; lightning-quick arm generates a fastball that consistently sits in the high-90s; flirts with triple-digits; slider is a second plus-pitch that’s thrown in the mid-80s and dives out of the zone; changeup is fringy but he doesn’t need it anyway; command may never be great due to his deceptive, cross-body delivery, so he’ll have to bank on generating plenty of swing-and-misses.
Spring Training Forecast: Drafted with the expectation of reaching the major leagues in a hurry, Alvarez will be given an opportunity to see how his stuff translates against big league hitters this spring.
2013 Outlook: After missing bats with ease at Low-A in 2012, Alvarez could open the year at Double-A with the chance to contribute in the major leagues during the second half of the season.
8. Mark Sappington, RHP
DOB: 11/17/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 209
Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2012 (Rockhurst, Mo.)
Scouting Notes: The 6’5”, 209-pound right-hander has a physical frame and power arsenal, but he flew under the radar last spring as a junior at Rockhurst College in Missouri. He has jerky mechanics that involve too much effort and there are lots of limbs in his delivery, which create deception but also impedes his ability to throw strikes. Sappington also lacks stamina for a pitcher of his size and he will need to steadily improve his workload as the season progresses.
Throws a weighted fastball on solid downward plane; fastball registers in the mid-90s, though his velocity will tail off deeper into starts; generates a healthy mixture of whiffs and groundballs; slider projects to be a second plus-pitch, though he struggles to command it given his arm action; changeup is solid, though he didn’t use it a lot in college; entire arsenal needs refinement once his mechanics are smoothed out.
Spring Training Forecast: Despite his limited professional experience as a 2012 draft pick, Sappington should see some innings early in the spring before the big league starters are deployed.
2013 Outlook: After making his professional debut in the Pioneer League last season, Sappington is a candidate to open the year in extended spring training before an eventual promotion to a full-season level, likely Low-A.
7. Randal Grichuk, OF
DOB: 8/13/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 195
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009 (Lamar Consolidated HS, Texas)
Scouting Notes: Grichuk hasn’t developed like the player that the Angels drafted one spot after him in 2009, Mike Trout. He has also never played in more than 64 games in a season until 2012 due to the fact that he suffered multiple hand injuries in 2010 and injured both knees in 2011. Yet, last year, Grichuk finally enjoyed a healthy breakout season of .298/.335/.488 with 16 home runs and 18 stolen bases at High-A Inland Empire.
Possesses above-average bat speed and raw power thanks to quick-twitch wrists and wiry strength; simplified his swing last season, but it still has too much wasted movement; frequently bars his front arm, which leads to a problematic bat wrap; pulls off too many pitches as a result; solid bat-to-ball skills that should improve following swing adjustments; pitch recognition skills are solid, though his feel for the strike zone is still raw and he chases too many pitches.
Had the speed to play center field when drafted, but has lost a few steps since then; capable of double-digit stolen bases, but he’s not an efficient basestealer; strong arm leads to clean projection as a right fielder; he may be challenged next season at Double-A Arkansas.
Spring Training Forecast: Added to the 40-man roster following the 2012 season, Grichuk enters his third big league camp fresh off a breakout campaign at Low-A.
2013 Outlook: The 21-year-old will head to Double-A after a vastly improved performance at High-A last season. However, the more advanced level could pose a challenge for Grichuck, as he’s still a raw prospect with holes in his swing and his approach.
6. Austin Wood, RHP
DOB: 7/11/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 225
Drafted/Signed: Sixth round, 2011 (USC)
Scouting Notes: Wood shown tremendous upside since high school, but he has bounced between three different colleges during this time, and has struggled at each one. He is the epitome of a guy with frontline stuff with no idea on how to harness it or execute his pitches. He walked 72 batters in 128 innings last innings in his full-season debut for Low-A Cedar Rapids.
6’4”, 225-pound right-hander has a physical frame and is an imposing presence on the mound; plus-fastball that usually sits in the mid-90s, but has been as high as 98-99 mph on occasion; struggles to throw the pitch for a strike, especially early in the count; doesn’t finish delivery and leaves it up in the zone frequently; makes his secondary offerings less effective; throws slider in mid-80s with wipeout break; present changeup is extremely raw; mechanics tend to be sloppy and he struggles to repeat them.
Spring Training Forecast: Wood will head to minor league spring training where he will continue to iron out mechanical issues and develop his secondary offerings.
2013 Outlook: The 22-year-old will make the jump to High-A Inland Empire next season—which means he may get knocked around in the hitter-friendly California League. If his control problems persist, the Angels may consider moving him to the bullpen.
5. Taylor Lindsey, 2B
DOB: 12/2/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 195
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010 (Desert Mountain HS, Ariz.)
Scouting Notes: Lindsey was the 2011 Pioneer League MVP after batting .362/.394/.593 with 43 extra-base hits in 63 games. The Angels handed him an aggressive promotion to High-A Inland Empire for his full-season debut in 2012, where the 20-year-old was challenged at times, but still showed the ability to make adjustments.
Excellent hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills; lots of contact with a handsy swing; sets up with his hands low around torso only to elevate them as part of his complicated timing mechanism, which may be something that’s jettisoned in future seasons; plenty of gap power with the ability to barrel the ball to all fields; doesn’t project for any power in the major leagues.
Doesn’t run well relative to playing an up-the-middle position; future as a big leaguer depends on his ability to stick at second base; both range and arm are fringy, but glove is solid; his turns were noticeably better this past season, as well.
Spring Training Forecast: After a strong showing in his first big league camp in 2012, Lindsey will get another long look at the keystone this spring.
2013 Outlook: Lindsey held his own last year in his full-season debut after making the jump from the complex leagues to High-A, so expect the Angels to hand him a similar aggressive promotion to Double-A.
4. Mike Clevinger, RHP
DOB: 12/21/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 217
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2011 (Seminole State JuCo, Fla.)
Scouting Notes: The 6’4” right-hander pitched well to begin his full-season debut in 2012, but he made only eight starts before injuring his elbow, which required Tommy John surgery. It is doubtful that he’ll return until mid-2013 at the earliest.
Big, sturdy right-hander employs deceptive delivery with a mid-to-high three-quarters arm slot; mechanics give the impression of high effort; arm action adds late life to his low-90s fastball; advanced arsenal comprised of three pitches that are at least average across the board; throws a heavy slider that has nice depth; solid fading action on the changeup given his release point; curveball is fringy pitch that varies in shape; has mid-rotation starter arsenal, but will be behind the curve following the injury.
Spring Training Forecast: After undergoing Tommy John surgery early in the 2012 season, Clevinger will spend the spring rehabbing.
2013 Outlook: Once he’s given the green light by the organization, Clevinger will likely return to Low-A with a chance of reaching High-A (and maybe even Double-A) by the end of the 2013 season.
3. C.J. Cron, 1B
DOB: 1/5/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 235
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Utah)
Scouting Notes: The top power hitter in the 2011 draft proved that this skill would translate to the professional level with a big full-season debut. He played the entire season with a torn labrum in throwing shoulder, though, and was limited to first base defensively. He will also have to work to keep his weight down.
Bat-first prospect capable of consistently producing runs; tons of raw power from the right side and drives the ball with backspin carry; hands can be slow at times and he’ll be tardy on good velocity; punishes mistakes; excessive contact is a detriment and he needs to draw more walks; fringy defensive first baseman with slow feet who will need to stay healthy and somewhat agile.
Spring Training Forecast: After undergoing offseason surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder, the Angels will ease Cron back into action in minor league spring training.
2013 Outlook: Provided that he’s healthy, Cron is ticketed to open the 2013 season at Double-A where his big swing and aggressive approach could lead to early struggles.
2. Nick Maronde, LHP
DOB: 9/5/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 205
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2011 (Florida)
Scouting Notes: The 6’3” left-hander enjoyed a rapid ascent to the major leagues in his full-season debut, where he worked exclusively as a starter before the Angels used him in relief in September. He posted a 1.82 ERA at High-A Inland Empire and 3.34 ERA at Double-A Arkansas before a late-season call-up to the Bigs, where he allowed one run and fanned seven batters over six innings out of the Angels bullpen.
Effective strike-thrower with a fastball thatworks in the low-90s and occasionally touches 94-95 mph; throws the pitch with conviction to both sides of the plate, to both right- and left-handed hitters; deceptive release and velocity induces swing-and-misses; low-80s slider is a solid out pitch with depth, and is especially effective against left-handed hitters; changeup is fringy and will determine whether his development progresses as a starter or reliever.
Spring Training Forecast: With his exact role undecided headed into the season, Maronde will likely work as both a starter and a reliever this spring.
2013 Outlook: After reaching the major leagues as a September call-up in 2012, Maronde has already established his value as a LOOGY. However, he has the arsenal and command to succeed as a starter, so a return to Double-A could be in order as the organization plans for the long term.
1. Kaleb Cowart, 3B
DOB: 6/2/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010 (Cook HS, Ga.)
Scouting Notes: Cowart improved as much as any prospect last season, posting an .827 OPS in 66 games for Low-A Cedar Rapids before a midseason promotion to High-A Inland Empire. He emerged as one of the more intriguing third base prospects in the game and showed significant progress in all facets of the game.
6’3” switch hitter has excellent bat speed from both sides of the plate; left-handed swing developed in a big way last season; showcases plus-raw power; natural right-handed swing is more consistent and direct to the ball; plate discipline was vastly improved last season and gives him a chance to hit for average at higher levels; approach was more consistent and sustained over the course of the season.
Excellent athlete who received heavy consideration as a pitcher due to his mid-90s heat off the mound as an amateur; good reactions and actions at the hot corner; impressive range and focus; arm stroke has some length, but he compensates with some velocity across the diamond.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in his first big league spring training, Cowart stands to receive the most playing time of all the organization's prospects in camp as the organization evaluates his development in terms of a potential late-2014 arrival in the major leagues.
2013 Outlook: Cowart adjusted favorably to both new levels (Low and High-A) in his full-season debut, so it could make sense to challenge him with a promotion to Double-A Arkansas.