Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Los Angeles Angels had high expectations last season for its top prospects, as they gave Kaleb Cowart, Taylor Lindsey and C.J. Cron an Opening Day assignment to Double-A Arkansas with the hope that the infield trio would improve individually and collectively.
Well, that didn’t happen.
Cowart, 21, struggled out of the gate at the advanced level and never truly settled in at the plate for the duration of the season. As a result, the switch-hitting third baseman’s overall OPS dropped by .230 points—I guess that’s what happens when you slug .301—compared to his 2012 full-season debut across both Class-A levels.
Similarly, first baseman C.J. Cron, the Angels’ first-round draft pick in 2011, endured a similar power drought; the 24-year-old’s 14 home runs last season were essentially half of his total (27) from his 2013 full-season debut. Additionally, Cron’s lack of plate discipline was once again exploited by sequencing last season, and he’s now amassed only 50 walks in 1,281 career plate appearances in the minor leagues. Yet, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that he captured the batting title (.416) in this year’s Arizona Fall League.
On a more positive note, second baseman Taylor Lindsey was the only one who progressed from a developmental standpoint last season, as the 22-year-old set new career highs with 17 home runs and 48 walks while playing in 134 games for the second-consecutive season.
Other than Lindsey, the Angels’ system stands out for its promising teenage prospects: left-handed pitchers Hunter Green and Ricardo Sanchez as well as shortstop Jose Rondon.
Both Green, the Angels’ first-overall draft pick in 2013, and the 16-year-old Sanchez carry strong projections as future mid-rotation starters (and possibly more in Sanchez’s case), as they possess considerable upside but will likely need several years of refinement in the minor leagues. Rondon, 19, has the makings of a second-division shortstop at maturity thanks to four average-or-better tools and an advanced feel for the game, and he’s likely to improve his prospect stock next year in his full-season debut.
The Angels have yet to recover from the 2012 trade that sent pitching prospects John Hellweg and Ariel Pena to Milwaukee in exchange for the rental of Zack Grienke. That’s not to say they don’t have a few interesting arms in the system; it's just that a majority of them are either very young or lack an encouraging long-term projection as a starter in the major leagues.
Many of the Angels’ best arms, such as right-hander Mark Sappington and Austin Wood, are likely destined for a career in the bullpen due to inconsistent mechanics and fringy control.