The Los Angeles Angels are a team that depends heavily on its minor league system. While they failed to make the post season in 2011, could any Angel fan imagine where the team would have been without Mark Trumbo's 29 home runs, Peter Bourjos' highlight reel catches or Jordan Walden's triple-digit heat? These are 10 minor league prospects that you may not necessarily know about yet, but need to know about in the future.
Mike Trout made an impact in 2011, which prospect will be next?
Angels future starting center/dutch translator/relief pitcher
Acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Twins a year ago, Loek Van Mil has done nothing but impress since arriving in Arkansas with the Angels Double-A affiliate. At 7'1", he's the tallest player in the history of baseball. While most lanky relievers struggle with mechanics and whip the ball upwards of 100 mph, Van Mil sits in the low 90's and gets hitters out with pin point control and a severe downward angle on his fastball.
For the season, Van Mil threw 66 innings with 23 BB, 43 Ks and 2.04 ERA. If those numbers don't intimidate hitters, perhaps his full name will. Ludovicus Jacobus Maria Van Mil. Scary.
For some reason, the Angels have deemed it unnecessary to protect Robert Fish from the Rule 5 draft by adding him to the 40-man roster. Fish was scooped up by the Royals and Yankees before being returned back to the Angels because they couldn't keep him on their active roster. This says less about how prepared Fish is for the major leagues and more about other teams and scouts going gaga over his potential.
Fish is a left-handed pitcher whose fastball routinely tops 100 mph. He's the closest thing there is to Aroldis Chapman in minor league baseball. Fish will eventually be an unstoppable force at the back end of a bullpen, hopefully that bullpen will be the Angels bullpen. For the season, Fish tossed 33 innings with 18 BB 44 Ks and a 2.97 ERA in Double-A Arkansas.
Carlos Ramirez: the catcher so nice, the Angels drafted him twice! Literally. Ramirez impressed scouts from the Angels enough to be grabbed in the 34th round of the 2007 draft coming straight out of high school. He chose not to sign and play baseball for Arizona State University, but the Angels never forgot about him. They grabbed him again in the eighth round in 2009 after his sophomore season with the Sun Devils and offered him enough money to sign.
Carlos spent most of the year playing for the Angels Advanced-A ball affiliate in San Bernardino and put up impressive numbers. 52 games, .348/.403, 24 doubles and four home runs all while playing impressive defense and managing one of the top pitching staffs in the minors. Ramirez projects to be an above-average defensive catcher with serious offensive upside and should be ready to contribute with the Angels in two years.
Another ASU product, Kole Calhoun impressed in his first season of professional baseball. After being grabbed in the eighth round of the 2010 draft, the Angels felt Calhoun's approach to the game was advanced enough to skip an entire level of minor league baseball. He rewarded their confidence with a spectacular season for Inland Empire. 133 games, .324/.410, 36 doubles, 22 home runs, 20 stolen bases and nearly as many walks as strikeouts.
Calhoun even caught the attention of minor league guru John Sickels and was made one of the Top Five Moneyball Style Prospects for 2012. Although scouts aren't in love with his skill set, Calhoun produced across the board and at worst projects to be a solid left handed outfielder that comes off the bench and contributes in any way needed.
His ERA wasn't sparkling and he walked too many batters, but Ariel Pena has that "thing" that scouts love, and by "thing" I mean mid-90's heater and devastating wipe-out slider. Pena has the sort of stuff that will either make him an ace or a closer. Either way the Angels win. He's still two or three years away, but when Pena arrives, it will be in a big way. His numbers for the season: 155 IP, 183 Ks, 85 BB, 4.39 ERA.
Angels right-hander David Carpenter did not allow a run in 19 consecutive appearances with Double-A Arkansas Travelers this year. That's right, his ERA for the year in Double-A was 0.00. His total ERA on the year was a microscopic 0.93. Carpenter possesses a low-90's fastball with sinking and tailing movement and a good slider. He generates tons of ground balls and has a knack for buckling down when the pressure is on.
The Angels were impressed enough with Carpenter's body of work that they are sending him to the Arizona Fall League, where the game's top young prospects that are knocking on the major's door are sent to hone their skills. Just to give you an idea of the company he will be keeping, he'll be playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions, who will have Mike Trout roaming center field and Bryce Harper doing his thing in right. If Carpenter can continue to impress in the fall and inevitably earn an invite to big league camp in spring training next year, he may end up in the Angels bullpen to begin 2012.
If Loek Van Mil plays center for the Angels professional basketball team, then John Hellweg would be their power forward. Standing at 6'9" tall, Hellweg towers over even Jered Weaver....and his pitching statistics aren't bad either! Hellweg began the year as a reliever whose stuff was always good but had inconsistent mechanics and couldn't hit his spots. For some reason minor league coaches came up with the brilliant idea of turning a troubled reliever into a starting pitcher.
Hellweg responded with 63 IP, 80 Ks and a 2.12 ERA. His walks came under control and he started spotting his 98 mph fastball wherever he needed. Hellweg has a hard slider that he can throw for a strike and a change up that has a completely different look than his fastball and hard slider. As long as he keeps dominating, Hellweg's days a reliever may be over. Expect him to push for a spot with the Angels in two or three years.
Bourjos, Moore and Aybar. The only one missing is Mike Trout and that Angels have their 4x100 relay team
Some fans may recognize Jeremy Moore as that blur that rounded the bases in a pinch running role late in September for the Angels, but scouts and minor league enthusiasts know Moore as that heartthrob of a prospect that makes their ticker skip a beat even though they know he's only going to destroy their world. Too much? Yeah maybe, but Moore's skill set brings about such reactions. There aren't many ball players outside of Mike Trout and Matt Kemp that possess Moore's ability to hit the long ball, run the bases and cover the outfield. That being said, Moore may not end up being a superstar; he may not even be a starter.
He's fast, but his jumps could use some work and the routes he takes are poor, so he can't cover the same amount of ground that Trout or Bourjos can. He also can't read a pitcher as well either, which means that despite his blazing speed, he may not steal many bases. He can hit for average, but has no plate discipline and strikes out way too much. He's as confusing of a prospect as there is, so try not to fall in love with his tools, because with any prospect, there's a chance he's only going to break your heart. He could erupt and turn into a superstar or he could simply be a gifted fourth outfielder. His numbers in Triple-A: .298/.331, 24 doubles, 18 triples, 15 home runs and 21 stolen bases.
Taylor Lindsey wasn't supposed to be this good, he wasn't supposed to be the Most Valuable Player in the Pioneer League. He was drafted behind more heralded prospects like Kaleb Cowart and Chevez Clarke, was a middle infielder lacking eye popping talent, was only seriously scouted by one major league team and would be playing against competition a few years older than he is (19).
Despite all of that, Taylor Lindsey dominated Pioneer League Baseball and so called "experts" are just beginning to take notice. Lindsey is a solid defensive second baseman with considerable offensive potential. He's still four or five years away, but in the next couple of years you will hear his name mentioned more than once. His season stats in Orem: .362/.394, 28 doubles, six triples, nine home runs, 10 stolen bases in 63 games.
Much has been made about the Angels need for offense at third base. It just so happens, Los Angeles has an athletic, power hitting defensive wizard at third base that could be knocking on the Major League door as soon as next spring. Jimenez is affectionately referred to as Lucho by his fellow teammates and is regarded as a charismatic clubhouse leader. On the field, Jimenez plays all-out every play. He represented the World Team at third base during last year's Future's Game when Mike Trout opened eyes and Hank Conger won the MVP award in front of the home crowd.
While he lacks discipline, Jimenez has terrific hand-eye coordination and rarely every strikes out. He's constantly putting the ball in play and doing so with authority. His final line in Double-A Arkansas: 120 games, .290/.335, 40 doubles, 18 home runs and 15 stolen bases. Keep in mind, this was done in the most extreme pitcher's league in the minors. If Jimenez is forced to play in Triple-A Salt Lake next year, which happens to be the most hitter friendly environment in the minors, he may end up setting some records. Jimenez projects to be a solid prototypical third baseman capable of hitting 30+ doubles and 20+ home runs with fantastic defense at the major league level.
For those who know me, I have an extensive background covering minor league baseball and this time of year is one of the most exciting for minor league enthusiasts such as myself. I will be working in conjunction with other Angel experts and producing the most comprehensive Top Prospect list in baseball. Analysis, grades, performance evaluation, images, video and podcasts. For more information, contact me on twitter: ScottyAllenLAAI