Los Angeles Angels' Best Prospect at Every Position
As August trails on and September approaches from afar, roster expansion is around the corner for the stretch run of the 2015 MLB season. Teams in contention for playoff spots, such as the second-place Los Angeles Angels, may need to call upon their top prospects to give the big club a jolt in the fall.
Even though Los Angeles doesn't have a very strong farm system at the moment, there are still pieces here that make for intriguing additions and have strong promise for the future.
While a list of a team's top overall prospects gives a snapshot of the talent in place, it also can ignore the breadth of players available. Thus, here is a list of the Angels' best prospect at each position.
Taylor Ward is the Angels' newest draft pick, having been selected 26th overall in the 2015 amateur draft. He was considered a bit of a reach at the time of his drafting, but there is no denying he is the organization's best catching prospect. Because of the weakness of the team's system as a whole, it could be argued that Ward is even the best non-pitching prospect on the farm.
Ward is thought of as a defense-first backstop with a good throwing arm. His bat was supposed to be the thing that relegated him to permanent backup status. Thus far in his minor league career, though, Ward is hitting quite well.
In 35 games between rookie ball and A-ball, he is hitting a crisp .355. His eye at the plate has also been stellar to this point, leading to a sky-high on-base percentage and just nine career strikeouts.
Things are bad enough in the Angels' farm system without focusing on the shortcomings of one specific position. However, the situation at first base in bleak, and that's being kind.
No first-base prospect even sniffs the top 30 of the organization. The position is in good hands at the major league level for the time being with Albert Pujols, but Pujols is getting up there in age and miles. C.J. Cron was considered a good first baseman for the future, but now it seems likely that he will stay at designated hitter for the foreseeable future. That leaves little else.
While Eric Aguilera is nothing to write home about, he has some quality skills to his game that make him the best first baseman in the LA system.
Aguilera is a lefty masher with good speed for his position, thanks to his previous transition from the outfield. He stole 17 bases in 2014 and already has 13 steals in 2015. He has also been hitting exceptionally well this year, to the tune of a .329/.397/.525 slash line.
The former 34th-round draft pick has yet to play above High-A ball, but who knows where his game will be in another few years.
A la the positions before him, Alex Yarbrough has to be considered the best Angels prospect at his position almost by default. The choices are limited. Yarbrough was a fourth-round pick in 2012 and has been in Triple-A for a while now. It was expected that he could help the big league club sooner rather than later, but he has struggled at the plate this season.
In more than 400 at-bats, Yarbrough is batting under .240 with 111 strikeouts and just 18 walks. He has also shown barely any power, an alarming trend for such a swing-happy hitter.
Kyle Kubitza has made it to the big club a couple of times this season. He has just 35 major league at-bats, though, which is well under the rookie threshold. The call-ups were because of injury-replacement needs, but Kubitza has some translatable skills as well.
He is a passable defender at the hot corner. He has good power when he makes solid contact, and he possesses a great batting eye. Kubitza has drawn at least 70 walks each of the past three full seasons, 2012-2014.
Unfortunately, he strikes out way too much, and many of his hits land as doubles rather than home runs. There is no great joy in a three-true-outcomes hitter who can't hit home runs.
After an early season trip to the disabled list, Roberto Baldoquin is back playing in his first professional season since coming over to the States from Cuba. Although he doesn't possess any great individual skill, he can develop into a player skilled at many facets of the game.
He is a good defender with the ability to play multiple positions in a pinch. He also seems to be getting the hang of this whole hitting thing. Before being sidelined, Baldoquin's average rested in the mid-100s. Since his return in late June, his average has crept up from .130 to .233, where it currently stands.
There are, of course, plenty more steps for this young man to take. He doesn't have home run power, nor does he have much plate discipline quite yet. But again, he's played just 52 career games in the United States.
The Angels grabbed outfielder Jahmai Jones in the second round of the 2015 draft. His speed and athleticism immediately propelled him to the top spot in terms of outfield prospects.
Early results out of rookie ball are promising. Jones has stolen 12 bags in 15 attempts. He has a solid 22-12 strikeout-to-walk rate and is getting the hang of everything else. There isn't power in Jones' future, and he might not even be an outfielder when all is said and done, but he does display defensive promise. If he gets on base enough, the kid will stick around.
Really the only thing Los Angeles has in stock in the minor leagues is starting pitching. According to MLB.com, the organization's top five prospects are all starting pitchers. Of that bunch, Sean Newcomb is the best.
Newcomb was the team's first selection in 2014, taken 15th overall. The lefty is an imposing 6'5" on the mound with strikeout stuff. He has 138 punch-outs in 111 innings in 2015. Just recently promoted to Double-A, Newcomb is hurling his best stuff at the highest level he's ever pitched. In two starts, he has allowed two total runs and has a .132 batting average against.
Although he may still be another full year away from Triple-A and then the majors, Newcomb has ace potential.
Relief pitcher is a tricky animal at the minor league level. Very few players are slotted in as relievers from the get-go. Instead, a prospect usually becomes a reliever upon failing at being a starter.
Anyone with enough plus-pitches to get batters out multiple times through an order will be lined up to start. Anyone without such qualities will be relegated to the pen.
Trevor Gott could be or would be the answer here as the franchise's best relief prospect, but he has already pitched in 23 games in the majors this season. Although that still qualifies him for rookie status, or prospect status in this instance, it still feels like cheating.
The better choice is either Jake Jewell or Greg Mahle. The former is one of those failed starters, although he's been given another chance at starting recently this summer. The latter, Mahle, has been a relief pitcher from the beginning of his pro career, which is part of the reason he originally dropped to the 15th round in the 2014 amateur draft.
It doesn't look like the Angels currently have any shutdown closers in this crop, but Gott has looked really good in his time up even if he isn't missing bats.