2013 Los Angeles Angels Top Prospects


System Overview: Easily the worst system in baseball. After dealing away several midlevel prospects the previous couple of years – Donn Roach, John Hellweg, Jean Segura, and Patrick Corbin among others — as well as top prospect Tyler Skaggs, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard is all but barren now.

There are maybe five legitimate big leaguers in the group, one of which, Nick Maronde, already made his debut. And outside of third baseman Kaleb Cowart there’s likely not a single above-average regular. Maybe C.J. Cron, but he walks about as often as I do on hot coals.


#1. Kaleb Cowart, Age: 21, Position: 3B

Easily the top prospect in a weak system, Cowart, a switch hitting third baseman, split his year between A-ball and High-A, hitting a combined .276/.358/.452 with 31 doubles, seven triples, 16 homeruns, and 14 stolen bases (in 21 attempts). According to Weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+, his total production was 12% better than the league average.

Projection: Cowart, the 18th overall pick in the 2010 draft, already shows solid-average in-game power, which should develop into 25+ dingers down the road; a strong eye at the plate, and no discernible platoon splits. He’s likely headed to Double-A to start the season and could very well displace incumbent Alberto Callaspo within two years. Cowart profiles as an above-average regular, capable of hitting .270/.340/.480 with 25 homeruns and a handful of stolen bases.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

#2. Nick Maronde, Age: 23, Position: LHP

After throwing 46.1 innings following his selection in the third round of the 2011 draft, Maronde spent time at three minor league levels last season before making his MLB debut in September. In total, he made 20 appearances in the Angels’ system (18 starts), throwing 99.2 innings while averaging 10.1 K/9 and just 2.2 BB/9. His Skill Independent ERA, SIERA, was 3.22 (according to MinorLeagueCentral.com).

Projection: Used as a fulltime reliever during his final two seasons at Florida, Maronde handled the transition back to the rotation fairly well last year, though his K-rate dropped precipitously during his time in Double-A (9.1 K/9 to 5.85 K/9). The 6-foot-3 lefty isn’t going to develop into a frontline starter, but he should settle in near the middle of a rotation. Worst case scenario: he ends up back in the pen.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

#3. C.J. Cron, Age: 23, Position: 1B

The 6-foot-4 right-handed masher posted some impressive numbers in High-A last season, hitting .293/.327/.516 with 32 doubles, two triples, and 27 homeruns, third highest total in the California League. His total offensive production, however, was just 13% better than the league average.

Projection: While Cron, the 17th overall pick in the 2011 draft, played half of his games in a ballpark that tends to depress numbers, his abhorrence to the walk is almost guaranteed to limit his ceiling. Last year he walked in just 3.1% of his plate appearances, almost a third of the league’s average rate. Add in the fact that it was in an age-appropriate level and he’s a polished collegiate player, and all of a sudden his status looks a lot murkier. His power will get him to the big leagues, but he’s not likely to be anything more than a league average regular, maybe a tick better.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

#4. Eduar Lopez, Age: 18, Position: RHP

Lopez dominated the Dominican Summer League competition as 17-year-old last season, averaging 14 punch outs and 3.9 walks per nine innings. His SIERA was a dazzling 2.06.

Projection: Per the usual, any long term projections for recent draft picks or international signings will withheld until the following season. And, typically, someone like Lopez was rank lower on the list. But given the current state of the Angels’ system, he’s one to watch in the coming years.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A


#5. Kole Calhoun, Age: 25, Position: 1B/OF

Despite being drafted in the middle rounds just three years ago, Calhoun quickly ascended through the minor league ranks, playing 56 games in rookie ball in 2010, a full season in High-A the following year, and jumping straight to Triple-A last season.

In 105 games with Salt Lake, the former eighth round pick out of Arizona State University hit .298/.369/.507 with 51 total extra-base knocks. His total production was 25% better than the PCL average. He also received 25 big league plate appearances too.

Projection: Despite bypassing Double-A, a lot of Calhoun’s skills translated well to the more advanced level of competition. He showed above-average in-game power, which resulted in 30 doubles; a strong eye at the plate (9.5% BB-rate), good base running instincts, and he handled fellow left-handers well enough (.282/.347/.455). On any other team, Calhoun would have a shot for some regular action this season, but the Angels already have plenty of OF depth. He’s a fringe regular, capable of hitting .260/.340/.420 with double-digit homerun potential. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him moved at the deadline for a bullpen arm or so, either.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

#6. Randall Grichuk, Age: 21, Position: OF

A first rounder — 24th overall — all the way back in 2009, Grichuk put together his finest professional season to date. In 135 games with the 66ers (High-A), the young outfielder hit .298/.335/.488 with 30 doubles, nine triples, 18 homeruns, and 16 stolen bases. Like fellow 66er C.J. Cron, Grichuk’s total offensive contributions were just slightly better than the league average, at just 9%.

Projection: He flashed some solid offensive skills last season: above-average power, some foot speed, and a decent ability to handle both left- and right-handers. And, again, like Cron, Grichuk’s poor walk rate will ultimately cap his ceiling as well, though he still has plenty of time to figure it out. He looks like a fringe everyday player/above-average backup outfielder right now.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

#7. Taylor Lindsey, Age: 21, Position: 2B

Along the same lines with some of the other younger prospects in the organization, the Angels have placed Lindsey on the developmental fast track, sending the then 20-year-old to High-A last season. And the results were a little bit mixed.

After dominating the Pioneer League in 2011 (.362/.394/.593), the former first round pick hit .289/.328/.408 with the 66ers last season. His total production was 9% below the league average.

Projection: Certainly young for the level, Lindsey did take some developmental baby steps forward last season, showing a modest increase in patience (4.2% to 4.9%) while seeing a decline in his K-rate (15.0% to 11.2%). The problem, however, is his power nearly evaporated and fellow southpaws ate him alive (.234/.290/.289). He’s likely headed back to High-A next year. But he’s not unlike a lot of prospects in the system; he’s a bit of ‘tweener right now.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate


#8. R.J. Alvarez, Age: 22, Position: RHP

After two lackluster years in Florida Atlantic’s rotation, Alvarez put together his finest collegiate season in 2012, averaging 11.23 K/9 and just 2.39 BB/9 as the team’s primary closer. The Angels nabbed him in the third round of the draft. He made 23 appearances in the Midwest League (27.1 IP), with 38 punch outs and 11 free passes.

Projection: Alvarez, who’s likely headed to High-A to begin the year, could move quickly through the system. He could be a useful backend option in the pen in the coming years, though you have to wonder if the team will maybe transition him back to the rotation at some point.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

#9. Zachary Borenstein, Age: 22, Position: 3B/OF

A nice little find late in the draft out of Eastern Illinois two years ago, Borenstein hit .266/.339/.485 in A-ball last season, showing some impressive power (.218 ISO), a decent eye at the plate (8.6% BB-rate), strong contact rates (18.3% K-rate), and a little bit of speed.

Projection: Borenstein doesn’t profile as a regular everyday player, but there’s some value in his bat, be it as a Quad-A player or useful piece off the bench. Although it’s a small sample size at this point — just 104 PA — he’s really struggled against LHs (.228/.317/.424).

Ceiling: 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average


#10. Alex Yarbrough, Age: 21, Position: 2B

A fourth rounder out of Ole Miss last year, Yarbrough bypassed both rookie levels and Low-A, and headed straight to the Midwest League to begin his professional career. In 58 games with Cedar Rapids, the switch-hitting second baseman hit .287/.320/.410.

Projection: It’s not a bad showing for a collegiate player nabbed in the fourth round, but Yarbrough looks like an organizational soldier — or org — at this point. He barely walked (3.9% BB-rate), showed a little bit of power (.123 ISO), and some speed (nine swipes in 11 attempts).

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A


#11. Luis Jimenez, Age: 25, Position: 3B

Jimenez turned in another solid showing in 2012, hitting .309/.334/.495 with 38 doubles, a pair of triples, and 16 homeruns in Salt Lake. His total production was 9% better than the league average.

Projection: The absolute definition of replacement level, Jimenez shows some pop and has a little bit of a base stealing acumen. But his upside is severely limited by poor walk rates.

Ceiling: Replacement Level to 0.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average to Inevitable


#12. Stephen Geltz, Age: 25, Position: RHP

Geltz has always shown a strong ability to miss bats; he’s averaged 12.1 K/9 throughout his career and nearly a punch out per inning in Triple-A last season. But his control/command is spotty at best.

Projection: The pitcher version of Luis Jimenez, the definition of replacement level. But, hey, teams keep 12-man staffs now.

Ceiling: Replacement Level to 0.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average to Inevitable


#13. Ryan Crowley, Age: 22, Position: LHP

On the outside Crowley’s 2012 appears to be a tale of two seasons, really. After showing some ability as a 21-year-old in A-ball (73.1 IP, 6.8 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, and 3.80 ERA), his production nosedived upon his promotion to Inland Empire.

In 14 games with the 66ers (62.2 innings), his ERA ballooned to 7.76 and he saw a noticeable uptick in his walk rate as well, to 3.7 BB/9. Though, to be fair, his K-rate jumped a full punch out too. However, his SIERA was more than three full runs better (4.43).

Projection: In a lot of systems, Crowley fails to crack an organization’s top prospect list. But he does handle lefties pretty well. So maybe there’s hope he develops into a useful LOOGY.

Ceiling: Replacement Level to 0.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate


#14. A.J. Schugel, Age: 24, Position: RHP

Outside of a pretty ERA last season in Double-A, 2.98, Schugel’s other numbers failed to impress. In 140.1 innings, the 6-foot-1 right-hander struck out 109 (7.0 K/9), walked 55 (3.5 BB/9), and generated a below-average amount of worm-burners (36.5% GB-rate).

Projection: Maybe he develops into useful middle reliever, but how many other prospects through baseball can tout the same thing?

Ceiling: Replacement Level to 0.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate


#15. Michael Clevinger, Age: 22, Position: RHP

Basically getting down to the nitty-gritty here, Clevinger was nabbed in the fourth round two years ago. He lost a lot of the year to arm woes, but managed to miss a few bats (7.46 K/9) and limit the free passes (2.85 BB/9).

Projection: Really, there’s nothing to go on. Who the hell knows what he can develop into at this point?

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A


#16. Travis Witherspoon, Age: 24, Position: CF

I probably should’ve stopped somewhere around the 10th or 11th spot. But 16’s my favorite number. And, clearly, people are interested in the 16th best prospect in the worst system on the planet.

Witherspoon hit a combined .268/.350/.418 split between High-A and Double-A, though he basically stopped showing up at the latter level (.202/.286/.351).

Projection: Well, he runs well. And he had 12 assists from center field last season. So, there’s that.

Ceiling: Replacement Level

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average to Inevitable


Photo of Kaleb Cowart Courtesy of Orem Owlz via MiLB.com



After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.