Los Angeles Angels: Top 10 Prospects for 2019

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1. Jo Adell, CF    

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Background: It’s been a long time since the Angels’ farm system was anything more than a bottom feeder. But the club’s astute drafting and player development, as well as some savvy swaps, have the club’s minor league system pointing in an upward manner. Case in point: Adell, a younger outfielder just dripping with five-tool potential. The tenth overall pick in the 2017 draft, Adell immediately looked comfortable squaring off against low level professional pitching, hitting an aggregate .325/.376/.523 with 11 doubles, eight triples, and five homeruns with both of the organization’s rookie affiliate during his debut. Adell, a product of Ballard High School, vaulted his way up through three separate levels of action in 2018. The 6-foot-3, 208-pound center fielder ripped through the Midwest League to begin the year, slugging .326/.398/.611 with 14 extra-base hits in only 25 games. The front office bumped him up to the California League in late May and he hardly missed a beat; in 57 games with Inland Empire he batted .290/.345/.546 with another 34 extra-base hits. Only upon his late-season graduation to Class AA did his bat finally slow. Overall Adell finished the year with an aggregate .290/.355/.543 with 32 doubles, four triples, and 20 homeruns. He also swiped 15 bags in 18 total attempts. According to Weighted Runs Created Plus, his overall production topped the league average mark by 43%.

Analysis: Easily the best prospect to come through the system since some guy named Mike Trout. Adell’s tools are loud and obvious: plus power and a plus hit tool to match with above-average speed.  He’s destined to contribute in every facet of the game. Adell’s lightning quick bat should allow him to turn on inside fastballs with ease, though he’s showing a tendency to get too pull happy. Twelve of his homeruns were hit to left field as opposed to just four going the opposite way. He’s a budding star and should lineup nicely next to that Trout character. With respect to his production, consider the following:

  • Since 2006, here’s a list of 19-year-old hitters to post a wRC+ total between 130 and 140 in the California League (min. 250 PA): Cody Bellinger, Luis Urias, Domingo Santana, Addison Russell, and Jo Adell. And here are their career wRC+ totals in the bigs: 128 (Bellinger), 113 (Santana), and 88 (Russell). Urias briefly made it to the bigs last season.

Ceiling: 5.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2020

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2. Brandon Marsh, OF    

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Background: A fractured back, which was discovered after the Angels selected him in the second round of the 2016 draft, looks like a distant nightmare at this point. Marsh, who was the 60th overall player chosen, wouldn’t make his debut until the 2017 season, ripping through the Pioneer League to the tune of .350/.396/.548 with 13 doubles, five triples, and four homeruns. Last season the rock solid 6-foot-4, 210-pound outfielder battered the Midwest League and looked comfortably prepared against the High Class A pitching. In 127 games Marsh batted a combined .266/.359/.408 with 27 doubles, seven triples, and 10 homeruns. The deceivingly quick slugger also swiped 14 bags in 18 attempts. Per Weighted Runs Created Plus, Marsh’s overall production topped the league average mark by 13%.

Analysis: A gifted athlete, Marsh shows a well-round game, providing value – like Jo Adell – in all facets of the game. Marsh, who’s has quietly thrust himself among the minors’ better outfield prospects, has a bit of a saber-friendly slant. He’s shows an above-average to plus-eye at the plate with solid power potential, though that’s lead to some concerning swing-and-miss rates early in his career. Unlike his outfield counterpart, Jo Adell, Marsh uses the entire field far more efficiently, spraying shots from foul line to foul line. The power’s still largely untapped, though the doubles and triples will eventually turn into homeruns. Given his speed and propensity to find first base via the free pass, Marsh profiles as a top-of-the-lineup caliber talent.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2020/2021

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3. Patrick Sandoval, LHP

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Background: Patrick Corbin, owner a brand new shiny $160 million deal with the Washington Nationals, was never viewed as a top prospect – even in his own organization. And that’s largely because he was lacking a traditional ace-caliber arsenal. Like Patrick Sandoval. No, the Angels’ youngster isn’t going to ascend to Corbin levels, but he remains more than a just a middling arm. Acquired from the Astros for Martin Maldonado last season, Sandoval vaulted through three different levels of action between both organizations, going from Low Class A to High Class A before settling in for a four-game cameo in the Southern League. Taken in the 11th round out of Mission Viejo High School in 2015, Sandoval made 26 appearances last season, 20 of them coming via the start, throwing a career best 122.1 innings with a whopping 145 strikeouts against just 29 walks. He finished the year with an aggregate 2.06 ERA.

Analysis: Full disclosure: I’m the biggest Patrick Sandoval fan – maybe on earth, sans his parents. The crafty lefty shows four solid or better pitches that play up thanks to his command of the strike zone. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound southpaw’s fastball tops out in low 90s. He complements the average offering with a strong curveball, one of the better changeups in the minor leagues, and a solid-average slider. But here’s the kicker:

  • There were 510 minor league pitchers – including the Mexican League – to surpass 100 innings last season; Sandoval’s swing-and-miss percentage, 16.2%, tied for the fourth best mark.

Sandoval, despite the lack of a blistering fastball, has the potential to develop into a solid, mid-rotation caliber arm. One more thought: Sandoval’s fastball, changeup, and slider all tunnel exceptionally well.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2019/2020

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4. Luis Rengifo, 2B/SS    

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Background: Passed around quite a bit throughout his brief professional career. Rengifo was originally signed by the Mariners and flipped to the Rays a year after his debut. The switch-hitting, slashing middle-infielder’s stay with Tampa Bay lasted less than a year before he was dealt to the Halos as the player to be named later in the C.J. Cron swap. Despite all the organizational swapping, Rengifo’s hop, skipped, and jumped his way up from Low Class A to the Pacific Coast League in less than two seasons. Last year the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Venezuela native made stops at three different levels, hitting an aggregate .299/.399/.452 with 30 doubles, 13 triples, and seven homeruns. Rengifo also swiped a career best 41 bags in 57 total attempts. According to Weighted Runs Created Plus, his overall production topped the league average mark by 34%.

Analysis: A bat first middle infielder with a slightly subpar glove. It would be easy – and unfairly so – to slap the future utility man tag on Rengifo. But there’s a strong offensive foundation set in place. The underrated infielder’s power surge from 2017 carried over and all the way to the PCL last season. And he combined that with above-average or better eye at the plate. His hit tool – already an average tool – grades out a tick or two better. With respect to his production in the PCL last season, consider the following:

  • Since 2006, here’s the list of 21-year-old hitters to post a wRC+ mark between 100 to 110 in the Pacific Coast League (min. 200 PA): Javier Baez, Ketel Marte, Corey Seager, Felix Pie, Anthony Gose, Manuel Margot, Franklin Barreto, and – of course – Renginfo.
  • But here’s the impressive part: only four hitters – Marte, Seager, Margot, and Rengifo – posted sub-20% strikeout rates. And here are their big league wRC+ totals (sans Rengifo): 92 (Marte), 133 (Seager), and 85 (Margot).

There might be some poor man’s Jose Ramirez’s type potential here.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2019

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5. Jose Suarez, LHP

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Background: Coming off of an impressive – albeit limited – campaign in the Midwest League, nobody could have predicted the rapid ascension awaiting Suarez heading into the year. The slight-framed southpaw opened the year up by fanning an absurd 18 hitters in nine innings with Inland Empire; he then posted a ridiculous 51-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in only 29.2 innings with Mobile. And he topped it off with 73 strikeouts against just 35 walks in 78.1 innings of work in the Pacific Coast League. Overall, the Venezuela-born left-hander finished his fourth professional season with a whopping 142 strikeouts and just 44 walks in career best 117.0 innings of work. He tallied an aggregate 3.92 ERA.

Analysis: I was pretty high on the little lefty heading into 2018, but I would have never guessed this was the type of season he was capable of putting together. Here’s what I wrote about Suarez when I ranked him as the Angels’ sixth best prospect in last season’s Handbook:

“Well, his future is far from certain one year later, but he’s quickly closing in on becoming something – as opposed to being nothing at all. In fact, consider the following:

But here’s another little tidbit: seven of those aforementioned pitchers – Kershaw, Duffy, Miller, McGee, Urias, Collins, and Smith – all achieved the feat before 2013. Five of those seven went on to become impact big league arms. A sixth, Urias, was one of the top arms in the minors over the last couple decades. And Smith, unfortunately, never panned out – in large part due to injuries. Again, Suarez doesn’t have the track record – OR SIZE – that his potential counterparts did during the same point in their respective careers. But…it’s some pretty impressive company the little lefty’s been keeping.”

Well, Suarez’s track record of success is growing – by leaps and bounds. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound left-hander has an average fastball, but his two promising secondary pitches – to go along with his impressive ability to locate/command the strike zone. Suarez’s curveball doesn’t “hump” up out of his hand, allowing it tunnel better with his other offerings. It’s more a true slurve, rather than a traditional curveball. His changeup, a plus pitch, seemingly stops halfway to home before restarting again. Despite lacking a classic pitcher’s frame, Suarez looks like a nice little backend option in the rotation. Consider the following:

  • Since 2006, only six 20-year-old pitchers have thrown at least 50 innings in the Pacific Coast League: Madison Bumgarner, Taijuan Walker, Tyler Skaggs, Jordan Lyles, Will Smith, and Jose Suarez. Suarez’s strikeout percentage, 21.4%, trails only Walker and Skaggs, although his walk percentage ranks last among the group.

Bumgarner, Walker, and Skaggs have been above-average or better big league arms; Smith is a dominant, underrated reliever; and Lyle was a decent #5 start before transitioning into a solid reliever.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2019

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6. Jordyn Adams, CF    

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Background: A two-sport star at Blythewood High School in Blythewood, South Carolina, Adams excelled on the gridiron as a wide receiver, hauling in 54 receptions for 1,060 yards and 16 touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound athlete, who was rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals.com for his work on the football field, committed to play both sports at the University of North Carolina. Then the Angels came calling with the 17th overall pick last June and signed him to an above-slot recommendation deal worth $4.1 million. Adams split his debut between both of the organization’s rookie league affiliates, hitting an aggregate .267/.361/.381 with six doubles and three triples with five stolen bases in eight attempts. His production, per Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 8%.

Analysis: Another gifted athlete patrolling the outfield pastures of the Angels’ farm system. Adams’ main calling card is his plus speed, which should lead to a bevy of stolen bases and defensive value. Adams may not hit for a ton of extra-base firepower, but he profiles as another top-of-the-lineup table setter.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2022

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7. D’Shawn Knowles, OF    

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Background: Signed out New Providence, Bahamas for $850,000 two years ago. Knowles, a 6-foot, 165-pound slashing outfielder, began his professional career with a flourish last season going 6-for-12 over his first four contests in the Arizona Summer League. And after a 0-for-4 contest in his fifth game he promptly went seven for his next 17. Knowles’ stay in the lowest stateside rookie league lasted all of six weeks before the front office pushed the teenage outfielder up to the Pioneer League in early August. Knowles – for his part – didn’t slow one iota, either, hitting .321/.398/.550 with Orem. Overall, he finished the year with an aggregate .311/.391/.464 triple-slash line, belting out 13 doubles, three triples, and five homeruns in 58 games. His production, as measured by Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by a whopping 30%.

Analysis: Already looking like quite the bargain a year into his career, Knowles, who received the second highest bonus handed out by the club on the international market, offers more power as a left-handed hitter, slugging 16 of his 21 extra-base hits (including all five dingers) against right-handed pitching. The then-17-year-old showed a well-rounded approach at the plate featuring an above-average eye, hit tool, and speed to go along with the surprising pop. Defensively, he shifted between all three positions during his debut, but shows the chops to stay in center field long term. After his strong showing in 2018, Knowles is very likely going to spend a significant amount of time in Low Class A as an 18-year-old in 2019. He’s poised to shoot up a lot of prospect lists by the end of the year.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2022

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8. Griffin Canning, RHP

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Background: Always a bit underrated despite his track record at one of college baseball’s premier programs. Canning, the Angels’ second round pick two years ago, left UCLA with an impressive resume, including a stellar 301-to-59 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 291.1 innings. The savvy right-hander wouldn’t make his debut until last season. And he finished the year knocking – loudly – on the Angels’ big league door. In a combined 25 starts between High Class A, Class AA, and Class AAA, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound righty tossed 113.1 innings of work, recording 125 strikeouts against just 44 walks to go along with a solid 3.65 ERA and a 3.63 FIP.

Analysis: Here’s what I wrote about the former Bruin heading into the draft two years ago:

Consider the following career comparisons between Canning and some ex-Bruins pitchers:

Player IP ERA K/9 B/9
Griffin Canning 275.1 3.11 9.33 1.80
Gerrit Cole 322.1 3.38 10.51 3.19
Trevor Bauer 373.1 2.36 11.10 2.51
James Kaprielian 253.1 2.06 9.78 3.27

Canning’s numbers don’t come close to the dominance of Cole and Bauer, who were drafted with the first and third overall picks in the 2011 draft. But his peripherals are significantly better than Kaprielian, who was the Yankees top pick, 16th overall, in the 2015 draft. But let’s take it a step further. Compare the aforementioned hurlers’ final season at the school:

Player IP ERA K/9 B/9
Griffin Canning 102.1 2.55 10.91 2.46
Gerrit Cole 114.1 3.31 9.37 1.89
Trevor Bauer 136.2 1.25 13.37 2.37
James Kaprielian 106.2 2.02 9.62 2.78

Again, we see Canning’s numbers compare favorably to all three previous early first round picks. His strikeout rate ranks second and his walk rate third among the group. So, let’s take it one more step further. Consider the following:

Canning, of course, would be the 16th of the group if the season ended at the time of this writing. The current Bruin ace misses an impressive amount of bats, limits walks (though it’s been trending in the wrong direction in each of the past two seasons), and he has a lengthy history of success at a top school. Judging by history, he’s likely to find his way into the Top 15 or so picks come June. Canning has the potential to develop into a #2-type pitcher – if everything goes well. At worst, he looks like a nice, safe mid-rotation caliber arm.”  

Canning showed a solid four-pitch mix during his debut last season: an average fastball that he generally spots well; an above-average slider though it acts more like a cutter; a straight changeup and a decent 12-6 overhand curveball. Within a year’s time, Griffin’s proving to be big league-ready, though his ceiling is closer to a #4-type arm now. The control, by the way, wasn’t as sharp as it was in college so it could see an uptick during his sophomore professional season.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2019

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9. Jahmai Jones, 2B/CF    

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Background: A traditional speedy, slashing center fielder through his first three professional campaigns, the Angels’ front office shifted the former second round pick to the keystone for the first time last year. And the defensive results were…as expected. Jones, who measures in at 6-foot and 215 pounds, split last season between High Class A and Class AA. In 127 contests the Georgia native batted an aggregate .239/.337/.380 with 20 doubles, nine triples, 10 homeruns, and 24 stolen bases. His overall production, as measured by Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 1%.

Analysis: Predictably so, Jones’ defensive struggles – as well as learning a brand new position – seemingly carried over into his work at the plate. But it’s far from doom-and-gloom. As well as his new spot on the diamond, Jones is employing a new, more saber-friendly approach at the dish; he’s walking more frequently than he has in the past, going from a fringy-average walk rate to borderline elite. Expect a bounce back offensive campaign in 2018 as Jones gets more comfortable in the field. Plus speed with the ability to fill up a stat sheet. One more thing to remember: thanks to a late birthday he’s only entering his age-21 season.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2020

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10. Luis Madero, RHP

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Background: One of the more savvy pickups in an increasingly long list by the Angels’ stout Jerry Dipoto-less front office. The Halos sent veteran reliever David Hernandez to Arizona for Madero at the deadline two years ago. Madero, a lean 6-foot-3, 175-pound right-hander out of Maracay, Venezuela, split last season between Burlington and Inland Empire, throwing a career best 105.2 innings, recording an impressive 95-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He finished the year with an aggregate 3.49 ERA and a 3.66 FIP. For his career, the young righty is averaging 8.0 strikeouts and just 2.8 walks per nine innings with a 4.21 ERA.

Analysis: Love him along the same lines as my adoration for Patrick Sandoval. Madero a sneaky good right-hander with an impressive three-pitch arsenal – all of which grade out as above-average or better. Madero’s fastball consistently sits in the low 90s with a little zip down in the zone. His change, another above-average pitch, has tremendous sink and fade. But it’s his slider, the new “it” pitch at the big league level, is what separates him from an up-and-down arm to a potential #4-caliber starter. The slider shows hard, sharp, late bite that has generated a lot of awkward swings in High Class A last season. At the very least, he’s capable of developing into a Sergio Romo-slider-based relief arm.

Ceiling: 2.25- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2021

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Statistics provided by FanGraphs, BaseballReference, BaseballProspectus, ClayDavenport, and TheBaseballCube.

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