10. RHP Cam Bedrosian – Rising. Bedrosian’s been beyond dominant in the minor this season and has earned his shot in the majors. Now I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but Bedrock is basically a Kevin Jepsen clone. He throws hard, has the offspeed pitches to get outs and the demeanor to close games. Unfortunately, he shares Jepsen’s deficiencies as well, meaning he either misses over the middle of the plate or misses the strike zone altogether, both of which are highly dangerous. What separates Bedrock from Jepsen however is that Cam has grown in this area over the past year, and has a legitimate shot at developing the necessary command to become a dominant major league reliever. Whereas Jepsen has shown over the past few years that he’ll go on stretches of dominance only to fall apart.
9. LHP Hunter Green – Rising. Wait, how can a player who hasn’t pitched yet this season see his tock rise? It’s the off-season promise he’s shown. Green was drafted in the 2nd round and seen as perhaps the most raw pitcher taken in the early draft, but also a pitcher with considerable upside that likely should’ve gone in the firs round. The Angels lucked out when they landed him in the 2nd round. Scouting reports indicated that Green was lanky, physically immature and dominated lesser competition in Kentucky. Over the offseason, Green added a ton of muscle and even grew a beard, which makes him look like much more of a legitimate start pitching prospect and less like a kid than he did just a year ago (beards can be amazing like that). Green’s currently nursing a sore back, but once that’s resolved he’ll head back to the Arizona Summer League to iron out some things.
8. SS Jose Rondon – Rising. The biggest question with Jose Rondon is if he’ll stay at shortstop and if he’ll develop some of the power his frame suggests he could. Jose’s played outstanding shortstop in the Cal League this year at age 20 after completely skipping over A Ball. He’s also batting .333 there, which helps his profile. What’s preventing Rondon from reaching serious consideration in prospect circles though is his inexplicable loss of plate discipline. At every level so far, he’s generally walked as often as he struck out. Now in the Cal League, he’s hardly walking and swinging and missing more, which is expected, but not at the rate he’s done. Rondon also isn’t hitting for any power really. He still has gap power, but at this point he’s beginning to look like a decent young SS prospect rather than an advanced young prospect with superstar potential. Still, hitting .333 in your first taste of full-season ball in a league where you’re 2 years younger than average is nothing to sneeze at.
7. 2B Alex Yarbrough – Rising. Yarbrough was drafted in the 4th round out of Ole Miss and at the time, it seemed like a bit of a reach for the Angels. Yarbrough has big feet, a different throwing motion and questions about his athleticism. Scouts liked his bat, but he didn’t offer enough plate discipline or power to be a big time prospect. Still, upon being drafted the Angels moved him to A Ball immediately and have worked with him on his footwork at 2B as well as his throwing motion. What hasn’t been said is Yarbrough’s work ethic, which is more difficult to quantify. He’s good at taking direction and seems driven to succeed which gives him the oft-quoted but ill-understood “intangibles”. Alex has adjusted well to AA pitching, is hitting .295 in the pitching friendly Texas League and will be the starting 2B in the AA all-star game. Yarbrough offers enough with the bat and glove to be a safe bet to be a solid starting 2B in the majors in a couple years. This also happens to be the only position the Angels have depth in and makes Yarbrough the Angels prime trade asset.
6. RHP Mike Morin – Rising. Morin dominated the minors and since being promoted to the majors early this season has picked up right where he left off. At age 23, he currently sports a 1.48 ERA in the majors and is likely the Angels best reliever, which doesn’t say much at this point. Still, Scioscia prefers not to use him in high-leverage situations and instead continues to turn toward the Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri’s of the world. This results in more losses for the Angels and ire for the Angels manager’s frequent questionable and ill-fated decisions. The fact is, Scioscia has a view of what a closer should be, right-ended, 95+ mph fastball, sharp breaking slider and intense demeanor on the mound. Those are a dime a dozen, and more often than not come with frequent bouts of walking batters and giving up HR’s. Morin’s calm demeanor, low-90’s fastball and video-game like change up don’t fit Scioscia’s mold, and thus his excellent ERA and BB/9 are discounted as traits you see in set up men and not closers. Personally, I think that of the big three (Bedrosian, Alvarez and Morin), Morin will have the longest career and most success while garnering the least recognition because he doesn’t throw 95+.
5. RHP R.J. Alvarez – Rising. Alvarez is still currently rehabbing from the frightening “elbow discomfort” he experienced earlier in the year. Still, before his injury, Alvarez had sufficiently answered all questions about whether or not he was major league ready. His control was precisely where it needed to be. His command was spot on. His 97 mph fastballs found the catcher’s mitt at ridiculous rates. Oh and he hadn’t had a run scored on him across 19 shutout innings with 28 strikeouts. Once Alvarez is healthy again, he’ll likely have a short rehab stint and be promoted to the Angels bullpen, which has been for the 3rd year in a row, the worst in the majors. Alvarez will likely find himself in high-leverage situations almost immediately as he has the exact arsenal that Scioscia looks for in his extremely narrowed view of relief pitching.
4. RHP Mark Sappington – Falling. Sappington is having just about the worst year imaginable. After becoming the Angels top pitching prospect last year, he looked to be the only “sure-thing” as far as pitchers go in the system. Sappington was a starter, and for the time being looked good in that role but also had an opportunity for relief later on if the Angels chose to go that direction. His large, length and muscular frame slung 96 mph fastballs, sharp sliders, looping breaking balls and surprising change ups at batters in the Cal League and Texas League and Sappington experienced nothing but success. Enter 2014, Mark’s been shelled appearance after appearance and it all comes down to his ability to throw strikes. Sappington hasn’t found the plate this year, and owns an unsightly 6.94 ERA and 6.6 BB/9. When all you can throw is a fastball, hitters know what to key on and basically treat it as an intense BP session. Out of the zone or off-speed, leave it alone. Fastball in the zone, let it loose. Eventually, something will have to give. Sappington will either find the command he once had and re-establish himself as the next and nearest Angels starting pitcher, or he’ll go to relief and try to find success there.
3. 1B C.J. Cron – Rising. Again, it was amazing how many fans had no idea what they were talking about when it comes to C.J. Cron. Many fans just saw a dip in his HR’s and automatically assumed he was going to flame out in AA/AAA and never find success in the majors. But there was so much more to it than that. Cron was in the midst of a philosophical adjustment in his approach to hitting last year and then got hurt just as he began to heat up. Still, Cron finished the year strong and was the MVP-runner up in the prospect loaded Arizona Fall League. Instead of trying to go up the middle and use the whole field, Cron has begun to assume his place as a power hitter in the majors. He’s looking for a pitch to drive, more willing to pull the ball and takes bigger hacks than he ever did in the minors. As predicted, he’s now assumed the role of full-time DH for the Angels and is hitting exactly as expected from those who were optimistic about his future. Cron is hitting for both gap power and homerun power in the majors, and currently spots a .286 batting average but subpar .301 OBP. This is what you’ll get Angels fans, decent batting average, lots of doubles, frequent HR’s and a low OBP. His numbers should be comparable to Mark Trumbo, former Angel favorite who was dealt during the winter. 30+ doubles, 30+ HR’s should be expect. Cron should hit for a higher average than Trumbo, but also swat a few less HR’s and have around the same OBP. Angels fans should be happy to know they now have their 1B/DH for the next 6 years that won’t cost 25 million a year.
2. 3B Kaleb Cowart – Falling. Cowart is just now beginning to hit in AA (just in the last two weeks) so understandably, we’re all a little skeptical. This was supposed to be the Angels 3B of the future. Athletic, fast, powerful, switch hitter, patient, great defender, future all-star. Instead they’ve found a prospect with lots of upside, but very raw, unable to capitalize on his considerable talents. If Cowart continues to be unable to make the adjustments to advanced pitching, we may see him transition back to the mound, a position most scouts liked him better as. Cowart had a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball as well as good assortment of breaking pitches. Before you get all excited about his potential as a pitcher, realize that if this did happen, Cowart would be 23 years old, starting from scratch, meaning he’d go to Rookie Ball for another year or two. By age 24 he’d find himself back in A Ball and even then he wouldn’t be a starter because transitioning into a reliever is much easier. By the time he’d mastered everything enough to make it to the majors, Cowart would be in his late 20’s. This just isn’t really an option at this point. Angels fans need to hope Cowart figures it out in AA and stays at 3B rather than go back to pitching.
1. 2B Taylor Lindsey – Steady. On the surface, Lindsey’s numbers in AAA are completely underwhelming and you’d think he’s loosing his shine as a prospect. Reality is, Lindsey is focusing almost solely on his weaknesses as a ball player so that he may find more long term success in the majors, which is exactly what you should be doing in the minors. The .230 batting average in AAA is unfavorable, but Lindsey is now walking as often as he’s striking out and playing better defense at a higher level than he did before when he was considered an acceptable defender at 2B. In Lindsey, the Angels have a future starting 2B that should swat 10 HR’s a year and hit for average but also reach base. He won’t be a super-star, but Lindsey will be awfully steady.
This should make things particularly interesting because now the Angels find themselves with four quality 2B in AA or above. Kendrick is the elder statesmen who continues to get the job done in the majors. Grant Green is the most athletic of the bunch and has the highest upside with the bat, but is also the worst defender and the only one capable of playing different positions, meaning he could be a super utility player rather than 2B. Lindsey himself is the most polished and the most sure-thing but lacks the specific upside. And finally, Yarbrough has the moderate upside and work ethic of Lindsey as well as being a switch hitter, but lacks the plate discipline.