Keeping up with the minor leagues can be a daunting task for any fan. In truth, there are a lot of talented players but few that will ever be major leaguers and even fewer who will be productive major leaguers. As you’ve no doubt been told, the Angels minor league system ranks among the worst in baseball. I disagree with this assessment, but I’m also a homer. I think this evaluation fails to take into account team needs and depth-building philosophy. The Angels had a run of talented high-schoolers they drafted that had a high ceiling but were extremely raw. Those high schoolers flamed out or never lived up to their potential, which left the system in dire need of legitimate minor league talent. The past two or three seasons the Angels have focused solely on drafting collegiate talent, most notably pitchers. The college kids usually lack the upside their high school counterparts have, but college kids also have a shorter path to the major leagues and are more of a “sure-thing” if there were such a thing in prospects.
But this article isn’t about philosophy, it’s about surprises we’ve seen and will see this year among Angels minor leaguers.
1) RHP Cory Rasmus (ranked #29 by MWAH) has had such a strong spring that the Angels feel he may have leapfrogged guys like Salas and Kohn on the depth chart. Before the end of the year, if Cory pitches up to his abilities, he may end up being the Angels 7th inning set up man.
3) The Angels like what they’ve seen from RHP Elliot Morris (ranked #23 by MWAH) and OF Michael Fish (ranked #25 by MWAH) in spring and believe both have a shot at AA by the All-Star break if not sooner. Both Morris and Fish were drafted last year.
4) When the Angels signed LHP Ricardo Sanchez (#20 on MWAH Top prospect list), he was 5’9/5’10, 16 years old with a fastball sitting in the high 80’s and a big looping curve. The Angels believed in this kid so much, they spent a large chunk of their allotted international budget on him. That’s how much of a “can’t miss prospect” they believe he is. Ricardo never got into a game in the Dominican Republic, they sent him straight to the U.S. So much for slow and steady. Sanchez is now 17 years old, listed at 6’0 and has a fastball sitting in the low 90’s that can reach mid-90’s and a deadly 12-6 curve. He may even have more room for growth in the future. The Angels intend to send him to the Pioneer League next season, primarily a stop used for collegiate hitters before moving on to Advanced A Ball or AA. Sanchez is essentially the equivalent of a high school junior or senior this year, and he’ll be playing with a bunch of guys a half-decade-older than he is. If you weren’t excited about Sanchez before, you should be now. If he keeps up this pace, Sanchez could find himself atop the rankings at a very young age.
5) LHP Nick Maronde (ranked #11 by MWAH, formerly ranked #2) came into camp in a heated battle with a whole mess of lefty relievers competing for one spot in the bullpen. Little by little, those lefties have faded into the background or been sent down to minor league camp. Not Maronde though, he continues to get both LHB and RHB out (small sample size) and has recovered the lost 2-3 mph on his fastball from 2012. With Burnett suffering yet another setback in his recovery, it appears that Maronde is primed to take over the lefty specialist duties in the Angels pen with the possibility of advancement.
6) RHP Cam Bedrosian (ranked #10 by MWAH) had a VERY good camp that comes on the tail end of an impressive AFL campaign. There really wasn’t a lot known about the Angels’ plans for him coming into the season. He’s still raw and the general consensus was that more time in the low minors wouldn’t hurt his development curve as a reliever. But now Bedrock appears to be ticketed for AA and on the fast-track for a possible promotion later in the year (along with Morin and Alvarez).
7) The Angels like SS Jose Rondon’s (ranked #8 by MWAH) bat and feel that he’s ready to skip over A Ball and head to Advanced A Ball in the Cal League at the tender age of 20. Jose put up solid numbers in the Pioneer League despite being one of the youngest position players and is seen as a prospect with untapped power potential and an advanced approach in the batter’s box. The jury is still out on whether he’s a 3B or a shortstop, but last season he flashed impressive play-making ability with his glove and the Angels feel he could be a major leaguer at that position. However, the Angels already have a defensive wizard at SS with Eric Stamets, so the situation may dictate a shift to 3B purely for the sake of accommodation (getting both players on the field at the same time).
8) 2B Alex Yarbrough (ranked #7 by MWAH) has impressed coaches and scouts within the organization enough to give him a serious look as the 2B of the future. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom because the current Angels top prospect is 2B Taylor Lindsey. Yarbrough has made enough progress with the glove that he’s on par with Lindsey on the defensive side of the game. Offensively, Yarbrough holds the advantage in contact ability and versatility as a switch hitter while Lindsey holds the advantage in power and upside. Lindsey is ticketed for AAA Salt Lake while Yarbrough will head to AA Arkansas. Keep a close eye on the two of them. Either one of them or Grant Green could be the Angels starting second baseman by next year if Kendrick is hurt or traded.
9) 1B C.J. Cron (ranked #3 by MWAH) has received a very long look by the Angels this Spring and so far they’ve come away with the impression that he still has work to do but has undeniably put himself into the future plans at DH. Cron’s numbers were underwhelming in AA last season, but he went on a hitting rampage in the AFL and has continued to crush the ball in camp this spring.
10) Finally, two non-prospects (Grant Green and Tyler Skaggs) have essentially cemented their position with the Angels. Green (a former first round pick and Top 100 prospect at SS) was dealt to the Angels last season in return for Alberto Callaspo and was seen as a man without a position but definitely the bat to play in the majors. The Angels have an amazing infield coach in Alfredo Griffin who worked with Green on the backfields all offseason and spring. So far, it looks like Green has made enough progress at shortstop and second base to be an offensive minded utility infielder. The Angels will continue to work with him at 3B as well. Tyler Skaggs is a former Top 10 prospect whose stock dropped last season due to a loss in fastball velocity. Skaggs came back to the Angels in an offseason trade and is now throwing harder than he ever has before (radar guns have him at 92-94 regularly and touching 95). Dipoto felt Skaggs needed an organization to believe in him enough not to send him down to AAA and Skaggs appears to be slotted as the Angels 5th starter to begin the year. The consensus is that his upside may make him a mid or front of the rotation starter before long. It would appear that Trout, Calhoun, Green, Richards, Santiago and Skaggs are primed to be the core of the Angels for the future.