As it goes every year, the stock values of prospects inevitably rise and fall. This is part of what makes baseball such a fun game to watch—one element always remains a fixture in this prospect game we play: surprise.
These are the Angels prospects that surprised us this April:
Hutton Moyer – 2B/3B
Sure, he has a cool name, but does he have the game to back it up? So far, that answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Moyer is still finding himself defensively, which is normal for prospects, especially at this point in the season and at his stage of development. But so far, his bat is making tons of noise at A Ball: .333/.395/.551 with seven doubles and two home runs.
Grayson Long – RHP
I was immediately suspicious when I found out the Angels were moving their top collegiate pitching prospect from last draft only to A Ball. This is the type of pitcher that moves straight to the Cal League, or is some cases AA. So far, what Long has done hasn’t surprised me so much as I didn’t realize quite how dominant he would be against A-Ball hitters: a 1.80 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 31 strikeouts in 25 innings.
Caleb Adams – OF
We knew from last year’s spectacular performance in the Pioneer League that Caleb could hit the ball. But that’s the Pioneer League, lots of guys hit well there and never even make it to AA. But Caleb has kept on cruising in High-A, showing that his skills almost assuredly will stay play up at the higher levels: .344/.417/.510 with five doubles, four triples, a home run, and three stolen bases.
Taylor Ward – C
Not all surprises are good. The way Ward just crushed both Rookie Ball and A-Ball pitching led many of us to believe his bat would play up to the level of his glove. But so far Ward’s bat is sputtering in High-A, and defensively he’s allowed too many passed balls and too many base thieves.
Tyler Carpenter – RHP
The 24-year-old Carpenter is in the midst of making a transition from the bullpen to the rotation, and so far it couldn’t be going much better. Through five starts (33 IP) in the hitter-friendly Cal League, he owns a 0.82 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, and 27 strike outs. We’re going to need to get a scouting report on this kid ASAP.
Sherman Johnson – UTIL
Johnson was simply abysmal in his first go-around in AA last year. He has the patience, pop, speed, defense, athleticism and intangibles to be a major leaguer. But now that he’s in the upper-minors, the Angels need to see it come to fruition. In April, his bat showed up in a big way: .369/.481/.638 with four doubles, two triples, four home runs, and two stolen bases. This coming in a pitching-friendly environment, which makes it all the more impressive. Hopefully he keeps it up.
Bo Way – OF
So far, Bo looks every bit the leadoff type in AA. After his good-not-great performance in the Cal League last year, there were many who wondered whether or not Way’s talents could transfer to the upper minors and eventually the majors. In April, Way did his best to quiet the detractors by hitting .310/.355/.345 with a double, a triple, five stolen bases and his typical sterling defense.
Austin Adams – RHP
For his entire minor league career (since 2012), Adams has either been well ensconced on our top prospect list or just barely off. This is because, despite the volatile numbers he puts up, we have a hard time letting go of that 93-mph fastball with movement coupled with the hard-breaking slider. Control has always been big problem for him, and it remains one this year: 11 innings, 8 walks, 17 strikeouts, 3.86 ERA. If he can command his pitches, Adams will be in the bullpen in Anaheim in no time. That’s a big “if”, though.
Nick Buss – OF
Buss is hardly a prospect anymore, but he comes in as a surprise nonetheless because he entered Spring Training as a long shot and his level of play kept him on the Angels radar until the final days of camp. Buss has done more of the same in AAA Salt Lake, continuing to show that he likely deserves another shot in the majors. Let’s hope the Angels can give it to him and he succeeds: .319/.387/.521 with eight doubles, three home runs, and three stolen bases.
Kyle Kubitza – UTIL
Once seen as the heir apparent at third base, Kubitza struggled in his limited showing in the majors last year. Coupled with Cowart’s offensive progression, this has led to Kubitza being moved off of third base specifically and into more of a utility role. That Kubitza has continued to hit the ball in AAA is no surprise—.296/.370/.451 with two doubles, three triples, one home run, and five stolen bases–but what is surprising is how well Kubitza has taken to left field and second while still looking as comfortable (or even more so) at third.
Nate Smith – LHP
Smith’s brief promotion to AAA last year didn’t go as well as hoped. He was absolutely torched. Perhaps more concerning was the fact that his already questionable fastball had dipped down to the 86-87 range, a far cry from the career high 92-93 he had previously hit in AA. I’d be willing to chalk this up to late-season fatigue. Smith had pitched a lot of innings in AA, went to the Pan Am games to lead the U.S. Team to a silver medal, returned to the states to pitch in AAA.
So far this year he’s back up at 89-90, which isn’t his highest but it’s generally where he’s averaged thus far in his career. Smith survives on command of all his pitches, deception, and keeping the ball from being squared up. He’s done pretty well with that thus far in his second AAA stint: a 3.79 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and strikeouts in 35 innings. In one of the most hitter friendly fields in the most hitter friendly league in the minors, Smith’s numbers actually look VERY good.