Every game in an audition when you’re in the minor leagues. The old saying that the cream rises to surface applies here. When you take the most talented young baseball players on Earth, and force them to play against one another, the best will always rise to the occasion and put up numbers. Hype, signing bonus’, lineage all goes out the window. It’s just you versus everyone else. Here are the Angels prospects that proved their worth this year.
SS Leon Rivas, OF Johan Sala and RHP Elvin Rodriguez
Rivas was a terror at the plate and on the base paths earlier in the year, prompting the Angels to mercifully promote him so the rest of the DSL had a chance. This kid had a .455 OBP and 20 SB in 33 games. Those are little league numbers. Sala was touted for his power-speed combo as a 16 year old. Now at 18, the power hasn’t quite developed yet, but a .308/.392 slash line in a pitching friendly league will turn some heads. Rodriguez, other than having a cool first name posted a 1.50 ERA in the DSL, which is great, though not unheard of. He was promoted to Arizona and apparently had a little more difficult of a time because he posted a 1.57 ERA instead of 1.50 (sarcasm should be noted).
Arizona Summer League
RHP Chris Rodriguez
Typically, there’s be a larger number of players that impressed for this league, but this year the Angels drafted so well int he college ranks that the majority were promoted past Rookie Ball to A Ball, freeing up so many slots in Orem. These slots were filled by players who found success in Arizona. But the only notable player that really steps up in Arizona and remained there was righty Chris Rodriguez. Chris was the Angels 4th round selection out of the prep ranks in Miami and came with the reputation of being a hard thrower with more polish than most prep players. This was proven quite true in Rodriguez’s first exposure to professional baseball as he fanned 17 hitter in only 11 innings with just 3 walks. This resulted in a 1.59 ERA.
Rookie Ball – Orem
OF Jahmai Jones, OF Zach Gibbons
No player in the Angels system raised his stock more this season than Jahmai Jones, which was difficult to do seeing as his stock was already high. Drafted int he second round (most believed he should have left the board in the first round), Jones flashed a lethal combination of power, speed, defense and intangibles against players largely older and more experienced than he is. Jones ended up hitting .321/.404 with 12 DB 3 triples 3 HR and 19 SB before the Angels promoted him to A Ball. Jones has the highest upside of any player in the system and made the most of his opportunity this year. Gibbons on the other hand wasn’t as well touted, being a 17th round pick from ASU and having a smaller stature and what is believed limited upside. Still, against some of the best college ball players in the country, Gibbons ended up hitting .351 with 12 DB 5 HR and 17 SB. He came to play. Reminds me of another undersized ASU alumni who didn’t garner any recognition before the draft….
Class A Burlington
RHP Jared Ruxer, RHP Grayson Long, RHP Jesus Castillo
Ruxer’s draft stock fell because of Tommy John surgery which worked out well for the Angels because they were able to land him for less money that he should’ve commanded coming out of Louisville. Before his promotion, Ruxer pitched to a 1.44 ERA across 62 innings with 54 K’s. Grayson Long really never had any business being in Burlington in the first place, but this is just another example of the angels handling their top prospects with kiddy gloves. In eight starts, Long posted 45 K’s in 40 innings and a 1.58 ERA. Jesus Castillo came back from the cubs in the Joe Smith deal. After signing with much fanfare, Castillo put up solid numbers, but never truly turned into the sensation that was predicted when he was 16. Still, in his age 20 season in A Ball, Castillo sliced and diced the competition with his array of low-90’s fastball and a darting slider and curve coupled with a a change up with serious fade action. between the Angels and the Cubs, 62 innings 61 K’s and a 2.85 ERA. Meanwhile, Smith was terrible for Chicago and then got hurt. Looks like the Angels won this trade. Perhaps the Cubs farm system was too stocked they never knew Castillo may have serious value?
Advanced A Inland Empire
OF Michael Hermosillo, OF Jared Foster, 2B Hutton Moyer
When selecting these three as the top performers, I had to do so with the caveat that they played so well, the Angels couldn’t keep them at one level, which is inherently the trouble with making any list such as this. On the season, Hermosillo was probably second to Jahmai Jones in raising his stock. He hit 15 DB 5 triples 6 HR’s stole 10 bases and hit .317/.402. Herm has the ability to play all three OF spots and his all-around game make him an ideal option for a major league opening as soon as the end of next season. Much like Hermosillo, Foster too has a football background and the Angels are hoping to capitalize on such athleticism. On the year, Jard hit .276/.217 with 27 DB 4 triples 9 HR’s, 9 SB and played excellent defense. Hutton Moyer came from Pepperdine with two main points attached to his name 1. Son of major leaguer Jamie Moyer and 2. Has a surprising amount of power for a middle infielder. They weren’t kidding. In his first full season as a pro, Moyer hit .276/.341 with 33 DB 4 triples 17 HR’s and 13 SB. Sure, his pre-swing motion is a bit concerning, but as long as he can keep hitting, Moyer might actually become better known than his father.
RHP Jordan Kipper, RHP Alex Blackford, LHP Chris O’Grady
Not much was expected of Kipper this year. He’s vanilla. Average draft position, almightily above average stuff. Except his performance this year was anything but vanilla. A 3.35 ERA in the high minors tends to catapult a pitcher’s stock. Same goes for Blackford, except his ERA was 3.07. And finally Chris O’Grady. The Angels transitioned him into a starting pitcher halfway through the year and the end result was a 2.80 ERA.
AAA Salt Lake
1B/LFJi-Man Choi, OF Rafael Ortega
Both players had their shots in the majors, and both players failed to make the necessary impression to be part of future plans. But then again, both players played well enough in AAA to guarantee another potential shot at the majors next season with either the Angels, or another team. Choi hit a gaudy .346/.434 in his time in Salt Lake with 17 DB and 5 HR. Ortega hit .317/.348 with just enough pop and speed to make his otherworldly defense really stand out.