Los Angeles Angels' Prospects: B/R's Top 15 Breakdown, Final 2013 Update

Rick Suter@@rick_suterContributor IIOctober 7, 2013

Los Angeles Angels' Prospects: B/R's Top 15 Breakdown, Final 2013 Update

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    Is there another Mike Trout down in the Angels' farm system?
    Is there another Mike Trout down in the Angels' farm system?Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

    Where, and how, the Los Angeles Angels' top 15 prospects finished their respective seasons is no back page matter.

    Consistently rated as one of the worst systems in the MLB, things have progressed for the better within the Angels' minor league levels.

    Three of the teams—the High-A Inland Empire 66ers, the Double-A Arkansas Travelers and the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees—made it to their Championship Series, with the 66ers winning the California League Title.

    Along with the farm system's overall success, several of the top prospects progressed in their individual development, with a few lesser-known players outperforming the expectations and cracking into into the top echelon of Angels to watch.

    That's great and unexpected news. Front page type stuff!

    With the offseason in the beginning stages for the Angels, the restructuring towards 2014 is in full swing—regardless of if the news is being made public or not—and the minor league system is undoubtedly part of the scenario.

    Because of the cost restrictions due to past offseason spending (see payer of Vernon Wells 2014 contract), the cost-controlled ideals we have heard recently form the Angels' decision-makers will certainly have to involve minor league players.

    Whether that happens directly from the current list of top 15 prospects remains to be seen, but each player on that chart deserves one, final look before the offseason catapults into frenzy mode.

    Note: Stats and scouting reports were courtesy of MLB.com and MiLB.com unless otherwise noted.

No. 1 Prospect: 3B Kaleb Cowart

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    .221/.279/.301, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 48 R

    Major League ETA: 2014

    Cowart didn't have the 2013 season the Angels and the team's scouts expected. Rated as the only Angels prospect in the top 100, Cowart is still ranked as the No. 1 player within the organization and the idea of his maturing into an above average third baseman for the organization is still there.

    However, a slow 2013 season—where he failed to find a consistent approach at the plate—may lengthen the expected ETA for Cowart.

    Scouts still like his arm and ability to handle the bat from both sides of the plate, but expecting the 21-year-old Cowart to jump up to the MLB as the next Mike Trout-type oddity is not going to happen. Expect to see Luis Jimenez, Andrew Romine, Chris Nelson and possibly Grant Green competing for the Angels' third base spot in spring training.

No. 2 Prospect: 1B C.J. Cron

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    .274/.319/.428, 14 HR, 83 RBI, 56 R

    Major League ETA: 2014

    His .249 post All-Star break average wasn't exactly the consistent finish the Angels wanted to see for their No. 2 prospect—though he did pick up on the power numbers, cranking out nine home runs in the second half.

    Heading into spring training, Cron will have to pick up his defensive work while progressing with his plate discipline. His lack of speed doesn't necessarily fit into the idea of retooling the lineup with first-to-third types, but Cron's power potential is difficult to ignore.

    If the Angels decide to trade Trumbo in the winter for pitching, it's almost a guarantee Cron will get the first crack at beginning as backup—or platoon—at first base behind Pujols.

No. 3 Prospect: 2B Taylor Lindsey

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Stats

    .274/.339/.441, 17 HR, 56 RBI, 68 R

    Major League ETA: 2014

    Offensive-minded second baseman might not be the ethos manager Mike Scioscia wants heading into next year—maybe he thinks of Chuck Knoblauch?—but Taylor Lindsey has the potential to be a solid fit for the Angels.

    Though scouts list Lindsey's arm as an already topped-out attribute, his gap-to-gap hitting style, mixed with a needed on-field aggressiveness has moved him up the prospect list for the Angels. And he should continue to progress.

    The reason: Lindsey has hit consistently at every level in his progression.

    He will need to work on his defense, no question. But if Howie Kendrick gets traded in the offseason (or not,) count on Lindsey to get a few looks along with Grant Green at second base.

No. 4 Prospect: LF/RF Randal Grichuk

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Stats

    .256/.306/.474, 22 HR, 64 RBI, 85 R

    Major League ETA: 2014

    Randal Grichuk's strong finish to the season, where he hit .341 with eight RBI in his final 10 games, has moved the former first pick of the Angels up the prospect chain from No. 8 in the preseason to No. 3 at season's end.

    Scouts like his power ability—which he showed this season with 22 home runs—and his arm in the outfield. If he can continue to progress as a hitter, not just a power guy, then the sky is the limit for Grichuk. And that limit doesn’t necessarily have to come in Angels red.

    The competition for the three outfield spots next season and beyond is crowded at the moment, leaving players like Grichuk with a very difficult ladder to climb. Staying healthy and continuing to produce, however, doesn't hurt his chances of shaking things up during spring training.

No. 5 Prospect: RHP Mark Sappington

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    2013 Stats

    27 GS, 12-5, 156.1 IP, 3.45 ERA, 136 K, 82 BB

    Major League ETA: 2015

    Mark Sappington's impressive progression in 2013 should give the Angels organization and its fans hope for the future rotation.

    Unfortunately, that progression won't fix anything in 2014.

    Sappington was dominant in the California League, where he was 11-4 with the Class-A Inland Empire 66ers, and he didn't disappoint post-promotion to Double-A (Arkansas Travelers).

    With a Jered Weaver-type pitching sequence, Sappington has impressed scouts with a lively sinking fastball, complemented by a plus-rated slider.

    As it usually goes with young pitching, he will need to improve his command, along with developing a better look with the changeup. But overall, Sappington is the closest thing the Angels have to a top-tier starter down the road, leading over any other prospects currently in the system.

No. 6 Prospect: LHP Nick Maronde

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Stats

    Minor League: 41 games, 56.1 IP, 3.51 ERA, 63 K, 37 BB

    Major League: 10 Games, 5.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 5 K, 8 BB

    The question with Nick Maronde has always been whether he is better suited as a starter or a reliever, never really getting that question definitively answered in his time with the organization.

    However, following a minimal stint with the Angels' big league club and subsequent demotion back to Double-A (Arkansas Travelers,) Maronde has begun to solidify his reputation as a perfect mid-relief prospect.

    With a well-located fastball and late-breaking slider, he has reportedly worked hard to command both pitches more effectively, increasing his stock leading into this offseason.

    Along with fellow left-hander Sean Burnett, Maronde should be in the mix of competition as mid-relief options—which would certainly fit into any cost-controlled ideas by the Angels brass.

No. 7 Prospect: 2B Alex Yarbrough

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Stats

    .313/.341/.459, 11 HR, 80 RBI, 31 R

    Major League ETA: 2015

    Alex Yarbrough was one of the biggest movers on the Angels' prospect list this past year. The young second baseman started out the 2013 season ranked No. 18, but through solid hitting jumped into the top 10 by the end of the year.

    Yarbrough, a switch-hitter, showed consistency all season, hitting over .300 in both the first and second halves of the year. Though his impressive numbers were produced in the hitter-friendly confines of the California League In land Empire 66ers, scouts have his ceiling as a highly rated hitter with potential to progress further.

    Like Taylor Lindsey, Yarbrough is a gap-to-gap style hitter with decent power for his size. However, his glove potential at second base is rated with a little more positive potential—which could lead to an interesting competition in 2015, assuming both are still in the system. 

No. 8 Prospect: SS Eric Stamets

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Stats

    .281/.335/.375, 4 HR, 53 RBI, 80 R

    Major League ETA: 2015

    Much like fellow infielder Alex Yarbrough, Eric Stamets jumped up the Angels' prospect ladder in 2013, moving from the No. 17 prospect all the way to the No. 8 prospect.

    Scouts have the young shortstop rated as one of the few prospects that actually have potential to hold that position at the MLB level.

    Stamets has been impressive with the glove, rated as an above-average defender, with a solid arm to handle the throws from shortstop.

    It's his speed, though, that is the most exiting attribute in Stamets' progression. Rated as a top-level speed guy on the bases, he would easily fit into Scioscia's style of hustle and first-to-third baseball.

    If he can develop more as a hitter in the next few seasons, there is no question he could be a suitable replacement to Erick Aybar.

No. 9 Prospect: RHP Mike Morin

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    Photo courtesy of Morin's Twitter page.
    Photo courtesy of Morin's Twitter page.

    2013 Stats

    56 G, 70 IP, 1.93 ERA, 76 K, 10 BB

    Major League ETA: 2014

    No prospect had a more impressive jump in 2013 than right-hander Mike Morin.

    Originally rated as having little MLB potential because of lacking a solid breaking pitch, Morin's above-average changeup, mixed with a decent, low-90s fastball, has been extremely effective.

    Against right-handed hitting, Morin is near untouchable; he posted a 0.49 ERA against right-handers, while striking out 20 and walking only one.

    If he continues his solid progression, developing even more this offseason out in the Arizona Fall League, then it will be unimaginable not to see him getting looks as a mid-relief option this spring.

No. 10 Prospect: IF Luis Jimenez

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    2013 Stats

    Minor League: .295/.333/.429, 5 HR, 46 RBI, 31 R

    Major League: .260/.291/.317, 5 RBI, 15 R

    Luis Jimenez had plenty of opportunity at the MLB level in 2013, but not much came of it. Labeled as a power guy that generates above-average bat speed, with a good eye at the plate, Jimenez failed to showcase that ability for the Angels—he struck out 28 times at the big league level with zero home runs and two walks.

    However, there is still potential for Jimenez to fit into the Angels' plans at third base.

    He rebounded extremely well at Triple-A (Salt Lake Bees), hitting close to .300 with a .737 OPS. If he can translate that consistent approach at the plate from the minor leagues to the MLB, then he will certainly be a factor in the spring.

No. 11 Prospect: RHP R.J. Alvarez

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    2013 Stats

    37 G, 4-2, 48.2 IP, 2.96 ERA, 79 K, 27 BB

    Major League ETA: 2014

    Drafted in 2012, right-hander A.J. Alvarez is moving quickly up the ladder with one outstanding attribute: his fastball.

    Topping out in the high-90s range, Alvarez' fastball has been the type of swing-and-miss pitch the Angels could use in their bullpen options.

    Because of the short amount of time he has been in the professional ranks, there is still a ton of room for improvement, mainly the development of a breaking pitch and control. But you can't teach heat... and that is exactly what Alvarez has got.

No. 12 Prospect: LHP Hunter Green

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    2013 Stats

    8 G (7 GS), 0-1, 16.2 IP, 2.96 ERA, 11 K, 16 BB

    Major League ETA: 2017

    It's a good sign that Hunter Green, the Angels' first pick in the 2013 draft, has already climbed up to the No. 12 spot.

    The tall left-hander has impressed scouts with a consistent low-90s fastball that has touched the 95 mph range. At 175 pounds, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for the young pitcher to gain velocity as he continues to grow into his body frame (6'4").

    There is some fuss concerning his three-quarter delivery and his overall command, but at 18 years old, there is certainly room to progress in that area with the right tutelage.

No. 13 Prospect: CF Travis Witherspoon

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    2013 Stats

    .214/.299/.342, 11 HR, 80 RBI, 31 R

    Major League ETA: 2014

    Travis Witherspoon's drop out of the Angels' top-10 list, falling to No. 13 at the end of the year, is a result of his inability to consistently recognize pitches at the higher levels.

    Scouts rate his defense, arm and shear speed on the bases as above-average tools, but his 118 strikeouts and lack of on-base percentage have hurt his progression.

    At only 24 years old, there is still time for Witherspoon to develop as a hitter. But he will need to impress this spring training in order to stay relevant in an already-crowed Angels' outfield depth chart.

No. 14 Prospect: LF Zach Borenstein

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    2013 Stats

    .337/.403/.631, 28 HR, 95 RBI, 76 R

    Major League ETA: 2015

    I don't like to play favorites when reviewing MLB prospects... but I just can't help myself in this case.  Zach Borenstein is my overwhelming favorite of any Angels prospect. (Please take a moment now to watch the above video of Zach owning the Star Spangled Banner this past year.)

    Good stuff, right?

    Singing chops aside, Borenstein is also highlighting one of my favorite opinions: The Scouting system, in any sport, is such an inexact science I'm amazed it can still be considered an actual job category.

    There were 704 players drafted ahead of Borenstein in the 2011 draft, but he is currently performing like he was taken in the first 32 picks. He doesn't stand out in any one category—his bat speed and power seem to be the highest-rated tools—but the consistency is there.

    Sometimes, that's all it takes.

    Like any player coming out of the California League, Borenstein will have to show he can hit at other non hitter-friendly levels, but I wouldn’t bet against him at this point. We have already seen what playing time can do for unknowns in the MLB—like a J.B. Shuck—and Borenstein could easily fit into that same category, progressing as a hidden talent as he moves up the opportunity ladder.

No. 15 Prospect: SS Jose Rondon

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    2013 Stats

    .293/.359/.399, 1 HR, 50 RBI, 45 R

    Major League ETA: 2017

    Though Jose Rondon has dropped a bit on the Angels prospect list, falling four spots from No. 11 to No. 15, there is too much upside for the 19-year-old shortstop not to be considered an exciting piece to the Angels' future.

    The Venezuelan-born prospect is also a positive impact towards the Angels' international player development—it's proof they are actually in revamp mode when it comes to the international scouting.

    There is still a long way to go with Rondon, no question. But the potential from the plate and field are there, with the added benefit of developing that talent within the Angels' system the entire time.

    Along with Eric Stamets, Rondon will provide an above-average level of skill at the shortstop level, adding a nice competitive scenario as they battle to possibly take over the reins from Erick Aybar.