The minor league baseball season is now far enough in that we can start making some impressions of certain minor league performances, good or bad. The Angels farm system has shown incremental improvements since Billy Eppler was brought on board as general manager. There’s still a big shortage of talent throughout the system but there are finally signs of potential MLB players starting to surface across different levels. Here is an update on the 4 affiliates that are 30+ games into their season(Rookie Level Orem Owlz and the AZL Angels haven’t begun their seasons yet). *Stats current as of Friday 5/12*
Low A: Burlington Bees(11-19)
–Jahmai Jones is arguably the most talented prospect in the Angels system but he’s had a tough go around to start 2017. The young outfielder is slashing .198/.239/.315(60 wRC+) and is striking out roughly 4 times as many times as he is walking. He also doesn’t turn 20 years old until August and this is his 1st full season at A ball. Expect him to make the necessary adjustments to show why he is so highly touted.
–Jordan Zimmerman, a 2016 7th round pick, has been lauded by scouts for his natural feel for hitting but lacks in other areas of his game. Zimmerman is slashing .257/.325/.404(111 wRC+) with a 9.2 BB% and 24.2 K%. The strikeout% as a 22 year old in Low A ball is concerning so that is something to monitor when he moves to High A ball.
–Brennan Morgan, selected in the 24th round last year, has had a great start to 2017. A catcher/1st baseman, Morgan is hitting .306/.384/.449(143 wC+) this year. Morgan was drafted with the “organizational player” attachment but he’s done enough this year to warrant a promotion to Inland Empire.
–Roberto Baldoquin might be the most controversial Angels prospect in recent memory but he’s shown signs of life after being demoted to Low A ball. His .247/.310/.403 line(107 wRC+) is entirely unspectacular but it’s a huge improvement from his sub .300 OBP seasons he posted in back to back years with Inland Empire. He’s striking out about 5 many times as he’s walking and you’d hope he would improve after being moved down a level but there’s at least a sign of potential being shown this year.
–Brennon Lund isn’t hitting the ball with authority but his .341 OBP is allowing him to utilize his plus speed on the bases, evidenced by his 10 stolen bases. Lund has a below average hit tool and power but he has a good eye at the plate, runs well and is a decent defender.
–Travis Herrin, the 2015 18th round pick, has been the best pitcher for Burlington this year. He has struck out 29.3% of the batters he has faced while only walking 5.7% of the batters. His 3.96 ERA is a little less spectacular but he’s missing bats and not walking guys, a good sign. Herrin is a fastball/slider guy that is showing some ability to get swings and misses.
–Joe Gatto was a highly touted 2nd round pick in 2014 but really struggled to even see success in the lower minors before 2017. He has turned it around this year, striking out 20.2% of hitters whole only walking 9.2% of batters. Still only 21 years old, Gatto has a solid 3.71 ERA and looks like he is cleaning up his mechanics a bit. He owns a good low-mid 90’s fastball and big curveball but his poor command has plagued him in the past.
–Erik Manoah was acquired for Fernando Salas last summer and has looked decent to start 2017. In 26 innings, Manoah has struck out 22 batters but walked 14 and has 1.423 WHIP along with a 3.46 ERA. Manoah has a low 90’s fastball that touches the mid 90’s at times but he struggles to throw useful secondaries.
–Sam Pastrone was considered a very good pick in the 17th round in 2015 but he’s had a tough go around this season. In 24.2 innings, Pastrone has struck out 18 batters, walked 16, allowed 31 hits and allowed 21 runs(16 earned), which leads to an ugly 5.84 ERA. Pastrone has poor command and many scouts think he’s a reliever so a move to the bullpen may come soon. He has a solid fastball/curveball combo that could really play up in relief.
–Jonah Wesely has gone through quite a bit since he was drafted in the 11th round in 2013. Considered a steal in the 11th round(signability concerns), Wesely had to undergo Tommy John in 2015 which stalled his development. He’s now back to full strength and missing bats with Burlington, evidenced by his 13 strikeouts in 10.1 innings. He’s allowed 14 base runners, which is too much, but the hard throwing left hander is showcasing why the Angels liked his arm so much.
High A: Inland Empire 66ers(16-18)
–Jared Foster has been the 66ers best position player, posting an above average batting line(.282/.333/.435) while playing most games in center field. He’s popped 4 home runs, stolen 4 bases and he’s starting to tap into his potential a bit this year. Foster hits the ball with authority, runs well and plays solid defense but he has a flawed approach at the plate that leads to plenty of strikeouts and few walks. He is starting to look more comfortable and may be due for a promotion sometime soon.
-The Angels 1st round pick last year, Matt Thaiss is holding his own in his 1st taste of High A ball, slashing .244/.350/.382 with 4 home runs. Thaiss has looked fine defensively and his approach at the plate is superb, which is what got him drafted high, but he’s not hitting the ball with the authority you want from your first baseman. Thaiss is extremely polished and will very likely be a major leaguer in some capacity but he needs to start hitting for more power or there’s going to be limited upside in his future.
–Connor Justus slumped hard to start his season but he’s picking it up lately and he’s running a superb 16.1 BB%. Justus is striking out too much and he’s not tapping into his power but he’s running a league average line(99 wRC+) and playing above average defense at shortstop. There’s a very likely utility player in this skill set but if he can manage to keep the strikeouts in check, he could work his way into a starting role.
–Taylor Ward finally debuted last week after a oblique injury that cost him all of Spring Training and the first month of 2017. This is a big year for the 2015 1st round pick, as he had a subpar 2016 offensively(82 wRC+) and defensively(19 passed balls, poor framing). Ward has a plus-plus arm and very good pop times, which is almost enough to be a backup MLB catcher, but he needs to grow a lot to become anything more than an ok backup catcher.
–Troy Montgomery is a grinder, one who plays hard in the field and makes pitchers work at the plate. He crushed pitching in Low A, walking 3 times as many times as he was striking out, and was promoted to Inland Empire, where he’s struggled to the tune of a 71 wRC+. Montgomery has the type of skillset to carry him to the upper minors at the very least but how much power and ability to get hits will determine his future in the big leagues. At age 22, he still has time to figure that out.
–Kyle Survance Jr. debuted on Thursday for the 66ers, his first game since 2015 after he missed all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery. Survance is an absolute burner on the field and will play above average defense in left or right field but really needs his hit tool to play up for him to be anything more than a 5th or 6th MLB outfielder. He tore up Rookie Ball in 2015 so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do in High A ball, making a 2 league jump skipping Burlington.
–Jaime Barria is off to a tremendous start in 2017 through his first 39.2 innings. The 20 year old Panamanian has struck out 20.8% of batters, only walked 5% and has a 2.75 ERA. Always known for his plus command, Barria’s curveball has taken a step forward and he’s throwing a tad harder this season. It’s very possible that Barria is the best pitching prospect in the Angels system now and there is a lot of hope surrounding his future. He projects as a 4/5 starter.
–Jesus Castillo was recently promoted from Burlington and his overall season has been encouraging. Acquired for Joe Smith last season, Castillo has struck out 31 batters and walked 5 in 28.1 innings while running an ERA around 2 across Burlington and Inland Empire. Castillo is very simple pitcher, one who throws plenty of strikes with his low 90’s fastball and fringe secondary stuff. He projects as a swingman or reliever down the road unless his velocity bumps up or he can improve his secondaries.
–Jose Rodriguez has racked up the most strikeouts of any Angels minor league pitcher and shows an idea of throwing strikes too. He has struck out 39 and walked 10 in his 39.1 innings along with his 4.35 ERA. Rodriguez has a very vanilla repertoire, throwing a high 80’s-low 90’s fastball, an above average change up and below average slider but throws plenty of strikes. His numbers have been solid in the minors as he’s flown under the radar so he is a pitcher worth following.
–Luis Pena is a diminutive right hander who is very quirky but also has a big fastball. He channels his inner Johnny Cueto at times, frequently quick pitching from his small 5’9″ frame. Pena doesn’t offer enough off speed stuff or command to be effective as a starter. His 23.9 K% is solid but his 9.9 BB% and 37 hits allowed in 33.1 innings showcases his issues making it through the order more than once. A move to the bullpen may be in order to see if his 91-94 mph fastball can see a velocity spike.
AA: Mobile Bay Bears(14-20)
–Michael Hermosillo has really blossomed into a potential starting outfielder or 4th outfielder after crushing the High A level the past 2 seasons. His 1st taste of AA hasn’t been good(38 wRC+) but after posting a 139 wRC+ with Inland Empire last year and 151 this year, he showcased a real ability to get on base and slug a bit. His plus speed, solid defense and good plate discipline create a foundation for a useful major league player down the road.
–David Fletcher missed about a week or so of action with an injury but when he’s been on the field, he’s shown why he may be a useful big leaguer very soon. He makes contact(10 % K rate this year), hits for average(.279), runs well(5 stolen bases) and is even getting on base more this year(.380). Fletcher is a scrappy player who may stick at shortstop and grind out at bats from game to game. He likely doesn’t stick as a full time starter but a solid utility infield profile is in the cards for Fletcher.
–Zach Gibbons has already accomplished a ton after being selected in the 17th round in the 2016 draft. He torched Rookie Ball(146 wRC+), High A ball(142 wRC+) and is now doing damage in AA(119 wRC+). Gibbons is pretty maxed out physically, is a below average defender and doesn’t offer a ton of upside but all he’s done is hit in the minors and it’s time to take notice of him. With a hit tool that is playing well above average so far, he could work his way into a 4th outfielder/platoon bat role in the majors.
–Forrestt Allday was a minor league free agent signing before 2016 and he has been totally locked in to start 2017. His .340 batting average and .450 slugging percentage are the best on the Mobile offense by far and he’s walking more than he’s striking out. A former 8th round selection of the Boston Red Sox, Allday plays decent defense in the outfield and has a very good approach at the plate but doesn’t do much else. He’ll likely be in Salt Lake at some point soon if a spot opens up for him.
–Osmer Morales was a minor league free agent signing this past offseason and has been one of the best pitchers in the system this year. Morales has a 2.82 ERA, 31.1 K% and 8.9 BB% in 22.1 innings, continuing his success of excelling in minor league ball. Morales doesn’t wow with any of his pitches but his high spin rate fastball plays well up in the zone. At age 24 along with a career ERA under 3, Morales is a candidate to receive MLB starts at some point this season if needed. He looks like a fringe MLB arm but deserves his shot to prove what he can do.
–Jake Jewell is one of the several Bay Bears who were promoted from Inland Empire after crushing it with the 66ers. After posting a disastrous 6.31 ERA last season, Jewell came into 2017 with electric stuff, shoved in High A ball and was promoted very quick. Jewell has sat 92-94 on the four seam fastball, 89-91 on the two seam, is throwing sharp sliders and thrown some quality curveballs along with improved command. He posted a 2.25 ERA and 18.8 K-BB% with Inland Empire but has struggled to the tune of a 6.43 ERA with Mobile. If his command improves, he’s a viable starter with 4 pitches. If not, his stuff should play well in the bullpen.
–Grayson Long, like Jewell, was promoted very quickly after striking out 25.9% of the hitters he faced in 12 innings at Inland Empire. Angels general manager Billy Eppler has had a quick trigger on promoting guys but Long has struggled mightily with Mobile. His 6.0 K-BB% is well below the 18.5% he had in High A ball but his ERA is actually lower at Mobile(3.00) than it was in Inland Empire(4.50). There’s a lot of random noise going on with his run prevention so don’t look too much into the ERA yet. Long projects as a potential durable #5 starter but could be a solid relief option if moved there.
–Adam Hofacket has struck out 18 batters and only walked 3 in 18.1 innings of work across High A and AA ball while only allowing 6 runs(5 earned) in the process. Hofacket has a solid 91-94 mph fastball and a slider that can miss bats. A Riverside native, Hofacket has really pitched well and put himself on the map to be potentially pitching in Anaheim in 2018.
–Eric Karch has been one of the best relievers in the system to start 2017, posting a 1.25 ERA and 17.3 K-BB% in his 12 games. The right hander was a 22nd round draft selection of the Pirates back in 2014 but was acquired a few years later and is off to a strong start in 2017.
AAA: Salt Lake Bees(19-15)
–Kaleb Cowart has a strong .283/.396/.400(119 wRC+) line with the Bees in part to a stronger approach at the plate. Cowart has an exceptional 16% walk rate, is playing above average defense and is making it hard for the Angels to not give him another chance, especially with Danny Espinosa struggling at second base at the big league level. At this point in time, Cowart can only learn from extended MLB exposure and he may get some this season.
–Sherman Johnson looks like a MLB utility man in the making and he’s having a solid year, slashing .282/.378/.398 while playing all over the diamond. Johnson’s defensive versatility, good approach at the plate and above average speed should get Johnson to the majors at some point this year where he can show his worth to the Angels. He’ll never be a star or everyday player but he can be a useful bench piece in the show.
–Bo Way was promoted quickly after handling AA with ease(.311/.377/.400 line) but has had a tough learning period in AAA(.268/.279/.317). Way plays above average defense in the corners, runs pretty well and has a solid approach at the plate but lacks the hit tool or power to be an everyday player, or potentially 4th outfielder. He looks like a 5th outfielder who should offer useful depth from the AAA team.
–Nolan Fontana is an above average defensive shortstop who is also running a .270/.383/.410 line in AAA. After posting an abysmal 43 wRC+ in 2016 with the Astros AAA affiliate, Fontana has been 17% better than the league average hitter, partially due to a very healthy 14.8 BB%. Fontana may have a short term future with the Angels as a utility man who can handle all the infield positions, especially with Yunel Escobar, Danny Espinosa and Cliff Pennington slated to be free agents after the year.
–Eric Young Jr. has to be included here even though he’s not a prospect and is just a MLB veteran whose enjoying a nice start to his season. Still, he’s running a .344/.403/.484 line with 4 home runs and 8 stolen bases. He will likely be the first Angels outfielder called up if one is needed due to his experience and ability to do one thing well: steal bases.
–Luis Diaz has struck out 37 batters and walked 9 across AA and AAA in 31 innings this year. He only allowed 1 run(unearned) in AA but has posted an ERA of 7 in AAA, although his peripheral stats look great. Diaz is a former meaningful prospect with the Red Sox who has an above average 91-94 mph fastball and 2 fringe secondary pitches. His good start to 2017 has put him on the radar to potentially give the Angels innings in the majors this year.
–Troy Scribner continues his success story with his 3.76 ERA, 25.7 K% and 8.9 BB% in his work so far in 2017. Scribner doesn’t have overwhelming stuff but commands his pitches well enough to have success. He’s maintained an ERA around the mid 3’s in the past 2 years in Salt Lake, no small feat, but there’s not a ton here to project anything more than a AAAA arm. He does deserve a look at some point this year, however, as the 25 year old has really opened some eyes in the past calendar year.
–Manny Banuelos is currently running a 6.60 ERA and 17:20 strikeout to walk ratio in AAA. The former top Yankees prospect is still plagued by command and inability to throw secondary pitches for strikes, although pitching in Salt Lake can really put a damper on your numbers. Still, Banuelos has not shown he’s a worthy MLB starter and a move to the bullpen as a power left handed reliever looks inevitable.
–Eduardo Paredes has completely dominated AA and AAA hitters this year, allowing 2 runs in 18.2 innings while striking out 21 and walking 5. Paredes pitches from a 3/4 arm slot with a heavy riding low-mid 90’s fastball and tosses an average slider that can miss some bats. The recently promoted Keynan Middleton is the best Angels relief prospect but Paredes is not far behind and could join Middleton in Anaheim this year.
–Nate Smith, the closest thing to a MLB starter the Angels have in the farm system as present, made his first start of 2017 this past week, tossing 5.2 scoreless innings with 4 strikeouts, no walks and 1 hit allowed. Smith is a very low upside, decent floor pitcher who should be able to eat some innings as a serviceable #5 starter as soon as this year. The elbow tendinitis that put him on the shelf to start the year is worrisome but if healthy and effective, he may be pitching in Anaheim sooner rather than later.
-In 7.1 innings this year, Vicente Campos has allowed 15 hits, 7 home runs and 12 runs, which is not what you want. Campos was a sneaky good waiver pick up this past offseason as he’s a guy with prior prospect pedigree and possesses very good stuff when healthy. The issue is injuries have taken a toll on him and at age 24, he’s endured a ton of arm injuries. If he gets right, expect him to be in Anaheim and show some flashes of brilliance with an above average fastball and solid secondary pitches.
–Parker Bridwell, picked up last week in a trade that sent Jordan Kipper to Baltimore, possesses a firm low-mid 90’s fastball with sink and plus change up but hasn’t had the command to succeed. Bridwell was moved from starting to relief last year but jumped back to starting with Mobile and Salt Lake. In 15 innings across those levels, Bridwell has struck out 14 batters, walked 2 and allowed only 2 runs. He might be an arm Billy Eppler wants to use as a multi inning reliever at some point in Anaheim this year.