By Tres Hefter, AngelsWin.com Columnist
1) Jared Walsh – 1B/DH/LHP, AAA Salt Lake:
Walsh’s red-hot July reached a ridiculous level the last two weeks, as he slashed .435/.500/1.043/1.543 since 7/22, notably hitting three homers on July 23rd – followed by six more over the next 10 games – giving him an incredible nine home runs over his last 52 PA, a 133 HR pace over 162 games. Walsh’s plate discipline has also made huge strides in ’19, as he is now sporting a 13.6% BB rate over his 8.1% mark in 2018, resulting in a .453 OBP since May 1st. Walsh also returned to the mound twice over the last two weeks, pitching two scoreless innings, allowing one hit, one walk, and striking out one. It’s clear that Walsh has now mastered AAA and the Pacific Coast League. Recent hot play and injuries have brought the two-way player once again to Anaheim, but with Pujols firmly entrenched at first base, playing time still seems to be scarce. Ideally, the Angels find some time for Walsh to get a shot at consistent playing time to determine if he’s simply another AAAA slugger, or perhaps the second coming of Mark Trumbo.
2019 hitting (AAA): .329/.433/.687/1.120 with 24 doubles, 29 HR, 70 RBI, 51 BB, 93 K in 81 G/374 PA
2019 pitching (AAA): 2.70 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 12 H, 3 BB, 7 K across 10 IP in 10 G
2, tied) Orlando Martinez – OF, A+ Inland Empire and Francisco Del Valle – RF/LF, A Burlington:
Placing these two together, as they’re very similar in performance, potential, and current results…
Martinez continues to make strides in his development – a cool start to the year gave way to a late June/early July surge, followed by an ice-cold 10-86 (.127) snap in July. Martinez has found his swing once again the last couple weeks however, slashing .298/.390/.617/1.007 with a barrage of extra base hits – two doubles, two triples, three home runs – and his increasingly solid plate discipline – 9 walks to 7 strikeouts. Capable at all three outfield positions, Martinez likely will stick at Inland Empire for the remainder of the year, though an opportunity at AA Mobile could emerge should he continue to play well, perhaps following a AAA taste for Brandon Marsh. Martinez should have the defense, discipline, and decent enough offensive profile to slot in behind Michael Hermosillo and Brennon Lund as a future 4th/5th OF option in Anaheim, likely landing on the MLB depth chart by late 2021.
Like Martinez, Francisco Del Valle has had an up-and-down year, teetering between ice-cold stretches and red-hot surges, and like Martinez, Del Valle profiles best as a solid future 4th OF option, though his CF playing time has dwindled a bit. Del Valle has similarly shown a blend of discipline and power, slashing .311/.436/.444/.881 over the last two weeks, with three doubles, one home run, and 10 walks to 7 strikeouts. About to turn 21, Del Valle is a year younger than Martinez but also a year nearer Rule 5 eligibility, so his development in Inland Empire next year will be key for his long-term designs in the club’s plans.
Martinez, 2019 (A+): .258/.335/.424/.760 with 13 doubles, 4 triples, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 33 BB, 60 K in 63 G/310 PA
Del Valle, 2019 (A): .211/.331/.358/.689 with 21 doubles, 4 triples, 6 HR, 39 RBI, 48 BB, 88 K in 95 G/379 PA
3) Jose Verrier – LF/RF/1B, Rookie Orem:
At 21, Verrier is a touch old for the Pioneer League, but the 6’1″, right-handed hitting Cuban has shown significant progress in his development in his second pro season after posting a .609 OPS last year, almost entirely with the Angels’ Rookie league team in Arizona. Verrier’s most recent two weeks have seen him split time between RF, LF, and 1B, but he’s also seen time at 2B and 3B. Since July 22nd, Verrier’s slashed .276/.462/.483/.944, with two home runs, seven walks, and 14 strikeouts. While power numbers are almost always inflated in the thin air of the Pioneer League, Verrier’s combination of decent pop, high walk rate, and positional versatility lends him the potential to still develop into a decent corner infield option for the Halos, perhaps easing a bit of the sting from recently dealing Raider Uceta and Rainier Rivas.
2019 (Orem Rk.): .239/.369/.478/.847 with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 8 HR, 19 RBI, 21 BB, 61 K in 40 G/168 PA
4) Gareth Morgan – OF, AA Mobile:
Morgan’s light-tower power has carried him into his first AA foray, where the powerful slugger will try to prove his dramatic HR surge can translate outside of the California League, and where questions about his even more dramatic BB:K will be answered in one way or another. Over his last twelve games (eight in A+, four in AA), Morgan has slashed .277/.358/.511/.869, with two doubles, three home runs, 14 RBI, five walks, and 21 strikeouts. Yet to hit a HR in AA, Morgan has gone 4-15 (.267) with one walk and seven strikeouts. If Morgan is able to make decent contact and continue his prodigious power, the lack of walks and high number of strikeouts might not matter much.
2019 (A+/AA): .262/.314/.569/.883 with 6 doubles, 21 HR, 53 RBI, 15 BB, 122 K in 56 G/245 PA
5) Michael Stefanic – 2B/SS, A+ Inland Empire:
In his second pro season, infielder Michael Stefanic has quietly proven a solid hitter, and could sneak into the MLB plans by 2021, as he’s posted a .302/.383/.393/.775 slash in 92 career games, hitting every step of the way, buoyed by a solid 29:40 walk to strikeout ratio. Should his defense and offense maintain, Stefanic might move quickly as a result, and recently put in a .346/.443/.423/.866 slash displaying his blend of contact and discipline. Signed as an undrafted free agent, Stefanic has never held much prospect helium, but he might be one to watch once he graduates to AA Mobile, likely next season.
2019 hitting (A/A+): .296/.377/.391/.768 with 14 doubles, 2 triples, 3 HR, 34 RBI, 25 BB, 35 K in 78 G/321 PA
Honorable mention, hitters:
Justin Bour (1B/DH, AAA): .342/.519/.895/1.414 with 3 2B, 6 HR, 13 BB, 15 K – Bour hitting in the SLC is kind of unfair
Taylor Ward (LF, AAA): .438/.538/.750/1.288 with 4 2B, 2 HR, 7 BB, 7 K – little short on PA (39) to rank
Zane Gurwitz (LF/3B A+, AA): .419/.468/.674/1.143 with 6 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 BB, 8 K – hitting well back in IE A+ after a brief mixed promotion to Mobile AA
Anthony Bemboom (C, AAA): .375/.444/.542/.986 with 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 BB, 5 K – catcher hitting well in return to org, likely now #3 on depth chart with Garneau claimed and Briceno injured
Jose Bonilla (SS, Rk. DSL): .333/.444/.542/.986 with 1 2B, 2 3B, 7 BB, 9 K – 17-yr old has a .808 OPS with a .402 OBP and .405 SLG to date in first 20 pro games.
Kaleb Cowart (3B, AAA): .308/.357/.538/.896 with 2 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 3 BB, 7 K – playing exclusively 3B over the last month
Drevian Williams-Nelson (2B/RF, AAA): .310/.412/.483/.895 with 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 BB, 10 K
Brandon White (OF, Orem Rk.): .314/.400/.486/.886 with 2 2B, 2 3B, 5 BB, 9 K – ’19 draftee hitting well to start pro career
Jeremiah Jackson (2B/SS, Orem Rk.): .277/.345/.489/.835 with 1 doubles, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 4 BB, 15 K
Roberto Baldoquin (2B/3B, AA): .353/.389/.441/.830 with 3 doubles, 2 BB, 7 K
Ryan Vega (OF, AZL Rk./A): .297/.422/.405/.828 with 1 double, 1 HR, 2 SB, 8 BB, 10 K – hitting well in Burlington after a rough stint at Inland Empire
Alexander Ramirez (DH/CF, DSL Rk.): .268/.333/.488/.821 with 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 15 K – reminder, he is in his age 16 season
6) Patrick Sandoval – LHP, AAA Salt Lake City:
At first glance, Sandoval’s stats at Salt Lake City do not suggest the 22-year old lefty is big-league ready, an assignment that draws to reality this evening, when Sandoval makes his MLB debut against Cincinnati. But digging deeper, peripherals begin to indicate Sandoval has been far more victimized by the hitter-friendly PCL’s ridiculous environs than what he’s due. Sandoval’s most recent work, two consecutive starts against Colorado’s Albuquerque Isotopes, resulted in 11.2 IP, .190 BAA, 2.31 ERA, and 5 walks to 14 strikeouts, an example of the lefties strong swing-and-miss stuff. In addition to Sandoval’s strong strikeout rates (11 per 9 innings), he’s also kept the ball on the ground via a 47% groundball percentage, and a reasonable 7 HR allowed in 60 PCL innings. With the Angels rotation decimated by injury, Sandoval has golden opportunity to seize a spot on the staff and run with it for the remainder of the year. While initial results have been mixed, the exposure that this promising quartet – Canning, Suarez, Barria, and Sandoval – are experiencing now could shape the Angels rotation drastically as soon as 2020.
2019 (AA/AAA): 5.71 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, .290 BAA, 42 BB, 98 K, across 80.1 IP in 20 G/19 GS
7) Cristopher Molina – RHP, A+ Inland Empire:
Molina has continued to show no issues adjusting to A+, as the righty added three more solid starts to his 2019 campaign, throwing 16.2 IP of 3.78 ERA ball, walking four and striking out 15 to go with 2 HR and 16 hits (.254 BAA). Molina has now been in the organization since 2014, yet is only 22 – young for the California League – and has been consistent and durable going back to the second-half of 2018, so he might begin to get pressed further as the year goes on, perhaps even a AA call-up. Tall and lanky, listed at 6’3″ and 170, Molina’s strong blend of durability, decent strikeout rates, low walk rates, and ability to limit baserunners makes him an ideal organizational soldier who could emerge as a depth piece as early as 2020.
2019 (A/A+): 3.07 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .228 BAA, 33 BB, 99 K across 105.2 IP in 21 G/18 GS
8) Hector Yan – LHP, A Burlington:
Early season questions about Yan’s control and ability to pitch deep into games are quickly becoming erased. Yan is now averaging 83 pitches a game since June 4th, having pitched into the 5th inning or better in nine of his last eleven starts after only doing so twice in the first two months of the year. He has allowed no more than one walk in his last five starts and only 20 in his last 54.1 IP, after starting the year with 22 BB in his first 35 IP. In his last two starts, Yan has again been dominant pitching 10.2 IP of 1.69 ERA ball, only allowing four hits (.118 BAA) and two walks, striking out twelve. Yan might have little left to prove in Burlington, and a promotion to Inland Empire to wrap up the year seems reasonable and possibly imminent, where he might replace the recently promoted Oliver Ortega on the 66er’s staff.
2019 (A): 3.32 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .188 BAA, 4 HR allowed, 42 BB, 122 K across 89.1 IP in 21 G/17 GS
9, tied) Luke Lind – RHP, A Burlington/A+ Inland Empire and Chad Sykes – RHP, A Burlington:
In a year that has seen the Angels utilize multiple starting pitchers in tandem, and a number of relievers converted to the rotation, the number of relievers in the system has dropped significantly. Two names however have bucked that trend and have posted strong results. Towering Luke Lind, a 6’6″ RHP who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017, struck out 62 in 38 innings before missing the 2018 season, has returned this year as a force in the Burlington, and now Inland Empire, bullpen. Lind made one more Burlington performance on 7/22 before being promoted to Inland Empire, and has collectively posted 10 IP, 0.90 ERA, .135 BAA, 2 BB, 13 K in five appearances over the last two weeks. Routinely delivering 30-40 pitches, Lind has been used heavily as a multi-inning reliever, and one has to imagine he’ll follow this path as he advances, if not garnering some discussion as a possible rotation convert.
Chad Sykes, one of the Angels ’19 draftees, and even rarer, one of the few allowed to pitch the same season as being drafted, has also made a mark to start his career. The UNC reliever was promoted to Burlington on July 24th, and has opened his A Ball career with 6 innings pitched, allowing zero runs, one hit, three walks, and striking out 10. Sykes could be a fast-mover in the Angels season, perhaps finding himself in AA Mobile as early as next year, with a 2020 call-up not out of the question.
Lind 2019 (A/A+): 2.30 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .228 BAA, 2 HR allowed, 19 BB, 58 K (11.1 K/9) across 47 IP in 28 G
Sykes 2019 (Orem Rk./A): 4.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .228 BAA, 1 HR allowed, 8 BB, 25 K (14.1 K/9) across 16 IP in 11 G
10, tied) Cooper Criswell – RHP, A+ Inland Empire and Robinson Pina – RHP, A Burlington:
Three ties for this edition of the hotlist! The last slot goes to two arms that have quietly produced a full season of solid results, often in the shadows of those with more exciting results such as Hector Yan, Jose Soriano, or Oliver Ortega, or with more prospect pedigree, such as Kyle Bradish, Chris Rodriguez, Aaron Hernandez, or Cole Duensing.
Cooper Criswell, in particular, has really come along as a strong, durable arm in the Inland Empire rotation. Standing 6’6″, 200, the North Carolina righty turned 24 a couple weeks back, and made the hotlist following three strong starts in which he totaled 17.1 IP, allowing a 2.08 ERA, and 21 hits, striking out 18 and only walking 2. Criswell has enjoyed a steady, solid summer actually, having limited opponents to a 3.42 ERA in June and July, posting strong peripherals (10 BB, 55 K, and only 2 HR) in 52.2 IP. Criswell’s might find himself in AA before the year’s out, and could profile as a decent back-of-the-rotation starter on the Angels’ depth charts as soon as 2020.
Pina, likewise, has been solid and dependable over the course of the year, and his most recent two starts align with those of Criswell, albeit in only two starts, as the righty allowed a 1.64 ERA, .216 BAA across 11 IP, walking 2, striking out 15. The 20-year old Pina is nearly two years older than the competition he is facing as a member of Burlington’s staff, and while walks have been of some concern (50 in 90 IP), he has struck out 115 on the year, only allowing 4 home runs and limiting hitters to a .218 BAA on the season. Pina should see time in Inland Empire before the year is out, and continued success could lead him to a quick ascent among the Angels top SP prospects, with a future in at least the bullpen an almost certain floor.
Criswell 2019 (A+): 4.27 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, .288 BAA, 6 HR allowed, 26 BB, 86 K across 90.2 IP in 20 G/16 GS
Pina 2019 (A): 4.08 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, .218 BAA, 50 BB, 115 K across 90.1 IP in 21 G/16 GS
Honorable mention, pitchers:
Kelvin Caceres (RHP, AZL Rk.): 14 IP, 4 BB, 13 K, .224 BAA, 3.21 ERA in 3 G/2 GS – 19-year old with a strong showing stateside so far, 3.09 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 9 K/9
Tyler Carpenter (RHP, AA): 12.2 IP, BB, 9 K, .245 BAA, 3.55 ERA in 2 GS
Greg Mahle (LHP, AA): 11 IP, BB, 11 K, .273 BAA, 3.27 ERA in 2 GS – Remember him? Wouldn’t surprise me if he wound up making a spot start before the year is out.
Luis Pena (RHP, AA): 6.2 IP, 4 BB, 10 K, .154 BAA, 2.70 ERA in 4 games – converted to relief, Pena has a .175 BAA and 2.78 ERA in Mobile this year following a demotion from SLC
Adam Hofacket (RHP, AA/AAA): 9.1 IP, 4 BB, 14 K, .206 BAA, 3.86 ERA in 4 games – RHP showing increased strikeout rates this year, could pop up in Anaheim before year is up
Victor Rodriguez (LHP, DSL Rk.): 9 IP, 3 BB, 10 K, .229 BAA, 1.00 ERA – 18-year old lefty throwing well in Dominican Summer League
Ethan Clark (RHP, Orem Rk./A): 7.2 IP, 3 BB, 18 K, .172 BAA, 2.35 ERA in 4 games – 6’5″ RHP from Tampa org, a little old for league but 28 K in 20.1 IP so far