C – Jack Kruger – At the major league level, the Angels have two catchers on the roster: Jonathan Lucroy, who L.A. signed to a 1-year, $3.3M contract and Kevan Smith, a late-October 2018 waiver claim from the White Sox. So. it’s apparent that the organization isn’t afraid to reach outside the organization for help, but what about the minors? Who’s on the horizon? Well, have you ever seen a patchwork quilt?: The Angels are 26-year-old Jose Briceno’s third organization (COL & ATL); 31-year-old journeyman Dustin Garneau, (who has 88 games in the majors) has spent time with Colorado (who drafted him) Oakland and the White Sox; Julian Leon, after four years with the Dodgers, is in the other L.A. now and Roberto Perez, the 26-year-old who started his career with Houston, and is now on his third organization in four years (White Sox in ‘17, Tampa Bay in ‘18). The Angels are in dire need of homegrown help, and hopefully 2016 – 20th rounder Jack Kruger can help. The 6’1”- 185 lb. righty split time between HiA Inland Empire and Double-A Mobile in 2018. In 56 games with the 66er’s, the Mississippi State draftee batted .294 with 12 doubles, three home runs and a surprising 11 stolen bases. Upon his promotion to AA, he drew only four walks to 31 strikeouts in 41 games, but saw an uptick in overall production (.305/.328/.443/.770), stole two more bases and hit four home runs. The L.A. native is far from a blue-chip prospect, but he can hit, he provides solid defense and maybe he can eventually help the organization clean out the medley of backstops sitting above him.1B – Jared Walsh – After his first year as a pro, Angels first-round draft choice (2016) out of the University of Virginia, Matt Thaiss was an immediate favorite of ours here. He was an Organizational All-Star choice in both 2016 and in 2017, and batted a combined .280 with 16 home runs, 34 doubles and 76 RBi for AA Mobile and AAA Salt Lake last season. No doubt he’s headed for Angel Stadium of Anaheim much sooner rather than later. This is an all-star list, I’m bullish on Thaiss being the man at first base, so I’ll take a 1-year OAS deal on Jared Walsh, a 24, turned-25-year-old during-the-2018-regular-season lefty swinger after he batted a respectful .275 with 13 home runs and 36 RBi over 40 games in the hitter-friendly Cal League with Inland Empire. Over the next 88 games he saw time with Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake. He maintained his average (.278), adding another 16 home runs and 63 RBi. A great season no matter how you look at it. But Thaiss is where it’s at and maybe the system can give us another up-and-coming first baseman in 2019 who can raise the floor of the position once again. 2B – Jahmai Jones – Straight and to the point. That’s how Jahmai Jones inclusion on this list can be described. The 2015 – 2nd rounder out of Wesleyan School (GA) spent his first 75 games of the 2018 season with HiA Inland Empire, where he batted .235 with eight home runs, 35 RBi, 47 runs scored and 13 stolen bases; and despite the down performance compared to 2017, you have to attribute some of it to a learning a new position, as the organization moved him to centerfield from to second base. The 6’0”- 215 lb. righty moved up to AA Mobile in early July and he didn’t slow down posting a higher extra-base rate and in 27 less games, and stole only two less bases than he did in HiA (11:13). To start 2019, he might see more time in AA to work on his defense, but it wouldn’t surprise to see Jones in AAA Salt Lake, putting him one step closer to becoming the Angels everyday second baseman. 3B – Tim Millard – Current Angels starting third baseman Zack Cozart will turn 35 in August 2019. Therefore it doesn’t defy conventional wisdom to understand that he’s on the back end of the career curve. So, the Angels have to start thinking about who’s next. Given their track record for signing free-agents/making waiver claims (see catcher above), it would come as no surprise to see them reach outside the organization again. However, we’re running off of 2018 performances and Dallas Baptist University draftee Tim Millard put together a real nice season; with the bat at least. He started 2018 in the Pioneer League with Orem and before an August 1 promotion to LoA Burlington, the 6’0”- 200 lb. righty batted .299 with seven home runs (which ranked third on the Owls roster), logged 29 RBi and a posted a 21:27 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Once with the Bees, his production diminished nearly in half in 30 games. Overall, however he gave the organization more than what they most likely expected from a 35th rounder. But on the defensive side, Millard belongs more as the OAS first baseman than at third because his defense at the hot corner in his debut was atrocious, registering 13 errors in 119 chances (.891 fielding percentage), whereas at first base, he was errorless. SS – Luis Rengifo – The soon-to-be 22 year old Rengifo has been a staple here at UTR Minors since his sophomore season back in 2015. After a sneaky/solid debut season in 2014, the Venezuelan was a 2015 UTR OAS choice as a member of Seattle’s DSL2 roster, making him a no-brainer “One to Watch” prospect both in 2016 and 2017. Yet, despite batting .239 in 219 games in the 2015-17 seasons, he hit 15 home runs, scored 144 runs, whacked 44 doubles, drove in 96 and stole 75 bases. After a 23 game pit stop with Tampa Bay (LoA Bowling Green) he was shipped to L.A. as the PTBNL in the trade that completed the C.J. Cron move to Seattle. This past season, Rengifo finally broke out, starting with a .323/.424/.466/.892 slashline with 22 steals, 36 runs scored and five more walks than strikeouts (27:22). He moved to AA Mobile and kept the offense rolling adding 37 more runs scored, 13 more steals and 17 more extra base hits. He slowed a bit after his early-July promotion to AAA Salt Lake, but wow, when all was said and done, over three levels, the 5’10”- 165 lb. switch-hitter ended up with 41 steals, 109 runs scored, seven home runs, 30 doubles and a .299 average. Sure, he could polish his defense, but with that kind of bat knocking on the door to the majors, I’ll take the greater good with whatever bad. LF – Orlando Martinez – The other day in a conversation with writing partner Jim, analogies were being thrown around in an attempt to describe organizations prospect ranks without talking about the organizations directly. One analogy used was this: “It’s like a lake that’s frozen over. You have to “chip” through that thick “blue” layer of (prospect) ice, and once through it, there’s some muddy water underneath. In a UTR frame of mind, 20-year-old Cuban Orland Martinez could become some of that blue chipped ice after a (two-level) debut season with Rookie Orem and LoA Burlington. The Angels signed the Havana native in August 2017, and in 12 games with the Orem Owls, the lefty batted .375 with seven extra-base hits and 11 runs scored before receiving a quick hook to the Midwest League. As a member of the Bees, his batting average dropped (.289), but Martinez clubbed 12 doubles, swatted three homers and drove in 25 more runs. On the season, Martinez finished with a .305/.354/.432/.786 slashline with 17 doubles, five home runs and nine steals. Definitely one to watch moving forward. CF – Jo Adell – Going back to the beginning of the last bio on Orlando Martinez. The 19-year-old Adell is the bluest of the blue prospect ice in the Angels system. He’s a stud prospect, pure and simple, and could see the majors in 2019, he’s that good. If you need to ask who Jo Adell is, maybe deep level fantasy baseball isn’t for you. The best outfielder to climb the Angels ranks since Mike Trout. RF – D’Shawn Knowles – With this being an all-star list, it would be way too easy to go with Brandon Marsh here. He handled Lo and HiA with ease last season as seen here, and he might be the best pure athlete in the Angels organization, but lest we forget, this is UTR. So, in spite of Marsh’s athleticism and universal prospect standing, we chose to lay our UTR bets on 18-year-old Bahamas native D’Shawn Knowles. The Angels signed the New Province native in July 2017 and he made his pro debut in 2018 stateside with the Arizona League. The 17-year-old didn’t disappoint batting .301 with six extra-base hits, 19 runs scored and 14 RBi. In a bold move, the organization promoted Knowles to the Pioneer League where he was facing competition nearly four years his senior. You’d never know it because all the 6’0”- 165 lb. switch-hitter did was hit a robust .321 with 9 doubles, four home runs and 15 RBi. With a skill set that includes the ability to hit for high average, plus speed, great range, glove and arm in the outfield, it’s not shocking to think that Knowles could be next in line to take over the “top organizational outfielder” crown within the next few seasons. Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained
1. RHP Simon Mathews – (11) / HiA Inland Empire
** As a free agent signee in 2017, Mathews is moving through the system quickly. He went from 48 rookie league innings to a shot a Double-A Mobile in his debut season, if only for just an appearance. This past season, the 6′ 2″ 180 lb. right-hander bounced back and forth through three levels, including 2 appearances at Triple-A Salt Lake. Mathews was among the team leaders amongst the LoA Burlington staff with a 4.22 ERA and 46 strikeouts over 42.2 innings. After a rough start at HiA Inland Empire, Mathews went on to post nearly a strikeout per inning (18% Strike-Looking rate), a .245 opposing batting average, and flirted with a 60% groundball rate in 52.2 innings.
2. RHP Luis Madero – (10.5) / HiA Inland Empire “Legit UTR”
** Madero could top the list as the Angels “One to Watch” for the 2019 season. If you seriously UTR track minor league pitchers and use my submissions as reference, than Madero’s name is familiar. First off, you may know that the 6′ 3″ 185 lb. Venezuelan was traded to the Angels at the 2017 trade deadline deal that sent David Hernandez back to Arizona. Second, the right-hander was on my Dbacks 2014 UTR-OAS roster, as my system plucked the (then) 17-year old from the DSL. Here is my blurb on Madero back then:
“….Some feel I should take a wait and see attitude before posting pitchers from the Dominican Leagues. But I’m sticking with my formula that vet-out those who show promise. One could be skeptic of naming a 17-year old, let alone one that pitches in the DSL. Madero, at that age, has already showed an advanced feel for pitching and command of his stuff….and all during his first year as a pro. Those skeptics should imagine the capabilities of the right-hander as he matures and adds velocity to his low 90’s fastball. In the next 2-3 years when Madero is throwing his stuff at Short-Season Hillsboro, I’m sure I’ll reference back to when he ranked #2 during his debut season….”
I missed that next reference by one season. As I read in one publication, Madero is “sneaky good” with a 3-pitch mix that all rate as above-average and border on plus. Based on his success at HiA Inland Empire to close out the 2018 season, keep a close eye on this soon-to-be 22-year old. The Angels sure are….by adding him to the 40-man roster recently.
3. RHP Mitchell Traver – (10.5) / LoA Burlington
4. RHP Matt Ball –(8)/ AA Mobile
5. RHP Jeremy Beasley – (7.5) / AA MobileTop 3 Relief Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained
1. RHP Eduardo Del Rosario – (8) / LoA Burlington
2. RHP Kida De La Cruz – (6)/ HiA Inland Empire
3. RHP Brett Hanewich – (6) / HiA Inland Empire