- C – Brennan Morgan – 22 yo
- 3.09/.751 – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Orem)
- 2016 stats: .277/.376/.419; .795 OPS; 10 doubles, 4 home runs; 24% CS rate
“It was very difficult.” Those were the first words that came out of my mouth when a friend asked how the Angels system looked when doing my UTR OAS research. Difficult is quite an understatement. But you know what? Regardless of the organization, Jim and I compartmentalize each organization. No comparing one organization to the other. Looking at the Angels catching ranks, 2015 – 1st rounder Taylor Ward sits atop the mountain. He debuted in 2015 and over two levels (Rookie Orem/LoA Burlington) he posted a 56-game PAG/APPA of 3.46/.795. This season Ward was with HiA Inland Empire and in comparison to his debut, had quite a unique season. You’d think the Cal League would help a hitter, but in Ward’s case, not so much. His batting average dipped nearly 100 points, his walk rate plummeted and his K’s skyrocketed. This zeroed me in on first-year player Brennan Morgan. The Angels drafted the hulking 6’4″ – 230 pounder out of Kennesaw State University (GA) in the 24th round and immediately assigned him to the Pioneer League’s Orem Owls. Morgan didn’t light up the scoreboard, but one thing he displayed was near eerie consistency. In four years with the Kennesaw State Owls (ironically), he logged a .275/.373/.399/.772 slash line. As you can see above, Morgan posted near identical numbers. However, Morgan led all Angels minor league catchers in OPS, on-base and slugging percentage. Keep an eye on this kid. He can really hit, has growing power and if catching doesn’t work out, he’s spent time at first base. He has the potential to make a big leap forward in the LAA prospect ranks.
- 1B – Matt Thaiss – 21 yo
- 3.49/.788 combined – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Orem – 4.73/1.000; LoA Burlington – 3.13/7.21)
- 2016 stats combined: .292/.361/.462; .824 OPS; 19 doubles, 6 home runs; 26:32 BB:K ratio.
Simply put, there isn’t a better hitting prospect inside the Angels system than Thaiss. The 2016 – 1st rounder out of the University of Virginia was a catcher for the Cavaliers and when you post the offensive numbers Thaiss did from behind the plate? I’ll take that 25 hours a day, 8 days a week. However, upon being drafting the Angels shifted the 6’0″ – 195 lb. lefty to first. Now, when tabulating the offensive calling card for catcher and first base, suddenly Thaiss’ numbers appeared a bit pedestrian. The thing is, no matter what the position, he’s a hitter with an advanced approach, power to spare and plate discipline well beyond his years. I think with the Angels system sitting at the bottom of the barrel, Thaiss may go slightly unnoticed in 2017 minor league fantasy rookie drafts. But let me tell you, if you do your homework and take the young New Jersey native, you’ll eventually have a player that fellow owners will eventually be begging for in trades.
- 2B – Miguel De La Cruz – 18 yo
- 3.03/.723 – PAG/APPA – (DSL Angels)
- 2016 stats combined: .292/.361/.462; .824 OPS; 19 doubles, 6 home runs; 26:32 BB:K ratio.
When Jim and I run into a situation like the Angels, we have to take not necessarily a skewed approach, but we have to analyze things using a different lens. The system is bad. Let me just get that out there. In a few mainstream minor league prospect publications, 2015 – 4th rounder Brendon Sanger and 2014 Cuban-born signee Roberto Baldoquin top the Angels second base vector. Both come with a vast array of tools that could help push them high up the organizational ladder. But, based on this season alone, 2016 free-agent signee out of the Dominican Republic, Miguel De La Cruz could be closing in fast on those above him. Probably the biggest bit of upside for De La Cruz and the system is his age appropriation per level. He’s an 18-year-old who led his DSL squad in walks, doubles and triples. Could I have chosen 2016 – 19th rounder out of Arizona Cody Ramer? Sure, but I have to gauge faith carefully when Ramer is a 22-year-old who pulverized pitching from 18-19 year olds. I just like the position in which De La Cruz is set up in: age appropriate, led his team in several categories. Another kid I liked here was 2016 – 7th rounder Jordan Zimmerman. He posted a higher PAG/APPA per say, but I wanted to see a bigger age/level difference between he and De La Cruz.
- 3B – Zach Houchins – 23 yo
- 3.03/.732 – PAG/APPA – (Hi Inland Empire)
- 2016 stats: .262/.312/.423; .734 OPS; 24 doubles, 18 home runs
Houchins has been a mainstay at UTRMinors since the inception of the website. The 2014- 13th rounder out of East Carolina University landed on the UTR Hitters of the Day list 20 times over the last three seasons in addition to a being a 2014 Organizational All-Star and a 2015 “One to Watch.” This season the 6’2″ – 210 lb. righty led the entire minor league organization in home runs and RBi’s (84). Some might say his production this season might be a product of Cal League inflation, but if you look at last season’s numbers, they are strikingly similar. For LoA Burlington, Houchins posted a .253/.313/.401/.714 slash line and a 2.84/.681 PAG/APPA. Sure, his numbers improved, but only by a slight margin. Houchins isn’t the sexiest prospect. In fact, he’s not even listed inside the current Angels top 30 over at MLB Pipeline. But you know what? That’s ok. Julio Garcia and Hutton Moyer carry the 3B distinction. But I’ll take the weighted measure for this season (ignoring Garcia’s .149 batting average in 14 AZL games and Moyer, who’s the same age as Houchins, but at a lower level) and place Houchins, who I believe is on his way to Double-A Arkansas, ahead of them in good old UTR fashion.
- SS – Leonardo Rivas – 18 yo
- 3.41/.855 combined – PAG/APPA – (DSL – 3.70/.961; AZL – 3.04/.731)
- 2016 stats combined: .289/.413/.379; .792 OPS; 26 stolen bases, 36:39 BB:K ratio
With a system as inferior as the Angels, 18-year-old Leonardo Rivas is one of the few bright spots of the 2016 UTR season. The Angels signed the 5’10” – 160 pounder out of Venezuela back in July of 2014, but Rivas didn’t see his first game action until 2015. He debuted in the Dominican Summer League, posted a 3.18/.750 PAG/APPA and led his team in hits, runs scored, triples, stolen bases, walks and total bases. Obviously the Angels wanted to see if the then 17-year-old was for real so they kept him with the DSL squad to begin 2016. All the rail-thin switch hitter did was log a 33-game PAG/APPA of 3.70/.961 and a slash line of .323/.455/.414/.869. This was enough to prompt the organization to promote him to the Arizona League. In only 26 games, Rivas was among the team leaders in runs scored (22) and walks (16). Rivas possesses a great set of tools defensively, but will need to gain arm strength and learn better reads off the bat before he’s deemed a full-blown prospect of the future at shortstop. My gut says the Angels may promote him to Rookie Orem to begin 2017.
- LF – Zach Gibbons – 22 yo
- 4.22/.946 – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Orem)
- 2016 stats: .351/.441/.513; .955 OPS; 12 doubles, 5 home runs; 29:22 BB:K ratio
Now we’re talking. With the inferiority of the Angels UTR infield, the outfield is quite the opposite, housing several top prospects as well as a hand full of UTRs. Chad Hinshaw and Caleb Adams are a few top prospects but Hinshaw has surpassed UTR age requirements (25) and Adams spend the majority of 2016 with Double-A Arkansas. Of the several left fielders, 2016 – 17th rounder Zach Gibbons had as stellar a season as anyone in the system. The University of Arizona draftee was assigned to Rookie Orem where he hit the ground running. Gibbons batted .351 and ranked within the Pioneer League top 10 in walks, stolen bases (17), batting and on-base percentage. Now, Gibbons isn’t the most exciting prospect, but the 5’8″ – 190 pounder fits into that “what you see is what you get” mold. But make no mistake, he’s a ballplayer. I’m sure experts will look at his age/level and waive Gibbons off. However, I could envision Gibbons logging another season just like his debut, but this time at either LoA Burlington or, most likely, HiA Inland Empire. Gibbons seems to be the type of prospect who’ll have to work extra hard to prove he belongs within mainstream top prospect lists. And I believe his plate discipline, gap-to-gap approach and ability to work pitchers deep into counts will allow him to do it.
- CF – Jahmai Jones – 18 yo
- 3.78/.818 – combined PAG/APPA – (Rookie Orem – 4.15/.881; LoA Burlington – 2.69/.614)
- 2016 stats combined: .302/.379/.422; .801 OPS; 13 doubles, 4 home runs; 20 stolen bases
There may not be a better overall athlete/hitting prospect in the Angels system than Jones. Drafted in the 2nd round out of Wesleyan School (GA) in 2015, the 6’0″ – 215 lb. righty began his pro career for Rookie Orem where he batted .244 with 10 extra base hits, 16 stolen bases and 28 runs scored in 40 games. It was obvious the organization wanted Jones (and his debut 3.40/.743 PAG/APPA) to spend more time in rookie ball. So, he opened 2016 again with the Orem Owls and easily proved he was more than up for the challenge batting .321 with 12 doubles, 3 home runs and 19 stolen bases. Jones received a promotion to LoA Burlington in mid-August and batted .242 with a double and home run in 16 games. I think Jones begins 2017 back with Burlington, but if he busts out of the gate, he could see HiA Inland Empire sooner rather than later, showing off the skills and supreme make everyone in the organization is extremely excited to have in the fold.
- RF – John Schuknecht – 21 yo
- 3.78/.818 – combined PAG/APPA – (Arizona League – 3.39/.862; Rookie Orem – 4.72/1.149)
- 2016 stats combined: .315/.387/.573; .960 OPS; 20 doubles, 8 home runs; 10 stolen bases
This was a tough choice. As followers of UTRMinors know, Jim and I make a concentrated effort to discuss the hitters and pitchers outside of the mainstream top 20s and 30s. And it’s OAS races like LAA’s right field that helps. I’m all over 2016 – 8th rounder Troy Montgomery. The 5’10” – 185 lb. lefty played the majority of his debut season in right field, but being a defensive-first player, I could see Montgomery shifting to centerfield so the organization can take advantage of his plus-speed and strong arm. This shifts my focus to Schuknecht, who was taken in the 37th round out of Cal Poly Tech this season. The 6’0″ – 200 pounder didn’t light the scoreboard on fire for the Mustangs. He posted a career .265 batting average with 15 home runs, 95 RBi’s and 20 stolen bases. That averages out to approximately 4 home runs, 5 stolen bases and 24 RBi’s a season. Yet, nothing makes an organization happier than seeing a late round draftee long overplay their draft status. This describes Schuknecht’s debut. He began 2016 in the Arizona League where he batted .318 and led the team in doubles (16) and total bases. After 33 AZL games, Schuknecht received a promotion to Rookie Orem and actually gained steam. In only 18 games, he batted .309 and led the team in home runs (8), slugging percentage (.721) and ranked second in OPS (1.085). My gut says the Angels will start Schuknecht at LoA Burlington next season, but could aggressively push him to HiA if he handles himself just like he did in his debut.
PitchersBack in the spring I chose Jaime Barria as the Angels “One to Watch” for the 2016 season. It was a good pick, as you will see below. I wrote then that the Angels’ system for pitching was a train wreck due to the lack of depth beyond Barria; as far as UTR’s were concerned. The top UTR pitchers from my 2014 list were Tyler DeLoach and Harrison Cooney. LHP DeLoach (26th Rd-2012) was moved to the bullpen in 2016 and made 51 appearances, going 4-1 (3 saves) with a 2.87 ERA. Cooney also started the season from the pen, but injured his elbow during his second outing and missed the rest of the year. Victor Alcantara made the initial UTR-OAS, repeated in 2015, and was labeled as a “Legit UTR.” The Angels were very aggressive with the young Dominican when they assigned him straight out of the DSL right to full season LoA in 2014. They continued that game plan with the now 23-year-old in 2015 at HiA Inland Empire and Double-A Arkansas last season. Stat-wise, there wasn’t anything glaring, besides inconsistency, to proceed his push through the system. The Detroit Tigers did see something, trading 10-year veteran Cameron Maybin for him back in early November. The 2015 UTR-OAS list continued to be all over the UTR map for the Angels. 2014 top prospect Sean Newcomb headlined that list, but the Angels traded him to Atlanta at the end of the 2015 season. I also mentioned in the Barria piece that Jeremy Rhoades should be on your watch list, which he then appeared on the 2015 UTR-OAS roster. A 4th round pick in 2014, the 23 year-old almost slid into the #5 slot below and may have, if he wasn’t moved to the bullpen late season. His stats weren’t note-worthy, but my system sifted him out, as he showed flashes with HiA Inland Empire. However, it has to click for the big righty (6’4″ 225 lbs) in 2017 to stay on the prospect radar. Eduardo Paredes stood out in 2015 as a UTR relief pitcher and was recently added to the Angels 40-man roster. In keeping step, the wheel-and-deal Angels kept it consistent with another late year trade. On December 1st, The Club traded Jared Ruxer, who would have ranked at #5 below, to the Kansas City Royals for Brooks Pounder. Ruxer basically made the list based on his early season performance with LoA Burlington, which didn’t translate over to the HiA Inland Empire. Lastly, in what could be an under the radar move, the Astros were able to acquire Houston’s Troy Scribner before the start of the 2016 season. He posted respectable numbers with Double-A Arkansas and AAA-Salt Lake. Scribner was a past UTR-OAS with the Astros and should be watched closely now within Angels system. Internationally, Manuel Rondon was the only pitcher highlighted during the 2014 season. He struggled during his U.S. debut in 2015 and was sent to the Chicago Cubs in July 2015. My international watch going into the 2016 season was Cristopher Molina, who made his state-side debut with the AZL Angels, splitting his time as a starter and reliever with mix results. Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score/TPS 1. RHP Jaime Barria – 17 / .141 *Solid Stash*
- 20 years old – (LoA Burlington)
- International Free Agent – 2013
- Shortly after my system sorted out Barria as the “One to Watch”, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook hit the stands and the young right-hander debuted as the #9 prospect for the Angels. A strong full season with Burlington has him as my top UTR pitcher for 2016. What to watch for in 2017 will be an assignment to the California League (Inland Empire), and whether he can consistently hold his career BB9 (1.5) and (0.4) HR9 rates. He needs to vastly improve missing bats, however, and that’s where TPS slides him down the scale. He only struck out 78 hitters over 117 innings and also proved to be hittable surrendering 133 hits.
- 18 years old – (DSL Angels / AZL Angels)
- International Free Agent – 2015
- Rodriguez garnered the attention of the organization after combining on a no-hitter back in July with the DSL Angels. Within two weeks, the youngster found himself in the United States making his debut with the AZL Angels and putting up almost identical stats. Of course Rodriguez is very raw, but if he can display his solid command and getting outs by way of the roundball, he could be one to keep a close eye.
- 20 years old – (LoA Burlington)
- International Free Agent – 2012
- Rodriguez, in his fourth year with the Angels, got to see his full season with LoA Burlington and amassed enough innings to equal his previous three. The Angels have begun making strides in the international markets, which is evident by the top 3 selections on my list. This Rodriguez is another good looking young arm with pitchability. At times, he was overmatched during his U.S. debut season with Rookie Leagues AZL and Orem, but it seemed to come together this past season, going 7-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 27 starts. He displays a good fastball (high 80’s/low 90’s) and command of a potential plus changeup.
- 23 years old – (Pioneer Orem / LoA Burlington)
- 18th round – 2014
- Robichaux makes a repeat appearance as a UTR-OAS this season after being ranked in 2015. For unfound reasons, the right-hander didn’t start the 2016 season until June with the Orem Owls, so rehabbing an injury was mostly the culprit. The righty is a heady pitcher who can throw within all zones. This, however, could be a pitfall, as he may have missed his marks too many times in 2015, only racking up 92 K’s in 142 innings. Hopefully he will realize that the missed time from 2016 only hurts his development and will take an aggressive approach in 2017. This could be a tough task in the California League.
- 22 years old – (AZL Angels / LoA Burlington / HiA Inland Empire)
- 3rd round – 2015
- We only saw snapshots of Long in 2016 with 15 starts over three levels. He got off to a decent start with the AZL Angels, but possibly fatigued or suffered a nagging injury, which limited his work at Burlington and Inland Empire.
- 23 years old – (LoA Burlington / HiA Inland Empire / Double-A Arkansas)
- 11th round – 2012 (Baltimore)
- The Orioles released Grendell at the start of the season and was immediately signed by the Angels on the same day. He went on to have his best season as a pro, despite struggling with his command posting a 5.1 BB9 rate. He was tough on hitters only allowing a .171 batting average. He could project as a future LOOGY, but he was just as hard on righties (.163 BA) as well. Oh yeah…throw in a 13.5 K9 rate (92 K’s in 61.1 IP) and you wonder what the Orioles were thinking.
- 22 years old – (LoA Burlington / HiA Inland Empire)
- 10th round – 2015
- Hofacket made 15 appearances with LoA Burlington and looked really good, allowing only 2 free passes in 21.1 innings with 24 strikeouts and 7 saves. The Angels were quick to promote him to Inland Empire and the wheels fell off. The 22 year-old allowed 23 runs over 34.1 innings (6.03 ERA), but his K9 (9.7) rate continued to show promise at the next level.
- 21 years old – (HiA Inland Empire / Double-A Inland Empire)
- International Free Agent – 2012
- The Angels added Paredes to their 40-man roster and he should see an invite to Spring Training next month. In five seasons, Paredes has posted career numbers of 4.74 K/BB, 1.079 WHIP, and 0.50 HR9 in 160 relief appearances (203 innings).