Performance Of Our Prospects

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Angels’ minor league system lately, specifically about how our prospects stack up to those of other organizations. This line of thinking (or, as my wife puts it, obsessing) led me to devise a simple system of scoring each of our prospects by combining their quantitative performance with a measure of how much younger they are than their league’s average. The immediate result was a ranking of each prospects’ performance over the 2008 season. Looking at the list now, I am happy about the outcome, as I think it does a pretty good job of comparing our prospects’ performances across levels. Most of all, it helps us spot the younger guys at the low levels who really outperformed their peer groups, the guys who will emerge as the Angels’ top prospects in the years to come. The list below includes the Angels’ 21st through 30th best performers in our system this year, in addition to honorable mentions of players who just missed making the list, or who I feel would have been on it should they have been healthy. I’ll post the 1st through 20th prospects later this week.

A quick disclaimer: this IS NOT a “Best Prospects List.” I am not a scout, and do not pretend to be able to project future performance through any other means than looking at the numbers that they put up over the 2008 season. I provided commentary about what I know of the players because (1) doing so in some small way justifies the hours I’ve spent reading about them and, in some cases, watching them; and (2) I wanted to provide some context for the list. At some point this offseason I’d like to score the prospects of competing organizations as well, and compare them to those of the Angels to get an idea about where the status of our organization currently stands. Lastly, I used traditional slash stats in ranking position players, but relied on strikeout to inning, strikeout to walk, and groundball to flyball ratios in ranking pitching prospects. Those are the stats I list for the pitchers below.

21) Bobby Wilson, 25. c. .312/.386/.435

Wilson’s midseason injury cost him the opportunity to play consistently in the Major Leagues when both Mathis and Napoli were down with their own injuries. He’s ready to make the jump. His defensive skills are reportedly strong, his contact and plate discipline skills made him an offensive contributor at every level, and once in awhile he’ll crush a pitch over the left field wall. Wilson is certainly capable of giving Jeff Mathis a run for his money, and his skill set provides a better compliment to Napoli’s. Regardless, he will probably have to wait for another injury before stepping into the backup catching job in Anaheim.

22) Fabio Martinez Mesa, 19. rhsp. DSL. k/inning=1.22 k/bb=2.91 gb/fb=1.14

Mesa posted a very strong 1.22 k-rate and showed above average control in the Dominican Summer League as a 19 year old. While his adequate but relatively low k/bb ratio dropped his ranking to the bottom half of the DSL Angels’ quartet of stud teenage starters, all four produced such similar results, and their sample size was so small, that any one of them could jump ahead of his peers at the higher levels. These four teenagers will be a lot of fun to track in the coming years, as they offer a perfect test case of just how fluky the development of pitching prospects can be.

23) Orangel Arena, 19. rhsp. DSL k/inning = 0.83. k/bb=2.84 gb/fb=1.67

By ERA alone, Arena turned in the most dominant performance of the Angels’ Dominican Summer League pitchers. However, he was the only one of that foursome not to average over a strikeout an inning, generating most of his outs with a strong 1.67 groundball to flyball ratio. Like Manuarys Correa before him, and the three other pitchers in his DSL cohort, he is probably already too good for the Arizona Summer League, making Orem or Cedar Rapids his likely 2009 destination.

24) Ryan Mount, 22. 2b. High A. .290/.337/.512

Ryan Mount ranks among my personal favorites of the Angels’ position prospects, but I’m partial to middle infielders who hit for power from the left side. He’s a year and a half older than teammate Hank Conger, dropping him down on this list quite a bit, but the guy can really put the hurt on a baseball. Like most of our power prospects, Mount has an extremely aggressive approach, which limits his walks and probably foreshadows more strikeouts as he advances to the higher levels. Hitting in the offense-deadening Texas League next year will also test the degree to which his power was the product of favorable California League conditions. His defense hasn’t drawn rave reviews, but no one is talking about moving him either, so he might break into the majors as an offense-oriented second baseman. With Mount, I’m optimistic.

25) Eddie McKiernan, 19. rhrp. Low A. k/inning=0.90 k/bb=3.50 gb/fb=0.81

A teenager pitching in the Midwest League will score highly in my system, even if his results were merely average. McKiernan fits that profile, missing bats at less than an elite level while giving up more flyballs than groundballs. However, his control was well above average and he successfully converted most of the Kernal’s second half save opportunities. I’m looking forward to seeing the scouting report on this guy – at 19, his stuff has lots of time to develop, and any increase in his k rate could dramatically increase his value.

26) Jose Perez, 21. rhsp. Low A. k/inning=1.08 k/bb=5.82 gb/fb=1.11

Advancing through Orem, Cedar Rapids, and Rancho Cucamonga, Jose Perez turned in a solid season. Overall, he struck out more than a batter an inning, kept his walks to a minimum, and generally did most of the things you’d like to see a 21-year-old pitching prospect do. However, after the promotion to Cedar Rapids his k/9 and groundball/flyball ratios plummeted to 0.7 and .85 respectively, though an improvement in ERA masked these trends. As with all of our pitching prospects, a year in Rancho Cucamonga will provide the best litmus test of his ultimate value.

27) Hainley Statia, 22.5. ss. AA .242/.288/.366

Statia is probably the best defensive prospect in the Angel system, playing, by all accounts, a beautiful shortstop. According to Chone Smith’s defensive calculations, Hainley was the best defender at the position throughout the entire minor leagues over the 2007 season. Expectations mounted when he turned in a strong spring training last year. Now, if only he could hit. To his credit, the man almost never struck out, setting a pace for only 40 k’s per 500 at bats this season; he simply struggled to punch the ball through the infield. However, injuries hampered Statia throughout the spring and summer, so his approximately 250 at bats provide too small of a sample size to write him off. He has shown good plate discipline in the past, providing reason to hope that the 15 or more runs he saves in the field, together with his modest contributions at the plate, might make him a useful contributor come 2010. My guess is that he returns to AA this year, because the log jam of middle infielders in Anaheim and Salt Lake will force a do-over.

28) Luis Jiminez, 20.5 3b/1b/dh. Pioneer League .331/.361/.630

Unlike Statia, Luis Jimenez absolutely pounded the ball when he got a hold of it, leading the Pioneer Rookie league with a .630 slugging percentage. Moreover, his .331 batting average was impressive enough for Baseball America to call him the fifth best prospect in that league. Nevertheless, my system discounts him heavily due to his age – he was 20 and a half in rookie ball, or roughly the same age as Hank Conger, even as the latter slugged his way into the AA playoffs. Jimenez’ questionable defense at the hot corner and utter unwillingness to take a walk doesn’t get me too excited, though his high power/low strikeout combo will probably push him higher on rankings of the Angels’ system. Jiminez may skip Low A to play in Rancho to start the upcoming season.

29) Robert Fish, 20. lhsp. Low A k/inning=0.97 k/bb=2.03 gb/fb=0.99

The 20-year-old posted a pretty mediocre 4.85 ERA in the pitching-friendly Midwest League. However, his peripherals provide reason for keeping the faith: he gave up less than a hit an inning while striking out nearly a batter an inning. His weakness was control, issuing on average nearly one free pass every other inning. Walks combined with fly ball tendencies typically don’t play well in the California League, so how Fish adjusts in the coming year will dictate his future with the Angels.

30) Trevor Bell, 22. rhrp. A+. k/inning=.78 k/bb=2.24 gb/fb=2.03

Bell’s groundball to flyball ratio went through the roof after he transitioned to a relief role for the Quakes in the second half. His k rate and control grade as solid average, and if he can keep hitters pounding his fastball into the dirt in the upcoming years, he will likely make it as a middle reliever.

Honorable Mentions:
Gabriel Jacobo, Roberto Lopez, Clay Fuller, Jayson Miller, Matt Sweeney, Ryan Chaffee, PJ Phillips, Andrew Romine, Anel De Los Santos, Mason Tobin, Michael Anton, Jonathon Bachanov, Young-Il Jung

Gabriel Jacobo turned in a great high contact/high power/no patience offensive performance at both Orem and Cedar Rapids; the problem is, he has little defensive value, and is already 22. To reach the majors, he is going to have to consistently demolish pitching as he advances. Ok, Roberto Lopez hit .400 in rookie ball, which was an impressive feet. But the guy was 23, or roughly the same age as Evan Longoria, so my system didn’t rank him highly. Clay Fuller spent two years in the Arizona Summer League learning how to switch hit, and the results paid off this season at Cedar Rapids, where he showed strong defense in centerfield, speed, and pop. If his left-handed swing continues to improve – he did K at an alarming rate from that side, though his patience and isolated power indicators remained solid – he could become a Shane Victorino type. Jayson Miller put up a microscopic ERA in the rookie Pioneer League, but he is almost a year older than Nick Adenhart; we’ll check back in after he gives high A a whirl. Matt Sweeney lost the year to a shattered ankle, but he might have been the best power prospect of Rancho’s powerful 2008 cohort, which included Conger, Trumbo and Mount. I think he’ll be the Angels’ breakout player of the year in 2009. Ryan Chaffee also missed the summer due to an ankle injury, so we won’t know what the Angels’ 2008 second round draft pick can do until next season. P.J. Phillips continues not to develop – his power and average were unimpressive in Rancho, and it doesn’t look like the plate discipline or defense will ever really come. He might spend another year in High A learning 3rd base. Andrew Romine will play shortstop for Rancho in the coming year – like Statia, he’s all glove, no bat, though he did pace the entire organization with 50 stolen bases in Low A. Also like Statia, Romine is approaching 23. Anel De Los Santos was ranked the Angels’ 10th best prospect by Baseball America last year – but that was before he failed to touch a .500 OPS in the Midwest League. 2007 draftees Mason Tobin and Michael Anton both raised eyebrows with good performances in their professional debuts, but didn’t do enough this year to make this list. Jonathon Bachanov and Young-Il Jung were both highly touted amateurs, and both remain MIA as professionals.

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