Coverage of the top 2011 Angels' prospects begins with a look back at the best statistical performances of 2010. Using the generally-accepted sabermetric assessment of a player's contributions, wins-above-replacement ("WAR"), I ranked the Halos organization's top 40 minor league players of the year. Again, this is NOT a traditional top prospect ranking; it is instead a data-driven list of the Angels' best performers in 2010. The spreadsheet tells me where to put these guys, not the scouting reports or my own observations.
Halosphere guru Sean Smith (baseballprojection and contributor to minorleaguesplits, baseballreference,hardballtimes, and fangraphs) provided his groundbreaking Total Zone defensive metrics for 2010, which I incorporated into each player's final score. Thanks Sean!
The +/- bat, +/- glove, and +/- runs saved figures are all in runs relative to the average player in the given prospect's league. I then applied positional and "value over replacement player" adjustments, which is why the +'s and -‘s don't correspond exactly with a player's ranking on the list. Simply put, guys who play everyday over a full season accrue the value they create over the hypothetical inferior players who would otherwise fill their spot. Guys who play skill positions - catcher, short, center, 2nd and 3rd - accrue more value than those who don't.
40) Fabio Martinez Mesa, 10/29/89 - RHSP, Single A
7 wins, 3 losses. 103.1 IP, 80 hits, 3.92 ERA, 141 K/76 BB. +6 runs saved, 1.60 WAR
Martinez Mesa could take the Inland Empire mound next April, throw 80 pitches, and be so dazzling that in one night he earns consensus recognition as the Halos' second best prospect - his mid to high 90's fastball and wipeout slider combo is that good. However, he didn't really overcome any of his challenges entering 2010: while dominant in some starts, he couldn't find the strikezone in others; his change-up was an occasionally useful weapon, but didn't show up consistently; and shoulder soreness/fatigue in August kept him off the mound through the end of the year (though the Halos also made noise about those concerns being just an excuse to cap the young fireballer's innings). If he can cut some walks and go a whole season, his WAR could jump threefold next year.
39) Jon Karcich, 09/10/87 - SS, Single A
.273/.374/.431 with 6 HR and 7 SB in 355 PA. +6 bat, -6 glove, 1.65 WAR
Turns out Karcich can hit, which was a major question mark about the 2009 seventh round pick out of Santa Clara University following a shaky pro debut. I don't think that the .273 BABIP that crippled his production in rookie ball was a fluke, but it's clear that he made progress this year to the point where his approach was a real asset. Things went worse for him in the field, where in just over half a season he committed 27 errors for a .930 fielding %. The line on him entering pro ball was that he was a solid defender with some power potential, but clearly that could use some updating. Rather, he's an above average hitter with a patient approach and a little pop who is likely headed to second base in the coming year.
38) Daniel Tillman, 3/14/89 - RHRP, Advanced Rookie Ball
2 wins, 2 losses, 10 saves. 32.1 IP, 23 hits, 1.95 ERA, 50 K/10 BB. +12 runs saved, 1.69 WAR
Our surprise top prospect in Orem according to Baseball America, Tillman threw a phenomenal half season that wowed both the organization and analysts. It's relatively easy for a relief prospect to shine in small sample sizes (I'm still smarting from the hangover that Jon Bachanov's brilliant half season in 2009 left), but the heavy, mid 90's fastball is a legit plus pitch, and BA raved about the improvements Tillman made to his slider under the Halos' coaches tutorage. Baseball America went on to speculate that Tillman's strong two-pitch arsenal along with a useable change-up could make him rotation candidate next year.
37) Tyler Skaggs, 7/13/91 - LHSP, Single A
8 wins, 4 losses. 82.1 IP, 78 hits, 3.61 ERA, 82 K/21 BB. +7 runs saved, 1.69 WAR
In early June, Abe Flores described Skaggs as "doing fantastic, way better than even the numbers indicate." The lanky teenage lefty had a 2.51 ERA at the time, so he was doing pretty well, to say the least. Despite "piggy backing" (sharing starts) with Tyler Kehrer, Skaggs seemed to tire in June and July (4.50 ERA and 5.84 ERA respectively), and then sat out nearly a month before the Angels could officially include him in the Dan Harren trade. He returned to the mound and dominated in four appearances for Diamondback-affiliated South Bend to end the season. He was going to be our fourth best prospect entering the offseason (according to me, at least - others may have had him higher), so his absence is a big a loss to the system. Just for old time's sake, here's some footage of him from last April:
36) Matt Palmer, 3/21/79 - RHSP, AAA
2 wins, 3 losses. 46.1 IP, 32 hits, 2.72 ERA, 36 K/19 BB. +11 runs saved, 1.71 WAR
Palmer's May shoulder strain bumped him out of the big league spotlight until September, but his journey back to 'the show' included 46.1 high quality AAA innings. His .231 BABIP allowed in a hitters' park in a hitters' league smacks of luck, but his healthy 54% groundball rate, ability to get ahead in the count, and surprisingly good breaking ball were significant contributors as well. He remains a very useful player to have on the roster, especially given the Angels' present lack of AAA pitching depth, so we should expect to see him again next year.