Hank Conger's First Cup of Coffee: Top Angels Prospect Performances, #16-#20

Who's worried about this guy's power?

20) Angel Castillo, 6/7/89 - OF, High A

.259/.325/.454 with 21 HR and 12 SB.  +2 bat, +12 glove, 2.49 WAR

Castillo is another intriguing outfielder in the Halos system, profiling more in the Witherspoon mold than in the Heid/Long mold. He has very good tools, beginning with above average raw power that doesn't yet translate consistently to in-game situations. When I saw the Quakes take batting practice in April, Castillo put on the best show, yanking some bombs to left, though he didn't appear to have anywhere near the same explosiveness going the other way. He has a strong throwing arm and above average speed, which he uses to be a legitimate threat on the bases and cover plenty of ground in right field.  His TotalZone numbers have been very good throughout his pro career (he's at +42 now over 5 stateside seasons), though the scouting reports have never been glowing, generally labeling him raw. Personally, I think the numbers speak for themselves at this point - he's a quality defender. Castillo progressed a little in making contact against righties, but those numbers are still not what they need to be (.252/.311/.407 and a 27% K-rate). Given his youth and tools, he retains some breakout potential, but must cope with an Arkansas park that is very tough on power hitters.  

19) Hank Conger, 1/29/88 - C, AAA, majors

.300/.385/.463 with 11 HR. +10 bat, -1 glove, 2.53 WAR

Conger doesn't receive the hype that he should nationally because he has yet to post a breakout season, but he may already be the best option for the Halos behind the plate as a 22 year old. His defense has improved significantly over the past two years, and while his catch-and-throw footwork still has a ways to go, his other receiving skills are MLB ready.  His caught stealing, error, and passed ball totals point to him being around average behind the dish in AAA (though the +glove number above is not TotalZone). He hasn't hit for a ton of power in the upper minors, but I think there are a some good reasons for that: (1) he's very young relative to the competition; (2) he's focusing on his defensive game, perhaps to the point of cutting into batting practice; and (3) he seems to be experimenting with his own capabilities and figuring out what kind of hitter he is going to be. Non-power indicators of his offensive development are very positive - his K rate has crept downward in each of the last three seasons while his walk and line drive rates keep climbing - so he must be toying with his approach. I like comparing his uneven minor league career to Kendry Morales', who also drew glowing scouting reports that emphasized bat speed, and who experienced a similar power outage in the upper minors. While it seems like we've been waiting forever for Hank to breakout, he remains just 22, so has plenty of time to take off.

18) Carlos Ramirez, 3/19/88 - C, Single A

.226/.337/.381 with 9 HR. +0 bat, +10 glove, 2.57 WAR

Ramirez largely fell off the prospect map this season due to a putrid showing against right handed pitching (.173/.296/.257 with 2 HR's in 179 AB's), but he still put up enough defense and production against lefties  (.346/.433/.667 with 7 HR's) to rank highly on this list. What's most bizarre here is that Ramirez was known as a pretty good breaking ball hitter in college - ironically, what his detractors did have to say about him was that he had only "slider bat speed" - so it's unclear why righties had their way with him. Regardless, his defense will earn him more chances to figure things out: he allowed only 3 passed balls, maintained a .992 fielding percentage, and threw out 42% of advancing baserunners. The + glove number above is NOT TotalZone, but rather the estimate I put together looking at his previous scores, scouting reports, and peripheral numbers.

17) Gabriel Jacobo, 4/14/87 - 1B, High A

.296/.333/.492 with 22 HR's. +11 bat, +5 glove, 2.57 WAR

TotalZone liked but didn't love our minor league defensive player of the year, though the system did think he was worth +12 runs with the glove in 2009.  Given his track record and the good scouting reports, I think it's safe to say that Jacobo is an above average defensive first baseman who makes his fellow infielders look very good by consistently picking it in the dirt. He's a decent athlete with above average range and hands and could likely make the transition to the outfield if necessary. With the bat, he serves the same function as Garrett Anderson served in the Angels' lineup for all of those years: he hits fastballs hard somewhere, maybe not with elite power, but with enough dependability to be a major cog in a classic "get them on, move them over, knock them in" kind of lineup.  Eddie Bane recently told another Angels' message board that he believed Jacobo to have the best plate discipline in the system, which of course seems absurd looking at Jacobo's 24 BB and .333 OBP season; but the point underscores the difference between most of baseball's understanding of plate discipline and the Angels' working definition of the concept: wait for a fastball you can do something with, and square it up. Walks - and consequently, maximizing the number of baserunners - are not the ultimate goal; rather, scoring those baserunners that do get aboard by ripping fastballs for productive outs, singles, doubles, and the occasional homerun is, according to the Angels' philosophy, the most dependable way to push runs across. You can hate it or you can love it, but there it is - the Angels' way of doing things, and it goes well beyond Mickey Hatcher, who so often serves as a scapegoat for the system's shortcomings.  Jacobo fits into that system perfectly, and his 107 RBI total in just 133 games testifies to their being something to it all.

16) Tyson Auer, 10/25/85 - CF, High A, AA, AAA

.316/.371/.428 with 5 HR and 54 SB. +4 bat, +3 glove, 2.58 WAR

I love this guy - by now I hope everyone knows his story, because it's the kind of narrative that keeps me from dropping this baseball habit and devoting the most productive hours of my life to something a little more lucrative.  Auer attended the University of Southern Florida (Tom Kotchman territory) where he played competently, but never showed enough power to attract professional baseball's attention. He had his best amateur season as a junior, hitting .356/.406/.425 (with no HR's), but MLB teams showed no interest in the June draft. He again went undrafted following his senior season, so the Halos, likely at Tom Kotchman's urging, signed him as an undrafted minor league FA. In the two years since then, he has rocketed through system, improving his contact rate, power, and stolen base success rate against increasingly tough competition. He runs exceptionally well and plays a quality centerfield, so may break into the bigs at some point next year as a fourth outfielder. He's a little unlucky in that the Angels' organization has Pete Bourjos, a similar player but with much better tools, ahead of him; the more powerful Chris Pettit competing with him for the fourth outfielder job; and Mike Trout charging up behind everyone. Nevertheless, Auer has already come much further than anyone predicted, so I wouldn't bet against him finding a way to make that final leap to "The Show."  

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