5) Garrett Richards, 5/27/88 - RHSP, A-Ball, High A Stock: Holding Steady
9 wins, 4 losses. 114 IP, 3.32 ERA, 115 K/35 BB. Key Stat: 11 Quality Starts in 20 Tries
Richards yielded 0 runs in seven of those quality starts, but he's coughed up 5 or more runs four times. We could easily overlook the inconsistency if Richards was younger, but the fact of the matter is he's 22 and pitching in A-Ball. That's older than Sean O'Sullivan, Nick Adenhart, and Ervin Santana were when they debuted in the MLB, and older than Trevor Reckling, Tyler Chatwood, Will Smith and Pat Corbin are now. He's three years older than Tyler Skaggs, and Skaggs out-pitched him much of the year. I'm pointing this out only because I think he's talented enough to be the best pitcher in the Angels' farm system. Richards has an ace's arsenal and decent control, suggesting that he's just a tweak or two away from consistent dominance, but he doesn't have all the time in the world.
4) Mike Trout, 8/7/91 - CF, A-Ball and High A Stock: Off the Charts
.349/.438/.518 with 8 HR and 48 SB's. Key Stat: 19.3% K-Rate in High A
Trout is now the undisputed top prospect in the Angels system, and will likely be a consensus top five prospect in all of baseball this offseason. While the eighteen year old's season stats steadily garnered attention, it was his play in the Futures Game that sent the hype machine into overdrive. Needless to say, Trout has a very good chance of being an outstanding player for a long time. He combines plus speed and power tools with an instinctive feel for the game in the batters box, on the bases, and in centerfield. His make-up is compelling. However, he doesn't turn nineteen until this Saturday (happy birthday, Mike), and he could still run into all kinds of challenges. Trout just needs time in the minors to grow up a little and figure out what kind of player he is. While his K-rate was a solid 14% in Cedar Rapids, it spiked in the Cal League, perhaps not to alarming levels, but the jump indicate he's got some adjustments to make in order to keep the strikezone under control. Give him time to do it!
3) Trevor Reckling, 5/22/89 - RHRP, AA, AAA Stock: Down slightly
3 Wins, 5 Losses. 107.2 IP, 126 hits, 6.52 ERA, 80 K/63 BB. Key Stat: 46 K/50 BB ratio (AAA).
There's no ignoring Reckling's disastrous 69.2 AAA innings. His control was terrible, his command within the strikezone was so bad that the opposition hit .339 against him with 11 homeruns, and his groundball rate - formally a big part of his game - deteriorated every month until he was decidedly a flyball pitcher by June. That's the bad news, though Angels' pitchers, including Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, and John Lackey, have a long tradition of poor performances in Salt Lake. The good news is that he's back to looking like a topflight prospect in AA, posting a 2.84 ERA with 34 K's to 13 BB's in 38 IP. Even after his demotion to AA, Reckling is among the 10 youngest players in the Texas League. He's not as close to being MLB-ready as we all hoped, but he remains a fine prospect.
2) Hank Conger, 1/29/88 - C, AAA. Stock: Same
.267/.364/.400 with 6 HR's. Key Stat: 57 Games behind the dish
Hank's second key stat is 0 passed balls in those 57 games. He's also toss out 29% of basestealers, a respectable if not outstanding total, while committing just 7 errors. In short, he's become a more reliable backstop with every passing year. "I think he'll be a tick above [average]," said Abe Flores in reference to Conger's defensive development, and "I wouldn't exclude a chance of him being better than that." Obviously Hank's bat is looking a little anemic at the moment, but I'm not worried about it. He's striking out only 14% of the time, and is walking 13% of the time. He's also hit line drives with 23.3% of his balls in play. Those are very good markers for a player who was fourth youngest in the PCL back in April. Yes, the .105 ISO is not we expected from the slugger, but do you know who else hit about 1 homerun every 50 at-bats in his first go at AAA? Kendry Morales, and he was a good two years older at the time. Hank could use another consolidation year with the Bees, but he's going to be a good player. That is, if he stays healthy.
1) Peter Bourjos, 3/31/87 - CF, AA Stock: Same
.314/.364/.498 with 13 HR's and 27 SB's (+12 bat, +12 glove). Key Stat: .290/.340/.420 vs. Righties
Bourjos' speed and instincts in the field have earned him a niche in the majors, but it will be his ability to hit right-handed pitching that determines whether or not he makes it as a regular. Here's why I'm optimistic: first, in the three seasons prior to 2009 he showed a slight reverse split, handling righties at the lower levels better than he handled lefties, so his struggles against same-handed pitching cropped up fairly late in his professional career. Second, Bourjos has a professional track record of improvement in nearly every statistical category, making adjustments to his plate discipline, contact rate, and line drive rate year over year. He's a guy who learns, adapts, and gets better with each season. Finally, when Bourjos is going strong, like he has been since late June, he hits everybody. He played well in AAA, and now it's time to see now what he can do in the majors.