Kole Calhoun and Greg Smith: Top Angels Prospect Performances of 2012

Otto Greule Jr

Keep in mind that this is not a traditional top prospect list because it focuses entirely on 2012 contributions. I rank guys according to advanced metrics which, for position players, include batting runs above average, positional adjustment, defense, and a replacement level calculation that scales the total to "Wins Above Replacement" (though the concept of replacement level doesn't really apply to minor leaguers). I use a standard "runs allowed based" WAR formula for pitchers.

6) Kole Calhoun, 24, OF - 3.2 WAR, +17 bat, +4 glove. .298/.369/.507 with 14 HR and 12 SB.

"While he may not have tremendous tools" (begins every scouting report ever written about him), Calhoun has performed consistently despite skipping half of the minor leagues. He does enough things well to be an asset at the big league level, and the only thing holding him back from the fourth outfielder role with the Angels is Vernon Wells and the $42 million still owed him.

What I find most fascinating about Calhoun is how his skill set and resulting scouting reports have evolved since his days at ASU. From Baseball Prospect Report, back in 2010:

STRENGTHS: Above-average left-handed hands with raw power. Good discipline, capable of adjusting and speeding up bat head to catch good, high velocity.

WEAKNESSES: Lacks average secondary tool. Needs to show he can go to left field more than I saw in a very limited look. Limited OF range, limited arm strength, limited speed.

SUMMARY: Envision this player as left-handed bench help or DH-type. Hard to underestimate offensive potential... Won't be a premium guy, but I have a really hard time saying this guy won't hit. Baseball loves the hard-nosed non-athletic grinder who can hit more than it will ever admit. Good luck on pro side. Hope he surprises people.

Calhoun did wind up surprising people, hitting all the way up the system just the way BPR said he would and making his big league debut in his second full pro season. But he's also evolved into a player with a much broader skill set than BPR envisioned. From John Sickels' 2013 scouting report (available in his 2013 Prospect Book):

...[He's] not particularly fast or blessed with tremendous raw power. His best natural tool is his throwing arm. He compensates for his physical limits with marvelous instincts for the game. He can handle center field decently due to his ability to read balls, and he's quite good in right field... Calhoun will make a good fourth outfielder and it wouldn't surprise me to see him become a coach or manager someday.

Calhoun went from a being a one-dimensional masher who many folks had difficulty projecting as an outfielder at all to establishing a reputation as a good defensive corner and even a competent stop-gap in centerfield. Instead of moving down the defensive spectrum as he's matured, he's moving up it. That's strange... Yet awesome.

Does he run faster now than he did at 22? Has his arm improved? Have his baseball skills and good coaching somehow stretched out those modest tools? Or is he in better shape? Maybe traditional scouting scales just fail completely in projecting the value of a player like Calhoun? Or does he make catches like this so often that folks assume he's a solid defender without thinking too much about his range limitations?

I don't yet know the answers to those questions, but I do know that I'm still on Calhoun's multinational bandwagon.

Here's what MLB.com has to say about him, along with some video:


5) Greg Smith, LHSP - 3.4 WAR, +16 runs saved. 173.1 IP, 4.05 ERA, 180 hits, 106 K/45 BB.

Smith hasn't changed much since his 2008 season with the Athletics. He still sits in the mid to high 80's with his fastball and mixes in a curve, slider and change-up with skill and precision. He has that classic soft-tossing lefty profile, where he regularly outperforms his peripherals by suppressing BABIP. In 2012, he kept hitters to a .271 batting average on balls in play in the Pacific Coast League - that's no easy thing to do - which is exactly in line with his career average.

He'll be taking his skill set to the Blue Jays on another minor league deal in 2013.

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