Top Hitting Performances on the Halos' Farm

Can Lindsey keep one of his hot streaks going? - Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Keep in mind that this is not a traditional top prospect list because it focuses entirely on 2013 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.

8) Taylor Lindsey, 21, AA, 2.1 WAR, +8 bat and +0 glove, .269/.325/.433 with 12 HR's and 3 SB's

When Lindsey is on a hot streak - and he's had some very impressive streaks since the Halos drafted him in 2010 - people get excited. ESPN's Keith Law has always liked him, and is perhaps his most public advocate. The latest guy on the bandwagon is Baseball Prospectus' Zach Mortimer, who hints that Lindsey may now be the Halos' top prospect due to increased power production in the tough Texas League.

I happened to watch Lindsey go four for five the other night against the Springfield Cardinals, and got fired up (predictably). He faced rehabbing Chris Carpenter twice, going two for two against the Cardinals' two-time Cy Young winner. In the first AB, he laid off borderline hard stuff, getting himself into a hitters' count, but then jammed himself swinging at an inside cutter. Nevertheless, he muscled the pitch into left for a flair single. In the second AB, Lindsey sat on a Carpenter curveball and yanked it off the right-center wall for a double. He went back to facing minor leaguers in his third AB, but still impressed by pounding a 96 mph fastball on the outer half to the opposite field for his second double. In his fourth AB, he hammered a decent low 90's FB from Cardinals' prospect Seth Blair a long, long ways over the right field wall and onto the ceiling of the building beyond the park. Man, when he's on, he looks good.

He's gone 0 for 9 since.

So what to make of Lindsey? He doesn't hit .350 at every stop, like Kendrick did at his age. He doesn't steal bushels of bags, like Segura did. And his speed and intensity and smarts in the field don't wow in quite the same way Amarista's did. Yet he controls the strike zone well for a guy so young (48k/27bb), hits for some power (12 HR, .171 iso), reliably makes all of the routine plays at second, and is improving rapidly (hitting .300 with 25 extra base hits since May 1st). He's no blue chip prospect, yet, but I'd rather see a twenty-one year old look outstanding some nights, and down on others, than consistently meh throughout the season.

Lindsey doesn't have loud tools, nor is he hugely projectable. His weak arm limits his defensive versatility. He's blocked by the Angels' second best position player. He will need to keep hitting to earn a shot at being a big-league regular. Because he's headed to the hitter friendly PCL, where his high contact/moderate pop thing should produce big numbers, his performance over the next two months in the Texas League will be a significant line in his minor league resume.

9) Tommy Field, 26, AAA, 1.9 WAR, +9 bat and + 0 glove, .297/.390/.488 with 9 HR's and 5 SB's

Field was drafted in the 24th round by the Rockies out of Texas State University back in 2008, ascended through the organization with solid if unspectacular numbers, but lost his starting job following a lackluster 2012 campaign at Colorado Springs, a hitters' park, in 2012. The Halos, their depth chart thin and in need of both MLB and AAA utility players, jumped on him. He's split his time evenly between short and third so far with the Bees, filling in for Jimenez and Romine through injuries and call-ups, and has done more than a competent job. He'll likely remain a journeyman beyond 2013, but he's been an important part of the Bees' success, and here's to hoping that he helps them win the PCL championship.

I think I might just watch the Bees for the rest of the year.

Update: Field was just called up to take over utility duties for the Halos. They went to him over Romine, so are prioritizing offense.

10) Travis Witherspoon, 24, AA, 1.9 WAR, -2 bat and +7 glove, .217/.307/.355 with 9 HR and 23 SB

After a rotten start that seemed to confirm he'd met his match in AA, Witherspoon has quietly started to contribute. Since June 1st, he's hit .267/.368/.382 with three homeruns and 14 stolen bases. If he can maintain that pace down the stretch, he'll earn a 2014 promotion to AAA and set himself up nicely for a big league cameo. If he makes the most of that, he could stick as a defensive and base-running specialist (especially if the Angels' part with their most trade-able asset, Peter Bourjos), with a more significant role as big league, left-handed pitching masher a possibility down the road.

In case it's been awhile since you've read about Witherspoon, here's the scoop: he's the best defensive outfielder and base-stealer presently on the Angels' farm. He's a righty hitter with contact issues, but has walked in over 10% of his plate appearances and has decent raw power that everyone‘s tried to talk him out of for years. He is an exciting - if flawed - player.

11) Michael Snyder, 23, A+, 1.9 WAR, +14 bat and +0 glove, .295/.347/.539 with 20 HR and 0 SB

After swatting 20 long balls in the Cal League, twenty-three year old Snyder has lived up to Baseball America's billing as top power bat in the Halos' 2012 draft haul. If he maintains his current pace, he'll match Trumbo's age 22 season in the Cal League, and in a tougher home park.

Snyder hits tons of flyballs with carry to all fields, and has crushed half of his dingers in the pitching-friendly park he calls home home, so the pop looks more sustainable than Borenstein's. The question is, will he be able to make enough contact for it to matter? It's difficult to look at his 96 k's in 413 PA's and project success in the upper minors, especially if he's walking just 6% of the time. Snyder has another big developmental jump to make in the coming years if his bat is going to play.

He has little defensive value - his pro debut as a third-baseman was not an experiment the Halos are likely to repeat - so he's going to have to mash. Maybe his career will have the opposite trajectory of his brother's, where he over-delivers on low expectations rather than the opposite.

12) Cal Towey, 23, Orem, 1.7 WAR, +14 bat and +0 glove, .292/.475/.573 with 4 HR and 2 SB

With Cowart struggling at AA, it is very, very tempting to look to Towey as a possible answer at third base. Orem leads the Pioneer League in OBP and walks, and Towey's 25 free passes are a big reason for that. The bat appears quick and strong here, but it's easy too look good when you're a man among boys, and a mile high to boot. The one thing that I will say with conviction about Towey - since we can't assume the 23-year old's bat will hold up against real pitching, in a real, competitive league - is that he moves smoothly at third base, and looks like he can hold down the position at higher levels. We'll see if he maintains his professional approach in High-A. If so, he's worth tracking.

13) Randal Grichuk, 21, AA, 1.6 WAR, +4 bat, +5 glove, .242/.299/.445 with 13 HR and 6 SB

Grichuk has improved most in an area that I can't pretend to represent with any real degree of accuracy: he has become quite the talented defensive outfielder. Last week, against Chris Carpenter, he was overmatched at the plate, twice whiffing badly against the big righty's FB/curve combo. He still won that game with his glove though, keeping the Cardinals off the board in the first with two spectacular catches in centerfield, a position that he's played half the time over the last month. While he won't man center for a contender in the bigs, he's showing off the range and instincts that will make him a plus defender in the corners.

He's had a tougher time with the bat. Grichuk surged in May, hitting .311/.347/.644 with 6 HR's, fueling hopes for a breakout. His peripherals that month were scary -- he struck out a quarter of the time while hardly walking -- but his 23% linedrive rate fueled a .367 BABIP. Classic Grichuk. He crashed back down to earth in June, and has hit .213/.250/.325 in 80 AB's since the AA Allstar break. Here's why that rollercoaster is weird: Grichuk has done a good job managing the strikezone since June 1st, striking out in only 15% of his plate appearances while walking around 6% of the time. Those are outstanding numbers for him, and reflect improvements in his primary area of weakness. Nevertheless, his production in that time has been undone by a .266 BABIP and a drop off in HR production.

Grichuk is the sixth youngest position player in the Texas League, and is battling a home park that humbles sluggers. His present .245/.303/.450 line is decent considering the context, especially because the primary drag is a .265 BABIP, which is 40 points under Grichuk's career numbers. He's done much better against lefties, hitting .269/.326/.462, the difference primarily being a .316 BABIP. In his career, he's hit southpaws at a .313/.345/.539 clip. I'm emphasizing that point because Grichuk's clearest path to the big leagues is as the righty half of an outfield platoon. Something that the Angels, paying for the ass-end of Hamilton's career, might find useful in a year or two.

He looks like a cross between Reed Johnson and Johnny Gomes, two guys who have played big, if non-starting roles on contenders.

14) Andrew Romine, 27, AAA, 1.6 WAR, -3 bat, +7 glove, .265/.362/.342 with 2 HR and 12 SB

In case you haven't thought about him in awhile, here's a sample of Romine's talents. The guy is an outstanding defensive infielder, and that's a very valuable thing to have stashed in Salt Lake. Harris Field has the big league utility job for now, you can be sure that Romine will get the call if Aybar ever needs more than an afternoon off.

Romine may be better than the .194/.250/.194 batting line he's put in 76 major league PA's, but it's a stretch to project him hitting enough to start in a big league line-up. A switch-hitter, he's better against righties, so might hold his own in a platoon role through his peak. In the meantime, he'll bide his time with the Bees. I think this is his last option year, so the Angels will have to make a decision about his role moving forward soon.

15) Luis Rodriguez, 33, AAA, 1.5 WAR, +4 bat and +0 glove, .293/.353/.455 with 8 HR and 1 SB

Rodriguez is a good example of what Romine's probable future as journey-man looks like. He has a touch more pop than our homegrown utility man, but doesn't have nearly the chops at shortstop. These guys can spend a lot of years playing baseball for money, which seems a pretty good outcome to me.

16) Andrew Ray, 22, A, 1.5 WAR, +8 bat and +0 glove, .279/.299/.539 with 15 HR and 0 SB

Since June 1st, Ray has hit .329/.337/.653 with 12 HR's and 18 doubles. That's pretty bonkers for anyone, let alone a 22 year old who's only moment on the prospect radar was the day the Angels picked him up in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.

Trouble is, even during his hot streak, he walked only 3 times against 44 k's. It would be easy to look at the ratio as determinative, but I am really curious to see what Ray does in July and thereafter.

The Halos have some interesting catchers in the system, each of whom might make it in as a back-up. Anthony Bemboom (1.2 WAR), Abel Baker (1.1 WAR), Jett Bandy (1.1 WAR), and Carlos Ramirez (0.9 WAR) are all having good seasons, and Bandy and Ramirez are both close enough to the bigs to play a role in the next couple of years. Ramirez is older, but he's having a hell of a season. He's caught over 50% of potential base stealers. He's also mashing lefties to the tune of .308/.400/.538. Sounds like a nice platoon partner for a certain young, switch-hitting catcher in the bigs still trying to find his footing.

Underperforming Famous Guys: C.J. Cron (1.0 WAR) and Kaleb Cowart (0.5 WAR). Cron's an interesting case. For the second consecutive season he hasn't quite tapped into his massive raw power, but is showing much better bat to ball ability than most sluggers. Cowart just hasn't gotten his swing going. He's still probably the top guy in the system, and it wasn't unexpected that he struggle, but his stock has definitely taken a hit.

Teens to keep an eye on: Mario Martinez (0.8 WAR), Jose Rondon (0.6 WAR), Natanael Delgado (0.4 WAR), and Kody Eaves (0 WAR).

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