(1) Taylor Lindsey, 21. 2B, AA
Lindsey's solid campaign in AA has really jacked up his projected floor, edging Cowart's upside/bust potential in the rankings. He swings a solid lefty bat, and could hit for average and touch double-digit homeruns at his peak. I doubt he ever walks a ton, but Lindsey manages his AB's well for a twenty-one year old and probably won't strike out much. He's defensively sound at the keystone, though scouting reports have always been tepid about his arm and range. I suspect his glove outplays low expectations, and that he ultimately contributes a bit of everything except stolen bases as a solid big league regular.
(2) Kaleb Cowart, 21. 3B, AA
The Halos' system appears worse entering 2014 than it did in 2013, and Cowart's struggles are a big reason for it. He just hasn't made enough solid contact. The 22.6% K rate from the left side isn't atrocious for a young power hitter in his first look at advanced pitching, but combine it with a .251 BABIP and .077 iso, and the results are atrocious.
Still, we shouldn't give up on a 21-year old enduring a down year in the Trav's cavernous home park, and there have been moments in 2013 when he has looked like that future impact player the Halos desperately need. He had an outstanding spring training where he put together good AB's, particularly in RBI situations. A couple of weeks ago, he looked the part of ‘professional hitter' against rehabbing Chris Carpenter: after watching the big righty chew up four of the five guys ahead of him on offspeed stuff after getting strike one, he jumped on a first pitch FB and lined it up the middle. His next AB was a battle, and he spoiled a number of good pitches while working the count full, then took his walk off the Cy Young Award winner. Of course it would be heartening to see him string together the flashes of competence over a good month or two, but there's hope yet. He's likely headed back to AA next year, and that's just fine. He was expected to take awhile to develop, so there's no shame in backing off of the fast track.
(3) Grant Green, 25. Utility/AAA
Green doesn't fit the classic Maicer/Figgy mold of super sub, lacking the speed, switch-hitting flexibility, and defensive chops of those past favorites. However, he offers the same sort of positional flexibility, and should hit for more pop. If his k's stay down and his glove improves, he could be a very nice piece on the roster for years to come, and possibly even win the fulltime job at third or second base for a season or two. He also has some of that post-hype, former-first-rounder breakout potential that manifests every now and then.
(4) Jose Rondon, 19. SS/Rookie_Orem
As a right-handed hitting middle infielder who lacks elite speed and might outgrow shortstop, Rondon is a similar player to Grant Green. Developing into a quad A player with some hitting ability but little else is a likely outcome. However, Rondon is still early in his developmental arc, and flashes the strong arm, patience, and steadiness at shortstop that hint at a higher ceiling. He could develop into a Yunel Escobar type - a 4 win player at his best - though I hope he isn't the same kind of asshole. I think the Halos jump him to High A next year, giving So Cal fans a chance to see him live.
(5) Hunter Green, 18. LHSP/Rookie_AZL
The Halos entered 2010 absolutely stacked in left-handed pitching, and then proceeded to trade away all of it in a string of moves that failed to bring home a title and gave away some of the most exciting young arms in the majors today. Blah. They're trying to rebuild that depth now, and doubtless hope that Green headlines the group in the same way Tyler Skaggs headlined the past cohort. Green is projectable and raw, meaning that there's an understandable but insidious temptation to use Skaggs and Pat Corbin as comps. That's a road that most often leads only to disappointment. Let's let Green be Green, and wait to slap comps on him until we have more info regarding his stuff and pitch-ability.
(6) Mark Sappington, 22. RHSP/AA
Sappington is an interesting case. His aggregate numbers in the Cal League this year are quite good, primarily due to two spectacular months (April and July). The latest hot streak earned him a promotion to AA. However, when he's bad, he can't find the strikezone to save his life, and even when he's good the scouting reports on his mechanics and secondary pitches do not project him to be much of a big-league starter. Usually my inclination is to let the numbers speak for themselves and rank accordingly, but for some reason I've resisted doing that with Sappington. How he fares in the Texas League will hopefully resolve my doubts, and it will determine his spot on the offseason prospect lists generally.
(7) Natanael Delgado, 17. LF/Rookie_AZL
I doubt Delgado is ranked this high anywhere else, except for maybe Baseball America. He's currently playing in the AZL as the equivalent of a rising high school senior, and is showing a special knack for solid contact. He ranks fourth in the circuit in total bases, a counting stat, sure, but a telling one. No doubt, he's raw - he strikes out too much, walks too little, and has been an adventure in the outfield - but is ridiculously young and hangs in there with the bigger boys. He's one of the few guys in the Angels' system who could develop into an above average big league regular, though he's years away from that.
(8) R.J. Alvarez, 22. RHRP/ A+
Alvarez has fanned 36.2% of the hitters that he's faced this year, and that's pretty much all you need to know to judge his upside. His command and control are mediocre, and he doesn't yet pace games and control the running game to the degree that good big league relievers often do, but he throws gas, backs the FB with a big-breaking, Nintendo-ish slider, and could close games in spectacular fashion in the not-so-distant future.
(9) Randal Grichuk, 21. RF/ AA
Grichuk's prospect star has risen this year, and reviews of his glove and power are again positive. Reviews of his hit-tool are more conservative, but folks seem to think he'll make enough solid contact, especially against lefties, to carve out a role in the big leagues. I think that's true; I just don't think he'll be a starter. My guess is that he becomes one of those rare, righty platoon guys who last a long time in the bigs and play key roles with some very good teams.
(10) Reid Scoggins, 22. RHSP/ A
I know - I placed Scoggins before a lot of guys who will show up on everyone else's top ten list. Here are my reasons: he developed by leaps and bounds over the course of 2013, advancing from stiff, almost little-leaguish mechanics in April, to a much smoother delivery by July. Walks allowed plummeted with those changes. His FB is a nasty pitch, and his slider gets plenty of swings and misses from both righty and lefty hitters. I haven't yet seen him throw a good change-up yet (I've only seen two games), but he's had no problems with opposite-handed hitters so far, which bodes well. It seems to me that his two plus pitches and dramatically improved command profile are setting up a breakout 2014. He could also be a bust... (I went out on a similar limb with A.J. Schugel last year)
(11) Alex Yarbrough, 21. 2B/ A+
Lots of smart people liked Yarbrough more than this even before he led the Angels' organization in hits this season, but I have a tough time projecting him as a regular. He just hasn't shown much in the way of secondary skills beyond a little pop, and it's the Cal League, so I think his bat will look a lot like Amarista's at the next level. And he doesn't have nearly the defensive chops as that guy. We'll see who's right.
(12) C.J. Cron, 23. 1B/ AA
I was this down on Trumbo too before his breakout 2011 season, so take this with a grain of salt. Cron's power/contact thing just might come together with Vlad-light results over the next few years at the highest levels. He has a similar approach, but lacks our former big man's athleticism, which means that the plus raw power probably won't show up in games much when he puts less-than-perfect swings on tough pitches. I have a difficult time imagining Cron as more than a 1.5 WAR DH, and the Halos have plenty of guys not going away anytime soon to do that.
(13) Mario Martinez, 16. C/ Rookie_DSL
My new favorite sixteen year old (well, he turned 17 last week) is putting up a .746 OPS in what is usually a tough pitchers' league. While his OBP is propped up a little by a freakish number of hit-by-pitches, he's still walking 9% of the time while striking out at an average rate. He's rapped out 11 extra base hits over 166 PA, which is solid for his current run-environment.
And did I mention that he's a catcher who's gunned down 34% of would-be-basestealers?
(14) Eric Stamets, 21. SS/ A+
Supposedly he's a major league-caliber shortstop, though I haven't seen him play much. He's close to a lock for MLB playing time, though it will likely occur on the margins of the depth chart.
(15) Nick Maronde, 23. LHRP/ Majors
He's been pitching all year like a guy whose arm is about to implode, loosing velocity and command after his breakout 2012 season. Is this sort of a consolidation season for him, where he's working out the final kinks, or have we already seen his best? I very, very much hope it's the former.
I assumed Kole Calhoun will lose his rookie eligibility within the month, so left him off the list. I'd have placed him eighth if he were here. Reliever Mike Morin, Luis Jimenez, Michael Roth, and A.J. Schugel (he's lost velo this year, but if he can get it back, I still like him!) would have been my next five guys. I'm really excited to see what Zach Borenstein, Mike Clevinger, and Tyler DeLoach can do in the upper minors, and Alfonso Alcantara (SP, Orem), Keynan Middleton (SP, Orem), Yency Almonte (SP, Orem), Kody Eaves (2b, Orem) and Jose Rodriguez (SP, DSL) are my favorite rookie ball lottery tickets.
The system has more pitching depth now than it did entering 2013, but some of the hoped for breakouts from guys like Alvarez, Austin Wood, A.J. Schugel, Alfonso Alcantara, Yency Almonte, Eduar Lopez or, Ivan Melo never occurred, and those that did (Tyler DeLoach and Reid Scoggins) are complicated by injury/longterm doubts. This year's draft brought in a significant number of potential pitching gems, but we won't have a good handle on who those guys are until this time next year.
On the position player side, the Halos' lack a blue chip impact guy who will be ready anytime soon. Lindsey looks like a safe bet to be an above-replacement level option at the keystone, but will he play at Kendrick's level? Odds are, no. Everyone else comes with giant question marks. Now would be a very good time to get creative about adding offensive talent to the system.