Yesterday, Baseball America published its top ten Angels' prospect list, so the big trifecta of prospecting organizations - John Sickles of Minor League Ball, Baseball Prospectus, and BA - have now all passed judgment on the Halos' system. One of the best offseason developments over the last five years has been the proliferation of easily available rankings on the internet: Monkey with a Halo, Fangraphs, Prospect 361, and Bleacher Report have all put together their own quality lists. I mashed all of those opinions together using a weighted mean (skewed somewhat towards those who watch baseball and talk to scouts for a living), threw in my own performance rankings, and came up with the following list in order to establish some sort of consensus:
(1) Taylor Lindsey, 2b
(2) Kaleb Cowart, 3b
(3) C.J. Cron, 1b/DH
(4) Mark Sappington, rhsp
(5) R.J. Alvarez, rhrp
(6) Hunter Green, Lhsp
(7) Alex Yarbrough, 2b
(8) Jose Rondon, ss
(9) Zach Borenstein, Lf
(10) Ricardo Sanchez, Lhsp
Just missed: Cam Bedrosian (rhsp), Mike Morin (rhrp), and Natanael Delgado (Lf)
The results look great to me. Better than the list I made myself, frankly.
Lindsey comes out as undisputed alfa after posting solidly above-average numbers while young for his league, just like Cowart did in 2012. Unlike Cowart, Lindsey did his work against advanced pitching, and his floor - if not his ceiling - looks higher due to superior contact abilities. J.J. Cooper at Baseball America wrote an outstanding scouting report on him - really, I think it's now "the book" on Lindsey - which is well worth reading here.
Cowart edges Cron in average ranking by a fraction, but half of the publications preferred the hulking first baseman. They're pretty interchangeable, really: both could hit towards the middle of a big league lineup someday, but have significant developmental breakthroughs to make before reaching that potential. Personally, I bump Cron down a few notches due to his narrow skillset, but he's exactly the type of player that I've undervalued in the past, so I'll keep my peace here.
Alvarez may have better raw stuff than Sappington, but several of the rankings knock him significantly because he has virtually no shot at starting. I tend to side with the more tools-oriented lists (BA, BP) who prefer Alvarez, mostly because he has a good chance of injecting some phenom magic into an Angels' bullpen so desperately, desperately in need of fresh energy. It's not like Sappington is a sure thing.
After the first five, things become much more volatile. Hunter Green ranks as high as second (John Sickels' list) due to his well-publicized upside, or as low as tenth (Baseball Prospectus) due to bust potential. I have him exactly at six, so good for me.
Yarbrough is a guy I pushed off of my own top ten because I have trouble projecting him as a regular or even as an effective bench guy due to limited defensive versatility. Still, he can really hit, and would likely do more damage today against elite pitching than anyone else in this group save Lindsey.
Rondon is a similar player to Yarbrough, but younger and can handle the left side of the infield. Four publications, including me, prefer that profile, even if Rondon isn't (yet) quite the hitter that Yarbrough is. He's a guy who could go in a lot of different directions next year.
And then we have Borenstein, who emerged as a late favorite. He's steadily crept up lists all offseason, despite a crummy showing in the AFL. That's partly because folks (me included) have looked around, and come to understand just how little else there is in the system. I think that the other factor is a growing acknowledgement of how difficult Inland Empire is on hitters, which undercuts assumptions that he's just another Cal League mirage. From commentator TwinPeaks at minor league ball:
The thing is, Borenstein still OPS'ed 940, and slugged 551 at home, so it's not like he stunk. And Inland Empire is more like a Florida State League Park. From 2008-2012, the average run scoring for Inland Empire was 4.2/game, which is the same as the Florida State League as a league. The average HR % for Inland Empire games was 1.4% which is 15-20% LOWER than an average park in the Florida State League. Considering all that, I don't think Borenstein did all that badly at home with a HR % at home of 3.6.
So yeah, I'm on board now. He may not have lit the world on fire in the AFL, but he did show a consistently good approach. He probably lacks the long-term upside that Grichuk has, but another left-handed power bat who won't kill you in the field is always a useful thing. His skillset isn't as broad as Calhoun's, but like the current fan-favorite, Borenstein is rapidly developing a reputation in baseball for not only "playing beyond his tools," but actually improving those tools through hard work. He's willing his way towards more baseball athleticism as he moves into his mid-20's instead of loosing it. Crazy.
Lastly, we have the new darling of the system, Ricardo Sanchez. Baseball Prospectus places him as high as sixth, and most every comment on him remarks that he could top the list next year. Angels' Director of Player Development Bobby Scales had the seventeen year old southpaw sitting at 90-91 during instructs, and regularly running it up to 92 with a nice delivery and instinctive feel for a curve and change-up. I asked him about Sanchez' size - the guy was last listed at 5-10 - and how that could impact his projection. Scales gave an answer that I really appreciated: the gist was, Sanchez is still 17, a teenager. Who knows what he'll look like in six months, much less two years from now. I found that attitude incredibly refreshing in the face of the present internet rush to make prospect evaluation more "objective" by placing grades (present and potential) on everyone and everything as if it were a science. At any rate, Sanchez is exciting, and could headline an interesting AZL rotation of teenage Dominican expats.
The "just missed" category looks right to me. Natanael Delgado is my favorite of the bunch, and I think he'll absolutely crush it in Orem this summer (though the Halos might give him a crack at the Midwest League in April to see if he can stick). He could be a regular some day. Bedrosian made a lot of progress in the second half last year, and that continued into the AFL. He's throwing a cutter now to go with his regained velocity, and he might contribute sooner rather than later if he finds the strikezone more consistently. Morin looks like a really solid bet to be a middle innings soldier for years in the big league pen.
To help put things in perspective, here's the consensus list from last offseason:
(1) Kaleb Cowart
(2) Nick Maronde
(3) C.J. Cron
(4) Taylor Lindsey
(5) Randal Grichuk
(6) Kole Calhoun
(7) R.J. Alvarez
(8) Austin Wood
(9) Luis Jimenez
(10) Alex Yarbrough
Just missed: Mike Clevinger, Mark Sappington, A.J. Schugel
So, are we better off now?