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Jeremy Moore, Still On The Verge: Top Angels' Prospect Performances in 2011

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Please note that the rankings below DO NOT comprise a traditional "best prospect" list. I simply ranked players according to their 2011 Wins Above Replacement ("WAR"), which provides a rough estimate of total contributions to their respective teams.

24) Daniel Hurtado, 7/25/92 - rhsp, DSL Rookie Ball.

7 wins, 3 losses. 74.1 IP, 1.45 ERA, 65 K/20 BB. 16 runs saved, 2.2 WAR

The DSL Angels' rotation yielded only 208 runs to opponents over 70 games, exactly 50 fewer than the next stingiest team, on their way to an historic 52 win, 18 loss season. Hurtado is the first of three DSL Angels' starters to make this list with outstanding performances, and at 19, he's the youngest so perhaps the most interesting.  That said, even he isn't all that young, having just finished his third season with the club. In a league populated primarily by teenagers, age carries disproportionate importance, so even while celebrating the success of the 2011 DSL rotation, which included studs Jean Carlos Santiago, Eswarlin Jimenez, Hurtado and Gabriel Perez, we have to remember that on average those guys are a full year older than, say, their 2008 counterparts - Fabio Martinez Mesa, Orangel Arenas, Ariel Pena, and Baudilio Lopez - which was the last really good crop of arms that our San Pedro de Macoris affiliate produced.  Hurtado is 6'3", 180 lbs, so comes in that classic righthander package; we'll see what his arm looks like stateside next year.

23) Travis Witherspoon, 4/16/89 - CF, A and High A

.250/.316/.392 with 13 HR and 46 SB. -1.5 bat, +8 glove, 2.3 WAR

In tools alone, Witherspoon is hands down a top five Angels' prospect: the guy has great raw power (he won the Midwest League homerun derby), plus speed, a strong arm, and fantastic range. In some areas of the game, he's already quite polished, stealing bases at over an 80% success rate and showing impressive skills in centerfield. It's just the bat that needs some work, and that's where the future gets a bit murky, because Witherspoon's development could go in any number of directions. His strikeouts, walks, groundball rate, and homerun production were all extremely volatile from month to month, suggesting that he was constantly tweaking his approach in an effort to figure out what kind of player he could be.  He started the year batting third for the Kernels, and actually maintained a pretty good K/BB ratio through April while hitting lots of linedrives and showing flashes of power; however, he ran into some bad luck on balls in play, so the slash line wasn't great, and by May the Kernels moved him up in the order. Batting first, he started to hit the ball on the ground more often (his GB rate jumped from 40% to 60%), but it didn't help his batting average any and the strikeouts mounted as he tried to work deeper counts. He didn't see much success at the plate again until running into a clump of HR's towards the end of June. The Allstar break and then an injury cut short that hot streak, and his approach reverted to vacillating after he returned. All of this description is just a long way of saying that Witherspoon shows flashes of natural ability to hit for power, take his walks, and contribute at the plate, but he is still a player in flux. If he figures things out though, watch out: Kotchman still sticks to the Mike Cameron comp when talking about Witherspoon's ceiling, and that guy was a very valuable ball player for a lot of years.

22) Jeremy Moore, 6/29/87 - OF, AAA

.298/.331/.545 with 15 HR and 21 SB. +7 bat, +5 glove, 2.3 WAR

After last year's strong finish in the Texas league and a scalding-hot performance in the AFL, it appeared that Moore might be on the verge of a career-making breakout.  He's still on the verge, but it's hard to say that his 2011 campaign improved his situation any.  In fact, for the first time in his career, Moore's year over year numbers remained remarkably stable.  His slash line was propped by a well-above average .377 batting average on balls in play ("BABIP"), which is within 12 points of both his 2010 and 2009 BABIP's. He also struck out 25% of the time, which is within a few points of his career norm. His HR and stolen base numbers are both comparable to 2010's totals.  Unlike the previous four seasons, he showed no real improvement in any one area of his game. In fact, if you factor in the explosive Pacific Coast League run environment, his total offensive contributions regressed somewhat.  He's still a young, exciting athlete, and has allstar caliber tools, but he must overcome his current developmental plateau to carve out a role in the majors.