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Top Prospect Performances in May (Belated).

Taking a look at the top performers in the Angels' system in the month of May


(1) Michael Roth, 24, AA.  1.9 WAR (0.58 FIP WAR) 4 Wins, 0 losses.  36.2 IP, 0.98 ERA, 18 K/9 BB

I don't want to dismiss how crappy it must have been for Roth when the Halos' booted him off the 40-man, but they may have done him a favor. Jarring as the move was, the organization is now committed to leaving him alone and to develop against appropriate competition, something that they haven't let him do since the summer after he was drafted in 2012.  He responded beautifully.

Roth's poise, his temporary post-draft velocity bump (he was at 89-92 mph last April), and the Halos' paper-thin depth chart forced a premature exposure to MLB competition in 2013.  He was cannon fodder out there as a swingman, and the ensuing shellacking that he endured might have derailed his development.

Now he's just another 24 year old honing his craft in the upper minors, and the results have been good.  He doesn't whiff enough guys to project for more than a marginal big-league role, but May's K/BB ratio was his best in a calendar year, and his 49% ground ball rate his best in two years. Sure, last month's .241 BABIP against isn't sustainable -- he's not a sub-1.00 ERA guy -- but there's room for him to regress while still remaining effective.

(2) Jose Rondon, 20, A+. 1.4 WAR. 378/.397/.512 with 11 dbls, 3 trpls, and 4 walks

Rondon cut his k-rate by nearly two-thirds and hit .417 on balls in play, so of course he had a spectacular month. After smacking just three doubles in April -- all to the opposite field -- he pulled six doubles deep to left and peppered the gaps for five additional two-baggers and three triples.  The fact that Rondon is beginning to yank the ball with authority is promising because he has yet to go yard in full season ball.  Any over-the-fence power - any! - seems vital to projecting Rondon as a legitimate longterm replacement for Eric Aybar.

Baseball Prospectus' "fielding runs above average" metric is a fan of Rondon's glove, crediting him with 6 runs saved above your average High-A shortstop in just two months. He's received high marks for his soft hands, reliability, and general play-making ability in the field, though folks are skeptical about his range.

He currently looks like a utility player - a good one - but man, would a half-dozen bombs in the second half raise that profile.

(3) Wade LeBlanc, 29, AAA. 1.2 WAR. 2 W, 0 L. 2.03 ERA in 26.2 IP with 17 K/5 BB.

LeBlanc earned his ill-fated promotion to the big leagues, he really did. Then the Halos botched a series of roster transactions that left LeBlanc exposed to waivers, and the Yankees snapped him up, only to designate him for assignment days later.  He's now a free agent.

LeBlanc will provide useful depth for someone. It would be nice if the Halos' could admit their mistake and bring him back into the fold, but it looks like he has no interest in a minor league job. Salt Lake lake fans will miss him most of all.

(4) Nate Smith, 22, AA. 1.2 WAR (1.7 RA9 WAR/1.7 FIP WAR on the season).  38.1 IP, 3.05 ERA. 37 K/8 BB

Currently our most dependable starter in the upper minors, and I think the most likely to get the call should another hole open up in our rotation. Not bad for an eighth rounder in his first full professional season.

Smith combines command and polish with a fabulous mid-to-high 70's change-up.  In AA, 68% of his pitches have gone for strikes and he's fanning 27% of opposing hitters, both well above average rates.  What I really loved in the April start that I watched is that he started to get whiffs on 89 mph fastballs late in the game because guys were so unnerved by his drop-off-the-table change-up.

While his current Double A .349 BABIP is a inflated, I don't think it's entirely a fluke: he'll give up hits on the mediocre fastball and occasionally struggle to put guys away. He's having an especially difficult time right now against AA lefties, who are hitting .357/.400/.571 against him, suggesting that he has work to do on his slow curveball, either by tightening it up or adding a slider. Until he addresses those issues, it's hard to see him as more than a back-of-the-rotation guy.

However, he has the command and pitchability to make a passable swingman now.  Another year of polish, and he might be more than that.  A lefty Matt Shoemaker, ready sooner rather than later.  That has a lot of present value for the Halos.

(5) Eliot Morris, 22, A+. 1.2 WAR. 34 IP, 1.59 ERA.  32 K/11 BB

As Turks Teeth pointed out last week, Morris would be looking a heck of a lot better if it weren't for Lancaster's buzz saw offense, which plated 10 runs off of him in just 7.1 IP.  Cal League lefties in particular have dinged his overall stat line, knocking him around at a .313/.421/.594 clip.

Some observations from his televised May 19th start: the fastball didn't look as tough as the stat line would have you think. He got it up to 94 mph, and at times it bored in at on right handers, but it played down because he did such a rotten job commanding the pitch, missing above the zone frequently. I didn't get to see much of his secondary pitches, because he was working from behind in the count so often, but the slider looked good. His change-up needs work.

Morris is a work-in-progress, but has also endured a long and difficult recovery from Tommy John surgery in his freshman year in college. I get the sense that he could still make a developmental leap.