This is it! Our list, the Halos Heaven Top 20 Angels Prospects for 2015. We'll take a new look after the All Star Break and re-rank, but until then, this list represents a simple average of prospect hound / watchful eye Ryan Ghan's and data junkie / farm enthusiast Turks Teeth's current rankings. FWIW, we were in consensus on 18 of 20 candidates in the list, so we have more internal alignment than most.
Without further ado, here are our guys, ranked according to present and projected future value, with a healthy dose of anticipated risk:
1. Sean Newcomb
RG: Put him into a tornado, and what happens? He strikes out half of the competition. A-Ballers, to be sure, but you couldn't stage a better debut. The plus fastball – potentially plus-plus – and three promising secondaries are a tantalizing combination. We're a bit confounded about why the Halos exiled him to the Midwest League, opting for the Garrett Richards/Pat Corbin promotion trajectory over the Nick Maronde/Mark Sappington/Kyle McGowin trajectory... Well, maybe it isn't so confounding. At any rate, look forward to some gaudy numbers before Newcomb's Midwest Purgatory comes to a close.
2. Andrew Heaney
RG: Great debut. Best of all, his change-up was great, and he threw a lot of them on Friday night to spectacular results. According to him, however, the real difference was in staying closed longer throughout his delivery, which for whatever reason facilitated better fastball command (and likely more deception). Wish we'd seen it during the spring, but we'll see it again, and possibly soon.
3. Nick Tropeano
RG: Following one inconsistent spring training start, which I was lucky enough to witness first hand, Tropeano shrugged off an ugly inning with the defense, "my stuff was good, I got a lot of swinging strikes." And so went his debut: nearly 20% of the pitches he threw went for whiffs and he fanned 32% of the hitters that he faced. Yet he also gave up that bad inning, that unfortunate sequence of three consecutive no-doubt doubles. His stuff - especially his offspeed pitches - are probably better than folks gave him credit for over the offseason, but he still has some work to do in managing those bad sequences.
4. Roberto Baldoquin
RG: Who is this guy? No one knows yet.
TT: After launching one over the fence in his first AB in spring training this March, he struck out in four of his five appearances at Inland Empire, threw a ball wide of first for an error, and then got plunked on the hand in his next at bat, and is day-to-day. Nerves, maybe? Right now this ranking is based almost solely on the price of his contract and organizational hype. We'll know whether its supportable soon enough.
5. Drew Rucinski
RG: Rucinski is a legit MLB asset. He presents as a decent MLB starter right now, with an average fastball, a deception/command profile flashing above average, and a confident, "it's my time" sorta intensity. He's the best storyline the Halos presently have going, and they could really use a good one right now.
6. Kyle Kubitza
RG: The more he played in spring training, the more his quiet competence blended in with the big league squad. But four games into the regular season, and he's already sporting the same 35% k-rate /.417 BABIP combination that had me scratching my head over the offseason. I will continue to watch; I will continue to marvel.
7. Cam Bedrosian
RG: So far, so good on the farm. We'll keep watching.
RG: Keep an eye on this flamethrower. Aside from Newcomb, he's got the best raw stuff on this list. His 2014 is off to a good start, and if he remains anywhere close to his present 7% walk rate, then his season will be a smashing success. Five k's in in seven innings may not blow anyone away, but he induced a 60% groundball rate and 20% pop-up rate on contact. He was also the most efficient of the Halos hurlers last week, needing just three pitches per PA, contradicting his reputation and providing a nice baseline to grow on.
9. Carlos Perez
RG: Perez has been one of the two fastest risers in the system these past three months due to a strong showing in winter ball and spring training, and I'm becoming a believer. With the bat, he's presently a Luis Jiminez type, a high-contact flyball machine. Now, Lucho hasn't yet developed enough distance power to make that work, but Perez might. The Halos will patiently wait through Perez' option years, because you can afford to wait for a long time with a plus defensive catcher. He may become a solid regular yet.
10. Sherman Johnson
RG: This is fun. As of yesterday morning, Sherman led the minors in runs, he sports more walks than strikeouts, and he's already busted out
three five extra base hits and a pair of stolen bases. He's a sleeper if there ever was one.
TT: My sneaky hope is that Johnson will prove to be such a dynamic leadoff weapon at the top of the Travelers order that he'll leapfrog Yarbrough, Rutledge and Green to become the Angels super-ute, or even (gasp) their solution to the second base question. And maybe sooner rather than later. His excellent under-the-radar season at Inland Empire last season hinted at what he might be capable of: 107 runs in 136 games, with 25+ steals and 88 walks (not to mention those 13 triples and 17 HRs). He has a nifty speed-patience-power profile that is largely unrivaled on the farm of late. Like Calhoun, he may be the unheralded breakthrough guy that everyone will be wondering how they missed come next year.
11. Nate Smith
TT: Smith has been begun to climb other prospect lists, as a result of his overall competence, solid K-rates (precisely one per inning in 2014) and solid outcomes, despite scouting reports lagging behind his results somewhat. He also had a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League late last year. His 2015 debut was more of the same: 6 Ks in 6 innings, but 3 ERs due to some wildness and a solo homerun in the fourth inning. That wildness is something to watch, as it appeared in force in Arkansas last season in a BB rate near 12%, whereas he'd exhibited impressive control at all other levels up to that point.
12. Chris Ellis
TT: The Christopher Ellis we saw through the first four innings of his debut with Inland Empire the other night was one we had not seen in Orem or the College World Series last year. Fastball, curve and change all working, with plenty of swing and miss. It took him only 41 pitches to get through five innings, with seven strikeouts in that span. OTOH, he yielded a double and two triples on three batters first pitch swinging in each case. The hittability was an issue at Orem last year, as it was in the CWS, but the organization is high enough on Ellis to promote him to the 66ers at the same time they've played cautious with the high-ceiling Newcomb. I'll give the third-rounder the benefit of doubt, despite my previous skepticism, for the time being.
13. Tyler DeLoach
TT: This weekend, he took off where he left off last fall in Arkansas (where he remains): he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, and completed six while only surrendering two hits total on 81 pitches. At the same time, he showed some of his customary wildness, hitting two batters and yielding two walks. We need to see him in less generous run environments before we know exactly who DeLoach might be, but he's overachieved at every level thusfar.
14. Alex Yarbrough
TT: Yarbrough has started off quietly in his first stint in AAA, but should be given plenty of time to show he can hit in the PCL. Unfortunately for him, he has more competition than ever between Giavotella, Rutledge, Green, and Featherston ahead of him on the depth chart, and Sherman Johnson and Kody Eaves nipping at his heels.
15. Kody Eaves
TT: Eaves becomes Baldoquin's double-play partner at Inland Empire this season at the (still) tender age of 21, and immediately evidences in his first weekend of play two of the traits for which we love and fear him: he clobbered a decisive two run go-ahead HR (he had 54 XBHs and 10 HRs in Burlington last season), while also striking out five times in three games (he struck out 142 times in same season last year).
16. Jeremy Rhoades
TT: Fastball, cutter, change – mostly average offerings. But it's his monster of a slider that has many scouts pegging him for an eventual bullpen role. His 10 K performance in 5.2 innings at Burlington over the weekend however hints at an even higher ceiling, and suggests that the fact that he struck out more than a batter an inning in the Pioneer League was more than a fluke. Due to an inconsistent delivery, his control at Orem last season was a work in progress, but it did improve over the short season, and with some mechanical adjustments, he could rise quickly if his debut is any indication.
17. Joe Gatto
TT: He'll be higher on many other lists, and is being pulled down here by my skepticism. He's got the projectable body and raw stuff that prospect hounds love, but he's a long way from the bigs, and the Angels have not successfully developed and matriculated a high school pitcher to their MLB team since Nick Adenhart (drafted in 2004). Skaggs might be the next, but even he spent half his developing years in Arizona's system. Gatto was very raw in Rookie Ball last fall, and the org is clearly taking their time with him. He'll start in Orem later this summer.
18. Natanael Delgado
TT: Still a teenager, and still a promising left-hander with some punch, he'll need to lower the Ks and work on more patience at the plate in a much more difficult Iowan park environment than previously.
19. Jett Bandy
TT: While Carlos Perez justifiably got the longest look in spring training, we shouldn't forget that Bandy also has a strong defensive game, handling a good Travelers staff in 2014 while throwing out runners at a 40% clip. In the second half of last season, he carried a .281/.401/.500 slash in a league where many of the parks suppress offense. To prove the point that he's got some sock in his stick, he took MLB Giants reliever Jake Dunning deep in his first game of the season on Sunday with the Salt Lake Bees. Bandy is second on the depth chart after Perez, and is likely to eventually see time at the MLB level if he isn't tradebait at some point.
20. Austin Wood
TT: We were still holding the torch for Austin Wood last fall, and he stays in our top 20 this spring as well. Arkansas had him coming out of the bullpen Sunday night, so there's some evidence that the predicted transition to relief may be under way. His burner of a fastball and plus slider should play well in that function, if so.
* * *
There are any number of candidates on the bubble, just outside of our top 20, and we'll write more about these in articles to come. Things can develop quickly, and there are lots of arms-of-intrigue in what is quickly becoming a sleeper system for pitching deep and wide. There's still a notable lack of high-ceiling position players, especially in the outfield, but a draft or two and some strategic trades can change things quickly. You know we'll be keeping score.