Another day, another fairly bleak report on the state of the Angels' prospects. Last week, we had Baseball Prospectus' Top 10 list, headlined by pitcher Joe Gatto. There wasn't really much to glean from their rankings and assessment, other than things are looking somewhat rough for the near future, as well as bringing up the possibility that the Angels may be among the league's worst farm systems. Some definite bulletin board material for Eppler and Co. to prove people wrong, perhaps, but it was a fair take on a organization that took wrong turn after wrong turn regarding personnel, scouting, etc.
Here was their full Top 10, for quick reference:
1.RHP Joe Gatto
2.OF Jahmai Jones
3.RHP Victor Alcantara
4.C Taylor Ward
5.3B Kyle Kubitza
6.SS Roberto Baldoquin
7.RHP Jake Jewell
8.SS Julio Garcia
9.LHP Nate Smith
10.OF Chad Hinshaw
Today, it's Baseball America who is unleashing their analysis and appraisal of the ho-hum Angels minor league players, but they have an altogether different version of the Top 10, one most notable for the fact that they have last year's 1st and 2nd round picks as the top two players in the Halos' farm system. Jones showed up in the same spot in BP's list, but it's sort of funny(in a scary, uncomfortable sense) that the prospect talent pool is so bereft of special players that the top two picks from 2015 could be catapulted to the top of the team's prospect list. What does that mean for the near future? Help for the big league club is NOT on the way, so don't be expecting it any time soon (Trading for a generational talent like Andrelton Simmons will do that, I guess).
Here's how Baseball America sees the Angels' prospect depth:
1. Taylor Ward, c
2. Jahmai Jones, of
3. Nate Smith, lhp
4. Victor Alcantara, rhp
5. Jake Jewell, rhp
6. Grayson Long, rhp
7. Joe Gatto, rhp
8. Kaleb Cowart, 3b
9. Jaime Barria, rhp
10. Chad Hinshaw, of
Quite a different list of names from BP's, but most notable would be the inclusion of Taylor Ward, he of the Jeff Mathis comps, as Top Prospect Dog of the Angels' yard. The article is for Baseball America subscribers, but here's a meaty portion of their take on Ward:
Ward stands out as a potentially above-average or better defender behind the plate. He already flashes a plus arm, throwing out a combined 35 percent of basestealers in his pro debut. He didn’t always make the best use of his lower half and had some rhythm issues early, but he improved during the 2015 season and put up consistent sub-2.0-second pop times on throws to second base. Ward’s quick feet and athleticism make him a good receiver, especially as he gets more experience and adjusts to the speed of the pro game. He’ll need to add strength to his slender frame in order to survive the grind of catching 100-plus games a year. The Angels believe the extra bulk will come as they integrate him into their strength program. Ward projects to be an average hitter, more likely batting in the lower part of the order, but if his defense develops as the Angels expect that will be enough to earn a big league starting catcher job. He has a good idea at the plate and a fairly simple swing, but can be too patient at times instead of swinging aggressively at pitches he can hit. While he shows some pull power, Ward projects to be more of a line-drive hitter who will stroke doubles to the gaps. Ward’s approach is very much geared to contact and he does a good job of putting the ball in play. He has decent bat speed but will need to get stronger to maximize his power potential. A below-average runner, he moves well enough that he won’t be a baseclogger.
So, defense will be the name of the game for Ward, if he's to have any success or impact at the MLB level. That's not really all that different than what we heard about him as soon as he was drafted, but it's nice to see that some scouting reports have seen him deliver on those promised defensive goods in his professional debut. They are prognosticating that Ward sees action with the 66ers in 2016, and if all goes well, he'll be in AA-Arkansas before season's end.
Jahmai Jones was an interesting and juicy pic from the get go, seeing as how strongly the Angels had been favoring college players in recent history, and the fact that Jones was a 17 year old high school player who was heavy on athleticism but a little light on the baseball side of things. Jones is intriguing, to say the very least; athletics runs in the family, as dad was a college and pro football player, and he currently has two brothers playing football currently(one in the NFL, one in NCAA). The freakish talent is there, he just needs the Angels to nudge him in the right developmental path. Here's what Baseball America had to say:
Jones stands out for his elite makeup and work ethic that will allow him to play above his tools. He played most of the 2015 season at age 17 in the Rookie-level Arizona League, and though he hit .244, the adversity helped him grow. Jones makes hard contact with a good swing path and the ability to keep his hands inside the ball. He hits line drives to all fields but won’t hit for power until he develops more loft in his swing. Jones should be able to stay in center field, where he comes in and goes back well on flyballs, and his average arm makes right field an option. A plus runner now, he may slow down with age.
I'm very excited to see what Jones can do and if he'll be able to manage that athletic prowess, and translate it into pro ball success. Might have to wait awhile, if Baseball America is correct, because they see him as most likely staying in Orem for 2016 and working things out, but they also leave room for the possibility of him making the jump to low A Burlington this coming year. Fingers crossed for this kid.
I still find it somewhat disheartening that baseball minds would see the most recent 1st and 2nd round draftees as the Angels two best prospects in the system, but we should be used to a ravaged and stifled minor league system by now. Perhaps we'll see some diamonds come out of that rough, but until then, it's best to just steer clear of these prospect articles if your intention is getting hyped on the future.
I wont go into detail on the rest of their list, but I enjoyed checking out their opinions on who has the Best Tools of the Angels' prospects. Take a gander:
Best Hitter for Average: Jahmai Jones
Best Power Hitter : Eric Aguilera
Best Strike-Zone Discipline: Taylor Ward
Fastest Baserunner: Ayendy Perez
Best Athlete: Jahmai Jones
Best Fastball: Victor Alcantara
Best Curveball: Joe Gatto
Best Slider: Austin Adams
Best Changeup: Jake Jewell
Best Control: Jaime Barria
Best Defensive Catcher: Taylor Ward
Best Defensive Infielder: David Fletcher
Best Infield Arm: Kaleb Cowart
Best Defensive Outfielder: Jahmai Jones
Best Outfield Arm: Jared Foster
Let's hope for the best with this rag tag group of youngsters, and do our best to ignore the worst. Billy Eppler has his work cut out for him and his staff's player evaluation skills, but that's why they get paid the big bucks. For now, keep pitchforks at the ready, though.