You can find the introduction to our prospect ranking series here. For this piece only prospects that didn’t make the cut are eligible.
Between his plus changeup and curveball, Jose Suarez (21 votes) induces weak contact from opposing hitters. Though only a teenager, he pitched quite well in AZL and Orem this year, showing exceptional command and feel for his pitching. He should add speed to his high 80s fastball, which lacks in velocity but succeeds in movement. Baseball America pegged Suarez’s changeup as the best in the system, which can be interpreted in one of two ways...He has a long road ahead of him, but the Angels will do their best to develop him as a starter thanks to his three-pitch mix.
At just 5’11”, Luis Peña (19 votes) is small for a starter, his delivery involves some effort, and his control leaves much to be desired. His fastball appears major league average in terms of velocity and movement — though he doesn’t command it particularly well — and his slider is tough on righties. That was enough to whiff 32% of same-handed hitters he faced. However, those same guys tended to punish him when they did connect, driving plenty of fly balls up the middle and to the pull side. That could spell trouble in the Cal League as lefties had a much easier time making contact, even if their contact wasn’t quite as loud.
Peña was mostly a four-inning-guy last year, piggybacking his starts with other arms. It’s hard to envision him remaining a starter, but he’ll likely continue building up innings over the next few years before transitioning to the pen. He should be one of Inland Empire’s most exciting (and least polished) starters next year.
Why on earth did the Orioles release Kevin Grendell (16 votes) last spring? Sure, he’d never approached the 37% strikeout rate that he put up with the Angels last season, but as recently as 2015 he’d allowed just a 1.64 ERA (2.66 FIP) in the O’s system. Are other farm systems so flush that they can afford to ditch a guy like this? It turns out, Grendell was suspended 50 games in 2012 for a failed drug test, but it seems fishy that the O’s held onto him for so long and released him after he experienced success.
In any case, Grendell appears a nifty fit for the Angels’ perennially open LOOGY —lefty one-out guy — gig. Fanning 38% of lefties while inducing pop-ups at a rate twice the league average makes for a fine resume. Grendell also held righties to a miniscule .167 batting average last year with legit stuff, including a low 90’s fastball and a curve that he can manipulate. He’s a true flyball pitcher, so expect a hiccup or two in Salt Lake, but if he maintains his momentum in the upper minors he could become more than a situational lefty.
For one of the Angels top prospects entering the season, Joe Gatto (14 votes) got rocked in his move up to A-ball. Though his ERA and command took major steps backward, Gatto’s FIP indicator (4.35 in 2016) suggests that he wasn’t as bad as the stats seem. He will have to be able to control and command his offspeed, and if he can do that he’ll be alright. His fastball is in the low 90s but his best pitch is his curveball, which can be utilized effectively when he can command it. Gatto has tools to succeed (including best curveball in the system) but needs to be more precise in order to harness them effectively.
Angels fans hoped Sherman Johnson (13 votes) could be the next answer at second base, but the wheels have really come off the last two seasons. Johnson’s extreme plate discipline tendencies equate to a high walk percentage, but the flip side is that it leaves him susceptible to taking pitches, resulting in many two-pitch counts to which he makes weak contact. All this results in more outs, a low BA, OBP, and BABIP. On top of this, he doesn’t hit for much power to make up for the difference.
Johnson’s 2016 line (.226/.332/.345, 85 wRC+) isn’t good, and the Angels aren’t counting on him as they’ve found a free agent replacement to play a similar role in Nolan Fontana. They also left him unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft and he went unclaimed. Johnson will have to work on his approach at the plate in order to reach his future role as a utility infielder at the big league level, as he can play second base, shortstop, and third base.
Instead of adding Johnson to the 40-man roster, the Halos chose to add twenty-one year old Venezuelan reliever Eduardo Paredes (12 votes). In his stateside debut two years ago he looked the part of future closer, fanning 38% of Pioneer League hitters and coaxing a 58% ground ball rate from those who managed contact. Better competition since has exposed him: the stellar GB% regressed to league average in full season ball, and lefties especially lit him up last year to the tune of .305/.370/.463. They had no trouble squaring up the fastball, especially in the Arizona Fall League.
Paredes remained tough on righties, who slugged a meager .341 against him overall in 2016, and the MLB average stuff is still there: he slings a lively low-to-mid 90’s fastball and a curveball/change combo that flashes interesting from a low arm slot. That overall package may earn him a middle relief spot yet. Just don’t leave him in too long against tough lefties.
Jared Foster (7 votes) is intriguing. He’s a gifted athlete who only began to focus on baseball after the Halos drafted him in 2014, so his baseball age is still a little lower than his listed 24. He plays young too: the approach may be messy, but he makes enough contact to not let the strikeouts get out of control. He barrels enough balls, especially against lefties, to put up respectable lower minors slash lines. He runs well enough to play center, despite profiling better at the corners. There’s no reason to expect his fun, raw play to translate into a major league career, but if the Angels were receiving an unexpected breakout in 2017, it would likely come from this sort of profile.
Alex Blackford (7 votes) was originally viewed as an organizational pitcher, but the Angels gave him the reigns to start this year at AA Arkansas and he didn’t look back. Surprisingly, Blackford lowered his WHIP to 1.11 this year and threw 111.1 innings with a 3.07 ERA (4.24 FIP). He doesn’t throw very hard but manages to keep hitters off-balance.
Osmer Morales (7 votes) doesn’t throw hard either, but his high spin rate makes his fastball seem faster to opposing hitters. Morales doesn’t have great tools but commands them all extremely well, making him a potential big league contributor (more on him here). He incorporates deception to fool hitters and make his stuff play up.
For someone who can’t hit for power or field particularly well, Brendon Sanger (6 votes) is a left-handed hitting second baseman who is completely dependent on his bat in order to succeed in the bigs. He showed good plate discipline last year (11.5% BB, .230/.329/.325) but will need to do a lot better than the 98 wRC+ he showed at Burlington last year. Sanger still displays all the offensive tools that made him a 4th round pick but will look to put it all together next year.
Julio Garcia (2 votes) is a solid defensive shortstop but needs to develop his bat in order to climb up the minors. Hutton Moyer’s (1 vote) 226 total bases quietly led all Angels’ farmhands last year. The 28% K-rate in High-A screams red flag, but defensive flexibility and his highly respectable .223 ISO against righties provide some hope. If his big, noisy swing and contact percentage hold up in AA — a big if — he could be an offensively-minded utility infielder and platoon player down the road.
Brennon Lund (1 vote) raked in Rookie-Orem, and did alright in A-ball. He went to college at BYU, not too far from Orem which gave him an advantage in the familiarity department. Despite his strong start, he doesn’t profile as much more than a fourth outfielder.
Erik Manoah’s most likely outcome is to be a reliever, where his velocity plays up in shorter stints and his command is less of a factor. His FIP suggests he is better than his ERA, but his 1.49 career WHIP doesn’t inspire confidence. Nonetheless, he is an arm to monitor in the system.
Jake Jewell will also probably be converted to a relief role after an awful 2016 year in high-A (137 IP, 4.27 BB/9, 1.87 WHIP). It might take time, but Jewell would be best suited for a bullpen role where his mid-90s fastball can inch up a few ticks and become more effective in short spurts.
Catching prospect Jose Briceno displays strong defensive skills behind the plate, including receiving and blocking. Should his raw power manifest itself, the Angels could be looking at a backup catcher in due time.
Keith Grieshaber is a former Missouri soccer star and is proving to be a solid hitter. He has above average speed and can potentially be an average glove too. The shortstop slashed .317/.362/.405 between AZL and Orem, and many scouts are intrigued by the bat. It’s his offense that will differentiate him from his teammates, so keep an eye out for him.
Zach Houchins is a third baseman who dabbles at short and first base. He has some natural pop that manifests itself primarily against lefties. And while his strikeout rate crept up last year, it’s still below average. If he can improve his approach against righties by lofting more balls to his pull side, then he has a chance at a utility career down the road.