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Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs releases his Angels 2017 prospect list

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You don’t need me to tell you who’s first, right?

As the title indicates, Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs released his prospect rankings earlier today. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but here are a few highlights.

50 is MLB average, the equivalent of 2 WAR. 45 is below average or 1.5 WAR, 40 is 1 WAR, and so on. Remember though, that this scale punishes relievers for playing less.

At first glance, Longenhagen really dislikes Thaiss and Ward, whom MLB Pipeline has a half-grade higher. Putting Marsh at 45 instead of 50 is understandable because even though [Marsh] has great tools, he is yet to play in a minor league game.

On Jahmai Jones:

Jones has plus bat speed...He projects as a plus hitter. He’s a plus runner and likely to stay in center field...Jones’ speed adds value on the bases, too...Jones should stay in center field and hustle his way to 20 annual doubles while hitting .280 or so, and that’s an above-average big leaguer.

Jones is still a while away, but he’s the most likely prospect to be an above-average big-leaguer, and it’s not close. It’s important to keep in mind that he has never played a full season at A ball and he is apparently having issues hitting the breaking ball against more advanced pitchers, but his journey is still only beginning. If there’s one prospect to get very excited about, it’s him. Longenhagen placed him #92 on his top 100 list earlier, and he’s a prime candidate to rocket up lists come next fall should he do well.

On Brandon Marsh:

I saw him take batting practice, though, and not only does Marsh have big, projectable raw power but he was able to take instruction from coaches, mid-session, and make adjustments to their liking immediately. That’s an especially positive sign for Marsh, whose bat is a bit of a question mark and who scouts thought dominated high-school ball on sheer physicality and athleticism alone.

And if Marsh can indeed adjust his way into even an average hit tool then he has a chance to be a star, as he’s a plus runner with a plus arm and ticketed for early career work in center field.

Marsh is uber-risky since again, he’s never played a minor league game, but one might argue he has the most upside of anyone in the system. As with Jones, hitting the offspeed is going to be the biggest challenge he faces over the upcoming season. He is one to keep an eye on.

Other miscellaneous notes:

[SP Chris] Rodriguez’s delivery is violent, but it doesn’t seem to detract from his ability to locate. Other than speculation about how it might impact his ability to stay healthy (which is arguably baseless), it doesn’t look like it’s going to inhibit his ability to start. He has mid-rotation stuff but is obviously quite far from yielding big-league value.

The Pacific Coast League was predictably unkind to [SP Nate] Smith’s fringey stuff last year, and there are scouts who think he’s more of an up-and-down depth arm than a true rotation piece, but most are on him as a strike-throwing No. 5 starter.

[SP Jaime Barria] has a simple, repeatable delivery. Scouts don’t see much projection on the stuff because the body is quite mature, but they already like what they’re seeing enough to project him as a big-league rotation piece.

[P Jake Jewell] has starter’s stuff, though, and has been throwing very hard this spring, sitting 93-96 with nasty natural cut. Jewell will also show a sinking two-seamer in the low-90s, a hard slider/cutter in the 86-89 range, and a sweeping curveball in the low 80s. All of these are average or better in quality, only ineffective because Jewell has below-average command and noticeable mechanical variation.

Most exciting to me is that most scouts still view Nate Smith as a starter rather than a swingman or long reliever. If that’s the case, the Angels would be another starter deep (behind Yusmeiro Petit and Alex Meyer on the spare starter depth chart) and would be better able to withstand injuries.

On the Angels’ system overview:

It’s not an industry secret that this system isn’t very good. I wasn’t keen on the Thaiss and Ward selections in the past two drafts, but the only reason this system has any kind of depth is because both of those selections were signed under slot, allowing for Jones and Marsh, who are both big-time athletes with upside, to be signed. In fact, this system has a higher percentage of prospects with significant multi-sport backgrounds than any I’ve done thus far [italics mine]. The most interesting group in this system is the intriguing collection of young arms led by [Chris] Rodriguez, [Cole] Duensing and the teenage pitchers from Latin America, all of whom will begin this year in extended spring training, making Tempe Diablo’s back fields a far more necessary destination than it has been for the past few years.

This is initially an insult but actually a complement! Things are looking up on the farm that has a lot of sleeper and breakout candidates, as well as holds the #10 overall pick in a pitching-rich draft this June and can get back into the international market once and for all. Most of the prospect talent is young and unproven still, so it’s going to take a concerted effort to get it up to speed. It is every indication that GM Billy Eppler intends to do just that.