It was almost two years ago, but in terms of how much Billy Eppler has changed the Angels organization, it seems much, much longer. Nearly two years...that’s how long it has been since Keith Law brutalized the Halos’ farm system by not only ranking it dead last in Major League Baseball, but he also added an extra knife twist by saying it was the worst farm club he’s ever seen.
It stung, but it was true. We all knew it was true, long before Law put the org on blast, for all of the baseball world to see, but that article reached a whole lot of baseball fans who just hadn’t been paying attention, and the LOLANGELS takes soon followed. The next year, though, with Eppler having his transformation act underway, provided some minor relief when Law, in the 2017 farm system rankings, put the Halos up a few spots.
They were out of the cellar, and in the #27 spot, and Angels fans proceeded to celebrate this rankings climb, not caring that it is indeed unintentionally hilarious to be so excited about such a minor improvement. But hey...when your team’s farm system is called “worst I’ve ever seen” by an esteemed prospect analyst, anything that ISN’T at the bottom of the barrel is considered a win.
Well, Law’s team rankings are still a couple weeks away, but today he put out the first part of his Top 100 prospects list, and Angels fans have yet another reason to shake Mr. Law’s hand. It had been awhile since they had a guy in the Top 100 of ANY rankings, but last year, Jo Adell and Jahmai Jones began showing up on them, typically in the 90s somewhere. That’s why it’s so badass to see that the Halos have FIVE guys in the #100-#51 part of Law’s Top 100 Prospects.
Yep. Keith Law likes five Angels farm hands for the first half of his Top 100, and we know there’s still at least one more Angels prospect that will make his list in the second part (well, at least there SHOULD be...I of course mean Shohei Ohtani, just to be clear, but Law does have a thing about not ranking players that were pros in Japan, Korea, etc.). Here’s where the Halos hopefuls landed:
55. Jo Adell OF
62. Jaime Barria RHP
75. Jahmai Jones OF
82. Chris Rodriguez RHP
88. Brandon Marsh OF
Besides the Angels’ 2017 1st round pick, Jo Adell, there’s some highly recognizable names on there for fans of the club or anybody that follows minor league ball. Barria has been creating more and more chatter after every inning he throws; Jahmai Jones continues to impress, especially considering he’s still just 20 years old.
Chris Rodriguez is another guy who, with last year’s performance from the mound, has practically demanded that the MLB world take notice of him; and then there’s Brandon Marsh at #88, the former 2nd-round pick who got a slow start due to some minor back issues, but then began to rip the Pioneer League to ribbons once he got on the field.
But let’s see a bit of what Law liked in these youngsters, shall we?
Law on Jo Adell:
He didn’t play the field because of the arm issue, but if he’s recovered by spring, he should go out as a center fielder thanks to his plus speed and what was a plus throwing arm as well. Even if he has to move to left -- an absolute worst-case scenario -- his bat looks like it’s going to profile there with 80 raw power and huge exit velocities already in pro ball, as well as the aptitude to adjust to the challenges he’ll face when he sees better pitching in the Midwest League this year.
Law on Jaime Barria:
His ceiling is somewhat limited by the lack of a grade 60 pitch, but he’s still just 21 and has already succeeded through Triple-A, so there’s a good fourth starter floor here and some chance he finds another weapon to become more.
Law on Jahmai Jones:
Jones was the Angels’ second-round pick in 2015 as a high school outfielder from Georgia with a broad mix of tools -- including plus raw power -- and exceptional makeup. He’s a 55 runner who can handle center field, although the presence of Brandon Marsh in the system might push Jones to a corner, where Jones’ power and above-average defense should still allow him to profile as a good regular.
Law on Chris Rodriguez:
The Angels nabbed Rodriguez in the fourth round in the 2016 draft, as he was the rare pop-up Florida kid who came on very late that spring and the Halos were one of the few teams still on him when he peaked closer to the draft.
The pick already seems prescient, as Rodriguez has continued to pick up velocity, averaging nearly 95 mph as a starter in 2017, to go with the best slider in the Angels’ system and an above-average changeup. He’ll mix in four- and two-seamers, with very good sink on the latter, and even has a curveball that’s good enough to keep in his repertoire at least as a show-me pitch.
Law on Brandon Marsh:
He missed a month with a thumb injury last summer, playing just 39 games in the Pioneer League, but when he played, he raked with 22 extra-base hits in that span. Those are still Marsh’s only official games in the year and a half since he signed so he’s behind other players his age in experience, and his approach at the plate is going to need some work when he faces better pitching in 2018.
Marsh isn’t as advanced a prospect as fellow Angels outfielder Jahmai Jones, but offers more ceiling due to his speed and better chance to stay in center, and could end up No. 2 in the Angels’ system with a good and healthy year in the Midwest League.
There’s some stuff I left out, that you can check out in Law’s full piece, and if you have an ESPN Insider sub, then I highly suggest you do. This is it, people. The Angels have young guns in their farm sytem, and Billy Eppler would be the first to tell you that he isn’t done turning this organization into a talent-rich pool of exciting prospects.