Here is the introductory post to this series, explaining our methodology.
If you’d like to view these prospect grades in greater detail, you can do so here.
15. Jose Soriano (SP) — 68 points
Scouting Report: Jose Soriano further improved on his already solid start to professional baseball in 2017. He did not overpower guys, though he started to show more strength and heat as the season went on. He did continue what has worked so well for him: limiting hard contact. Across over innings as a professional pitcher, Soriano has never had below a 50% ground ball rate. Admittedly, he did have a career-high HR/9 in 2017 though. A miniscule 0.37 means that he gave up a home run just over once every 27 innings.
He has a wonderful frame and is expected to fill out very nicely. His fastball and curve both flash plus. The heater was clocked in the low 90s just last year, and he was touching 95 in 2017. The curve has sharpened up quite a lot over the last year and can/will hit the strike zone, though it is still in need of fine tuning. He also possesses a rare changeup that scouts think will eventually reach decency.
Eric Longenhagen is notoriously high on Jose Soriano, frequently citing the player as his Angels sleeper prospect. He actually ranked him in his top 10, something that I haven’t seen anyone else do at this time.
Soriano certainly is projectable and may have one of the highest upsides of any pitcher in the system, sans Shohei Ohtani. If the youngster continues to develop for another couple years, look for him to be a future Baseball America Top 100 prospect. This could be said about several of the prospects in the system of course, but the talent and possibilities in these lower levels are undeniable. —Rick
14. Luke Bard (RP) — 70 points
Scouting Report: Luke Bard has had a rough-go in the minor leagues but came back roaring in 2017, striking out AA and AAA hitters at an elite clip (13.4 K/9 and 14.5 K/9, respectively) while keeping a respectable walk rate.
Bard’s fastball sits 93-95 and according to Taylor Blake Ward, his strong fastball command spanning the lower half of the plate in early counts “allows him to setup a wipeout slider that creates a high load of swing-and-misses.” His command necessitates more consistency, but his improvement in pacing that led to his 2017 gains give the organization hope that he could serve as a high-leverage reliever, if not a consistent, serviceable one. —Rahul
13. Taylor Ward (C) — 83 points
Scouting Report: Ward continued his ascent towards Anaheim last year, reaching AA Mobile for the last six weeks of the 2017 season. Regarded as a defense first, bat second catcher he showed solid on base ability, posting .348 in High A and .400 in a relatively small sample size in AA. Slugging, however, is not his forte as his .375 career slugging percentage attests.
Taylor carries a very heavy reverse split. Last year in AA he hit .304 with a .404 OBP against right handed pitching. With a lefty on the hill, those numbers drop to .222 and .386 respectively. In High A he managed only a .149 average with .268 OBP against lefties and a more respectable .269/.372 without the platoon advantage.
Ward’s defense does appear to be legitimate. He threw out 38% of base runners in 2016 and was invited to big league camp last year where he further worked with Benjie Molina. His arm is his highest rated tool by a considerable margin and is said to be MLB caliber.
Overall Ward’s career with go as his bat goes. As of now he projects as a back up catcher, perhaps one in a significant time share. It isn’t hard to see the best way to increase his offensive profile is to get better against left handed pitching. But, a good receiver with a cannon for an arm who can play 50 games a year is a useful MLB piece. —Jeff
12. Leonardo Rivas (SS) — 94 points
Scouting Report: When the Angel signed Leonardo Rivas at the age of 17, he was just 150# at 5’10 and not much has changed since then. Rivas, now 20, has a knack for getting on base and even in his first year in the Dominican Summer League he put up a .401 OBP. Ever since, he has put up some great OBP numbers, including a .462 in Orem last year. Aside from his ability to get on base at a high clip, Rivas is also quite speedy with 19 stolen bases last year in 20 attempts over 61 games.
Due to Rivas’ small frame, he’s not much of a power hitter - as would be expected. His smaller size and lack of raw strength could be an issue as he moves up the ladder (his listed 5’10” height may be more than a slight exaggeration - judge for yourself in this video). Rivas is also a solid fielder, but does not have the arm to stick at SS. In fact, the Angels have been moving Rivas around the field and it’s likely he has utility player in his future if he makes the big league level.
In summary, Rivas is an intriguing prospect with athleticism, a good hit tool, solid fielding, and above average speed. He lacks in power and arm strength - both related to his smaller stature. He’ll be one to watch to see how he adjusts as he moves up the ladder. — Jessica
11. Jesus Castillo (SP) — 116 points
Scouting Report: Long described as wiry thin, Castillo still fits this description from when the Diamondbacks signed him out of Venezuela in 2012. Acquired by the Angels at the deadline for Joe Smith a year and a half ago, he has experienced significant successes in a short span of time, going from never advancing to class-A ball to climbing three levels in one season (and experiencing success at all three). Across 124 innings in 2017, Castillo recorded a 3.32 ERA across class-A Burlington, high-A Inland Empire, and double-A Mobile, striking out just under a batter per inning (8.5 K/9) while keeping a low walk rate (1.9 BB/9).
Castillo does it with a rather unimpressive arsenal — a low 90s fastball, a 12-6 curveball, and a get-me-over changeup — that plays up due to deception and consistent mechanics. While he has only had five starts in Mobile, Jesus Castillo has all the makings of a workhorse, innings-eating back-end starter. With room to grow into his frame and time on his side, the still-projectable Castillo is likely to profile as a big-league starter. —Rahul