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2018 Angels prospect rankings: 1-5

MLB: Los Angeles Angels-Press Conference Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Disclaimer: We are not scouts and we don’t claim to be. We have not seen these players play in-person, unless otherwise explicitly stated. This series is undertaken in an effort to synthesize scouting reports and increase accessibility to the organization’s farm system, not to replace traditional scouting.

Previously in this series: Introduction | 26-30 | 21-25 | 16-20 | 11-15 | 6-10

If you’d like to view these prospect grades in greater detail, you can do so here.

5. Brandon Marsh (OF) — 252 points

Scouting Report: Marsh lost the 2016 season due to back issues, but he hit the ground running (literally) in Orem last year. Marsh only played 39 games but he swiped 10 bases in 12 attempts and put up a slashline of .350/.396/.548 in the hitter friendly Pioneer League. He also had a pair of 10 games hitting streaks during the season. Marsh dropped a couple spots in our ranking this year but this is due to the additions of Shohei Ohtani and Kevin Maitan more than anything Marsh did or didn’t do.

Despite those great numbers in Orem, Marsh is known to have a below average hit tool without a ton of bat speed and he doesn’t walk much either with only 9 free trips in 192 plate appearances, a 5% clip. Marsh will probably never be a guy who hits .300 but he has 25 home run potential, especially if he adds a few more pounds to his frame which he’s certainly capable of doing. Fortunately, Marsh doesn’t strike out a ton either with a modest 18% rate. Thanks to Jo Adell, Marsh will probably spend most of his time playing right field (moving forward), so that Adell can get reps in center. Marsh definitely has the arm and defense to stick in right and certainly could fill in at the other OF spots as needed. Marsh had 5 assists and a 1.000 FPCT in 319 innings last year.

At a minimum, Marsh should stick at the big league level as a 4th outfielder thanks to his ability to play all 3 positions. If his development goes well - especially at the plate, Marsh could stick as a regular right fielder who backs up center and left. It will be tough to see Marsh as a full time center fielder, especially with competition from Jo Adell and Jahmai Jones. The three of them together provide a potentially very exciting future for the Angels outfield in a few more years. —Jessica

4. Kevin Maitan (SS) — 261 points

Scouting Report: Kevin Maitan was supposed to be our consolation prize when the front office inevitably lost the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. Instead, he became the cherry atop the Best Offseason Ever Sundae. The most severe loss of the Braves’ international signing scandal is not without his flaws, but it is easy to see why the rankings remain bullish.

The former top prospect is incredibly young. He did struggle in his first taste of pro ball, having gained a noticeable amount of weight. All of his peripherals dropped off a cliff and scouts were less than impressed. Fortunately, at a still not even able to vote (until the 12th, that is!) 17.98 years of age, he has a lot of time to make things right. In fact, as Josh Mayhood pointed out in early December, Maitan has already appeared to slim down a substantial amount and is making progress toward a considerably improved sophomore season.

Maitan is expected to make a mark with the bat. He has big power projections for a switch hitter and has frequently been compared to Miguel Cabrera. Some scouts have certainly backed down from the ambition of that statement, but he has nothing but upside at this point. Talking Chop, the Braves SBNation Blog actually scouted him in Spring Training last year and were really excited. Especially after he hit a smooth 400’ triple to dead center. And that’s with his less than stellar speed, probably his only truly subpar tool. Jeff Jones saw more power from the left side, which is something the club is sore for at the moment.

He currently plays shortstop, though several analysts and scouts have predicted an eventual move to third and then a possible transition to first. Regardless, he looks like a solid defender for a kid of his size. There is a lot to like about the latest gift from former GM and Angel best friend John Coppollela. —Rick

3. Jahmai Jones (OF) — 325 points

Scouting Report: It seems like Jones has become my annual prospect to write about. He was the guy I wrote my first Halos Heaven article on (I was “geeking” out when he re-tweeted it). Then there was this article from last year’s countdown where I continued to fawn over Jones’ potential. I think Jahmai gets a little more lost in the conversation of Angels top prospects now, which isn’t a bad thing since it means the Angels finally have some other prospects worth talking about. Make no bones about it, Jones is an extremely gifted athlete and he’s the closest of the three big outfield prospects to even sniffing the majors. Oh, and he’s easy to fall in love with and minor league coaches/evaluators gush about the head on his shoulders. Just check out the interview our own Jeff Joiner had with him.

Jones had a tough start to the season. He was carrying a paltry .167/.211/.292 slashline with a K rate near the stratosphere (25%) in the Midwest League after April. After a few scheduled days off at the end of the month to re-calibrate, Jones never looked back, he torched Burlington enough to earn a promotion to High-A Inland Empire, and he didn’t stop there. After his bad April, Jones hit .300/.369/.471 from May on and quickly silenced critics. Don’t worry, Jones, I never stopped believing in you.

Jones has the profile you want from a prep football player. He’s compact and well built, he’s got speed and natural strength/raw power, and he’s very well put together with a great work ethic. He’s got a sweet, short and compact swing which should allow him to make contact on a more consistent basis (he did reduce his K rate to a 16% clip after his slow start). While he isn’t expected to hit another growth spurt or add much power due to his frame, he’s got a fairly decent amount of pop. He’s a plus runner with improving defense in center field (keep in mind he was a middle infielder in high school and didn’t have much experience in the outfield until he was drafted). His arm isn’t much of a strength, but it’s not a weakness either. The general consensus seems to be that Jones could stick in center, which has value within itself, but that Mike Trout guy might have something to say about that.

My fascination with Jones was never due to his elite upside or “80-grade tools”, it was rooted in what seemed like a safe bet to become a solid Major League regular. While he’s still working on recognizing and laying off of breaking balls, something a two-way athlete might struggle with, the adjustments he made after his bad start offer a glimmer of hope. He should only get better with time, he’s got a little bit of pop, he’s fast, he’s a legitimate center fielder, you can’t underestimate the throwing arm, and his best tool, aside from speed, is his hit tool. So while none of those tools might not leap off of the page, it still screams as a solid, all-around ballplayer. And that’s terrific value for a second round pick (or any pick for that matter). Chase

(P.S. I look forward to writing about Jahmai next year after he lights up High-A and AA).

2. Jo Adell (OF) — 340 points

Scouting Report: Drafted in the first round of last year’s June draft, Jo Adell silenced those who doubted his contact abilities with a 133 and 127 wRC+ in Arizona ball and the Pioneer League, respectively. Overall, Adell slashed .325/.376/.532 with 24 extra-base hits and 8 stolen bases in 222 plate appearances.

Eric Longenhagen likes Adell as a “50 hitter with plus-plus raw power”, noting that if his “hitting comes along and arm strength returns, he’ll be an actual five-tool star”, high praise for an 18-year old entering his first full season of professional baseball. As seen through the tool grades above, most of his ranking is based on the belief that he will be better than what he presently is, which points to considerably less certainty and more risk. As with most minor leaguers this far off, Adell will have to fine-tune his swing, more notably to shorten an elongated load for a quicker path to the ball.

There’s not much else to say here; Adell is the prototypical ‘athlete’ that is going to improve by leaps and bounds with more repetitions. Keep in mind that this much projection means risk, but Adell’s upside is tantalizing. He was often comped to Justin Upton during the draft process. Funny enough, they both could be playing in the same outfield come 2022. —Rahul

1. Shohei Ohtani (SP/DH) — 400 points

Scouting Report: Shohei Ohtani, the marquee acquisition of the Angels offseason, isn’t exactly a prospect in the true sense of the word. With five seasons of professional playing experience overseas, Ohtani’s career numbers (2.52 ERA across 82 starts and 543 IP, 10.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9; .859 OPS) serve as a harbinger of what is to come.

The 6’4” product of Hanamaki Higashi High School, the 23-year old immediately steps into Major League Baseball with one of the deepest arsenals that rival the offerings of most frontline pitchers. Ohtani leads with an upper-90s heater with late life, often touching triple digits with the fastball. His low-90s splitter has late, diving action which tricks opponents and elicits swings and misses and a hard-80s slider does the same. A curveball and changeup are average pitches as of now, though these two (and the slider) still have projection as Ohtani gains more experience against big-league caliber hitters.

At the plate, Ohtani often hit tape-measure home runs in Japan, with his raw power (70) trouncing his in-game power (50-55) according to scouts. As the part-time designated hitter, Ohtani would need to provide power, and he fits the bill in that regard. His penchance for putting the bat on the ball is not strong at the moment, as scouts are concerned that he struggles to make solid contact against pitches on the inner half. Still though, it’s hard to definitively judge Ohtani’s ability to adjust due to the limited, inconclusive data sample we have. As the two-way adventurer gains experience at the plate, the viability of this experiment—both pitching and hitting regularly—will become far clearer.

It would be remiss to ignore the fact that Ohtani had a PRP injection two months before being signed, and there always are the standard risks that come with pitchers. That being said, this was a strain as opposed to a tear and there are no long-term implications for the 23-year old, who has nearly finished developing as a player and already succeeded in professional baseball. If Ohtani can make consistent contact at the plate, the Angels have one of the best players in the league on their hands. —Rahul