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MLB draft 2018: Angels farm depth report - Corner Infield

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Ward and Thaiss lead the way

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The MLB draft is coming up in a few weeks, so we’ll be taking look at the Angels farm system. Where are they strong? Where are they weak? In this edition, let’s take a look at the corner infielders (and DH).

Angels corner infield depth has gotten better in recent years - thanks in large part to two players who were catchers when drafted: Matt Thaiss and Taylor Ward. If all goes well, they guys will be filling in on opposite sides of the diamond in the not so distant future.

At the hot corner, the Angels have a lot of depth throughout the system but few standouts. Once upon a time, Kaleb Cowart was the heir apparent at third base but he’s yet to stick at the big league level and hasn’t even played there this season - perhaps paving the way for Taylor Ward’s rise as a new third baseman.

I’d probably put the corner guys in a few tiers:

Tier 1: Taylor Ward (3B), Matt Thaiss (1B)
Tier 2: Zach Houchins (3B), Jered Walsh
Tier 3: All the other guys (1B)

(age = age rounded up)

Big League Guys

Zack Cozart, 3B/2B, 33
B-T: R-R
Contract: Through 2020, 3 year $38 Million

Luis Valbuena, 3B/1B, 32
B-T: L-R
Contract: Through 2018, 2 year $15 million

Albert Pujols, 1B/DH, 38
B-T: R-R
Contract: Through 2021, 10 year $240 million

Jefry Marte, 1B/3B/LF, 27
B-T: R-R
Contract: 1 year / $559,000

Don’t be surprised if Marte and Valbuena are not back in 2019.

Major League Ready:

Kaleb Cowart, 3B/SS, 26
Drafted: 1st Round, 2010
B-T: S-R
Current Level: AAA
MLB ETA: Been there done that
The Angels appear to be trying to make Cowart more flexible. He hasn’t played a single game at 3rd base yet this year and instead has played 12 at SS, 6 OF, and 2 at second base. So far he’s yet to stick in the majors despite many attempts so it’s not clear if he has a future beyond being a depth piece.

Dustin Ackley, 1B, 30
Drafted: 1st Round, 2009 (SEA)
B-T: L-R
Current Level: AAA
MLB ETA: Been there done that
Ackley has played just about everywhere but shortstop, pitcher and catchier in his career. He’s mostly just there for depth at this point and has spent portions of the last 7 years between the majors and minors.

Chris Carter, 1B, 31
Drafted: 15th Round, 2005 (CWS)
B-T: R-R
Current Level: AAA
MLB ETA: Been there done that
Carter is a solid veteran depth piece who has spent part of his past 8 years in the majors. He’s a career .217 hitter at the big league level which has made it hard for him to stay there.

Jose Miguel Fernandez, 1B/2B/3B, 30
Drafted: Signed as an International free agent in 2017by the Dodgers
B-T: L-R
Current Level: AAA
MLB ETA: 2018
Fernandez posted a career .319/.403/.423 slashline in his Cuban career before the Dodgers signed him last season. The Angels thought he was worth a chance and they’ve been moving him around the diamond. He’s slashing .350/.438/.543 for Salt Lake with 5 home runs so it’s probably a matter of time before he gets a shot at the big league level.

Near Future Major League Ready:

Matt Thaiss, 1B, 23
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016
B-T: L-R
Current Level: AAA
MLB ETA: 2019
Thaiss has a .352 OBP this year with a 6 home runs. It’s good to see his power develop since he hit 9 home runs all of last season. Reports are that he’s on his way to Salt Lake today.

Taylor Ward, 3B, 24
Drafted: 1st round, 2015
B-T: R-R
Current Level: AAA
MLB ETA: 2019
Like Thais, he also has 6 home runs so it’s great to see his power develop as well. He’s hitting .345 with a .453 OBP so I can’t see him staying in Mobile for much longer. Update: Along with Thaiss, he appears to be heading to Salt Lake today as well.


Probably Major League Some Day:

Zach Houchins, 3B, 25
Drafted: 13th round, 2014
B-T: R-R
Current Level: AA
Houchins spoke with HH last October. He moved up to Salt Lake late last season and is currently in Mobile. Now that Ward is making the jump to Salt Lake he may be a bit blocked there for the immediate future. He’s having a great season with a .340 AVG and 4 home runs.

Too soon to know:

Luis Tejada, 1B, 25
Drafted: Signed as an International free agent in 2010 by the Padres
B-T: R-R
Current Level: AA
Tejada is struggling so far this season with a .199 AVG. Across three levels in 2017 he only hit .254 with a .336 OBP and 5 home runs. He’s going to need to develop a bit more if he wants to make that jump to AAA and at the moment looks more like he might be a depth piece more than a regular major leaguer.

Jared Walsh, 1B, 24
Drafted: 39th round, 2015
B-T: L-L
Current Level: A+
Speaking of power, Walsh may find himself in AA soon after already hitting 13 home runs and leading the California league. He also has a .365 OBP and last year hit 11 home runs with a .311 average. He should be moving on up soon (or back up since he spent a little time in AA last year)

Jose Rojas, 3B, 25
Drafted: 36th round, 2016
B-T: R-R
Current Level: AA
Another late round pick, Rojas is tearing it up this year with a .330 AVG and .422 OBP. He only has 3 home runs but pairs that with a bit of speed and 5 steals. He’s off to the best hitting start of his career and will need that to continue to compete with the like of Walsh and Thaiss at the higher levels. If Thaiss performs, most of the first baseman on this list have a bit of a road block.

Hutton Moyer, 3B, 25
Drafted: 7th round, 2015
B-T: S-R
Current Level: AA
Son of former major league Jaimie Moyer, he has the pedigree but hasn’t really stood out so far in his career. His chances may be fading and with the .205 AVG start he’s off to, he’s not helping his case much.

Richie Fecteau, 3B, 24
Drafted: 39th round, 2016
B-T: L-R
Current Level: A+
Another late round pick who’s star could be fading a bit if he doesn’t pick it up this year. He’s younger than some of the other candidates above so at least he has that on his side. This year he’s hitting .169 with 1 home run in 19 games.

Jordan Zimmerman, 3B, 23
Drafted: 7th round, 2016
B-T: R-R
Current Level: A+
Zimmerman tore out of that 2016 draft on a mission and hit .422 in Orem. Probably is that he hasn’t really done much since and now sports a .267 career minor league average with 16 home runs over 222 games. His OBP for the 66ers is only .277 and he has 47 Ks to only 6 walks so he clear has some plate discipline issues to work on.

David MacKinnon, 1B, 23
Drafted: 32nd round, 2017
B-T: R-R
Current Level: AA
MacKinnon’s best asset may be that he walks more than he strikes out. He also has a .329 career average and .472 OBP across rookie and A ball. He’ll need to develop a bit more power since it’s hard to make an impact at first base with a high walk rate and weak stick. He was promoted to AA on May 22nd.

Gleyvin Pineda, 3B, 23
Drafted: Signed as an International free agent in 2015
B-T: L-R
Current Level: A
Pineda is a bit small (160#) to probably stick at third base and he has only 1 home run in 168 minor league games. He’ll be 22 in August so we’ll see what the Angels do with him as he starts to age and hopefully grow into a bit larger of a frame.

Jeyson Sanchez, 1B, 24
Drafted: Signed as an International free agent in 2014
B-T: R-R
Current Level: A
A 24 year old in A ball stands out - especially one hitting .174. His bat has never impressed all that much though he does have power and hit 15 home runs in 78 games last year with a .240 average.