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Prospect Profiles: Los Angeles Angels

Prospect Profiles: Los Angeles Angels Image via Sportsgraphics36


A look at the farm system of the Los Angeles Angels

The Los Angeles Angles currently have the worst ranked farm system in all of baseball. Even with big names like Mike Tout, and Albert Pujols on the major league roster, the Angles have not had great success of late.

In 2016, the Angels finished right around the middle of the pack in runs scored, and OBP, but their pitching is where they struggled the most. Their 4.28 team ERA was 21st in the majors, and their 1.39 team WHIP was not any better as it ranked 25th in the majors.

Right now, the Angles have six pitchers in their top ten prospects, but 2016 first round draft pick Matt Thaiss is the best prospect that the Angels currently have.

Matt Thaiss, 1B

Thaiss was drafted 16th overall by the Los Angeles Angels in the 2016 draft out of the University of Virginia. He is 21 years old, and bats from the left side even though he is right-handed. In college, Thaiss was a catcher and had a .986 fielding percentage in the three years he spent at Virginia. His 39% caught stealing rate was on the low-end, but his .338 career batting average more than made up for that. Thaiss whacked ten home runs in both his sophomore and junior years, but his junior year was when he really came on. In 232 at-bats his junior season, he had a slugging percentage of .518, an OBP of .427, and a .375 batting average.

The 6-foot tall former catcher brought his big bat to professional baseball after he was drafted last year. Thaiss played 15 games in rookie level ball before being promoted to Single-A. In those 15 games, Thaiss hit .338 with a .394 OBP, and .569 slugging percentage. While he is making tons of contact, the power is not there right now. Matt hit just two home runs in rookie ball, but compensated by hitting seven doubles and a triple.

After his short stint in rookie ball, Thaiss was promoted to the Single-A Burlington Bees. There, his numbers came back down to earth as he hit .276 with a .351 OBP, and .427 slugging percentage. Combine that with the fact that he committed eight errors in 43 games as a first baseman in Single-A, and it looks like Matt Thaiss has some work to do before he is ready to progress any further.

With fellow first rounder C.J. Cron holding down the first base spot on the big league roster, the Angels will not be in a major rush to get Thaiss through the system. Cron barely has a full year of big league time under his belt, so if he can continue to perform, there is no reason that the Angels would make a change.

ETA: 2019 (if not traded first)

Jahmai Jones, OF

Jahmai Jones was a second round selection by the Los Angeles Angels in 2015. He is primarily a center fielder, but has seen playing time in left and right field.

After he was drafted, Jones appeared in 40 games in the Arizona Fall League for the Angels. In those 40 games, he hit .244 with two home runs and 20 RBI’s. His OBP was an average .330, and his slugging percentage was way below average at .344.

What Jones lacks with his bat, he can make up for on the base paths. He stole 16 bases in his first taste of professional baseball, and 19 more in 2016 at the rookie ball level. Jahmai showed enough in rookie ball (.321 average, three home runs, and .404 OBP) to be promoted to Single-A Burlington toward the end of the year. In 16 games with Burlington, Jones’ average dipped to .242 and so did his OBP as it dropped to .294.

Jones has logged the majority of his innings as a center fielder, so that would suggest that the Angels are grooming him to play center field in the majors. That could be a problem for Jones as two-time AL MVP Mike Trout is holding down the center field position for the foreseeable future.

The Angels currently have a pair of outfielders that are set to become free agents at year’s end (Cameron Maybin and Ben Revere), so there could be an opening for Jones at some point in 2018 if he is ready, but do not expect him to be.

ETA: September 2019

Taylor Ward, C

Taylor Ward was selected 26th overall by the Los Angeles Angels in 2015 out of Fresno State. He hit .349 in 32 games in rookie ball during the 2015 season with a .489 OBP, and .459 slugging percentage. Ward is a catcher by trade, and threw out 38% of base stealers over three levels in the last two seasons.

After hitting an amazing .348 in Single-A Burlington, Ward was promoted to the Single-A Advanced Inland Empire 66ers where he hit .249 with 10 home runs and 56 RBI’s in 123 games played. While with the 66ers, Ward saw a dip in his OBP, and slugging percentage that could signify a trouble spot for the 23-year-old catcher.

Ward’s defense has made up for his slightly underwhelming production at the plate. As he continues to progress throughout the minors, it will be interesting to see if his bat can keep up with the improved pitching. He has a career .992 fielding percentage in over 1,200 innings behind the dish so far in his professional career.

The Angels have catchers Carlos Perez and Martin Maldonado on their roster for 2017, but neither one of them has put up good enough numbers to lock down the job. Ward is probably still two years away, so he will be no immediate help to the Angels poor situation at the catcher position.

ETA: 2019

Alex Meyer, RHP

Right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer was acquired by the Los Angeles Angles in a trade with the Minnesota Twins at the 2016 trade deadline. The 27-year-old Meyer broke into the majors with the Twins in 2015, but had an ERA over 16.00 in just 2.2 innings pitched. After being acquired from the Twins, Meyer recorded a 1.69 ERA in 5.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League for the Angels. He worked his way up to Triple-A Salt Lake where he worked 4.0 innings before joining the big league squad.

In the majors last year, Meyer had a 12.27 ERA in 3.2 innings pitched with the Twins, and a 4.57 ERA in 21.2 innings pitched for the Angels.

So far, Meyer has made six big league starts between the Twins and Angels. He has a 1-3 record with a 6.75 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 28 innings pitched.

Meyer is getting up in age for a prospect, and has to be feeling the pressure of locking down a spot in a big league starting rotation soon.

He can help a lack-luster Angels pitching staff in 2017, but only if he can stay healthy and control his stuff.

ETA: 2017

Brandon Marsh, OF

Brandon Marsh was a second round pick by the Los Angeles Angels in the 2016 draft, but has not played professional baseball yet because of an injury to his back. Marsh will get his career underway in 2017, and could rise in the prospect rankings due to his ability to hit for power.

He is still only 19, so there is no rush to get him through the farm system. We will see what he looks like when he plays professional baseball for the first time in 2017.

ETA: 2021

Keynan Middleton, RHP

Keynan Middleton was drafted in the third round of the 2013 MLB draft by the Los Angeles Angels. He debuted in the Arizona Fall League where he worked 5.2 innings with a 6.35 ERA and five strikeouts.

In 14 starts in rookie ball, Middleton had a 6.45 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 30 walks in 67 innings pitched.

After being promoted to Single-A Burlington in 2015, Middleton went 6-11 with a 5.30 ERA in 26 starts. He had 88 strikeouts, 47 walks, and gave up 15 home runs in 125.2 innings pitched.

Since that rough season, Middleton has been working from the bullpen. Between Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A in 2016, Middleton made 46 appearances and had a 1-2 record with a 3.41 ERA in 66 innings pitched. Keynan also recorded eight saves over those three levels last season.

Right now, Middleton is averaging 12 strikeouts per nine innings, and 3.14 strikeouts to every walk.

He has shown a fastball that can reach 100 MPH, and a slider that still needs work. He is 23 years old, and could see action in a major league bullpen as early as this season.

The Angels have a couple good bullpen options like Cam Bedrosian (40.1 innings pitched, 51 strikeouts, and 1.12 ERA), but did not have a pitcher record more than nine saves in 2016.

If Middleton can refine his stuff, he could find himself in a closers role for the Angels.

ETA: 2017

Nate Smith, LHP

Nate Smith was taken in the eighth round of the 2013 draft by the Los Angeles Angels. At age 21, he made nine starts (15 appearances) in rookie ball, posting a 3.86 ERA with 31 strikeouts and seven walks in 35 innings pitched.

After a promotion to Single-A Advanced, Smith went 6-3 with a 3.07 ERA in ten starts.

He moved quickly through High-A ball, and split time between Double-A and Triple-A in 2015. He made 24 total starts between the two levels in 2015, posting a 3.86 ERA, 10-8 record, and 104 strikeouts in 137.2 innings pitched.

Smith made 26 additional starts in Triple-A last season. He posted a 4.61 ERA in 150.1 innings pitched.

It is clear that the Angels want to make Nate Smith a starter in the major leagues. His fastball will get him into trouble in the majors as it tops out at 90-91 MPH. What he lacks with his fastball, he makes up for with his change-up. He is more of a control pitcher rather than a velocity pitcher, but needs to work on his slider if he wants to be more than a four or five starter in the big leagues.

The Angels rotation is pretty much wide open to Smith who should get an opportunity in the big leagues at some point in 2017.

ETA: 2017

Grayson Long, RHP

Grayson Long was taken in the third round of the 2015 draft by the Los Angeles Angels. The right-hander is 22 years old, and sported a 5.03 ERA in 19.2 innings pitched in rookie level ball.

After an unsuccessful stint in the Arizona Fall League in which Long had a 6.55 ERA in 11 innings pitched, he was assigned to the Single-A Burlington Bees. There, he settled down, going 3-3 with a 1.58 ERA in eight starts.

Long finished the 2016 season in Single-A Advanced. He made three starts at that level, and posted a 2-1 record with a 5.14 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched.

Grayson Long has an underwhelming fastball that tops out in the low 90s range, but has above average secondary pitches to keep him effective.

Just like with fellow prospect Nate Smith, Long is projected to be nothing more than a four or five starter in the major leagues with a move to the bullpen likely. That move to the bullpen will depend on whether or not Long can control his pitches for extended amounts of time.

ETA: 2019

Chris Rodriguez, RHP

Chris Rodriguez was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Los Angeles Angels. He is only 18 years old as the Angels took him straight out of high-school.

Rodriguez does not have much of a track record in professional baseball as he made just five starts in the Arizona Fall League in 2016. In those five starts, Rodriguez worked 11.1 innings, posting a 1.59 ERA with 17 strikeouts and three walks.

He has an average fastball (90-94 MPH), with a slider and change-up that can be good secondary pitches for him. As he gets introduced into professional baseball more, the Angels will take the training wheels off some, but expect them to be very slow in his development as he is still young.

It is unknown right now if Rodriguez will continue to be a starter, but that decision will be made as he progresses through the system.

ETA: 2022

Vicente Campos, RHP

Vicente Campos has bounced around the minor league system, spending time in the Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations before being picked up on waivers by the Los Angeles Angels in November.

Campos has a history of injuries as he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, and suffered a fractured ulnar which ended his 2016 season.

He spent 2016 between the Yankees system and Diamondbacks system. Over three levels, Campos made 25 starts and went 10-5 with a 3.22 ERA in 142.2 innings pitched. Campos also made one major league appearance for the Diamondbacks in 2016. He had a 3.18 ERA in 5.2 innings of work before his season was cut short.

The 24-year-old has a fastball that he can run up to 96 MPH, and an excellent change-up that he can throw when he is healthy. It is unknown if he will be healthy to begin the 2017 season, but if he is, he could make an impact on this Angels squad.

Campos has been a starter for the majority of his minor league career, but could be moved to the bullpen to bring him back slowly from his injury.

ETA: 2017 (if healthy)

Just Missed:

Nonie Williams, shortstop, .244 batting average, .280 OBP, and eight stolen bases in 38 games in the Arizona Fall League during the 2016 season.

David Fletcher, infielder, .280 batting average, three home runs, 37 RBI’s, and 16 stolen bases in 98 games between Single-A Advanced and Double-A in 2016.

The Los Angeles Angels have the weakest farm system in the major leagues right now. They are loaded up with young arms that need more development in the minor leagues before they can begin to make a difference.

Right now, four of the Angels top ten prospects are projected to debut for them in 2017. They are all pitchers, and should help out with the Angels poor pitching situation.

Do not expect to see the Los Angeles Angels in contention in the next four years. While they do have two-time MVP Mike Trout, they do not have any more major league talent or minor league talent to back him up. Perhaps trading Trout would stock up this farm system, and put this team on the path to contention. As of now, that idea is out of the picture….but for how much longer?