By the AngelsWin.com Prospect Posse
(Angelsjunky, Chuck, Dave Saltzer, Dochalo, Ettin, Inside Pitch, Rafibomb, Second Base, and totdprods)
One of the great, largely unspoken, tragedies of the 2020 baseball season was the lack of minor league games, which not only led to a lost year of development (for the most part), but the rushing of the Angels’ top prospect, Jo Adell, to the major leagues, where he looked raw and overmatched, to put it charitably. In terms of compiling a prospects list, it is hard to assess many of the Angels most talented prospects because a lot of them have had little to no professional experience. That said, most of them spent time at the Long Beach summer camp and were still able to work on their skills, so the year wasn’t totally a loss.
Looking at the list, you’ll find that the farm includes a variety of dynamic players. It is strong in two areas: One, it has plenty of athletic, talented outfielders in Adell, Marsh, Adams, Calabrese, Ramirez, Knowles, and Deveaux, as well as the very young and unranked Jose Reyes. Two, it has plenty of high upside—but very young--middle infielders in Jackson, Paris, Vera, Blakely, Bonilla, and Placencia. We should also mention the recently signed 16-year-old Dominican infielder, Denzer Guzman.
Sprinkled in between are a few exciting pitching prospects in Rodriguez, Detmers and Kochanowicz, and several more who plan to figure in the Angels pitching staff at some point in the not-too-distant future as either back-end starters or relievers: Yan, Rivera, Naughton, Ortega, Hernandez, Pina, Aquino, Seminaris, and Daniel. It even has one two-way player in Holmes, and a second just missing the cut in Erik Rivera. Finally, there are a few players whose most likely path to the majors is as a bench player in Jones, Martinez, and Soto. Oh yeah, Maitan’s still hanging around. There are no catchers on this list.
For the most part, the top 15 or so was relatively consistent among voters. We all had our different ordering, but the same players were all mostly present. Some of us had a favorite or two that we ranked higher than everyone else, while others were more bullish on a player that was generally more highly regarded by the group. Once we get into late teens, the order is more dubious and could easily shift over the first months of the season, as we get a better sense of who these players are.
Angels Farm in a Nutshell: In a nutshell, the Angels farm system is strong and on the upswing. The system has many talented, physical players, who have the chance of becoming top prospects as they reach the higher levels and demonstrate in-game performance. The Angels are back to fully utilizing their international money, which has led to many high risk/high reward players. There are some notable weaknesses, particularly in catching, but the overall state of the farm is much stronger than just a few years ago.
A word about methodology and format: What follows is a combined ranking from nine members of this website, averaged out to create a composite ranking – as in years past. We have included a “Ranking Range” to get a sense of how opinions varied, as well as an “In A Nutshell” feature to give a brief description of the player. After that, you come to the heart of the list: different “takes” by members, that give a variety of impressions.
On to the prospects…
1. JO ADELL (22, OF)
Ranking Range: 1-4
In a Nutshell: After being the consensus #1 Angels prospect and Baseball America’s overall #3 last year, the talented power-hitting Adell had a rough season, clearly overmatched in his 38 games in the majors in which he hit .161/.212/.266 and looked lost in right field. While he’s technically no longer a rookie, we chose to include him because of the unique nature of 2020, and he still managed to squeak by as our consensus #1.
Chuck’s take: Despite a terrible MLB debut with that triple-slash line, a 42% strikeout rate, and shaky-at-best defense in right field, Adell still has the most raw tools and potential superstar-upside among the position players down on the farm. Jo wasn’t the only top prospect who ever flamed in his first cup of coffee in the bigs. Look for him to get a full season in at the AAA level in 2021. Because of Jo’s mental makeup and work ethic, there’s no question that he has a chance to be a perennial all-star someday, but that day may never come unless he can improve his plate discipline, cut down on his strikeouts, and improve his routes in the outfield.
Second Base’s take: When he's the least athletic outfielder prospect you have, you know you're doing something right. Also, let's be honest, he's a power hitter headed to the high altitude in Salt Lake and the Pacific Coast League in general. If he isn’t promoted quickly, it's going to be fun just to see how many HRs he hits.
Angelsjunky’s take: While it is all-too easy for Angels fans to deem any prospect who doesn’t approach the insta-greatness of Mike Trout as the next Brandon Wood, let us not forget that there is only one Trout, and just about everyone lives somewhere between the two extremes. Adell still has the makings of a very good player, even a star, it is just that he needs time and there’s more work to be done than previously thought. He’s got prodigious power, good speed, and great make-up. While the questions loom a bit larger than they did a year ago, let’s give him a chance before we assume that he’s some unholy hybrid of Jabari Blash (at the plate) and Manny Ramirez (in the field).
2. BRANDON MARSH (23, OF)
Ranking Range: 1-3
In a Nutshell: After being picked second after Matt Thaiss in the 2016 draft, Marsh’s rise through the minors over the last few years included a missed first minor league season and early injuries, so there’s a sense that we still haven’t seen what he is capable of. In 2019 he hit .300/.383/.428 with 7 HR and 19 SB in 96 AA games, struggled in five AAA games, and then exploded in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .328/.387/.522 in 19 games. While no single tool stands out as elite, there’s nothing not to like about Marsh, who looks like the complete package—or at least if the power develops as hoped.
Second Base’s take: I'm not a big fan of dramatic swing changes. Marsh was already a good hitter and to mess with that is dicey. However, he is a physical specimen (like a young Josh Hamilton, minus the off-the-field issues) with across-the-board skills. It would be a shame to see him never get a chance because he never tapped into his power potential.
Angelsjunky’s take: Marsh is the type of player who could be more than the sum of his parts: add together a player who is very athletic, has a good sense of the game, and is above average at everything, and you get—at least—a borderline star. Look for him to mature quickly and be waiting around for The Call with nothing more to prove in the minors by mid-season. If the Angels don’t sign a right-fielder and go with Ward/Schebler, it may indicate that they expect Marsh up quickly. A shout-out to Angel Oracle, a long-time and much-beloved Angelswin member, for comparing him to Jim Edmonds; while he probably won’t be that good, he’s a similar type of player with a comparable minor league trajectory.
Chuck’s take: You could argue that Marsh is the top position player prospect in the organization when you consider he possesses the best hitting tool, plate discipline, outfield defense and outfield arm, according to Baseball America, in addition to possessing above average speed & power potential down the road. Because of Marsh’s defense and ability to make contact, I believe he’ll be next in line for a shot in right field before the Jo Adell sequel launches in Anaheim.
3. CHRIS RODRIGUEZ (23, RHP)
Ranking Range: 1-5
In a Nutshell: With a full minor league season in 2020, Rodriguez would likely be #1 on this list. After missing all of 2018 to injury, he flashed his brilliant stuff in 9.1 scoreless innings in 2019, and then missed the rest of the year. Word from camp last summer is that he is finally healthy, and his stuff is better than ever. An optimistic outlook and he’ll burn through the minors and be a fixture in the Angels rotation for years to come.
Inside Pitch’s take: In my opinion, CRod could be the most impactful Angels rookie since Trout. When you can control four pitches—a fastball that tops out at 98 (sits 94-95), a genuine wipeout slider that can hit 91 MPH, a 12/6 yellow hammer that, when it’s right, has been compared to Freddy Garcia’s, and your best pitch is thought to be your change-up—you’re special. Back issues are the only reason Rodriguez isn’t a top 20 prospect right now. If he’s 100% healthy, the Angels have their best home-grown rotation piece since Garret Richards and Jered Weaver.
Rafibomb’s take: What do you get when you have a pitcher that has four plus-pitches? You have a future ace. All reports are indicating that Rodriguez is completely healthy after going through back surgery in 2019 and turned heads at the alternate training site last season. I believe he will be a top 50 prospect in all of baseball by year’s end.
Chuck’s take: When you can command four plus-pitches which includes a moving upper 90s fastball with sink, a high 80s changeup with screwball type action, a wipeout slider and true swing-and-miss curveball, you have all the makings of a frontline starter. I ranked C-Rod atop the class of farmhands based off glowing reports from evaluators at the alternative site and after showing a clean bill of health across a moderate workload. The Angels haven’t had a reliable ace atop the rotation since Jered Weaver. Because pitching is at an all-time premium for the organization, combined with possessing a dynamo repertoire, this was a no-brainer for me.
Dochalo’s take: I am writing about him just to say that I never gave up on him and saw front-of-the-rotation potential in him from the beginning. Yay for me! I watched him pre-surgery for those three starts he made in 2019 and clapped like a schoolgirl as he poured filth in with every pitch. I’ve got the horseshoe, rabbit’s foot, four-leaf clover, fuzzy dice, a ladybug farm, and a picture of Mickey Hatcher working overtime on this one.
Second Base’s take: I've seen a few prospects with an elite four-pitch mix come and go. The most notable were Garrett Richards, Tommy Hanson and Shelby Miller. Now before you take offense to these comps, keep in mind, ALL THREE were top of the rotation starters before injuries set in. If Rodriguez stays healthy, I believe he will be a top of the rotation starter. Unfortunately, that's a big if.
Angelsjunky’s take: At the risk of being a Debbie Downer, a word of caution: He’s only pitched 77.2 professional innings, almost all in 2016-17. I see the upside that everyone above me sees, but I’m just pointing out why most non-fan sites don’t rate him as highly as we do: there are real risks. But for now, enjoy the excitement--this kid is really, really good.
4. REID DETMERS (21, LHP)
Ranking Range: 2-5
In a Nutshell: The 1st round pick of the 2020 draft, Detmers is about as polished as a collegiate pitcher can be and just needs minor league innings to adjust to professional batters. While his upside is more limited than Rodriguez’s—most outlets see him as a mid-rotation starter—he is an important part of the Angels’ future.
Dochalo’s take: The 'high floor' moniker is gonna follow him around, but I don't think it's fair. He walks in the door and supposedly gains 2-3 mph of velo on his fastball with some adjustments. Plus, his breaking ball changed shape and became sharper with less loop. If he's got the command and control that he is mostly known for then I think he can end up a front-of-the-rotation guy or, at least, better than a middle-of-the-rotation guy.
Chuck’s take: While Chris Rodriquez possesses the best overall stuff in the organization, Detmers was ranked the best college pitcher in the 2020 amateur draft for a reason. Equipped with above-average command of three solid-average pitches, plus an average changeup developing, Detmers pounds the strike zone generating weak contact and whiffs thanks to tailing action on his fastball and mix-and-matching his repertoire of pitches. Detmers neutralizes lefties with a really good slider, as well. Because of his pitching IQ and polish, I can see Detmers debuting sometime in 2021. I see a young Barry Zito in Detmers, mostly because of his plus slow 70-mph curveball that generates ugly swings from opposing hitters, working off a low 90s fastball.
5. JORDYN ADAMS (21, OF)
Ranking Range: 3-6
In a Nutshell: The Angels 1st round pick in 2018, Adams was a relatively raw athlete with immense tools who has steadily developed his skills. He is the complete package: excellent center field defense, blazing speed, plate discipline, and both power and bat potential, and glowing reports out of Long Beach last year.
Second Base’s take: Scouts went gaga over his appearances at the alt site and instructs. One report indicates he's even stronger than we last saw, flicking opposite field home runs with his wrists. Another observer said he might be the most athletic defensive outfielder he's ever seen, not even comparable to Adell and Marsh. Byron Buxton comparisons are actually pretty accurate in terms of build, skill-set and ceiling.
Dave’s take: The athleticism and speed are real. The three questions that I want to see answered this year are: 1) How well can he hit? 2) Can he hit for power? 3) How effective of a base stealer can he be? If he can make consistently good contact and add power, he could be an All-Star level player, and if he can get better reads so that he can put that elite speed to use, he could be a game-changing player. I want to see maturity in these areas; he might become the best of all the Angels OF prospects.
Angelsjunky’s take: As others have said, his raw tools are, in many ways, more impressive than any of the many talented outfielders in the system. I see a bit of Mike Cameron, but with even better tools, and Cameron was a very good player.
6. JACK KOCHANOWICZ (20, RHP)
Ranking Range: 5-20
In a Nutshell: The Angels’ 3rd round draft pick in 2019 from Harriton High School in Pennsylvania. Eight of nine participants ranked him in the 5-7 range, which speaks of his upside. After perhaps only Rodriguez, Kochanowicz has the best stuff in the system. The problem (and thus the outlier ranking) is because he hasn’t pitched a single professional game yet.
Rafibomb’s take: Kochanowicz is a towering presence on the mound at 6’6.” His fastball is reportedly touching 97 with life and he also possesses a plus-curveball. Usually, the problem with these taller pitching prospects is their ability to repeat their mechanics. However, Jack has had no problems with his clean mechanics and delivery.
Inside Pitch’s take: 6’6” with good mechanics, rare for a guy coming from the high school ranks. Was sitting 92-93 when he was drafted, was touching upper 90s by the summer after signing and is said to have shown improvement across the board since then. His curveball is already plus with lots of spin, and he has a heavy changeup that he used to induce groundballs. Kochanowicz hasn’t been seen in competitive action but is one of the Angels prospects most often talked about by opposing scouts.
Ettin’s take: Last year, Inside Pitch shared the news about Koch cranking his velocity up in the mid-to-high 90's, so the Angels may have a legitimate front-end starter developing here. Don't sleep on this guy, he has high upside!
Chuck’s take: What’s not to like about a 6’6,” 220-lb 19-year-old whose fastball sits at 93-94 and touches 98 MPH with movement? What’s scary is his velocity could improve as he matures and adds strength to his large frame. Koch has a plus curveball with tremendous spin and late bite to it, in addition to a developing changeup which has shown to be at least average at this time. Because Koch pounds the strike zone and has a clean fluid delivery, there’s plenty to be excited about in tracking his development. He should make his professional debut in 2021. Selfishly, I’m hoping I’ll get to see him in Tri-Cities at some point this year!
7. KYREN PARIS (19, SS)
Ranking Range: 6-11
In a Nutshell: 2nd round draft pick in the 2019 draft out of Freedom High School in Oakley, CA, Paris is one of many high upside middle infielders with little professional experience thus far, playing in just three games in 2019. He’s got the work ethic and tools to move through the farm quickly.
Ettin’s take: If you haven't followed Kyren on Twitter, you should because he spent the pandemic getting jacked up and his physicality has improved by leaps and bounds. Paris has the potential to be a good middle infielder for the Halos within the next two to four years. Depending on how his body develops, he might end up slipping over to the keystone, defensively, but that remains to be seen.
Rafibomb’s take: Paris was invited to the Long Beach alternate training site and impressed as just a teenager. With physical maturation, Paris will add some surprising pop to his bat to go along with his plus-hitting tool. I see a similar career trajectory for Paris as former Angels farmhand Jean Segura. This could possibly mean him getting traded at some point for some pitching help, as well.
Dochalo’s take: Hearing that this guy just works his absolute tail off. I know a lot of guys do, but people keep specifically pointing it out every time they mention this kid. Went from a skinny kid to filling out much quicker than expected relative to his age (he just turned 19 in November). I think he’s a guy that’s going to barrel up a ton of baseballs.
Dave’s take: Defensively, may be the best (or one of the top) shortstops in the system. How well he can hit will do a lot to show how far he can grow. If he adds power, watch out, he could be a breakout candidate.
8. JEREMIAH JACKSON (21, SS)
Ranking Range: 6-10
In a Nutshell: Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft out of St. Luke’s Episcopal School in Mobile, Alabama, Jackson flashed immense power in 2019, hitting 23 HR in 65 games. But he also struck out 96 times and there’s concern about his all-or-nothing approach. There’s a lot of volatility in his projection, and he could be anything from a minor league flameout to a bonafide star.
Chuck’s take: I’m always intrigued with athletic infielders who can smash at the plate. Jackson hit a league-leading 23 homers at Rookie-level Orem in 2019, showing off tremendous bat speed. That said, the power hitting infielder has struggled to make contact in professional ball and in 2019 with the Orem Owlz Jackson had a 33% strikeout rate. The good news is that Jackson showed more consistent contact and cut down on his strikeouts over his final month of action at the Angels alternative site in Long Beach. Building off that, the Angels may have a power-hitting superstar on their hands at either keystone position or the hot corner, if he continues to improve his plate discipline.
Dave’s take: The power is real, but the strikeouts are concerning. I am not sure about the position long-term. He may be better suited to 3B, but I need to see the arm accuracy to stick there. Can he improve the contact rate and settle defensively at a position?
Ettin’s take: Back at the end of the 2019 season, Jackson tied the Pioneer League HR record, foreshadowing what may come in Anaheim. He likely won't stay at SS but has the potential to be a solid hitter and fielder at 2B or 3B within the next two or three years.
9. JAHMAI JONES (23, 2B/OF)
Ranking Range: 7-14
In a Nutshell: The Angels’ 2nd round draft pick in 2015, Jones seems to have been around forever, has moved from 2B to OF and back again. While his performance in the high minors proved a bit lack-lustre, Jones has a nice well-rounded set of tools and still projects as a major league utility player and possibly more.
Inside Pitch’s take: The Angels moved Jones back from the OF to 2B in 2018, then also had him completely redo his swing in 2019. The end result was that he tanked offensively. Ditching the new swing in the 2019 AFL, he went back to showing the same offensive upside he had previously displayed. Only 23, he's still a guy with some power potential, still a guy who can run, still a guy that needs work defensively but, more importantly, he’s still a guy that could turn into a solid player for a team with a manager that values positional versatility.
Second Base’s take: The poster-child of the growing movement in the sport that advises against swing changes. The Angels tried to help him tap into more power based on his strength and athleticism, and they should've just left him alone. Not all players are meant to hit for power. Reports suggest Jones is back to his original, effective approach at the plate and I couldn't be more excited. He has the chance to be a Zobrist or Merrifield level performer in the major leagues. He's almost the forgotten prospect in some respects, and that's unfortunate because there's a very intriguing skill-set here.
10. AROL VERA (18, SS)
Ranking Range: 8-22
In a Nutshell: Drafted out of Venezuela in 2019, Vera is all projection at this point, but is an intriguing combination of tools, both defensively and offensively.
Dave’s take: Lots to drool about here, even if he is a few years away. He's already 6'2" with a projectable frame that should add some power. We will need patience, but if he clicks, he could be a productive player. Long-term, he may be more suited to 2B, not because he won’t be average at SS, but because other players in the system may force him to move over to that position.
Ettin’s take: Vera has quietly been down in the low Minors, showing the potential ability to be an everyday player in the Majors one day. Legitimate SS ability and above-average hitting profile, he could be in Anaheim two to four years from now.
11. HECTOR YAN (22, LHP)
Ranking Range: 6-16
In a Nutshell: Drafted out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, Yan seems to be improving as he works his way through the Angels farm system, with a 3.39 ERA in 109 A ball innings in 2019, including 148 strikeouts and 49 walks.
Rafibomb’s take: The Angels are giving Yan every opportunity to stick in the rotation and he has passed every time with flying colors. His last full season in 2019 went about as good as it can possibly get seeing that his walks were drastically cut down while his strikeouts increased. Another successful season in the rotation and Yan should be getting more consideration as one of the better starting pitching prospects in the minors.
Dave’s take: A potential starter, with a four-pitch mix, he could be a mid-rotation starter if he can improve his control. If not, he has a good shot at a bullpen arm.
12. DAVID CALABRESE (18, OF)
Ranking Range: 9-27
In a Nutshell: Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2020 draft out of St Elizabeth Catholic High School in Ontario, Canada, Calabrese is the third Angels outfield prospect with 80 grade speed (or close to it), along with Adams and Deveaux.
Rafibomb’s take: An outfielder who flew under the radar due to playing in the cold of Vaughan, Ontario. I remember another outfielder from Millville, New Jersey, who flew under the radar as well. Calabrese also reclassified from 2021 to 2020, making him one of the youngest players in his draft class. Although he does not have the same power as Trout coming out of high school, I believe that he could have been a first rounder but luckily fell to the Angels in the 3rd.
Angelsjunky’s take: Dreams of Kenny Lofton. At this point, they’re only dreams, but Calabrese has the potential to be an excellent defensive center fielder who hits for a good average, steals a ton of bases, and hits plenty of doubles and triples. He could vie with Werner Blakely as the steal of the 2020 draft.
13. ALEXANDER RAMIREZ (18, OF)
Ranking Range: 8-22
In a Nutshell: The Angels worked out a deal with Ramirez when he was 15-years old, signing him on August 29, 2018, his 16th birthday. He’ll make his States-side debut in 2021.
Angelsjunky’s take: I’m the guy that ranked him 8th. Probably a bit premature to be that high on him, but I just have a feeling about him, and see him as arguably the most projectable hitter in the farm system. He’s got a very high upside with the bat, with booming power, but will needs to work on his plate discipline. He’s one of the guys I’ll be watching closely this year, but obviously has a lot of development ahead of him.
Inside Pitch’s take: 6’2,’’ 180 lbs when he signed, Ramirez is already growing into his body. He put up a .756 OPS in the DSL as a true 16-year-old. He’s got raw power and is a legitimate athlete that can play CF. In a system full of OFers, he might rival Jordyn Adams when it comes to break-out potential.
Rafibomb’s take: Ramirez is the top international position player I am most excited to see in the Angels system. As a 16-year-old in the Dominican Summer League in 2019, Ramirez showed off his tools with 8 doubles, 5 triples and 4 homers to go along with 6 stolen bases in 39 games. What’s scary is that he has plus raw power as an 18-year-old and will only get stronger as he continues to fill out his 6-2 frame. He will be a top 5 prospect in the system within the next couple of years.
14. JOSE ALBERTO RIVERA (24, RHP)
Ranking Range: 11 - not ranked
In a Nutshell: Rivera was claimed from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft, which means he must remain on the 26-man roster for the entire season (or IL) or go to waivers. While he hasn’t pitched above A ball, River has the blazing stuff to translate to the majors, where the Angels will likely nurse him along in low leverage situations until he finds his bearings.
Chuck’s take: There’s a lot of Hansel Robles in Rivera’s delivery in that he just rears back and says, “hit my 102-mph fastball!” The Rule 5 selection also flashes a mid-80s splitter that evaluators said was a plus-pitch, and a slider that’s below average at this time. Rivera has a chance to stick and become a valuable member of the bullpen since he’s shown that he can throw strikes with his high-octane fastball and splitter.
Second Base’s take: It isn't very often that someone can make the jump from A Ball to the majors. It isn't very often a late discovery from the Dominican Republic becomes anything more than rookie ball depth. And yet, here is Rivera, on the verge of doing both. But when you can reach back and touch triple-digits, anything can happen.
15. D'SHAWN KNOWLES (20, OF)
Ranking Range: 7-24
In a Nutshell: Knowles had a surprising and promising minor league debut in 2018, hitting .311/.391/.464 in Rookie ball as a 17-year-old. He came down to earth the following year, with a .241/.310/.387 line, but still projects as at least a very good 4th outfielder, possibly a starter.
Ettin’s take: Similar to Vera, Knowles is quietly creeping through the pipeline with the ability to play all three OF positions with his likely home in LF, long-term. Good potential hitting profile makes him a sneaky play in Anaheim about two to four years out.
Angelsjunky’s take: Bear with me for a moment. Knowles reminds me a bit of Mookie Betts. No, I’m not saying that he’s going to be a future Hall of Famer and MVP. Like Betts, he’s an athletic player of relatively diminutive status (although he's a few inches taller than Mookie, but slighter of build – at least thus far) with good tools and great make-up. Betts was a 5th round draft pick who became so much more than anyone thought he’d be, and broke through as a legit prospect after 2013, when he hit .314/.417/.506 in two levels of A ball at age 20, and then became the #75 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America. The rest is history: Betts cruised through AA/AAA in 2014, making his major league debut later that year and is now one of the best in the game. Knowles is now the age Betts was in his breakout 2013 season. Again, while I don’t expect him to be anywhere as good as Betts (almost no one is), I think he’s one of those guys who will play larger than expected and be a similar type of player as Betts is.
16. WILLIAM HOLMES (20, RHP/OF)
Ranking Range: 12-20
In a Nutshell: The prospect formerly known as William English, Holmes changed his surname to his mother’s maiden name. A two-way player drafted in the 5th round of the 2018 draft out of Western International High School, he has flashed major league potential as both a pitcher and hitter but has a lot of development ahead of him.
Chuck’s take: The two-way player hit .326 with a .920 OPS in 43 at bats in 2019 and flashed raw power in batting practice. That said, it’s his potential on the mound that has the Angels most excited. Holmes' fastball sits in the low 90’s and touches 97 mph with cutting action. His changeup was rated the best in the organization, generating some ugly whiffs from opposing batters. He is expected to continue to get at-bats at DH and pitch out of the rotation so he’s yet another intriguing prospect to watch in 2021. Check out the interview that David Saltzer did with Holmes this past summer.
Second Base’s take: Elite fastball, elite changeup, elite power-potential and elite defensive potential. No, I'm not talking about four different players, I'm talking about one. Holmes still has a long road ahead of him to become a major leaguer at all, let alone a rare "two-way" player. But if I were to build a potential two-way star, I'd probably start with Holmes' athleticism, fastball and changeup. Let's see if the rest of his game can catch up.
Dave’s take: One of the several Angels two-way players. His pitching may be the better path to the majors, but he has the physicality to have a solid bat. I’m watching to see which of his skills develop more this year. Lots of projection left on him, as he is another one of the Angels' very athletic players.
Inside Pitch’s take: A two-way guy when he was drafted in 2018, the arm is already way, way ahead of his bat. He sat 93 when drafted, was hitting 98 by that summer. Holmes spent part of 2020 at the alternate site where he showed a much-improved change and physical development while touching triple-digits with his FB on multiple occasions. He’s an upside player--the bat still plays too.
17. AARON HERNANDEZ (24, RHP)
Ranking Range: 10-24
In a Nutshell: 3rd round pick in 2018, Hernandez was expected to rise quickly but had a delayed start due to injury, not making his minor league debut until 2019 when he pitched 72.2 innings in A+ ball, with a 4.46 ERA, 46 walks and 81 strikeouts. He showed signs of improvement in the AFL that year, with a 3.38 ERA in six starts, including 6 walks and 25 strikeouts in 18.2 innings.
Dochalo’s take: A very underrated pick that I think will move pretty quickly and end up as someone who can help in the middle of the rotation by mid next year. Had a velocity drop in his pro debut relative to where he was when drafted, but I think some of that came back with a strong outing in the AFL. I see him as one of those guys who’ll show more and more as he refines his delivery. Might be a 'the whole is greater than the sum-of-the-parts-type,' with a four-pitch mix.
Dave's take: When drafted, Hernandez generated a lot of buzz for his high heat. Sadly, that abandoned him at Inland Empire, as did his command. Hitters sat on his fastball, which came in flat and straight. The velocity came back in the AFL, as did some of the command and movement on his off-speed pitches. For now, the Angels are likely to keep him as a starter, and he will stick as such if he commands his four-pitch mix. If not, he could move quickly in the bullpen where his fastball/slider combo would work along with an occasional changeup to keep hitters honest.
18. WERNER BLAKELY (19, SS)
Ranking Range: 12-28
In a Nutshell: The Angels’ 4th round draft pick in 2020 out of Detroit Edison High School, Blakely is another toolsy young middle infielder with a high upside.
Dochalo’s take: He has that look of an elite defender to me. Also, I like the smooth swing. Blakely has a really long way to go, but I think eventually will be the gem of the Angels 2020 draft class, even though I fully believe that Detmers is going be a solid major league starter.
Inside Pitch’s take: A 2020 draftee, at 6’3” he’s a bigger SS but he can flat out fly and has a solid arm. The glove is ahead of the bat but he’s shown signs of power and the physical tools are all there to dream on. This one may take a while.
Dave’s take: A lot to like here. A young, left-handed hitting SS. Big question is how much contact he can generate and whether he will add more power. Defensively he should stick at SS. If the bat plays up, he could move up the depth chart quickly.
Second Base’s take: Very exciting athletic package from videos in high school showcases. From what I saw, I have to ask, what would've happened to his draft stock had there not been a COVID shutdown? He would've had the chance to display his skills against better competition, and he may have catapulted into the top half of the first round.
19. TRENT DEVEAUX (21, OF)
Ranking Range: 12 – not ranked
In a Nutshell: Deveaux was the most highly lauded of the four Bahamian outfielders the Angels signed in 2017 (along with Knowles and Jose Reyes, both still in the org, and Raider Uceta, traded for Max Stassi), considered the 19th best international prospect by Baseball America. After early struggles, including a .199/.307/.247 line in his first 44 minor league games, the very athletic Deveaux improved in 2019, hitting .238/.320/.422.
Angelsjunky’s take: Deveaux arrived with an awkward stance and swing that yielded very poor results in 2018. But the Angels tinkered, and he improved in 2019. The upside is still there, and Deveaux has the potential to be a dynamic centerfielder with blazing speed and a bit of pop. But there’s also a good chance of flaming out, if he doesn’t improve the hit tool. Deveaux is one of those prospects that, with a strong month, could vault up the rankings and be an elite prospect. It is also quite possible that he continues to struggle and never translates his athleticism into skills.
Chuck’s take: Most evaluators rank Jordyn Adams as the Angels top athlete in the organization, but the Bahamas native, who has clocked in at 6.2 seconds in the 60-yard dash, says, "hold my beer." That’s 80-grade speed, folks. Deveaux has also added a tremendous amount of lean upper and lower muscle strength due to a rigorous weight training program over the past two years, which should boost his power totals in the future. He has all the makings of becoming a gold glove defender in center field with plus range, great outfield reads and a strong arm, but unless he changes his approach at the plate, he’s nothing more than yet another tremendous athlete without the bat to play in the big leagues.
20. PACKY NAUGHTON (25, LHP)
Ranking Range: 14 – not ranked
In a Nutshell: Acquired from the Reds along with Jose Salvador for Brian Goodwin, Naughton had a strong 2019 season, with a 3.32 ERA, 35 walks and 131 strikeouts in 157 innings in A+/AA. He provides depth for the major league rotation, although likely doesn’t have the stuff to be more than a #5 starter.
Dave's take: A lefty with a low-90s fastball/slider/changeup combination, his stuff plays up because of a deceptive delivery that makes his pitches harder to pickup. His stuff doesn't have "wow" factor, but works with location and keeping hitters off balance. Naughton won't miss many bats, but will be effective at the back of a rotation or in middle relief. Control and replicating the delivery are keys for him.
Dochalo’s take: I didn’t have him on my top 30 list but probably should have, yet for some reason I get a AAAA player vibe from him. Gives up tons of hits and doesn’t miss bats. Not much stuff to speak of. I am probably selling him short, though, as lefties with a similar profile have gone on to carve out nice major league careers. Hopefully he does.
21. LIVAN SOTO (21, SS)
Ranking Range: 11 – not ranked
In a Nutshell: Soto was the second of the prospects “stolen” from Braves and has turned out to be the safer pick. While he has limited upside, he should eventually enjoy a major league career as at least an infield bench player with a good glove and some walks.
Ettin’s take: Yet another gifted middle infield defender, Soto, whom the Angels acquired from the Braves debacle, is an excellent defender with solid, developing on-base skills. He, too, could be in Anaheim within a few years, either full-time or as a backup.
Dave's take: A glove-first middle infielder, Soto has the defensive skills to play SS, but is also seeing time at 2B for positional versatility. Excellent hands and a good arm, he could stick at SS, or provide solid MIF utility. Still only 20, there's time for him to improve his bat, although he already has decent plate discipline. His floor is high due to his defense, and his ceiling will be based on how far his bat can take him.
22. OLIVER ORTEGA (24, RHP)
Ranking Range: 19 – not ranked
In a Nutshell: Ortega has been in the organization since 2015, gradually working his way through the low minors. After missing 2017 with an injury, he has put together two solid campaigns in 2018-19, striking out 221 batters over 193 innings, although with 98 walks. Likely future is as a major league reliever or possible a #4-5 starter.
Chuck’s take: Here’s a guy who came out of nowhere in 2019, striking out 135 in 111 innings across two levels. Equipped with a mid-90s fastball that touches 98 mph, Ortega also flashes an above average knuckle-curve that gets some ugly swings, in addition to a workable changeup as his third pitch. The plan is that he’ll open up in the rotation again in 2021, most likely Double-A, but he’s a guy who could end up as a high leverage reliever if his changeup doesn’t play up against better competition.
Ettin’s take: A nice potential back-end starter, Ortega has a pretty decent floor as a #4-5 starter if he keeps up the pace and success. Control issues might hamper him, but he has good raw stuff and could arrive sooner rather than later.
23. STIWARD AQUINO (22, RHP)
Ranking Range: 17 – not ranked
In a Nutshell: After missing 2018 with Tommy John surgery, Aquino struggled in 2019, with a 6.87 ERA in 12 starts, but did strikeout 49 batters in 36.2 innings. His most likely path to the majors is as a reliever, a role in which his repertoire should play well.
Inside Pitch’s take: Another 6’6” RHP, this one from the Dominican Republic. Aquino was razor-thin when drafted, showed great stuff, then fell victim to TJS. He came back in the middle of 2019 throwing 96 with a high spin curveball and a passable changeup. He’s added weight and was said to be touching triple-digits at times but has a lot of refinement left. Might be a fast riser as a reliever, given his two primary weapons.
Ettin’s take: Aquino hit the scene hard in 2019 and, although we didn't have a minor league season to observe in 2020, word is he is continuing the pace. If things work out for Stiward, he could be a mid-rotation starter but is more likely a back-end starter or high leverage reliever.
24. JOSE BONILLA (19, IF)
Ranking Range: 18-29
In a Nutshell: International signing in 2020, Bonilla is considered a bat-first infielder with substantial offensive potential.
Ettin’s take: Of similar ilk to Vera and Knowles, Bonilla is an offensive-oriented player with above average defensive ability across all three outfield positions. Could end up as a corner OF guy or a back-up depending on how things work out.
Inside Pitch’s take: The least-hyped of their recent international SS signings, Bonilla has shown an advanced bat. He's 6,’ 185 lbs, with a plus arm. Bonilla paid little attention to the commonly used comment about Dominican players not walking off the island; he put up an OPS over .800 as a 17-year-old in the DSL, with 14 walks to 19 Ks and an OBP over .400.
Dochalo’s take: I liked watching videos of this kid’s swing. It seems that, with a strong arm and the likelihood that he'll fill out over time, he'll move to 3B ultimately. To me, he’s kind of the forgotten guy in what was a very good international class from 2019. His short stint in the DSL in 2019 showed that he can already handle the bat fairly well relative to his peers.
25. KEVIN MAITAN (21, 3B)
Ranking Range: 19 – not ranked.
In a Nutshell: Maitan was a highly touted Venezuelan prospect half a decade ago, compared to the likes of Chipper Jones and Miguel Cabrera, which led to a $4.25 million signing bonus from the Atlanta Braves. In his first stint in the minors, scouts were surprised at how little he resembled the hyped player from a year before. After it was discovered that the Braves engaged in rules violations, they were forced to release Maitan, who was promptly snatched up by the Angels. After two more years in the low minors, his former prospect status has faded substantially; so far in 228 minor league games, he’s hit .229/.288/.347.
Second Base’s take: My interest in his skill set is like Cobra Kai: It never dies. Seriously though, Maitan does have elite power and an elite arm. His glove and footwork have caught up and he has now fashioned himself into a pretty good defensive 3B. Can his hit tool and plate discipline catch up? If yes, we have a post-hype star on our hands. If not, then Maitan becomes a cautionary tale on putting too much stock in 14-to-16-year-old baseball talent.
Dave’s take: This year will go a long way towards determining how he is seen as a prospect. He is still just 21 years old in February and has been playing against much older competition. Is this the year that the power and contact emerge? While he has been moved off of SS, and played a lot of 3B and 2B, I won’t be surprised if he sees some time at 1B as well.
26. ROBINSON PINA (22, RHP)
Ranking Range: 20 – not ranked.
In a Nutshell: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, Pina had a 3.83 ERA in 108 IP in 2019 in A level Burlington, including 146 strikeouts, but also 61 walks.
Dave's take: Pina has seen his velocity rise quite a bit since first being signed, and there's still room to add more; mid-90s heat may be possible for him. His best secondary offering is his curve. While he's most likely destined for the back of a bullpen, Pina's command with added velocity could help him zoom through the system quickly.
Angelsjunky’s take: While the Angels will likely keep him in the rotation for now, his future on the big league club might be as a reliever. If they’re willing to convert him this year, he could rise quickly, otherwise he may take some time to work on his command and mechanical issues.
27. ADRIAN PLACENCIA (18, 2B)
Ranking Range: 17 – not ranked.
In a Nutshell: One of several young infielders with little to no pro experience, but lots of upside. Placencia, a switch-hitter, is the youngest player on this list, born in June of 2003.
Angelsjunky’s take: Maybe it’s the name, but mostly it’s the limited scouting reports that speak of a beautiful swing from both sides of the plate, impressive bat control, and high offensive potential. It may be a couple years before people take notice, but he’s one to watch.
Dave’s take: So young...so much to hope on. He's a switch-hitting bat-first middle infielder with advanced skills to use the whole field and potential to add power. Placencia is another one with whom we will need to be patient, but is also one who, if he puts it together, could be quite an impact player. More likely suited for 2B long term.
28. ORLANDO MARTINEZ (23, OF)
Ranking Range: 17 – not ranked.
In a Nutshell: Cuban player who has now been in the Angels system since 2018. In his most recent stop in the minors, he hit .263/.325/.434 in 88 games in A+ Inland Empire in 2019.
Second Base’s take: There is almost no chance that Martinez figures into the Angels plans as anything more than a 4th OF, but he does have a very intriguing hit tool and instincts. If he truly has developed power, then he might force himself into more of a featured role, either in Anaheim or elsewhere.
Dochalo’s take: Every year there's a prospect who I secretly feel is going to be way better that what is likely. Martinez is that guy for me. He's got a sweet swing and is very athletic. He was super streaky in 2019 where he started a bit slow, crushed for a month, was terrible for a month, and then crushed for the next month plus. He was age-appropriate in 2019 (even slightly young) for A+, so now he's a bit behind and it will be very interesting to see where he starts the year. He's also very athletic and can play all three OF positions as well as run well enough for the occasional theft.
29. ADAM SEMINARIS (22, LHP)
Ranking Range: 18-30
In a Nutshell: 5th round draft pick in 2020 out of California State University, Long Beach. Almost the archetypical high-floor, low-ceiling collegiate pitcher with mediocre stuff but a good feel for pitching.
Inside Pitch’s take: Seminaris is the outlier here: he’s not an upside guy and there isn’t a lot of stuff to talk about. He’s a crafty lefty with a lot of deception, a barely average fastball, and not a lot of room to fill out. But he’s a local guy who grew up an Angels fan, went to LB State (AO this one's for you), and he’s shown the ability to get guys out with a four-pitch mix that he commands exceedingly well. Like Rodriguez, his change is the best of his four pitches; unlike C-Rod, he barely breaks 90 MPH. Still, guys like this often fly through the lower minors. He won’t be sexy, but he’s got a decent shot at being a back-end starter.
Rafibomb's take: You can't ignore the stats of Seminaris in his final year with the Dirtbags. He was flat-out dominant before the college baseball season was cut short, striking out 36 hitters to just 3 walks in 22 innings with a WHIP of 0.55. The whole is greater than the sum of his parts when it comes to Seminaris, who is able to spot all of his pitches and succeed despite not having elite velocity. He reminds me of a lot of former Angels farmhand Nate Smith, who was the team's top pitching prospect (albeit in a barren system) for many years before he was affected by injuries.
30. DAVIS DANIEL (24, RHP)
Ranking Range: 19 – not ranked
In a Nutshell: 7th-round pick in 2019 out of Auburn, Daniel missed the season due to Tommy John surgery. He’s really an unknown: no professional experience, but good stuff.
Inside Pitch’s take: A complete wild card. Davis was highly thought of coming out of HS, went to Auburn and right into the rotation as a freshman. His fastball routinely hit 97; breaking ball and change-up were both above average at the time but he struggled with control, then broke down requiring Tommy John surgery. Despite the injury, the Angels took him in 7th round of the 2019 draft. Like Kochanowicz, he’s yet to throw in games but the stuff is there.
Dave’s take: Hard-working righty with mid-90s fastball action. Health has been the big concern and has limited his pitching. If healthy, he could move quickly through the system. This year will be all about getting back on the mound in front of live competition, making sure the command is there, and seeing how far that arm can take him.
ODDS & ENDS
(Players who received rankings but didn’t make the collective top 30)
Denny Brady, Sadrac Franco, Gerardo Reyes, Jose Reyes, Erik Rivera, Adrian Rondon, Yordi Rosario, Michael Stefanic, John Swanda, Andrew Wantz, Austin Warren.
Luis Alvarado, Gustavo Campero, Ryan Clark, Brendon Davis, Connor Higgins, Torii Hunter Jr, Kyle Keller, Jack Kruger, Jake Lee, Zach Linginfelter, Gareth Morgan, Luis Nunez, Jerryell Rivera, Chad Sykes, Gabriel Tapia, Kyle Tyler, Connor Van Scoyoc, Greg Veliz
DENNY BRADY (24, RHP)
Ettin’s take: Another sleeper to keep an eye on, Brady has done nothing but post solid results. 2019 was a solid peripherals season for Denny and the Angels did add him to their 60-man player pool in back in July, so don't pop an Ambien if he is starting!
SADRAC FRANCO(21, RHP)
Dochalo’s take: I watched a few of his starts from 2019 in Orem. He showed brief flashes of an upper 90s fastball and a wicked breaking ball. Mostly, however, he looked like an 18-year-old kid in his first taste of stateside baseball. The Angels brought him over pretty early, so they must have considered him mature enough to handle it. I haven’t heard much in the way of a third pitch but he’s got some time. Franco might end up a back end reliever.
ERIK RIVERA (20, OF/LHP)
Dave’s take: Another two-way player, who probably profiles better as a pitcher with a power lefty arm, but has the potential to have a solid bat. These two-way players are intriguing to me to see how they develop and how long they will be allowed to work on both sides of the game.
Inside Pitch’s take: 2019’s left-handed version of William Holmes. I’m following him as a pitcher. Rivera has been up as high at 98 MPH, with a big spin curveball and a developing changeup. What he doesn’t have is command, but LHP who can work in the mid 90s and touch the upper 90s have futures, even the ones with mediocre control. A move to the pen may hasten his development.
JOHN SWANDA(22, RHP)
Dochalo’s take: My super sleeper. 4th rounder in 2017 out of high school and looked like he had some good stuff in 2019 before he went down with TJS after four starts. I remember hearing low to mid-90s fastball. He’s essentially lost two full years. Hopefully his recovery went well as I had some decent hopes for him when he was drafted; now, I’m more curious than anything.