Photo: Los Angeles Angels prospect Kyren Paris
By Tres Hefter, AngelsWin.com Columnist
With all this great SS discussion going on and the first two weeks of the minor league season officially in the books it's time for the first prospect hotlist. A reminder - the names listed here aren't always necessarily the Angels top prospects, but rather simply a look at who has been among the best on the farm over the last two weeks, in this case, 5/4 - 5/16, in an effort to help identify some of the guys who might not always get the notice or attention they'd typically receive.
-- Position Players --
1) Kyren Paris - 2B/SS, Inland Empire, A:
In a system starved for high-contact, high-speed, high-on base guys, Paris' first two weeks provided an immense injection of excitement as to what could come. Following an 0-4 debut with 4 strikeouts, Paris would go on to hit .297 the next ten games, punching eleven hits (including a double and two triples) and drawing twelve walks - good for a .480 OBP in that span - against ten strikeouts. He also added ten stolen bases in that span, getting caught twice, proving to be an absolute force on the base paths and setting the table for Inland Empire. Splitting time almost evenly between 2B and SS, Paris, only 19, has picked up right where he left off after a similar brief Rookie Ball debut in 2019.
2021 (IE, A): .268/.444/.390/.835 with 1 double, two triples, 10-12 in SB attempts, 12 BB, 10 K in 11 G/54 PA
2) Michael Stefanic - 2B/3B, Rocket City, AA:
Had the 2020 minor league season had not been lost to the coronavirus pandemic, there's a chance Michael Stefanic could have already made his major league debut this season, seeing time as an Angels utility infielder. Opening the year with AA Rocket City, Stefanic has done nothing but hit, slashing .375/.444/.479/.924 through his first 11 G/54 PA, including two doubles, a home run, and a steady 4 walks to 7 strikeouts. Stefanic's consistency at the plate over his pro career and high contact makes it easy to draw comparisons to another California product that flew under the radar in David Fletcher.
- Fletcher, minor leagues (age 21-24): .294/.345/.398/.743 96 BB, 154 K in 1517 PA with 105 XBH
- Stefanic, minor leagues (age 22-25): .297/.373/.380/.752, 38 BB, 59K in 519 PA with 27 XBH - eerily similar trends to that of Fletcher
If there's one caveat on Stefanic to date in his pro career, it's that he's typically played against younger competition and that he isn't coming from high draft or college pedigree - indeed, he was signed as an undrafted free agent - but of late, one aspect where the Angels farm has found success is producing late-round/undrafted talent, as seen in successes such as Jared Walsh, Jose Rojas, and Matt Shoemaker. If Stefanic can continue hitting as he has and perhaps find a little more versatility and refinement in his already solid defensive game, he could be in the mix for a utility role as soon as 2022.
2021 (RC, AA): .375/.444/.479/.924 with 2 doubles, one HR, 7 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K in 11 G/54 PA
3) Orlando Martinez - OF, Rocket City, AA:
Often overlooked in a system rife with toolsy, flashy outfielders such as Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, Jordyn Adams, and D'Shawn Knowles, 23-year old Cuban signee Orlando Martinez tends to often fall into a second-tier of outfielders with higher floors and lower ceilings. That might be starting to change. Following a 2019 season that saw Martinez swat 37 extra base hits in 88 games, Martinez' newfound power has emerged in 2021, highlighted by a May 7th game in which he slugged three home runs while playing CF for Rocket City. After starting the season 1 for 11 (including a tough 0-8 performance in the first game of an extra-innings double-header), Martinez has done nothing but hit - slashing .325/.364/.728/1.089 across 44 PA. Down the line, Martinez likely doesn't have the speed or range to cover CF comfortably in the bigs, nor does an increasing divide between his walks and strikeouts lend one to think he'd flourish as a bench player, but his pure ability as a hitter and increasing power could make him a fantastic platoon partner in a future MLB corner. If the Angels refuse to engage in trade talks with premium prospects, a strong season from Martinez could make him a likely prospect dealt down the line.
2021 (RC, AA): .275/.321/.588/.910 with 4 doubles, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 4 BB, 18 K in 12 G/56 PA
4) Braxton Martinez - 1B/DH, Inland Empire, A:
27-year old Braxton Martinez had spent the last few years toiling away in Independent Ball and a brief appearance in the Mexican leagues following a rather unremarkable career at St. Louis University. As such, his pro debut in coming against players several years his junior and he's performing exactly as he and the Angels hoped he would. Martinez has opened his pro career hitting .306/.435/.611/1.046 in his first ten games, popping three doubles, a triple, and two home runs, serving as a run producing 1B/DH for Inland Empire. While it's hard to get too excited about production from someone just a couple hundred days younger than Jared Walsh, it's still good to see production on a typically thin Angels farm. It's extremely likely Martinez will serve as just organizational depth, but any quick promotions amidst continued success could be something to keep an eye on as the year moves along.
2021 (IE, A): .306/.435/.611/1.046 with 3 doubles, one triple, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 7 BB, 10 K in 10 G/46 PA
5) Kean Wong - 2B, Salt Lake City, AAA:
All AAA numbers come with a grain of salt these days, but it's hard to ignore what Kean Wong has done in his first ten games. Opening the season with a ten-game hitting streak, Wong is hitting .404/.417/.596/1.012 with nineteen hits in 48 plate appearances, including three doubles and two home runs. A lack of walks (only one so far) can be forgiven when you're getting a hit every other at-bat, as well as limiting your strikeouts - only five. This is nothing new for the younger brother of Kolton, who sports a .289 batting average across his minor league career, and at 26 years old, could still find some utility for a big league ball club, perhaps even the Angels, this season.
2021 (SLC, AAA): .404/.417/.596/1.012 with 3 doubles, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 1 BB, 15 K in 10 G/48 PA
Honorable mention, hitters:
Anthony Mulrine (C, RC AA): .350/.409/.400/.809 and a 71% CS% - solid offense, very strong defense, could be a quick riser into MLB depth charts
Livan Soto (SS, TC A+): .234/.333/.489/.823 with 6 XBH – surprising increase in power for a potentially elite glove gives Soto a possible new ceiling
Scott Schebler (OF, SLC AAA): .296/.457/.815/1.272 with 2 2B, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 5 BB, 9 K – absolute expected AAAA-type dominance, but only through 8 G/35 PA
David MacKinnon (1B, RC AA): .286/.397/.449/.846 with 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 7 BB, 9 K – typical MacKinnon-esque production, solid contact, power, discipline
Anthony Bemboom (C, SLC AAA): .400/.438/1.133/1.571 with 1 3B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, BB, 3 K - absolutely torched the Tacoma Rainiers in his first minor league series (4 G/16 PA)
Izzy Wilson (RF/LF, RC AA): .167/.300/.452/.752 with 4 HR, 8 BB, 15 K - unimpressive slash, but 4 HR and a decent BB:K ratio will get you a mention, only 23, former ATL/TBR farmhand
Francisco Del Valle (RF/LF, TC A+): .263/.408/.447/.856 with 4 2B, 1 HR, 10 BB, 13 K - Del Valle has long had solid discipline, can he add some contact and power? Only 22.
Matt Thaiss (C/1B/3B, SLC AAA): .280/.438/.440/.838 with 2B, 3B, 6 BB, 10 K – don't forget about Thaiss, splitting time evenly at three positions, making contact, drawing walks
Jo Adell (LF/RF, SLC AAA):.214/.298/.571/.869 with 3 2B, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 5 BB, 19 K
Brandon Marsh (CF/DH), SLC AAA): .308/.526/.692/1.219 with 3B, HR, 6 BB, 6 K - if healthy, he might be a regular on this list, if not in Anaheim
-- Pitching --
1) Brent Killam - LHP, Inland Empire, A:
Just as all AAA numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, so should be many of the early season pitching performances. With many minor leaguers having not faced true competition in almost two years, and pitchers such as Brent Killam here making his pro debut, there could be some lopsided lines as the year starts out as guys get settled and properly assigned to certain affiliates. Despite all of this, the pro debut of Killam, the Angels 11th round choice in the 2019 draft, was nothing short of impressive. Two games, two starts, two hits across 8.2 innings, matched with four walks and sixteen strikeouts - half of the batters he faced. Killam had no issues striking out hitters in his college career and it's continued here, but his 5'11" height might put some limitations on his ability to stick as a starter in the big picture. A promotion to A+ could come sooner rather than later if dominance continues as the org works to stabilize pitching.
2021 (IE, A): 1.04 ERA, .069 WHIP, .074 BAA, 4 BB, 16 K across 8.2 IP in 2 G/2 GS
2) Jack Dashwood - LHP, Inland Empire, A:
Keeping with the theme of 2019 draftees making their pro debuts, 23-year old southpaw Jack Dashwood has also dominated in his first two appearances. Standing 6'6" and listed at 240, the Angels drafted Dashwood in the 12th round back in 2019 out of UC Santa Barbara. Through Dashwood's first two games, both in multiple inning relief appearances, he has limited opponents to four hits and one run across 7.2 IP while striking out ten and walking zero.
2021 (IE, A): 1.17 ERA, .052 WHIP, .143 BAA, 0 BB, 10 K across 7.2 IP in 2 G
3) Julio Goff - RHP, Inland Empire, A:
Working in relief following starts by both Brent Killam and Jack Kochanowicz in his first two appearances before drawing a start of his own, 21-year old Julio Goff has kicked off his first full season stateside with an effective 1.46 ERA across 12.1 IP, striking out 17. The 5'10" Panamanian likely profiles as a reliever in the future and might not be seen as much more than an organizational arm with a hint of MLB upside, perhaps comparable to Oliver Ortega, but his early performance out of the gate indicates his utility could make him a valuable arm in the lower minors as the Angels stretch out their more prized starting pitcher prospects. Anytime a young international signee can make the jump stateside as a teenager from Dominican ball, it comes with some degree of intrigue.
2021 (IE, A): 1.46 ERA, .097 WHIP, .156 BAA, 5 BB, 17 K across 12.1 IP in 3 G/ 1 GS
4) Jhonathan Diaz - LHP, Rocket City, AA:
Plucked as a minor league free agent following a few unremarkable years in Boston's system, 24-year old Jhonathan Diaz vaulted himself into this hotlist with a masterful start on May 13th against Tennessee, striking out 11 in 5.2 IP, allowing one hit and two walks without any scoring. While Diaz might not be on the major league radar anytime soon, he's still young enough and left-handed enough that any strong performance in AA could elevate him into the fringes of MLB depth such as we saw in recent years with Jose Rodriguez as an option for multiple inning relief or a spot start.
2021 (RC, AA): 2.53 ERA, .094 WHIP, .179 BAA, 2 BB, 15 K across 10.2 IP in 3 G/ 1 GS
5) Jose Salvador - LHP, Inland Empire, A:
Continuing with the theme of lefty's dominating Low A in their Angel debut is Jose Salvador, acquired along with Packy Naughton from Cincinnati for Brian Goodwin. It's very rare that a player makes this list based off the performance of just one game, but Salvador's May 5th showing was simply too strong to ignore. Facing 16 batters, Salvador struck out 12 in 4.1 IP, allowing only one walk, one hit, and one run otherwise. If there was one downside to this performance, it's that it perhaps took a bit out of him, as it remains his lone appearance to date. Salvador has a history of missing bats in his short pro career prior with Cincy affiliates while showing strong control for a pitcher so young. He could move quickly - if healthy.
2021 (RC, AA): 2.08 ERA, .046 WHIP, .067 BAA, 1 BB, 12 K across 4.1 IP in 1 G
Honorable mention, pitchers:
Dakota Donovan (RHP, IE A): 8 IP, 4 H, BB, 12 K, 3.38 ERA in 4 games – 6'6" reliever showing strong command and swing-and-miss in pro debut, 16th Rd. 2019 draftee
Cooper Criswell (RHP, RC AA): 11 IP, 12 H, BB, 11 K, 4.09 ERA in 2 starts – 24 year old, 6'6" righty had a quietly solid '19, continuing this year in AA so far
Erik Rivera (LHP, IE A): 3.1 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 6 K in pro pitching debut - will the two-way experiment continue?
Ryan Smith (LHP, IE A): 9.1 IP, 4 H, 5 BB, 16 K, 2.89 ERA in 2 G/1 GS - the gaudy strikeout numbers continue for Inland Empire lefties
Reid Detmers (LHP, RC AA): 6.1 IP, 7H, 3 BB, 11 K, 7.11 ERA in 2 GS - uptick in velocity and strikeout numbers cancels out early season shakiness
Cristopher Molina (RHP, TC A+): 9 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 14 K, 3.00 ERA in 4 G - an apparent conversion on relief could allow this dependable longtime Angel farmhand an opportunity to advance