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All You Need To Know about the Los Angeles Angels Arizona Complex & Dominican Summer League Prospects


Chuck

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By Taylor Blake Ward, AngelsWin.com

When taking a look at performances from the Dominican Summer League and Arizona Complex League, there is an obvious caveat about the variance in play. Pending the league, the ages can vary from 16-years-old to 21-year-olds in the Dominican and 18-years-olds fresh out of high school or out of country to 24-years-olds who have spent the last four or five years at some of the premier college programs in the nation. Most kids haven't grown into their bodies so power could be at a minimum. Some pitchers throw in the high 90's with explosive breaking pitches, while others hardly top the mid 80's with hardly any sign of a secondary offering. Hardly any pitcher has a strong feel for the strike zone, so on-base percentages are highly inflated due to the high number of walks. Performance numbers can be fun, but only when taken with a serious grain of salt.

Quickly hitting on some performance indicators, we already talked about the inflation of walks and high on-base percentages. Offensively, you should be looking at contact rate and low strikeout-percentages for future indicators of offensive success from a solely performance-based merit. For pitchers, you're looking at strike-throwing ability (i.e., BB%, BB/9) as even with low walk numbers will come the raw package of hindered command. Control is a fine thing to see on paper and is usually something you will see prior to command in and out of the zone once coming stateside.

With that out of the way, let's dive into some of the Angels minor leaguers who put together strong seasons in northeast Boca Chica or southwest Tempe, whether performance based or by scouting merit.

Tapping into the record books, the Angels Dominican Summer League affiliate has been in existence since 1992, with three years as a shared affiliate and one year without play. Records only permit us to date statistics back to 2006, but five different players for the Angels this year broke into the top-10 of affiliate records with one appearing seven times while tying a record. Luis Torres saw one of the greatest seasons for the DSL Angels with his 156 wRC+ being only second to Alexi Amarista's 158 wRC+ in 2007. Among DSL Angels single-season records, Torres scored the ninth most runs (48), had the ninth most hits (68; most since Johan Sala hit 76 in 2016) had the fifth most runs batted in (40), had the fifth most total bases (113; the most since Eduardo Soto had 117 in 2008), hit the third most home runs (8; trailing only Luis Jimenez (11 - 2007) and Raddy Sierra (9 - 2007))

Let's walk away from the statistical confusion and admire Torres the player who signed for $10,000 in February 2022. Already well developed physically at six-foot-three and 210 pounds with his arms filled out well, there is some present strength and power from the right side in Torres' offensive profile. He has a free and loose swing that will open up to allow him to get to his power on pitches away. He did a fine job of controlling the zone and sparsely chasing which led to low strikeout totals. There is the natural tendency of young players to over swing which leads to hitting the top of the ball and high groundball totals, which was a very natural defect to Torres' game and is one of the first focuses of development once stateside. There's feel for hitting and his ability to get to his power is a positive trait where he turned on the ball well and put together some regular triple-digit exit velocities. Defensively, there's a lot of unknown as Torres was an outfielder as an amateur but immediately moved to first base with very limited playing time in the corner outfield.

The big international splash over the winter, Nelson Rada showed exactly why he signed for such a high dollar ($1.85 million) in January. Spending the entire season as a 16-year-old, Rada was one week shy of being the youngest player in professional baseball this year, with 10 others being born between August 24-31, 2005 (yikes, we are getting old). Going back to the record books, Rada posted a 148 wRC+, which was fourth best in DSL Angels history; he scored the sixth most runs (48) in a single-season (the most since Pedro Toribio scored 50 runs in 2011), and stole the third-most bases at 27, tied with Raul Linares and trailing only Ayendy Perez (41 - 2013) and Pedro Toribio (32 - 2011). Rada reached base in 44 of 50 games he played, all in center field. It's clear the Angels see Rada playing a premium position in center field where he is a plus defender who is quick and direct to the ball and comes equipped with an above-average arm and outstanding athleticism. More instinctual than an actual burner, Rada clearly knew what he was doing on the basepaths and has double-digit steal potential with only average to better speed. At the plate, Rada keeps things fairly simple from the left side looking for pitches in his zone to drive to the gaps. There is some over-the-fence power that could turn into average power when he fills into his compact frame. Despite his youth, Rada has already shown good control of the zone and has a strong idea of what he’s doing at the plate with a focus on getting on base with a balanced approach that leans more to aggression.

The other big bonus baby over the spring came in Randy de Jesus, an outfielder who signed for $1.2 million. More physically driven than Rada, de Jesus put up his expected power numbers while lessening the concern of how much swing-and-miss would be included in his offensive profile. His 13 doubles were tied for the ninth most in a single-season for the affiliate, while his seven home runs were fourth most as well as his 43 runs batted in being fourth most in a single-season and the most since Samir Mendez hit 44 in 2011. More intangible based, de Jesus is a smart player who is a fair athlete and makes smart plays in the field and base paths. Not always getting to his separation and finding some grooves in his timing, de Jesus was still able to tap into his big-bodied natural strength and will have to work on getting to the ball quicker once coming stateside to tap into his above-average potential. Going 2-for-2 with a three-run home run, de Jesus was named the MVP of the Dominican Summer League All-Star game.

On the pitching side, DSL Angels rotation was headlined by Sadiel Baro, a lean 17-year-old left-hander who signed for $125,000 out of Cuba. Baro worked his fastball up to 92 over the summer while flashing a swing-and-miss curve and changeup that allowed him to work against hitters on both sides of the plate. Baro was a workhorse, having the most innings pitched (53.0) since Jose Soriano (57.0) in 2016, with the third most strikeouts (60) since 2014. Manuel Cazorla, a 17-year-old left-hander from Venezuela, showed good feel for locating his fastball in the bottom part of the zone while flashing an average curveball and the ability to pitch inside. Nixon Encarnacion was the big-arm splash for the Angels over the winter due to his strong arm from the right side. Encarnacion works 91-95 with positive signs towards his secondary offerings, while his athleticism gives hope of above-average command down the road.

Other notables: Outfielder Ramon Ramirez posted a 142 wRC+ while hitting the seventh most doubles (14) and eighth most runs batted in (37) in the affiliate’s history. Capri Ortiz is a 17-year-old defense-first shortstop who saw a tail of two seasons at the plate, having a .542 OPS with five extra-base hits in his first 26 games, while having a .793 OPS with nine extra-base hits in his final 26 games. Dario Laverde and Jonathan Linares, both 17-year-old catchers, matched each other in basic offensive and defensive statistics despite differing profiles, both posting a 124 wRC+ while throwing out 41% of runners. Laverde is an athletic backstop with a better chance at sticking behind the plate while Linares is a switch-hitter with more offensive upside to his game. Marco Vega is a soft-tossing right-hander from Panama who will work in the mid-to-high 80’s but has a great feel for the zone and a better feel for his changeup than most at his age.

After focusing on much of Boca Chica, let’s take a trip north to Tempe where the Angels Arizona Complex League club fell two run short of a wildcard berth in their final game of the season with the tying run at the plate.

Perhaps one of the biggest risers on prospect charts in the Angels system this year was Jorge Marcheco, a 20-year-old (turned 20 on August 6) Cuban right-hander who signed last September for $350,000. After throwing a statistical no-hitter and near perfect game in three games with the DSL affiliate in 2021 (retired 27 of 28 batters with 20 strikeouts, only one to reach base was via a hit by pitch), Marcheco didn’t see the same dominance in Arizona (though who would expect that?) but still put together a solid showing for the year while encroaching on some affiliate records. In his 50.2 innings, Marcheco struck out 76 batters, the sixth most in affiliate history and most since 2009. Marcheco works mostly 89-93 with his fastball while incorporating a swing-and-miss curve and changeup/splitter that he can manipulate. There’s a limited ceiling to his game but he has backend of the rotation kind of stuff with present command indicators he could reach that ceiling.

No one made as loud a presence at the start of the Angels development season as Walbert Urena, an 18-year-old Dominican right-hander. Hitting 100 in his stateside debut, Urena was a surprising unknown in prospect circles who despite being a six-figure signing in March 2021 ($140K). The triple digits didn’t come as common over the full season but there was plenty of arm strength and velo to dream on as he worked mostly off of his fastball that ranged 95-97. His secondaries have some progressive signs though are identifiable out of the arm, with his changeup being the better of the pair and his slider being inconsistent and rarely flashing more than average. He struggled to find the strike zone and lagged in fastball command but a solid athlete there are hopes he can work around the zone with that heat. Undersized at six-foot, it’s likely he will be a premium velo reliever type.

Caden Dana received the highest bonus ever among players taken after the 10th round in the bonus pool era at $1.4975M and the initial returns show that record bonus was well earned. Though he got limited time after the draft, the New Jersey prep arm had back-to-back scoreless outings – both two innings each – to kick off his pro career and ended his summer in a do-or-die game where he allowed one run over two and two/third innings. It’s too small a sample to really rely on any of his performance numbers, but the reports indicate he was able to hold what he showed during his prep season and showcase summer going into his senior year. Working mostly with a two-pitch mix, Dana will work in the low 90’s mostly but has been upwards of 95-96. The fastball is his primary weapon currently as he shows enough command of it to play with it around the zone and elevate in late counts, though it is hittable due to its minimal movement. Dana also has a high-spin curveball that he has struggled to locate but the pitch at raw is an above-average offering and will only improve with command. A project in every sense, Dana is a big-bodied kid at six-foot-four with athleticism and physicality whose strength and arm speed should be able to keep him as a starter through development. There’s a high ceiling to be tapped into but it won’t be an overnight miracle and he could be set for a lengthy development.

It's rare for a 19-year-old rookie ball reliever to garner much attention, but Sandi Charle’s on mound improvement have made him an intriguing arm in the lower tiers of the Angels system. Tall and lean like an NBA shooting guard, Charle has long limbs and comes at you with size and aggression but has shown much better body control which aided to his strike-throwing improvements. His breaking ball has good velo and shape and can be a swing-and-miss pitch as it plays off of his low 90’s fastball with deception. He’s a relief only type but one to monitor.

After three years at Texas-Rio Grande Valley and a brief stint in Indy Ball, Christian Sepulveda signed with the Angels in April. Splitting time between Arizona and High-A Tri-City, Sepulveda was an elder statesman who performed well in Arizona posting a 146 wRC+ with five home runs, among the most total over the last half decade. Spending most of his time at shortstop as an amateur, Sepulveda played the corner infield for the year. He’s organization depth but put together a notable performance in 2022.

Signing the same day as his island counterpart Marcheco, Anthony Scull came to the Angels for $235,000 in September of 2021 and has turned a few heads in the process. The son of former Cuban baseball star and Olympian, Antonio, Scull has a swing reminiscent of his father with a closed stance, short load, and good bat speed. His season was limited to 13 games after initially starting the year in Boca Chica, and when in Arizona he displayed his offensive prowess hitting .306 with an .807 OPS. Focus will fall on the bat as he’s not as strong an athlete as other outfielders in the system, but a corner platoon bat could be in his ceiling. At just 18-years-old, the Angels have plenty of time with Scull.

The top international signee from 2021 who came to the Angels for $2 million, Denzer Guzman kept his head above water through the course of the Arizona Complex season while his performance was moderately better than league average, but age relevancy and physical based numbers indicate it was better than the on-paper product. Guzman, 18, was able to hit for a 109 wRC+ with 11 doubles and three home runs in 192 plate appearances which is fine for a blossoming prospect younger than the core of the league. He’s still growing into his frame and more power can be expected though it is likely he’ll have below-average power. His feel for hitting and finding the barrel though will keep interest in seeing him as a potential everyday player, and in particular, his defensive traits. Playing at the premium position of shortstop where he played solely in the CPX, Guzman makes smart decisions in the field and had the quick feet to make regular and challenging plays at the position, supported by a strong arm. Prior to the Angels drafting Zach Neto, Guzman was the prospect seen as the most likely to stay at shortstop long term. Following the complex league season, he earned a promotion to Low-A Inland Empire where he’s expected to begin in 2023.

After spending his debut pro season as a leadoff man in the Dominican, Jorge Ruiz picked up where he left off as the consistent leadoff man in Arizona where he outperformed himself upon coming stateside with a 122 wRC+ while making smarter decisions at the plate. A contact-focused hitter from the left-side, the 18-year-old outfielder was more aggressive at the plate which allowed him to stay in hitter’s counts and cut down his strikeout rate and SwSt% (14.1%) while adding some more intent to his swing despite still being an upper-body heavy and armsy swinger who has slap tendencies. There is limited to minimal over-the-fence power projection and he’s more set for the gaps and being a 20/30-grade power guy with instinctual baserunning due to his fringe-average speed. A solid athlete, Ruiz is a capable defender in center field and has some depth hopes.

Other Notables: Originally assigned to Low-A Inland Empire, Jenrry Gonzalez was sent back to Arizona where he shined allowing two runs in 20.1 innings with five walks and 32 strikeouts. He’s a low velocity southpaw (87-89) with a decent breaking ball who is finesse-over-stuff. Not dissimilar to Gonzalez is Luis Viloria who is a strike-throwing machine but lacks a true secondary and operates in the mid 80’s. Similar to Gonzalez and Viloria but from the right side is Luis Nunez who has a high 80’s to low 90’s fastball with natural cutting action and a sweepy slider that allows him to work away from right-handers. Nunez allowed three runs in 27.1 innings. Though rehab is usually not notable, it is in the case of Jose Soriano who was once one of the Angels top prospects. Soriano, who was taken by Pittsburgh first overall in the Rule-5 Draft and returned over the winter, has struggled with health his entire career, but when healthy offers an explosive two-pitch mix from an athletic delivery. It was no different in his rehab appearances in Arizona where he sat 96-99 early in outings but fell to 93-96 after an inning. Soriano also has a 2700 RPM slider that has been a swing-and-miss weapon for him throughout his career. One last note on the pitching was Kenyon Yovan transitioning from the plate to the mound (again). A former draft prospect as a pitcher, the Angels signed Yovan (cousin of Keynan Middleton) as a first baseman who hadn’t pitched during his senior year at Oregon. Upon his return to the mound, Yovan has worked 93-96 with a workable breaking ball, and he has dominated since returning to the mound. Matt Coutney, the Angels 10th round selection in 2022, got his post-draft work done in Arizona where his pro debut which included a home run kept the intrigue while the following eight games were lackluster but too small a sample to lean on anything. Coutney is a power bat who is set for first base and maybe some short corner outfield time. Johan Macias had a loud offensive season, batting .322 with an .833 OPS that included 11 extra-base hits in 49 games. The top undrafted player for Arizona was Mason Holt from UL-Monroe who had just 16 games by the end of the season but justice in those games with a .296/.377/.389 slash and six stolen bases, while playing some solid defense in the outfield.

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