(Capri Ortiz - Photo by Jerry Espinoza)
By Taylor Blake Ward, AngelsWin.com Columnist
Last year, I started this article with a caveat that is necessary when talking about the Dominican Summer League and Arizona Complex League (which will be referred to as DSL and ACL for simplicity throughout the article). The age variance between leagues can alter the performance of any given player significantly, as ages can vary from 16-years-old to 22-years-old in the DSL and 17-years-old to 24-years-old in the ACL. Comparing the performances from a player who may be the age of a high school sophomore or junior to that of one who would be the same age as someone with a four-year college degree and baseball pedigree at a top-notch program leaves plenty of room for error in the on-paper outlook. Most of these kids or young men have yet to grow into their bodies and power may be at minimal production. Some pitchers may have matured into low-to-mid 90's fastballs and explosive breaking balls while others hardly top out in the mid 80's with no current secondary offering to speak of. Control and command for pitchers is sparse and raw, so on-base percentages are inflated due to a high number of walks. It is always fun to look at on paper performance, but each player will come with his own variance where age and experience will play a vital part in how to look at each individual performance and must be taken with a grain of salt.
If you're going to put emphasis on statistics and performance, there are some isolation performance points you'll need to focus on to see indicators for future success through development and advancement, with one consistent for both hitters and pitchers that tend to carry into development upwards of the mid-minors. For hitters, contact rate and strikeout percentages are large future indicators of ability to hit. While you never want to throw away walk rates, it's already been mentioned those will be inflated because of young pitchers inability to work around the strike zone with consistency. That is where you would want to key in on pitchers is ability to throw strikes as an isolation point of how they'll fare in the future. Strike-throwing ability (i.e., BB%, BB/9) does come as a raw base for being able to do the same at the next level without getting into athletic markers for future command. Control is a fine thing to see on paper and will come prior to command, which is needed for advancement through development into any future Major League role(s).
Before diving in, there is one last note I want to make as we will touch on the record books. The Dominican Summer League (DSL) has been in existence since 1985, with the Angels having an affiliate since 1992 taking a year away in 1997 with a shared affiliate in 1993 (Dodgers), 1996 (Rays), and 1998 (White Sox). Public statistics and records only date back to 2006, which leaves us with only 17 years of basic statistical data, and 13 seasons without. Up until 2019, the DSL had a 72-game schedule, with 2021 being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a truncated season. In 2022, a scheduling change took place where the DSL season was shortened to 56 games with clubs getting every Wednesday and Sunday off. The reason I mention this is that within my own personal record book I file away in a tab in my notebook (statistics garnered from Baseball-Reference), you will see some players in this article mentioned as being noted within the single-season records but notably off the top. You can only project so much on performance, but with players in 2022 and 2023 getting 16 less games scheduled, it's noteworthy to say a player tapped into the top 10 single season records with an idea they would have reached further up the list with those extra 16 games. You don't run into the same problem with the Arizona Complex League as a 56-game schedule has been consistent throughout its' existence starting in 1988, with the Angels participating in the league from 1989-1996 and 2001 to present and public records held throughout all of league history.
With all the caveats and notes out of the way, let's dive into some of the top performers and prospects from the Angels Rookie Ball affiliates, starting with those who spent their summer in Boca Chica with the DSL affiliate:
After missing most of his pro debut in 2022 with a broken hamate, Kevyn Castillo had arguably the best offensive season in Angels DSL history. The Venezuelan outfielder's slash line of .371/.478/.548 has never been seen before at the affiliate, with his batting average and on-base percentage being the highest among players with over 100 plate appearances, and his slugging percentage trailing only Luis Torres in 2022 (.571) -- and of course, the highest OPS in affiliate history under the same measures. Excluding doubles and home runs, Castillo ranked in the top 10 of nearly every affiliate single-season record, with 44 runs scored (tied-10th), 69 hits (10th), seven triples (tied-fifth), 35 RBI (tied-10th), 23 stolen bases (tied-ninth), 40 walks (ninth), and 102 total bases (tied-sixth). Castillo collected a hit in 42 of the 55 games he played, while reaching base safely in 50, while his 171 wRC+ was fourth across the DSL among qualified hitters. Castillo, signed for $10,000 during the 2022 international signing period, flashes four tools with power being the lesser of the group. He's an above-average runner or better with the ability to handle all three outfield positions with a fine arm for the corners (he had four assists on the season).
The Angels priority international signee for 2023 was Felix Morrobel, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic who signed for $900,000. In the 17-year-old's pro debut was solid with a .286/.322/.335 slash line with 11 stolen bases and 21 runs scored, which helped earn him a DSL All-Star nod. Despite a highly-aggressive approach, Morrobel limited his swing-and-miss at a near uncanny clip, with four of his 13 strikeouts on the season coming in his first 20 plate appearances and then just nine over his next 150 plate appearances, giving him the third lowest strikeout percentage (7.6%) of the 299 qualified hitters in the DSL in 2023. A switch-hitter, Morrobel's ability to manipulate the barrel was evident over the summer, while his power production (0 HR, .344 SLG, .050 ISO) was notably minimal (0 HR, .344 SLG, .050 ISO) and only seen to the gaps as the Angels await his physical maturation where his power projection remains below-average as a hit-over-power offensive type. Morrobel's primary carrying tool is his defense at shortstop where he is a highly athletic defender with quick feet and good internal clock to slow the pace of the game, with an above-average arm giving more confidence to his future outlook as an eventual Major Leaguer as the bat continues to progress.
Though it didn't come with the external fanfare of the Morrobel signing, the Angels were internally very excited over the signing of Juan Flores. Signing for $280,000, Flores was renowned as one of the best amateur defensive catchers in Venezuela and in the 2023 international signing class. That defense was on full display during his pro debut this summer as a 17-year-old, both on paper and the eye test, as he threw out 26-of-49 would be base stealers (53%) with just four passed balls in over 300 innings of work behind the plate. Already advanced defensively, Flores showed all the traits of long-term catching prowess with quiet receiving and framing with lateral mobility and a plus (or plus-plus pending evaluator) arm. His hitting is less rudimentary than thought while going into pro ball as he had a fine approach at the plate with some upper body overswing tendencies leading to groundballs, but also some over-the-fence power where his six home runs were fifth all-time for a single-season at the affiliate. Though his on-base percentage was partially inflated by being hit-by-pitches 15 times which ranked second on affiliate history -- trailing only Leonardo Rivas in 2015 (17) -- everything else in his offensive performance stayed in check with a .236/.352/.388 slash line and 102 wRC+. There is no question about Flores' defense while the bat will dictate what his future role would/could be, whether a high-level filler, backup, or even everyday regular at the Major League level. Between Morrobel and Flores, mixed in with Nelson Rada and Capri Ortiz, the Angels have a solid defensive foundation up the middle in the low levels of the minors.
Oswaldo Patino was a lesser-touted signing in the 2023 international class who put pen to paper for $65,000 as a smaller Venezuelan infielder, but his pro debut carried some excitement, particularly as one of the youngest in the league at 16-years-old. A contact-first hitter, Patino kept his swing-and-miss in check while his discipline and walk rates were off the charts at 25%. Among players in the DSL with 80-or-more plate appearances, his walk rates ranked 14th across the league among 1000+ players, while his on-base percentage (.513) ranked second (You can do the math if you want but it's the 99.9th percentile in both categories). Though I mentioned Kevyn Castillo as having the highest single-season OBP in affiliate history, that was among players with over 200, or 150, or 100 plate appearances -- or in simpler terms: qualified hitters -- but looking at Patino's on-base percentage in a smaller dosage of plate appearances (80 total PA), it is the highest OBP mark in affiliate history outside of two players who shared a combined 13 plate appearances, giving credence to the record books albeit in smaller sample than qualification. There isn't much ceiling to Patino who is a contact-first second base only infielder, but always worth monitoring when video game numbers are put up.
Receiving the fourth largest bonus from the Angels in the 2023 international class, Edwardo Espinal has his season and pro debut delayed until mid-July after breaking his thumb during extended spring. The 17-year-old signed for around $250,000 out of the Dominican Republic as a toolsy outfielder with upside in the bat. With only 22 games played over the summer, it was his final 11 that were attentive and had the Angels happy about his future as he slashed .290/.372/.368 in the final half of his truncated season.
One of the biggest risers in the Angels farm system is Adrian Acosta, a right-handed pitcher who signed late in the 2022 signing period for $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic and saw a velocity jump in 2023 that made his sophomore pro season one of the best in affiliate history. In his 10 starts over the summer, he never allowed more than two runs while striking out five-or-more in each outing excluding his first. Acosta was named a starter in the DSL All-Star game where he went two innings and earned the victory. His 1.17 ERA led the entire DSL and was second best for a single-season in affiliate history among those who through over 40 innings (46.1 IP), trailing only Emilker Guzman who had a 1.02 ERA in 2017 (44 IP), while his 64 strikeouts were 19th all-time in a single-season for the affiliate and comes with the caveat that all above him had a 72-game season to work with. The 18-year-old saw a velocity spike over the summer with improved command that raised his prospect status, parking his fastball 92-95 and touching 96 on occasion. He compliments the fastball with a low-to-mid 80's slider that has enough current shape and feel to receive average or better future grades. With the fastball command progressing well and his on-mound athleticism, the Angels will continue giving Acosta the chance to start through the early stages of his pro career, though his changeup is well below-average offering (very firm and rudimentary) and will be a focus of development to keep him from a relief outlook.
Ubaldo Soto was the Angels top pitching signee from the recent international class, signing for $250,000 out of the Dominican Republic and spending most of the summer as a 16-year-old pitcher in pro ball. Up until the week he turned 17, Soto got four games of extended relief work, going three innings each time out, which included two saves before transitioning to a traditional rotation role in early July. Over the season, Soto performed remarkably well, posting a 1.64 ERA over 44 innings with a 4-1 record. On this next note, I must include that the nature of a complete game and/or shutout in the DSL has some caveats as pitching all innings (or outs) of a shorter scheduled or weather shortened game can be called a "complete game/shutout" in the statistics and does not need to be a complete seven-or-nine inning effort. On that note, Soto threw two (shortened) shutouts over the summer, making him the first to have multiple shutouts or complete games since Daniel Hurtado and Eswarlin Jimenez in 2011 and fifth in affiliate history to have multiple in a season. His two shutouts were the 12th and 13th in affiliate history since record-keeping became public in 2006. Soto, a tall and loose right-hander, has all the projection traits of a starter at the next level with three pitches he mixes well in an upper 80's-to-low 90's fastball that touches 92, and feel for a curveball and changeup with advanced feel for working near the zone.
Though Soto was initially the top bonus pitcher for the Angels 2023 international class, Francis Texido was signed for the same dollar figure at $250,000 two months later after leaving Cuba in September. Texido -- the leader in ERA (0.69) for Cuba's U-18 club (source: Francys Romero, MLB) -- went from being one of the top amateur arms in Cuba to the workhorse of the Angels DSL affiliate, getting the opening day nod and never looked back posting a 2.31 ERA in 50.2 innings with 61 strikeouts, 12 walks, and 0.947 WHIP. The 18-year-old collected six wins on the season, which was tied for 10th most in a single-season for the affiliate, while his 61 strikeouts were 20th most (as noted with Acosta, all players above Texido had the luxury of a 72-game season). Tall and loose, the left-handed pitcher has a low 90's fastball with significant sink that creates weak groundball contact, while he also incorporates a curve, slider and changeup which show enough current merit and advanced command to believe in a four-pitch starter mix through development.
Among the youngest pitchers in professional baseball over the season, Davidxon Lara went from a relatively unknown amateur who signed for $50,000 out of Venezuela, to a pitcher of note in the Angels low minors. The undersized right-hander is a good on-mound athlete with advanced command and feel for the zone. Through his first six games, Lara faced 118 batters and walked just one which included a stretch of 101 batters faced without permitting a walk. Though he would walk four of the final 43 batters he faced (*sarcastically gasps*), Lara showed an advanced ability to mix his pitches and work around the zone, spending all but his final three starts over the summer as a 16-year-old. Lara operates mostly in the upper 80's and low 90's and touched 93 over the summer, with decent feel for a mid-70's curveball and mid 80's changeup. His size (5'10/165) may limit his ceiling, but Lara has the current traits of a future starter with plenty of youth to bank on.
Other DSL Notables:
Signed on the older side of the international amateur market, right-handed pitcher Anel Cabrera signed with the Angels in April as a 20-year-old and spent the summer in the DSL where his 1.25 ERA was second lowest across the entire league (trailing only Adrian Acosta, 1.17; min. 40 IP). The low ERA mark was third best in affiliate history among those with 40-or-more innings pitched... After spending two seasons as the DSL Yankees closer, Ruben Castillo was released by the pinstripes in May and quickly signed with the Angels three weeks later as a 21-year-old minor league free agent. Castillo served as the DSL Angels closer with a 39.0 K% and nine saves, which is tied for the most in affiliate single-season history with Jorge Tavarez (2016)... The DSL Angels finished their season going 37-18, holding the sixth best record in the 50-team league and earning a wildcard spot in the DSL Playoffs. As a team, they had; the third most stolen bases (121), 10th highest batting average (.257), 2nd lowest ERA (3.25), 3rd lowest H/9 (6.9), 4th lowest WHIP (1.311), 10th highest K/9 (9.7), and 10th highest K/BB (2.00). (*NOTE*: At the release of this article the DSL Angels are in the middle of a best-of-three opening playoff series with the DSL Phillies, splitting the first two games. This note will be updated upon completion of the series and/or DSL playoffs.)
After spending the first part of this article down in Boca Chica, let's head north for the rest of the article to Tempe and the Arizona Complex League where a pair of players jumped into prospect status while others have started to create a name for themselves in the low minors.
Signed as a defense-first shortstop from the Dominican Republic for $150,000, Capri Ortiz changed the script this summer in Arizona and has become of the biggest risers in the Angels system. Splitting his pro debut in halves, Ortiz struggled to start in the DSL in 2022, having a .522 OPS in his first 26 games, but turned the corner and posted a .793 OPS in his final 26 games. He carried that late success into instructional league where he became a player of note for the organization and then had a loud presence based on his speed and defense this summer in the ACL. His on-paper performance leaves a bit to be desired in a .273/.374/.345 slash line with a near 30% strikeout rate but the Angels liked his aggression in the box and on the basepaths and ability to adjust to switch-hitting which he started near the midway point of the season, with some promising signs in his ability to hit from both sides. Listed at six-foot and 150-pounds, there is significant weight and strength that needs to be added to the frame to tap into any form of power as Ortiz's game is more suited for slapping the ball through the infield or flaring a ball to the outfield while maintaining his line drive swing. When he puts the ball in play though, he can cause havoc. Posting the occasional sub-4 home-to-first time, Ortiz is more in the 4.0 to 4.1 range which grades above plus but under plus-plus, but his ability to utilize that speed only enhances the tool. Ortiz stole 30 bases over the summer which set a new affiliate record surpassing Aneury Almonte's 28 in 2002, and ranked 16th all-time in league history for a single season while being the most in the league since Monte Harrison stole 32 bases in 2014. Of note, Ortiz's 39 runs scored were the most for a single season at the affiliate since Rolando Gomez (48) and Randal Grichuk (47) in 2009. Along with 18-year-old's speed is the ability to handle a premium defensive position with ease as his quick feet allow him to cover plenty of ground at shortstop, while his internal clock allows him to slow the pace of the game and let his quick release and average arm do the rest. Ortiz may never grow into offensive impact and be more suitable as a bench player by the time he nears the Majors, but his speed and defense give merit to his future role at the upper levels while the bat will dictate whether or not be becomes an everyday player.
When doing my post-season rounds last October to accumulate information for prospect rankings, one name jumped out as one I had never heard previously mentioned as a "prospect" but a standout performance in the DSL (which was noted in this article last year) and during instructional league left me curious about someone who "could be the next Edgar Quero". Though the results of Quero haven't been matched quite yet, Dario Laverde has put his name on the map for Angels prospects and has put up similar performance markers with similar tools to a young Quero to make sense of the comparison. The left-handed hitting catcher who signed for $350,000 out of Venezuela had a .306/.419/.455 slash line with 28 walks and 31 strikeouts on the year as an 18-year-old, while his 123 wRC+ was in the 74th percentile across the league. Laverde started catching around a year prior to signing as a professional, converting from the outfield, and has plenty of raw traits behind the plate that have to be refined before trusting him as a long-term backstop. His arm can grade out as average or better, but his transfer and footwork may need an overhaul to allow his arm to play. An outstanding athlete, Laverde has solid lateral movement and blocking skills, so there is a foundation and building blocks to keep him behind the plate. For as raw as his defense is, his offensive skillset is far more polished than most in his age range. Laverde is a disciplined hitter with a focus on seeing pitches and driving pitches in his hot zone to the gaps. There isn't much power in his five-foot-10 frame, but enough to believe his contactability will translate into the occasional over-the-fence pop. Though it may be hard to project Laverde into what Quero became (Top-100 prospect who warranted a Lucas Giolito return), Laverde has the tools to dream on a platoon catcher with offensive upside and he will become the Angels top catching prospect upon Logan O'Hoppe's prospect graduation.
(Dario Laverde - Photo by Jerry Espinoza)
Signed for $235,000, Anthony Scull was part of a duo from Cuba who signed with the Angels on September 6, 2021, joining Jorge Marcheco. Both got a quick trip to Boca Chica where Scull was able to play 10 games with some lackluster performance and was initially assigned back to the DSL to start 2022, but after one plate appearance was sent back stateside to Arizona where he performed well in a limited 13-game sample. Scull repeated his offensive success in 2023, slashing .300/.377/.453 with seven doubles, five triples, and three home runs. Scull started the season with a 12-game hitting streak and collected a hit in 24 of his first 27 games while batting .363 and having an OPS that hovered around 1.000 throughout. His bat cooled off for the latter half of his season hitting .206 in his final 21 games with a 33.3 K% (13.7 K% in first 27 games). The 19-year-old outfielder is more a sum of all parts kind of player as opposed to having a real standout or carrying tool, not dissimilar to fellow Angels Cuban farmhand Orlando Martinez. The son of former Cuban baseball star and Olympian, Antonio, the younger Scull has a swing reminiscent to his father with a closed stance, short load, and present bat speed that make him a line-to-line hitter with focus on the bat being his ability to utilize the barrel and occasionally tap into some gap power, while his defense may be limited to a corner outfield position as he's only a fringe athlete. There's a lot to like about the overall package Scull provides and players of his caliber sometimes turn into platoon-type players at the upper levels and into the Majors, though his status as a prospect remains limited.
After turning heads in his pro debut in the Dominican, Luis Torres carried his near unmatched DSL year into video game type numbers to start his sophomore pro season in Arizona, slashing .583/.659/.889 in his first 10 games which included four doubles, two triples, and a home run. He earned a quick promotion to Low-A Inland Empire where he had a three-hit game in his full season debut and three more hits in the two games following but quickly cooled off against elder and more polished talent collecting just five hits in his next 15 games and was sent back to Arizona. Some inconsistencies came in his second stint with the ACL affiliate as he hit .250 with a .719 OPS and 29.1 K% in his final 19 games with Tempe. For the bulk and completion of his season, his 150 wRC+ was seventh best across the league among hitters with 100+ plate appearances. The inconsistencies haven't deterred Torres' status as a low-level follow (as opposed to a solidified prospect), but the 19-year-old Dominican still may have finally seen his free and loose swing be exposed to some holes while he began to chase at more pitches out of the zone with both approach and swing refinements needed. Signed for $10,000 in February 2022, Torres has a large physique that allows him to tap into hard contact and over-the-fence power from the right side. Though he's limited to first base only defensively, Torres has enough feel for hitting and the power production to continue monitoring how he can cut down his chase rates and overswing tendencies to potentially grow into a prospect with a likely trip to full season ball next season.
Cristian Garcia has spent the last three summers between the DSL and ACL with steady performance based mostly on plate discipline. Garcia, a 19-year-old corner infielder, has progressively walked his way through Rookie Ball (pun intended) with his 2023 campaign seeing 37 free passes, which rank fourth in Angels AZL/ACL affiliate history and the most since 1993. There isn't much in terms of prospect status when it comes to Garcia, as he's a fringy athlete with a below-average hit tool, but players of his caliber tend to make waves for their on-base percentage in the low minors and grow into monitoring status as they progress through development in hopes that more repetition can turn particular offensive tool into a fringe/average skill. On the season, Garcia slashed .266/.418/.413.
Drafted by the Angels in the fourth-round of the 2019 MLB Draft, Erik Rivera is one of just seven remaining players drafted and signed by the Angels in that class. Rivera was drafted as a two-way player with upside as a power hitting outfielder from the left side and power southpaw on the mound. Following the draft, the Angels sent him out strictly as a designated hitter and it was evident his future would be on the mound which would wait until the following season which would not occur due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his first pro pitching outing, Rivera tossed over three scoreless with Low-A Inland Empire, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out six, but saw his velocity dip quickly in his final outing. It's been a long road for Rivera since that point as a tear in his UCL required Tommy John surgery followed by some unspecified complications which caused him to miss the rest of the 2021 season, all of the 2022 season, and most of the 2023 season. Rivera returned to the mound on the second day of August this summer for the first time in over two years but showed similar tools to what made him such an alluring pitching prospect prior to surgery. He came out sitting 92-93 while touching 96 over the summer, while still flashing a plus changeup and signs of a breaking ball. Control dogged Rivera through his five brief outings in Arizona, as he walked 13 of the 37 batters, he faced but when he was near the zone, he was unhittable allowing just three hits to those same 37, striking out 11. Though he's an elder statesman for a low-level arm at 22-years-old, Rivera being healthy and green on the mound is a boon for the Angels pitching depth, particularly with so few left-handed pitching prospects. He'll need to show more command and control to return to his prospect status from prior years, but the raw package remains near the same as when he was a highly touted youngster after the draft.
A standout from extended spring, Keythel Key is a relatively unknown pitching project who has garnered some attention as a low-level arm with tools that could carry him into more than organization filler status. Most of Key's success comes in flashes as opposed to frequency, which was evident in his summer in the ACL where he had performed on par with most of the league average, posting a 4.53 ERA, while walking 32 and striking out 40 over 43.2 innings. Key is a tall and lean 19-year-old with good on-mound athleticism who operates mostly in the low 90's with some mids in the bag, with a slider that flashes average. There's a lot of raw tools -- particularly in fastball command and ability to consistently snap his breaking ball -- but enough to like about Key and his athletic markers and projection to continue monitoring him.
Of the Angels 19 draft picks in 2023, 13 started their pro career in Tempe. Nolan Schanuel (1st round), Alberto Rios (3rd round), Joe Redfield (4th round), Cole Fontenelle (7th round), Caleb Ketchup (15th round), and Mac McCroskey (20th round) all got less than a handful of games each before shipping out to affiliates, with Schanuel being the clear standout not only as a first-rounder but as a Major Leaguer only 21 games into his pro career. Seven of the 13 found less temporary residence in Arizona and spent the full start of their pro careers in Tempe. John Wimmer (11th round), an athletic shortstop with spark plug offensive upside from Rock Hill High School (SC), struggled against elder pitching in nine games, striking out in half of his plate appearances with a .432 OPS. Rio Foster (16th round), an athletic and physical high-ceiling outfielder from Florence-Darlington Tech (SC), struggled in a brief eight games as his active swing brought swing-and-miss with it, striking out 10 times in 25 plate appearances with a .414 OPS. Opposite his draft mates, Raudi Rodriguez (19th round) hit pro ball in stride over a brief 12 games, slashing .368/.415/.447, despite being viewed as the rawer product and free swinger of the previously mentioned pair. In recent years under Perry Minasian's regime, the Angels have pivoted savings from the second day of the draft to go well over slot with an early teen pick, but altered that course this year (in a way) and had their big bonus player come in the eighth-round in Barrett Kent, a tall and projectable right-handed pitcher from Pottsboro High School (TX) with a low-to-mid 90's fastball and trio of off-speed offerings that could grade out as average. Kent pitched well in his brief pro debut, allowing six baserunners without permitting a run while recording 14 outs over two stints, striking out five. Chase Gockel (9th round), a right-handed pitching grad student from Quincy University with a mid-90's fastball, struggled to find the zone in four brief outings walking 12 of the 23 batters he faced. Riley Bauman (13th round), a right-handed pitcher from Abilene Christian who returned from Tommy John late this spring showing a mid-90's sinker, got a quick taste of post-surgery action in pro ball allowing five runs in four innings of work.
The Angels transitioned catcher Straton Podaras, infielder Christian Sepulveda, and outfielder Darwin Moreno to the mound progressively through the summer, with all sitting around 89-91 and topping around 93. This wasn't dissimilar to what they did with Logan Britt and Mario Zabala. Both Britt and Zabala were draft prospects as prep outfielders in 2020 but their star dwindled during their collegiate careers. Britt faced three batters in college (Abilene Christian) before the Angels took him as a pitcher in the 17th-round in 2023. Zabala was a two-year starter at Florida International but was limited to pinch-running duties his junior season with just 15 batters faced on the mound with minimal success, but the Angels consider both as pitchers at this point and will continue their development as such. I have no report on Britt or Zabala as pitchers currently.
Other ACL Notables:
The Angels hit the NDFA/UDFA (whichever/whatever you want to call it) market quick and heavily after the draft signing some of the more notable non-drafted draft prospects with the headliners being catcher Caleb Bartolero (Troy), shortstop Andy Blake (Columbia), and outfielder Landon Wallace (West Virginia). Bartolero and Blake played well, albeit in six game stints each, in Arizona while Wallace went hitless in his first four games, he turned the corner quickly over his final six games going 8-for-14 (.571). Infielder Will McGillis (South Carolina) was not among the notable UDFA's but took advantage of his collegiate experience as a 24-year-old sporting a .378/.525/.644 slash line in 59 plate appearances, collecting hits in 12 of the 15 games he played and reaching base safely in 14. His 191 wRC+ was second highest across the league among hitters with 50-or-more plate appearances...
For the third consecutive season, Alex Martinez has held court in the Angels ACL bullpen, as his 1.17 ERA in 2023 was third lowest across the league (min. 20 IP). The undersized right-hander who is fastball dominant has now spent the last three summers in Arizona with a combined 0.92 ERA, 14.1 K/9, and 37.2 K%...
18-year-old outfielder Ramon Ramirez was an offensive staple to the DSL Angels in 2022 and garnered attention as more than just a low-level organization filler though not quite into prospect status. After collecting one hit in his first six games with sparse playing time, the left-handed hitter got back into a hitting groove over his last 12 games hitting .313 with five extra-base hits and a .965 OPS...
Randy de Jesus was a touted amateur outfielder from the Dominican Republic when the Angels signed him for $1.2 million in 2022, but his first taste of stateside ball left some questions about the consistency his bat will offer. Scouts still like the foundation de Jesus provides but there is a lot of fine tuning before tapping into even part of the finished product which still may be a power-only offensive base with too much swing-and-miss to get to any ceiling. Splitting his seasons into quarters, his final three-quarters showed glimpses of success with a .282/.343/.366 slash line and much lower 23.0 K% compared to the 29.6 K% in his first 12 games... Three players who suffered season-ending leg or knee injuries in 2022 returned to action in 2023 in the likes of infielders Edgar Alfonso and Luis Rodriguez, and outfielder Natanael Santana. Alfonso, 19, is a light-hitting speedster from Cuba who didn't showcase his plus to plus-plus speed on the basepaths frequently during the season but walked a bit and hit .247 over 35 games. Rodriguez, 18, was a big-bonus baby out of Venezuela on the international market (though his actual bonus has differing reports and has not been confirmed to this writer) who showed impressive tools at instructional league in 2022 and got his first taste of pro ball in 2023 in Arizona performing around league average with a .791 OPS and two home runs. Santana, 22, became a name to follow in 2021 after showcasing impressive power and speed tools from an impressive physique but was sidelined in 2022 with a knee injury. The raw offensive product is still in play for Santana as he struck out in nearly 35% of his plate appearances but still showcased the same tools as before. It's unlikely he'll be able to hit enough to hit his immense ceiling, and may be forever stuck in the low minors, but remains an interesting follow.