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Los Angeles Angels Executive, Former MLB Player and Prospect Analyst Discuss 2024 Angels Top Young Players


Chuck

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By Taylor Blake Ward, AngelsWin.com Contributor

Cactus League has finished. Freeway Series has finished. Up next is the Major League season followed by the start of the Minor League season. Looking back on this spring, we put an emphasis on a handful of Angels prospects and how different perspectives came about this spring from the trained eye. We asked three different people from three differing fields about their opinions on specific players in Angels camp over Spring Training.

In a repeat article from the year prior, we asked experts in the field -- who consist of an Angels Front Office Executive, a former player who spent regular time at Angels camp, and a prospect analyst -- for their opinions on a specific group of Angels prospects and young core players.

*EDITOR'S NOTE*: Our sources were granted anonymity to express their opinions freely and/or they are not permitted by their primary employer to speak publicly on the matters discussed. Each will be noted via their working positions (i.e., "Executive", "Former Player", "Analyst"). The interviews took place on three separate days between the dates of March 25-27, which may alter some of the timelines included in the comments regarding players being on the Opening Day roster, or otherwise.

 

LOGAN O’HOPPE AND ZACH NETO:

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Former Player: Neto, I'll tell you what even watching the game last night, that ball was 110 off his bat and that was the hardest ball he's hit, period. He looked unreal in Spring Training. He's gained a lot of confidence. I think (Ron Washington) and (Ryan Goins) have made him a better fielder already. I think he was pretty decent on the backhand -- forehand, it seemed like his footwork was not right, but his footwork looks good defensively now. I really think he's going to hit. Adjustments will be made depending on how he progresses in his career. That high leg kick and all that, we'll see how all that goes. I know he makes the adjustment with two strikes but I'm more-and-more impressed. I was high on him last year and I'm more so this year. I step back, and he was hurt a few times and I know the team's record when he played was significantly better than when he didn't. Sometimes that's one of those made-up stuff, when one guy plays and when he doesn't, but he's really impressed me a lot right now. I think he's got a chance to be pretty darn good. O'Hoppe, just his leadership skills alone being in camp and watching him -- the way he walks around the field and the dugout and clubhouse. The sound off his bat -- I joked around with him last winter about the sound off his bat was almost like a Mike Piazza sound off the bat when he's consistent with it. He's special and he's working with Jerry Narron and I think you could make an argument that his defensive skills were okay last year -- granted he missed a lot of games so it's hard to put a finger on some things -- but he had stuff to work on and he's worked a lot. Jerry Narron is going to be huge for the whole catching system. O'Hoppe, he reminds me of Mike Sweeney because he used to be a catcher, but he wasn't much of a catcher and moved to first right away. It's a similar body and I think he can end up being a hitter somewhat like Sweeney although it's more difficult to hit as consistently that way when you're a catcher because you get beat up but defensively he's made some huge strides. Just the constant work he's put in with Jerry Narron has helped him out a lot.

Analyst: I think it was an approach thing from the beginning of spring and they had a better approach at the plate. Also, anytime you bring in a guy like Ron Washington you know they're going to be a little better defensively, too. On both sides, I think you saw a lot of big differences. More attacking the ball, rather than sitting back -- with Neto in particular. You saw it reflect in the statistical performance this spring. And with O'Hoppe, the dude is a leader. Leader behind the dish, leader in the clubhouse, and you expect him to be that way throughout the year.

Executive: I think with Logan, we ask -- everyone does -- but we ask a lot of our catching group and I think progress on both sides of the ball is difficult at that position. All you have to do and know the entire staff and a large chunk of our bullpen is brand new so learning the staff was a big part of Spring Training for him. But obviously we saw what he was capable of offensively. I still feel strongly that he is going to be a really, really good player. It takes time to be what ultimately what we think he's going to be in all the areas as a player, but you see progress and growth in all areas. Around the facility too he's started to take a leadership role in his own way. We have leaders on the team but he's showing that he's capable of doing that too. With Zach -- robbed of at bats last year but I thought the quality of the at bat was really good prior to his injury. Really showed what he is capable of offensively and did so in camp again this year. The ability to hit with power to all fields, not being afraid to hit with two strikes and still drive the ball. I don't know where he hits in the order. I think he hit last the last couple of games here versus the Dodgers but if that's our nine-hole hitter I'm really excited about our lineup. First full season for those guys but getting their feet wet last year I think will only serve them well and I'm excited for what they both can do on both sides of the ball.

 

JO ADELL:

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Former Player: His swing is definitely a little quicker through the ball. Defensively he's way better than he's ever been. I'm so up-and-down with him. I want to go full bore with him because I like him a lot and we have a pretty good relationship but there's still some chase in there on pitches way out of the zone. I think there's a little more patience and a little bit better idea of the strike zone and if he can ever hone that in at all, he's got a chance. He's still only 24 and just being around Johnny Washington he says the same things too and I see it -- it's there but you just have to be able to tap it. Sometimes you never get that. Some people that you think should be a star just never become that. I think he's going to be given every opportunity and I think with the current staff they have, especially with (Ron Washington), it ain't gonna be no babying anymore. It's either he does it or he doesn't do it. I think that's what he needs instead of always hearing, 'We know you have talent.' Even that bugs him when people say, 'You have a lot of talent, when are you going to do this or that?' I think he'll surprise some people and get a lot more at bats than anticipated because they don't really have a designated hitter, so he'll rotate in there and I think the more at bats he gets the better he's gonna be.

Analyst: I think we've all said it every single year; it feels like it's just a different approach every spring. It's good to not see him attacking off-speed away quite as much, but at the same time still attacking the fastball. Defensively, again, when you bring in a guy like Ron Washington you expect things to be a little bit different and I think the mindset in the outfield is just a little bit different too. That's the biggest thing.

Executive: He's kind of tinkered with his swing a few times the last few years. You saw a little bit of that this spring, but again, he always seems to put together a really good spring and I think at times showed us the same flashes. Arizona is a really tough place to play the outfield and I think the most improvement -- I think we talked about this last year -- I thought defensively he really took a step forward. What he can do off the bench, if that is going to be his role at least at the outset, is play defense and change the game with one swing. Still feel he can do that. We brought in Jake Marisnick and Jake did absolutely everything you asked him to do and showed he's still capable of being a good Major League outfielder and swung the bat well in Spring Training. I think he made a strong push to be on the team, but we feel the strides that Jo has made, and Mickey (Moniak) last year and what Aaron (Hicks) showed in camp make a pretty good group. I think Jo (being out of options) brings a different dynamic from a power standpoint that earned him a spot.

 

NOLAN SCHANUEL:

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Former Player: Again, another guy with footwork at first base -- and granted he was in college about two-and-a-half seconds ago last year -- the footwork is way better. I always look defensively first because I think the hit will always come with these guys, but he's improved significantly. I still think first base defensively is a way underrated asset. If you’re good at first base your entire infield is good. If you’re adequate, it's pretty good. If it's not good at all it reflects on all your infielders, so he's got a lot better there. I still compare him a lot to Garret Anderson in all the people asking, 'Why does a guy that big and strong not hit for power?' I think it's there. He's not a 35-home run guy but I think he's a 15-20 home run guy. You can't teach an eye like he has at the plate. His patience. His ability to spray the baseball all over the field. If he was playing any other position other than first base people would be in love with him but because he's a first baseman you expect power which is unfortunate. I think power will be there enough and I think he's -- he works his butt off too man, I'll tell you. I don't see that often with young kids because usually everything is given to you, but he works his butt off, and I think he's going to develop enough power that everything else is going to play pretty good for him.

Analyst: I'm intrigued. My report will remain the same with Nolan. The biggest question is: is he going to hit for power? The biggest change there is attacking the ball. The biggest thing there is attacking the ball with more authority at the plate and swinging like he means it instead of swinging like he's behind in the count 0-2 consistently. If he can take that approach into the season it wouldn't surprise me if he had 20-25 home runs and 20-30 doubles this year. I'm excited to see what he brings to the plate, and he could strike out a little bit more which might end up being a good thing, in the sense of translating to more hard-hit balls.

Executive: Especially here lately his approach at the plate is top notch. Put on some good weight in the off-season with the idea of adding some strength. The thing for me is people talk about the power and exit velocity -- you watch him take batting practice and he shows you. He can hit them pull side with the majority of our group in a big-league BP setting. It's in there. Obviously, what little he had last year getting to the big-league level -- a lot of times you're just trying to survive when you get up there and I expect him to take the next step. He's such a smart hitter. Same case with Zach and Logan, take the next step, both as a young player and continuing to grow at the Major League level and the confidence I think too stood out. It's a good group of players and they exude that. They exude confidence and that's part of the reason we were attracted to all those guys -- their makeup and what they were all about. Really young but advanced for his age and we're excited about the potential on all those guys.

 

JOSE SORIANO:

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Former Player: Oh yeah, unreal arm. Unreal arm. I kid you not, I asked (Ron Washington) about the same thing because I've been in love with him since they said he'd start. We joke around every day because his shoulders are gigantic, and he has an incredible build and he's got starter stuff because he's got four pitches he can throw and his curveball the other day was as good as anybody I've ever seen. (Ron Washington) said it was the best game anybody threw period in the Cactus League or Grapefruit League. You worry about his health but even when I was talking to Barry Enright, I think he has a better chance at staying healthy as a starter than he does as a bullpen arm. As intriguing as he is in the bullpen, because he can pitch and he can start -- workout, bullpen session, workout, do his light stuff in between, and then start and I think he has a better chance of staying healthy. He's as good of an arm as I've seen in a while. Everyone is going to ask, 'Can he stay healthy? Can he throw enough strikes?' I think he realizes his stuff is that good now and he doesn't have to go out and throw as hard as he can like he does out of the bullpen, and he can utilize all his pitches. He's got a pretty darn good idea. I think he's got some serious, serious, serious upside.

Analyst: I'm intrigued to see what he does starting pitching wise. Watching him from his early development, there was always a chance he could start. It came down to having a third pitch and if he can command whatever third pitch is for a strike, then why not give him a chance to start? Especially if he can remain 94-96 into the fifth, sixth, seventh inning. Without a doubt he should be able to start. Now, do you want to take out arguably your best reliever to give him a chance to start? I think the Angels are in a spot to do it, but that is a tough decision to make.

Executive: From a pure stuff standpoint I don't know how many guys are better in the league than him. I think he showed that. We stretched him out and its pure power stuff. He throws a splinker -- that kind of split-sinker type pitch that Jhoan Duran has kind of made popular and I think some other guys are throwing it now -- but it is an absolutely devastating offer that just adds to his pretty prodigious repertoire. We talk about sitting upper 90's with four-seam and two-seam fastball, power hammer curveball with a slider in the low 90's alongside of it. He's got all the weapons. I think he showed the ability to execute those weapons with consistency, certainly at times, and more often than not. Obviously hasn't started since the lower levels (of development) so you're not quite sure what it's going to look like as a starter. We had discussed it and felt the upside was certainly worth giving it another look. It's a different delivery and pitch mix from when he was starting in the lower levels, and he has a chance in whatever role we ask him to do -- I think he's going to be an impactful arm for us.

 

CHASE SILSETH:

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Former Player: A lot more confident. Big thing is they're not going to try and take away his bulldog mentality, but you have to hone it in just a little bit. Not just try to throw too much and burn yourself out. Stuff is there. He's got a rangy fastball that can be 92-97. Obviously, his split is dang good but his slider for me is a difference maker. I don't think he throws his cutter as much and I don't know if he needs to. The occasional curve but it's hard to teach somebody to have that kind of aggressive nature and those guys are hard to come by. Something about him and even talking to the Braves hitters and Kevin Seitzer last year, he thought he was one of the toughest/nastiest dudes they faced all last year and the Braves for me are still the best team in all of baseball and they didn't want any part of him. He's that guy. He's got some upside himself and I think he can settle in easy in a number two or three spot in this rotation.

Analyst: The sky is the limit. The pure stuff -- that slider and splitter combination -- reminds me of a younger Shohei Ohtani purely from a stuff standpoint. Chase has a different body and fastball obviously, but with his off-speed, he could have a similar production season to what Shohei has done in the past as long as the mentality stays where it is and he's able to throw strikes. He had a very good Spring Training. I'm excited to see this rotation in general. The mentality from the staff was very different from in the past, which was interesting, and I hope they carry that into the regular season.

Executive: Another good young arm. With him, kind of simplifying some things pitch mix wise. Going into camp he showed confidence in what he was doing and really was able to consistently execute his pitches and his game plan. He really worked hard on his curveball. Kind of differentiating that pitch from the other two-plane breaking ball he has. Both are really effective for him. He's a powerful guy. He demonstrated the ability to sustain the velocity he shows early in games into the later parts of his outings. The splitter is a wipeout pitch and I think that was more consistent like all of his offerings. I think he's on track for a really good year. He's really wired the right way like all the players we have. It's just an important component for how we want to build our team.

 

NELSON RADA:

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Former Player: By the way, for the Angels not to have anybody in the top 100 is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen too. Rada, if he wasn't 18, I'd almost say he's almost ready. I think you won't push him that early just because he's 18 and basically 17 doing what he did last year but an eye like his and great idea of the strike zone and unbelievable range in the outfield. They put him in right field one of the days I was there after playing center and he made an unreal play like it was nothing. He's not the fastest guy in the world but he appears to be the fastest guy in the world. Great baserunner. I think he'll develop power and he has that it factor where I think he knows he's damn good and he's going to be unbelievably good. It wouldn't surprise me at the very least to see him in the big leagues by 20 (years old) if he keeps developing at this level. I hate to put something on him that quickly like that but he's one of those guys that I think has a chance of being special. There's a lot of people that say he needs 1,000 or 2,000 at bats, whatever number people decide they want to put on him, but when you're good for me you're a big leaguer and he's a big leaguer. You look at that body and you're thinking if he's six-foot-three or six-foot-four doing what he's doing, he's like a top five prospect. I think that kid is -- even just the way he walks around the complex. When you walk 70 some times as a 17-year-old, that's insane to have an idea like that. When you're a kid, you think you're only moving up when you hit the ball out of the ballpark or I'm not getting hits when I'm walking. Even in camp, he wasn't overwhelmed ever. The home run he hit was a bomb too. Again, he's barely 18 and not even 19 until August, so you still wait on him but he's going to be ridiculous.

Analyst: He is a really good player. The fact that he is 18 years old and doing what he did this spring is outstanding. For me, the best thing he does is not necessarily what he does at the plate but his leadership in center field. This goes back to what he did in the regular season in 2023 at Inland Empire. He was taking charge of the scary triangle balls and little Texas Leaguers that a lot of people -- you know, 'you go, I go, ball, ball, ball' type of thing. He's taking control of those flyballs like he's a veteran that has played out there his entire career, and now he's doing it with veteran ballplayers and not A-ball kids. He's a good player at the plate too, but I think he's even more special defensively.

Executive: 18 years old in big league camp. Was there for a while and had really good at bats. Showed instincts on the bases. It's a really quick first step and he gets to top speed quickly. Instinctually in the outfield too -- same thing, good jumps. It's impressive how advanced he is for his age in all areas really. Just excited about his future. He was one of the two youngest players in full season baseball last year -- he and Ethan Salas with the San Diego Padres. He really impressed our coaching staff and myself.

 

CADEN DANA:

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Former Player: I got to work with him on one of his bullpen sessions and even in the middle of it I stopped him and go, "Give me a 2-1 slider,” and I didn't even have to tell him what that meant and he threw a perfect 2-1 slider right on the outside corner of the strike zone. Like, damn. Then I let him throw some more and say, “I need a 1-2 punchout breaking ball with a man on third,” and he was like whoof, and I was like, oh, shit. The size, the intangibles of he knows what he's doing. That's the thing. He's only 20-years-old himself but he knows what he's doing on the mound, and he usually doesn't overthrow ever. He's always mechanically pretty sound for being as big and strong as he is. There's some serious, serious, serious upside with him too. That's another guy that I wouldn't be shocked, especially depending on how the season goes, if he wasn't in the big leagues this year. It wouldn't shock me. We know he's starting in Double-A, and we know how that goes (laughs). You're in Double-A, it's like a straight line to the big leagues here for the Angels so we'll see.

Analyst: Caden Dana has a chance to be really, really good. I think we saw it in the Spring Breakout game. I think we saw it all spring. When you start getting questions about when a 20-year-old who hasn't pitched above A-ball will crack a Major League rotation, you know it's a good arm. Biggest thing is going to be the command. If he can command the ball down in the zone and get guys out that way, I think he has a very promising career ahead of him. I'm excited to see what he does in Rocket City, and we might end up seeing him at the Major League level this year with how the Angels promote players.

Executive: If you got a chance to see him the physical development is impressive. He really worked on his body. He looks great. Ball is coming out really easily while sitting in the mid 90's. Two breaking pitches. Showed a plus changeup in big league camp in games. Again, the presence he has on the mound. He has a chance to be the total package. He had a really good showing in the Spring Breakout game, starting that. Really excited for what he brings to the table and again, big league camp he put himself well. We're really happy with where he's at.

 

VICTOR MEDEROS:

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Former Player: He's another guy that I talk a lot with. I don't understand why some people don't think he has upside. He's a little bit bigger version of Silseth. Very, very tough competitor. Outstanding stuff. Nasty fastball and he's got an edge to him that -- we were joking around because he read the book on Mariano Rivera about basically simplifying things and I told him the same thing but I told him, “Every guy I faced I absolutely hated their guts,” and he goes, “I'm glad to hear that because I hate every single human being that wears a different color uniform than I do,” and I said, “That's what you gotta do everyday.” His stuff is electric. That's the thing that's crazy is the Angels have so many young starters on the Major League staff and these kids are knocking at the door very quickly. He could be a two or three maybe at worst right away with them. I think when he came up last year he was out of control, throwing too hard and very aggressive, but I think Barry (Enright) and (Steve Karsay) -- the whole philosophy of attacking the strike zone is better than swing-and-miss. When you're an ultra-competitor like Silseth and Mederos and the team philosophy is swing-and-miss, that means you're throwing as hard as you can like you're at a carnival trying to knock over milk bottles instead of throwing strikes. So that's helped him out a lot. Same thing with Silseth, but Mederos -- legit dude. Legit dude.

Analyst: Oh, this is the wildcard for me. This is where Chase Silseth was, I'd say last year. Do you think he has higher upside as a starter or as a reliever and do you think he can keep his command and control consistent late into games? And also stay out of his head as well. If you think he can keep his command consistently late into games, then he has a chance to be a good starter. But, if you think the command might not stick around for five, six, seven innings -- then you put him in the bullpen and I think he has the bulldog mentality to be one of those guys who comes in late in games with Ben Joyce and Sam Bachman, maybe, and build a backend bullpen internally quickly into the future.

Executive: Victor was in big league camp for a while. His fastball is starting to have a little more cut to it, and he still throws in the mid 90's with two breaking balls and will show a changeup. He's going to continue to develop as a starter and I thought he left a positive impression in camp in that role. He's just another guy from the mental side of things checks all the boxes. He's really competitive and smart. We're excited about his future whatever role that is. He's on the (40-man roster) and has gotten his feet wet in the Majors. He's going to start, and we'll see where it goes from there.

 

BEN JOYCE:

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Former Player: I'm actually shocked he's not up to start the year. I know there's some stuff where... I'm still in shock when he's throwing 102 and 103 and guys are making good contact with it because it's downstairs. I know that during my career when your fastballs are down, doesn't matter how hard you throw, you'll make contact with it. Now generally, it's on the ground for the most part. It's hard to believe but I don't think he trusts his stuff which doesn't make any sense when you throw that hard and your breaking ball is pretty solid too. I think he gets caught in between that slower slider-cutter combo where one's harder and one's softer. I think he's getting there though. They did some drills with him though to kind of clear his mind to not allow distractions to get in there as far as when stuff happens during the game and a guy is stealing or whatever. I love his arm. I love his body and he's got a great work ethic. I still want him in the big leagues right now, but I think he could easily be a dominant bullpen arm if he stays healthy. With him, I don't know how healthy he's going to stay just because of the full max he throws but that's why I don't waste those bullets. I'd have him up in the big leagues as soon as he's able to throw consistent strikes, because he could even walk guys and get away with it because the stuff is that good, but I still think he needs to at some point elevate his fastball. If he ever gets that feel, you know, away from the fastball at the knees, if he throws that fastball letter high and above the belt he'll get a lot more strikeouts. It's almost like Dustin May of the Dodgers. He doesn't strike anybody out either because his fastball is down, even as hard as it is. Ben Joyce has got to figure out a way that when he releases that four-seamer that he can ride it and keep it up in the zone on occasion. If he does that he'll dominate.

Analyst: Peak ceiling. The only reason I think he didn't make the Opening Day roster is, well one, he needs to command it a little better; and two, there's so many relievers you have to give an opportunity to. I do think he needs to command it better and command that secondary a lot better than what we've seen.

Executive: Stuff wise (laughs). It's an incredible arm. Early in camp we saw the control and command kind of rear its head a little bit. Some of those issues. But I thought he had a really good last handful of outings and when he's around the strike zone it's just such a good arm and he can be unhittable. The slider -- he's basically gone to one breaking ball -- it has a chance to be an out pitch for him. It was really consistent in a couple of outings and bailed him out when he was in some jams. I think then in subsequent outings he had confidence in (the slider) and allowed the fastball to play as good as it can be. Honestly, I didn't feel like his misses were that big even when he was missing. So, I did see some growth there and again, the expectation for that kind of arm is that he helps us sooner rather than later. So much potential and it's in there. You can see it.

 

COLE FONTENELLE

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Former Player: Like him. He's Corey Koskie like. Good body too, man. Switch-hitter with great hands. Good idea of the strike zone. Footwork is getting better because he's a big body. Obviously, he's not a middle infielder and he's a third baseman anyhow but he's not far off either. He's not far at all actually. I don't think he's far at all from being here because I think he can hit. I think he's going to get better with more work fielding wise, at least get his footwork down, but I'm a big fan of his. Almost has a body -- not a Scott Rolen, as big as he is -- but he's a pretty good-sized kid. Good shoulders. Came from TCU so you know he faced good competition so he's going to be a really good player. Big fan of his plus he's a great kid and he listens and wants to learn. That's one of those tools we always talk about with people being toolsy. That's a tool that I think is underrated is a guy that works and listens and learns, and I think he has all those intangibles.

Analyst: He reminds me of guys who probably played a little before your time, a throwback type. I don't know what he is at the Major League level, but I think that he's opened a lot of eyes, especially being a seventh-round pick last year. But I think he maybe has an opportunity to be a nice fifth infielder. Somebody that can come off the bench and play some solid defense at third base and be a decent bat too. We'll see how he develops in the minors this year.

Executive: Seventh rounder last year and one of the last send outs in camp. That probably speaks to how he is viewed internally. Again, just watching batting practice, him getting with our big-league team, he fits right in. Left-handed or right-handed, the ball comes off well. It's a simple and clean swing. He gives you a good at bat and consistently solid at bats through camp. Another guy who instinctually stands out. The more you watch him the more you really appreciate him. Whether it's on the bases and reading pitching situations to steal bases, curveball reads, judging outfielders and taking the extra base. He was really good on bases and might have been better defensively. Just so steady. Good first step, reads the hops well, knows where to go with the ball. Just smart and skilled player and the physical ability is pretty good too. Got a lot of run and I think if you watched the games, you probably got to see why we like him a lot.

 

WALBERT URENA:

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Former Player: He's another guy I got to work with too. He might be the best of all the arms. It's raw. It's not as refined as guys like Dana, but it's crazy good. Even better than Mederos too, I think. Like I said, it's raw so there's still some work to be done. I think he's a little bit further away than those guys but once he figures it out and once he arrives, he's a dominant arm. That's like I was saying with all these kids I got to see and how good they are. I'm always going to be a fairly positive human being but the guys I've seen over the last prior 15 years or so, I'm like, 'God almighty, how are we going to get people out? We're going to have to sign guys from other organizations' It's very similar to early in my career because we were a factory that started when we were all drafted with (arm-after-arm) and they just destroyed people for years. I think this new group of young arms are great and I think Urena has the chance to be the best of them all. Although I hear way more about Barrett Kent, I didn't get a chance to see him unfortunately. I was kind of bummed. I was trying to find a way to go and see him, but I didn't, but everyone I talked to said he's the best of the crop which must say a lot for him to be better than or as good as Urena and these guys.

Analyst: I'm a big velocity guy so you have to like the big arm. Walbert Urena -- he's kind of in that same category for me as a Victor Mederos. If you believe the command is going to be there (deep into starts), then absolutely continue to push him as a starter, but if it isn't there he still has two or arguably three good out pitches he can get guys out with late in games. You saw it this spring. But it comes down to the command and the command late into games if you believe in it.

Executive: Pure power arm. Electric. The changeup can be a weapon. The breaking ball will flash at times. He had two innings in the Spring Breakout game and was really good in one of those innings and I think showed the potential of what he is capable of. Basically, mid-season last year he added a sinker and it kind of changed his year. I think with a couple of our guys you could look at that and if you split it up into two parts and know where the change has happened, I think you'll see why we're really high on some of those guys that were just different pitchers from that time forward. Walber is one of them just from a strike-throwing standpoint. The stuff has a chance to be really good. What role it is -- I don't know. I think the step forward he took last year -- obviously really high on a teenager that throws 100 with feel for a changeup and breaking ball at times too -- I just feel even better about him. Seeing him in big league camp and showing the moment wasn't too big for him and then the Spring Breakout game and what we saw in the second half of last year. It's a lot of momentum for him. I don't know -- if people don't know his name, I feel like they're going to find out about him really quickly.

 

KYREN PARIS AND JORDYN ADAMS

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Former Player: I'm shocked at how much improvement they made from 2022 to 2023. I was thinking, 'These are first rounders?' But Jordyn is really close now. He's got sneaky power. Paris, same thing. I think the work they're making all the kids do, especially with Paris in the infield there is going to make him better. I think sometimes you can skate on talent but now I can see why they were drafted as high as they were. At the very least these guys are pieces that you move to get that final piece to get you to the postseason, or you ride these kids and let them develop and see if they can be as good as I think they can be. Are they superstars? No, but I think they're really good Major League players though.

Analyst: I'll start with Kyren. The report remains kind of the same. He needs to get the bat on the ball more because when he makes contact, he hits the ball hard. He's a good defender. He can play up-the-middle for you, he can probably play some third base, and probably sneak him into the outfield. I think he's played there before in the minors. I like Kyren a lot, but I don't know if he's going to have an opportunity to do his thing because of how the Angels look this year in the infield. Jordyn, same thing. The Angels have outfield depth. On some teams he might be a fourth or fifth outfielder, but he may not get the opportunity to play, which gives him time to grow and develop. Both are good players that I'd like to see get an opportunity like they did last year.

Executive: We talked about Jordyn last year. Kind of continuing and we pushed him to Triple-A and there was momentum there after spending part of the season in Double-A and how he came into camp. The maturity and he showed he was ready for that next step, and I still think we see a lot of positive from him. His swing I thought looked cleaner this year. More fluid and felt like consistently more on time than it has been. All the physical gifts, when you watch him leg out a triple and he's there in an instant, you know, the potential is still there. He'll be in that mix of guys we're going to call up if we have a need. Kyren got a chance to play some shortstop and second base. I thought, just piggybacking to the second half of last year was really good once the stickyball went away. Still a really good and young player, just 22 years old. The ability he has to drive the ball to the opposite field and know what he's swinging at is pretty neat for his age. Another really high character kid and we think highly of him internally. Other teams certainly inquired about his availability and all that. He's going to play a lot of shortstop in the minor leagues this year, whether that's Double-A or Triple-A, we'll see. In the end the upside is pretty high for a power hitting shortstop who can get on base, and if that's ultimately what he is that's a pretty desirable player. I think those two guys -- obviously, there's growth to be made -- but still feel the same about their abilities and the people they are.

 

STANDOUT YOUNG PLAYER OR PROSPECT(S) FROM CAMP:

Former Player: Juan Flores. He's only 18 himself, the catcher. He caught Soriano in a B-game at 10 o'clock against the Diamondbacks on one of their back fields, which is always hard to play those games. That's why Soriano throwing 97-98 was insane, but the way he caught the ball, and he blocks effortlessly -- two strike sliders in the dirt like it was nothing. His hands are great. Immediately after that I went up to Jerry Narron and Ron Washington and a couple of other guys because I heard the comparison with Pudge Rodriguez and stuff like that, and we don't ever want to do that to anybody because that's not fair, but I said, 'I played against that son-of-a-bitch for many years. This kid is pretty dang close, as far as early stages Pudge.' So, I think he's really, really good. That's a name everyone should keep an eye on, big time. I also liked this Cam Minacci kid. I was shocked at the way he threw. He threw the ball well. Another guy, Jack Kochanowicz. He's another kid with a really firm arm. I knew from some of the people from the Front Office to keep an eye on Dana, Urena, Kent, but to have my own unfiltered eyes those guys jumped out at me too.

Analyst: I mean, the two big names are going to be Caden Dana and Nelson Rada. Dana looks like he's going to be a very good pitcher down the road for the Angels. Possibly a mid-rotation arm. And, again, Rada -- the leadership in the outfield plus the bat is coming along nicely. I think those two have a chance to be a part of the Angels organization for a long time. Juan Flores as well. He's in the realm of being a very good catcher for the Angels long term. If the bat plays, I don't see why he couldn't be an everyday guy, but at the very least you have one of the best defensive receivers in the minors. I'm not afraid to say that he's one of the best, especially for his age and I think he's only going to get better. It depends on if the bat comes around. You don't compare any players to Hall of Fame players, but the Pudge Rodriguez comparisons defensively at least have some merit with how good Flores is at this age.

Executive: Can I say Soriano? You typically expect guys going from a relief role to a starting role to see their stuff tick back, or maybe they can't maintain through an outing, or maybe when you extend one's repertoire, they don't have feel for a pitch because it's something they're starting to throw more. I mean, it's five pitches and he has a feel for all of them and you can argue they're all plus-plus. Those guys just don't grow on trees. They're really tough to find. I thought just seeing him stretched out and seeing what he looks like was really exciting. When you're sitting in the scout's section and it seemed like every time he pitched the first inning, guys were like, 'Who is this guy?' I think guys know him now. He missed a couple of years with Tommy John and came in the bullpen and didn't pitch the full year, or didn't break camp with the team last year, but people are really finding out about him and how good of an arm it really is. The buzz was so loud on him it's tough to pick someone else. Juan Flores too. We were certainly excited about the potential there. Big league camp as a teenager. You can probably read between the lines there. I don't know where he's going to go from an assignment standpoint but what he showed -- another guy, he takes batting practice with a lot of the guys from big league camp and really impressive for a kid that age. And his defensive prowess. We saw him throw a guy out in a Spring Training game and the "wow factor" is certainly applicable. BP setting and you see it in a game. The kind of tools he possesses behind the plate. Not a lot of guys look like that at that age. Excited there. I know a lot of people are high on him.

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