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Los Angeles Angels 2024 Top-10 Prospects Feature


Chuck

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By Scott Allen, AngelsWin.com Columnist

My family and I are blessed to live in an area with the ideal climate, extremely fertile soil, and plentiful clean, fresh water.  And we can be divided into two distinct groups, the men and their orchard, and the women and their garden.  For us men, the best time to plant is a tree is ten years ago.  The second best time is today.  These trees require a great deal of time and nurturing, but the end result is that after a few years, we have a plentiful, sustainable yield.  But I do envy my wife and daughter.  They plant seeds, some of which sprout in only a few days.  And the crop their work yields is diverse, abundant and more immediate.  And at the end of the growing season, they harvest the seeds in preparation for next year.

Most major league teams operate like an orchard.  Invest now, and yield large, sustainable dividends later.  It makes sense.  All the best players in the world were brought up in this system.  The best teams with the best players have been "orcharding" for years.  And then there's Perry Minasian and the Angels.  They're gardening. They don't plant an apple seed expecting the tree to mature and bear fruit any time soon.  Perry and the Angels are sprouting corn and beans and seeing the fruits of their labor immediately while the rest of the baseball world sits and waits for their trees to mature. 

Chase Silseth, Zach Neto, Ben Joyce, Sam Bachman, Nolan Schanuel, Kelvin Cacares, Victor Mederos. Corn and beans.  Most of the players these guys were drafted alongside, are still toiling in A Ball.  Yet here they are, in Anaheim, looking to carve out their space and be part of a winner. Most didn't appear in any top prospect lists, but that's by design.  A tomato plant doesn't appear in any lists of the greatest looking apple trees.  

So when assessing the relative strength or weakness of the Angels farm system, we should stop viewing these prospects by industry standards, and instead look at that which could immediately produce a crop.  The Top 10 prospects in the system for the most part are in a position to impact the Angels in 2024, or shortly thereafter.  Here are some names to look out for in late 2024 or 2025, that you won't find among the Angels top prospects. 

Joe Redfield - A tall, athletic, left handed outfielder from Sam Houston that comes with plate discipline and a quiet, sturdy foundation to which he hits from.  He has a whole field approach, but has the requisite tools to turn on pitches and post some decent exit velocities.  Yes, he'll need to quiet his hands and strengthen his legs, but there's a platform for something more here. 

Camden Minacci - Likely the best closer in college baseball last season, coming out of Wake Forest, which is the premier collegiate pitching factory for the last five or so years.  He's a standard rock and fire reliever who sits in the mid-90's and get's his breaking ball over for strikes.  He needs to add either more tunneling or movement to his fastball in order to make it more effective at the highest levels, but all the pieces are there for a major league reliever.  He's a small adjustment away from the show. 

Now, let's dig into this year's crop of top-10 prospects the way we at AngelsWin.com see them ranked as of today. We'll provide an update article by mid-season where you may see guys like Juan Flores, Cam Minacci, Victor Mederos, Walbert Urena, Randy DeJesus, Joel Hurtado, Logan Britt, Anthony Scull and perhaps Joe Redfield leapfrog others currently in our top-10 should they have productive 2024 campaigns down on the farm. 

1. Nelson Rada – OF – AA Rocket City - Age 18 Season
Height/Weight: 5'8″, 160 | Bat/Throw: L/L | International Signing | ETA: 2025

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Nelson Rada would carry significantly more hype as a prospect if he weren’t part of the Angels minor league system, and that’s simply the truth of the matter.  The Angels are known for being extremely aggressive in their prospect placement and that minimizes the wow factor of Rada’s quick progression.  However, it is up to the prospect himself to perform at the aggressive placement level, and Rada did just that last season.  As a 17 year old (for those keeping score at home, a high school junior), Nelson was one of the top performers in A Ball, combining an advanced approach at the plate, enough pop to keep outfielders honest, easily plus speed on the base paths and fringe plus defense in centerfield.  

The Angels have decided to move him to AA Rocket City for his age 18 season, but I wouldn’t necessarily read too much into this.  The organization will typically have their top offensive prospects skip a Tri-City (Advanced A Ball) assignment because of the cold weather and unfavorable hitting conditions.  Still, the bottom line is the Angels have this high school senior playing in AA that already outperformed the competition in the lower levels, and he isn’t garnering much national attention at all.  That’s unfortunate because baseball is missing out on getting excited over a kid that has a unique set of skills.  Generally speaking, the prospects/young players that are in his class are Esteury Ruiz, Victor Scott II, and Enrique Bradfield Jr., all generally top 100 prospects in their own right, all expected to compete for a stolen base crown at the top level and provide elite level defense. 

If Nelson reaches his potential, the Angels could have a generational leadoff hitter like Kenny Loftin on their hands.  If he never progresses further, the Angels still likely have a major leaguer on their hands, just more of a fourth outfielder type.  That’s a huge range of outcomes.  The most likely result is a light hitting outfielder that gets on base and runs enough to hold onto a starting role, and that could manifest by Rada’s 20th birthday.  Even if Rada “merely” develops into a Chone Figgins type of spark plug, that’s still a three-win player on average, which may not make him an all-star, but could make him valuable to a major league organization for a very long time. 

 

2. Caden Dana – RHP – AA Rocket City - Age 20 Season
 Height/Weight: 6’5″, 220 | Bat/Throw: L/R | 11th Round (2022)| ETA: 2025

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Don’t let the late round selection fool you, Caden Dana was one of the best prep pitchers in the nation following his senior year.  Bosco Prep, where Dana is from, in New Jersey is the East Coast equivalent of a Harvard Westlake or Bishop Gorman out West.  It’s a private school where players are recruited from a very young age and typically go on to play after high school. Dana had a strong college commitment to Kentucky and wasn’t expected to sign unless he was selected in the first couple rounds.  As day three of the draft came around and Dana was undrafted, the Angels came calling, offering him a record setting deal outside of the first ten rounds of the draft, which was on par with an early second round selection.  Not only that, the Angels mentioned that they’d like to draft his older brother Casey as well, which seemed to seal the deal for the Dana family. 

Since being drafted, Caden has continued to open eyes in and out of the organization and is beginning to garner some fringe Top 100 consideration.  

Already solidly built for an 18 year old, since signing his contract Dana’s frame has continued to fill out in muscle.  With that physique and his long blonde flowing locks, Dana is getting lazy comps to Noah Syndergaard.  Dana’s fastball, which comfortably sat 92 mph in high school has steadily climbed and is now frequently 94-95.  The slider, which was fringe average before now flashes solidly fringe plus.  While his change piece and curve lack consistency in command, he’s usually able to keep them in the strike zone, though I’m skeptical either pitch will ever be more than average.  Still, having three average or better offerings is the starter kit for a successful major league starting pitcher.  As much as anything else, it seems to be Dana’s delivery and disposition that have helped set him apart.  His motion was clean looking two or three years ago and has remained so as a professional.  And Caden’s demeanor runs in pretty stark contrast to many young pitchers, or even current starters on the Angels pitching staff.  By watching his mannerisms, you’d be hard-pressed to find the difference between him throwing a perfect game or getting shelled. 

Dana cruised comfortably through the lower levels in his first full season as a professional and now finds himself in AA.  While Dana may flash his potential, there seems to be little reason for the Angels to challenge him beyond that level this season, but stranger things have occurred.  If Dana reaches his ceiling, he could be one of the best starters in baseball, not only offering clean mechanics and great extension toward the plate, but a solid arsenal and plus command.  At minimum, Dana appears to have two offerings that could grade out as plus if he assumed a relief role.  While I understand that’s a pretty wide range of outcomes, the likely outcome here is that of a solid mid or backend starting pitcher.  It’s likely that his fastball and slider will both be good pitches with good command of both.  It’s also likely that Dana lacks an effective third pitch which limits his ceiling.  However, he should be able to compensate for this by working deeper into games and logging high inning totals. 

 

3. Sam Bachman – RHP – LA Angels - Age 24 Season
 Height/Weight: 6’1″, 235 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 1st Round (2021)| ETA: 2023

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There was a lot of uncertainty heading into the 2021 MLB Draft. For starters, there wasn’t a lot to go off of, as there was no 2020 collegiate season and the 2021 collegiate season had been heavily limited by the COVID scare.  Teams drafted players based off of information that was nearly two years dated.  It’s understandable the Angels chose not to go that route, instead drafting Sam Bachman from Miami of Ohio.  Bachman lacked a track record due to injuries and COVID, but the information the Angels did have was more recent than anything else on the board.  It was known that despite playing in a weak conference and having an unconventional short-armed delivery, Bachman had high velocity readings, elite movement on all his pitches and two pitches that were graded “plus” if not “plus-plus.”  

Was there risk involved?  Absolutely.  Many experts believed Bachman would not remain a starter as a professional, and he’d had a variety of knee problems which can derail a pitcher’s career. Still there were several details that pointed toward a potential career as a starter.  To begin, Bachman had low mileage, and had never experienced a serious arm injury, which is the most common among pitchers.  Second, despite the short-armed delivery, he seemed to only tire in the sixth frame or later in games.  And third, once receiving professional instruction, Bachman quickly developed a changeup that was fringing on “plus.”  

So in summation, the Angels had drafted a collegiate starter with three “plus” pitches with the ninth overall pick of the draft.  Not bad.  Unfortunately for the Angels and Bachman, that’s about as rosy as the outlook would get.  Sam would suffer a variety of ailments across the next two seasons, and when he was healthy, Bachman’s once triple digit velocity seemed to fluctuate between outings where he’d top out at 93 mph or in better appearances 97.  Still, he eventually made his way to the Angels last season, and in relief, one could plainly see the potential, mixed in between lots of walks. 

The plan going forward is for Bachman to return to a starting role, but he’ll need to get healthy first, and even then, there’s a great deal of skepticism he could remain healthy and cover many innings on a yearly basis.  Still, we’re living in an era where tons of relievers are making a successful transition into a starting role.  While the success of Jose Soriano, Andrew Wantz, Garrett Crochet, Reynaldo Lopez and others remains to be seen, you can comfortably place Sam Bachman into that class of pitchers based on stuff. 

If Bachman reaches his ceiling, you’re looking at a low innings, but highly effective starting pitcher.  At minimum, you’re looking at an oft-injured reliever.  The most likely outcome here is that Bachman finds a routine and lifestyle that keeps him on the field more often that has previously been the case, but he likely isn’t going to be a starting pitcher.  

 

4. Kyren Paris – IF – AA Rocket City - Age 22 Season
Height/Weight: 6’0″, 180 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 2nd Round (2019) | ETA: 2023

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Kyren Paris is a high probability major leaguer (technically, he already made his debut), with the chance to become an impact player.  But his path to get there will be an uphill one given some deficits within his skill set.  First, the positives.  Paris was an ultra-young and athletic second round selection by the Angels in 2019.  Most of the players in his draft class are a year older, and the COVID shutdown caused most of those prep prospects to lose a year and not log a single competitive at bat until age 20 or 21.  Paris however, is still only now entering his age 22 season.  So he’s got time on his side.  Kyren also does three things particularly well that make him an asset.  He gets on base, as evidenced by his career .379 OBP in the minors.  He’s fast, he stole 44 bags last season and was only caught five times.  And third, Paris is a strong defender at second base and profiles solidly at both shortstop and even third base if necessary.  He’s even logged a few innings in centerfield. 

Given all that, it’s pretty much a guarantee that Kyren Paris will be a major leaguer in some capacity. But ultimately it will be Paris’ bat which will dictate his career path.  When he was first developed, there was physical maturing that needed to take place.  Coming back from the COVID shutdown, we saw a more athletic, muscular Kyren Paris emerge, but still, he only hit .267 in the low minors. In his first taste of AA as a 20 year old, Paris hit .359 in a 14 game stint.  Small sample size, but enough to offer a potential glimpse into a high average future.  This last season was really the first time we’d be able to get a long sustained look at Kyren Paris versus advanced pitching.  And the results were mixed.  .255 batting average, and a decent amount of pop with 23 doubles and 14 home runs.  What really stood out was the OBP, which was .393. All of this was enough for the Angels to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft and give him a September cup of coffee with the big league squad, where he hit .100 over sporadic at bats, but flashed excellent speed and defense. 

So now the question becomes, is Paris a finished product and this is who he will be going forward?  Or will his bat continue to progress further to the point where he can become an impact bat?

Rather than sending him to the hitters paradise in AAA Salt Lake, the Angels have opted for a repeat in the Southern League (AA) for Paris, and this seems justifiable on the surface.  For starters, last year the Southern League was experimenting with pre-tacked balls, which caused offensive numbers in the league to nose-dive amidst greater velocity, break and command of all pitches.  The pre-tacked balls were used in April, May and June of last season before switching back over to standard balls used in the major leagues.  Kyren Paris’ stateline in each of those months?  In April, he hit .222/.357.  May, he hit .244/.375 and in June he hit .227/.330.  For July and August, when facing normal balls?  Paris hit .306/.446 in July and .284/.432 in August.

While his power showed more in the first half versus the sticky baseball, it was evident that Paris, like the rest of the league, struggled offensively.  Against normal balls, Kyren Paris was one of the best hitters in the league.

All of this seems to point toward a future where Kyren Paris isn’t yet a finished product and could still very much be a force at the plate.  At minimum, we’re looking at a utility infielder that can be used as a pinch runner and defensive replacement.  If he and the Angels hit the lottery, we could be looking at a perennial all-star that could be a gold glover at the keystone and hit for average and power.  It seems evident based on his post tacky-baseball performance last seasons that Paris is likely going to hit for a high enough batting average and enough pop that he could emerge as a major league regular.  With health and consistent playing time, it seems possible that Paris should develop into an infielder that gets on base 35% of the time and could hit double digit home runs and swipe 20+ bases.

 

5. Dario Laverde – C – (A) Inland Empire - Age 19 Season
Height/Weight: 5’10″, 160 | Bat/Throw: L/R | International Signing | ETA: 2026

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There’s still a lot that’s unknown about Dario Laverde, but from what we do know, everything seems to be pointing in the “up” direction.  The Angels signed him for 350k when he was 16, and considering the Angels relative lack of international presence, that’s actually a lot of money to invest in a prospect.  He was originally an athletic outfielder but he’s since taken to catching.  While he’s understandably raw behind the plate, he has the athleticism and tools to someday become a good defensive catcher at the big league level.  While the height and weight reading are likely inaccurate by now, it’s pretty clear that he’s young and needs to add more strength to his frame.  But if and when he does, he could eventually develop average in game power, which for a catcher is pretty solid.  He’s done nothing but hit and get on base at every level so far slashing .306/.419/.455 in the Arizona Complex League with 28 walks to 31 strikeouts stateside, with his first full-season coming this year at Inland Empire. We should get a decent glimpse into Laverde's game this year and could report back with more information. So far he's looked a lot like former Angels farmhand, Edgar Quero. 

But as of right now, Laverde could develop into a good hitting, good fielding catcher at the major league level.  But it’s a very long road before he gets there, so fans should remain patient.  Consider Dario Laverde one of those names we log away for later, that way when he emerges over the next couple season, we’ll all be able to say we saw this coming. Another catcher to keep an eye on this season is Juan Flores, currently splitting time at C/DH with Laverde with the Inland Empire 66ers.

 

6. Jack Kochanowicz – RHP – AA Rocket City - Age 23 Season
 Height/Weight: 6’7″, 228 | Bat/Throw: L/R | 3rd Round (2019)| ETA: 2024

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Kochanowicz has one of the more interesting career arcs of any Angels prospect so far, and is likely also the most underrated prospect in the system, and has been for some time.  When the Angels drafted him in the third round in 2019, it wasn’t expected that they would be able to sign him.  He had a strong commitment to collegiate powerhouse Vanderbilt at the time, and was all projection.  Those guys tend to require first round selections in order to forego college.  The Angels offered him significantly above slot and in a surprising turn of events, he actually signed, leaving the Angels with a first round talent at a reduced price.  Before the draft, Kochanowicz had a typical big bodied profile.  Low-90’s fastball, good extension, some inconsistency hitting his spots.  Shortly after the draft at Fall instructs, Kochanowicz’ stock began to rise as he was reportedly hitting 97 on the radar gun and was repeating his delivery with ease.  

The 2020 minor league season being canceled definitely hurt some prospects more than others and it seems that Kochanowicz was one that was particularly affected by it as it robbed him of a full year of valuable instruction that he needed.  By the time 2021 rolled around, Kochanowicz had to be built back up and there were definitely some bumps in the road.  His previously stellar command had begun to elude him, and his fastball and slider simply weren’t moving enough for him to generate the type of results he was hoping for.  

So the Angels and Kochanowicz ended up lowering his arm slot in an attempt to fix this issue.  And while it did to an extent, the fastball and slider both improved, it seemed that Jack’s curveball was no longer the same weapon it once was with an over-the-top delivery and there seemed to be no development of a change up.  Jack’s fastball started to develop some late cut or fade depending on the grip and started becoming “heavy” which means it was a pitch that batters had a hard time barrelling.

In 2022, we saw a return trip back to A Ball and some appearances in the Arizona Fall League in more of a relief capacity, and while the overall numbers weren’t great, he definitely took a step forward in terms of pitch quality and location.  Kochanowicz started shifting more toward the profile of a pitch-to-contact pitcher with strikeout potential and in 2023, it started to come together for him. A five start stint in the pitcher friendly Northwest League yielded an ERA of 1.52, but upon being promoted to AA Rocket City, Kochanowicz had trouble finding success with an ERA over six, despite further reducing his walk rate. 

So with Jack Kochanowicz, we’ve reached the point in 2024 where something has to give.  On the one hand, here we have a starter that can now reach back and fire 99 mph, with a long frame and great extension toward the plate and fringe plus command of two better than average pitches in his fastball and slider and the potential for two more pitches being fringe average.  Really, all the makings of a potential all-star.  On the other hand, we have results, and they simply haven’t been there for Kochanowicz and at the end of the day, this is a results driven business.  So what gives?

2024 is going to be the proverbial “show me” season for Kochanowicz.  Either he starts producing the necessary results in AA and makes his way up to the show, or perhaps his career will need to go in a different direction with a possible move to the bullpen in hopes of generating the necessary success he should be having.  He’s another prospect with a tremendously wide range of results, on the one hand being a potential inning eating consistent mid-rotation starter in the big leagues, and on the other hand, the potential being that he’s topped out in AA.  As always, the likeliest result is somewhere in the middle, being that of a swing starter in the major leagues. 

 

7. Ben Joyce – RHP – AA Rocket City - Age 23 Season
 Height/Weight: 6’5″, 225 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 3rd Round (2022)| ETA: 2023

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Ben Joyce is one of my favorite prospects simply because of the simplicity of him and his success in his big leagues.  The beauty of his career arc is found in its simplicity.  Either he figures out where the ball is going and he succeeds in the majors, or he doesn’t.  It’s that straightforward.  

Joyce is a big, physical specimen and is the hardest thrower on the planet.  Notice I didn’t say hardest pitcher.  Pitching is a more nuanced game than throwing, it’s chess versus checkers.  Ben Joyce is capable of being a dominant pitcher in the late innings at the major league level.  He has the tools and the mentality to do it.  Now he just needs to get there.

And I’m not just talking about finding the strike zone, though that’s the most important.  I’m talking about commanding his pitches in the strike zone itself, like painting the corners, elevating or tunneling it knee high, pitch sequencing, etc…  Because if he develops even average command, his 80-grade 102-105 mph fastball and exploding slider will not be touched and he will be a dominant force as long as he’s healthy. 

And that in and of itself lends to Joyce really not fitting any mold of the other prospects on this list because there is no middle ground.  There’s no world in which he develops command and isn’t successful and there’s no world in which he doesn’t develop as a pitcher and is successful in the majors.  

And the likelihood of that development and subsequent success is anyone’s guess.  Clearly the Angels think it’s possible.  Despite Joyce reaching the majors last season, he’s back in AA this season for further refinement.  He isn’t in AAA simply because organizationally it’s been determined that Salt Lake isn’t the best developmental environment.  Some experts don’t see it happening unless Joyce sacrifices some of that speed and starts living in the 90’s where he’d be able to spot his pitches better.  Some experts don’t see it happening at all.  Some experts see him being capable of the necessary development while still living that triple digit life. 

I’m curious, what do you think?

 

8. Barrett Kent – RHP – AA Rocket City - Age 20 Season
 Height/Weight: 6’4″, 215 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 8th Round (2023)| ETA: 2026

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Sometimes, there are simply prospects that can stump us, no matter how we view them.  Barrett Kent comes across as a bit of an enigma because there are so many different directions he can go and a lack of understanding on my part as to why he was only an 8th round selection in the 2023 draft.  Bid bodied pitcher, clean mechanics, solid arsenal, clean injury history, success on the showcase circuit, coming from a big-time baseball state (TX), far better than average athleticism (just before the draft there was still discussion about him being a two-way player).  I just don’t get it.  Guys like that are usually off the board before the third round.  It wasn’t as if he was some sort of hidden secret coming into the draft the way Trout was years ago.  So whatever the case is, the Angels managed to draft Kent in the 8th round, and I think we’re all very glad for it.  But that’s not the only source of confusion here. 

Kent’s fastball sits 93-94 with some arm-side fade to it.  It’s a decent foundational pitch.  And while he’s still young, 19, he appears to have a pretty mature physique, so I’m not entirely certain there is physical projection here.  Maybe he’s done getting stronger and that’s what his fastball is, and if so, that’s fine, he can definitely work with that.  But maybe he’s going to fill out the same way Caden Dana has, or he becomes just a physical freak like Paul Skenes of the Pirates and he starts touching triple digits.  And if that’s the case, is he bound for the pen?  Does his fastball retain it’s shape or does it straighten out?  There’s some uncertainty in who exactly he is as a pitcher.  

What we do know is that as of right now, Kent has at least three average offerings with potentially plus command of all of them.  If he doesn’t develop any further, that’s the starter kit for a major league starting pitcher, and he’s only 19 years old. So is he someone that simply developed quickly in high school and is pretty much ready to deploy as a professional, or is he still going to develop and all of these average offerings he currently has will eventually be plus offerings?  Because if that’s the case, he’s an ace in waiting. 

If you aren’t sure what his ceiling is, you aren’t alone.  But we know that his current floor is probably that of a major league swing starter.  So Barrett Kent’s ranking could change a lot in the next year as more information comes in.  For what it’s worth, at the time of writing this, in his first start of the season in A-Ball, Kent went 5 innings with no walks and 8 strikeouts. 

 

9. Denzer Guzman – SS – (A) Inland Empire - Age 19 Season
Height/Weight: 5’10″, 160 | Bat/Throw: L/R | International Signing | ETA: 2026

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For the most part, fans and critics alike have to admit that the Angels affinity for aggressive promotions hasn’t hampered the organization or prospects at all.  It’s been a net positive, from Zach Neto, to Nolan Schanuel, to Caden Dana. But as with any outside the norm movement or philosophy, there will be drawbacks.  Sometimes, players won't be ready for their aggressive promotion, as has been the case for Denzer Guzman and the Angels. 

Guzman was the Angels big international signing of the 2021 period, inking for a bonus over 2 million dollars. That’s a lot of money to spend on a 16 year old ballplayer.  But at the time, it was projected that his hit tool and power both had a chance to be plus, and he’d have the ability to stick at shortstop.  That still may be the case, but we haven’t seen that player emerge yet as Guzman floundered in his first full-season at Class A Inland Empire.  Yes, he was one of the younger players in the league at age 19, but not so young that this was an egregious mistake.  Yet Guzman was overmatched, particularly to begin the season.  But if there’s a ray of hope here, it would be that Guzman clearly made the adjustments and was catching up to everyone else in the second half of the season.  

Coming into his age 20 season, I think there was a clear case for optimism, particularly if they allowed him the opportunity to repeat Inland Empire.  But this is not the Angels MO.  They’ve yet again promoted Guzman, this time to Advanced A Tri-Cities.  It will likely be his first time playing in the cold, and will be a developmental level that’s unlike anything he’s ever seen.  If Guzman makes the adjustments, it would be a huge boon for his stock.  

At this point, we could say that if Guzman hits the lottery, and maxes out on all the potential he carries, we’re looking at a solid hitting, solid defending shortstop with power.  Those are immensely valuable on the open market, as evidenced by the contracts we’ve seen guys like Carlos Correa get.  The downside to Guzman would be that he never quite makes good on the potential the Angels thought he had at age 16, that he’s periodically flashed, and that Guzman is a depth piece.  The likeliest outcome is that some adjustments are made but Guzman develops into more of a utility player that we see bounce around the upper minors with some cups of coffee in the majors. 

 

10. Cole Fontenelle – 3B/LF – AA Rocket City - Age 19 Season
Height/Weight: 6’3″, 205 | Bat/Throw: S/R | 7th Round (2023) | ETA: 2025

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If there’s a candidate for “where did this guy come from?” on the Angels farm, it would certainly be Cole Fontenelle.  He may have been more affected by the COVID shutdown than anyone.  Or at the very least, he’s got one heck of a background story. 

While Fontenelle was highly regarded in high school and almost certainly would’ve been drafted, the shutdown and subsequent shortening of the draft left his name uncalled in 2020 which resulted in him honoring his commitment to nearby University of Washington.  

While at Washington, Cole got sporadic at best playing time and couldn’t find his rhythm.  During that Summer, he went to the Northwoods League, which is one of a couple collegiate leagues that offer West Coast players an alternative to the Cape Cod League on the East Coast.  Fontenelle flashed all the tools that generated buzz after his junior year of high school.  Rather than return to Washington, where because of COVID rules, he would’ve been buried on the depth chart behind fifth year seniors, Fontenelle went the JC route.  

The only alternative would’ve been entering the transfer portal and losing a season of eligibility.  While at McLennen Junior College, he must’ve caught the eye of larger program scouts because he only spent a year there before transferring to Texas Christian University. However, before arriving on campus at TCU, Cole made yet another stop in one of the West Coast’s acclaimed Summer Leagues and this time played in Alaska, where he did a little bit of everything, putting up very solid numbers along the way. 

So here we are at Cole’s junior year of college.  Four years prior, teams were talking about drafting him.  Yet here he was, after two years of college, one year where he rode the bench, and another at a program so small we don’t have any official numbers that reflect his performance.  Things didn’t go according to plan, at least not yet.  Things actually couldn’t have gone any better while playing for the Horned Frogs.  In Fontenelle’s junior season with TCU, he not only made it to the College World Series, he hit .352 with a .473 OBP, with 14 HR and 20 SB while playing the corner infield and outfield spots.  He was one of the best players on one of the best teams in the country.  He would enter the draft portal after his junior year and his name was called in the 7th Round by the Angels. 

What he did prior to signing made for an interesting story, but it is what he’s done since signing that has opened eyes in the organization.  As it turns out, Fontenelle doesn’t appear to simply be a depth piece.  He’s a legitimately solid hitter who has more power than expected, is faster than expected, shows greater pitch discernment than expected and has the tools to be a better defender than expected.  The major league staff was so impressed by the work Cole showed, that they carried him with the major league team for the entirety of Spring Training so they could get a better look at him.  The Angels feel confident enough in what they saw that Cole was assigned to AA Rocket City, and is expected to potentially impact the big league roster later this season or next year. 

If everything clicks, Fontanelle could be a Kole Calhoun type of corner infielder and outfielder that doesn’t have one standout tool, but tends to do a little bit of everything right.  Think of a switch-hitting JD Davis.  If not, at the very least the Angels appear to have a pretty solid depth piece to fill out their upper minors roster.  It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this journey. 

Angels Guide to FV Explanation

40 - The “AAAA” player, one that spends his career bouncing between the minors and majors.  A Livan Soto or Adam Kolarek type.

45 - A low-end major league starter or typical backup in the major leagues.  A Jake Marisnick or Jose Suarez type.

50 - An average major leaguer, either as a starter or reserve.  As of right now, a Luis Rengifo or Luis Gacia type.

55 - A starter in the major leagues.  A Brandon Drury or Griffin Canning type. 

60 - A good starter in the majors that should carve out at least a few years at the top level.  A Taylor Ward or Reid Detmers type.  

65 - A major league all-star that could have a long career and make hundreds of millions.  A George Springer or Logan Webb type. 

70 - An MVP caliber player.  Potential future Hall of Famer with longevity.  A Christian Yelich or a Corbin Burnes type.  

75 - An actual MVP and future Hall of Famer.  A Mookie Betts or Gerrit Cole type. 

80 - GOAT conversation.  Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout type. 

Make sure to check out our feature (below) by Taylor Blake Ward on the Angels prospects who have graduated from our past prospect lists, as well as some of the top Angels farmhands from spring camp.. 

 

 

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