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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Sean Newcomb, lhp|
|2. Ricardo Sanchez, lhp|
|3. Cam Bedrosian, rhp|
|4. Chris Ellis, rhp|
|5. Joe Gatto, rhp|
|6. Victor Alcantara, rhp|
|7. Jairo Diaz, rhp|
|8. Alex Yarbrough, 2b|
|9. Nick Tropeano, rhp|
|10. Kyle McGowin, rhp|
The Angels went all-in for 2014, seeking to return to the postseason for the first time since 2009, and in that way the strategy paid off.
Major League Baseball’s best record, at 98-64, was based in Anaheim. But the Angels couldn’t get past the American League Division Series, getting swept by the Royals in three games, although two of the losses came in 11 innings.
The Angels’ success guarantees another year of stability for third-year general manager Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, who finished his 15th season as manager.
Los Angeles’ roster and $128 million payroll features expensive free agents surrounding MVP Mike Trout, and bringing in Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson all cost the Angels high draft picks. So the club went the trade route in 2014 in order to build a contender.
Then the Angels sent homegrown slugger Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal that netted pitching depth in lefthanders Tyler Skaggs from the Arizona and Hector Santiago from the White Sox. Skaggs, who was originally drafted by the Angels, got back on track with 18 solid starts before having Tommy John surgery in August, while Santiago filled the role of swingman for the Halos. The Angels rebuilt their bullpen on the fly, and the last big deal came in July, when four of the organization’s top prospects were bundled to the Padres for experienced closer Huston Street and minor league reliever Trevor Gott.
The Angels farm system already ranked last out of 30 organizations prior to the flurry of trades, but several homegrown rookies still made a major league impact. Rookie DH/first baseman C.J. Cron provided a power bat in the lineup, and righthander Mike Morin provided a consistent relief arm. The biggest boost came from 27-year-old righty Matt Shoemaker, who spent parts of four seasons at Triple-A Salt Lake. He filled the void when ace Garrett Richards went down for the season in August with a serious knee injury and went 16-4, 3.04 overall.
The talent left on the farm remains thin, though three of the organization’s six affiliates qualified for postseason play in 2014. More importantly, the Angels had a first-round pick for the first time since 2011, taking college lefthander Sean Newcomb. He quickly jumped to the top of the prospect list with an impressive pro debut, and he should move quickly through the system. Scouting director Ric Wilson has moved the organization to a more college-focused plan, looking for players who control the strike zone on both sides of the ball.
The Angels’ last two drafts have been pitcher-heavy, with their first five picks in 2014 and first seven in 2013 being pitchers. The organization’s renewed emphasis on signing Latin American prospects, which began with the opening of a new complex in the Dominican Republic, and the work of international scouting director Carlos Gomez also show signs of boosting the farm system.
But the emphasis on developing pitching depth has left the system devoid of projectable position players, with only one hitter among the Top 10 Prospects.