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TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Jahmai Jones, of|
|2. Matt Thaiss, 1b|
|3. Alex Meyer, rhp|
|4. Brandon Marsh, of|
|5. Nate Smith, lhp|
|6. Taylor Ward, c|
|7. Grayson Long, rhp|
|8. Chris Rodriguez, rhp|
|9. Keynan Middleton, rhp|
|10. Jaime Barria, rhp|
It was a disheartening year in Anaheim.
The Angels couldn’t overcome a slow start to the 2016 season, in part due to key injuries in the rotation, and the franchise recorded just its second losing season (74-88) in the last 13 years. An 8-19 record for June put the Angels far behind the pack at the season’s midpoint, and a 37-36 record after the all-star break wasn’t nearly good enough to get them anywhere close in the American League West Division race.
With large contract obligations to Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver and the long-departed Josh Hamilton already on the books, the Angels were not able to spend big in the free agent market heading into 2016. With the worst farm system in baseball and the organization’s most talented prospects at the lower levels, there was no real help coming from Triple-A Salt Lake or Double-A Arkansas during the season.
And so the Angels had a gaping hole in left field, and lacked the depth to overcome injuries to starting pitchers Garrett Richards, Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney. (A failed comeback bid by Tim Lincecum was particularly painful to watch.) The pitching staff as a whole ranked near the bottom of the AL in most key statistics. Even the big offseason trade to acquire shortstop Andrelton Simmons from the Braves didn’t help as much as expected, especially when he missed more than a month to a thumb injury.
The Angels also experienced a down year on the farm. The organization’s six domestic affiliates posted a combined 313-381 record. However, both Rookie-level teams made their league playoffs, with Orem capturing the Pioneer League crown.
What talent is in the Angels system is at the lower levels. Salt Lake and high Class A Inland Empire both finished in last place in their respective leagues, with the latter going 48-92, second worst among all full-season teams.
On the bright side, the Angels possess the best player in the game in center fielder Mike Trout. Still just 25, Trout put together his usual outstanding season, winning his third Baseball America Major League Player of the Year Award in five seasons while batting .315/.441/.550 with 29 homers and 30 stolen bases.
Looking ahead to 2017, the Angels will gain around $40 million in salary relief just from the expiring contracts of Weaver and Wilson. General manager Billy Eppler begins his second year at the helm and started reshaping the front office. In August, he replaced scouting director Ric Wilson, who had been with the organization since 2003, with former Cardinals crosschecker Matt Swanson. Eppler had already put his stamp on the Angels’ 2016 draft, bringing more
analytics to the process and also with four of the top 10 picks being projectable high school athletes, a departure from previous years that saw more college players taken early.
The Angels will pick 10th in Swanson’s first draft in 2017 their highest selection since 2000, when they also picked 10th.
1. Jahmai Jones, of |
Born: Aug. 4, 1997. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HS—Norcross, Ga., 2015 (2nd round). Signed by: Todd Hogan.
|Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.|
Background: Jones, who hails from a rich football background, comes by his athleticism naturally. His late father Andre played for Lou Holtz at Notre Dame and in the NFL, while brother T.J. played wide receiver for the Detroit Lions in 2015. Another brother, Malachi, played collegiately at Appalachian State. Jahmai was a star wide receiver as a high school sophomore before giving up the gridiron to focus on baseball. He passed on a baseball scholarship to North Carolina to join the Angels organization, signing for $1.1 million as a second-round pick in 2015. Jones ranked as the organization’s No. 2 prospect last year, behind first-rounder Taylor Ward, but jumped to the top of the list in 2017 as a supreme athlete who has started to add polish. Jones showed significant improvement at 2016 extended spring
training, both in his baseball instincts and with an improved physique better suited for baseball than football. Those gains carried through to his outstanding season at Rookie-level Orem, and he earned a late promotion to low Class A Burlington.
Scouting Report: Jones stands out most for top-of-the-scale makeup that will consistently allow him to play above his tools. He took on more of a leadership role in his second pro season, helping to position other outfielders during his time at Orem. Jones’ baseball smarts, quick-twitch athleticism and above-average to plus speed should allow him to stay in center field, though some observers are concerned that his body is maxed out and that he may slow down with age. He takes good routes in the outfield and consistently re-positions himself based on hitter tendencies. His average arm should be sufficient for a corner spot if he moves out of center, a likely possibility with the Angels having Mike Trout entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future. At the plate, Jones has a short stroke with plus bat speed that indicates he could be an above-average hitter in time. He hits mostly line drives with gap-to-gap power, but shows average raw power with a good swing path and likely will hit for more power as he progresses. Jones has controlled the strike zone well against lower-level pitchers and makes a lot of contact. He has the ability to make adjustments quickly but needs to work on the short game to round out his skill set. Jones is an instinctual runner who stole 20 bases in 26 attempts over 64 games in 2016. He’s a good teammate and clubhouse leader with an advanced mix of smarts, skills and effort that earns everyone’s respect.
The Future: Jones was young for his high school class and just turned 19 in August. After getting a brief taste of full-season ball at the end of 2016, he likely will return to low Class A Burlington to start 2017, but Jones could earn a bump to high Class A Inland Empire by midseason. One Angels official called Jones the most likely prospect in the organization to contribute at the big league level, making him even more valuable to a farm system lacking potential impact talent.
|Burlington (Lo A)||.242||.294||.306||62||8||15||1||0||1||10||5||13||1|