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Top Ten Prospects: Los Angeles Angels
Complete Index of Top 10s

By Alan Matthews
February 3, 2006


Chat Wrap: Alan Matthews took your Angels questions
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.

In the Angels' first 40 years, the franchise made just three postseason appearances. In 2005, they won their second straight American League West title and secured their third postseason appearance in the last four years, continuing a run that started with a World Series title in 2002.

A franchised once mired in mediocrity has become one of baseball's best. Under the aggressive ownership of Arte Moreno and the baseball leadership of general manager Bill Stoneman and manager Mike Scioscia, the Angels show no signs of decline.

Armed with Moreno's wallet and a farm system brimming with talent, Los Angeles built the AL's steadiest team last year. The Angels broke away from the Athletics down the stretch, winning 21 of their final 30 games to finish 95-67, the second-most wins in franchise history. Their Division Series victory against the Yankees provided a perfect illustration of the organization's balance. AL Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon—Moreno's first major free-agent acquisition—left in the second inning of Game Five with shoulder problems, so in came rookie Ervin Santana, who began the year in Double-A. Santana tossed 5 1/3 innings and earned the victory as Los Angeles eliminated New York from the playoffs for the second time in four seasons.

The Angels will continue to be major players on the free-agent market. Prior to the 2005 season, Stoneman signed Paul Byrd, Orlando Cabrera and Steve Finley. While Finley had a forgettable year, Byrd and Cabrera were key pieces. But Stoneman can also rely on the farm system as well, which is what should give the organization staying power. Few organizations rival the Angels for potential star position players waiting in the wings.

Casey Kotchman officially graduated from the minors in 2005 and is ready to play regularly at first base. Dallas McPherson was plagued by back problems last year, but he's another potential run-producer for the middle of the lineup. Santana established himself as a reliable starter. None of those three qualify for the prospect list any longer.

But the farm system is still loaded. The middle-infield situation is indicative of the Angels' depth in the majors and minors. No. 1 prospect Brandon Wood set an Angels minor league record with 43 homers in 2005. He plays shortstop, as do No. 3 prospect Erick Aybar and Cabrera, both of whom are further up the organizational ladder. No. 2 prospect Howie Kendrick has a .359 career average as a pro, and he has big leaguer Adam Kennedy and No. 8 prospect Alberto Callaspo looming ahead of him.

Catcher Jeff Mathis will get a lot of big league playing time after Bengie Molina declared free agency. Righthander Jered Weaver and lefty Joe Saunders could factor into the rotation, and don't rule out Cuban defector Kendry Morales claiming some at-bats at first base or DH.

The Angels aren't as strong with pitching prospects, a shortcoming they've tried to address in scouting director Eddie Bane's two drafts. Los Angeles spent $4 million to sign Weaver, its first-round pick in 2004, a week before he would have re-entered the 2005 draft. Another 2004 draftee, 40th-round righthander Stephen Marek, signed for $800,000 as a draft-and-follow after lighting up radar guns in junior college. The club has high hopes for its pitching crop from the 2005 draft, led by righthanders Trevor Bell (first round) and Tommy Mendoza (fifth).

Call them what you like: California, Anaheim, Los Angeles. The Angels have a new identity and have become the preeminent team in Southern California.


1. BRANDON WOOD, ss      Born: March 2, 1985 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 185
Drafted: HS--Scottsdale, Ariz., 2003 (1st round)   Signed by: Jeff Scholzen

Background: When Wood was a good-fielding, light-hitting freshman at Horizon High (Scottsdale, Ariz.) in 2000, he wore No. 4, not because he liked the number but because it was the only jersey small enough to fit him. He since has filled out to become one of the game's top power prospects. His power started to emerge in 2003, when he hit 20 homers as a Horizon senior—two shy of the Arizona prep record—and became a first-round choice, signing for $1.3 million. The Angels wanted an outfielder with their 23rd overall selection that year, but Chris Lubanski, Lastings Milledge, Brian Anderson and Brad Snyder all went off the board before their pick. Wood hit a modest .263 with 16 homers in his first two pro seasons before breaking out in 2005. He slammed 58 homers between the minors, the Arizona Fall League and Team USA. He led the minors in doubles, homers (breaking the Angels' minor league record), total bases and extra-base hits, becoming the first minor leaguer to do so since Len Tucker in 1956. Then he set an AFL mark with 14 homers in 29 games, going deep four times in one contest. He capped his year with one more homer and earned all-tournament honors as Team USA won an Olympic regional qualifier. He had many believers in his potential and projection, but no one predicted he would blossom so fast.

Strengths: Wood's package of power, hitting, all-around defensive skills and championship-caliber makeup prompted one high Class A California League manager to dub him the next Cal Ripken. Wood is an aggressive hitter who attacks pitches with outstanding bat speed while hitting from a slightly open stance. Early in the 2005 season, he occasionally slid his back hip during his swing, collapsed his back side and got underneath balls. He adjusted quickly and learned to take a more direct path to the ball. Wood's swing has leverage that elicits shots with backspin, loft and plenty of carry. "Out of all those home runs, there may have been one or two balls that just cleared the fence," said James Rowson, Wood's hitting coach at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga. "The other 40 were gone right off the bat." Wood's long, thin frame figures to get stronger as he matures. His soft hands, plus arm and great instincts allow him to make all the plays at shortstop. He presently has average speed.

Weaknesses: As Wood gets bulkier, he will slow down and lose range. While he has the tools to compensate and remain at shortstop, he may profile better at third base with the power in his bat and his arm. He can drive balls to all fields but because of his bat speed and set-up, he opts to pull almost everything. That approach makes him vulnerable to pitches on the outer half. He has had trouble with swinging and missing against good changeups, and he could tighten his strike zone in general.

The Future: Wood should develop into a perennial all-star infielder at either shortstop or third base. The Angels have more premium middle-infield prospects than any organization, and they'll soon be faced with a difficult shortstop decision with incumbent Orlando Cabrera signed through 2008 and both Erick Aybar and Wood pushing for big league consideration. For now, Wood is ticketed to play shortstop at Double-A Arkansas in 2006. But Los Angeles also doesn't have a clear-cut third baseman, and he quickly could become its solution at the hot corner.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Rancho Cucamonga (Hi A) .321 .383 .672 536 109 172 51 4 43 115 48 128 7 3
Salt Like (AAA) .316 .316 .526 19 1 6 2 1 0 1 0 6 0 0


2. HOWIE KENDRICK, 2b        Born: July 12, 1983 B-T: R-R Ht: 5-10 Wt: 180
Drafted: St. John's River (Fla.) CC, 2002 (10th round)   Signed by: Tom Kotchman

Background: The Angels originally selected Kendrick as a draft-and-follow, but at the behest of area scout Tom Kotchman they signed him right away for $100,000. Kendrick began his pro career 4-for-40 in Rookie ball—and has hit .369 since. Last year he finished second in the minors (.367) and fourth in the Arizona Fall League (.380) in hitting.


Strengths:
Kendrick may be the best pure hitter in the minors. His swing is compact, balanced and easily repeated. He lets pitches get deep before centering them and driving them to all fields. His swing doesn't create much loft, but he should hit at least 15-20 homers annually because of his bat speed and penchant for making hard contact. His instincts are exceptional in all phases of the game, which makes him an average baserunner and should allow him to develop into a competent defender.

  

Weaknesses:
Kendrick's non-hitting tools aren't special. He has fringe-average speed, and his range, arm and defensive footwork are average at best. He makes contact so easily that he rarely walks. He occasionally chases offspeed stuff, but pitchers haven't found a way to get him out.

  

The Future:
Kendrick could win multiple batting titles in the big leagues. Angels starter Adam Kennedy will be a free agent following the 2006 season, at which point Kendrick should take over. He's ready for Triple-A Salt Lake, though Los Angeles also must figure out how to get Alberto Callaspo at-bats with the Stingers.


2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Rancho Cucamonga (Hi A) .384 .421 .638 279 69 107 23 6 12 47 14 42 13 4
Arkansas (AA) .342 .382 .579 190 35 65 20 2 7 42 6 20 12 4


3. ERICK AYBAR, ss    Born: January 14, 1984 B-T: B-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 170
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2002   Signed by: Leo Perez/Clay Daniel

Background: When the Angels signed Aybar for $100,000 in 2002, he was considered a lesser prospect than his brother Willy, who had signed with the Dodgers for $1.4 million two years earlier. Erick has developed into a better player and the pure shortstop the Angels hoped, while exceeding expectations for his bat. He hit just .226 through mid-May last year before he adjusted his approach, leading the Double-A Texas League in hits while finishing second in triples and stolen bases.


Strengths:
Though undersized, Aybar packs some pop in his swing. Early in the year he was trying to pull everything out of the park before Angels minor league hitting coordinator Ty Van Burkleo encouraged him to shorten his swing. Aybar got back to doing what he does best: spraying line drives to all fields and using his plus speed to set the table. He has plus actions at shortstop, turns the double play with aplomb and has enough arm strength to make plays deep in the hole. He plays with passion and consistently has been a catalyst.

  

Weaknesses:
Aybar remains a free swinger. If he's going to reach his ceiling as a leadoff hitter, he must improve his plate discipline and willingness to work counts. He plays with a fearless energy that borders on recklessness. He needs to show better judgment on the bases, and many of his errors come when he rushes off-balance throws.

  

The Future:
Headed for Triple-A, Aybar is sandwiched between big league starter Orlando Cabrera and top prospect Brandon Wood. The best—and most cost-effective—solution eventually will be to find a taker for Cabrera, hand shortstop to Aybar and move Wood to third base.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Arkansas (AA) .303 .350 .445 535 101 162 29 10 9 54 29 51 49 23


4. JEFF MATHIS, c        Born: March 31, 1983 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 180
Drafted: HS--Marianna, Fla., 2001 (1st round supplemental)   Signed by: Tom Kotchman

Background: Mathis had a miserable second half in 2004 and was ticketed for a return to Double-A in 2005 when Triple-A catcher Wil Nieves was traded to the Yankees, opening a spot at Salt Lake. Mathis had a fine season, re-establishing himself as one of the game's top catching prospects and making his big league debut in August.


Strengths:
Mathis is the consummate defensive catcher. He's athletic, which enables him to block, catch and throw with ease. His arm strength is at least average and plays better because of good footwork and clean exchange. He threw out 33 percent of basestealers in Triple-A. A true leader, he handles pitchers well. Mathis matured as a hitter last season, shortening his swing and reducing the rotation in his lower half to improve his plate coverage and efficiency. He profiles as a .250-.270 hitter with 15-20 homer potential. While he's a slightly below-average runner, he has good instincts on the basepaths.

  

Weaknesses:
Mathis needs to do a better job of covering the outer half and laying off breaking balls out of the zone. He tends to overanalyze and press, which got him into trouble in 2004. He made adjustments better and improved his mental approach last year.

  

The Future:
The Angels never doubted that Mathis had the makeup to rebound from 2004. His bat isn't quite ready for everyday duty in the majors, but Bengie Molina's departure via free agency means Mathis will play a significant role in Los Angeles.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Salt Lake (AAA) .276 .340 .499 427 78 118 26 3 21 73 42 85 4 3
Los Angeles (AL) .333 .333 .333 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0


5. JERED WEAVER, rhp       Born: October 4, 1982 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-7 Wt: 205
Drafted: Long Beach State, 2004 (1st round)   Signed by: Bobby DeJardins

Background: Weaver had one of the most dominant college seasons ever in 2004, going 15-1, 1.63 with 213 strikeouts in 144 innings to win Baseball America's College Player of the Year award. The top-rated prospect for the 2004 draft, he dropped to the Angels at No. 12 because of concerns about his price tag. Weaver held out until a week before the 2005 draft before agreeing to a $4 million bonus. He reached Double-A in his pro debut and later pitched in the Arizona Fall League and the Olympic regional qualifier. His brother Jeff has won 78 big league games in the last seven seasons.


Strengths:
Weaver owns the system's best combination of present stuff and command. His arm is loose and fast, and he works from a three-quarters arm slot slightly higher than that of his brother. He relies on a nasty 86-90 mph two-seam fastball, a 91-93 mph four-seamer, a slider and a changeup. He pitches with tenacity and passion.

  

Weaknesses:
Weaver's command is more notable than his stuff, and some scouts think he's more of a No. 3 starter than a headliner. He's an extreme flyball pitcher—his 0.4 ground/fly ratio was the second-lowest in the minors—and is vulnerable to homers. His slider grades as an above-average pitch at times but lack consistency. He often over-rotates in his delivery and gets around his slider, hanging it. A free spirit, he loses his cool at times.

  

The Future:
Some hyperbolic scouting reports declared Weaver as big league-ready when he entered pro ball, but he struggled at times in Double-A and is at least another half-season away from joining the Angels. He'll probably open 2006 in Triple-A.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Rancho Cucamonga (Hi A) 4 1 3.82 7 7 0 0 33 25 3 7 49 .205
Arkansas (AA) 3 3 3.98 8 8 0 0 43 43 5 19 46 .250


6. NICK ADENHART, rhp     Born: August 24, 1986 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 190
Drafted: HS--Williamsport, Md., 2004 (14th round)   Signed by: Dan Radcliff

Background: When his senior season started in 2004, Adenhart ranked with Homer Bailey as the top high school pitching prospects in the nation. But a few weeks before the draft, Adenhart blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery. Seemingly headed for North Carolina, he signed for $710,000 as a 14th-round pick. He came back stronger and earlier than expected in 2005, rating as the No. 2 prospect in the Rookie-level Arizona League and dominating in a Rookie-level Pioneer League playoff start.


Strengths:
Before his injury, Adenhart was lauded for his polished three-pitch repertoire, the life on his stuff and his mound presence. He already has regained much of his arm strength, pitching at 89-92 mph and touching 94 with his fastball. His 11-to-5 curveball has sharp, late break. He showed a feel for a circle changeup that has potential to be a third plus offering. His quick recovery is indicative of his strong work ethic and makeup.

  

Weaknesses:
Adenhart's delivery can be deceiving, because his arm action is smooth and easy and the ball jumps out of his hand. But he throws across his body, which helps the life on his pitches but also led to his injury. His command isn't yet as sharp as it was, but that's typical of the Tommy John recovery process.

  

The Future:
If his stuff and command come all the way back, Adenhart has a higher ceiling than Jered Weaver. The Angels won't rush Adenhart and will continue to monitor his pitch counts closely. They may wait until the weather warms up at low Class A Cedar Rapids before letting him start his 2006 season.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
AZL Angels (R) 2 3 3.68 13 12 1 0 44 39 0 24 52 .245
Orem (R) 1 0 0.00 1 1 0 0 6 3 0 0 7 .143


7. KENDRY MORALES, 1b      Born: June 20, 1983 B-T: B-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 220
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004  Signed by: Clay Daniel/Tito Perez

Background: Omar Linares and Morales are the best position players developed in post-revolution Cuba. The government banned him from baseball after repeated attempts to defect, and he finally succeeded in June 2004. The Angels boasted Morales would compete for a spot on their Opening Day roster when they signed him in November 2004 to a six-year major league contract that could be worth as much as $10 million. Visa problems prevented him from attending spring training, however. After arriving in the United States in May, he homered on his first swing and quickly earned a promotion from high Class A to Double-A. He also batted .380 in the Arizona Fall League.


Strengths:
Morales is a mature hitter with above-average power from both sides of the plate. He repeats his swing better from the left side, where he's more comfortable and makes better contact. When he keeps his hands and weight back, he generates good bat speed and power to all fields. He has above-average arm strength.

  

Weaknesses:
Most scouts say Morales lacks the agility and athleticism to play anywhere but first base. While his hands are OK, his footwork needs to improve. He has too much movement in his swing and tends to drift and reach for offspeed stuff. He can get pull-conscious.

  

The Future:
With Darin Erstad and Casey Kotchman ahead of him at first base, Morales might spend another full season in the minors, probably in Triple-A. His best fit with the Angels could be as a DH.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Rancho Cucamonga (Hi A) .344 .400 .544 90 18 31 3 0 5 17 6 11 0 0
Arkansas (AA) .306 .349 .530 281 47 86 12 0 17 54 17 43 2 0


8. ALBERTO CALLASPO, 2b    Born: April 19, 1983 B-T: B-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 173
Signed: Venezuela, 2001   Signed by: Carlos Porte/Amador Arias

Background: The Angels shifted Callaspo back to second base last year after he played shortstop in 2004. For the second year in a row, he was the toughest player in the minors to strike out, going 20.4 plate appearances per whiff in 2005. He moved up to Triple-A in July and finished the season riding a 15-game hitting streak.


Strengths:
Callaspo improved his bat control and situational hitting last season, integral ingredients to his value as a prospect. He bunts well, and while he doesn't have the aptitude Howie Kendrick possesses, he's a solid hitter. A switch-hitter, he has a more fluid swing and fewer holes from the left side. The Angels believe Callaspo can handle shortstop, but he's a natural second baseman with smooth, easy motions and an outstanding feel for the position. He has an average, accurate arm, soft hands, good range and a smooth double-play pivot.

  

Weaknesses:
While he has some raw pop, Callaspo is primarily a singles hitter who doesn't walk much because he makes effortless contract. He hit just .241 from the right side in 2005. Though he has average speed, he lacks basestealing savvy and was caught 13 times in 24 tries last year.

  

The Future:
Callaspo's chances of becoming Los Angeles' second baseman of the future look limited because his bat just doesn't compare to Kendrick's. The two and Erick Aybar should be teammates in Triple-A this year, so Callaspo may play a variety of positions. If he's not traded, his destiny with the Angels may be as a utilityman.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Arkansas (AA) .297 .346 .409 350 53 104 9 0 10 49 28 17 9 8
Salt Lake (AAA) .316 .345 .448 212 28 67 21 2 1 31 10 13 2 5


9. JOE SAUNDERS, lhp       Born: June 16, 1981 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-2 Wt: 200
Drafted: Virginia Tech, 2002 (1st round)   Signed by: Chris McAlpin

Background: The Angels passed up Scott Kazmir to take Saunders with the 12th overall pick in 2002 and signed him for $1.825 million. After his first pro summer, he was diagnosed with tears in his rotator cuff and labrum, which didn't require surgery but cost him the entire 2003 season. He steadily has climbed the ladder since, making his major league debut last August.


Strengths:
Saunders doesn't have overpowering stuff, relying instead on command and feel. His best pitch is a deceptive changeup that he uses to hold righthanders at bay. His fastball sits at 91-92 mph and he can run it in on hitters effectively. He can cut his fastball, or add and subtract velocity as needed. He repeats his delivery well and hasn't missed a start since coming back from his shoulder injury.

  

Weaknesses:
Saunders doesn't have a put-away breaking ball and never has. He'll need to improve the depth and quality of his slurvy curveball to become a No. 3 starter.

  

The Future:
Saunders likely will open 2006 in Triple-A to work further on his curveball. The only other lefthanded pitcher on the 40-man roster is recent trade acquisition J.C. Romero, so the Angels could need Saunders in a relief role.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Arkansas (AA) 7 4 3.49 18 18 2 0 106 107 9 32 80 .263
Salt Lake (AAA) 3 3 4.58 9 9 1 0 55 65 3 21 29 .304
Los Angeles (AL) 0 0 7.71 2 2 0 0 9 10 3 4 4 .270


10. TOMMY MENDOZA, rhp     Born: August 18, 1987 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 185
Drafted: HS—Miami, 2005 (4rd round)    Signed by: Mike Silvestri

Background: Mendoza was primarily a catcher until his sophomore year at Miami's Monsignor Pace High, and he pitched behind White Sox supplemental first-round pick Gio Gonzalez as a junior in 2004. The Angels took Mendoza in the fifth round last June and signed him for $159,000. He was an Arizona League all-star, then jumped all the way to high Class A and pitched 10 scoreless innings.


Strengths:
Mendoza dominated older hitters in the California League with a 92-94 mph fastball that touched 95 all summer. He has good life on his heater and controls it well. His curveball has the makings of a plus breaking ball, while his cutter, slider and changeup all have potential. He's mature beyond his years.

  

Weaknesses:
When Mendoza tries to overpower hitters, he can leave himself vulnerable by missing up in the zone. He rushes his delivery at times and gets offline, hurting his control. After his fastball and curve, his other pitches lack consistency.

  

The Future:
His debut eased the sting of Los Angeles' failure to sign its third- (Sean O'Sullivan) and fourth-rounders (Brian Matusz). Better than expected, Mendoza will open 2006 in low Class A.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
AZL Angels (R) 3 3 1.55 13 4 0 0 52 42 1 13 56 .221
Rancho Cucamonga (Hi A) 1 0 0.00 2 1 0 1 10 4 0 0 12 .121


Photo Credits:
Aybar, Callaspo: Shawn Davis
Wood: Larry Goren
Adenhart, Mendoza, Morales, Saunders, Weaver: Bill Mitchell
Kendrick: David Stoner

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