Anaheim Angels Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Jim Callis
1. Joe Torres, lhp
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS--Kissimmee, Fla., 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Tom Kotchman.
Background: The Angels have plenty of righthanded pitching prospects, but they didnt have a quality lefthander until they selected Torres with the 10th overall pick in the 2000 draft. He signed for $2.08 million, then excelled in the short-season Northwest League against hitters who generally were four years older. He allowed more than two runs just once in 11 outings and limited opponents to a .170 batting average. He was the top pitching prospect in the league and concluded the season with 13 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings in his final start. Torres has always been precocious. In 1999, Baseball America ranked him as the top 16-year-old player in the United States, after he won the gold-medal game of the World Junior Championships in Taiwan. Though Francisco Rodriguez has slightly better stuff, Torres occupies the top spot on this list because hes lefthanded, projectable and less of a health risk.
Strengths: Torres reminds the Angels of a young John Candelaria. He already throws a consistent 89-93 mph with the ability to touch 95, and he should add more velocity as he grows and fills out. His arm looks like a whip as he delivers pitches from a low three-quarters arm slot that makes it difficult for batters to pick up the ball. With time, Torres should have at least three solid pitches. His curveball is the best breaking pitch in the organization, and he made progress on his changeup in instructional league as Anaheim didnt allow its pitchers to throw breaking balls. He throws quality strikes, not permitting a single homer in the Northwest League. Hes mature and competitive and has the work ethic to get considerably better.
Weaknesses: Torres needs experience more than any major adjustments. If he improves the consistency of his curveball and changeup, he could have three plus pitches. His body can get stronger and his command can improve.
The Future: Torres will be ready for full-season ball at age 18, with Class A Cedar Rapids his most likely destination. If he performs well, he could move up to high Class A Rancho Cucamonga by the end of 2001. Anaheim wont rush him, but he could be ready for the major leagues in late 2003before he turns 21.
2. Francisco Rodriguez, rhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 165. Signed: Venezuela, 1998. Signed by: George Lauzerique.
Background: The Angels ignored Latin America for three years but returned in a big way by signing Rodriguez to a Venezuela-record $900,000 bonus. In his debut a year later, he was the Rookie-level Pioneer Leagues top prospect. In 121 pro innings, he has allowed just 79 hits and struck out 154.
Strengths: Rodriguez fastball is just plain filthy, averaging 94-97 mph and reaching as high as 99 mph, with late life to go with the velocity. His quick arm action makes it look even faster. He throws a slurvy slider from a three-quarters arm angle, and the pitch eats up righthanders. His changeup will be a good third pitch.
Weaknesses: Though Rodriguez has a deceptive motion, its far from pretty and may have contributed to his arm problems in 2000. Shoulder and elbow tendinitis prevented him from making his first start until May 27, and he was shut down for six weeks after three outings because he had a tender forearm. His mechanics have been smoothed out since.
The Future: Because Rodriguez is so young and inexperienced, theres no reason to promote him from the high Class A California League to begin 2001. If Torres joins him, theyll form one of the best lefty-righty combos in the minors.
3. Brian Specht, ss
Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170. Drafted: HSColorado Springs, 1999 (ninth round). Signed by: Rick Schroeder.
Background: Specht seemed determined to attend Baylor, so he lasted until the ninth round in 1999. The Angels successfully gambled a pick on him, signing him for $600,000, the highest bonus they paid in that draft. Anaheim challenged him by letting him make his pro debut in the Cal League last season. He responded, hitting safely in his first 12 games and performing well before fading in August.
Strengths: Specht will have at least average tools across the board. He already has shown the ability to hit, and his speed, arm and shortstop actions are solid. As he develops, he could have average power from both sides of the plate. Hes also instinctive and mature.
Weaknesses: Specht made 34 errors in 2000, several because he rushed plays when he didnt have to. While he has good patience at the plate, hell have to make more contact. He needs to get stronger in order to hold up over a full season.
The Future: Spring training will determine whether Specht returns to Class A or moves up to Double-A to start 2001. Hes not as flashy defensively as fellow shortstop prospects Wilmy Caceres or Tommy Murphy, but Specht is much more likely to produce at the plate.
4. John Lackey, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Grayson County (Texas) CC, 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: Kris Kline.
Background: The Angels forfeited their 1999 first-round pick to sign free agent Mo Vaughn, so Lackey was their top pick. He began his college career at Texas-Arlington, then transferred to Grayson County CC, where he batted .440 with 16 homers as a two-way player in 1999. Though he had more success as a hitter as an amateur, he reached Double-A and pitched well there in his first full season.
Strengths: Lackey has a big, strong body that gives him good leverage and allows him to pitch on a downward plane. Both his low- to mid-90s fastball and his curveball are plus pitches, and his changeup should be at least average.
Weaknesses: Lackeys control left a lot to be desired after he signed, but he threw a lot more strikes last season. He just needs to fine-tune his command and trust his secondary pitches.
The Future: The Angels envision Lackey as a workhorse who will accrue lots of innings and wins. He might get more time in Double-A in 2001, but should reach Triple-A by the end of the season.
5. Chris Bootcheck, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Auburn, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Donny Rowland.
Background: Bootcheck was considered a potential top-five pick last June, but like all of agent Scott Boras clients he declined to agree to a predraft deal. The Angels considered him with the 10th pick and got him 10 picks later with a choice from the Athletics for the loss of free agent Mike Magnante. Bootcheck held out all summer before signing for $1.8 million.
Strengths: Bootcheck is long, lean and projectable, and his fastball already tops out at 94 mph. His most devastating pitch at this point is an 86-90 mph cut fastball with slider action, and it works against both lefthanders and righthanders. He used a curveball in college, and he showed a solid average changeup in instructional league. He has smooth mechanics and throws strikes.
Weaknesses: Bootcheck has the stuff and command. Hell need to get stronger, though he put 15 pounds back after losing 10 while being inactive during negotiations. If theres a knock on him, its that he did not dominate college hitters as much as he should have.
The Future: The Angels expect Bootcheck to advance rapidly through the minors. Theyll wait until spring training before determining where he makes his pro debut, but the Cal League is a decent bet.
6. Philip Wilson, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSPoway, Calif., 1999 (3rd round). Signed by: Tim Kelly.
Background: Shortly after the Angels drafted Wilson, he mentioned he had a lingering arm injury from his final high school game. It turned out to be just a muscle strain, but Anaheim didnt have him pitch after signing him for $525,000. In his first pro season, he reached high Class A and excelled there.
Strengths: Notice a pattern? Wilson is the fourth tall, projectable pitcher on this list, and theres another behind him. He can reach 92-93 mph with his fastball, which also has plus life. Hes reminiscent of former Angel Mike Witt, with a better changeup and a lesser curveball. Wilson keeps the ball down in the zone and has a strong mound presence.
Weaknesses: Wilsons biggest need is to improve his curve. He has the potential to add another 2-3 mph to his fastball, and he can refine his command. As with Lackey, the Angels should be more careful with Wilson, who threw 170 innings as a 19-year-old.
The Future: Wilson could use a few more starts in the Cal League, where he could be part of an impressive Rancho Cucamonga rotation. Hes two or three years away from being ready for Anaheim.
7. Derrick Turnbow, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSFranklin, Tenn., 1997 (5th round). Signed by: Eli Grba (Phillies).
Background: Turnbow was one of the Phillies better pitching prospects in 1999. They gambled no one would take him in the major league Rule 5 draft because that would require jumping him from low Class A. But the Angels did and were able to keep him in the big leagues for all of 2000.
Strengths: Turnbows best pitch is a 91-94 mph fastball with late life. That alone allowed him to post a 4.74 ERA as a raw major league rookie. Both his curveball and changeup have the potential to be above-average pitches. Anaheim hasnt tagged a closer of the future, but Turnbow might be the guy.
Weaknesses: The Angels had to relegate Turnbow to mop-up duty to keep him in the majors and retain his rights, but it cost him a crucial year of development. Though he wasnt fazed by the experience, it didnt help him. He has a long way to go in terms of his command and his secondary pitches.
The Future: Turnbow needs to accumulate innings in 2001 so he can make the necessary improvements. In the most likely scenario, hell spend the season at Double-A Arkansas. Hell work as a starter, his role before the Angels drafted him.
8. Nathan Haynes, of
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 170. Drafted: HSHercules, Calif., 1997 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Will Schock (Athletics).
Background: When the Angels collapsed in 1999, one of their few highlights was the trade that sent veterans Omar Olivares and Randy Velarde to Oakland for prospects Haynes, Elvin Nina and Jeff DaVanon. Haynes has been banged up for most of the last two seasons, suffering a hernia in 1999 and battling through wrist, shoulder and knee injuries in 2000.
Strengths: Haynes is the fastest legitimate prospect in the organization. Hes also the best center fielder, getting great jumps on balls with the closing speed to steal extra-base hits out of the gaps. His arm is average. The Angels see Haynes as a leadoff hitter, and he occasionally can drive the ball for power.
Weaknesses: Haynes would be best served by concentrating on making contact and getting on base. The Athletics are sticklers for plate discipline, and Haynes has regressed since he switched organizations. He needs to improve his durability and basestealing skills.
The Future: After running into an outfield wall, Haynes had minor postseason surgery to clean out his knee. Hell be ready to go in spring training. If Tim Salmon leaves as a free agent after 2001, Garret Anderson could move to right field and Haynes could get a look in center.
9. Elpidio Guzman, of
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 165. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1995. Signed by: Jose Gomez.
Background: Guzman was one of the last players signed by the Angels before they shut down their Dominican operations. He had a breakout season in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in 1998 and has made steady progress with two Class A teams in the last two years. He led the minor leagues in triples last season.
Strengths: Guzman has the best all-around package of tools in the system. Hes not quite as fast or as good a center fielder as Haynes, but hes a better basestealer and has a stronger arm. Guzman has plenty of raw power that hes still learning to use, and his strike-zone knowledge keeps getting better. He holds his own against lefthanders.
Weaknesses: Guzman could improve offensively if he adjusts his approach. He tends to get too pull-conscious, and he would make more contact if he shortened his stroke. He also should learn to bunt in order to take more advantage of his speed.
The Future: Guzman is ready for Double-A, which could make things interesting if the Angels send Haynes back there. Guzman likely would move to right field while still getting some time in center. He is another contender for a starting outfield job at some point in 2002.
10. Jared Abruzzo, c
Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 225. Drafted: HSLa Mesa, Calif., 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Tim Kelly.
Background: In 40 seasons , the Angels have had just three all-star catchers, none since Lance Parrish in 1990. The system had no real chance to end that drought until Abruzzo signed as a second-round pick in June. He ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the Pioneer League in his pro debut.
Strengths: Abruzzo has the tools to be a complete catcher. Hes a switch-hitter who offers power from both sides of the plate. His 61 walks in 62 games indicate an advanced knowledge of the strike zone. Behind the plate, hes a fine receiver with a solid arm.
Weaknesses: Abruzzo began his high school career as a third baseman and is still developing as a catcher. He impressed the Angels with his desire to improve all aspects of his defense, including his game-calling and blocking skills. He also needs to improve his arm after throwing out just 23 percent of basestealers in his debut. At the plate, hell have to make more contact.
The Future: Bengie Molina had a surprising rookie season for the Angels in 2000, but he doesnt come close to Abruzzos offensive ceiling. Abruzzo will move up to Cedar Rapids in 2001.
Rest of the Best:
11. Matt Wise, rhp
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