Anaheim Angels Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Josh Boyd
1. Casey Kotchman, 1b
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HSSeminole, Fla., 2001 (1st round) Signed by: Donny Rowland.
Background: The centerpiece of one of the most talented high school teams ever assembled, Kotchman led Seminole (Fla.) High to a wire-to-wire No. 1 national ranking in 2001. Kotchman earned high school All-America honors by hitting .465-5-39 in 88 at-bats. Still, Kotchman slid slightly in the draft because he got pitched around and didnt take good swings. Anaheim was delighted to find him available with the 13th overall pick in June, and his father Toman Angels scout and minor league managernegotiated Caseys $2.075 million bonus. Casey has been around pro ball all his life, often accompanying his father during the summer, and they were reunited at Rookie-level Provo last August before a sprained wrist ended Caseys pro debut.
Strengths: Kotchman had little difficulty leaving aluminum bats behind. Comparisons to sweet-swinging lefthanders abound, starting with Todd Helton and Rafael Palmeiro. Some scouts give Kotchman top grades on the hitting scale, and hes expected to develop well-above-average power because of his strong frame, bat speed and uncanny ability to put the barrel on the ball. Hes an aggressive hitter, but he stays inside the ball well and uses the whole field. Kotchmans fielding and throwing also project as plus big league tools. He has all the makings of a future Gold Glover, playing a textbook first base with graceful actions, soft hands and solid footwork. The ball seems to disappear into his glove.
Weaknesses: Though Kotchman is a flexible athlete who excites scouts with his loose body, hes a below-average runner. Any other perceived flaws are just nitpicking, however. After getting hurt at Provo and being limited by a back injury in 2000, hell have to prove hes durable.
The Future: Kotchman missed instructional league with the wrist injury, but he should be healthy for spring training. Scouts can barely contain their enthusiasm when talking about him. Much like Joe Mauer, the No. 1 overall pick in 2001, Kotchman is refined for a teenager and ready to jump on the fast track. He should be the first high school player from last years draft to reach the majors, perhaps in 2004.
2. Bobby Jenks, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 225. Drafted: HSSpirit Lake, Idaho, 2000 (5th round). Signed by: Jack Uhey.
Background: Academically ineligible after his sophomore season in high school, Jenks used a personal pitching coach, Mark Potoshnik, to gain recognition among scouts. Word spread quickly after Jenks showed a plus fastball at private workouts, but his background scared some teams away. In 2001, his first full year as a pro, he earned a promotion to Double-A Arkansas for the postseason and led the Arizona Fall League in strikeouts.
Strengths: Jenks first four pitches in a Double-A playoff game were clocked at 99 mph, and some reports had him touching 100 in the AFL. He consistently pumps his fastball into the mid-90s with an effortless delivery. His 80 mph curveball is a power breaker and ranks among the best in the system.
Weaknesses: Jenks is learning how to pitch. He made strides in repeating his delivery and showing a feel for a changeup, but he finds himself behind in the count too often. Marriage helped him focus on his priorities while all but eliminating any questions about his makeup.
The Future: Slated for Arkansas in 2002, Jenks has flashed dominance but not consistency. If he does, he has a chance to be special.
3. John Lackey, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Grayson County (Texas) CC, 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: Kris Kline.
Background: Lackey has the look of a slugger, which he was in junior college, where he hit .440 with 16 homers as a sophomore two-way player and led Grayson County to the national juco title. Anaheims top pick in 1999, he dashed through the system until getting roughed up in Triple-A Salt Lake last year.
Strengths: Despite his inexperience on the mound, Lackey is already more than just a thrower. Arkansas pitching coach Mike Butcher taught him a true slider, which opened up the plate for his 92 mph fastball, power curve and improving changeup. He goes after hitters and has the control to hit his spots. He throws on an effective downward plane.
Weaknesses: Lackeys Triple-A performance shows he has to refine his repertoire. Hes big and strong, but letting him pitch 450 innings in two-plus seasons as a pro isnt the best way to keep him healthy.
The Future: The Angels offseason acquisitions of Kevin Appier and Aaron Sele made it that much easier to give Lackey more development time. He has the makeup of a workhorse, middle-of-the-rotation starter or a potential dominator at the back of the bullpen.
4. Chris Bootcheck, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Auburn, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Jeff Crane.
Background: More colleges recruited Bootcheck to play basketball than baseball, though the Devil Rays drafted him in the 17th round. He made steady progress throughout his Auburn career, prompting Tigers coach Hal Baird to say Bootcheck has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the programs history. His father Dan pitched in the Tigers system in 1970s.
Strengths: Though Bootcheck has a long and loose body, he never has been an overpowering pitcher. He commands four pitches to both sides of the plate and induces groundballs with his sinking, 93-94 mph two-seam fastball. He always has relied on his darting 86-90 mph cutter, and his curveball and changeup are now weapons hitters have to be aware of.
Weaknesses: Bootcheck needs an out pitch to put hitters away. Questions about his durability wont stop after a sore shoulder stalled his pro debut last spring. He needs to add weight to his build.
The Future: Bootcheck is headed back to Arkansas, where he finished his first pro season with seven shutout innings in the Texas League playoffs. He could reach Anaheim by the end of 2002.
5. Joe Torres, lhp
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HSKissimmee, Fla., 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Tom Kotchman.
Background: Torres went straight to the top of the Angels prospect list after being drafted 10th overall and dominating at short-season Boise. He started 2001 on the wrong foot, though, reporting to camp out of shape, which caused his mechanics to get out of whack.
Strengths: Torres studied hours of film before rediscovering his delivery. He didnt touch 96 mph as he did in his pro debut, but he was back up to 91-92 and flashing his power curveball by the end of instructional league and looked even better in a winter minicamp. He has a fast, whip-like arm action from a low three-quarters slot, similar to Randy Johnson. His curve can be a devastating pitch.
Weaknesses: Last year was a wakeup call for Torres, whose fastball dropped all the way to the mid-80s during the spring. Hell need to maintain his conditioning and prove himself in a full-season league. His changeup has potential but lags behind his other two offerings.
The Future: The Angels consider 2001 a learning experience for the teenager. Torres worked hard to get back into shape and should be primed to show his best stuff this year in low Class A Cedar Rapids.
6. Alfredo Amezaga, ss
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 165. Drafted: St. Petersburg JC, 1999 (13th round). Signed by: Tom Kotchman.
Background: Amezaga moved from Mexico to Miami for high school. He first caught scouts attention as a teenager at an inner-city baseball clinic. Brian Specht pushed him to second base in high Class A in 2000, but last year Amezaga spent the entire season at shortstop.
Strengths: One scout said he saw a 15-year-old Amezaga turn the most amazing double play hes ever seen. He can make acrobatic plays with his quick actions, excellent instincts and first-step anticipation. His arm is average, and theres no longer any doubt that he can play shortstop in the majors. Hes a 70 runner on the 20-to-80 scouting scale and has good bunting ability.
Weaknesses: Amezaga makes a lot of things happen, but hitting for power never will be one of them. He usually slaps the ball the other way and occasionally can pull balls into the gap. Some scouts question if his slight build will allow him to hold up over a full season.
The Future: The Angels havent developed an everyday middle infielder since Damion Easley, but Amezaga should change that soon. Their lineup could use the energy his speed would provide.
7. Francisco Rodriguez, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 165. Signed: Venezuela, 1998. Signed by: George Lauzerique.
Background: Rodriguez earned a $900,000 bonus with his live arm, but consecutive enigmatic seasons in high Class A have raised doubts about his future. Shoulder and elbow tenderness have plagued him throughout his young career, and his elbow prevented him from pitching until May 20 last season.
Strengths: Capable of reaching 99 mph, Rodriguez fastball generally sits around 93 mph with cutting action from his low three-quarters arm slot. Righties have little chance against his 80 mph curveball with hard, sweeping bite across the strike zone. Between the California and Arizona Fall leagues, he averaged 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings in 2001.
Weaknesses: Rodriguez has little idea where his pitches are going. He uncorked 17 wild pitches last year and struggled to command his fastball and curveball. He changes his arm speed on his changeup, and needs the pitch if he wants to be a starter. His velocity fluctuated last season due to persistent arm troubles. Lefthanders batted .327 against him. His makeup also has been criticized.
The Future: Rodriguez promise was evident when he pitched in the AFL as a teenager last fall. Hes finally ready for Double-A.
8. Nathan Haynes, of
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 170. Drafted: HSHercules, Calif., 1997 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Will Schock (Athletics).
Background: Haynes has kept team doctors busy. His medical files include arthroscopic surgery on each of his knees, nagging wrist and shoulder injuries, and a career-threatening operation for a sports hernia. His resilience is a testament to his work ethic and natural athleticism. He hit .300 with nine steals in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: At a compact yet rock-solid 5-foot-9, Haynes is realizing his limitations. Multiple knee surgeries havent slowed him down, as he can still fly. Hes a potential leadoff hitter with occasional power. A center fielder, he tracks down balls from gap to gap and has average arm strength.
Weaknesses: Haynes is working on his selectivity, which will be critical in determining whether he hits at the top or bottom of the order. He has just enough power to get him in trouble, because he tends to get long with his swing and try to lift a lot of pitches.
The Future: In spite of the injuries and being one of the youngest players in his league every year, Haynes has developed steadily. If he can get a healthy Triple-A season under his belt, hell be on the verge of teaming with Amezaga in a speedy, new-look Angels lineup.
9. Johan Santana, rhp
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 150. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2000. Signed by: Clay Daniel.
Background: After signing for $700,000 in 2000, Santana took his first step toward living up to lofty expectations in his pro debut. He earned a promotion to Provo after 10 starts, yet still led the Rookie-level Arizona League in strikeouts.
Strengths: Santana reminds the Angels of Ramon Ortiz and is more advanced at the same stage of his career. Santana has long fingers and a loose, lanky frame that oozes projectability. His mechanics were surprisingly polished and consistent. He blows 91-93 mph fastballs with an easy arm action and touches 95. He already is equipped with an advanced changeup.
Weaknesses: While Santana led the AZL in strikeouts, he also did so in walks. He worked on his breaking ball in instructional league and needs to throw more strikes with it. Built along the lines of Ortiz and Pedro Martinez, Santana will face the same challenges they do in holding up over a full season.
The Future: The Angels would like to see Santana vie for a spot in Cedar Rapids this year. They moved Ortiz rapidly and arent afraid to do so with other precocious pitchers.
10. Jeff Mathis, c
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSMarianna, Fla., 2001 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Todd Claus.
Background: Mathis was a surprise as the No. 33 overall pick last June, but Angels scouts said he had first-round talent and wouldnt last until they picked again. As a senior, he hit .506-10-31 as a shortstop/catcher and posted a 0.95 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 66 innings on the mound. Anaheim lured him away from Florida State with an $850,000 bonus.
Strengths: The Angels are intrigued with Mathis athleticism, which is off the charts for a catcher. He also starred at quarterback and safety for his high school football team. An advanced receiver, he got experience catching quality pitching as the backstop for Indians first-round pick Alan Horne. With a quick, efficient stroke, Mathis projects to hit for average and some power.
Weaknesses: Mathis pro debut ended after 29 games when he broke his hand when hit by a pitch. High school catchers drafted in the first round are always a risky proposition.
The Future: He has the upside of a Jason Kendall, a high school first-rounder who became an all-star. Mathis will go to low Class A, following the same path as 2000 second-rounder Jared Abruzzo.
Rest of the Best:
11. Brian Specht, ss
Copyright 2002 Baseball America. All rights reserved.|
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.