Cowart Next To Carry The Banner For Angels' System





Best Player: With Mike Trout taking the big leagues by storm and Jean Segura traded to the Brewers in a midseason deal for Zack Greinke, the Angels system lost its two blue-chip position prospects. The best hope for a player who'll develop into one might be third baseman Kaleb Cowart.

Cowart was one of the Angels' three first-round picks in the 2010 draft. The other two (righthander Cam Bedrosian and outfielder Chevy Clarke) have yet to make any progress. But the switch-hitting Cowart hit .293/.348/.479 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs in 66 games at low Class A Cedar Rapids, earning a midseason promotion to high Class A Inland Empire. The 20-year-old hit .259/.366/.426 in the second half of the season and totaled 16 home runs and 103 RBIs between the two levels.

Best Pitcher: Righthander Garrett Richards nearly won a spring competition for the Angels' fifth starter spot and did wind up spending some time in the big league rotation  (nine starts). A more permanent spot figures to be waiting for him when he reports to spring training in 2013.

Richards gives the Angels a low-cost, payroll-balancing starter to plug into next year's staff. The 24-year-old righthander went 3-3, 4.76 in 15 appearances for the Angels while refining his game at Triple-A Salt Lake most of the season, going 7-3, 4.21 in 14 starts in the hitter-friendly PCL.

Keep An Eye On: An organization thin on pitching got even thinner when the Angels included Double-A righthanders Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg with Segura in their deadline deal with the Brewers for Greinke. That cleared the way for lefthander Nick Maronde to complete a one-season rise from the California League to the majors as a September callup.

Slowed by a shoulder injury, Maronde, 23, was 3-1, 1.82 in 10 starts at Inland Empire, earning a midseason promotion to Double-A, where he went 3-2, 3.34. But the numbers that appealed to the Angels were his 90-19 strikeout-walk ratio combined over three levels.

Angel Food

• Cedar Rapids first baseman Frazier Hall went to the Diamondbacks as the player to be named in the Angels' July trade for Triple-A righthander Barry Enright. Hall, 24, batted .254/.322/.386 with 13 home runs this year.

• For the second consecutive year, Inland Empire first baseman C.J. Cron, a first-round pick in 2011, had his season end early due to surgery. Cron had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He had been playing with the injury since his final year at Utah. Cron finished the season with 123 RBIs in 129 games for Inland Empire, one short of what the Angels believe is the organization's RBI record for a minor leaguer (Todd Greene drove in 124 with Class-A Lake Elsinore in 1994). Cron was named the Cal League Rookie of the Year for 2012.