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Top Ten Prospects: Los Angeles Angels
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Alan Matthews
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.
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