Los Angeles Angels: Top 10 Prospects

1. Brandon Wood, ss
2. Nick Adenhart, rhp
3. Erick Aybar, ss
4. Young-Il Jung, rhp
5. Stephen Marek, rhp
6. Hank Conger, c
7. Jeff Mathis, c
8. Sean Rodriguez, ss/2b
9. Sean O’Sullivan, rhp
10. Tommy Mendoza, rhp
Best Hitter for Average Erick Aybar
Best Power Hitter Brandon Wood
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Reggie Willits
Fastest Baserunner Peter Bourjos
Best Athlete P.J. Phillips
Best Fastball Jose Arredondo
Best Curveball Nick Adenhart
Best Slider Richard Aldridge
Best Changeup Nick Green
Best Control Sean O’Sullivan
Best Defensive Catcher Jeff Mathis
Best Defensive Infielder Erick Aybar
Best Infield Arm Erick Aybar
Best Defensive Outfielder Tommy Murphy
Best Outfield Arm Tommy Murphy
Catcher Hank Conger
First Base Casey Kotchman
Second Base Howie Kendrick
Third Base Brandon Wood
Shortstop Erick Aybar
Left Field Juan Rivera
Center Field Gary Matthews Jr.
Right Field Vladimir Guerrero
Designated Hitter Kendry Morales
No. 1 Starter Nick Adenhart
No. 2 Starter Jered Weaver
No. 3 Starter John Lackey
No. 4 Starter Ervin Santana
No. 5 Starter Young Il-Jung
Closer Francisco Rodriguez
Year Player, Position 2006
1997 Jarrod Washburn, lhp Mariners
1998 Troy Glaus, 3b Blue Jays
1999 Ramon Ortiz, rhp Nationals
2000 Ramon Ortiz, rhp Nationals
2001 Joe Torres, lhp Angels
2002 Casey Kotchman, 1b Angels
2003 Francisco Rodriguez, rhp Angels
2004 Casey Kotchman, 1b Angels
2005 Casey Kotchman, 1b Angels
2006 Brandon Wood, ss Angels
Year Player, Position 2006
1997 Troy Glaus, 3b Blue Jays
1998 Seth Etherton, rhp Royals
1999 John Lackey, rhp (2nd round) Angels
2000 Joe Torres, lhp Angels
2001 Casey Kotchman, 1b Angels
2002 Joe Saunders, lhp Angels
2003 Brandon Wood, ss Angels
2004 Jered Weaver, rhp Angels
2005 Trevor Bell, rhp Angels
2006 Hank Conger, c Angels
Jered Weaver, rhp $4,000,000
Kendry Morales, 2004 $3,000,000
Troy Glaus, 3b $2,250,000
Joe Torres, 2000 $2,080,000
Casey Kotchman, 1b $2,075,000
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Los Angeles Angels

For the better part of the new millennium, the Angels have accrued talent as effectively as any organization in baseball. In 2006, the masses were to finally find out just how good Los Angeles’ well-decorated farm system was.

General manager Bill Stoneman tested the trade waters prior to the season but ultimately elected to employ an Opening Day roster rife with promise, if also inexperience. Youngsters Casey Kotchman, Dallas McPherson and Ervin Santana were expected to settle into regular roles, as were rookies Jeff Mathis, Kendry Morales, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver. If a middle-infield spot opened up, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood were ready to do the same.

Seven weeks into the season, the Angels were 17-28 and their hopes for a third consecutive American League West title were slipping away quickly. Kotchman (mononucleosis) and McPherson (oblique) missed most of the season, while Mathis was batting .103 when he was demoted in early May. The veterans weren’t pulling their weight either and the defense was abominable. Reigning AL Cy Young award winner Bartolo Colon went down with what eventually would be diagnosed as a partially torn rotator cuff.

The year was shaping up as a disaster, but Los Angeles pulled out of it. Weaver–replacing his older brother Jeff–stepped into the rotation and won his first seven starts, going 9-0 before recording a loss. Kendrick, Mike Napoli (who homered in his first major league at-bat), Santana and Saunders made significant contributions down the stretch. The Angels finished with 89 victories, four behind division champion Oakland.

Los Angeles will be in shape to contend once again in 2007, and Stoneman moved quickly to bolster his team via free agency. For four years and $18 million, he added Justin Speier to a bullpen that already ranked among baseball’s best. Then Stoneman raised eyebrows across baseball by committing five years and $50 million to Gary Matthews, who should improve the Angels’ defensive efficiency.

Los Angeles now faces a position crunch it long has anticipated. Incumbent shortstop Orlando Cabrera is under contract through 2008, and thoughts of trying Aybar, a pure shortstop, in center field ended with Matthews’ signing. Furthermore, the organization’s top prospect (Wood) also plays shortstop. Likewise, Kotchman, McPherson and Morales may all be best suited for first base.

The system is still strong but not as deep as it has been in recent years. Five of its top 11 prospects from a year ago (Kendrick, Weaver, Morales, Saunders and Napoli) have graduated to the majors, and a sixth (Alberto Callaspo) was traded for middle relief help. Nick Adenhart, Stephen Marek and Sean O’Sullivan all made progress in the minors and have impact potential on the mound, but are all at least two years away from contributing. International scouting supervisor Clay Daniel and Pacific Rim scout Charlie Kim worked together to bring Korean righthander Young-Il Jung into the fold in September, and he too could be a frontline starter down the road.

Just as other clubs have targeted the Los Angeles’ prospects, they’ve also sought their player-development personnel and coaches. A year after the Devil Rays hired Angels bench coach Joe Maddon to be their manager, the Padres tabbed L.A. pitching coach Bud Black to be their skipper. As was the case with the major league roster, though, the Angels went to their farm system for a replacement, hiring Mike Butcher, their former roving pitching instructor, back from his one-year stint as Maddon’s pitching coach in Tampa.