• Chat Wrap:
Alan Matthews took your Angels questions
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.
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
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
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
HS--Scottsdale, Ariz., 2003 (1st round) Signed
by: Jeff Scholzen
Background: When Wood was a good-fielding,
light-hitting freshman at Horizon High (Scottsdale, Ariz.) in 2000, he
wore No. 4, not because he liked the number but because it was the only
jersey small enough to fit him. He since has filled out to become one
of the game's top power prospects. His power started to emerge in 2003,
when he hit 20 homers as a Horizon senior—two shy of the Arizona
prep record—and became a first-round choice, signing for $1.3 million.
The Angels wanted an outfielder with their 23rd overall selection that
year, but Chris Lubanski, Lastings Milledge, Brian Anderson and Brad Snyder
all went off the board before their pick. Wood hit a modest .263 with
16 homers in his first two pro seasons before breaking out in 2005. He
slammed 58 homers between the minors, the Arizona Fall League and Team
USA. He led the minors in doubles, homers (breaking the Angels' minor
league record), total bases and extra-base hits, becoming the first minor
leaguer to do so since Len Tucker in 1956. Then he set an AFL mark with
14 homers in 29 games, going deep four times in one contest. He capped
his year with one more homer and earned all-tournament honors as Team
USA won an Olympic regional qualifier. He had many believers in his potential
and projection, but no one predicted he would blossom so fast.
Strengths: Wood's package of power, hitting, all-around defensive
skills and championship-caliber makeup prompted one high Class A California
League manager to dub him the next Cal Ripken. Wood is an aggressive
hitter who attacks pitches with outstanding bat speed while hitting
from a slightly open stance. Early in the 2005 season, he occasionally
slid his back hip during his swing, collapsed his back side and got
underneath balls. He adjusted quickly and learned to take a more direct
path to the ball. Wood's swing has leverage that elicits shots with
backspin, loft and plenty of carry. "Out of all those home runs,
there may have been one or two balls that just cleared the fence,"
said James Rowson, Wood's hitting coach at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga.
"The other 40 were gone right off the bat." Wood's long, thin
frame figures to get stronger as he matures. His soft hands, plus arm
and great instincts allow him to make all the plays at shortstop. He
presently has average speed.
Weaknesses: As Wood gets bulkier, he will slow down and lose
range. While he has the tools to compensate and remain at shortstop,
he may profile better at third base with the power in his bat and his
arm. He can drive balls to all fields but because of his bat speed and
set-up, he opts to pull almost everything. That approach makes him vulnerable
to pitches on the outer half. He has had trouble with swinging and missing
against good changeups, and he could tighten his strike zone in general.
The Future: Wood should develop into a perennial all-star infielder
at either shortstop or third base. The Angels have more premium middle-infield
prospects than any organization, and they'll soon be faced with a difficult
shortstop decision with incumbent Orlando Cabrera signed through 2008
and both Erick Aybar and Wood pushing for big league consideration.
For now, Wood is ticketed to play shortstop at Double-A Arkansas in
2006. But Los Angeles also doesn't have a clear-cut third baseman, and
he quickly could become its solution at the hot corner.
St. John's River (Fla.) CC, 2002 (10th round) Signed
by: Tom Kotchman
Background: The Angels originally selected Kendrick
as a draft-and-follow, but at the behest of area scout Tom Kotchman they
signed him right away for $100,000. Kendrick began his pro career 4-for-40
in Rookie ball—and has hit .369 since. Last year he finished second
in the minors (.367) and fourth in the Arizona Fall League (.380) in hitting.
Strengths: Kendrick may be the best pure hitter in the
minors. His swing is compact, balanced and easily repeated. He
lets pitches get deep before centering them and driving them to
all fields. His swing doesn't create much loft, but he should
hit at least 15-20 homers annually because of his bat speed and
penchant for making hard contact. His instincts are exceptional
in all phases of the game, which makes him an average baserunner
and should allow him to develop into a competent defender.
Weaknesses: Kendrick's non-hitting tools aren't special.
He has fringe-average speed, and his range, arm and defensive
footwork are average at best. He makes contact so easily that
he rarely walks. He occasionally chases offspeed stuff, but pitchers
haven't found a way to get him out.
The Future: Kendrick could win multiple batting titles
in the big leagues. Angels starter Adam Kennedy will be a free
agent following the 2006 season, at which point Kendrick should
take over. He's ready for Triple-A Salt Lake, though Los Angeles
also must figure out how to get Alberto Callaspo at-bats with
2005 Club (Class)
Rancho Cucamonga (Hi A)
ss Born: January
14, 1984 B-T: B-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 170
Dominican Republic, 2002 Signed by: Leo Perez/Clay Daniel
Background: When the Angels signed Aybar for
$100,000 in 2002, he was considered a lesser prospect than his brother
Willy, who had signed with the Dodgers for $1.4 million two years earlier.
Erick has developed into a better player and the pure shortstop the Angels
hoped, while exceeding expectations for his bat. He hit just .226 through
mid-May last year before he adjusted his approach, leading the Double-A
Texas League in hits while finishing second in triples and stolen bases.
Strengths: Though undersized, Aybar packs some pop in
his swing. Early in the year he was trying to pull everything
out of the park before Angels minor league hitting coordinator
Ty Van Burkleo encouraged him to shorten his swing. Aybar got
back to doing what he does best: spraying line drives to all fields
and using his plus speed to set the table. He has plus actions
at shortstop, turns the double play with aplomb and has enough
arm strength to make plays deep in the hole. He plays with passion
and consistently has been a catalyst.
Weaknesses: Aybar remains a free swinger. If he's going
to reach his ceiling as a leadoff hitter, he must improve his
plate discipline and willingness to work counts. He plays with
a fearless energy that borders on recklessness. He needs to show
better judgment on the bases, and many of his errors come when
he rushes off-balance throws.
The Future: Headed for Triple-A, Aybar is sandwiched between
big league starter Orlando Cabrera and top prospect Brandon Wood.
The best—and most cost-effective—solution eventually
will be to find a taker for Cabrera, hand shortstop to Aybar and
move Wood to third base.
2005 Club (Class)
March 31, 1983 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 180
HS--Marianna, Fla., 2001 (1st round supplemental) Signed
by: Tom Kotchman
Background: Mathis had a miserable second half
in 2004 and was ticketed for a return to Double-A in 2005 when Triple-A
catcher Wil Nieves was traded to the Yankees, opening a spot at Salt Lake.
Mathis had a fine season, re-establishing himself as one of the game's
top catching prospects and making his big league debut in August.
Strengths: Mathis is the consummate defensive catcher.
He's athletic, which enables him to block, catch and throw with
ease. His arm strength is at least average and plays better because
of good footwork and clean exchange. He threw out 33 percent of
basestealers in Triple-A. A true leader, he handles pitchers well.
Mathis matured as a hitter last season, shortening his swing and
reducing the rotation in his lower half to improve his plate coverage
and efficiency. He profiles as a .250-.270 hitter with 15-20 homer
potential. While he's a slightly below-average runner, he has
good instincts on the basepaths.
Weaknesses: Mathis needs to do a better job of covering
the outer half and laying off breaking balls out of the zone.
He tends to overanalyze and press, which got him into trouble
in 2004. He made adjustments better and improved his mental approach
The Future: The Angels never doubted that Mathis had the
makeup to rebound from 2004. His bat isn't quite ready for everyday
duty in the majors, but Bengie Molina's departure via free agency
means Mathis will play a significant role in Los Angeles.
Long Beach State, 2004 (1st round) Signed by: Bobby
Background: Weaver had one of the most dominant
college seasons ever in 2004, going 15-1, 1.63 with 213 strikeouts in
144 innings to win Baseball America's College Player of the Year award.
The top-rated prospect for the 2004 draft, he dropped to the Angels at
No. 12 because of concerns about his price tag. Weaver held out until
a week before the 2005 draft before agreeing to a $4 million bonus. He
reached Double-A in his pro debut and later pitched in the Arizona Fall
League and the Olympic regional qualifier. His brother Jeff has won 78
big league games in the last seven seasons.
Strengths: Weaver owns the system's best combination of
present stuff and command. His arm is loose and fast, and he works
from a three-quarters arm slot slightly higher than that of his
brother. He relies on a nasty 86-90 mph two-seam fastball, a 91-93
mph four-seamer, a slider and a changeup. He pitches with tenacity
Weaknesses: Weaver's command is more notable than his stuff,
and some scouts think he's more of a No. 3 starter than a headliner.
He's an extreme flyball pitcher—his 0.4 ground/fly ratio
was the second-lowest in the minors—and is vulnerable to
homers. His slider grades as an above-average pitch at times but
lack consistency. He often over-rotates in his delivery and gets
around his slider, hanging it. A free spirit, he loses his cool
The Future: Some hyperbolic scouting reports declared Weaver
as big league-ready when he entered pro ball, but he struggled
at times in Double-A and is at least another half-season away
from joining the Angels. He'll probably open 2006 in Triple-A.
2005 Club (Class)
Rancho Cucamonga (Hi A)
rhp Born: August
24, 1986 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 190
HS--Williamsport, Md., 2004 (14th round) Signed by:
Background: When his senior season started in
2004, Adenhart ranked with Homer Bailey as the top high school pitching
prospects in the nation. But a few weeks before the draft, Adenhart blew
out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery. Seemingly headed for North Carolina,
he signed for $710,000 as a 14th-round pick. He came back stronger and
earlier than expected in 2005, rating as the No. 2 prospect in the Rookie-level
Arizona League and dominating in a Rookie-level Pioneer League playoff
Strengths: Before his injury, Adenhart was lauded for
his polished three-pitch repertoire, the life on his stuff and
his mound presence. He already has regained much of his arm strength,
pitching at 89-92 mph and touching 94 with his fastball. His 11-to-5
curveball has sharp, late break. He showed a feel for a circle
changeup that has potential to be a third plus offering. His quick
recovery is indicative of his strong work ethic and makeup.
Weaknesses: Adenhart's delivery can be deceiving, because
his arm action is smooth and easy and the ball jumps out of his
hand. But he throws across his body, which helps the life on his
pitches but also led to his injury. His command isn't yet as sharp
as it was, but that's typical of the Tommy John recovery process.
The Future: If his stuff and command come all the way
back, Adenhart has a higher ceiling than Jered Weaver. The Angels
won't rush Adenhart and will continue to monitor his pitch counts
closely. They may wait until the weather warms up at low Class
A Cedar Rapids before letting him start his 2006 season.
Dominican Republic, 2004 Signed by: Clay Daniel/Tito Perez
Background: Omar Linares and Morales are the
best position players developed in post-revolution Cuba. The government
banned him from baseball after repeated attempts to defect, and he finally
succeeded in June 2004. The Angels boasted Morales would compete for a
spot on their Opening Day roster when they signed him in November 2004
to a six-year major league contract that could be worth as much as $10
million. Visa problems prevented him from attending spring training, however.
After arriving in the United States in May, he homered on his first swing
and quickly earned a promotion from high Class A to Double-A. He also
batted .380 in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: Morales is a mature hitter with above-average
power from both sides of the plate. He repeats his swing better
from the left side, where he's more comfortable and makes better
contact. When he keeps his hands and weight back, he generates
good bat speed and power to all fields. He has above-average arm
Weaknesses: Most scouts say Morales lacks the agility and
athleticism to play anywhere but first base. While his hands are
OK, his footwork needs to improve. He has too much movement in
his swing and tends to drift and reach for offspeed stuff. He
can get pull-conscious.
The Future: With Darin Erstad and Casey Kotchman ahead
of him at first base, Morales might spend another full season
in the minors, probably in Triple-A. His best fit with the Angels
could be as a DH.
2005 Club (Class)
Rancho Cucamonga (Hi A)
April 19, 1983 B-T: B-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 173
Venezuela, 2001 Signed by: Carlos Porte/Amador Arias
Background: The Angels shifted Callaspo back
to second base last year after he played shortstop in 2004. For the second
year in a row, he was the toughest player in the minors to strike out,
going 20.4 plate appearances per whiff in 2005. He moved up to Triple-A
in July and finished the season riding a 15-game hitting streak.
Strengths: Callaspo improved his bat control and situational
hitting last season, integral ingredients to his value as a prospect.
He bunts well, and while he doesn't have the aptitude Howie Kendrick
possesses, he's a solid hitter. A switch-hitter, he has a more
fluid swing and fewer holes from the left side. The Angels believe
Callaspo can handle shortstop, but he's a natural second baseman
with smooth, easy motions and an outstanding feel for the position.
He has an average, accurate arm, soft hands, good range and a
smooth double-play pivot.
Weaknesses: While he has some raw pop, Callaspo is primarily
a singles hitter who doesn't walk much because he makes effortless
contract. He hit just .241 from the right side in 2005. Though
he has average speed, he lacks basestealing savvy and was caught
13 times in 24 tries last year.
The Future: Callaspo's chances of becoming Los Angeles'
second baseman of the future look limited because his bat just
doesn't compare to Kendrick's. The two and Erick Aybar should
be teammates in Triple-A this year, so Callaspo may play a variety
of positions. If he's not traded, his destiny with the Angels
may be as a utilityman.
2005 Club (Class)
Salt Lake (AAA)
June 16, 1981 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-2 Wt: 200
Virginia Tech, 2002 (1st round) Signed by: Chris
Background: The Angels passed up Scott Kazmir
to take Saunders with the 12th overall pick in 2002 and signed him for
$1.825 million. After his first pro summer, he was diagnosed with tears
in his rotator cuff and labrum, which didn't require surgery but cost
him the entire 2003 season. He steadily has climbed the ladder since,
making his major league debut last August.
Strengths: Saunders doesn't have overpowering stuff, relying
instead on command and feel. His best pitch is a deceptive changeup
that he uses to hold righthanders at bay. His fastball sits at
91-92 mph and he can run it in on hitters effectively. He can
cut his fastball, or add and subtract velocity as needed. He repeats
his delivery well and hasn't missed a start since coming back
from his shoulder injury.
Weaknesses: Saunders doesn't have a put-away breaking ball
and never has. He'll need to improve the depth and quality of
his slurvy curveball to become a No. 3 starter.
The Future: Saunders likely will open 2006 in Triple-A
to work further on his curveball. The only other lefthanded pitcher
on the 40-man roster is recent trade acquisition J.C. Romero,
so the Angels could need Saunders in a relief role.
2005 Club (Class)
Salt Lake (AAA)
Los Angeles (AL)
August 18, 1987 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 185
HS—Miami, 2005 (4rd round) Signed by: Mike
Background: Mendoza was primarily a catcher
until his sophomore year at Miami's Monsignor Pace High, and he pitched
behind White Sox supplemental first-round pick Gio Gonzalez as a junior
in 2004. The Angels took Mendoza in the fifth round last June and signed
him for $159,000. He was an Arizona League all-star, then jumped all the
way to high Class A and pitched 10 scoreless innings.
Strengths: Mendoza dominated older hitters in the California
League with a 92-94 mph fastball that touched 95 all summer. He
has good life on his heater and controls it well. His curveball
has the makings of a plus breaking ball, while his cutter, slider
and changeup all have potential. He's mature beyond his years.
Weaknesses: When Mendoza tries to overpower hitters, he
can leave himself vulnerable by missing up in the zone. He rushes
his delivery at times and gets offline, hurting his control. After
his fastball and curve, his other pitches lack consistency.
The Future: His debut eased the sting of Los Angeles' failure
to sign its third- (Sean O'Sullivan) and fourth-rounders (Brian
Matusz). Better than expected, Mendoza will open 2006 in low Class
2005 Club (Class)
AZL Angels (R)
Rancho Cucamonga (Hi A)
Aybar, Callaspo: Shawn Davis
Wood: Larry Goren
Adenhart, Mendoza, Morales, Saunders, Weaver: Bill Mitchell
Kendrick: David Stoner