Los Angeles Angels: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Los Angeles Angels: Scouting Reports

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, 2009.

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Los Angeles Angels

Tragedy descended on the Angels during the first week of the season, but they rebounded to win 97 games, third-most in franchise history.

Nick Adenhart, the organization's reigning No. 1 prospect, and two others died in a collision with a suspected drunken driver on April 8. The 22-year-old had just thrown six shutout innings against the Athletics in his first appearance of the season.

Los Angeles players wore a No. 34 patch on their jersey sleeves throughout the regular season and playoffs, displayed his uniform in their dugout wherever they played, and voted the Adenhart family a full $138,038 playoff share after the season.

Beyond that tragedy, injuries sabotaged the club early in the season. The Angels hovered near .500 until John Lackey's return in mid-May helped stabilize the rotation. Because of injuries to Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Ervin Santana, manager Mike Scioscia gave 36 starts to five righthanders—four of them rookies—who weren't expected to be major contributors. Trevor Bell, Anthony Ortega and Sean O'Sullivan came from within the organization, while 30-year-olds Shane Loux and Matt Palmer had signed as minor league free agents.

That quintet compiled an unsightly 5.45 ERA behind the homegrown trio of Lackey, Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders, so Los Angeles traded for Rays lefthander Scott Kazmir on Aug. 28 in advance of the playoffs. The acquisition cost them slugging Triple-A second baseman Sean Rodriguez, as well as a pair of promising high Class A talents in lefty Alex Torres and third baseman Matt Sweeney.

That the Angels cruised to their third straight American League West title—and their fifth in six years—in spite of all that adversity is yet another feather in Scioscia's cap. In a decade at the helm, he has guided the club to a 900-720 (.556) record, highlighted by the 2002 World Series championship.

Los Angeles finally vanquished the Red Sox in the AL Division Series after Boston had won three previous matchups in 2004, 2007 and 2008. The run came to an end against the Yankees, who beat them in a six-game AL Championship Series.

Even after losing Mark Teixeira as a free agent to the Yankees, the Angels scored more runs than any AL team besides New York after finishing 10th in the league in 2008. Los Angeles reaped the benefits of sticking with young players who had experienced growing pains at the big league level.

Slick-fielding Erick Aybar hit .312 and posted the fourth-best OPS (.776) among AL shortstops, while Kendry Morales rocked 34 home runs and slugged .569, which ranked second only to AL MVP Joe Mauer.

Los Angeles also reversed its recent history of unsigned draft picks, investing $6.8 million in a crop that included five selections before the second round, all compensation choices for the loss of free agents Teixeira, Francisco Rodriguez and Jon Garland. The early returns were positive, with high school outfielder Mike Trout (first round) leading the way by batting .352 in his pro debut.

The extra picks helped bolster a farm system on the mend, and the Angels could be in store for another draft bonanza in 2010. They received two compensation picks for the loss of Chone Figgins to the Mariners, and two more when John Lackey signed with the Red Sox. In addition to their own pick, that will give Los Angeles five of the first 39 selections.

1.  Hank Conger, c   Born: Jan. 29, 1988B-T: B-RHt: 6-1Wt: 220
 Drafted: HS—Huntington Beach, Calif., 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Bobby DeJardin
Hank CongerBackground: High school catchers historically have been the riskiest of first-round gambles. For every Joe Mauer, taken with the No. 1 pick in 2001, teams end up with a dozen players like Max Sapp, who hasn't advanced past low Class A since the Astros selected him 23rd overall in 2006. Conger, taken two picks after Sapp, is starting to live up to expectations after battling injuries early in his career. A second-generation Korean-American, he was nicknamed in honor of his grandfather's favorite player, Hank Aaron. Considered the top prep power hitter in the 2006 draft, Conger signed quickly for $1.35 million and rated as the Rookie-level Arizona League's No. 1 prospect in his pro debut. However, he missed time with a broken hamate bone in his right hand, setting the tone for injury-shortened seasons in 2007 (lower back and hamstring issues) and 2008 (a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder). Healthy last season, Conger caught 87 games for Double-A Arkansas, nearly doubling his career total. He got his first taste of Double-A the year before, when the Angels promoted him for the Texas League playoffs and he drove in 13 runs in eight games as the Travelers cruised to the title.

Strengths: With his well above-average bat speed and power from both sides of the plate, Conger's potential as a run producer has been readily apparent since he signed. He makes more consistent hard contact than many power hitters. He lets the ball travel deep in the hitting zone and his swing plane suggests increased power output as he matures. Conger remains a more dangerous hitter from the left side of the plate, but he closed that gap in 2009, posting a higher OPS from the right side (.840 versus .722 as a lefty). His overall plate discipline took a step forward too, as he logged more pro plate appearances than ever before. Behind the plate, Conger draws compliments for his game management skills. He's a leader who receives and blocks well, and he has above-average arm strength. He threw out 30 percent of basestealers last season.

Weaknesses: The power-suppressing dimensions of Little Rock's Dickey-Stephens Park initially got in Conger's head. But when he focused on stroking line drives in the second half, he batted .305/.404/.457. Some scouts think he can unlock more power by leveling his swing path slightly and producing more backspin on the ball. Conger lacks accuracy on his throws because of shaky footwork that cuts off his extension. Despite his arm strength and an improved transfer, some question how much he'll be able to deter big league basestealers. A well below-average runner who's more agile than his bulky frame suggests, Conger will need to maintain flexibility to stay behind the plate.

The Future: The Angels have a lot riding on Conger, their only first-round pick in four drafts from 2005-08. Big league manager Mike Scioscia demands much from his catchers, and Conger has much work to do on the defensive side before he's ready to play in Los Angeles. He may return to Double-A, at least to begin 2010. He has all-star potential if he can stay healthy and behind the plate.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Arkansas (AA) .295 .369 .424 458 61 135 20 3 11 68 55 68 4
2.  Peter Bourjos, of   Born: March 31, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Scottsdale, Ariz., 2005 (10th round)Signed by: John Gracio
Peter BourjosBackground: The Angels signed Bourjos for $325,000 as a 10th-rounder out of high school, gambling on his athleticism and bloodlines. His father Chris played professionally for seven seasons, reaching San Francisco for a cup of coffee in 1980, and now scouts for the Brewers. Bourjos led the Texas League with 14 triples last season, but he tailed off in the second half as he played through a ligament tear in his left wrist that required postseason surgery.

Strengths: Bourjos claims that no one ever has bested him in a footrace. Managers rated him the TL's most exciting player as well as its best defensive outfielder. He ranges well into both gaps, and his long legs belie his plus-plus speed. His solid-average arm strength gives him an advantage over most center fielders. He has a quick bat and made significant improvement at the plate in 2009, more notably with his discipline and pitch recognition.

Weaknesses: Though Bourjos ranked fifth in the TL with 32 stolen bases, Los Angeles would like him to run more frequently and improve his success rate (which dipped to 73 percent last year). He shows gap power when he stays balanced and gets his arms extended, but he still tends to open early and leave himself vulnerable to offspeed stuff away. A broken finger and then a hyperextended left elbow also cost him at-bats in 2007 and 2008.

The Future: Bourjos has game-changing defensive ability, and his progress at the plate has boosted his stock. The Angels added him to the 40-man roster, but with Torii Hunter under contract for three more seasons, Bourjos still has plenty of time to develop.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Arkansas (AA) .281 .354 .423 437 72 123 16 14 6 51 49 77 32
3.  Mike Trout, of   Born: Aug. 7, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Millville, N.J., 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Greg Morhardt
Mike TroutBackground: A favorite of area scouts in the Northeast for his talent and makeup, Trout was the only player to appear at MLB Network's studios for the television broadcast of the draft last June. It wasn't a wasted trip. The Angels selected him 26th overall and signed him for $1.215 million. He rated as the Rookie-level Arizona League's No. 1 prospect and finished second in the batting race at .360.

Strengths: Trout has a line-drive stroke, the ability to make adjustments and a refined batting eye. His strength and bat speed give him the potential for average power. As good as his feel for hitting is, his plus-plus speed stands out even more. He gets from home to first in 3.9 seconds from the right side, enabling him to leg out infield hits. Built like a football defensive back, he has above-average range and instincts in center field. His arm is average.

Weaknesses: Trout hit only one home run in his pro debut and has yet to learn to pull the ball consistently. When using the opposite field, he tends to push the ball rather than drive through it. Already listed at 200 pounds, he might fill out, slow down and move to an outfield corner.

The Future: The Angels haven't developed a starting outfielder since Darin Erstad, so they were thrilled to grab Trout, believing he was overlooked as a high schooler from the Northeast. He'll take his well-rounded game and five-tool potential to low Class A Cedar Rapids in 2010.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Angels (R) .360 .418 .506 164 29 59 7 7 1 25 18 28 13
Cedar Rapids (Lo A) .267 .421 .267 15 1 4 0 0 0 0 4 6 0
4.  Trevor Reckling, lhp   Born: May 22, 1989B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Newark, N.J., 2007 (8th round)Signed by: Greg Morhardt
Trevor RecklingBackground: Injuries at the big league level unleashed a wave of premature promotions in the system last year. Reckling, then 19, raced to Double-A after just three starts at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga. He had no problem adjusting, ranking fourth in the Texas League with a 2.93 ERA and 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Reckling pitched in the Futures Game in July and for Team USA at the World Cup in September, but an oblique injury shelved him after two appearances.

Strengths: Reckling's best pitch is a sweepy slider-curve hybrid that sits at 78-82 mph with good spin and hard tilt. That weapon makes him a nightmare for lefthanders, who hit just .165 with four extra-base hits in 121 at-bats against him in 2009. His fastball ranges from 87-93 mph with run to his glove side. He works quickly and delivers the ball from a herky-jerky, high three-quarters delivery, which provides steep angle and terrific deception to his pitches. He took quickly to a changeup, commanding it with deceptive arm speed from the get-go. He'll throw any of his pitches at any point in the count.

Weaknesses: Because his delivery features a lot of moving parts and he loses his release point, Reckling's fastball command isn't where it needs to be. He led the TL with 75 walks and 14 wild pitches. He continues to shy away from his heater at times, favoring his quality secondary stuff.

The Future: Despite rushing him last year, the Angels will give Reckling plenty of time to develop as a mid-rotation starter. If he doesn't iron out his command, his breaking ball would make him a nasty reliever.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Rancho Cucamonga (Hi A) 1 2 0.95 3 3 0 0 19 9 2 3 16 .138
Arkansas (AA) 8 7 2.93 23 23 1 0 135 118 4 75 106 .244
5.  Garrett Richards, rhp   Born: May 27, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 210
 Drafted: Oklahoma, 2009 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Arnold Brathwaite
Garrett RichardsBackground: Scouts left Richards' college starts at Oklahoma shaking their heads. He ran up a 6.57 ERA in three years for the Sooners, but his electric arm and strong finish in 2009 got him drafted 42nd overall. After signing for $802,000, he threw strikes and didn't allow a homer in 35 innings at Rookie-level Orem. Minor shoulder tightness scrapped a plan to have him make a start for low Class A Cedar Rapids at the end of the year.

Strengths: Richards' fastball explodes out of his hand at 90-97 mph, usually sitting at 93-94 down in the zone with average life and sink. He throws an average-to-plus curveball with depth and tilt, and a solid-average slider in the mid-80s with late break. If that weren't enough, he also throws a fading, sinking changeup that's a plus pitch at times. His arm is quick and his delivery is clean.

Weaknesses: Despite his strong debut, Richards' lack of consistent amateur success can't be ignored. He had trouble throwing strikes and hitters got a good look at his pitches, though those problems weren't an issue in pro ball.

The Future: Though many clubs scouted him as a pro reliever, Richards has the raw size, stuff and command to pitch at the top of a rotation. If he spends time at Cedar Rapids in 2010, it probably won't be for long. He stands a good chance of finishing the year in Double-A.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Orem (R) 3 1 1.53 8 8 0 0 35 37 0 4 30 .278
6.  Fabio Martinez, rhp   Born: Oct. 29, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 190
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007Signed by: Leo Perez
Fabio MartinezBackground: The Angels discreetly signed Martinez as a 17-year-old in April 2007, but more than a year elapsed before anybody took notice. Following up on a forgettable pro debut, he dominated Rookie-level Dominican Summer League competition in 2008 with 93 strikeouts in 76 innings. Martinez took another giant step forward in 2009, leading the Arizona League with 92 strikeouts and a .197 opponent average.

Strengths: Arm strength separates Martinez from the pack. He pitches at 93 mph, touches 96 with his four-seamer and holds that velocity deep into games. Tall, lean and projectable, he generates good downhill plane from his high three-quarters arm slot. He has the potential to have an average two-seam fastball and a plus slider.

Weaknesses: Martinez's command comes and goes. He gets a lot of swings and misses on high fastballs that more advanced hitters will lay off. He could get more lateral movement on his fastball if he lowered his arm slot slightly. He needs to stay on top of his slider more consistently, and his workable changeup needs more refinement than any of his pitches. Slow and deliberate to the plate, he's vulnerable to basestealers. He could improve his composure on the mound by not wearing his emotions on his sleeve.

The Future: If Martinez refines his command, he has true top-of-the-rotation stuff. He'll make the jump to low Class A in 2010.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
AZL Angels (R) 3 2 3.26 14 13 0 0 61 45 1 36 92 .197
Orem (R) 1 0 3.86 2 2 0 0 7 5 2 2 10 .192
7.  Randal Grichuk, of   Born: Aug. 13, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Rosenberg, Texas, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Kevin Ham
Randal GrichukBackground: Grichuk thrived on the showcase circuit, bashed 21 homers in 75 at-bats as a high school senior and then dazzled the Angels at a predraft workout. Using the first of its five picks before the second round, Los Angeles selected him 24th overall and signed him quickly for $1.242 million. He led the Arizona League with 76 hits and 10 triples and ranked second with 30 extra-base hits and 53 RBIs in his pro debut.

Strengths: A noted pull hitter in high school—he blasted a 475-foot shot at Tropicana Field during one showcase—Grichuk showed impressive opposite-field power in his debut. His strong hands and leveraged, quick swing should produce above-average power. His work ethic and passion are quite strong, allaying concerns about his fringe-average range and arm.

Weaknesses: To hit for average, Grichuk will have to improve his plate discipline and pitch recognition. He'll continue to see a steady diet of breaking balls until he proves he can hit them. He's just a fair athlete who figures to lose a bit of his fringy speed as he ages, so his bat will have to carry the day. Though he played some center field in the AZL, his future is in left. He doesn't look comfortable running the bases and needs to use his legs more in making throws.

The Future: The Angels view Grichuk as a premium hitter with power. He and fellow first-rounder Mike Trout will advance together to low Class A in 2010 and could form the heart of Los Angeles' lineup of the future.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Angels (R) .322 .352 .551 236 47 76 13 10 7 53 9 64 6
8.  Tyler Skaggs, lhp   Born: July 13, 1991B-T: L-LHt: 6-4Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Santa Monica, Calif., 2009 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Bobby DeJardin
Tyler SkaggsBackground: The first of a run of tall, loose-armed pitchers drafted by the Angels in their 2009 draft, Skaggs signed for $1 million in early August as the 40th overall pick. A three-sport star in high school, where his mother Debbie is volleyball coach, he grew up an Angels fan and passed on a Cal State Fullerton scholarship to turn pro. He consistently pitched well in front of scouts, but an ankle injury during the spring helped drop him out of the first round.

Strengths: Skaggs is the textbook definition of projectable. He's long-limbed, athletic and blessed with incredible arm speed. He delivers a lively 88-91 mph fastball down in the zone, and he could sit more comfortably at 92-93 with armside run when his upper body matures. His hard 75-78 mph slider is a knockout offering that features two-plane break. He likes to mix in a slow curveball as a surprise third pitch. He maintains a free and easy motion that reminds the Angels of Brian Matusz, whom they let slip away as a fourth-rounder out of high school in 2005.

Weaknesses: Los Angeles wants Skaggs to develop his below-average changeup at the expense of the slow curve. He shows some feel for the changeup, but it's a long ways away.

The Future: Because he logged just 10 innings after signing, Skaggs may stay behind in extended spring training at the start of 2010. He projects as a solid mid-rotation starter.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
AZL Angels (R) 0 0 0.00 3 2 0 0 6 4 0 1 7 .182
Orem (R) 0 0 4.50 2 0 0 0 4 5 0 1 6 .278
9.  Jordan Walden, rhp   Born: Nov. 16, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 240
 Drafted: Grayson County (Texas) CC, D/F 2006Signed by: Arnold Barthwaite
Jordan WaldenBackground: The Angels signed Walden for $1 million in May 2007 as a draft-and-follow out of Grayson County (Texas) CC, the same program that produced John Lackey. Walden had entered 2006 as the top high school prospect in the draft, but a poor showing dropped him to the 12th round. He dominated in his first two pro seasons, but a strained forearm limited him to 13 mostly ineffective starts in 2009.

Strengths: Though Walden clearly was not at his best last year, he never completely lost his heavy 90-94 mph fastball. Facing it has been likened to trying to hit a brick. Batters struggle to lift his fastball when it's down in the zone, and he has surrendered just 14 homers in 281 pro innings. His mid-80s slider has occasional tilt.

Weaknesses: Walden's forearm injury sapped him of his peak velocity and negatively affected his control. His changeup still lags behind his other pitches, and inconsistent mechanics also played a role in his poor command. He didn't pitch with his usual chutzpah while dealing with failure for the first time as a pro.

The Future: After effectively losing a year of development, Walden rehabbed throughout instructional league in an effort to be ready for spring training. If his command doesn't improve, his power fastball/slider combo appears tailored to a late-inning relief role.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Arkansas (AA) 1 5 5.25 13 13 0 0 60 72 4 29 57 .301
10.  Trevor Bell, rhp   Born: Oct. 12, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 186
 Signed: HS—La Crescenta, Calif., 2005 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Tim Corcoran
Trevor BellBackground: Bell signed for $925,000 as the 37th overall pick in 2005 but was toiling in relief in high Class A three years later. He risked being better known as the grandson of Bob Bell, who starred as Bozo the Clown for 24 years on Chicago television, than for his pitching. But he grew up in 2009, notched the system's second-best ERA at 2.70 and finished the season in the majors.

Strengths: Bell's first pitch in the big leagues registered at 94 mph, and he sits at 88-92 with life down in the zone. He works fast, relying on the cutting and sinking action on his fastball to pitch to both sides of the plate and induce weak contact. When it's on, his mid-70s slider features late tilt. He's a bulldog on the mound who seems to execute best when his back is against the wall.

Weaknesses: If he's not hitting spots with his fastball, Bell gets knocked around because the quality of his stuff is merely average. His slider is inconsistent, and while his changeup has improved, it's still wasn't good enough to keep big league lefties at bay. They batted .469/.526/.673 against him.

The Future: Bell will need above-average command to thrive in the big leagues, and it's a trait he's shown at most every stop in his minor league career. The Angels view him as a back-of-the-rotation starter or a bullpen arm who will compete for a big league job in spring training.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Arkansas (AA) 4 3 2.23 11 11 0 0 69 54 1 20 51 .212
Salt Lake (AAA) 3 4 3.15 11 11 2 0 71 67 5 15 38 .250
Los Angeles (AL) 1 2 9.74 8 4 0 0 20 40 3 11 14 .412

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Photo Credits:
Bill Mitchell (Conger)
Gains DuVall (Trout, Grichuk)
Brian Fleming (Skaggs)