Los Angeles Angels: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

Los Angeles Angels: Chat

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.

Matthew Eddy: Thanks for stopping by the chat. This was my first year taking on the Angels and I have to say that I enjoyed learning the organization. On to the questions . . .

    JAYPERS (IL): How close was Amarista from your list, and what can you tell us about him?

Matthew Eddy: The diminutive Alexi Amarista led the Midwest League league with his .319 average, and the second baseman showed surprising pop with 39 doubles. He continued on in the Venezuelan League this winter, going 2-for-14 while playing the outfield. Amarista ranked No. 17 on the final list. He reminds me of an Emilio Bonifacio or Eugenio Velez type of player, someone who can run and hit a bit while capably playing second base. Adding third base and the outfield would bolster his resume.

Matthew Eddy: Correction: Amarista batted .339 while playing second base for Anzoategui in the Venezuelan League this winter. I mistakenly referred to his '08 numbers above.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Is Jake Locker going to be playing with the Angels' organization anytime soon? Did he make your Top 30?

Matthew Eddy: We included Locker on the depth chart but did not rank him. He was the Angels' 10th-round pick from Washington, where he also plays quarterback for the football team. As soon as he commits to playing baseball (at all) we'll evaluate him as a baseball player.

    Travis (Klein, TX): How is Luis Jimenez's rehab going? What can we expect of him this year?

Matthew Eddy: Jimenez appeared to be a rising prospect in '08 when he batted .331 with 15 homers for Orem. The third baseman had his entire follow-up season wiped out when he had surgery on the labrum in his right shoulder. During instructional league, Jimenez had begun playing catch and taking BP, but had yet to return to game situations. He turns 21 today and figures to spend much of next year in Cedar Rapids, so the lost developmental year hurts. His bat still offers promise — he hits quality fastballs and already has a good two-strike approach, taking breaking balls the other way.

    Charlie (Salt Lake City): How far off was Mark Trumbo from making it? I see he still has the best power in the system.

Matthew Eddy: Not much separates Trumbo from Jordan Walden and Trevor Bell, Nos. 9 and 10 on this list. We could have listed them in any order. Trumbo will have to prove viable in right field (or hope for massive regression from Kendry Morales) to force his way into the Angels' plans. Expect him to hit for dramatically more power in the Pacific Coast League. His second-half showing (.863 OPS) was almost enough to crack the Top 10.

    Grant (Monteal, Canada): What can you tell us about South Korean import Pil Joon Jang? Is he ticketed for full season ball this year and how advanced is his feel for pitching?

Matthew Eddy: A full-season assignment for Jang probably is not a certainty given all the pitchers the organization added in the '09 draft. Jang in the Arizona League pitched at 86 mph with phenomenal command, and he already shows great feel for a sinking changeup. He bagged his poor slow curveball during the season as he worked on a slider. Jang already has fulfilled his Korean military commitment.

    Stephen C. Smith (FutureAngels.com): The entire minor league staff — managers, coaches, rovers — returns in 2010. That would seem to be very rare. Do you think such stability is a plus for the organization, or would some turnover be healthy?

Matthew Eddy: The continuity would have to be viewed as a positive, both in terms of it being an endorsement of the way the organization treats people but also so that a consistent message is relayed from one year to the next.

    Alex (Atlanta): I see that you have Conger at DH in your projected lineup. Is that more of a comment on Conger's likelihood of sticking behind the plate or the fact that Napoli is already entrenched?

Matthew Eddy: In this exercise, we have to bow to established regulars. Please don't take the projected lineup too seriously. It would have to be considered even odds that Napoli will be playing for a different team in 2013. Another serious injury could derail Conger from his catching course, in which case Jeff Mathis, Bobby Wilson or Carlos Ramirez would have to be considered the favorite.

    Sam (Fresno, Ca): Did Angel Castillo make the top 30? Whats the report on him?

Matthew Eddy: Castillo did not make it. A thumbnail report: Long and lean, line-drive stroke with some raw power, can run and throw (70 arm), lacks instincts for hitting and playing outfield at the moment.

    Larry (Canada): Kendry Morales bat > Mark Teixeira bat? Also, I've heard Mark Teixeira comparisons for Hank Conger. How good of a comparison is this?

Matthew Eddy: Neither comparison is terribly strong. Morales certainly represents better value to the Angels because his salary is so much less than Teixeira's. But Teixeira outperformed Morales while facing much better pitching, on balance, in the AL East. And even if Conger were to move out from behind the plate, it's doubtful he could keep pace with Teixeira. If Conger bats .280 with a sound batting eye and 20 HR that's going to keep him in consideration for a few All-Star Games.

    Pete (Miami, FL): Jon Bachanov showed some great command in a relief role. Did he make the top 30 and will he remain a reliever? Will he move quickly in a relief role?

Matthew Eddy: Yes, yes and yes, I think so. Bachanov's velocity returned to the low 90s, but more impressively he showed very good feel for his slider. That doesn't often happen for a pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery.

    Roxanne (Gilbert, AZ): Will Mike Trout continue to switch hit? I know he started it right before he was drafted, but according to MiLB.com, he only hit right handed this year.

Matthew Eddy: Trout will not pursue switch-hitting as a pro. He's a rightly only.

    Ryan Ghan (Boston): Was smoothing out Garrett Richards mechanics really that easy? How come you don't apply a bigger discount to compensate for the risk of him reverting back to his college form?

Matthew Eddy: If Richards had lesser raw stuff, I'd be inclined to call his Orem performance a sample-size fluke. But four average to plus pitches, the ability to throw strikes and no homers allowed in the Pioneer League adds up to a bonafide prospect. Regression is a concern for Richards, no doubt, but the Angels' system, while on the rise, is not overflowing with can't-miss prospects.

    Walt (Tempe, AZ): Dillon Baird had an outstanding debut for an 11th round pick. What do expect from him over the course of a full season and what is his ceiling?

Matthew Eddy: Baird won the Pioneer League batting title in his debut, but to make it as a first base prospect, he'll really have to mash. I wouldn't write him off, but I wouldn't go crazy with him either. For more on Baird, check out the PL post-op on strong pro debuts: http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/prospects/?p=6443

    Ben (Leland Grove): How many of these ten names would get your vote for BA's Top 100 list?

Matthew Eddy: Conger figures to get some attention, maybe in the 41-100 range, and Bourjos and Trout could sneak on the back of the list as well. Conger really has a nice stroke from both sides of the plate. If he stays healthy, he'll hit.

    TRrrr (Driving in the rain): Which of the 2nd base prospects, Amarista and Segura, do you see with the most potential?

Matthew Eddy: The Angels prefer Jean Segura, a quick-twitch athlete with serious power/speed potential. He's limited to second base and he's already been knocked out twice with injuries, but the bat will play.

    Chuck Richter (Seattle, WA): What is your gut feeling on Jordan Walden? Future starting pitcher or reliever? If he can stay healthy with the fastball velo returning, combined with the changeup not developing, he could be a very good closer in my opinion.

Matthew Eddy: A role in the bullpen would seem to be a distinct possibility. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    Gary (Petaluma, CA.): Granted, Brandon Wood doesn't technically qualify as a PROSPECT anymore. But, if you were to compare Wood & his future upside to current MLB 3B's… Which current MLB 3B's numbers would compare to Wood's long term numbers to? Thanks, in advance :)

Matthew Eddy: I see similarities between Brandon Wood and the Rockies' Ian Stewart — strong glove at the hot corner combined with above-average power and only a modest feel for hitting.

    Chuck Richter (Seattle, WA): Does Chris Pettit have what it takes to be a major league starter, or does he hit the profile as a 4th outfielder, reserve?

Matthew Eddy: Pettit has a classic reserve outfielder profile — good hitter without the power associated with playing a corner or the range for regular play in center.

    Maggie (La Canada CA): Is Conger a middle of the order bat? That would be a big boost to my favorite team's offense, which has taken a hit this winter. When can we expect him?

Matthew Eddy: Conger has everything you look for in a hitter: he makes contact, he drives the ball, he knows the strike zone. I would stop short of calling him a classic 3 or 4 hitter, but he profiles as a productive hitter. He doesn't need to be added to the 40-man until after the season, so don't expect him to play in Anaheim before September. I'd expect 2-3 months at Arkansas, then a bump to Salt Lake.

    Chuck Richter (Seattle, WA): Baseball America's sleeper for 2010 is.....?

Matthew Eddy: That would be 6-foot-8 RH reliever Johnny Hellweg, who sat in the mid-90s with a plus slider in the Arizona League. He's a 16th-round find from Florida CC, taken in '08. Look for more on Hellweg in our Prospect Handbook supplement, which is included in all book orders placed through BA.

    Jaypers (IL): Matt, I know Will Smith had a "down" year but how far did he drop in the rankings? I still think he had a decent year with all the injuries, did too many people overrate him last year? Thanks

Matthew Eddy: Though he's a physical lefty at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Smith is more pitchability than pure power. He expertly adds and subtracts form his sinker and his curveball. Smith ranks in the top half of the Top 30, more or less even with his Kernals teammate, Tyler Chatwood.

    Garrett (Frankfort): Is Tyler Chatwood still on your prospect radar?

Matthew Eddy: Absolutely. Chatwood could rocket up the list if he improves his control in the Cal League this season. That's a distinct possibility, judging by his raw athleticism. A bulldog with a riding, low-90s fastball and a power curveball, Chatwood has mid-rotation potential.

    Ryan (Chandler, AZ): The more I keep hearing about Mike Trout, the more I think of Torii Hunter. Is this a good comparison? Thanks!

Matthew Eddy: Aaron Rowand is the name we heard whispered among amateur scouts when discussing Mike Trout's potential. Hunter may be a bit optimistic for the sake of comparison, but Rowand in his prime seems to fit — physical CF with a feel for hitting, some speed and modest power.

    Dave (Rockville, MD): How do you think Conger compares with other top catching prospects like Montero, Santana, Posey, Norris, Flowers, and Castro?

Matthew Eddy: Conger, to me, clearly rates below Montero, Santana and Posey, and he's in the discussion with that next tier of Norris, Flowers and Castro. I might discount Conger because of all the time missed behind the plate.

    Jock (Orange County CA): Matt, it appears as though the Angel organization is on the upswing again. In what range do you rank it currently relative to other MLB orgs? If things break well and the extra 2010 draft picks prove fruitful, can you envision a Top Ten organization by the end of 2010?

Matthew Eddy: Much will hinge on their 2010 draft. But because they're so successful at the big league level, the Angels will continue to have low draft position. So if they do catapult into the top 10 it probably will be due to depth and not pure impact talent.

    Ryan Ghan (Boston): I've previously read reports about Bell and a potentially plus curveball. Did he scrap a pitch in favor of the slider, or has it just been reclassified as a slider due to its velocity? Or was the previous report just wrong?

Matthew Eddy: Interesting. I'm new to the Angels organization, but checking over my notes . . . two members of the front office referred to the breaking ball as a slider.

    Steven Huggins (Irvine, Ca): How much power does Grichuk have? 30+ HR reasonable?

Matthew Eddy: I think the Angels would "settle" for 20 HR. Maybe he peaks in the neighborhood of 30, but the organization views him more as a player who profiles as a hitter for average and power, and not really a pure slugger.

    MJ (Valpo): Who does Bourjos compare to/remind you of in terms of a current MLB'er? I can't wait for him to show up in LA!

Matthew Eddy: It's not easy to hang a comp on Peter Bourjos. Most of the fleet, stolen-base threat center fielders in the big leagues bat from the left side. Filtering last year's batting title qualifiers by RH-hitting outfielders, we find that the lowest HR totals belong to Magglio Ordonez (9) and B.J. Upton (11). Everybody else has at least 15. I don't know that Bourjos has Upton's kind of explosiveness at the plate. A more reasonable comp might be someone like Rajai Davis, a strong defensive player who can hit for some average and steal lots of bases.

    Brian (Las Vegas, Ca): Where would Kehrer and Corbin rank on the list?

Matthew Eddy: Lefties Tyler Kehrer and Pat Corbin both ranked in the 11-20. You can read reports on the full Top 30 in our Prospect Handbook, which will be available shortly.

    Harold (NY): It seems that the quality of the system drops off significantly after Hank Conger, although there are a lot of high upside players, too. Is this a good analysis?

Matthew Eddy: So much hinges on how the players from the '09 draft shake out. If Trout and Grichuk and Richards and Corbin and Skaggs (and Fabio Martinez, for good measure) all pan out, then this is a strong group. The confidence level is very low, though, because all of these players have so much development in front of them.

    Jeff (Baltimore): The Angels ventures into free agency have certainly taken its toll on their farm system, and they have only one international signee in their top-10. Given their high-end budget, there is little reason they shouldn't be players in the international market. Have they spent money in Latin America and just been unsuccessful or is it an organizational philosophy not to spent money in this area?

Matthew Eddy: The Angels certainly have benefited from their international scouting effort, e.g. Erick Aybar, Kendry Morales, Ervin (don't call me Johan) Santana, Alberto Callaspo turned into Jason Bulger, etc. But the firing of international scouting director Clay Daniels, the increased draft budget and the stagnation of bonus babies like Rafael Rodriguez and Young-Il Jung have contributed to a thriftier approach on the international market. This is a great question, though, and something for me to follow up this season.

    Dave (Ponte Vedra Beach): How aggressive will the Angels be in promoting Andrew Taylor this year?

Matthew Eddy: They'll want to get him to Double-A at least. The '08 34th-rounder from N.C. State has lefty situational relief potential. He sits at 92 mph with a sharp, late-breaking slider. He'll often show a strong changeup, too. Because Taylor relied on his slider in college he's only now learning to pitch with his fastball.

    Stan (Eagle Rock): If Torii goes down who is called up?

Matthew Eddy: Have to think Reggie Willits or Gary Matthews Jr. would get first crack at CF until Bourjos is deemed ready — and that might not be this year.

    Chuck Richter (Seattle, WA): Michael Kohn had some impressive numbers between two levels in 2009. What's the buzz at BA on Kohn and his chances at becoming a late inning reliever in the big leagues?

Matthew Eddy: Kohn sneaked on to our list at No. 30. A short-armer with all sorts of arm strength, he gets lots of awkward swings and misses with his low- to mid-90s heat.

    Chuck Richter (AngelsWin.com) (Seattle, WA): Does P.J. Phillips athleticism and tools keep him in your top 30 Angels' prospects, or is the plate discipline and bat still a concern going forward?

Matthew Eddy: The Angels were encouraged by his transition to center field, but it's looking increasingly like the bat won't play at the big league level.

    Rob (Alaska): Given the way the Angels have "slow played" the development of players such as Kendry Morales and Brandon Wood, is it reasonable to assume that Hank Conger still has 2 or more full minor league seasons ahead of him?

Matthew Eddy: I'd take the over on one and a half years.

    Mike (Little Rock): With Conger getting closer, is Bobby Wilson anything more than organizational depth at this point?

Matthew Eddy: Wilson enters spring training with no minor league options remaining, so either he makes the team (possibly in conjunction with a trade of Mathis or Napoli) or he has to clear waivers to be sent back to Salt Lake. It seems quite likely that some team will claim him and install him as backup catcher.

    Chuck Richter (Seattle, WA): Where's the love for Trevor Reckling? Ranking him 4th seems a bit low. The kid held his own as a 19-year old (Turned 20 in late May of last season) against Double-A hitters, then looked great against China on center stage. No mention of him being one of the Angels' ranked in the top 100 prospects seems a bit odd.

Matthew Eddy: Reckling's funky motion gives him great deception but also makes it difficult to throw strikes consistently. It's a bit of a double-edged sword. His stuff is quality; it's strictly a matter of command. Give the Angels credit, though, for not trying to overhaul his mechanics. I think a lot of organizations would have streamlined his mechanics — even though that's how he's found success to this point.

    Mike (Little Rock): Are there any legitimate ss prospects in the system? Statia doesn't count..

Matthew Eddy: Rolando Gomez and Andrew Romine are the best bets. But Romine's offensive ceiling is very low, and Gomez is at least three full years away. So to answer your question: yes and now. Good thing Aybar should be around for the next four years, at minimum.

Matthew Eddy: Thanks for all the great questions. Stay tuned to BaseballAmerica.com, where tomorrow you'll find a feature on Angels scout/manager/institution Tom Kotchman and on Wednesday we'll resume the Top 10s with the A's.