2012 Los Angeles Angels Top 10 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

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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, 2011.

Matthew Eddy: The Angels bring to a close our Top 10 Prospects chats, and I'm honored to serve as closer.

    Ben (Leland Grove): How many of your top 10 do you believe are worthy of the top 100?

Matthew Eddy: Mike Trout and Jean Segura would be top 50 for me, while Garrett Richards would probably be a second-half guy. Johnny Hellweg would make for an interesting sleeper candidate, and perhaps C.J. Cron would fit at the very end if we come up short for names.

    Frank (Chicago): In your own opinion, would you consider Trout to be the top overall prospect in baseball today, or would Harper or Moore top him?

Matthew Eddy: I might rank Trout a hair behind Nationals phenom Bryce Harper just because the latter's power potential is so special.

    Grant (NYC): Trevor Reckling - still a legit prospect to you, or is he on the suspect list?

Matthew Eddy: LHP Trevor Reckling still is a prospect, and he made the Top 30. It's just that his ceiling has fallen dramatically since the end of the 2009 season, when the Angels named him org pitcher of the year. Reckling's days of topping 90 mph with regularity may be behind him, but his secondary stuff is good enough to make it as a reliever, provided that he locates his slider and changeup for strikes when he needs to.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): According to the Prospect Handbook, Trout received a grade of "Low" on BA's new risk factor scale, yet on the BA Grades explanation page near the front of the book (page 7), he is listed as "Safe". Which is correct?

Matthew Eddy: That discrepancy is my fault. I turned in Trout as a Low-risk prospect, not knowing that we had a safe designation. He ought to appear as Safe in all cases.

    Jake (Anaheim): What knocked Chevy Clarke out of the top 30 this year?

Matthew Eddy: The Angels made CF Chevy Clarke the third of three Georgia prep players taken in the 2010 draft's first round, but he really hasn't shown the tools or performance to this point to warrant inclusion on this year's list. The Angels want to see Clarke tighten his strike zone as well as his lefthanded swing because his defensive tools will not be sufficient to carry him all the way up the ladder. He showed a greater sense of urgency to improve in those areas later in the summer and in instructional league, so there's hope for 2012.

    Tony (Olathe, KS): What is the scouting report on Ryan Bolden?

Matthew Eddy: A surprise supplemental rounder in 2010 (40th overall), RF Ryan Bolden has hit a miserable .179/.268/.247 with zero home runs in two years in the Arizona League, dimming his prospect status to the occasional flicker. The natural righty really struggles with breaking balls from same-side pitchers, so the Angels had him switch-hit during instrux. They say he batted from both sides up through his freshman year in high school, so it's not a complete novelty. Bolden's strongest tools are his running speed and arm strength, so Los Angeles may try him on the mound as an absolute last resort if he doesn't pick up the pace with the bat.

    Jeff S. (Anaheim, CA): Matt, thanks for the chat! I know it's just for projection and fun, but what is the reason for moving Howie Kendrick to RF in a few years? I thought that was interesting. Thanks!

Matthew Eddy: Think of the projected lineups as a means of merging the organization's top prospects with its top young or mid-career big league talent. Kendrick's bat is good enough to project him to still be productive in four years, but he probably won't be as productive as Jean Segura. Couple that with the fact that the Angels played Kendrick in 23 games in left field last season and I think there's a precedent for such a move. For all Mike Trout's toolsiness, he really doesn't have great arm strength, thus his station in left field.

    John (Georgia): How is Cam Bedrosian's TJ recovery going and what is expected of Chevy Clarke in the future?

Matthew Eddy: The Angels expect that 2010 first-rounder RHP Cam Bedrosian will be ready for spring training. Look for the club to take it slow, starting Bedrosian in extended spring before setting him loose in either the Arizona or Pioneer league in June.

    Jeff S. (Anaheim, CA): How long into the 2012 season can the Angels justify keeping Trout on the bench if V Wells continues to struggle?

Matthew Eddy: If they're winning, the Angels may give Vernon Wells ample time to right the ship. If they're not, then Mike Trout's time table probably gets moved up. Hard to believe Wells has three more years at $21 million a pop, but that's the hard reality.

    Jeff S. (Anaheim, CA): This isn't really a prospect question so much as looking to get an answer to my curiousity. Do you believe any of the rumors true that the Blue Jays hitters are tipped pitchers with lights in centerfield hints why Wells home/road splits are so dramatic?

Matthew Eddy: I can't speak to the rumors, but for whatever reason the Rogers Centre is quite favorable for RH power hitters. Some of it is Jose Bautista, sure, but more homers are hit there by RH batters per plate appearance than in any other big league park over the past 3 years. Sure enough, Wells hit .285/.338/.507 during his long career at that park. Compare that with his numbers at Angel Stadium: .211/.244/.337 in 428 PAs.

    Jeff S. (Anaheim, CA): What is your gut feeling on Trumbo at third? Over/Under 24 homeruns in 2012?

Matthew Eddy: Give Mark Trumbo as much playing time as he had last year and I'd bet the over on 24 homers. The power is no fluke, though I'm not quite so optimistic on the position switch. The Angels played Trumbo only sporadically in the outfield when he was in the minors, and he never has tried third base as a pro. We also have to consider that Alberto Callaspo is a pretty good player — and the team on-base percentage leader for 2011 — and that Luis Jimenez and Kaleb Cowart are coming up behind Callaspo in the minors.

    Ricky D. (Los Angeles, CA): Who wins the Angels fifth spot in the rotation, Garrett Richards?

Matthew Eddy: Unless RHP Jerome Williams fares terribly in spring training, expect him to win the No. 5 job at the outset. My guess is that he's among the top half of No. 5 starter in the AL, and I don't think he's a fluke. Put him in front of the Halos' sound defense and I bet you've got a league-average starer on your hands. That could have trade value if Garrett Richards forces his way to Anaheim.

    Ricky D. (Los Angeles, CA): I was disappointed to see Tyler Chatwood traded to Colorado earlier in the offseason. I felt he projected as a pretty solid number 3/4 in the rotation?

Matthew Eddy: It's difficult to judge RHP Tyler Chatwood by his big league numbers because by rights the 21-year-old should have spent the bulk of 2011 in Double-A. Despite well above-average arm strength, Chatwood has simply failed to miss bats at the higher levels. This is evident in his 4.7 SO/9 rate for the Angels, of course, but also in the fact that opponents make contact 93 percent of the time Chatwood's pitches find the strike zone (according to FanGraphs' Pitch f/x data). As you'd imagine, this is a very high rate that puts him in company with righties like Anthony Swarzak, Barry Enright and Alex Cobb — and not Randall Delgado, Rubby de la Rosa or Juan Nicaso, as his 92-95 mph velocity might suggest. That's not to say Chatwood can't make a career for himself. Perhaps he fits best as a high-leverage reliever, where he can throw harder more consistently and not worry as much about the lack of plane on his pitches.

    Ricky D. (Los Angeles, CA): Where does the Angels system rank in overall talent compared to all the other teams in baseball?

Matthew Eddy: We ranked the Angels No. 18 in our late-December talent rankings, though I imagine most organizations would trade a good deal to acquire Trout or Segura. The Angels' severe lack of prospect depth hurts them in this ranking.

    Billy (Tampa, FL): Brandon Wood seemed to get just as much hype as Mike Trout is receiving. What should make me believe that Trout is different when it comes to succeeding in the Major Leagues?

Matthew Eddy: I'll give you two big reasons to look favorably on Trout even while the distaste for Brandon Wood's tenure lingers. Even at the peak of Wood's prospect glory, he struck out at an elevated rate. If one doesn't make contact, then one can't hit for average and one can't maximize one's power. Trout does not have this flaw. In fact, his contact skills and raw speed ought to help him collect infield hits. The second item in Trout's defense is the fact that he's a superior defensive player, and not merely an adequate one like Wood. Big league managers seem inclined to stick with unestablished rookies for two reasons: 1) they make steady contact, and 2) they provide defensive value to help the club during inevitable cold spells.

    Bill (Tampa): If I traded Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Bucholtz would you give the Red Sox Trout?

Matthew Eddy: That's more than fair from the Angels' perspective, I believe, so long as Buchholz's medicals look good. However, Ellsbury and Buchholz are about to get pricey, and there's still the small matter of Vernon Wells on the payroll.

    cy (western Mass.): Wow. Talk about a gap between tools and safety! Except for Trout, of course, there must be a lot of high risks on this list. How many top 100s do you think the Angels have? Thanks, Matt.

Matthew Eddy: Volatile is an apt word once you move beyond No. 3 man Garrett Richards on the Angels list. That stems from the organization's draft tendencies of late in which they favor raw, toolsy athletes for position players and righthanders with plus fastballs and below-average pitchability. Sometimes this yields Mike Trout or Garrett Richards, but certainly not always. In fact, the Angels may not know what they have with any other member of their Top 10 until the end of the 2013 season. Johnny Hellweg has about a dozen pro starts under his belt that suggest he's up to the task. (Regardless, he's quite a find as a 16th-rounder who missed his senior year of high school with an arm injury.) C.J. Cron, Kaleb Cowart and Taylor Lindsey could one day form three-quarters of the Halos' infield, but they all played in the Pioneer League last year, four rungs below the majors. Many scouts like Daniel Tillman, Ariel Pena and Nick Maronde as relievers down the road.

    jon (SC): Matt, Give us your take on CF Travis Witherspoon.

Matthew Eddy: A strong work ethic and sturdy tool base makes CF Travis Witherspoon a reasonable bet to make it as, at worst, a reserve outfielder. He can really track the ball down in center, and he puts his speed to use on the bases. If Witherspoon can hit about .260-.270 and turn on a dozen balls a year, he's got a future in the big leagues. The question will be whether he can iron out his swing and feel for hitting to make that happen.

    Karl of Delaware (Delmarva): The Angels have a hugh payroll with Wilson, Pujols, etc. Does spending of this sort ever have any negative effect of the money spent on the teams farm system and the bonuses paid to rookies? Any examples?

Matthew Eddy: Generally speaking, major league payroll corresponds little, if at all, with the amateur scouting/signing budget of most clubs. The top revenue teams like the Yankees and Red Sox also spend liberally in the draft and internationally, while low-payroll clubs like the Royals and Pirates also spend lavishly on amateurs.

    Michael (Valpo, IN): I've heard that MLB is still deciding on Mike Trout's rookie status for 2012??? Something about being on the roster too long? Since you have him ranked here, I assume he is indeed still a rookie, and eligible for the 2012 ROY? Do you all know anything about these circumstances that we don't? Thanks.

Matthew Eddy: At the heart of the issue is the fact that Trout spent fewer than 20 days on optional assignment with Double-A Arkansas last August. Minor league options require 20 days in order to "vest," so the service time instead went on Trout's MLB ledger. This seemingly pushed him above 45 days of big league service, but the Orange County reported in December that MLB has deemed Trout rookie eligible in 2012. The key passage: "Even though he now gets credit for those days, the fact remains that he was an active player on the 25-man roster for just 38 days in 2011." Check out the whole story. It's pretty fascinating: http://angels.ocregister.com/2011/12/02/mike-trout-is-eligible-for-the-rookie-of-the-year-award/114163/

    J-Man (ATL): Tired or not, Mike Trout was one of the worst players in the AFL. His K/BB ratio was one of the worst in the league's history for a regular player. And besides a 2-3 game hot stretch in the bigs, he looked awful in Anaheim, too. He's young, I get that, but why all the pub and love already??? You guys were wrong on Heyward (a total BUST!), and sorry to say, will be wrong on this guy, too!

Matthew Eddy: I'm guessing this reader belongs to neither the Mike Trout nor Jason Heyward fan club.

    Travis (Rancho): If Randal Grichuk could stay healthy this year, do you (and the Angels' brass) see him bouncing back strong and become a top-10 prospect once again?

Matthew Eddy: That's one possible outcome. Dinged up as he was, RF Randal Grichuk still shows explosive bat speed and raw power. Can he get himself in position to use it, however? The pitch recognition will have to come a long way in 2012.

    Greg (Fullerton, CA): With the cluster of 1B already at the big league level, is it likely that Cron will be traded or try LF?

Matthew Eddy: Given C.J. Cron's body type, it's first base or DH for him in the pro game. Moving to the outfield would require the type of body transformation that the Padres' Kyle Blanks made last season. Possible, but not likely.

    Jon (Peoria): If Kole Calhoun maxes out his talent, can he be an everyday OF or does he profile more as an extra OF?

Matthew Eddy: The safe answer is that Kole Calhoun's tools project to fit best in a backup role on the outfield corners and at first base. However, his hitting approach is strong, and the Angels love his hitting mentality. Don't count him out just yet.

    Al (NYC): Hellweg sounds very intriguing. How sustainable do you think the improvements in his control are? And if the improvements are indeed real, then when do you anticipate seeing him in Anaheim? Thanks!

Matthew Eddy: The key to Hellweg's improvement, to hear the Angels tell it, is that he really benefited from his side work between starts. A lot of pitching coaches stress the importance of side sessions, actually. A reliever doesn't have the same luxuries as a starter because his top two pitches must always be sharp, and he's got to be ready physically to pitch every game. A starter, though, has a different routine. He can work on ironing his mechanics and mastering a third pitch on the four days between starts. Different roles produced radically different results for Hellweg this year, lending credence to the theory.

    Ryan (AZ): I keep reading about how Bourjos has defied expectations and looks to be a better hitter than expected. Do you think he can be an above average hitter with decent on base abilities? Thanks!

Matthew Eddy: As long as he keeps his speed and range, Bourjos will provide positive value overall. Scouts love the bat speed, but he doesn't have that one outstanding skill as a hitter. Bourjos' strikeout rate is a bit higher than you'd like, and the walk rate a bit lower. He's not an elite power hitter or base stealer. I don't know that he ever will profile as a top-of-the-order on-base threat unless he makes huge strides with his discipline.

    Fonz (Milwaukee): Whither Fernando Martinez Mesa?

Matthew Eddy: Hard-throwing Fabio Martinez dropped out of the Top 10 because he hasn't really been healthy since July 2010. Plagued by shoulder soreness, he missed the bulk of last season, and when Martinez did get on the mound in mid-August he got drilled by a comebacker and missed the rest of the year with a broken ankle.

    Chuck McD (Henderson, NV): Does Taylor Lindsey project as a mayor league 2nd baseman

Matthew Eddy: Taylor Lindsey absolutely has the tools to profile as an MLB starter at the keystone — above-average hit potential, average defense, solid power. Will his aggressive hitting approach work against pitchers at higher levels who can locate secondary pitches? That's what he'll set out to prove this season and next.

    Jason (Salem): I don't know if this has been asked or answered in a straight forward manner: does Mike Trout start 2012 with the Angels?

Matthew Eddy: I would guess that if everybody's healthy, then Trout goes to Triple-A Salt Lake to play every day. No use in having him ride the pine in Anaheim. Things can change quickly, though, if somebody gets hurt or if Wells continues to freefall.

    Newt (Florida): I've heard a lot of speculation that Richards will not be an impace starter and may even end up in the pen due to his low strikeout rate and underdeveloped secondaries. You, however, see his as a likely No. 3 with potential to be a No. 2. Why would you say to those who doubt Richards?

Matthew Eddy: The key to Garrett Richards' future are command and makeup because his raw pitches grade out at high as a No. 2 profile. That means that he potentially has two plus pitches (fastball, slider) and an average third pitch (changeup and maybe the occasional curveball). Can Richards locate his fastball and get outs in fastball counts? Can he locate his secondary pitches in fastball counts to trip up opponents? How will his across-the-body mechanics affect his command? All these questions he must answer to make the grade.

    John (LA): Luis Jimenez had a pretty great season as an age appropriate 22 year old in the Texas League and Arkansas is a pitcher's park, is it not? What kept him out of the top 10? 59 XBH and 15 SB is pretty solid. Was it simply his lack of walks? His K rate seems pretty manageable.

Matthew Eddy: You're right. 3B Luis Jimenez is a solid prospect who finished just outside the Top 10. Scouts expect that his power will play down in the big leagues because he's such a free swinger. On the flip side, that makes him a bit more dangerous in RBI situations because he can put different pitch types in play. Generally regarded as a fringe-average defender at third, Jimenez just doesn't have a standout tool to suggest a future as an MLB regular.

    Franz (Bristol, ME): Hellwig made a big jump in the ratings this year. What player do you think has the best chance of making a similar jump this coming year?

Matthew Eddy: If he's healthy, Fabio Martinez has two plus pitches that could make California League opponents look silly.

    Dale (Pa.): Do you think playing Trout at a corner of spot is a waste of his talents. Why not deal Bourjos before next year and leave Trout in CF for the next 10 years.

Matthew Eddy: Only the Angels know for sure whether they've considered your suggestion in part two of your question. As to the first part: Yes, playing Trout in left field does waste his plus range in center. To some degree it doesn't matter, though, because his bat profiles on an outfield corner. Keep in mind that the industry still is recalibrating expectations as to what it means to be a left fielder in today's lower-octane environment. After looking into the numbers, I found that the average left field "regular" in 2010-11 hit .276/.342/.444 with an average of 18 homers and 30 doubles per 600 plate appearances. Trout could do better than that at his peak.

    Rob (Alaska): I'd been hearing better things about Segura's chances to stick at SS until this. Care to elaborate on the factors that make a move to 2B likely in your view? Thanks, appreciate the chat.

Matthew Eddy: Playing shortstop every day in the big leagues is as much about consistency and predictability as it is about range and arm strength. Segura earns fine grades for his range and arm, though some scouts question whether his hands and throwing accuracy are strong enough to play on the left side of the infield. Can he play short in the big leagues? Yes, probably, but he'd likely be a plus defender (a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale) at second and a 45-50 at short.

    Nick (Boston): Any sleepers from the 2011 draft that crept in to the Top 30 that you are expecting big things from in 2012?

Matthew Eddy: A fitting place to end our chat today ... Two Orem righthanders probably have the best chance to start the 2012 season on a strong note. Nick Mutz (ninth round) already locates an above-average fastball and changeup — and he's experienced pro success — so if the changeup comes along the Angels may have something. Danile Vargas-Vila (28th round) helped pitch West Florida to the Division II World Series title last spring on the strength of a wide arsenal moreso than a blazing fastball. But once the Angels smoothed out his mechanics, Vargas-Vila's velocity began to tick upward. He touched 94 mph in the Pioneer League playoffs, during which he threw 7 1/3 perfect innings vs. Ogden. He throws an average curveball, cutter and changeup that all play up with strong control.