International Reviews: Los Angeles Angels
Top 2016-17 signing: LHP Andersson Espinal, Dominican Republic, $175,000.
Total signings: 21.
For the second and final signing period, the Angels were unable to sign any international amateur player for more than $300,000 as a penalty for having exceeded their bonus pool in 2014-15, when they signed Cuban shortstop Roberto Baldoquin for $8 million. In 2015-16, the Angels traded away all four slot values leaving them with only their $700,000 base allotment and spending just $780,000 for the entire signing period. They didn’t go to such a frugal extreme in the current 2016-17 signing period that opened last year on July 2, spending around $1.5 million and giving low six-figure deals to 11 players.
For $175,000, the Angels signed 17-year-old Dominican lefthander Andersson Espinal on July 2. He’s 6-foot-1, 170 pounds with a clean, easy delivery and throws a high percentage of strikes. His fastball is still a projection, touching 88 mph right now, but he has a big-breaking curveball with tight spin and advanced feel to pitch for his age. Espinal trained with Chiqui Mejia. In December, the Angels signed Dominican righthander Faustino Antigua for $175,000. Antigua has a bigger frame (6-foot-5, 185 pounds) and velocity than Espinal, reaching 92 mph with a lively fastball. He’s tall and skinny with good break on his curveball and the physical projection to throw hard, though he will have to throw more strikes as he moves up the ladder. Antigua trained with Alberto Barjan and Lucas Garcia.
Adderlin Santana is a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop the Angels signed for $150,000 on July 2. At 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, Santana is a switch hitter with plus speed and a high-energy style. He makes more contact from the right side and drives the ball with more authority from the left. His swing can get big for someone his size but he generally puts together quality at-bats. Santana has quick feet but isn’t the smoothest shortstop, so whether he stays at shortstop or moves to another up-the-middle spot at second base or center field is still to be determined. He trained with Juan Rodriguez. Venezuelan righthander Tulio Santa Maria is a 16-year-old who signed for $150,000 in July. He’s grown an inch or two over the past year and is now 6-foot-4 but just 165 pounds. His fastball doesn’t blow anyone away in the mid-80s, but there’s a lot of projection to add velocity with room on his frame to add another 50 or more pounds. For his age and size, his delivery and ability to throw strikes are good and he shows feel to spin a breaking ball.
Venezuelan catcher Edwin Bisay signed with the Angels for $140,000 on July 2 after training with Roberto Vahlis. Bisay, 17, is a smart, high baseball IQ player with good receiving skills behind the plate and solid athleticism for a catcher. He has good catch-and-throw skills with an accurate arm. At 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, Bisay is a contact-oriented hitter from both sides of the plate, though mostly for singles right now. Shortly after he turned 16 on Aug. 3, Dominican shortstop Julio de la Cruz signed with the Angels for $130,000. Lean and wiry when signed, de la Cruz has added 10-15 pounds since then and is up to 5-foot-10, 170 pounds. He was also a switch-hitter, though he’s dropped the lefty swing and now hits exclusively from the right side. He’s strong and geared to hit the ball in the air, giving him a chance to hit for power even if it comes at the expense of some swing-and-miss. A solid-average runner with a good running gait and a high-energy style, de la Cruz is still learning to slow the game down and smooth out his actions at shortstop. He has a chance to stay there but could be a fit at second base or in center field. He trained with Danny Santana.
Luis Diaz is a sweet-swinging Venezuelan outfielder who signed for $125,000 in July. Diaz, 17, is 6-foot-1, 175 pounds with a chance to add another 30 or so pounds for his frame. He’s a left fielder who stands out for his bat, showing a pretty swing from the left side with innate feel to manipulate the barrel. His stroke is geared toward left-center field, with more line drives than power right now. Dominican shortstop Daniel Ozoria turned 16 on Aug. 24, making him one of the youngest players in the 2016 class. Had he been born more than a week later, he would have had to wait until 2017 to be eligible to sign. The Angels added Ozoria shortly after his 16th birthday on a $125,000. His youth shows in his extremely thin, underdeveloped frame at around 5-foot-9, 135 pounds, but the actions and instincts are there for him to play shortstop. Ozoria has clean hands, a nose for the ball and can make throws on the run from different angles with an average arm. The biggest thing for Ozoria will be getting stronger, which should help his tools, including his arm and fringy speed, improve. That process could take time though, and might hold him back initially at the plate, but he does make contact against live pitching. Ozoria trained with Felito Cueto.
2019 MiLB Best Tools
As voted on by minor league managers and their coaching staffs, here are the players with the best tools in each minor league in 2019.
Venezuelan righthander Jose Natera signed with the Angels for $120,000 on July. He’s a 17-year-old strike-thrower with a fluid delivery and a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high 80s, topping out at 90 mph. At 5-foot-1, 180 pounds, he gets good extension and his fastball gets on hitters faster than they expect, riding up in the zone. He has flashed feel for a curveball as well. Natera trained with Jose Guacaran. Yogeiry Villar is an 18-year-old Dominican righthander the Angels added for $100,000 in July. He’s 6-foot-4, 195 pounds with a fastball that has reached the low-90s and a hard, low-80s breaking ball after training with Chiqui Mejia. Another big Dominican righthander, 17-year-old Stiward Aquino, signed for $100,000 in December. Aquino is 6-foot-6, 175 pounds and controls his body well for someone with his long, lanky levers to be a solid strike thrower. His fastball has reached 93 mph with the physical projection to jump higher in the future and feel to spin a hard upper-70s breaking ball.