2023 Los Angeles Angels Top 10 Prospects Chat

Taylor Blake Ward hosted a chat to discuss the Angels system. You can read the transcript here.

Adam (Arizona):

     It seems like the Angels have improved a lot on the International side over the last couple years. 3 of the Top 10 signed in last two years – how high are some other international guys like Walbert Urena RHP and Randy De Jesus OF? Thank you.

Taylor Blake Ward: Hello Adam. I agree, the Angels have improved mightily internationally. Adding Brian Parker as director has been a big boon. Urena and de Jesus will both appear in the teens.

Ben (Arizona):

     Lot of international names in the lower levels – who are some of the better guys not in the Top 10? Any sleepers you like? Thanks.

Taylor Blake Ward: Hello Ben. The Angels have seen solid early returns on the international side. Randy de Jesus is the bonus baby who showcased some intriguing offensive tools, performed well (age-relevant) and earned DSL All-Star MVP honors. Dario Laverde and Nixon Encarnacion are DSL sleepers for me who should be stateside this year.

Frederick (Boston):

     Hi Taylor, thank you for the chat today! I know he’s very young still, but what have you been hearing about Jorge Ruiz? Does he have a chance to breakout this year?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Frederick. Jorge Ruiz has hit well for two seasons between DSL/ACL, but his swing is a bit armsy with minimal use of his lower half. He’ll have to get stronger and probably become more mechanically sound at the plate, but he impressed during instructional league which included a home run off of Sam Bachman at Angel Stadium. There’s some split in opinion from those in the organization, but some have mentioned him as a breakout candidate once he hits full-season ball.

Nate (Placerville, CA):

     Do you think Neto deserves placement in the top 100? If so, where?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hello Nate. Yes, I think Zach Neto could/should be a top 100 prospect in baseball based on what I’ve seen. He’s a 50/55-grade prospect pending the variance, so wherever you fit players of that same caliber is where I would personally place him. However, I’ll leave the top 100 to the decision makers here at Baseball America.

Marcus (Southern California):

     With the Angels likely using an in-house option for their sixth starter, what is your opinion on the Angels organizational pitching depth? Is Perry Minasian’s first draft of all pitchers already paying dividends? Or are the Angels relying on the rebound/upside or Griffin Canning/Chris Rodriguez?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hello Marcus. Part of the 20 pitchers in 20 picks was addressing how poor the pitching depth was throughout the organization, and it has definitely started paying dividends. Chase Silseth has already seen Major League time and will be in the mix for that sixth spot in the rotation. Ky Bush is nearing MLB time, though it will likely be more mid-season. A lot of the depth that was brought in by the draft has relief risk, but it’s probably been a decade since the Angels have had this kind of internal pitching depth.

Chuck (San Diego):

     Looking at the projected Angels 2026 lineup based on organizational talent, I noticed that Shohei Ohtani is not listed as one of the top 5 starters. Does this mean you think the Angels pitching staff is going to be really good then?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Chuck. When I filed the future lineup, I took into consideration contracts and with Ohtani’s current contract ending this year, I did not include him in my projected lineup. This can obviously change.

Denzer Guzman (Future top 100?):

     Thanks for chatting with us Taylor. Your write-up about me is quite encouraging. With being 6’2″ and with additional strength projections, can you elaborate how you got to 45 for my power? Do scouts think there is a chance I could end up with both above average hit/power at fully physical maturity?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hola Denzer, thanks for stopping by. His (your?) swing is contact-driven with some natural loft so there is an opportunity for more power with strength gains, but at present it’s 40/45 — decent for a teenager — so until he grows I’m holding tight on the 45 projection. The scouts higher on him see average power projection.

Alex (LA):

     The Angels have added some talent to the top of their system but still feels really thin. Would you rank the Angels’ system still in the top 5-10 of the majors? Who do scouts inside and outside the system think has the highest ceiling regardless of floor? Based on the reports, I’d guess Denzer Guzman. Is that the same responses you received too?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Alex. I’m in partial agreeance with you. Seeing the system through-and-through, there are plenty of exciting players and tools and projection, but far too much variance to feel confident that all/any will turn into something leaving for a thinner vibe on paper. Guzman is a good pick, but Walbert Urena is the one who is mentioned most with the highest ceiling — athletic teenager with a triple-digit fastball and plus changeup. Just has to find the zone.

Jason (Dana Point):

     The Angels have been perpetually stuck in the mud when it comes to drafting and developing…why should I feel any better about things now?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Jason. When it comes to position players, I agree with you. High ceiling players who just can’t seem to find the hit tool. On the pitching side, though, I would disagree. Minasian and staff have put an emphasis on drafting pitchers with good stuff, and once they hit pro ball, their development have done a solid job of getting them to throw strikes and trusting their stuff in the zone, which has really built up the Angels internal pitching depth. Last year was a good year for building confidence in the development staff, and the initial returns on the draftees and acquisitions should give confidence to the amateur and pro scouting — which essentially has been entirely revamped.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Rafael’s son Preston Palmeiro is getting a little age on him, so it is unlikely he can follow in his dad’s footsteps. However, is there a chance he can get a cup of coffee (or a little more) in the majors?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Karl. Preston is a great kid, and I would love to see him get a chance with anyone. He has some defensive versatility but the bat is just too light to see enough impact. We can hope, but I don’t think he’ll get that cup.

Ken (Lakewood CA):

     Looks like the Angels deserve credit in selecting Neto in the 1st round. They took a chance on him despite his lack of high quality competition as an amateur. Reaching AA in 2022 must make them feel good about his future. Can we realistically expect to see him in Anaheim as soon as 2023? There is talk about the Angels signing a SS for this year. But is Neto the long term answer – sooner than later?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hello Ken. Not a lot of kids go from the Big South Conference to Double-A in the span of a few months and perform the way Neto did. The biggest hinge here is that his exit velocities (max or avg EV) in pro ball did not match his college numbers. The Angels have surprised in the past with aggressive promotions and rewarded players who have earned their spot, but with a focus on him being their shortstop of the future, I don’t think they’ll rush it and don’t see him as the everyday SS at any point during the 2023 season.

Ken (Lakewood CA):

     Filling out the 2026 line up fun exercise, Ohtani isn’t in it. More difficult for you than with most teams. If they end up trading Ohtani (hopefully not), there is what they will get for him. The Angel future depends so much on the Ohtani outcome and how it plays out.

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Ken. I based this purely on contracts. Nothing speculative.

Matt (OC):

     If Werner Blakely moves to the outfield, where would he fit? Center field or a corner spot? And if he moves to the outfield, when might that happen?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Matt. The organization thinks he can stay on the dirt, but his infield defense is definitely a long-term work in progress and I think he’s destined for the outfield. He’s athletic enough with the foot speed to play center, but a corner (left field) would make more sense for a guy who hasn’t seen time in the outfield probably since he was in elementary school.

Nate (Orange):

     Would you say that your list is more of a reflection on how the Angels view their prospects or how the industry views their prospects? Based on who you talked to in formulating this list and the evaluation of players.

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Nate. It’s a blend. The organization wants to boosts their players, and in particular, the players that they brought into the organization, so you have to be careful. That is where the opinion of external scouts/execs assists you, and they may see something in a player that the organization doesn’t even see (both positive and negative). I would say my ranking is more based on the organization’s views, but the reports and grades are more based on external scouts.

Warren (New London):

     Kyren Paris was third on this list last year, though that was mostly because someone had to be. He was terrible in April and May, but very good in August and September, including 14 games in AA. He is only a few months older than Werner Blakely, has similar skills, and seems more likely to stay on the infield. Am I right in thinking that he can’t be very far behind Blakely, i.e. close to the top 10? What is the outlook for him?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Warren. I wasn’t part of last year’s writeup so I can’t speak to that. Kyren definitely had a poor start. Part of his struggles were Northwest League related and others were working through some mechanical inconsistencies, but once he found a rhythm and confidence he turned a corner. You can see where a prospect model (performance/age/positional value) would put him in a relative comparison to others like Blakely, but basing it on projection, he is a 45-grade with a high-variance for the majority I spoke to which led me to ranking him where I did.

Warren (New London):

     Not a prospect question, but I’m interested in your thoughts about your namesake finally breaking out with the bat in 2022.

Taylor Blake Ward: A lot of external scouts saw it coming and I didn’t. Stoked for him. Good kid, great name.

Warren (New London):

     Is there still hope for Jordyn Adams, or is it time for him to try college football or something? At least he cut down on the errors in 2022.

Taylor Blake Ward: Jordyn has maybe the highest ceiling of any position player in the organization, but he just can’t find a consistent swing at the plate which really toys with his hit tool. The swing you see in batting practice that makes him an impressive raw talent is not the swing he takes into game with him. The potential is definitely there, but until he finds consistency in his swing mechanics and can prove he can hit with regularity, I see a good defensive replacement with explosive speed.

John (NJ):

     Thanks for the chat! I know some people don’t like dishing out comps, but what would be an appropriate one for Zach Neto? To go from a lesser known school to hitting .320 with 5 bombs at the AA level is hellavu impressive, albeit a small sample size. Thanks!

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey John. I don’t mind comparisons as long as they’re sensible and come from a trained eye (scouts, execs, etc.). It all starts with the leg kick and position, so fairly or unfairly you’re going to go direct to Bo Bichette, Javy Baez, Willy Adames, and Josh Donaldson. He doesn’t have the bat wrap Bichette has, the bat speed Baez does, or the early front foot that Donaldson has, so blend them all together and… Willy Adames? I know he has mentioned in podcast that he compares himself to Baez.

John (NJ):

     How close was Kyren Paris to making the list? Thanks!

Taylor Blake Ward: He’s in the teens.

John (NJ):

     Any hope for Kevin Maitan? He hit.264 this year!!

Taylor Blake Ward: He’s improved his body and swing decisions, but, if you ask around… non-zero chance at a cup of coffee.

Zac (NYC):

     Hi there. What are your thoughts on Luis Torres? Did he make the top-30? Will he be prohibited by being an R/R 1B at such a young age?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Zac. I documented Torres’ season heavily because it was a record-pace season for the affiliate’s history and asked about him often and probably to an annoyance, but no, he did not make the top 30. He’s strong and big-bodied with good batted-ball data, but R/R 1B who was signed as an outfielder has to continue proving he can hit. Just didn’t make the cut this year.

Zac (NYC):

     How close was Adrian Placencia to the top-10? Are his swing and miss issues the biggest thing he needs to improve going forward?

Taylor Blake Ward: He was very close. The on-paper performance with the age-relevance to league was impressive, but the eye test held him just outside. It’s probably inexperience against professional level velocity, but he regularly swung through chest-high fastballs in the low 90’s and he’s a second baseman in the future. Needs the experience and strength gains.

Will McLaren (Los Angeles, CA):

     Do you think that the Angels stayed out of the free agent SS market because they think Zach Neto might be ready for a call-up as soon as 2023? And who do you think has a higher ceiling between Logan O’Hoppe and Edgar Quero?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Will. I think you need to continually improve your Major League roster, and the Angels are in need of a shortstop. Neto is a good prospect, but I don’t think he’ll be up in 2023, and having a shortstop who has proven to be a sure thing as opposed to a prospect is a guarantee I wouldn’t pass up. However, with the free agent market beyond the Correa’s, Swanson’s, Turner’s, Bogaerts’s, etc. I think you need to make a trade or stick internally with what you have. As for O’Hoppe/Quero: I’m always going to lean to the defense when it comes to catchers and O’Hoppe is definitely superior and will likely always remain a superior defender. I do believe in Quero’s bat more than O’Hoppe’s though.

Frank (Michigan):

     Thanks for the chat Taylor. My question is in regards to a couple state of Michigan Draft picks, Mason Erla, and William Holmes. Erla was one of the 20 pitchers drafted in 2021 by the angels, What’s the word on him inside the organization, does he stay as a starter or get moved to the bullpen. Where will he be assigned to in the spring . Secondly, Holmes kind of fell off the radar, Any news on him making progress this past year. Thanks

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Frank. Mason Erla has continued to impress since being drafted, and the organization views him as a prospect. He’s had a solid changeup, seen velo gains with his fastball, and the slider improved this year but is still sweepy because of his low arm slot. The Angels believe he can start, but the majority of scouts see him as a reliever because of his arm action and current lack of a third pitch which caused him to miss less bats than anticipated. My guess is he starts 2023 in Double-A or Triple-A, pending how they Angels utilize their development (they haven’t been sending pitchers to the high Salt Lake environment much). William Holmes has fallen off. He threw side sessions throughout the year, mostly in Arizona, but it sounds like he’s working through some mechanical issues that have seen his velocity drop and struggles to find the zone.

Rob (Alaska):

     Thanks for the chat! While I didn’t expect to see them on the top 10 I am curious about two guys initially billed as raw but toolsy, Kyren Paris and Arol Vera. How close were they to the list and what is the outlook for each?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Rob. Check back in the chat to see about Kyren Paris, but he was relatively close to the top 10. Arol Vera was not. He went through some odds weight and strength transitions over the last two years where he was too skinny, to too big, back to too skinny after a growth spurt and better nutritional habits. His lack of strength hurt his ability to impact the ball and his performance was really poor with questions about how much he’ll be able to do even when he grows into his frame. He passes the eye test of being a solid defender and having a concept of what he’s doing at the plate, but he fell heavily in the rankings due to a lack of hit/power tool.

Danny (Texas):

     Thanks for the chat. Any sleepers or super sleepers to look out for this season?

Taylor Blake Ward: Howdy Danny. Denzer Guzman could be a sleeper at the top. Victor Mederos could have a big rise. Super sleepers? Dario Laverde and Luis Rodriguez.

Chuck Richter (Nashville, TN):

     How close was Kyren Paris from cracking your top-10? What does he need to improve on to make the midseason top-10 list?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Chuck. I’ve answered this so might check back through the chat, but also, thanks for stopping by. Good to hear from you.

AngelsWin.com (Anaheim, CA):

     Which prospects not in your top-10 list are ones to keep an eye on, that could make a significant jump in 2023?

Taylor Blake Ward: Jake Madden was the first to come to mind. Tall-and-lean athletic right-handed with explosive stuff that the Angels are very excited about, and amateur scouts were surprised fell to the fourth round.

Warren (New London):

     What do you make of Sonny DiChiara’s pro debut? He handled the Southern League remarkably well through the end of August with a .465 on base percentage, but then completely stopped hitting. Even from the SEC that’s a big jump, and it was a long college season, but the total lack of game power is concerning from a guy that size. I’m guessing he’s in the 30, but he seems hard to place.

Taylor Blake Ward: I’m going to take his pro debut with a grain-of-salt, as I would with anyone who moves from amateur baseball direct into Double-A. Amateur scouts rave about his ability to hit and think he has enough strength and bat speed to tap into average power, but pro scouts I talked to differ in that opinion which is probably more performance based. He is not in the top 30.

Livan Soto (Waiting):

     Am I just an aberration, or am I going to be the future for the Angels at the position? (or at least a stop gap)

Taylor Blake Ward: Hola Livan. Sorry to say, but you have development remaining and currently have bench projection. Heck of a year though, and solid way to end it hitting .400 for three weeks in the Majors.

Andrew (Alhambra):

     Hi Taylor, Who is someone that is right outside your top 30 that you think has a shot to move up into it by the end of the season?

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Andrew. Without giving anything away, Jadiel Sanchez was my emergency No. 31 if a trade occurred and I needed someone, which I got lucky with all the prospects traded being outside my top 30. Nixon Encarnacion is an interesting one to monitor, as he received the largest bonus by the Angels for an international pitcher since 2013 at $500K. I believe he’ll be stateside next year which should improve his stock.

Toy (New York):

     where do the Angels see Chris Rodriguez now with all of his setbacks? He seems to have the ability to start but is injury prone.

Taylor Blake Ward: Hey Toy. You can never ignore that kind of upside, right? He could be one of the best relievers in baseball with that arsenal and ability to locate, and if he can start, it’s even more alluring. The arm action is scary and back injuries are always a burden, so you can only hope he remains healthy the remainder of his career because that is a special, special arm.

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