Los Angeles Angels 2021 Top MLB Prospects Chat

Image credit: Chris Rodriguez (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Zak (RI):

     Thanks for taking questions today. I love Chris Rodriguez’s stuff, but his continuous back issues really scare me. Do you think the Angels will consider moving him to the bullpen to reduce injury risk or is his potential too good to be put in the bullpen? Also, what minor league level do you think he’ll start at in 2021?

Mike DiGiovanna: Hey Zak … those back issues for Rodriguez were scary and pretty much cost him his 2018 and 2019 seasons, but from everything I heard, he remained healthy and strong throughout the summer at the alternate training site and in the fall instructional league and didn’t miss a turn. I don’t think there is any plan to move him to the bullpen now. He has too good of a four-pitch mix to make that move. Barring any setback, I could easily see him starting at double-A this season.

Jonathan (OH):

     Can you give us a report on Jack Kochanowicz? It seems as if he’s exceeding expectations, very excited for him. Thanks for your time

Mike DiGiovanna: Jonathan, this kid seemed to make a pretty good leap in the eyes of the Angels this past year. He’s a physical specimen, 6-6, 220 pounds, and just turned 20 in December. Here is my scouting report on him for the Handbook: “Kochanowicz’s delivery is athletic and relatively fluid, and he generates plenty of downhill plane with his height and high-three-quarters arm slot. The lively fastball that sat in the 90-93-mph range and touched 95 mph when he signed is now touching 97 mph with good ride, with the potential be a swing-and-miss pitch. Kochanowicz’s big-breaking 79-mph curve spins at 3,000 RPMs, well above major-league average, and has some horizontal movement to go with its depth. His changeup is still developing but has shown a lot of promise.”

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Would any of those prospects (Peek, Isaac Mattson, Bradish, and Brnovich) that the Angels gave up for Dylan Bundy be on your top prospects radar if they were still in the Angel’s system?

Mike DiGiovanna: Hard to tell if any of those guys would have jumped onto the radar this year, as they were gone from the system a year ago, but none of the four were in my top 30 or even on my organizational depth chart, which included 50 or so prospects, going into the 2020 season. In other words, it looks like this was a pretty good deal for the Angels.

Frank (Michigan):

     We heard William Holmes was impressive This fall in workouts at the alternate site. Do you see him continuing as a two way prospect Moving forward. Where do the Angels brass think he has a Higher upside and projection. He’s still young, Where do you see him starting this year low A or high A. Thanks Mike.

Mike DiGiovanna: Holmes hit .320 with a .920 OPS in 43 rookie-league at-bats in 2019, and that will earn him continued plate appearances as a designated hitter moving forward. But despite his raw power potential, Holmes, with a 93-mph fastball that touches 97 mph and an advanced 81-mph changeup, appears to have more upside as a pitcher. He just turned 20. Will probably start the season at low-A but should hit high-A this year. His fastball sits at 93 mph and touches 97 mph with occasional cutting action. His 81.5-mph changeup, which spins like a left-handed slider at times because of the way he naturally pronates his forearm, has a chance to be an elite pitch. Ho

Tim (SLC):

     Adell really struggled, but a 21 year old struggling at the plate doesn’t seem that shocking. Were prospect evaluators or the front office surprised at how much he struggled defensively? It seemed like he really struggled with routes, which I would’ve thought would translate easier from the minors to the majors.

Mike DiGiovanna: I think everybody, talent evaluators, front-office personnel and we writers, were surprised at how much Adell struggled defensively. For me, it wasn’t just his jumps and route-running. For a guy with such high-end athleticism, he seemed a little mechanical and unsure of himself at times. But I think a lot of that had to do with him being rushed to the big leagues, unfamiliar with the stadiums and speed of the game and, perhaps, a lack of confidence because of his offensive struggles. But he did look a lot better and more comfortable defensively in the final three weeks of the season, and I think with more game experience, both at triple-A and the big leagues, he will develop into a solid defender.

Joe (CA):

     Seems like mostly status quo at the top. Who are some names in the back of the 30 you could see inch up if we have a minor league season in 2021?

Mike DiGiovanna: I really like William Holmes. He’s really physical, athletic and is already in mid-90s with his fastball at a young age (20). Lot of potential there. And keep your eye on RHP Zach Linginfelter. He’s another physical specimen, 6-5, 240, and was a college teammate of Garrett Stallings at Tennessee. His four-seam fastball sits in the 95-mph range and touched 98 mph last spring, and he’s experimenting with a two-seam fastball that has a little bit of run. If he can smooth out his delivery, he could help in the bullpen. Another guy who intrigues me is David Calabrese, a HS OF from Canada who was drafted in the third round last year. He’s only 5-10, 165 but might be the fastest guy in the system and a defensive standout in CF.

Lisa (Anaheim):

     Thanks Mike! It feels like the perception is that Brandon Marsh is closing the gap on Jo Adell. Is that true? And if so, by how much?

Mike DiGiovanna: Lisa, I’m not sure Marsh is closing the gap on Adell as much as Adell has closed the gap on Marsh with his struggles this past season … but as much as Jo struggled, he still has immense physical tools, and he should improve and gain consistency with his experience. I think he’s going to be better for his experience last summer. Remember, even Mike Trout was somewhat overmatched in his first two months in the big leagues. Marsh seems to have a similar tool set as Adell, a nice blend of athleticism, power and speed. Seems like he has more upside than Adell as a defender but not as much power potential. It will be interesting to see how his talent plays in the big leagues.

Holden (Lancaster):

     When will the Angels make changes to their player development and all of their scouting departments (amateur, international, pro). Not one of these four departments have had major success outside of some first rounders which you shouldn’t miss on anyway. Hoping Minasian overhauls the whole org!! Any thoughts on their organizational structure?

Mike DiGiovanna: Holden, there will be at least one significant change with farm director Mike LaCassa taking a job in the commissioner’s office, but I don’t think he’s been replaced yet. Many scouts are still on furlough, and any time a new GM arrives, there are usually many changes in the scouting and player-development ranks. Perry has already brought in a new asst GM and some new special advisors. As far as I know, Matt Swanson is still the scouting director, but if Perry makes a change there, it’s a pretty good indication there will be a philosophical shift.

Wesley (Corona):

     Are we going to see Minasian make major changes to the leaders of the organization? It’s sorely needed! Eppler regime has set us back years!

Mike DiGiovanna: Wesley, I think I just answered this in the previous question.

Kandice (Indio):

     Do you think the Angels need to change their draft philosophy or the people running the drafts? Seems like we only occasionally hit on the obvious 1st rounders and the depth of the farm is light to say the least.

Mike DiGiovanna: Kandice … I’m not sure if you can pin this directly on a “philosophy,” but it does seem like the Angels have taken more high-floor, lower-ceiling like pitchers (think Reid Detmers, Griffin Canning) in the first round than pitchers with better pure, raw stuff, those guys who are throwing 98-99 mph coming out of college but might have delivery or injury issues (think Walker Buehler, Dustin May, etc). They also seem to put a premium on highly athletic middle infielders as opposed to power-hitting corner guys. There is no 1B and very few 3B types in the top 30. There also isn’t a highly touted catching prospect anywhere in the organization. At some point they have to draft and develop a good catcher.

Matt (Irvine):

     Why are Carlos Gomez and Matt Swanson still running the scouting departments? Our farm system is the reason we are in this mess. We can’t keep throwing money at our development problems. Will their be changes?

Mike DiGiovanna: Matt, I chuckled a bit at your question, and I think if you look at my answer to the previous question you’ll see why … seems like the Angels have been locked in a middle-of-the-road status as far as organizational strength for a few years. The system is nowhere as bad as it was 5-6 years ago but it is still nowhere near elite. Certainly, the scouting director and international scouting director have something to do with that, but so does the entire player-development staff and minor league coaching staff. It’s hard to pin these things on one or two guys, but I think it’s fair to say that the Angels can definitely do a better job in the development dept.

JT (Santa Ana):

     Grew up reading your beat Mike. Question—Chris Rodriguez is probably the only pitcher in the Angels system with 1-2 potential. They’ve lacked that type of homegrown talent for a decade. Since he had a healthy year and turned some heads, are they better served making him a major trade chip or keeping him?

Mike DiGiovanna: Hey JT, thanks for reading for many, many years 🙂 You pose the age-old question, do we trade a blue-chip pitching prospect for an established major leaguer? That depends on the pitcher/player you’re getting in return. The Padres gave up a few of their top guys to get Snell and Darvish, but their system is much deeper than the Angels. I would only include Rodriguez in a trade for a really good established MLB pitcher with at least 2-3 years of control like Snell and Darvish, who both have three more years left on their contracts.

SunnyInAz (Arizona):

     Any chance Chris Rodriguez can make rotation out of spring training?

Mike DiGiovanna: Not out of spring training. He’s pitched in so few actual games over the last three years that that would be asking a lot. You never know when injuries might necessitate the Angels turning to Rodriguez, but I think the more likely scenario is he gets a full minor league season in this year, hopefully reaches triple-A and competes for a big-league rotation spot in 2022.

JT (Santa Ana):

     With strong showings by Holmes, Adams, Knowles, and Paris (high upside athletes), and assuming no major trades, could you see the Angels system being 13-15 at the end of this year?

Mike DiGiovanna: Possibly, but I think somewhere in the 15-20 range is more likely.

Brandon Marsh (Future Star?):

     Thanks for chatting with us today Mike! It looks like everything started to click for me the 2nd half of 2019 and carried over into an eye opening AZL performance. How did I look at the Angels alternate site and instructional league in 2020? Are the Angels confident that my 2nd half 2019 power is real and now seen as a future 20+ HR CF who plays Gold Glove level defense? If so, sounds like the ingredients of a future All Star, agreed?

Mike DiGiovanna: Well, it wouldn’t be a BBA chat without a question from Brandon Marsh! From everything I’ve heard, the Angels remain very high on you and that you have all of the ingredients to be a solid major leaguer, though it’s always a little hard to predict whether a kid will grow into a future All-Star. The defense and speed and baserunning skills are big-league ready, and the 20-HR power potential is there. Looking forward to seeing how it all plays at the MLB level.

Brandon Marsh (Future All Star?):

     Thanks for chatting with us today Mike! I broke out offensively the 2nd half of 2019 and carried it over to an eye popping AZL performance. How did I look this year at the alternate site and instructional league? Are the Angels confident my 2019 2nd half power is real and now see me as a future 20+ HR CF who plays gold glove level defense? If do, sounds like the ingredients of a future all star, agreed?

Mike DiGiovanna: Asked and answered in the previous question … shouldn’t you be in a batting cage somwhere?

Alex (LaLa Land):

     Hi Mike, can you give us some more insight into the feedback on Brandon Marsh? I was really looking forward to seeing what he could do in 2020 after he broke out in a big way the second half of 2019 and during the Arizona Fall League. Did he continue to hit for the consistent power that he showed then during the 2020 alternate site and instructional league? If his offensive catches up to his defense, are we talking about a potential top 10 prospect in all of baseball come mid 2021?

Mike DiGiovanna: Don’t know that I have as much “insight” as I do “feedback.” Frankly, I was surprised Marsh wasn’t called up to the big leagues last September. Adell was clearly struggling, the Angels were pretty much out of contention, why not take a look at him? Part of me thinks that they were concerned he might struggle like Adell, and they didn’t want to risk puncturing his confidence. But I don’t think that has any bearing on what the Angels think of him and his potential. I’m not sure how many HRs he hit at the alternate site. He spent the summer continuing to refine the adjustments he made the previous year with his stance and swing. I don’t know that he’ll be a top 10 prospect in all of baseball, but I can certainly see him in the top 50.

Matt (LA):

     Brandon Marsh has been listed at 6’4″ and 215 for a couple of years now. Has he filled out more to potentially add more in game power? Who would be a good comp for him? Does a slightly better hit/less power better defensive Michael Conforto seem reasonable?

Mike DiGiovanna: The improvement in power Marsh showed in 2019 came more from a stance and swing adjustment than from a change in strength, so it stands to reason that as he adds more muscle and physically matures, he should gain some more power. As for comps … man, that’s really hard for me to say because I haven’t seen Marsh play much in person. Find a few guys CFs who are above-average defenders, with strong arms and good speed, and have the ability to hit 15-25 HRs from the left side, with good plate discipline, and you’ll have your comps.

Andy (SF):

     In your scouting report, you noted that Brandon Marsh “has an athletic swing that drives the ball hard to the gaps”. With his size and athleticism, what is keeping him from having a bigger power tool? Does his natural swing path generate a lower launch angle? Do the Angels think he can tap into more power in the future?

Mike DiGiovanna: In the middle of 2019, a switch to a more upright stance helped free up Marsh to get to certain pitches better, generate more loft and unlock some power. He hit .306 with an .829 OPS from July on at double-A Mobile in 2019. Marsh spent most of last summer refining that approach, but until he gets back into real games, it’s hard to know how it’s all going to translate. As with any player with his size and potential, he should be able to add power as he adjusts to big-league pitching, gains a better understanding of how pitchers are attacking him and a better feel for the strike zone.

Jeff (Idaho):

     Will Marsh be ready this year? After service time concerns or later in the year? Is the time at 1B just to give him more flexibility? Looks like, from your rankings, he is an even better defensive OF than Adell…

Mike DiGiovanna: Marsh should be ready this year, and with Joe Maddon saying that Adell “needs more time in the minor leagues,” there’s a good chance Marsh opens the season as the fourth OF. And yes, the move to 1B was to give him more flexibility. It always helps as a reserve to be able to play more than one position. And, yes, I think he will be a better defensive OF than Adell.

Warren (New London):

     You list William Holmes with the best changeup in the system. Do the Angels view him as exclusively a pitcher now, or mostly a pitcher, or are they still interested in developing him as a two way player?

Mike DiGiovanna: Warren, are you from New London, CT? If so, I was born there and grew up in East Lyme … so great to hear from someone in that neck of the woods. The plan is for Holmes to continue to get some at-bats as a designated hitter, but I think the Angels think he has more upside as a pitcher.

Jahmai Jones (Post hype prospect?):

     Jahmai Jones was a consensus top 100 prospect before the Angels moved him to the IF and tried to tweak his swing. It sounds like he has now fully adjusted defensively to playing 2nd and gotten his old groove back offensively. Is he still the twitchy athlete he was known as back in 2017? He was always lauded for his work effort and coachability. Does he have the potential to eventually become a first division starter?

Mike DiGiovanna: Always good to hear from Jamhai … well, I have to admit, I was going to drop you out of the top 10 and maybe even out of the top 20, but I was surprised to hear how high some of the Angels minor league instructors still are on you. Apparently, you impressed many at the alternate site last summer and looked pretty good in your brief MLB stint. I think the athleticism and work ethic and coachability are still there, but the Angels view you more as a super utility guy than an MLB starter.

Marcus (Southern California):

     Eppler’s last three years as GM had 3 different managers, pitching coaches and catchers at the big league level … did pitching philosophies change at the minor league level during that turnover as well? What’s your opinion on the progression of arms with raw stuff (Rodriguez, Kochanowicz) and the upside (Pina, Ortega)? Progressing as expected or slower? I was surprised Sandoval, Suarez, Barria, & others haven’t taken bigger steps forward developmentally within the last 3 years, despite their numbers & pedigree in the minors. Or do the Angels arms in the minors get a mulligan for the injury-bug and pandemic?

Mike DiGiovanna: A lot to unpack here Marcus … I don’t think pitching philosophies have changed much because there wasn’t that much turnover in the minor league staffs and minor league coordinators during that time. Each prospect progresses at his own pace, with injuries and mechanical issues slowing many down. After dealing with back issues for several years, it appears Chris Rodriguez is back on track. He should start at double-A and be big-league ready by next year. Kochanowicz is only 20 with great raw stuff and upside. Pina and Ortega seem to be on schedule. They should both be at double-A this year. As for Sandoval, Suarez, Barria et al … not sure any of them will be more than organizational depth guys, and of the three, I like Barria the most because he’s a workhorse and the most consistent. Sandoval has decent stuff but seems to hit a wall every time he pitches in the big league. Suarez has been a huge disappointment.

Alex (LA):

     It’s good to see Jahmai Jones back in the top 10 after falling out in the 2020 preseason rankings. Bow did he look at the alternate site and instructionals? He was once seen as a future fixture in the Angels lineup and an impact bat. Being still only 23 years old, has he made the adjustments to his game to give the Angels some confidence that he may still approach his once lofty ceiling due to his pedigree and hard work?

Mike DiGiovanna: Jones moved all around the field at the alternate site and played well enough to get a big-league promotion in September, so that’s encouraging. I don’t think he will be an impact player in the major leagues, but he could be a valuable super utility guy.

Allen (Portland):

     Why do the Angels continue to ignore their pitching need both in the draft and via Free Agency? This is a long identified need: over the last five years, they rank 30th in wins above replacement; over the last ten years they rank 26th. If this continues, Trout will never see another playoff series.

Mike DiGiovanna: I don’t think the Angels have “ignored” pitching in the draft and free agency; they just haven’t done a great job of acquiring it. Like I said in an earlier response, they seem to have prioritized college pitchers who are more big-league ready and polished but not as potentially dominant in the high rounds. I’d like to see them take more risks on guys with high-octane stuff. They’ve made serious runs at several top-end FA pitchers (Gerrit Cole, Patrick Corbin, etc) but have lost just about every bidding war.

Mila (Atlanta, GA):

     How close was Arol Vera to the top 10? Is his comp an above average offensive 2B.

Mike DiGiovanna: I think I had him at No. 14 so that’s pretty close. Vera was confined to an AZ apartment complex during the shutdown last summer, and by the time he reported to instructional league in the fall, he had put on a little too much weight. But his tool set remains intriguing. He has an advanced understanding of the strike zone and good bat-to-ball skills from both sides of the plate. But if he continues to gain weight, a move to 3B might be more likely than a move to 2B.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Can you go over the Angels catchers depth?

Mike DiGiovanna: This won’t take long. From the folks I’ve talked to in the organization, the catching depth chart looks something like this: Jack Kruger, Michael Cruz, Franklin Torres, Harrison Wenson, Anthony Mulrine, Ty Greene. None are in the top 30, and I’m not sure any are considered legitimate MLB prospects. The system is extremely thin in catchers and first basemen.

Mike (Honolulu):

     How concerned are the Angels about Jo Adell’s (small sample size) poor 2020 MLB debut?

Mike DiGiovanna: Concerned enough that the MGR said Adell “needs more time in the minor leagues.” As much of a blow to Adell’s ego this might be, I agree. I think he was rushed to the big leagues and would benefit from a little more minor league seasoning. But long term, I think Adell will be better for his struggles. As humbling as they were, he will learn from them and be even more motivated to prove people wrong.

Travis (Lawrence, KS):

     Where would Jose Bonilla rank in this system for you? I saw him a lot via video assignments while working for an MLB team over the past couple of years and I think he’ll be a plus hitter with pop coming later on. I know the defensive chops are sub-par but do you think the bat will evolve enough to be a future ML contributor?

Mike DiGiovanna: I had Bonilla at No. 16, and I think you have a pretty good read on him. He has a clean bat path that allows him to barrel baseballs consistently and produce high-end exit velocities, and he has a natural launch angle that helps him hit the ball into the air. As he grows and adds muscle, he has a chance to hit for average power. He has a stout frame and is not as athletic as many of the organization’s top middle-infield prospects, but he’s a polished defender with a plus arm, so he could easily move to 3B.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Jahmai Jones isn’t on your 2024 forecast lineup. What is your long-term projection for him?

Mike DiGiovanna: He isn’t in 2024 lineup because I don’t project him as a starter at one position. I think, and I believe the Angels think, that his projection, both in the short term and long term, is as a super utility man.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Which non-Top 10 prospects are you looking forward to seeing play in 2021?

Mike DiGiovanna: With the coronavirus still raging, I’ll be glad to see any prospect play in 2021! But in the spirit of answering your question … I’d like to see this Erik Rivera, a two-way player who throws in the mid-90s from the left side and is a pretty polished hitter, and William Holmes, another two-way guy with a big arm.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Brandon Marsh is often cited as a trade candidate. You thoughts about him remaining with the Angels?

Mike DiGiovanna: With Justin Upton nearing the end of his contract and career, there should be an opening for Marsh to slide into the starting lineup, but if he’s the guy it takes to land a front-line starting pitcher I would be open to trading him. Hearing great things about Jordyn Adams, who could be just as dynamic of an OF as Marsh but is just a year or two behind.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Tell us more about Oliver Ortega who’s listed as the 2024 closer.

Mike DiGiovanna: Ortega, 24, jumped into the top 30 with a velocity bump that helped him rack up 135 strikeouts in 111 innings at high-A Inland Empire and double-A Mobile 2019. He complements a fastball that averages 95 mph and touches 98 mph with a funky 12-to-6 knuckle-curveball that averages 83 mph and sometimes spins like a left-handed breaking ball. A firm 88-mph changeup is his clear third pitch. He’ll probably open 2021 in the double-A rotation, but his stuff may play up in shorter bursts out of the bullpen.

Zack (The OC):

     What’s the word on Alexander Ramirez? Trending up or down?

Mike DiGiovanna: He seems to be more in a holding pattern than trending up or down. Ramirez was quarantined in an Arizona apartment last summer and slowed by a sore shoulder during the fall instructional league session. He’s big, strong and muscular with an athletic frame, and he can hit the ball a long way, but he’s still only 18 with a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, so he has a long ways to go.

Logan (Mi):

     Which angles do u expect in the top 100? Was surprised Rodriguez was ahead of Detmers and J Jackson. Thanks!

Mike DiGiovanna: Well, since Jo Adell still qualifies, he will probably remain in the top 100. Pretty sure Marsh, Chris Rodriguez and Reid Detmers will be in there, and Jordyn Adams will be on the cusp.

Dave B (Helena, MT):

     Mike Trout has missed an average of 30 games per season (2017-2019). That’s a lot of lineups missing Mike T. Is it time to look at a corner outfield spot? Brandon Marsh seems to be a real deal defender based on BA scouting report. Thought?

Mike DiGiovanna: Maybe not now, but definitely in the next 2-3 years. Much like Torii Hunter’s move to RF, Trout’s body will be less taxed in a corner spot as he gets older, and there are some pretty good defensive CFs in the system (Marsh, Adams) who could take over.

Casey (Vancouver Island):

     couple of years ago Jose Suarez was a top prospect. Still only 23, but was pretty awful in his MLB debuts – does he have a future with the Angels – starter or bullpen piece?

Mike DiGiovanna: MGR Joe Maddon still seems high on Suarez. I am not. He seems like a great kid, but I’m not seeing the projectable body type and pure stuff to make it in the big leagues as a starter. Not sure about him being a bullpen piece, but it’s worth a try.

Steve (Chicago):

     It seems like the team has had some luck getting guys to throw harder in the last few years- is this a case by case thing, or something they focus on? Any chance for more velo out of Detmers?

Mike DiGiovanna: I think every team tries to increase velo of pitchers, but it’s probably a case-by-case thing as far as the benefits. Detmers seems like more of a finished product, so I wouldn’t expect a huge velo jump, but even a few additional ticks on his fastball as he gets older would help.

Steve (Chicago):

     Any word on the new Rule 5 pickup? Do you think he sticks around all year? Doesn’t seem like there’s so much depth that he couldn’t. How does Gerardo Reyes compare?

Mike DiGiovanna: I don’t know how Jose Alberto Rivera compares to Gerardo Reyes, but Rivera supposedly has hit 102 mph with his fastball, so that jumps out at you. If his command improves there is a chance he could stick with the Angels. He was ranked 19th in Houston’s system and will probably be somewhere in 10-15 range with Angels.

Warren (New London):

     Thanks for taking my question. I’m from New Jersey but have taught at Connecticut College for 15 years. A lot of the faculty live in East Lyme because the schools are so good. I liked what I read about David Calabrese before the draft; any update on him?

Mike DiGiovanna: Not much to update on Calabrese because he hasn’t played in a game all year.

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