Bill Mitchell: Good afternoon, Angels fans and prospect mavens! It’s time for our annual chat session on the Angels farm system. We’ve already got quite a few questions in the queue so we’ll get started a little early. I’m settling in for at least a two-hour block of time so keep those questions coming.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Thanks for the chat, Bill. Did Julio Garcia get any positive reviews from scouts while in the AZL?
Bill Mitchell: Hello, Jaypers, thanks for getting us started with a question about one of my favorite long-range prospects. Garcia is now growing into his man strength and improving his swing from both sides of the plate. There’s no question about his defense at shortstop, where he shows good actions, plus range and a plus arm. He’s not too far outside the top 10, but after a summer spent mostly in the Dominican Summer League he’s a long way from the big leagues.
Frank (Chicago, IL): I was curious where Trevor Gott would have ranked here?
Bill Mitchell: Right-handed reliever Gott pitched too much at the big leagues to qualify for the list and then was traded in the off-season. If he was still in the organization and had not exhausted his prospect eligibility, Gott would have fit in nicely somewhere towards the back end of the top 10.
Grant (NYC): Is Taylor Ward worthy of making BA's top 100 list, in your opinion?
Bill Mitchell: I’m not in on the top 100 process but checked with BA prospect guru Matt Eddy. He said that a case could be made for Ward coming in towards the end of the top 100 but probably not on everyone’s list.
Ben (Leland Grove): Did David Fletcher make a case for your top ten?
Bill Mitchell: Fletcher, the Angels 6th round pick from Loyola Marymount, was on some early versions of the top 10 but wound up just outside that threshold. (Be sure to order your Prospect Handbook to see just where he ranked). I like what Fletcher did in his debut season split between Orem and Burlington, and believe that he will be a diminutive grinder type who will consistently play above his tools. He profiles best as a utility infielder handling both middle infield positions, but may someday play himself into a starting job if he overachieves with the bat.
@Jaypers413 (IL): What's the good word on Brendon Sanger, Bill? Extra OF, or the potential to be more? Will he be in your top 30?
Bill Mitchell: The Angels’ 4th round pick from Florida Atlantic, Sanger had a solid first pro season at Orem, especially showing development as a hitter with a very good second half. With improvements to his swing Sanger could develop into a line drive, gap-to-gap hitter capable of handling a starting role, and his above-average to plus arm will allow him to stay in right field. He’s got plus raw power so there’s a lot to like here. He’s ranked in the teens and could move higher next year with a strong full-season debut.
Jim (Boston): 22 round pick in 2015 Ronnie Glenn for penn,had a very good rookie ball season- what are the plans for him in 2016?
Bill Mitchell: The Ivy League southpaw (Glenn played collegiately at Penn)showed a good feel for pitching with Orem and has good makeup. Long-term he’s a lefty reliever all the way, but could be a piggyback starter at Low-A Burlington in order to give him sufficient number of innings. He’s not yet a top 30 guy but certainly one to keep an eye on. The Angels comped him to Chris O’Grady, the left-handed reliever who was taken by Cincinnati in the Rule 5 draft.
dave (grayson, ga): Was it difficult finding 30 players worth writing up for the handbook?
Bill Mitchell: Actually, I wound up writing reports on 40 players from the organization, more than I’ve ever done for any one system in my Prospect Handbook career. I’m not saying that all 40 were solid prospects, but there was no shortage of players on the the depth chart I prepared.
Frank (Chicago, IL): Is R. Baldoquin a prospect or a suspect to you?
Bill Mitchell: Roberto Baldoquin is the 21-year-old Cuban infielder that the Angels signed last winter for $8 million, resulting in a penalty of nearly the same amount for exceeding their international bonus pool. He reported late for spring training due to visa issues and then suffered a number of injuries throughout the season that had him spending a significant amount of time in the training room. In addition, Baldoquin experienced some of the normal adjustment issues for Cuban players coming to the United States for the first time. Give him a mulligan for his first season, but scouts don’t see a special talent that made it worthwhile blowing up the international budget. He’s in the Prospect Handbook but obviously outside the top 10.
kaleb cowert (AAA): have i turned the corner? am I the Halos starting 3b in 2017?
Bill Mitchell: Cowart’s turnaround was certainly one of the bigger surprises of the year. He even struggled early in the season on his return to the Cal League, three years after he dominated that level, until something clicked and he got his confidence back. Give credit to Cowart for persevering and for the Angels for continuing to support him during his struggles. Opinions are still mixed on Cowart’s long-term impact, but if he continues to improve as a hitter with another year at Triple-A then maybe he can be a big league regular. He’s certainly got the glove and arm to handle the hot corner.
Ken (Lakewood CA): Though Tyler Skaggs no longer has prospect status, at 24 he's still very young. Having 18 months recovery time from his TJ surgery, aside from possible innings limitations, is it reasonable to expect good things from him on the major league level in 2016? I'd certainly imagine that is what the Angels are hoping/planning?
Bill Mitchell: I’ve always been a big Tyler Skaggs fan, dating back to when I ranked him as the #1 prospect in the Diamondbacks organization. He’ll certainly be in the mix for a rotation spot in spring training, but you’re right about his innings being limited in his first year back from TJ.
Wellington (Chula Vista): Tough assignment there Bill. BA could have just skiped the Angels this year. Is there even a lower level prospect that we can dream big in the system?
Bill Mitchell: I just got three straight questions about the lack of prospect depth in the Angels system. To Ken and Kyle, who posted the previous two questions, this answer also applies to what you asked, but I’m going with Wellington’s question because he has such a cool name. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Angels will rank at the very bottom among farm systems. To their credit, they did have a good number of players (Heaney, Tropeano, Perez, Gott & Bedrosian) graduating to help the big league club, but then there were also a significant number of prospects from last year’s list who took big steps backwards and dropped off the Top 30. As for a lower level prospect for your Angels dreams, think about Jimmy Barnes, last year’s 11th round pick from high school in Virginia. Right now he’s rawer than raw, but with very good athleticism and serious bat speed. He’ll need another year or two of rookie ball, but tuck this one away for future consideration.
Aaron (CA): Hi Bill, what did scouts have to say about shortstop Jake Yacinich, and did he garner consideration for the top 30?
Bill Mitchell: I got good reports on Yacinich, the Angels 2014 8th round pick from Iowa. Injuries have limited the left-handed hitter to less than 100 games in his first two seasons, but there’s something to like about him. Yacinich stands out for his instincts and leadership as well as being a strong defender. He’s in the Prospect Handbook so you can read more about him there, and then watch for him in the Cal League in 2016. He just needs to stay healthy.
Angel (The Outfield): This list is depressing. That is all.
Bill Mitchell: Cheer up, Angel. Pitchers and catchers report in just about a month. It’s a time when every baseball fan can be optimistic.
Francisco (Atlanta, GA): What's Jahmai Jones ceiling ? What part of his game is more polished and where He needs to improve?
Bill Mitchell: Jones, the Angels 2nd round pick in 2015, didn’t turn 18 until August and also spent part of his youth playing football, so most importantly he just needs plenty of baseball reps. What I like most about Jahmai is the off-the-charts makeup which I believe will allow him to consistently play above his tools. I’m a fan.
ritchie (indianapolis): if he had not been traded, where would grichuk rank in the current top 10?
Bill Mitchell: Interesting question, Ritchie. Considering the Angels black hole in left field last year I don’t think there’s any way that Randal wouldn’t have spent a good chunk of the season in the major league starting lineup. But in the unlikely event that he instead spent his summer in Salt Lake, Grichuk would have been an easy choice for #1 prospect.
Jesse (California): Is the Angels system that bad? Any prospects that might turn into something special?
Bill Mitchell: I mentioned before that this system will almost certainly check in at number 30 in the BA organizational rankings. But it’s not totally bereft of talent. Jake Jewell could take a big jump forward this year with a strong year in the Cal League. Scouts from other organizations really like Jaime Barria. Former LSU backup quarterback Jared Foster will move to full-season ball looking to refine his baseball skills and tap into some interesting raw athleticism. Also keep an eye on rookie-league right-hander Sam Pastrone, last year’s 17th round pick who signed for an over-slot $250k. These and other interesting prospects can all be found in the Prospect Handbook, which hopefully you are now convinced to order today. If you get the book directly from BA, you also will receive a supplement with every organization’s 31st prospect; I may have a deep sleeper there for you.
Fonz (Milwaukee): Hi Bill, How many of these guys profile as MLB regulars / starting pitchers on even a below average team? Maybe Ward and Jones?
Bill Mitchell: Besides Ward and Jones, any of the pitchers in the Top 10 could make it as rotation pieces some day. But the Top 30 is filled with players who profile best as utility or middle relief. In other words, there aren’t a lot of prospects with a projected future grade of 50 or more (on the 20-80 scouting scale).
Fonz (Milwaukee): Is there any talk of seeing if Jahmai Jones can handle second base, which he played some in HS?
Bill Mitchell: Fonz, I have not heard any talk about Jones giving it a go at second base. He’s an outfielder for the foreseeable future.
Colin (Orange): Do you think Taylor Ward can continue to put up good number as he moves up the Angels ladder? He is a high floor guy and silenced a lot of his critics with a strong showing at the plate in the lower levels. Was this just an older player beating up on less experienced competition or is he the real deal?
Bill Mitchell: I don’t want to put the “real deal” label on Ward at this point, but some evaluators saw more potential with the bat than originally expected. He needs to get stronger, especially to endure the day-to-day physical strain of catching but also to maximize his power potential. Moving to the High-A Cal League will be a good test for Ward as he starts facing better pitching.
Paul (Normal, IL): What do you think timetable is for Eric Aguilera reaching the big leagues? I think he is eligible for next year's Rule 5 draft if not added to 40 man roster
Bill Mitchell: Aguilera is kind of an interesting guy who grew on me the more I watched him in the Arizona Fall League. I always viewed him as more of an organizational player with not much chance to play in the big leagues, but now believe he might get at least a cup of coffee with the Angels someday. Aguilera is already 25 and has played only a few games above the High-A level, but a strong start at Double-A could get him to Salt Lake early in the year. He’s not in the Top 30 but I was intrigued enough to write a report on him. Here’s a portion of what I said about Aguilera: “… the left-handed hitting first baseman just keeps hitting, with a chance of making the big leagues as a reserve or platoon player. He led High-A Inland Empire in all three slash line categories, hitting .327/.392/.532, as well as homeruns (17) and RBIs (94, and followed that with a strong Arizona Fall League season in which he batted .275/.342/.449. He may have more power waiting to emerge, enhancing his value even more. Aguilera was an outfielder in college, but as a below-average runner he’s better suited to first base. He’s still adjusting to the position and has worked hard to make himself into a steady defender…”
Rob (Toronto, ON): What is Kubitza's future position, 3b or 2b? And does the organization still believe he can contribute at a level similar to his minor league production?
Bill Mitchell: Kyle Kubitza, acquired from Atlanta prior to spring training last year, was expected to compete for a spot on the 25-man roster but wound up spending most of the season with Triple-A Salt Lake. He played mostly at third base, with just a couple of games at second base in the big leagues and a few games in the outfield. Scouts were down on him after watching him both in Salt Lake and with the Angels, now seeing Kubitza as more of a bench piece and noted that he seemed a little overwhelmed by big league competition. He drives the ball, but his swing gets long which doesn’t allow him to get to this raw power. Kubitza was in the Angels Top 10 last year but dropped into the teens for this year’s Handbook. He’s still on the 40-man roster and will go to spring training to compete for a backup role with the big league club.
Chris Angel (Anaheim): So Joe Gatto is a top ten prospect, but his season wasn't too good. Is this a case where he is at a level where numbers don't matter?
Bill Mitchell: Gatto, a 2014 2nd round pick, was expected to move quickly since he was a year old for his high school class. The Pioneer League is a tough place to pitch for a youngster, so I wouldn’t read too much into his results with Orem. He’s got the good pitcher’s body that you can’t teach and does a very good job in keeping the ball on the ground. If he improves his delivery and develops more consistency, he could make a nice jump in his first try at full-season ball.
Rob (Tustin): The Angels have gone thru 3 Gm'S and there farm system is still near the bottom. What's the problem?
Bill Mitchell: There are many reasons why an organization doesn’t yield a solid farm system and I believe that the Angels check most of those boxes. Their typically good record at the MLB level has the Angels consistently drafting near the end of each round, which isn’t to say that you still can’t find solid prospects. They went several straight years without a 1st or 2nd round pick due to free agent signings, and have also traded top prospects in search of immediate help at the big league level (for example, the trade of Newcomb & Ellis to the Braves in the Andrelton Simmons deal). They also haven’t been as heavy in signing international talent as other organizations.
Bill B (Glen Allen, VA): If you were the GM of the Angles, what would you do to improve their minor league system? Given how poor it is, how long do you believe it will be before it is in the top half of minor league systems?
Bill Mitchell: To follow on to my answer for the previous question, it’s going to take many years and a change of philosophy for the Angels to move into the top half of minor league systems. But it can be done — the drastic improvement in the Brewers organization is a good example. I just don’t know that the Angels would take that same approach.
Jacob (Wilmington, NC (the other one)): Ceiling for Caleb Adams?
Bill Mitchell: Adams, the 2014 10th round pick from Louisiana-Lafayette, has a ceiling as a fourth outfielder. He had a nice season split between Low-A Burlington and High-A Inland Empire, but his raw power doesn’t come out in games and he’s likely limited to left field. Adams will soon turn 23 and will head back to the Cal League, probably making it to Double-A at some point in 2016. He isn’t in the Top 30.
Jacob (Wilmington, NC (the other one)): Alex Yarbrough: future big league 2B, super utility, or bust?
Bill Mitchell: It now looks like most of the industry was too high on Yarbrough coming into the 2015 season, when he didn’t make adjustments after struggling at the plate in Triple-A and struck out far too often. That’s a big issue since he’s not a good defensive second baseman and is a below-average runner. His bat and a grinder mentality were his only carrying tools, and I just didn’t get good reports on his potential to improve at the plate. He’ll go back to Salt Lake for another try, but for now he’s out of the Top 30.
Ringo (Octopusses Garden): Is the the worst farm ever or just the worst farm right now?
Bill Mitchell: Ringo, I already talked about David Fletcher, Roberto Baldoquin and Julio Garcia as players on the cusp of the Top 10, but one more name to mention is quirky southpaw reliever Greg Mahle. The UC Santa Barbara product stands a good chance of making it to the big leagues in 2016 after a strong season split between High-A and Double-A. Mahle confounds hitters by delivering his arsenal of pitches from three different arm slots and changes velocity depending on the origin of the pitch. He was limited to throwing from the three-quarters slot during his Fall League time so that he could work on improving his slider. If that develops into his “go to” pitch, then Mahle could make it to Anaheim this year.
Ringo (Octopusses Garden): What are the odds Alcantara can be a starter? He seems destined to end up in the pen.
Bill Mitchell: It all depends on whether Alcantara can clean up his delivery and refine the command of his pitches. He’s got a special arm so he’ll make it as a starter with the right improvement, but I’m betting that he’ll be a power arm in the Angels bullpen in a couple of years. Maybe those Fernando Rodney comps will come true.
Curious George (Atlanta): If Heaney were eligible, where would he rank on this list? #1?
Bill Mitchell: Considering the quality of talent on the list, it’s safe to say that Heaney would have been a slam dunk as #1 prospect.
John (NC): Do you think Grayson Long will remain an SP? Any thoughts on teenager Jose Suarez?
Bill Mitchell: Long has a good chance to stay in the rotation with his good, repeatable delivery and strong frame. I see him as this year’s Chris Ellis as an advanced college pitcher who can make a big jump in his first full season just like the Angels 2014 3rd rounder. Suarez made the Prospect Handbook. For a teenager still a couple of years away from his 20th birthday, the Venezuelan southpaw has an advanced feel for pitching and a nice three-pitch mix. Let’s see he does when he spends the whole summer in the States this year.
Ken (Lakewood CA): Any future at the MLB level for catcher Jett Bandy?
Bill Mitchell: I have time for one more question and I’ll take this one on former Arizona Wildcats catcher. Bandy WILL play in the big leagues — bet on it. He just won’t ever be a regular, but should carve out a decent career as a 2nd or 3rd catcher — or at least a guy you stash away at the Triple-A level and bring up to the big leagues when needed. The bat will never be enough to hold down a regular role but he’s a solid catch-and-throw backstop who will find steady employment for quite a few years.
Bill Mitchell: We’ve been at it for over two hours, but now it’s time to move on for the day. Thanks to all for the great questions. If I didn’t get to you, you may contact me on Twitter @billazbbphotog. Jim Shonerd will take over the reins on Wednesday with his annual Oakland Athletics chat.