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Midseason Prospect Update: Angels



The Midseason Top 10 Prospect lists are compiled from conversations with front office officials and scouts from all 30 teams. Players who have exhausted prospect eligibility or were in the Major Leagues as of June 22 are not eligible. Draftees from the 2016 draft and July 2, 2016 signees are also not eligible. SEE ALSO: Midseason Top 100
Years of handing out bloated contracts to veterans, short-sighted trades and forfeiting first-round draft selections have finally come back to bite the Angels.
2019 PROJECTED LINEUP
C Taylor Ward
1B C.J. Cron
2B David Fletcher
SS Andrelton Simmons
3B Kaleb Cowart
LF Jahmai Jones
CF Mike Trout
RF Kole Calhoun
DH Albert Pujols
No. 1 Starter Garrett Richards
No. 2 Starter Andrew Heaney
No. 3 Starter Tyler Skaggs
No. 4 Starter Nick Tropeano
No. 5 Starter Nate Smith
Closer Cam Bedrosian
Despite the presence of superstar Mike Trout and a $176.8 million payroll, sixth-highest in baseball, the Angels entered the All-Star break last in the American League West and in danger of suffering the first 100-loss season in franchise history. It’s an inauspicious start for the franchise in general manager Billy Eppler’s first year on the job. Injuries have played a major role in the collapse. Projected top starters Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney were both lost for the season with UCL injuries—Heaney has announced he will have Tommy John surgery, Richards is trying to avoid it with stem-cell therapy. Meanwhile fellow starters Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) and C.J. Wilson (shoulder inflammation) have yet to pitch in the majors this season after setbacks in their rehab. With upper-level former starting pitching prospects Mike Clevinger, Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis all traded away, the Angels have had to acquire bargain-basement veterans Jhoulys Chacin and Tim Lincecum to eat innings, with largely disastrous results. The offense, meanwhile, ranks in the bottom half of the American League in runs scored despite another excellent year from Trout and solid campaigns from Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron and Albert Pujols. To make matters worse, their widely-panned farm system has lived up to its reputation, with top prospects Taylor Ward, Jake Jewell and Joe Gatto largely struggling in the low minors and others like Victor Alcantara and Chad Hinshaw taking steps back at Double-A. Hope comes in the form of a talented group of prospects at Rookie-level Orem, most of who are three-to-four years away from the majors at minimum. Trout will be present for many years to come despite unfounded trade rumors, and a return to health from their starting pitchers could make the Angels more competitive. That said, holes at the major league level and lack of impact talent in the minors make the Angels’ immediate outlook appear bleak, with little room for error in draft picks or free-agent signings.
MIDSEASON TOP 10 1. Jahmai Jones, of An explosive athlete with NFL bloodlines, Jones earns raves for his ability to consistently deliver hard contact and line the ball all over the field, while also showing impressive speed and strong defense in center field. Just 18, the Angels are moving him slowly with an assignment at Rookie-level Orem for his second pro campaign, but his continued development as a hitter has many dreaming of a future top-of-the-order mainstay. There are many years ahead and developmental steps he has to take before that happens, though.
2. Nate Smith, lhp Never flashy but usually productive, Smith has sharpened his four-pitch mix and shown exceptional pitchability with Triple-A Salt Lake, one of the minors’ most difficult places to pitch. He was selected for the Futures Game and continues to project as a serviceable back-end starter.
3. Taylor Ward, c Ward holds his hands high in his stance, and pitchers have taken advantage by pitching him hard and in and drawing weak contact. Ward is starting to adjust at high class A Inland Empire, but his lack of power with nine extra-base hits in his first 76 games has overshadowed his improved receiving and excellent arm.
4. Victor Alcantara, rhp Alcantara made strides repeating his delivery last offseason in order to help with spotty control, but the more controlled delivery has also caused his 97-98 mph fastball to drop to 94-95, resulting in a large dropoff in his strikeout rate. His walk rate is also down, an encouraging step, but he'll never be confused with Mike Leake.
5. Grayson Long, rhp The Angels third-round pick in 2015 saw a return to his college velocity of 92-94 mph and dominated younger competition at low class A Burlington before going on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. With poise, a four-pitch mix and strong command, Long remains a back-end rotation option long-term.
6. Kaleb Cowart, 3b Cowart only just turned 24 and received a major league callup for the second straight season after showing well at Triple-A Salt Lake. He has increased his versatility with starts at all four infield positions, and remains the most advanced position player prospect in the Angels system. The 2010 High School Player of the Year, though, no longer projects as a future regular.
7. Jaime Barria, rhp The 19-year-old Panamanian is holding his own at low class A Burlington with a 3.67 ERA and, most notably, only 14 walks in 76 innings. More known for throwing quality strikes and pitching to contact than swing-and-miss stuff, his poise and maturity at a young age bode well for his future.
8. Kyle McGowin, rhp McGowin earned a promotion to Triple-A Salt Lake after posting a 32-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 2/3 innings at Double-A Arkansas. He is still adjusting to the more difficult competition level, but his solid four-pitch mix, topped by a plus slider, continues to get an encouraging number of swings and misses. He leads the organization with 89 strikeouts in 92 1/3 innings, and he's remained healthy for a second straight year.
9. David Fletcher, 2b/ss Tendinitis in his left hand hampered Fletcher early and led to him being shelved for five weeks. Since his return June 12, Fletcher has rediscovered his contact-oriented swing and consistently served the ball to all fields, albeit with minimal power. He’s also shown speed and good instincts on the basepaths and been sound defensively at both middle infield spots. If he doesn't hit for more pop, he'll be no more than a utility option.
10. Jake Jewell, rhp Jewell began poorly at high class A Inland Empire but since found a consistent arm slot and begun throwing a two-seam fastball with late bite, leading to vast improvement in the past month (2.67 ERA in last six starts). Pitching downhill and keeping his composure remain works in progress, but Jewell is moving in the right direction.
RISING Lefthander  Jose Suarez turned 18 this year and has bumped his fastball velocity up to 88-92 mph as he’s gained strength, while his changeup and curveball have developed further as well and have a chance to be plus pitches . . . Righthander Sam Pastrone is following up a strong pro debut last year with a dominant start to the season at Orem . . . Righthander Keynan Middleton shifted to the bullpen and had 56 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings while holding opponents to a .172 average at Inland Empire before being promoted to Double-A Arkansas. Another reliever, righthander Adam Hofacket, has had a strong first full season, reaching high Class A with a 49-7 strikeout-walk ration in his first 42 innings, thanks to a 90-94 mph fastball and hard cutter/slider.
FALLING Righthander Joe Gatto got pounded for a 7.03 ERA and .321 opponents batting average in 15 starts at low Class A Burlington. He was placed on the disabled list with arm soreness in late June and sent to the Angels’ Arizona complex to rebuild his mechanics. The main problem was a flat plane on his mid-90s fastball, which he also struggled to command or back up with offspeed pitches for strikes ... Outfielder Chad Hinshaw was striking out in 29 percent of his plate appearances and hitting .191 at Double-A Arkansas, the result of pressing early before hitting the disabled list in June ... Lefthander Hunter Green, the club's top draft pick in 2013, retired in spring training after throwing just 17 pro innings—back in his debut season of '13.
HURTING Long has been out since late May with a shoulder strain but is scheduled to start throwing bullpen sessions shortly. Hinshaw has missed the last month with a strained right quad but is expected to begin playing in rehab games in the coming weeks barring any setbacks. SS Roberto Baldoquin played in only five of Inland Empire’s first 61 games with a hamstring strain that led to two separate DL stints. He returned June 11 and has struggled when healthy (.155, 35 SO in 109 AB).
GRADUATING Lefthander Greg Mahle spent first two months as the Angels lefthanded specialist out of the bullpen, while outfielder Rafael Ortega has been up-and-down as the team’s fourth outfielder. Catcher Jett Bandy has taken over as the Angels starting catcher with Geovany Soto injured and Carlos Perez struggling.
COMING ABOARD (Check Draft Database for all picks) The Angels’ first five picks of the 2016 draft. (s-supplemental round) 1. Matt Thaiss, c/1b, Virginia. The Angels drafted Thaiss on the strength of his bat and moved him from behind the plate to first base immediately, ultimately hoping he can become a consistent 15-20-home run threat. 2. Brandon Marsh, of, Buford (Ga.) HS. The Kennesaw State signee possesses speed, a great arm and impressive athleticism, and has signed after an initial contract dispute. 3. Nolan Williams, ss, Kansas City, Kan. (no school). The switch-hitting shortstop brings excellent quick-twitch athleticism to a system desperately lacking it, but needs time to refine his hitting and pitch recognition skills. 4. Chris Rodriguez, rhp, Pace (Fla.) HS. Rodriguez brings velocity with a 93-95 mph fastball and hard slider/cutter hybrid that grades as a plus pitch, and gives the Angels a potential power rotation arm. 5. Connor Justus, ss, Georgia Tech.
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Regarded as a smooth defender who is defense-first, Justus showed major strides at the plate as a junior with an excellent batting eye and occasional power.

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