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When Wood was a good-fielding, light-hitting freshman at Horizon High (Scottsdale, Ariz.) in 2000, he wore No. 4, not because he liked the number but because it was the only jersey small enough to fit him. He since has filled out to become one of the game's top power prospects. By 2003 he hit 20 homers as a Horizon senior and became a first-round choice, signing for $1.3 million. Wood hit a modest .263 with 16 homers in his first two pro seasons before breaking out in 2005. He slammed 58 homers between the minors, the Arizona Fall League and Team USA. He led the minors in doubles, homers (breaking the Angels' minor league record), total bases and extra-base hits, becoming the first minor leaguer to do so since Len Tucker in 1956. Then he set an AFL mark with 14 homers in 29 games, going deep four times in one contest. He capped his year with one more homer and earned all-tournament honors as Team USA won an Olympic regional qualifier. Wood's package of power, hitting, all-around defensive skills and championship-caliber makeup prompted one high Class A California League manager to dub him the next Cal Ripken Jr. Wood is an aggressive hitter who attacks pitches with outstanding bat speed while hitting from a slightly open stance. Early in the 2005 season, he occasionally slid his back hip during his swing, collapsed his back side and got underneath balls. He adjusted quickly and learned to take a more direct path to the ball. Wood's swing has leverage that elicits shots with backspin, loft and plenty of carry. "Out of all those home runs, there may have been one or two balls that just cleared the fence," said James Rowson, Wood's hitting coach at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga. "The other 40 were gone right off the bat." Wood's long, thin frame figures to get stronger as he matures. His soft hands, plus arm and great instincts allow him to make all the plays at shortstop. He presently has average speed. As Wood gets bulkier, he will slow down and lose range. While he has the tools to compensate and remain at shortstop, he may profile better at third base with the power in his bat and his arm. He can drive balls to all fields but because of his bat speed and set-up, he opts to pull almost everything. That approach makes him vulnerable to pitches on the outer half. He has had trouble with swinging and missing against good changeups, and he could tighten his strike zone in general. Wood should develop into a perennial all-star infielder at either shortstop or third base. The Angels have more premium middle-infield prospects than any organization, and they'll soon be faced with a difficult shortstop decision with incumbent Orlando Cabrera signed through 2008 and both Erick Aybar and Wood pushing for big league consideration. For now, Wood is ticketed to play shortstop at Double-A Arkansas in 2006. But Los Angeles also doesn't have a clear-cut third baseman, and he quickly could become their solution at the hot corner.
The Angels originally selected Kendrick as a draft-and-follow, but at the behest of area scout Tom Kotchman they signed him right away for $100,000. Last year he finished second in the minors (.367) and fourth in the Arizona Fall League (.380) in hitting. Kendrick may be the best pure hitter in the minors. His swing is compact, balanced and easily repeated. He lets pitches get deep before centering them and driving them to all fields. His swing doesn't create much loft, but he should hit at least 15-20 homers annually because of his bat speed and penchant for making hard contact. His instincts are exceptional in all phases of the game, which makes him an average baserunner and should allow him to develop into a competent defender. Kendrick's non-hitting tools aren't special. He has fringe-average speed, and his range, arm and defensive footwork are average at best. He makes contact so easily that he rarely walks. Kendrick could win multiple batting titles in the big leagues. Angels starter Adam Kennedy will be a free agent following the 2006 season, at which point Kendrick should take over. He's ready for Triple-A Salt Lake, though Los Angeles also must figure out how to get Alberto Callaspo at-bats.
When the Angels signed Aybar for $100,000 in 2002, he was considered a lesser prospect than his brother Willy, who had signed with the Dodgers for $1.4 million two years earlier. Erick has developed into a better player and the pure shortstop the Angels hoped, while exceeding expectations for his bat. Though undersized, Aybar packs some pop in his swing. Early in the year he was trying to pull everything out of the park before Angels minor league hitting coordinator Ty Van Burkleo encouraged him to shorten his swing. Aybar got back to doing what he does best: spraying line drives to all fields and using his plus speed to set the table. He has plus actions at shortstop, turns the double play with aplomb and has enough arm strength to make plays deep in the hole. He plays with passion and consistently has been a catalyst. Aybar remains a free swinger. If he's going to reach his ceiling as a leadoff hitter, he must improve his plate discipline and willingness to work counts. He plays with a fearless energy that borders on recklessness. Headed for Triple-A, Aybar is sandwiched between big leaguer Orlando Cabrera and top prospect Brandon Wood. The best--and most cost-effective--solution eventually will be to find a taker for Cabrera, hand shortstop to Aybar and move Wood to third base.
Mathis had a miserable second half in 2004 and was ticketed for a return to Double-A in 2005 when Triple-A catcher Wil Nieves was traded to the Yankees, opening a spot at Salt Lake. Mathis had a fine season, re-establishing himself as one of the game's top catching prospects and making his big league debut in August. Mathis is the consummate defensive catcher. He's athletic, which enables him to block, catch and throw with ease. His arm strength is at least average and plays better because of good footwork and a clean exchange. He threw out 33 percent of basestealers in Triple-A. A true leader, he handles pitchers well. Mathis matured as a hitter last season, shortening his swing and reducing the rotation in his lower half to improve his plate coverage and efficiency. He profiles as a .250-.270 hitter with 15-20 homer potential. While he's a slightly below-average runner, he has good instincts on the basepaths. Mathis needs to do a better job of covering the outer half and laying off breaking balls out of the zone. He tends to overanalyze and press, which got him into trouble in 2004. The Angels never doubted that Mathis had the makeup to rebound from 2004. His bat isn't quite ready for everyday duty, but Bengie Molina's departure means Mathis will play a significant role in Los Angeles.
Weaver had one of the most dominant college seasons ever in 2004, going 15-1, 1.63 with 213 strikeouts in 144 innings to win Baseball America's College Player of the Year award. The top-rated prospect for the 2004 draft, he dropped to the Angels at No. 12 because of concerns about his price tag. Weaver held out until a week before the 2005 draft before agreeing to a $4 million bonus. He reached Double-A in his pro debut and later pitched in the Arizona Fall League and the Olympic regional qualifier. His brother Jeff has won 78 big league games in the last seven seasons. Weaver owns the system's best combination of present stuff and command. His arm is loose and fast, and he works from a three-quarters arm slot slightly higher than that of his brother. He relies on a nasty 86-90 mph two-seam fastball, a 91-93 mph four-seamer, a slider and a changeup. He pitches with tenacity and passion. Weaver's command is more notable than his stuff, and some scouts think he's more of a No. 3 starter than a headliner. He's an extreme flyball pitcher and is vulnerable to homers. His slider grades as an above-average pitch at times but lack consistency. A free spirit, he loses his cool at times. Some hyperbolic scouting reports declared Weaver as big league-ready when he entered pro ball, but he is at least another half-season away from joining the Angels. He'll open 2006 in Triple-A.
When his senior season started in 2004, Adenhart ranked with Homer Bailey as the top high school pitching prospects in the nation. But a few weeks before the draft, Adenhart blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery. Seemingly headed for North Carolina, he signed for $710,000 as a 14th-round pick. He came back stronger and earlier than expected in 2005, rating as the No. 2 prospect in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Before his injury, Adenhart was lauded for his polished threepitch repertoire, the life on his stuff and his mound presence. He already has regained much of his arm strength, pitching at 89-92 mph and touching 94 with his fastball. His 11-to-5 curveball has sharp, late break. He showed a feel for a circle changeup that has potential to be a third plus offering. His quick recovery is indicative of his strong work ethic and makeup. Adenhart's delivery can be deceiving, because his arm action is smooth and easy and the ball jumps out of his hand. But he throws across his body, which helps the life on his pitches but also led to his injury. His command isn't yet as sharp as it was, but that's typical of the Tommy John recovery. If his stuff and command come all the way back, Adenhart has a higher ceiling than Jered Weaver. The Angels won't rush Adenhart and may wait until the weather warms up at low Class A Cedar Rapids before letting him start his 2006 season.
Omar Linares and Morales are the best position players developed in post-revolution Cuba. The government banned him from baseball after repeated attempts to defect, and he finally succeeded in June 2004. The Angels boasted Morales would compete for a spot on their Opening Day roster when they signed him in November 2004 to a six-year major league contract that could be worth as much as $10 million. Visa problems prevented him from attending spring training, however. After arriving in the United States in May, he homered on his first swing and quickly earned a promotion from high Class A to Double-A. He also batted .380 in the Arizona Fall League. Morales is a mature hitter with above-average power from both sides of the plate. He repeats his swing better from the left side, where he's more comfortable and makes better contact. When he keeps his hands and weight back, he generates good bat speed and power to all fields. Most scouts say Morales lacks the agility and athleticism to play anywhere but first base. While his hands are OK, his footwork needs to improve. He has too much movement in his swing, and tends to drift and reach for offspeed stuff. He can get pull-conscious. With Darin Erstad and Casey Kotchman ahead of him at first base, Morales might spend another full season in the minors, probably in Triple-A. His best fit with the Angels could be as a DH.
The Angels shifted Callaspo back to second base last year after he played shortstop in 2004. For the second year in a row, he was the toughest player in the minors to strike out, going 20.4 plate appearances per whiff in 2005. He moved up to Triple-A in July and finished the season riding a 15-game hitting streak. Callaspo improved his bat control and situational hitting last season, integral ingredients to his value as a prospect. He bunts well, and while he doesn't have the aptitude Howie Kendrick possesses, he's a solid hitter. A switch-hitter, he has a more fluid swing and fewer holes from the left side. The Angels believe Callaspo can handle shortstop, but he's a natural second baseman with smooth, easy motions and an outstanding feel for the position. He has an average, accurate arm, soft hands, good range and a smooth double-play pivot. While he has some raw pop, Callaspo is primarily a singles hitter who doesn't walk much because he makes effortless contract. He hit just .241 from the right side in 2005. Though he has average speed, he lacks basestealing savvy and was caught 13 times in 24 tries last year. Callaspo's chances of becoming Los Angeles' second baseman of the future look limited because his bat just doesn't compare to Kendrick's. The two and Erick Aybar should be teammates in Triple-A this year, so Callaspo may play a variety of positions. If he's not traded, his destiny with the Angels may be as a utilityman.
The Angels passed up Scott Kazmir to take Saunders with the 12th overall pick in 2002 and signed him for $1.825 million. After his first pro summer, he was diagnosed with tears in his rotator cuff and labrum, which didn't require surgery but cost him the entire 2003 season. He steadily has climbed the ladder since, making his major league debut last August. Saunders doesn't have overpowering stuff, relying instead on command and feel. His best pitch is a deceptive changeup that he uses to hold righthanders at bay. His fastball sits at 91-92 mph and he can run it in on hitters effectively. He can cut his fastball, or add and subtract velocity as needed. He repeats his delivery well and hasn't missed a start since coming back from his shoulder injury. Saunders doesn't have a put-away breaking ball and will need to improve the depth and quality of his slurvy curveball to become a No. 3 starter. Saunders likely will open 2006 in Triple-A to work further on his curveball. The only other lefthanded pitcher on the 40-man roster was recent trade acquisition J.C. Romero, so the Angels could need Saunders in a relief role.
Mendoza was primarily a catcher until his sophomore year at Miami's Monsignor Pace High, and he pitched behind White Sox supplemental first-round pick Gio Gonzalez as a junior in 2004. The Angels took Mendoza in the fifth round last June and signed him for $159,000. He was an Arizona League all-star, then jumped all the way to high Class A and pitched 10 scoreless innings. Mendoza dominated older hitters in the California League with a 92-94 mph fastball that touched 95 all summer. He has good life on his heater and controls it well. His curveball has the makings of a plus breaking ball, while his cutter, slider and changeup all have potential. He's mature beyond his years. When Mendoza tries to overpower hitters, he can leave himself vulnerable by missing up in the zone. He rushes his delivery at times and gets offline, hurting his control. After his fastball and curve, his other pitches lack consistency. His debut eased the sting of Los Angeles' failure to sign its third- (Sean O'Sullivan) and fourth-rounders (Brian Matusz). Better than expected, Mendoza will open 2006 in low Class A.
After missing much of 2003 with a torn labrum in his right shoulder that required surgery, Napoli was barely on the Angels' radar because of uncertainty he could handle catching full-time. He returned in 2004 to post a career high in home runs and followed suit last season, leading the Texas League in homers and RBIs. Napoli's lone plus tool is tremendous raw power. He generates good bat speed and can drive balls with loft and carry to all fields. His swing gets long at times, as a loop in his load makes it hard for him to hit the top half of the ball. He made adjustments last season, but will always struggle with hard stuff above his hands and probably never will hit for average. Napoli swings and misses often but balances his strikeouts by drawing a lot of walks. He's not much of an athlete or runner, but he has improved behind the plate. His arm strength is average and he has smoothed out his footwork and exchange, allowing him to lead the Texas League by catching 47 percent of basestealers last year. He blocks and receives adequately and calls a good game. Napoli is streaky and he's not polished enough defensively to warrant everyday play as a catcher, as he also topped TL backstops with 14 errors and 13 passed balls. Nevertheless, he could make a nice big league backup to Jeff Mathis in the future. Napoli will spend 2006 in Triple-A.
Trumbo was a high-profile two-way high school standout whom most teams preferred as a pitcher, but they viewed him as impossible to lure away from his commitment to Southern California. The Angels took him in the 18th round of the 2004 draft and got him signed for $1.425 million, easily a record for his round. After watching him launch a pair of shots off the rocks in left-center field at Angels Stadium during a workout, they opted to play him as a corner infielder. Trumbo's pro debut was lackluster, though he did lead the Pioneer League in doubles and ranked second in extra-base hits. His arm strength and raw power are plus tools, and when his timing is on he can mash towering home runs. He's a pull hitter but began using the middle of the field more late in the season. His swing lacks fluidity, as he hits with a dead lower half. Trumbo also needs to improve his plate discipline and pitch recognition. If he learns how to create better leverage in his swing, he could develop into a 40-homer threat. Trumbo is a well-below-average runner and isn't athletic. Los Angeles originally planned on using him at third base but ultimately assigned him to first base. He could develop into an average defender there, though his range is limited and his hands are adequate at best. He throws better than most first basemen, having touched 96 mph as a prep pitcher. Trumbo should get his first taste of full-season ball in low Class A this year.
Los Angeles' top pick (a supplemental first-rounder for the loss of free agent Troy Percival) last June, Bell had the most intriguing background in the 2005 draft. He has worked as an actor, appearing in commercials for Hot Wheels, Kellogg's and Old Navy. Show business comes naturally to him, as his grandfather Bob was a folk hero on Chicago television for more than two decades as Bozo the Clown. His mother Barbara is a television casting director. On the diamond, Bell was Baseball America's choice as the top 14-year-old player in the nation in 2001. He leveled off a bit as a high school sophomore and junior, and he was known more for his prodigious power than his arm until last spring, when his velocity climbed into the mid-90s. In one start in front of Angels GM Bill Stoneman, Bell struck out 10 in a complete-game two-hitter and was throwing 90 mph in the final inning. He took awhile to come to terms for a $925,000 bonus, so he pitched just eight innings in Rookie ball. Bell threw 90-93 mph with plus life on his fastball in his limited debut, and he showed the ability to get his solid curveball over for strikes even when he fell behind in the count. Both his curve and his slider have the potential to be above-average pitches, though he probably will be better off if he focuses on one breaking ball. He has started to gain a feel for a circle changeup. Bell has a thick, muscular body and his delivery isn't without effort. He most likely will begin the 2006 season in extended spring training and join Rookie-level Orem at midseason.
Phillips received plenty of exposure as a junior when he played on the same high school and summer league teams as Chris Nelson, the eighth overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Rockies. Redan High (Stone Mountain, Ga.) also has produced big leaguers Milt Hill, Wally Joyner, Brandon Phillips (P.J.'s older brother) and Everett Stull. Athleticism runs in the Phillips family, as his sister Porsha is one of the nation's top women's basketball recruits. After signing for $505,000 as a second-round pick last June, he'll have to pack on muscle on his skinny frame to improve his strength and stamina. It's easy to dream on Phillips' tools and projection. He's athletic and his quick hands make him a good defender and a better hitter. His raw power grades as 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Balls jump off his bat and his swing has good leverage. His stroke gets long at times, and like many hitters straight out of high school, his pitch recognition and plate discipline are rudimentary. He has a plus arm and adequate range. He profiles more as a third baseman because he figures to add at least 25 pounds as he matures. He'll be an average runner down the line. He has championship-caliber makeup and a strong work ethic. He might require 2,000 or more at-bats in the minors before he's ready for the majors, but the Angels believe he'll be worth the wait. They'll be patient with him and could play him at Orem this year.
After making strides with his command and pitches while repeating high Class A in 2004, Shell failed to follow suit early last season. He seemed to turn a corner in July, when he threw a shutout and later had a strong seven-inning outing in front of Angels GM Bill Stoneman, but then had more difficulty in August. Shell has a prototypical pitcher's body, delivery and arm speed. But his stuff leveled off in 2005. His fastball sat near 90 mph, though it had good late life and armside run. His curveball was just average, rather than slightly above-average as it had been in the past. He still hasn't grasped the feel of his changeup, a below-average offering, and his splitter is equally inconsistent. Shell tends to lose confidence easily and stops attacking hitters. His command suffers and his breaking ball flattens out when he drops his arm slot from his high three-quarters angle. He still has a ceiling of a No. 3 starter, but he'll have to return to Double-A in 2006.
A native of Curacao, Statia raised his profile when he moved to South Florida, where area scout Mike Silvestri spotted him and signed him for a $90,000 bonus as a ninth-round pick in 2004. His debut was delayed by baseball's visa shortage, and he began his pro career in 2005 as a 19-year-old in high Class A. Statia held his own there before starring in the Pioneer League. He has pure shortstop actions with supple hands and an innate ability to read balls off the bat. He led all PL shortstops with a .959 fielding percentage. His arm is strong and accurate, even when he throws on the move. His bat is behind his glove but still is promising. Statia has a good approach at the plate and makes consistent contact from both sides, spraying line drives to all fields. He doesn't project to hit for much power, though he can sting the ball into the gaps. He needs to refine his strike-zone judgment. He's a slightly above-average runner. He speaks four languages, indicative of his outstanding makeup and thirst for instruction. He should climb the minor league ladder one step at a time, opening 2006 in low Class A.
No relation to fellow Angels minor league righthander Felipe Arredondo, Jose was hitting .191 as a shortstop in the Arizona League in 2004 when his arm strength compelled the organization to move him to the mound. He has been a fast study, molding a simple delivery and three-quarters arm slot. Arredondo is undersized but has a quick arm and runs his fastball up to 97 mph, pitching most of the 2005 season at 91-93. His control improved as the season went on, but he doesn't have much feel for the strike zone. His secondary stuff has a ways to go, too, though his slider and changeup have some potential. He tends to get around his slider and slows his arm speed on his changeup. Los Angeles added him to its 40-man roster during the offseason rather than risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft. He'll continue his development in low Class A this year as a starter to get him innings, but his long-term role may be as a reliever.
Though Marek was used primarily in relief at San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College, he touched 94 mph during the 2004 Junior College World Series, earning most outstanding pitcher honors and convincing the Angels to select him as a draft-and-follow pick. He led the Jayhawk League with eight saves that summer, then continued to build buzz by hitting 98 mph during fall practice. After continuing to light up radar guns last spring, he signed for $800,000. Marek could have gone as high as the second round had he re-entered the draft, and he also had a scholarship to pitch at Texas. Marek has a sturdy build and good mechanics, enabling him to pitch from a good downward plane. He pitched out of the Orem rotation after signing and ran his fastball up to 96 before his velocity tapered off to 89-90 by the end of the summer. He made strides in learning how to pitch in the process, though he's a work in progress and his command has a ways to go. His curveball is a sharp, two-plane hammer that comes in at 78-82 mph. He experimented with a changeup, which presently is a below-average pitch. Marek is still raw, especially for a 22-year-old, and San Jac gave scouts pause by redshirting him in his first year and never warming to him as a starter. He profiles best as a set-up man and should open 2006 in low Class A.
Gorneault wasn't heavily scouted as an amateur, but he has hit his way into contention for a major league job since signing as a 19th-round pick in 2001. His homer totals have risen in each of his five years as a pro and he led the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in RBIs last season. Each year, Gorneault wins over more detractors with his natural ability to whip the barrel of the bat through the hitting zone. His swing is unorthodox, but when he centers balls they have tremendous carry and backspin. His stroke lacks much loft, yet he still has been a consistent home run threat. He continues to tighten his strike zone and has more-than-acceptable discipline for a power hitter. The rest of Gorneault's game is fine as well. He has average speed to go with superior baserunning skills. He's a solid outfielder with an accurate arm. He can play all three outfield positions, though he lacks the range of a firstrate center fielder. The Angels are well-stocked with outfielders, so Gorneault is probably looking at another season in Triple-A.
Murphy has been one of the best athletes in the system since signing in 2000 as a third-round pick out of Florida Atlantic, the highest draft choice in school history. But he struggled to make consistent contract as a pro and slid off the prospect map. In 2005, his sixth minor league season and second in Double-A, things finally started to click for Murphy. He didn't reach triple digits in strikeouts for the first time in five years and set career highs in several categories, earning a spot on the 40-man roster after the season. Murphy has five solid tools, most prominently plus speed and arm strength. He has a line-drive stroke from both sides of the plate and gap power. While he did a better job at the plate last year, he still swings and misses too often to profile as a leadoff man. Changeups especially give him trouble. The Angels moved Murphy from shortstop to the outfield in 2004 and he has developed into one of the system's best defensive outfielders. He played some center last year but spent most of his time at Arkansas in right field in deference to Reggie Willits. Murphy's athletic ability should carry him to the big leagues as a valuable and versatile reserve.
Since the Angels signed Rodriguez for $780,000 in 2001, his arm has been both electric and erratic. He has spent much of the last three years in low Class A, in part because a tender elbow ruined his 2004 season. He bounced back to log a career-high 146 innings in 2005, when he pitched well at Cedar Rapids but got shelled in his first taste of high Class A. Rodriguez needs to learn how to pitch because he tries to pile up strikeouts instead of just worrying about getting outs. He toned down his maximum-effort delivery but still struggles to repeat his arm slot, often getting under his breaking ball. But when Rodriguez is going well, he's exciting to watch. His fastball sits between 90-94 mph, and his out pitch is a mid- 80s slider with depth. He doesn't always stay on top of his slider, however. If he can't refine his changeup, he'll likely end up in the bullpen. It's time for Rodriguez to turn a corner in his development, or risk slipping into obscurity. He should head back to high Class A in 2006, though he could pitch at Double-A with a strong spring training.
Wilson played with Casey Kotchman and was the MVP on Seminole (Fla.) High's 2001 national championship team. The Giants drafted him in the 26th round that June, but he headed to St. Petersburg Community College, where he became the 2003 Florida junior college player of the year. Wilson's stubby body and unorthodox swing mechanics never have impressed scouts. But he makes sharp contact and has improved his catch-and-throw skills since signing as a draft-and-follow for $150,000. He has good raw power and plenty of upside, especially now that he's improved behind the plate. He has average arm strength and has worked hard to improve his exchange and footwork, allowing him to throw out 45 percent of basestealers in 2005. He tends to overswing, but can really launch the bat head through the hitting zone. He has a good feel for the strike zone. He shortened his leg kick during last season, which improved his balance and shortened his swing. Like most catchers, he's a below-average runner. Wilson will move up to Double-A in 2006.
Rodriguez transferred from Coral Park High to Braddock High in South Florida prior to his senior season when he was shifted from shortstop to center field to make room for Robert Valido, a fourth-round pick by the White Sox in 2003. The Angels popped Rodriguez in the third round and signed him for $400,000. His best tool is his plus arm, but between the organization's depth at shortstop and Rodriguez' lack of pure shortstop actions, he won't play there much longer. His arm, solid glove and instincts--honed by his father Johnny, a minor league batting coach in the Marlins system--would play in center field, at second base and perhaps best behind the plate. Rodriguez lacks confidence at the plate and hasn't performed well against good pitching since signing. He generates good bat speed thanks to his strong wrists, but he changes his approach from at-bat to at-bat. He has an eye for drawing walks, but he can improve his pitch recognition. He strikes out too much for a player with modest power, average speed and good baserunning instincts. Rodriguez' makeup and versatility bode well for his future, though he may repeat low Class A to start 2006.
Scouting director Eddie Bane has shown a willingness to gamble in the two drafts he has run for the Angels. In 2004, he took Jered Weaver 12th overall and the team successfully waited out his exorbitant bonus demands, and Los Angeles also landed late-round studs such as Nick Adenhart and Mark Trumbo. The Angels' most successful gamble in 2005 was Bourjos, a multitooled center fielder who had committed to Grand Canyon (Ariz.) University. Los Angeles took him in the 10th round and signed him late in the summer for $325,000, the equivalent of late third-round money. Bourjos' father Chris played briefly in the majors and scouts for the Brewers, and Peter has the instincts of someone who has grown up around the game. His best tool is his speed, as he's capable of running the 60-yard dash in 6.45 seconds. He's a righthanded hitter, and the Angels are toying with the idea of trying to make more use of his speed by having him switch-hit. Bourjos is a legitimate center fielder with 25-25 potential. Los Angeles can't wait to see him in game action, and he should make his pro debut in Rookie ball in June.
Mount didn't attend any major national showcases the year before and wasn't near the top of many follow lists entering his senior season, and UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton were the only schools that had recruited him. But teams flocked to see him as he emerged last spring, and he wound up with a $615,000 bonus. Scouts were mixed on him. Those who like him say he'll be an offensive middle infielder with the ability to remain at shortstop. Mount didn't hit much in his pro debut, but he showed the foundation of a good approach and power potential. He has plus speed and arm strength, and the Angels believe he could develop into their best defender from the 2005 draft. Other clubs saw Mount as more of a fifth-rounder, evaluating him as a 'tweener who lacked the defense for shortstop or the bat for third base. With Hainley Statia ticketed for low Class A, Mount will begin 2006 in extended spring training before trying to get his bat going at Orem.
Los Angeles brought lefthander Dusty Bergman to spring training in 2005 in hopes he would give them a reliable lefthanded option out of their bullpen. He wasn't healthy, so Woods got the call, breaking camp with the Angels though his experience and track record suggested he needed another season in the minors. He held his own, earning his first major league win April 23 against Oakland before spending most of the second half in Triple-A. Woods doesn't have an overpowering pitch, and the inconsistency of his curveball eventually got him in trouble in the majors. His curve looked like a possible out pitch when he signed as a third-round pick in 2001, but it has slipped since. Woods' best pitch now is a lively 90-93 mph fastball. His command is only average, and when he misses his spots he gets hit hard. He'll need to develop a reliable second pitch, either his curve or his changeup, before he gets another call to the majors.
The Angels have several hard-throwing yet inconsistent righthanders who project as back-of- the-rotation starters or middle relievers. Zimmermann is the most advanced of a group that includes Ryan Aldridge, Mitchell Arnold, Billy Edwards and Von Stertzbach. Part of Southwest Missouri State's first-ever College World Series team in 2003, Zimmermann uses a maximum-effort delivery that he struggles to repeat. He tends to pitch from a high, three-quarters arm slot, but a lower angle gives him better deception and life on his pitches. His fastball, which sits between 90-95 mph, has sinking action. His slider is his best offspeed offering, but neither it nor his changeup is especially reliable. Zimmermann has a closer's mentality, but unless he improves his command and secondary stuff, he won't be more than a set-up man. The Angels have been patient with him, but it's time to test him against more advanced hitters in Double-A. Los Angeles declined to protect Zimmermann on its 40-man roster following the season and he went unselected in the major league Rule 5 draft.
A senior sign out of Oklahoma after he led the Big 12 Conference with 37 steals in 2003, Willits has moved quickly as a pro--both on the bases and in his development. He already has reached Double-A and has swiped 98 bags in 317 pro games. He's not the only pro athlete in his family, as his sister Wendi played basketball in the WNBA. The primary center fielder on Arkansas' playoff team last summer, he drew Lenny Dykstra and Rusty Greer comparisons from manager Tom Gamboa for his all-out, gamer approach. Willits isn't a slap hitter, but he has limited power and is at his best when he keeps the ball on the ground to utilize his plus speed. He improved his plate discipline in 2005 but still needs to make more contact to become a big league leadoff man. He worked on his bunting in winter ball in Puerto Rico. Balls down and in give him trouble, especially when he hits from the right side of the plate, and he has trouble handling good changeups as well. He's a solid-average center fielder with an average arm. Willits had laser eye surgery before spring training in 2004, and a second eye operation after last season to decrease his sensitivity to light. He'll advance to Triple-A in 2006.
Green wasn't even recruited by Abraham Baldwin Junior College in his hometown of Tifton, Ga., so he went to Darton Junior College in nearby Albany. He turned down $80,000 from the Astros when they drafted him in the 11th round after his freshman season in 2003, and wound up signing for $1,500 as an Angels 35th-rounder in 2004. Green joined the Cedar Rapids bullpen last May and moved into the rotation for good in late July, going 3-1, 2.72 in his final seven starts. His main weapon is a changeup that rates as the best in the organization. One scout graded it a 70 on the 20-80 scale because of its late, hard sink. Green gets ahead in the count with an 88-91 mph fastball. He also has a serviceable breaking ball and a splitter. He has good mechanics, though his delivery has some effort to it. He throws strikes but will have to improve his location against more advanced hitters. Green will remain a starter in high Class A this year.
Any Venezuelan lefthander with a feel for a changeup is going to receive Johan Santana comparisons, and Espinoza is no exception. That's getting way ahead of the game, but he had a promising U.S. debut in 2005, leading the Arizona League in strikeouts. Rookie-ball hitters had no chance against his changeup because he throws it with the same arm speed and arm slot as his fastball. Espinoza repeats his delivery well, has a clean arm action and shows a feel for pitching despite his youth. He works off an average fastball at 87-91 mph, with the potential for more velocity as he grows stronger. He also has some bite on his breaking ball. The Angels could challenge Espinoza with a jump to low Class A if he performs well in spring training.
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