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No player since Bryce Harper has matched the mixture of hype and expectation as Ohtani. With a fastball clocked as high as 102 mph and a demonstrated ability to hit home runs 500 feet in Nippon Professional Baseball, Ohtani became the most sought-after free agent of the 2017 offseason. Ohtani's star progressively grew in NPB with the Nippon Ham Fighters and reached a high point in 2016, when he went 10-4, 1.86 with 174 strikeouts and 45 walks in 140 innings and, while serving as the designated hitter on days he wasn't pitching, hitting .322 with 22 home runs, 67 RBIs and a 1.004 OPS. A right ankle injury limited him to just five starts in 2017 and he had surgery in October. Ohtani jumped to the U.S and, with his signing bonus capped as an international amateur, nearly every team pursued him. He chose to sign with the Angels for $2.315 million in early December. Ohtani's physical revealed slight damage to his ulnar collateral ligament. Ohtani has been called the Japanese Babe Ruth, a gifted athlete so prolific as a hitter and pitcher he would be an All-Star at both. He can hold his fastball at 97-98 mph as a starter, and he dials it up and down from 93-100. His fastball doesn't have much life and is fairly straight, but when his command is on the raw velocity is enough to draw swings and misses. Ohtani's best pitch is his forkball. He throws it with the same arm speed and arm slot as his fastball, and the pitch dives two feet into the dirt after starting at the hitters thigh. Ohtani's slider is a third plus pitch but lacks consistency, and he also has a curveball and changeup. Ohtani has a No. 1 starter's arsenal, but he pitches up in the zone too much at times and can fall in love with his breaking pitches, which leads to losing his feel and bouts of inconsistent command. As a hitter Ohtani packs massive raw power, and he pulverizes anything over the plate to center field or the opposite way to left. He rarely faced inside fastballs in Japan and will have to show he can adjust to them in the majors. He is a disciplined hitter who knows the strike zone. Ohtani will immediately slot into the Angels' starting rotation, and on his off days will get at-bats as their designated hitter. If everything comes together, he can be a Cy Young Award contender who hits double-digit home runs.
Adell's skills were raw on the showcase circuit before his junior and senior seasons at Louisville's Ballard High School, but he made adjustments to keep his bat through the zone longer and hit .562 with 25 homers, most in the nation, 61 RBIs, 53 runs, 22 stolen bases and only seven strikeouts as a senior. The Angels drafted him 10th overall and signed him for $4.377 million to pass up Louisville. Adell then went out and hit a combined .325 with a .908 OPS for rookie-league teams in Arizona and Orem. The Angels believed Adell possessed the best combination of power, speed and arm strength in the 2017 draft. He has run a 6.4-second 60-yard dash, 80-grade speed, has the strength to mash 450-foot home runs and the arm to make laser-like throws from the outfield. The broad-shouldered, muscular Adell stands out most for his quick-twitch athleticism, bat speed, raw power and ability to make consistent hard contact. His quick hands allow him to get to high pitches and he shows maturity in his at-bats and work ethic. He may not become an elite defender, but is solidly above-average with an arm good enough to play in center or right field. Adell's speed may not translate into stolen bases as he matures physically and adds muscle, but he should be a plus baserunner. The dynamic Adell has the ability, makeup and intangibles to grow into an all-star-caliber outfielder. The degree to which he translates his physical gifts and attributes into baseball-specific skills will determine whether he becomes a superstar.
The stiffer the competition, the better Jones performed last season. Pitchers exploited his tendency to swing at breaking balls out of the zone early and Jones got off to a sluggish start at low Class A Burlington, where he slashed .165/.211/.282 in his first 26 games. But Jones, who signed for $1.1 million, rebounded so strongly he earned a July 20 promotion to high Class A Inland Empire, where he put up better numbers than he did at Burlington. Jones is an explosive athlete with NFL bloodlines--his father and two brothers played in the league. He makes consistent contact, sprays line drives all over the field, has plus speed and gap-to-gap power, and his defense is improving. Jones is thick and strong, and the ball jumps off his bat. Scouts like his makeup, work ethic and the adjustments he makes with two strikes, when he widens his stance, chokes up and tries to put the ball in play. A short stroke and plus bat speed indicate that Jones could be an above-average hitter, but there are questions whether he'll be able to manage the strike zone at higher levels. He doesn't project as a home run hitter, and an adequate but not overwhelming arm could push him to left field. If he maintains his speed and improves his plate discipline, Jones could be a solid big-league leadoff man. He should see Double-A Mobile in 2018.
Evaluators universally considered Maitan the top prospect in the 2016 international class and the top hitter out of Latin America in years. The Venezuelan switch-hitter signed with the Braves for $4.25 million but had an underwhelming pro debut at the Rookie levels in 2017. After the season, Major League Baseball declared Maitan a free agent as part of the Braves' penalties for international signing violations. The Angels swooped in and signed him for $2.2 million in early December. Maitan's pro debut was worrisome. He gained significant weight in his lower half and few scouts now believe he will be able to stick at shortstop. His righthanded swing was quick and direct, but his lefthanded swing showed significant length and less bat speed. Maitain has plus power potential, but his approach will have to be refined to tap into what scouts have long seen as plus hitting ability. Maitan has good body control, a plus arm and soft hands, but his range was limited by his lack of speed and first-step quickness. Maitan slimmed down to 210 pounds for instructional league. The Angels are expected to let Maitan stick at shortstop for now, but eventually most scouts believe he will end up moving off the position unless he cuts even more weight. Even with a probable eventual move to third base, he has the hitting ability to be an impact player. He will get a fresh start with the Angels in 2018 and could see low Class Burlington.
Marsh, who signed for $1.073 million as the No. 60 overall pick in 2016, didn't play after his signing was delayed because of a medical exam found a stress reaction in his lower back. Stronger after months of rehabilitation, Marsh flashed his five-tool potential as one of the best players in the Pioneer League in his pro debut in 2017, although he missed a month with a sprained thumb. A standout wide receiver who helped his high school team win Georgia AAAA state championships in 2013 and 2014, Marsh is an elite athlete with a strong frame, plus speed and plus arm strength. He looked a little raw offensively in instructional league last fall, but showed advanced plate discipline at Orem, sitting on pitches like a college hitter. Marsh has shown an ability to hit to all fields and could grow into more power as he matures physically. The way the ball comes off his bat leads some scouts to project above-average power in his future. The Angels believe Marsh has the speed and instincts to cover a lot of ground in center field, though he may eventually move to a corner spot. With a good, and healthy, first half at low Class A Burlington, Marsh could reach high Class A Inland Empire by the All-Star break.
Barria has gained 30 pounds since he signed for $60,000 as a 16-year-old, and he continues to add velocity as he adds strength. Barria made a quantum leap in 2017, jumping from high Class A Inland Empire to Double-A Mobile to Triple-A Salt Lake in his age-20 season. Barria combined to go 7-9, 2.80 with 117 strikeouts and 31 walks in 141.2 innings. Barria doesn't have electric stuff--he's about pitchability and racking up early-count outs--but his advanced feel for pitching, sneaky deception, pinpoint control and knack for turning up his intensity in jams pushed him to Triple-A. He works in and out, up and down with a fastball that sits in the 92-mph range. His best pitch is a changeup with fade at 77-80 mph that projects to be an above-average-to-plus offering. His curveball, once loopier and slower, is thrown harder and shorter and sometimes with big depth and projects as a possible outpitch as well. Barria has the intangibles you'd expect in a major leaguer--good mound presence and demeanor, confidence in his repertoire and the ability to control the running game and field his position. With his work ethic and progress Barria has cut a direct path to the big leagues, with the potential to be a No. 4 or 5 starter.
Rodriguez, who signed for a well-above-slot $850,000 in 2016, is considered by some to be the most promising homegrown arm in the Angels system. But his 2017 results--he went a combined 5-3, 6.16 in 14 starts for Rookie-level Orem and low Class A Burlington, striking out 56 and walking 14 in 57 innings--didn't match his potential. Rodriguez features a lively four-seam fastball that averages 95 mph, has touched 97 mph and sometimes cuts away from righthanded batters. He complements it with a sinking two-seamer that runs in to righties, making for an uncomfortable at-bat. He can throw his 83-86 mph changeup, his best secondary pitch, in any count, and it sometimes looks like a screwball the way the bottom drops out of it. He gets a hard, late break and good tilt on his 82-85 mph slider, and he's been throwing more of a 12-to-6 curveball. Rodriguez has an athletic, rhythmic delivery, but some scouts believe there's too much effort to his delivery, which he finishes with a big head whack. In part because of that, evaluators do not project Rodriguez to ever have more than average command. Rodriguez is mature with a good work ethic. With polish and experience, he could develop into a mid-rotation starter.
Thaiss, who signed for $2.15 million, was a bat-first catcher in college. The Angels were sold on the bat, but not the glove so as soon as they drafted him, they announced that he was a full-time first baseman. He hasn't gotten behind the dish in two pro seasons. Thaiss has carried the advanced plate discipline he showed in college to the minor leagues, where he has 141 strikeouts and 103 walks in 778 at-bats across four levels, but his power slipped after a July 11 promotion to Double-A Mobile, where he hit only one home run in 49 games. Thaiss has made considerable strides defensively at first base. He looked a little rigid and rough around the edges in his first instructional league, but his range, hands, and ability to pick balls in the dirt and complete the 3-1 play have improved to the point where he looks comfortable at his new position. Offensively, Thaiss controls the strike zone well and knows how to battle and spoil pitches. He has a good approach, doesn't chase bat pitches and isn't afraid to take a walk. He hits the ball hard but does not elevate it enough to clear the fence regularly. Thaiss has solid gap-to-gap power, but until he learns how to turn on a ball and better punish mistakes, his ceiling will be that of a high on-base, 15-homer hitter and possible platoon player in the big leagues.
A heavy workload as a junior at UCLA and a report of “potential issues” in a pre-draft MRI test didn't scare the Angels off Canning, a projected first-round pick who fell to the second round, No. 47 overall, and signed for $1.459 million. The Angels were comfortable with Canning's medicals, but were still very careful with him. Canning spent the summer in Arizona working on strength and conditioning and didn't pitch for an affiliate–making him one of the few top 50 picks to not get into an official game. Canning's four-pitch mix includes a four-seam fastball between 90-94 mph with high spin rate that he commands, and a slider, curveball and changeup all flash ab0ve-average potential. His changeup was his go-to secondary pitch as a sophomore, but he threw more breaking balls as a junior, when he went 7-4, 2.34 in 119 innings over 17 starts, finishing second in the nation with 140 strikeouts, walking 32 and holding opponents to a .213 average. He showed durability under a robust workload in 2017, throwing a 134-pitch shutout of rival Southern California in early May. Canning is a polished and advanced college pitcher who could move quickly through the system, but he needs to show he is healthy. Canning will make his pro debut on Opening Day 2018 and projects as a mid-rotation starter.
A late-round pick who was committed to Illinois to play football out of high school, Hermosillo signed for $100,000 and certainly didn't come with a “can't-miss” label. But after two so-so seasons to begin his career, Hermosillo blossomed at low Class A Burlington in 2016 and jumped from high Class A to Double-A to Triple-A in 2017, combining to hit .267/.366/.397 with 25 doubles, nine homers, 44 RBIs and 35 stolen bases. Hermosillo makes good contact and has shown solid plate discipline throughout his minor league career, though his strikeout-to-walk ratio dipped as he faced better pitching last season. A dead pull-hitter, Hermosillo needs a more balanced approach at the plate in order to use all fields. A limited launch angle prevents him from hitting more home runs. He has an above-average arm, allowing him to handle all three outfield positions. He has shown solid instincts in center, but is better coming in on balls than going back. His basestealing techniques, raw when he signed, have improved. Hermosillo was invited to big-league camp in 2017, a testament to his steady progress, but unless he adds more power, his ceiling may be that of a fourth outfielder in the big leagues.
Rivas signed with the Angels for $40,000 in 2014 as a 16-year-old and has worked his way up the system. The Venezuelan switch-hitter has a .278 career average and has shown advanced plate discipline at every level, with a .420 on-base percentage and nearly as many walks (132) as strikeouts (136) in 630 career at-bats. Rivas has played all three infield positions and a little outfield, but focused primarily on shortstop in 2017. Rivas grows on you. He's not flashy in the field but makes all the plays, and he won't dazzle you at the plate but is competent from both sides and rarely swings at pitches out of the zone. Though small-framed, he has gotten stronger physically. He has an average to above-average arm, with good accuracy. His hands work well and he has solid range to both sides, but he's a little better going to his left. Rivas is athletic with a projectable build and good hand-eye coordination, is light on his feet with a loose arm, and is instinctive in the field and on the basepaths. Scouts who watch Rivas over multiple games get a better appreciation for him. Though many project him as a utility player, he could develop into a starting middle infielder if he continues to hit and get on base.
What seemed like an innocuous deal at the 2016 trade deadline could pay huge dividends if Castillo, acquired from the Cubs for reliever Joe Smith, continues to develop as he did over the past year. After pitching to a 2.87 ERA in 2016, Castillo advanced from low Class A to high Class A to Double-A in 2017, recording a 3.32 ERA with 118 strikeouts and 26 walks in 124.2 innings. Castillo has excellent command of a low-90s fastball with heavy sink that breaks a lot of bats and induces plenty of ground balls. Neither his mid-70s curveball nor his low-80s changeup are true swing-and-miss pitches, but he throws them for strikes consistently. Castillo has a very loose arm and is able to repeat a high-three-quarters delivery that has some deception. He has a great understanding of the need to attack hitters and get ahead in the count. The Angels believe Castillo can put on another 25 pounds, and with added size and strength, should come more velocity. Castillo could remain in the rotation if his curveball becomes a go-to secondary pitch, but most scouts project him as a reliever. Out of the pen he could rely even more on his ground-ball inducing sinker. He'll start 2018 back at Double-A.
Signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela for $300,000 in 2014, Suarez is still undersized but has an advanced feel for pitching. Suarez's fastball velocity ticked up to 89-93 mph in 2017, he has an above-average changeup, and he's developing a curveball as a quality third pitch. The results can be seen in his strikeout rates, which have increased from 5.7 batters per nine innings in 2015 to 10.7 in 2016 to 11.8 in 2017, when he combined to go 6-1, 3.28 in 15 starts in the AZL and low Class A Burlington, striking out 90 and walking 22 in 68.2 innings. Suarez doesn't make many mistakes, having allowed only nine homers in 186 minor league innings. He has above-average pitchability and an easy, repeatable high-three quarters delivery with good direction to the plate. He should add velocity as he develops physically, but his changeup, which he can throw in any count, is his best pitch. With advanced pitching smarts and above-average control, Suarez could reach high Class A and perhaps Double-A in 2018 at age 20.
It's easy to dream on the arm of Soriano, whose fastball at age 18 sat in the low-90s and touched 96 mph in 2017 pitching at the Rookie levels. Though the pitch doesn't have a ton of movement, it has a little bit of late life. Soriano, who signed for $70,000, grew about three inches from 2016 to 2017, though he didn't add a lot of weight. It's not a leap to think that, with added size, strength and maturity, Soriano's fastball will hit 100 mph in a few years. He has an advanced feel for his curveball, which he throws between 80-85 mph, and has shown decent arm action and some feel for a mid-80s changeup, which is a developing pitch. Soriano has shown a good feel for pitching, but like most young, raw pitchers, he has struggled to gain consistency–he went 2-2 with a 2.92 ERA in 13 games in the AZL and Orem, but with his stuff, he should have struck out more than 39 batters in 52.1 innings. Soriano had issues timing his delivery in 2016, but was more mechanically sound and more polished in 2017. Another leap of improvement could send him to low Class A Burlington in 2018.
The Angels signed Aquino for $100,000 as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, intrigued by his projectable 6-foot-6 frame and impressive body control. He went out and had a solid professional debut in 2017, moving from the Dominican Summer League to the Rookie-level Arizona League and holding his own. Aquino was labeled the “surprise” of instructs by Angels front office officials, who came away from the fall thinking Aquino might be the best of their collection of young Latin American arms. Aquino uses his long, lanky levers to his benefit, generating both downhill plane and velocity with extension. He works 93-95 mph with his fastball, spins 76-78 mph hammer curveball that projects, and throws them both for strikes consistently. The Angels believe there is even more velocity to come as he fills out his sizable frame. Aquino is still seeking a third pitch, but with two potential plus pitches, more velocity to come and solid strike-throwing ability, the Angels believe they have a diamond in the rough. Aquino will likely start 2018 in extended spring training, with a chance to see Rookie-level Orem or low Class A Burlington during the year.
Soto signed with the Braves for $1 million as one of the top prospects during the 2016 international signing period. He made his pro debut the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2017, but after the season was one the 12 Braves prospects declared free agents by Major League Baseball as punishment for violating international signing rules. The Angels signed Soto the first day he was eligible sign with a new club for $850,000. Soto's 2017 stat line is ugly, with a .225 batting average and .586 OPS, but evaluators say the quality of his at-bats was better than his numbers indicate. He walked more than he struck out and showed an excellent understanding of the strike zone. There are scouts who believe Soto will end up as an above-average hitter with fringe-average power, but he has to add a lot of muscle and strength to get there. His swing is fundamentally sound with a line-drive approach and he's a good bunter. Soto mostly stands out at shortstop as a future plus defender with a plus arm. He has an excellent internal clock and possesses an advanced understanding of the nuances of the game. Soto is an above-average runner and earns plaudits as a team leader. Soto has an everyday shortstop ceiling, but is a long way away.
Finally freed from being restricted on the international market because of their $8 million signing of shortstop Roberto Baldoquin in 2014, the Angels made their first big splash in two years with their July 2 signing of the Deveaux for $1.2 million. Deveaux, who moved from shortstop to the outfield last year, is an elite athlete and runner who has been clocked at 6.2 seconds in the 60-yard dash, an 80-grade time. He shows the makings of a premium defender in center field, with a solid arm, plus range and plus instincts to go with his elite speed. At the plate, Deveaux reminds some scouts of a young Dexter Fowler. He has a line-drive swing and a good understanding of the strike zone. Though his power is limited, he has a strong, lean, projectable frame. There's quick burst in everything Deveaux does. He also showed an ability to make adjustments in 2017, closing off his upright, open stance to improve his balance, which helped him stay through the ball and use the middle of the field. Deveau won't turn 18 until a month into the 2018 season and is set to spend the year at the Rookie levels, beginning in the Arizona League.
A prototypical leadoff hitter with above-average speed, good on-base skills and the ability to bunt, Lund jumped two levels in 2017, from low Class A Burlington to high Class A Inland Empire to Double-A Mobile, combining to slash .308/.373/.403 with 21 doubles, four triples, six homers, 47 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 121 games. Though he's a contact hitter with good hands and feel for the strike zone, Lund did have a tendency to chase pitches, striking out 100 times in 491 at-bats in 2017. Lund is athletic and strong for his size. He has a short, compact swing and is neither pull-dominant nor opposite-field dominant; he uses the whole field. When he finds the barrel, he has shown sneaky power. Lund is an instinctual defender with a slightly below-average arm who's working on jumps in the outfield. With his grit and baseball smarts, he reminds multiple scouts of veteran reserve outfielder Daniel Robertson. Lund may not have enough bat for an every-day job in the big leagues, but he has the potential to be a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Ward, who missed the first month of the season because of an oblique injury, stands out as a potentially above-average defender, with a plus arm that has allowed him to throw out 73 of 214 basestealers (34%) in 153 games over the past two seasons. Ward is agile and athletic behind the plate, with good hands, and his receiving, blocking, game-calling and leadership skills have improved. After allowing 19 passed balls in 90 games in 2016, Ward allowed four passed balls in 63 games in 2017. But the more scouts watch Ward hit, the more surprised they are the Angels used a 26th overall pick and spent $1.67 million to sign him. He has shown good plate discipline, with almost as many walks (144) as strikeouts (164) in three seasons, but he doesn't have a consistent approach or setup at the plate or get enough load in his swing, which limits his power. He has also shown a tendency to give away at-bats. Ward slashed a combined .258/.368/.390 with nine homers, 14 doubles and 49 RBIs across two levels in 2017. Most evaluators see Ward as a future backup at best, and only because of the dearth of catching they see in today's game.
The Angels signed Pena for just $20,000 in 2013 and have seen him progress every year, topping out with a sterling second half in 2017 that ended in a promotion to Double-A Mobile. Pena does some Johnny Cueto-like things with his delivery--he'll quick-pitch at times and hold his leg kick before driving toward the plate at others--that the Angels have so far refrained from changing, because Pena has been able to disrupt the timing of hitters and had success with it. Though his ERA (5.00) and walks (67) were high in 151.1 innings across 29 starts at two levels in 2017, Pena struck out 167 and held hitters to a .213 average in four Double-A starts. He relies primarily on a late-riding fastball that sits between 90-93 with life and late rise up through the zone. His hard, late-breaking slider that can be wipeout quality at times, inducing a lot of swings and misses. Pena's feel for his changeup has been sporadic, but the pitch has flashed above-average. Pena pitched out of the bullpen his first two seasons and projects more as a reliever long-term, but if he continues to gain consistency with his changeup, he'll remain a starter.
The Angels spent $850,000 to sign Knowles as their second big ticket signing of the 2016 international class along with fellow Bahamian Trent Deveaux. Knowles is a high-end athlete with borderline plus-plus speed, a solid arm and plus defensive instincts in center field, a position he has a natural feel for. Though several clubs felt that Knowles was raw as a hitter and lagged behind many of the other top players in the class, the Angels believe he has an advanced approach offensively, with good plate discipline, average-to-above power potential and a clean, compact, quiet swing from both sides of the plate. Some scouts had a difficult time gauging Knowles' hitting ability due to the lack of quality competition they saw him face. Knowles is mostly a line-drive hitter with gap-to-gap power that should increase as the slight 16-year-old gets bigger and stronger and gains more experience. The Angels were also impressed with the maturity, work ethic, enthusiasm, high energy and competitiveness Knowles showed in instructional league. “If he said he could tie his shoes faster than you,” player development director Mike Gallego said, “he'd challenge you.”
The Angels feel they got a steal with their 11th-round pick in Rivera, a lanky lefthander with a long, loose body, a smooth, athletic delivery and an advanced feel for his changeup that is rare for an 18-year-old. He was committed to Florida International before signing with the Angels for $450,000, fourth-round money. Rivera's fastball is presently light, sitting 86-89 mph and occasionally touching the low 90s with some run but not much sink, but his velocity should improve with strength, physical maturity and experience. It's his changeup that has the Angels so excited. Rivera throws it with the arm speed and action of his fastball, and the pitch fades quite a bit in the zone as it approaches the hitter. Rivera's third pitch, which he calls a curveball but sometimes looks more like a slider, is a work in progress. He flashed his potential with a 1.64 ERA in eight Rookie League appearances after signing, striking out 11 and walking three in 11 innings. With a delivery that requires little tinkering and a frame that could easily carry another 20-25 pounds, Rivera has a chance to blossom into a mid-rotation starter, although he is a long ways from getting there.
The Angels went well over slot to sign Swanda for $625,000 and get him to pass up a Nebraska scholarship. His numbers were not impressive in a brief seven-game stint in the Rookie-level Arizona League, and in late October the 18-year-old was arrested and charged in his native Iowa for operating a vehicle while intoxicated and possession of a fake I.D. On the mound, Swanda throws a fastball between 89-91 mph and showed advanced feel for a low-80s changeup. He possesses an extremely clean delivery with good, loose arm action and a solid repertoire considering he played mostly shortstop in high school and didn't pitch much until about a month before the draft. The primary focus for Swanda in fall instructional league was the development of his breaking ball, which is slurvy right now and could wind up being more of a slider. But Swanda spins his breaking ball well, and the Angels see it being a solid-average pitch down the road. As a former infielder, Swanda fields his position well. He should add more velocity as he fills out physically, and he should improve as he gains more seasoning on the mound. The Angels expect Swanda to have his legal issues resolved by the spring. He is slated to begin next season in extended spring training but should move up to Rookie-level Orem at some point.
It took an over-slot $950,000 to sign Williams away from Louisiana State in 2016. Williams was home-schooled but allowed to play at Turner High in the Kansas City area because he took one class there. Williams started switch-hitting late in his high school career, but the Angels transitioned him back to hitting only from the right side this past summer, giving Williams the chance to see righthanded breaking balls as a righthanded hitter for the first time as a professional. He has explosive raw tools, with above-average bat speed and decent power potential, but he has a career .231/.284/.280 slash line and hit only one homer in 81 rookie league games. Williams has a plus arm, but his footwork and actions in the middle infield require polish. He's considered an average runner. Slowed by a sore arm last spring, he has gotten stronger since the draft, and the Angels plan to keep him at shortstop for now. Some scouts already project Williams' size and lack of middle-infield instincts will necessitate a move to third base or a corner outfield spot, which puts additional pressure on him to show he can turn his raw tools into on-field skills and increase his offensive output.
Jewell bounced back from a brutal 2016 at high Class A Inland Empire to become an above-average strike thrower at Double-A in 2017. The difference was stark, as he became a pitcher who generates more swings and misses and weak contact and has lowered his walk rate with a more compact, smooth and repeatable delivery. Jewell had a tendency to drop his arm slot and leave pitches in the upper part of the zone, where they were crushed, in 2015, but has made adjustments since then and added velocity as well. The average velocity of Jewell's fastball jumped from 91 mph in 2016 to 93 mph in 2017. He can ride his four-seam fastball, which sits at 94-95 mph, up to 98 mph with a natural cut and throws a sinking two-seamer in the low-90s. Jewell throws an average slider in the 86-89 mph range, a sweeping curveball in the low-80s and has mixed in an occasional cutter. His command has improved, but there's still room for growth. Jewell, who has bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen throughout his career, projects better as a reliever. He'll take on the challenge of Triple-A Salt Lake in 2018.
Persistence is a strength for Todd, who wasn't offered a single scholarship out of high school, attended a junior college in Alabama and made the team at Auburn as a walk-on, stocking shelves at a Walmart to earn enough money to cover his college expenses. Todd won the Tigers starting center field job and blossomed into a star, slashing .376/.460/.471 with 13 doubles, five triples, 37 RBIs and only 28 strikeouts in 283 plate appearances over 63 games in 2017. Todd continued to show excellent plate discipline at rookie league Orem and low Class A Burlington, slashing .275/.373/.344. A prototypical leadoff man with plus speed, Todd shows the makings of a professional hitter who sprays the ball to all fields, doesn't swing at balls and is willing to take his walks. Todd is an above-average defender with good instincts and an average but accurate arm in center field. The Angels love his grit and tenacity--Auburn coach Butch Thompson nicknamed him Joe Dirt.
Fletcher's favorite player growing up in Orange County was David Eckstein, and the middle-infield prospect shares some traits with the shortstop and leadoff man. Evaluators frequently label Fletcher an undersized “gamer” who consistently plays above his tools with good plate discipline and average speed but little power. He slashed .266/.316/.339 with 20 stolen bases in 111 Double-A and Triple-A games in 2017, with 55 strikeouts and 27 walks. Fletcher grinds out at-bats and has a solid approach with a line-drive stroke, but his added weight and muscle and lower body fat didn't translate into much power. Defensively, Fletcher has played mostly shortstop, but he projects as a second baseman or utility player in the big leagues. He's athletic with quick feet, soft hands, good instincts and solid range. What he lacks in arm strength he usually compensates for with good positioning, excellent footwork, a quick release and accurate throws. Fletcher should make his MLB debut this season and could end up as the Angels go-to reserve infielder.
Gatto threw so poorly at low Class A Burlington in 2016 he was sent back to the Angels complex in Arizona at midseason to rebuild his delivery. He returned to Burlington in 2017 and was visibly a different pitcher, throwing well enough to be promoted to high Class A Inland Empire in early August. Gatto still flashes the best curveball in the system, a pitch with a sharp, late break, and a decent sinking, two-seam fastball that sits 90-93 mph mph. He's effective when he attacks the strike zone and trusts his stuff. Inland Empire pitching coach Mike Wuertz moved Gatto to the opposite side of the rubber last summer, and that allowed his two-seamer to work better. But Gatto is inconsistent with his fastball command--he struck out 101 and walked 59 in 128.2 innings in 2017--and he has been unable to develop his changeup into a serviceable third pitch. He throws too many non-competitive pitches, and some scouts question whether he has the makeup to reach the big leagues as a back-end starter. Gatto may project more as a middle reliever, but still needs to significantly improve his control to get there. He'll start back at Inland Empire in 2018 and try to keep carrying his positive progress forward.
The 20-year-old Pina's development has been slow--he spent most of his first two seasons in the Dominican Summer League, most of 2016 in the Arizona League and all of 2017 at Rookie-level Orem--but he has gradually matured into a stout defender and a favorite of the pitchers he works with because of his receiving skills, game-calling abilities and strong arm. A natural leader, Pina has thrown out 95 of 240 basestealers (39.6 percent) and committed only 15 errors in 144 minor league games, earning plus grades as a defender from some evaluators. Offensively Pina makes consistent contact and has excellent plate discipline--he had more walks (23) than strikeouts (19) in 185 at-bats in 2017 and has almost as many walks (91) as strikeouts (114) in four minor league seasons--but he needs to get stronger physically just to develop into a gap hitter. Pina has no homers, 14 doubles and two triples in 652 at-bats in four seasons. Pina will likely start at low-A Burlington in 2018. Because of his limited offensive potential, Pina projects as a backup catcher.
The son of the former nine-time Gold Glove Award winner and five-time All-Star, Hunter passed up what would have been his senior season of football at Notre Dame--and a possible NFL career as a wide receiver--to sign with the Angels in 2016, even though he played baseball sparingly in college, hitting .182 in 11 at-bats and being used mostly as a pinch-runner in 18 games. The Angels love Hunter's raw tools and athletic ability, and they saw that potential begin to emerge at Rookie-level Orem, where he hit .352 with a .432 on-base percentage in 52 games in 2017 and showed solid plate discipline, with 44 strikeouts and 23 walks in 213 at-bats. Hunter has regained his plus speed after a broken femur, suffered during a workout for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl his senior year of high school, sidelined him for two full baseball seasons. Hunter needs to strengthen his arm, which is well-below average, and shorten his swing, but he has good raw strength and bat speed, which should translate to more power as he matures physically.
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