Wednesday, January 29, 2014



Introduction

For the past two years, a word has been used to describe the Los Angeles Angels organization overall: Most scouts and other publications have described the Angels system as “thin”. 

AngelsWin.com would have to agree with that assessment, provided fans use the term correctly. For most scouts “thin” means refers specifically to the number of high-impact players within the organization. For many publications, thin also refers to the number of high-draft prospects within the organization (which often may overlap with the number of high-impact prospects within the system).

There is a difference between a system that is “thin” and a system that is bereft of talent. The Angels are NOT bereft of talent. In fact, in compiling the list of Top-50 Prospects, we were quite amazed at how easily we were able to fill up the list. Finding the players wasn’t the problem. However, ranking the prospects became quite a challenge.
  
The drop in the Angels organizational rankings corresponds to three things: First, the Angels graduated or traded a large number of their high-impact players such as Mike Trout, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, Jean Segura, etc. Second, the Angels did not have a first round draft pick for two years because they signed free agents who were tied to draft pick compensation. Third, the Angels had to revamp and improve their international presence, particularly in Latin America.

In acknowledging all of that, AngelsWin.com wants to be clear that the Angels do in fact have talent that will make Major League contributions. Some may in fact break out and emerge as they continue to develop and refine their skills. The situation is not as bleak as some publications would have the fans believe.

At AngelsWin.com, we often get asked how we determine who are the Top-50 Prospects and how we determine their rankings. As noted above, this year was particularly difficult in making our final rankings. 

Since we know that many prospects, their families, friends, and loved ones read our website to get updates on the players, we want to make a direct statement to them: as with all of our rankings, this is just a snapshot of how things are today, and are not set in stone. We expect some volatility in the rankings over the course of 2014 as players develop and emerge within the system. The differences between the players in some cases was so slight that we are excited to see what the players do this year to help us distinguish them better.

Ranking players is never an easy or exact science. There are too many variables to consider. And no two prospects ever present exactly the same numbers or play against the exact same competition to make all the comparisons exactly the same.

For example, at any given time, we have to compare freshly drafted high school pitchers to veterans in Triple-A. How do we compare them?

At AngelsWin.com we consider 5 basic criteria when developing our Angels Top-50 Prospect List. They are:
1. Overall Ceiling for the Prospect
2. Proximity to the Major Leagues
3. Overall Health of the Player
4. League Factors
5. Path to the Major Leagues
The combination of all 5 of these factors determines the player’s overall ranking on our list.

In trying to determine all of these factors for a player, representatives from AngelsWin.com go to see all of these players play throughout the season and talk with many professionals around the leagues from multiple organizations. The work is our own and represent the opinions of AngelsWin.com. 

1. Overall Ceiling for the Prospect

This is the easiest and most traditional factor for fans to understand. At AngelsWin.com we use all the traditional tools for analyzing players and grade and rate players on the 20-80 scale. We do, however, believe that plate discipline is a legitimate tool that should be evaluated. So, for hitters, we include that in our rankings.

2. Proximity to the Major Leagues

This is an important and often ignored factor for ranking a player. Imagine two players have similar ceilings. Imagine that all other factors are again almost the same. Who should be ranked higher: a player just drafted and playing in a Rookie League or a player in Triple-A? 

At AngelsWin.com, we believe the nod needs to be given to the player performing at the higher levels of the organization because Angels are far more likely to call up a player from Triple-A for a stretch rather than a player from deep within the organization. Consequently, the player with the similar skill set at the higher level is more valuable to the organization than a player buried deep within the organization and thus deserves a higher ranking.

Because of this, fans should expect and prospects should know that over time that they should have a trajectory through the rankings. As they get closer to the Major Leagues, their numbers on our list will rise. That is one of the advantages of having a top-50 Prospect List as opposed to a Top-10 or Top-20 list. We can show the player’s development over time.

3. Overall Health of the Player

An unfortunate and sad reality in baseball is that often the entire game truly depends on the health of the player. Countless numbers of players have had promising careers derailed by one poorly thrown pitch or one unfortunate slide. 

When ranking players, health becomes a major factor. How does one compare a pitcher who just had Tommy John surgery, but prior to the injury was throwing triple digits? It is a tough call. 

Because players don’t always fully recover from an injury, and the results won’t be known for at least a year or more, a player’s health plays an important role in our rankings.

4. League Factors

In business, sales trump all other numbers. In sports, most of the time, performance numbers usually trump all other numbers. The reason that they do not always trump all other numbers is because within the Angels Minor League affiliates, some leagues are known for being hitters’ leagues and some are known for being pitchers’ leagues.

At AngelsWin.com, we do more than just look at a player’s numbers on the field—we decipher what they mean. We factor in park and league factors. We look at the age of the player relative to the league. We look at game logs to see if the numbers were swayed by a few bad outings. In short, we look deep into the numbers to decipher what they really mean.

5. Path to the Major Leagues

As much as we want every prospect to succeed and make it to the Major Leagues, we know that they cannot. Only one person can occupy a position at the Major League level at a time. And, with some long contracts, that can create some logjams.

Since ultimately, as fans, we are concerned with the value to the Major League club, when players become blocked, we have to factor that into our rankings. Even if the Angels managed to somehow get ten best second basemen in the Minor Leagues (for example), we would not rank them 1-10 on our list because not all of them would get to play at the Major League level.

Imagine you are a rival GM trying to trade with the Angels at that point. If the Angels were overloaded at a position, and a player was blocked, would you offer them full value for a blocked prospect? The sad answer is no. Therefore, we have to factor that into our rankings because the overall value of a blocked player decreases. In this regard, AngelsWin.com is unique and different than other prospect rankings.

Organization Overview

As noted above, the Angels system is thin on talent, but it is not bereft of talent. Nothing proves that more than looking at how each of the Minor League affiliates performed. 

Overall, as an organization, the Angels Minor League affiliates finished with a 381-378 record (.502). Four of the Angels affiliates finished with winning records. Four of the Angels affiliates were in the playoffs, and one narrowly missed a wild-card spot. Of the three affiliates who went to the playoffs, one came home a league champion and the other two made it to the league finals. If not for the performance of one level, the Angels overall would have had a winning record as an organization.

Here is a brief summary of how each affiliate fared in 2013. 

Triple-A Salt Lake Bees
Record 78-66 (.542)
Place 1st

The 2013 Salt Lake Bees fell 1 win short of playing for the Triple-A title. After winning the Pacific Coast League Northern Division, the Bees advanced to the best-of-five game Pacific Coast League finals against the Omaha Stormchasers, but ultimately lost in the 4th game of the series.

Double-A Arkansas
Record 73-66 (.525)
Place 1st

The 2013 Arkansas Travelers made it within 1 game of winning another Texas League championship. At one point the Travelers were up 2-1 against the San Antonio Missions, but could not put the finishing touches on a fine season.

Single-A Inland Empire
Record 69-71 (.493)
Place 2nd 

Of all the Angels’ affiliates, the IE66ers made it the furthest in the playoffs by winning one of the California League title. Getting in as a wild-card team, the 66ers played one of the most exciting games to win make it to the Championship Series when they beat Lancaster in the 15th inning. 

Single-A Burlington
Record 56-78 (.493)
Place 7th  

For some reason, the 2013 Burlington Bees never gelled as a team and could never put together a solid string of success during the season. The Bees did perform slightly better in the second half of the season, but unfortunately, was the one affiliate that did not have much in terms of playoff hopes.

Rookie-A Orem
Record 39-36 (.520)
Place 2nd 

The 2013 Orem Owlz played a lot of fun baseball in 2013. All season long they were in the thick of the race, but unfortunately, fell just short in the last few days of both the first and second half of the season. As a result they just barely missed the playoffs.

Rookie-A AZL-Angels
Record 30-26 (.536)
Place 2nd 

Mostly used for rehabbing injured players and developing young players drafted in the 2013 draft, the AZL-Angels played respectable and consistent baseball. In both the first and second half they posted a 15-13 record, and clinched a playoff spot. Unfortunately, they did not advance to the league finals. 


Summer League DSL-Angels
Record 36-35 (.507)
Place 5th 

After not developing much talent, the Angels Dominican Academy began to show life in 2013. Though they did not post an elite record, they have made strides towards signing and developing international talent that should start appearing in the U.S. this year. 

The Los Angeles Angels Top-50 Prospect List

Below is the Los Angeles Angels Top-50 Prospect List. Over the coming weeks, AngelsWin.com will be presenting scouting reports obtained from scouts, the Angels Scouting Director Ric Wilson and the human eyes of David Saltzer & Chuck Richter.

1. Taylor Lindsey, 2B
2. R. J. Alvarez, RHP
3. C. J. Cron, 1B
4. Kaleb Cowart, 3B
5. Mark Sappington, RHP
6. Hunter Green, LHP
7. Mike Morin, RHP
8. Ricardo Sanchez, LHP
9. Zach Borenstein, OF
10. Alex Yarbrough, 2B
11. Jose Rondon, SS
12. Cam Bedrosian, RHP
13. Nick Maronde, LHP
14. Eric Stamets, SS
15. Matt Shoemaker, RHP
16. Alfonso Alcantara, RHP
17. Ryan Chaffee, RHP 
18. Natanael Delgado, OF
19. Keynan Middleton, RHP
20. Michael Roth, LHP
21. Austin Wood, RHP
22. Jeremy Berg, RHP
23. Eduar Lopez, RHP
24. Cal Towey, 3B
25. Kyle McGowin, RHP
26. Michael Fish, OF
27. Matt Long, 2B/OF
28. Sherman Johnson, 3B
29. Kramer Sneed, LHP
30. Michael Snyder, 1B
31. Elliot Morris, RHP
32. Eduard Santos, RHP
33. Wade Hinkle, 1B
34. Tyler DeLoach, LHP
35. Nate Smith, LHP
36. Jonah Wesely, LHP
37. Reid Scoggins, RHP
38. Zach Wright, C/OF
39. Joey Krehbiel, RHP
40. Jonathan Van Eaton, RHP
41. Michael Clevinger, RHP 
42. Mike Piazza, RHP
43. Stephen McGee, C
44. Yency Almonte, RHP
45. Miguel Hermosillo, OF
46. Lianmy Galan, RHP
47. Brian Moran, LHP
48. Daniel Tillman, RHP
49. Alex Keudell, RHP
50. Kevin Johnson, RHP

Totals by Position

1B – 3
2B – 3*
3B – 3
SS – 2
C – 2#
OF – 4
RHP – 24
LHP – 9

* counting Matt Long at 2B
# counting Zach Wright at C
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