Last season, the Los Angeles Angels High-A affiliate, Inland Empire 66ers, went on a tear in the final two months of the season to squeak into the California League postseason with a group that wasn't the highest in notes of promise for the future. However, talent can be found in great ways when coaching creates upside players the way Denny Hocking, Matt Wise, and Brent Del Chiaro do. This year, the 66ers are looking at a roster full of high end talent. Here's 15 prospects beginning their 2015 season in High-A with the Sixers, and ones you'll need to know moving forward.
1. Roberto Baldoquin, Infielder
Baldoquin has suddenly become the talk of the Angels farm system. He signed for a record (broken record now) $8 million, and the reasons were shown during Spring Training and exhibition games late in preseason. He's beginning the 2015 season as the highest prospect in the mid minors, and for good reason. The California League will be able to help his power numbers, and with American coaching and his first time facing American talent, Baldoquin is ready to tear through the Angels minor league system.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #4
2. Kaleb Cowart, Third Baseman
It's make or break time for Cowart. He's back to a lower level in 2015 and ready to find his comfort zone again. Where better than a league where he's still much younger than the average talent and a hitter friendly league? Cowart is doing his best to avoid a move to the mound, and this could be the year he silences the doubters and becomes a top prospect once again.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #14
3. Austin Adams, Right-Handed Pitcher
This one blew us away. Austin Adams put up outstanding numbers in the Cal League last year, and was the only 66ers player to be named to the League All-Star Team. Adams has jumped his fastball velocity up to 96-98 this past Spring, and might only get faster. That's not even the best part. Adams, bar none, has the best slider in the Angels system, with one of the biggest breaks we've seen in quite some time. Adams needs some work with control, but putting that aside, he shouldn't be in the Cal League for very long with performances like he had last year.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #34
4. Chris Ellis, Right-Handed Pitcher
The top pitching prospect with the 66ers is the planned Opening Day starter. Chris Ellis jumped Class-A and is ready for a big year in High-A. We predicted him as the quickest to the Majors from the 2014 Draft Class, and right now, not a whole lot is changing our mind. Ellis comes equipped with a plus three-pitch arsenal and will take that to the mound for each start in High-A over 2015.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #3
5. Greg Mahle, Left-Handed Pitcher
Mahle is giving Ellis a run for his money (or our money) for first to the Majors from the 2014 Draft. Mahle has taken the Angels system by storm, posting outstanding numbers out of the draft. He's dominant against lefties, and is nearly as adequate against right-handed hitters. He saw playoff time with the 66ers last year, and should be a quick callup if he performs like he did in 2014. Mahle is scary to face due to his deception and multiple arm angles.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #33
6. Victor Alcantara, Right-Handed Pitcher
Welcome to the future Angels fans. Victor Alcantara is possibly the most poisoning weapon the Angels have in the minors, but he's not just there yet. He has hit triple digits with his fastball that moves north, south, east and west. He's learning to repeat his mechanics, and once he does, he could find a way into becoming a Garrett Richards like talent. That's not a typo by the way, he could be that good.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #12
7. Bo Way, Outfielder
Another shock from the 2014 Draft is now set for High-A. Way was a name minor league lovers began to hear constantly after he put up great numbers not just in Rookie Ball, but Low-A as well in his small sample of professional baseball upon being drafted. It's obvious the Angels saw the talent, sending him to High-A without a return to Low-A promptly. Way could be another one of those hidden gems in the Angels now, high draft depth.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #27
8. Michael Fish, Outfielder
The forgotten son. Mike Fish used to be one of the Angels top prospects, but has fallen from grace to no cause of his own. Fish has put up good numbers, year in and year out for the Angels, and is now in an offensive league where his power friendly swing will see a high load of extra base hits and home runs. Oh, and his actual name is one Angels fans will have no problem taking in with ease. Swing away, Mr. Michael Fish.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #42
9. Harrison Cooney, Right-Handed Pitcher
Cooney should be the #2 guy in the rotation behind Ellis, and is ready to flash his excellence. Cooney has a near identical repitoire of pitches as Chris Ellis, and is more advanced than him already, which could mean he is the unnamed "ace" of the 66ers rotation. Harrison Cooney was no mistake for the Angels when they took him in the sixth round, and he'll be able to reach top prospect status with a strong year against tough competition in a hitter friendly league.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #39
10. Kody Eaves, Second Baseman
Kody Eaves is younger than most of the talent in the Cal League, but should have no problem matching up with the high load of elite prospects. He was a high school talent when drafted, and has turned into a true professional baseball player with the right stuff to make the Majors. The middle of the infield for the Angels High-A club is going to be loaded with talent between Baldoquin, Angel Rosa, and Kody Eaves. Eaves needs to learn a little bit more of plate discipline and cut down his strikeout rates, which will be a great focus of Brent Del Chiaro.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #22
11. Cole Swanson, Left-Handed Pitcher
The Angels have been looking for future left-handed pitchers in the bullpen. They may not have to look very far, as Cole Swanson has come in as a shut down man for his professional career. The California native has struck out 12.3 batters per nine over his short professional career. Swanson has made the proper adjustments to become a strong pitcher as opposed to a thrower, and will use his low 90's cutter to keep his strikeout total high and possibly make strides in creating a name for himself.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #71
12. Garrett Nuss, Right-Handed Pitcher
Despite a high draft stock, Nuss has remained under the radar since being taken in the seventh round of the 2013 Draft. Nuss has a nearly identical arm slot for all his pitches, and is incredibly deceptive on the mound, which he'll need to fool batters at the High-A level. Nuss comes in as another guy who could create a larger name for himself moving forward in the Angels system, and be a quick mover with strong outings, like he put together all of last season.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #65
13. Eric Aguilera, First Baseman
Aguilera is one of the best hidden secrets in the Angels system. He's put up great numbers everywhere he's gone and has began to draw comparisons to Efren Navarro. Aguilera comes with strong leadership skills, according to teammates, and that's what a young team like the 66ers will need to excel over the course of a long season. Aguilera is equipped with a strong set of tools in his bag, and that will help him climb the ladder for quite some time.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #50
14. Geoff Broussard, Right-Handed Pitcher
This one came as a surprise to us. Geoff Broussard was signed as a minor league free agent this past off-season after a year out of professional baseball, and year of great numbers in Independent Ball. Broussard has a wicked arsenal, is well known in the local area after being named the D3 Player of the Year. He had great numbers in pro ball as well, and it was a shock when the Phillies released him. Broussard is ready to write a new chapter in his career, and where else is a better spot than High-A, facing tough competition, and finding his spot in a new organization.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: Unranked
15. Mark Shannon, Outfielder
Shannon was one of the unsung heroes for the 66ers last season in their late season push. This came after a few months in Low-A, where he excelled, and he did just the same in High-A last year. It was surprising to see his name on the roster again in 2015, and he should be one of the better leaders and offensive producers the 66ers have. Oh, not just that, but the kid is a complete grinder and can make plays defensively that drop your jaw. Shannon is ready to become the Chad Hinshaw of 2015, and earn his way into the arms of Angels minor league fans across the organization.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #58
For more updates on the Los Angeles Angels, their prospects, and our Top 100 Prospects Countdown, follow us on Twitter, @AngelsOnScout.
Taylor Blake Ward is a Senior Publisher for InsideTheHalos.com, and can be found on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.