Potentially the most talent loaded team in the Los Angeles Angels farm system comes in the form of their Double-A affiliate, Arkansas Travelers. Double-A is the true test of whether you can compete at the highest professional level, and earn yourself a trip to Triple-A or the Majors. Here are 15 prospects to keep your eye on that will begin 2015 in Little Rock.
1. Brian Hernandez, Third Baseman
This is the biggest surprise we saw when looking at the Travs roster for Opening Day. Hernandez finished second in batting average last year in the Texas League, and had no signs of dropping off. It's understandable that Ryan Wheeler and Kyle Kubitza are ahead of him in the depth chart, but there's no need to punish him for that. We rarely disagree or criticize the Angels choices, but this is simple, Brian Hernandez belongs in Triple-A
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #29
2. Alan Busenitz, Right-Handed Pitcher
Another surprise that came to our attention was Busenitz. Only Eduardo Paredes (Rookie Orem) had better statistical numbers than Busenitz as a reliever in the entire system last year. Busenitz spent the entire 2014 season in Low-A Burlington and has now skipped over High-A Inland Empire. Tougher competition will be a fun test to watch Busenitz face, and if he continues to shine, could be a shocking September callup. Another interesting note is that Busenitz has been moved to the rotation, as opposed to the back end of the bullpen.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #51
3. Mike Snyder, First Baseman
Sadly, Snyder was hit with the injury bug last year and put up poor numbers. His brother, Brandon, spent quite some time putting up monster power numbers with the Red Sox organization, and Mike is no different. It's doubtful you'll find a prospect with more power in the Halos system than Snyder, but with the territory comes a high strikeout rate. If he cuts down his strikeout rate in his second go round in Double-A, Snyder could hit Triple-A and put up monster numbers in the high elevation of Salt Lake.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #97
4. Eric Stamets, Shortstop
Stamets also caught the injury bug last year, and saw a spike in his numbers. He has picked up in power though, which is huge for this small shortstop. He is the best defensive player in the Angels system, and with good numbers, should meetup with his double play counter part of Alex Yarbrough. This is the first time in his career that he will not be with Yarbrough, and will need to work with someone new defensively.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #25
5. Wade Hinkle, First Baseman
Not to pay attention to only injuries, but Hinkle is another guy who had his past season cut short. Hinkle is 100% healthy, and has put up great numbers in his professional career. Hinkle will be fighting for a first base/designated hitter spot, but should be able to attack the most talented pitchers with his advanced approach.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #41
6. Austin Wood, Right-Handed Pitcher
Okay, seriously, we're not just focusing on injuries, but Austin Wood has dealt with them for most of his career. Wood is finally 100% healthy, and is ready to take his highly touted arsenal to Double-A. Wood needs work with control, but with his filthy mix of pitches, and a move to the bullpen, Wood will be able to focus on mechanics more and sit in the high 90's with ease in each performance.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #36
7. Tyler DeLoach, Left-Handed Pitcher
DeLoach was a nice surprise for the Angels system last year. He posted great numbers, and has commanded to both sides of the plate. He kept up the great pace with a mid-season callup to Double-A last year, and is looking to continue his hot streak of strong outings each time he goes to the mound as one of the top men in the Travs rotation.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #31
8. Trevor Gott, Right-Handed Pitcher
By now you know that Gott was not just "another guy" in the Huston Street trade. Gott has jumped in velocity since arriving to the Angels, picking up 4-5 ticks on his fastball and averaging out around 95-98 MPH. Gott will be working in the latter part of the bullpen and more than likely be the closer for the Travs this season.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #20
9. Sherman Johnson, Utility
No one reached base at a more frequent rate than Johnson last season. It earned him a Spring Training invite with the big club, and it should be something to focus on during his time in Double-A. Johnson's bat is more than enough to move him forward as a utility man in the system, and with his advanced approach and ability to reach base, could have him see time in the Majors late this upcoming season.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #26
10. Kyle McGowin, Right-Handed Pitcher
McGowin took flight in 2014 as one of the highest ranked pitching prospects in the system. He's been given high praise, and for good reason. He's returning in 2015 with full health and could be another September callup with a season like he put together last year.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #11
11. Chad Hinshaw, Outfielder
Hinshaw came out of nowhere in 2014, and earned himself a spot on the Arizona Fall League roster, where he shined as strong as he did during the regular season. Hinshaw will bring his combination of speed and power to Double-A in a park that should allow him to find the gaps and put up excellent extra-base hit numbers.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #35
12. Nate Smith, Left-Handed Pitcher
The Angels made no mistake taking this lefty early in the 2013 Draft. Smith has the ability to paint the corners and work magic with his off-speed offerings. He spent the latter half of last season with the Travs, and will be the Opening Day starter for them.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #18
13. Chris O'Grady, Left-Handed Pitcher
O'Grady has become one of the top left-handed relievers in the Angels system. With a deceptive delivery and good mix of pitches, he should be able to work his way into a highlight role of facing both left-handed and right-handed hitters, and show he's ready for the big leap to the highest levels with ease.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #52
14. Cal Towey, Utility
Another breakout prospect from 2014, Towey is still finding his way around the field. He's moved around from behind the plate, to the infield, to the outfield, but his bat has spoken well for itself in both High-A and the Arizona Fall League last year. His 2015 campaign in a tough hitting element will show where Towey is at this point in his career, and it could become a high note for the rising talent.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: #19
15. Nate Hyatt, Right-Handed Pitcher
Acquired in the "Kyle Kubitza for Ricardo Sanchez" trade, Hyatt is not just a throw in. He'll throw all the way into the high 90's, and could share time with Trevor Gott in a closing role for the Travs.
Pre-season Angels prospect rank from InsideTheHalos.com: Unranked
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.