Tuesday morning, the Los Angeles Angels announced they'd invited 20 non-roster players to join them in Tempe, Arizona for Spring Training games. Only 16 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting, Taylor Blake Ward of Scout.com breaks down each player and prospect invited, and tells of what impact they'll have for the upcoming season.
Prospect highlight the Angels pitching non-roster invites, particularly top prospect, Nate Smith. Smith, 24, has put together a string of strong minor league seasons, with the last one being one of his best. Despite a 7.75 ERA in seven starts in Triple-A, Smith was a strong hold in Double-A, being named the Texas League Pitcher of the Year, with an 8-4 record and 2.48 ERA. Smith represented the United States in the Pan Am Games, and put together a 22.1 innings scoreless streak mid-season.
Fellow prospect Tyler DeLoach, Greg Mahle and Kyle McGowin join Smith as NRI's, while staying near the top of Scout's Top 100 Prospects Countdown. DeLoach, 24, is a unique fit to the Angels piece, as he could become a bullpen arm after being a starter throughout most of his minor league career. Mahle, 22, is likely the Angels best relief prospect, using three arm slots to mix speed and change angles on the batter - could be in bullpen by this season. McGowin, 24, led the Texas League in strikeouts, and should play out to be a nice arm at the upper levels of the minors this season. His ceiling could become a mid rotation arm if he can continue to replicate his delivery.
The Angels picked up a trio of right-handed relievers this past season on waiver claims and minor league deals. A.J. Achter, Yunesky Maya, and Ramon Ramirez bring a combined 458 games and 518 innings of Major League experience to Spring with them, and all show some potential, combning for a career 3.77 ERA over their Major League time. Ramirez, 34, highlights the group, after 424 games at the highest level, and a 3.42 career ERA - 2.77 ERA and 151 ERA+ from 2008-2011.
Also in the mix this Spring will be southpaw reliever, Lucas Luetge. Luetge, 28, spent the past four seasons in the Seattle Mariners bullpen, posting a 4.35 ERA over 111 games. Luetge has held bats at Angel Stadium to a .227 average over his career, but 60% of the hits he's given up have gone for extra-base hits. Angels fans remember Luetge primarily for giving up a home run to Mike Trout to complete Trout's first career cycle.
The group of five catchers invited to Spring Training is highlighted by last year's first round pick, Taylor Ward. Ward, (), was a surprise first round pick, but silenced doubters when he had the top batting average (.348) of any first round pick, and had the second best on-base percentage (.457) of any 2015 draftee - trailing other Angels prospect, Michael Pierson. Though he's still a ways from becoming a Major Leaguer, being with big league coaches should improve his already steady development.
Along with Ward, prospects Stephen McGee, Michael Strentz and Wade Wass received invites. McGee, 24, had a break out season being named a California League All-Star, and finished the season in Salt Lake with a season .253/.352/.341 slash. Wass, 24, and Strentz, 24, split time in High-A and Low-A this past season, combining to throw out 27% of runners, and a .784 OPS. Juan Graterol, 26, also joins the invitees, after spending 10 years in the minors between two affiliates.
An organizational source close to Scout.com declared that utility infielder, Sherman Johnson, has a fair shot at being on the Major League roster on Opening Day. Despite a down year in Double-A, Johnson, 25, is knocking on the door of the Majors. The primary second baseman has seen a .250/.368/.391 slash over his four years in the minors, reaching base safely in 84% of games he appeared in.
Along with Johnson comes former top prospect, Alex Yarbrough, and veteran, Gregorio Petit. Yarbrough, 24, hit a rut last season as a youngster in Triple-A. Despite a poor season, the second base prospect has flashed a career .748 minor league OPS prior to last season, and still has the tools of a future average second baseman. Petit, 31, has 82 Major League games under his belt between three teams, but has never blossomed, flashing a OPS+ of 77, far below league average.
The Angels invited a trio of off-season minor league signings to Spring Training, but the highlight comes in the form of the high rising prospect, Chad Hinshaw. Hinshaw, 25, has yet to see time above Double-A, but has been the center piece of the Angels Arizona Fall League prospects. Over his minor league career, Hinshaw has a .288/.363/.491 slash against right-handed pitchers, and is averaging 47 extra-base hits and 48 stolen bases over three full minor league seasons.
Also in the speed category with Hinshaw comes Quintin Berry. Berry, 31, has highlighted his career with speed, averaging 48 stolen bases per full minor league season he's played. Berry has seen time at the Major League level, stealing 27 bases in 125 games, while collecting a .704 OPS.
Nick Buss and Andrew Brown join the depth charts and Spring Training non-roster invites list, giving the Angels some Major League experience to the upper levels of the minors. Buss, 26, is a lifetime .300/.361/.429 hitter in Triple-A, and should see a large boost in numbers in the hitter friendly Salt Lake Bees ballpark. Brown, 31, also brings 144 games of Major League experience to Spring with him after a season in Korea. Brown, another slugger, has a career .521 minor league slugging percentage, averaging 62 extra-base hits over a full minor league season - 26 home runs per season.
This article was written and published by Taylor Blake Ward, who serves as a Senior Publisher for Scout.com. You can follow Taylor on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.