You asked, and I answered. Hello everybody, Taylor Blake Ward here to answer your question regarding the Angels. Over the past few weeks, you've asked some very good questions about prospects, trades, and the future of the Angels, and the answers are now listed below.
"Considering how tough last year, this year and likely next year will be, do you see Mike Trout being an Angel past current contract?" - George (@escalera008)
There's a lot to this question, because last year, the Angels weren't really all that bad. They finished one win out of a playoff spot with the 11th best record in MLB. If you take the Angels record from the four seasons prior, all of which Trout played the entire season, it comes out as 350-298. That would be the sixth best record over the span behind the Orioles, Dodgers, Yankees, Pirates, Cardinals and Nationals, and guess how many World Series titles those six teams have won since then? That's right, zero.
Of course, this year isn't going well, but as the run differential will show, this should be a team sitting right around .500. Injuries have taken their toll, and it's shown. So, if this team was sitting at .500, or slightly above, there's a chance we don't have this question brought up.
Many feel that Arte Moreno is stingy with his money, but in reality, it's his money, not yours. The job of an owner is to gain money by the profits of the team, pretty simple, right? He has every right to hold back paying excess after being burned by big contracts. However, he knows just as much as anyone how much value comes in the form of Trout, and he'd dig to the deepest parts of his wallet to keep him. Another item is that Trout doesn't seem to have any desire in leaving. To take a long answer and turn it into a short one, yes, I see Mike Trout as an Angels past this current contract.
"This off-season free agent pitching class is weak. Do you see guys getting over paid, similar to this NBA off-season?" - Brandon Stewart (@BStewart05)
I'd be lying if I said I knew much about how much it cost to attain a mid-tier NBA player, because I don't follow the sport. What I do know is that Kevin Durant is much smarter than I am. He went to a high-end contender for two years with an option at the end of the first year. If he opts out, and becomes a free agent as a 10-year veteran, his max cap hit will increase from a nine-year veteran, while the league's cap hit increases as well, which could make him nearly $100 million richer than if he signed a long-term deal.
The reason I focus on this is that athletes dealing with free agency are going to look at every angle, to not only put themselves in a winning scenario on the field, but also off the field allowing them to make as much money as possible. They also realize it's as weak a market as everyone else does, and the top free agents will push teams to the end of negotiations to make top dollar and go with the team they prefer to be on. Expect this market to see players get over-paid due to the poor market status, and expect them to wait out until the end of the off-season to get top dollar.
"Is there hope 11.5 games out?" - Parker Mendell (@parparkerker)
Let's use Toronto as an example. At the moment of this mailbag, they have a 59-47 record, and hold the second wildcard spot, which would be Anaheim's only shot at a playoff spot. If the Jays go .500 the rest of the way and maintain the second wildcard spot, that'd put them at 87 wins. For the Angels to reach the 87 win plateau at the moment, they'd have to go 40-17. That's not impossible, but I'd put a very large bet on saying that won't happen.
"What do you think about Michael Hermosillo?" - Edwin Gamboa (@gamboa71434)
I really, really, like "Herm."
Oh, you want more? Okay. Hermosillo is a very gifted athlete, and those are the kind of guys that turn into underrated ball players, not just in the minors, but at the Major League level. If the Angels can continue his progress, and tap into all his raw tools, they'll have gotten one of the steals of the century, and attained someone who could be a Major League piece at some point.
He was a two-sport stud in high school, with football being his real calling card. He actually could have likely been an NFL prospect if he'd taken that route, either as a halfback or as a defensive back, where I believe his instincts would have carried him pretty far, possibly as a second string NFL player - big deal right?
On the field, he has a nasty competitive spirit, in the right way, and goes out trying to not only excel, but to win and dominate. Everything about the kid, from what he does on the field, to off the field, is very impressive.
"Who is your current top 2017 draft prospect?" - Kyle (@Kyle_MoonLeaf)
It's far too early to put a title on the top draft prospect for the following year, as there's nearly a year before it even occurs. So much will happen between then and now, and teams will sort through who they have a desire in drafting, while scouting amateur talents.
The Angels will likely have a top 15 selection, and could even break into the top 10 depending how poorly August and September go. With that, here are 10 names to take a gander at, who would currently sit at the top of my board, which will change a few hundred times by next June.
Here are 10 names to keep an eye on, four of which are prep players in Southern California:
- Hunter Greene, RHP/SS, Notre Dame HS (CA)
- Hagen Daner, RHP, Huntington Beach HS (CA)
- Royce Lewis, SS, Junipero Serra HS (CA)
- Hans Crouse, RHP, Dana Hills HS (CA)
- Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford
- Jeren Kendall, OF, Vanderbilt
- J.J. Schwarz, C, Florida
- Brendan McKay, LHP, Louisville
- J.B. Boustakas, RHP, North Carolina
- K.J. Harrison, C, Oregon State
"The only thing that matters is... Real Madrid or FC Barcelona? - Enrique Escobedo (@escobedo49)
There are many things in life that are far more important than an opinion on soccer. However, Enrique has been a loyal follower and reader from the beginning of my reporting career, so, thanks for that and I will answer your question.
I think soccer is a wonderful sport, but haven't followed it for that long a time. I recently went to an exhibition game between Paris Saint-Germain and Leicester City, and since my significant other is a large PSG fan, I am as well. When it comes to FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, I'd strictly have to go with what I know of current players. Lionel Messi is the best player in the world, and possibly of all time. I have to go with Barcelona here.
"Best recent draftee performance from the 2015 or 2016 class, and biggest surprise performance?" - Colin (@Colin_Massey)
When it comes to performance, the first thing you tend to do is look straight at the statistics. However, when you really dive in, you begin to look at the level they're playing at, how much younger (or older) they are than the average talent, and items such as these. With that, the best statistical numbers don't address who's performing at the highest level, such as Zach Gibbons, who has a 1.020 OPS, but is also a year-and-a-half older than the average talent in the Pioneer League, or Michael Pierson, who led all draftees from the 2015 draft class in batting average and held a .995 OPS, but was released right after the mid-season mark this year. With that, I'll go top pitcher and position player performances from both 2015 and 2016.
- 2015 Top Pitching Performance: Adam Hofacket, 10th Round
When Hofacket hit the pro level, all he did was throw strikes, just like he did in college. His walk rates are still wildly low, totaling just over one-per-nine. All the while, he held a 3.27 ERA, with the majority of those runs coming in the hitter friendly Cal League. He's averaging one strikeout-per-nine since joining the pro ranks, definitely worth bringing attention to his overall performance.
- 2016 Top Pitching Performance: Chris Rodriguez, Fourth Round
Recently turned 18-year-old, Rodriguez, has allowed two earned runs in just over nine innings of work, not exactly a dream performance, but there's one thing that can't be over stated. He's three years younger than the average talent in the youngest league. Meanwhile, he's struck out six of the 13 left-handed hitters he's faced- not standard for a young righty - and walked just two hitters. Mix in a 13 ground balls on 19 balls put in play, and you've got a very good performance.
- 2015 Top Position Player Performance: Jahmai Jones, Second Round
When you think about what Jones is doing day-in and day-out, you begin to realize how special he actually is. Jones didn't have the grandest of numbers in the AZL last season, but they weren't terrible by any means either, and now, two-and-a-half years younger than the average talent, Jones has an .868 OPS in the Pioneer League and is beginning to show how much value the Angels got in the second round. The performance is matching the tools, and he's drawing a lot of positive attention to himself and the entire system.
- 2016 Top Position Player Performance: Troy Montgomery, Eighth Round
Montgomery probably shouldn't have been around in the eighth round, and the Angels nabbed him happily. What he's done since has hit and steal hits in the outfield. In Orem, he hit .341 with a 1.010 OPS, while stealing 10 bases, and throwing out five base runners from right field. In burlington, a level of higher overall talent, he's hitting a better .351, and still has a .928 OPS. All the while, he's slightly younger than the average talent.
"Any news on Grayson Long?" - Andrew Baker (@andrewbaker69)
Long has been out since mid-May due to bicep tendinitis, and when that was healed up, he fractured his finger on a comebacker during a rehab outing. Not exactly ideal for the highest rising starting pitching prospect in the system.
However, one night before this article was finished, Long pitched three scoreless innings in a rehab outing in Arizona. After one call to a minor league staff member, it sounds like Long will get one or two more rehab appearances, and then head back to Low-A Burlington, where he holds a 1.58 ERA in 40 innings this season.
"Who is first in line for a call up if the Angels trade someone from their bullpen?" - Kyle (@Angels_Fan_Kyle)
Something Billy Eppler was able to do over the past off-season was attain cheap relief options, and Salt Lake has a high load of relief depth ready to hit the Major League level. Here's a breakdown of what's going on with some of those options.
- A.J. Achter has allowed three runs on a pair of home runs in 11.2 innings since being DFA'd for the fourth time this year, likely not enough performance to merit a trip back to the 40-man and Major League roster.
- Javy Guerra has been hit hard since being DFA'd in mid-June, having a .817 OPS against since then.
- Al Alburqueque is currently on the 40-man roster, but is dealing with an undisclosed injury and is rehabbing in Arizona.
- Greg Mahle is on the 40-man, but also has been hit hard since returning from Major League action. He's allowed 15 runs in 19 innings, and has plenty of development left - he's only 23.
- Mike Morin has had two poor outings since being optioned which inflate his statistics, but overall, he's been very good rediscovering his fastball command. He's also on the 40-man roster.
- Jose Valdez has allowed just two runs in 23.2 innings since joining the Bees, and allowed just 22 of 92 batters faced to reach base. Also a member of the 40-man.
*I did write all this before Mike Morin was recalled while Huston Street went on the 15-Day DL, but I would have said either Valdez or Morin.*
"Who is going to start in 2017?" - Sean Cronkite (@CronkiteSean)
This is challenging to answer because there's a lot of unknowns with the Angels' rotation. Garrett Richards may recover through stem-cell therapy, which would be the most ideal scenario for the Angels. Nick Tropeano has not yet made a decision on if he'll have Tommy John surgery or not, but for the time being, I'd say he won't be in the rotation. Andrew Heaney is out. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson will both be free agents at the end of the year, but the Angels may have to try and re-sign one or both to keep some starting pitcher depth. Matt Shoemaker, Ricky Nolasco, and Tyler Skaggs will be with the team, and for the time being are healthy.
In the farm system, Nate Smith will be nearing Major League time come Spring Training, and a healthy Alex Meyer could be very intriguing, depending on how he recovers and develops in the final months of the season. Kyle McGowin is not as close as it may appear, but he's still young and development could push him into the rotation by mid-to-late 2017. Chris Jones is also a potential candidate, but unlikely. And of course, there's always the weak free agent market where you can gain inning eaters.
My best assumption would be: Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, Ricky Nolasco, Nate Smith, Alex Meyer.
"Do you like the Hector Santiago and Joe Smith moves, and your thoughts on Alex Meyer?" - Richard Clark (@richardjayclark)
To get the Joe Smith trade talk out of the way, it was very simple. Smith was a free agent at the end of the year, and wasn't going to contribute much to the Angels with Cam Bedrosian and Huston Street taking the eighth and ninth inning respectively. In return, the Angels got a mid-tier prospect with some tools to maybe turn him into a replacement level Major League player in the future, pretty on par return. It may actually serve as a favor to Smith, as he'll be able to perform in the playoffs (the Cubs are making the playoffs), and could even get him close to history if they win the World Series.
Okay, the Hector Santiago trade, oh boy...
Look, my opinion really doesn't matter because I don't cheer for the Angels, or any team for that matter. I look at it from an analyst stand point, and the way I look at things is going to be different from others. Personally, I think Hector Santiago was worth a slightly larger return than Alex Meyer. I say this because the Ricky Nolasco part of the trade was more a money saving deal, and the exchange was basically Alan Busenitz who may see a small amount of Major League time in the future as a reliever, nothing over the top.
As for Meyer and Santiago, the Angels exchanged a proven MLB starter for a high-risk, high-reward, prospect. Meyer was once viewed as one of the top prospects in all of baseball, and had a similar scouting report to Alex Reyes of the Cardinals, who currently sits as the #9 prospect in baseball according to MLB. Injuries and command have been the biggest problem with Reyes, which is a red flag in my book. Those are the two things that derail careers of high-end pitching prospects. At worst though, Meyer will be a late-inning reliever with excellent overall "stuff." At best, he's a true #2 in any rotation, and would match up with the likes of Michael Wacha, Gerrit Cole and Matt Harvey.
The biggest issue is that Meyer is only two years younger than Santiago, but with three more years of team control. If he was younger, this would be a big pickup, but Meyer has already established a minor league career, developing in a weak development system - Twins development isn't that great - and already has a game set of his own. If he excels, it's huge. If not, it's brutal.
"Where would you put Jesus Castillo and Alex Meyer in the Angels' prospect list?" - TommyJohnAngels (@CANTHITWRISP)
I've brought this up a few times but Front Offices don't put together a ranking system for prospects. They're all on an even plane aside from the money spent on them. So, that puts us, the analysts, at the risk of ranking prospects. As for the Angels and Scout.com's assessment, Meyer would be somewhere around the same ranking as Victor Alcantara who would be around the 10-15 range. As for Castillo, he reminds me quite a bit of Jose Rodriguez, who would be right inside the top 30.
"Any surprises this season in the Angels prospect pool, outside of Grayson Long?" - Darren (@theDarrendude)
First off, I don't believe Long was much of a surprise. His talent level is upwards of Chris Ellis, who the Angels parted ways with recently in the Andrelton Simmons trade. What did surprise me was that he was sent to Low-A Burlington and not High-A Inland Empire to start the year. It was a very upsetting point when he went down for an extensive time with the bicep tendinitis, but I do believe Long is the top pitching prospect in the farm system, even above Victor Alcantara, Joe Gatto and Nate Smith.
Second, I found 11 names that really did surprise me this season, but I'll stick with the top five in my book; Michael Hermosillo, Keynan Middleton, Winston Lavendier, Nathaniel Bertness, and Sam Holland.
- Michael Hermosillo; he has finally tapped into his raw tools, and his performance is showing. He's still younger than the normal talents of the leagues he's playing in, and has boasted a .304 average and .817 OPS while doing so.
- Keynan Middleton; everyone knew it would take time for Middleton to get it all together, and get away from the rawness of athleticism, and become a fine-tuned pitcher. The only move necessary was putting him in a relief role and saying, "go sling it, dude." No one expected him to be doing what he is, striking out nearly two-per-inning with an ERA south of two in Double-A, all while keeping bats deathly quiet at the upper levels of the minors. Just another example of why athletes make the best players.
- Winston Lavendier; let's get one thing straight, the dude is funky on the mound. The delivery is unique, but it works. The ball has been exploding out of his hand, aiming upwards of 95 MPH, and he's relying on his fastball quite too often. If he can tap into his curve/slider combo a bit more, you could be looking at a very oddball southpaw out of the bullpen. He's currently boasting a 2.81 ERA between both A-Ball affiliates.
- Nathaniel Bertness; realistically, it's not that surprising he's excelling. He keeps everything very simple, and the results are now showing. Named a Pioneer League All-Star for his 2.58 ERA and 4-0 record, the simple southpaw is really having a gem of a year. The only thing keeping him from a shot at the Pioneer League Triple-Crown is his strikeout totals, but if that's the worst thing, then anybody would take it.
- Sam Holland; a few months ago, Holland was looking for a job. Now, he's allowed two runs in just under 30 innings of relief. Yeah, surprise. The Angels nabbed the Australian sidearm pitcher as a free agent, and are reaping the rewards. Oh, by the way, he's not behind the curve, because he's the exact age of the league. Just a hint to the Padres - stop rushing kids to the higher levels before they're ready.
"What do you think Matt Thaiss' ceiling is?" - Donald J. Kane (THEDON_58); "What are Jaime Barria's and Jesus Castillo's ceilings?" - gArt (@gsflexzone); What do you think Ryan Vega's ceiling is?" - Matt Cabrera (@MattC09_)
I combined all three of these questions into one to save space, and will close it out with a few things. I'll go one-by-one, paragraph-by-paragraph.
When it comes to Thaiss, the ceiling is reasonably high, but what's more impressive is his floor. He makes consistently hard contact, and the crack off the bat already has a big league sound to it. Though he'll likely never be a 40+ home run kind of guy, it's not out of the question that he could hit 20 or more home runs at the Major League level with regularity, while batting .280 or higher on the norm. He'll be a constant doubles hitter, and his approach could turn him into a nice #2 in any MLB lineup. Defensively, he's quite limited. He has enough arm and athleticism to be tested in the outfield, but that's likely limited to left field, with some high-ceiling potential in right. More than likely, you're talking about a Carlos Santana kind of guy, who will hit well, and play a solid enough first base.
Barria is very intriguing. The numbers against guys quite a bit older than he is are impressive, and it'd really be something to see what he could do against talent around the same experience level as him. The biggest question is whether his fastball will increase enough in velocity to make up for minimal mistakes, but so far, those mistakes just don't happen. He has an excellent understanding of how to pitch, and how his body works in delivering a baseball. Basically, anyone his age, doing what he's doing, with a changeup as advanced as his is, could turn into a back end rotation arm with ease, and with some added velocity, and added feel, could be even better.
I have only seen Castillo once, but he did show a nice touch in his game. His curveball has made big strides forward from what I've heard, but is only right around an average pitch at the moment, with enough spin to work against lower minors bats. His fastball has some life, and he has a solid feel for his changeup with some depth to it. More than anything, he could be a back end rotation piece as his ceiling, but that's coming from someone who's seen him in a very limited light. It's not necessarily right for me to assess him to a full extent without seeing him multiple times.
Now, Ryan Vega. He's interesting. He's a pretty decent athlete, which I touched on above, can carry certain guys to a higher point. I've seen him just once or twice as well, and don't have a full report just yet. I like his arm in the outfield, as well as his actions. At the plate, I'd like to see a better approach, but it's working this year very well, so who am I to say it's weak? I think when it comes to a ceiling, you could be looking at a fourth outfielder, or slightly better. He's an above-average ceiling kind of player, who also has a very low floor. His makeup is good though, and you can see the adjustments are being made, so it's likely you'll hear his name for some time.
This article was written and published by Taylor Blake Ward, Senior Publisher at Scout.com. For more updates on the Angels, their prospect, and transactions, follow Taylor on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard