Sharing an affiliate with the Yankees, Mets, Phillies, and Giants, six different prospects from the farm system will flash their talents for an extra-month in the highest touted prospect league across Minor League Baseball. The Arizona Fall League has produced a high-multitude of Major Leaguers, and for six prospects and a pitching coach in the Halos system, the dream of joining them is one step closer.
The Angels prospects heading to Scottsdale to play for the Scorpions are highlighted by one of their top prospects, Taylor Ward. The 2015 first-round selection had a down year at the plate in his first full pro season, hitting .240 with a .630 OPS. However, he showed off his strong arm behind the plate, throwing out 38% of runners, which ranked third in the California League.
A criticized draft pick, Ward thrived in his first taste of pro ball, leading all 2015 first-rounders with a .348 average following the draft, and was second across all Minor League Baseball with a .457 on-base percentage. Analysts believed the 22-year-old catcher was a defense-first player due to his blocking and throwing skills, and felt he wouldn't be able to make adjustments at the plate to be around a Major League-average hitter. That changed quickly when he showed adjustments, opening his stance, maneuvering in the box, when he struggled against pitchers working on the inner half. Ward has also shown the adjustment to create more power in his swing as of recent, hitting half of his season's eight home runs in the last 20 games.
Along with Ward, Victor Alcantara ranks as one of the top pitching prospects in the Angels' system who has also been awarded with a trip to the Arizona Fall League. The pure definition of a raw prospect polishing out, the 23-year-old right-handed pitcher began his professional career as a teenager who threw near triple digits and had to remember how to throw an off-speed pitch. Now, he's a reliever, flashing those same number near triple digits, with a knowledge of how to throw his slider and use it to put hitters away.
Alcantara was moved to a full-time bullpen role at the beginning of August this year, and has seen his fastball pick back up to the high 90's in velocity. The fastball explodes out of his hand and has plenty of sinking movement. When you mix in his low 90's slider with diving action, you could consider the latin's two-pitch mix as the best in the entire system. The largest concern is whether Alcantara will ever be able to correct his control struggles, as he's walked an average of over four-per-nine over his career, including this season. As a reliever, Alcantara has allowed two runs in 10 innings.
Joining Alcantara as Angels' pitching prospects that will spend their fall in Scottsdale will be Eduardo Paredes and Adam Hofacket. Paredes, a 21-year-old reliever, has done nothing but perform while flashing big offerings as a professional, but getting little recognition for it. He made a mockery of young hitters, holding a 1.81 ERA and 11.3 K/9 rating between Rookie Ball and Low-A. This year, between High-A and Double-A, he's shown his youth, posting a 3.38 ERA. Paredes attacks at a rapid pace with his mid-to-high 90's fastball pairings - two-seam and four-seam - along with a slider that gets a little slurve-like.
The Halos nabbed Hofacket, 22, in the 10th round of the 2015 draft, and he's done nothing but throw strikes since. In college, he was a starter, but scouts worried about how he would hold up over the long haul of a season. The Angels have reaped the rewards, as he's grown into a fine relief prospect who works in the low to mid 90's with tailing action, and a pair of off-speed offerings he's shown a feel for. Hofacket has a 3.91 ERA between both A-Ball affiliates this year.
Injuries took their toll on David Fletcher's season early, but since the returning from the injury, the 22-year-old shortstop is hitting .310 with a .736 OPS, and recently earned a callup to Double-A. Going from a slap hitter to compact swing, the Southern California sophomore sign has shown tools at the plate and in the field - compliments to an outstanding in-game knowledge - that have drawn scouts to compare him to former Angels' infielder, David Eckstein.
The biggest offensive breakout prospect in the Angels' system this year came in the form of a former two-way prep player, with outstanding athleticism. Michael Hermosillo could have gone to the University of Illinois, and been either a tailback or defensive back, with the skill set that recommends he'd be quite a player on the grid iron, but instead, signed out of high school and became a professional baseball player.
The results took awhile to show, as he hit just .240 with a .662 OPS over his first three years in the system. This season has been an entirely new story, as all his tools have shown. Hitting ability: .321 average; advanced approach: .405 on-base percentage; power: 25 extra-base hits and .469 slugging percentage; speed: five triples and nine stolen bases. The breakout performance earned him a trip to High-A as well as the Fall League.
The Angels will also be sending their High-A pitching coach, Michael Wuertz to the Arizona Fall League. They also have an open spot to send a pitcher to the Fall League, which may be taken over by Garret Richards, who would be rehabbing an ulnar collateral tear, that has seen recovery from stem-cell therapy.
Along with the announcement of prospects going to the Arizona Fall League on Wednesday was the acquisition of receiving pitching prospect, Erik Manoah, from the New York Mets in exchange for reliever, Fernando Salas.
Manoah, 20, is a projectable pitcher who throws in the low to mid 90's with an average curveball.
This article was written and published by Taylor Blake Ward, who serves as a Senior Publisher for Scout.com. For more information on the Angels, and their prospects, follow Taylor on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.