Angels Top 51 Prospects Countdown, #41-45

Angels Top 51 Prospects Countdown, #41-45

45. Nathaniel Bertness, Left-Handed Pitcher

6'6, 205 lbs, L/L
August 4, 1995 (21); Houston, Texas
McLennan Community College (Waco, TX)
Drafted in 16th Round (495th overall) of 2015 MLB Draft

Every player has a story of how they made it to the professional ranks, and every now and then, you find one that took an odd route to that level. After a standout prep career in basketball, Nathaniel Bertness didn't take the baseball field his senior year until after spring break, and was plagued by not seeing any offers. Walking on to the team at McLennan Community College with some buddies, the pure athleticism and strength proved to be enough to make his desirable raw tools something of attention from the Angels, and they jumped to take him in the teen rounds of the draft.

Working with easy mechanics, and a clean three/quarter release, simplicity is not a challenge for the young southpaw. Bertness tends to work in the low 90's with his four-seam fastball, ranging 87-93, with some late life. He also works in a two-seam/sinker that ranges 86-88, helping him produce worm killers at a regular rate. Bertness has good command of both his fastball offerings. Growing from a pair of fringe offerings, Bertness has flashed average to above-average with his off-speed pitches. Bertness started incorporating a slider after he was drafted, adapting his curveball into a more power breaking slider. It still shows slurve-like shape, but has above-average potential. Still raw, Bertness is learning to use his changeup properly and maintain arm speed while delivering the pitch.

Following a debut pro year where becoming a more polished pitcher was the primary goal, Bertness took the Pioneer League by storm. Only two pitchers had a lower ERA by season's end, as the 20-year-old finished with a 3.64 ERA in the hitter friendly elements of Orem. Following his first seven games, Bertness was 4-0 with a 2.62 ERA, helping him be named a Pioneer League All-Star. Right-Handed bats struggled against the southpaw through the year, holding just a .255 average and .660 OPS. It's expected that Bertness will be a large part of the Burlington rotation coming into 2017, giving him his first taste of full-season ball.

44. Justin Anderson, Right-Handed Pitcher

6'4, 220 lbs, L/R
September 28, 1992 (24); Houston, TX
University of Texas at San Antonio (San Antonio, TX)
Drafted in 14th Round (419th overall) of 2014 MLB Draft

Coming into the organization as one of the more polished products from the college ranks, Justin Anderson had a step up on his teammates. It put him in one of two categories among critics - someone you pay attention to, or someone you don't pay attention to. There wasn't much middle ground, because he was a pitcher with the prime size, stuff that didn't "wow" but got the job done, and a pitch-to-contact ability where the numbers weren't going to translate in the low minors to whether he was effective or not. A trip to the Arizona Fall League late this year changed all of that, and many are now paying attention to Anderson.

As a whole, Anderson is a very simple pitcher. He stands tall at six-foot-four, and has matured into his frame at 220 pounds, both desirable traits of a starting pitcher. His delivery is clean and simple, but has one little hitch in breaking his hands and bringing them back together with a double tap of the glove. With this coming just prior to the final step of delivering the baseball, it takes away a bit of deception, but that's where his arsenal plays in. Working in the upper 80's to low 90's regularly, Anderson has been seen as low as 87 and as high as 95, with some arm-side run and sink. Working primarily with his fastball, Anderson commands his fastball well and pitches to contact, working low in the zone trying to get hitters to swing over top of the ball. His slider will flash plus at times when it registers in the higher velocities, but can get a 10-to-6, slurve break at other times. His changeup is still relatively raw with fading action around 10 miles per hour behind his fastball. Learning tempo in college, Anderson works at a quick and consistent pace, but can slow the game down with runners on. All-in-all, Anderson has the potential to be a swingman or back-end starter that can eat innings, which may be his calling card to the Majors.

In the hitter friendly confines of the California League, Anderson was plagued in four starts at the most hitter friendly parks in Minor League Baseball - Lancaster and Adelanto. In those four starts, he allowed 19 runs in 20 innings, and saw his ERA jump to 5.70 for the season, and 4.52 outside of those four outings. Anderson struggled to start games, allowing 28 runs in his first inning pitched (28 IP). Though the numbers are not pretty, it's likely Anderson will make the jump to Double-A Mobile in 2017.

43. Jose Briceno, Catcher

6'1, 210 lbs, R/R
September 19, 1992 (24); Maracaibo, Zulia, Venezuela
Acquired from ATL in exchange for Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis and Erick Aybar

When Andrelton Simmons was acquired by the Angels, much of the talk revolved around Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis, who were shipped with Erick Aybar to Atlanta in exchange for the top defensive shortstop. However, a forgotten part of the trade was a "throw-in" prospect, Jose Briceno. If his first year in the Angels' organization is any telling sign, the Halos scouting department did their work and picked up more than just an extra name, and someone who will have a larger impact at the Major League level.

If catching prospects were assessed strictly for their tools behind the plate, Briceno may be one of the most spoken of catching prospects in baseball. It took time, but the improvements shown in his receiving and blocking skills made him a standout on the defensive side last season. The primary tool in Briceno's game is his plus arm, which could carry him to a backup Major League role at his floor. Though it may seem minor, Briceno speaks with a clear English accent, which is a rare quality from foreign-born players. Showing leadership, multiple pitchers have spoken out about his relationship and trust building qualities, making him an even more desirable asset behind the plate.

At the plate, Briceno hasn't broken out to show he could be in a Major League lineup regularly. He has a hard and loose stroke from the right-side, creating loft at the tail end of his swing, giving him raw power which hasn't translated in game yet. He makes hard contact regularly, and has been able to avoid pull-side only power, giving him some gap-to-gap abilities. He is a bit too aggressive at times, and swings ahead of the ball, making weaker contact, which seems to be a timing issue that he'll need to constantly adjust to. A plus athlete, Briceno uses both his instinct and above-average speed for a catcher to create scenarios in his favor.

Splitting time between the California League - hitter friendly - and the Texas League - pitcher friendly - Briceno stayed fairly consistent throughout both, holding a combined slash line of .232/.273/.329. Though the offensive numbers aren't very friendly, what Briceno did on the defensive side of the ball was astonishing. In 714.1 innings, Briceno allowed just 14 passed balls, or one every 51.02 innings. No catcher across Minor League Baseball did what Briceno did in controlling the run game, throwing out 48.6% of runners, and 57.8% during his time in the Texas League. The likely highlight of his season came when he caught his second career no-hitter.

42. Roberto Baldoquin

5'11, 199 lbs, R/R
May 14, 1994 (22); Las Tunas, Cuba
Signed as International Free Agent, November 4, 2014

The eight million dollar man. Yes, when the Angels signed Roberto Baldoquin once he deported from Cuba, expectations ran high. His first attempt at professional baseball had to wait, as the Haitian government shut down, causing Visa issues, allowing him very limited time in Spring Training. In his first Spring plate appearance though, he hit a monstrous home run. Since that moment, things have been an uphill climb for the Cuban, who hasn't been able to flash any signs of the tools he was expected to show.

Baldoquin was expected to take over the shortstop position in 2017, due to his potential of three plus tools - that will not happen. After struggling to adapt to the daily and baseball life of American culture, Baldoquin struggled to find health and put together a long string of consecutive games, continually falling back in his development. The first alteration made was in his swing, which was an odd hand hitch that didn't allow him to adjust his swing on breaking balls or catch up to high-velocity fastballs. There's positive signs in his swing transition, allowing him a cleaner and more fluid swing. Approach was something Baldoquin didn't possess to begin his pro career, and that has changed to see better pitch selection, cutting his strikeout rate in half and giving him longer at bats. His power is raw at best, and physical growth seems to be tapped out, giving him average to less power for a middle infielder.

In the field, Baldoquin shows all the tools of being a utility infielder at worst. His arm isn't overly strong but is plenty to play across the left side of the infield. He initially struggled with his footwork, which is something his first pro coach, Denny Hocking, worked hard on with all his infielders, but hardly any as much as "Baldo." The result went from 12 errors in his first 37 games to just five in his most recent 104. Baldoquin has a quick first step to his right-side and consistently makes the challenging plays look relatively easy, giving him the looks of remaining at shortstop.

Statistically, things aren't pretty with Baldoquin. In two seasons, both at High-A Inland Empire, the 22-year-old has hit .219 with a .537 OPS and just 21 extra-base hits in 564 plate appearances. Health has limited him to just 141 games, so a repeat of A-Ball in 2017 is a likely scenario. One telling sign comes in his splits however, as July 22 of each of his two years as a pro have shown improvements. Combining the two years, prior to July 22, Baldoquin has a slash of .185/.232/.239 with a 28.2 strikeout rate. Post, July 22, .265/.311/.306 and 17.0 strikeout rate. The most intriguing prospect in the system has seen a drastic fall and will need to prove something quickly before all hope is soon lost with a new regime in the Front Office.

41. Andrew Daniel, Infielder

6'1, 195, R/R
January 27, 1993 (23); San Diego, California
University of San Diego (San Diego, CA)
Drafted in 11th Round (329th overall) of 2014 MLB Draft

Growing up watching Tony Gwynn hit, Andrew Daniel has done the exact same. Each level he's reached, the San Diego product continues to produce offensive numbers. While he continues to progress at the plate, and finds his place in the field, Daniel is finding his way into the Angels' depth chart and proving to be one of the most coveted 11th-round selections in recent draft history.

It's not surprising that Daniel continues to hit at each level, as his bat is they key asset to his game. With a clean and level line-drive swing from the right-side, Daniel smokes the ball line-to-line and gap-to-gap regularly, using the field as a tapestry for his art. An aggressive hitter, Daniel can fall into unfavorable counts, leading to a higher strikeout rate than preferred. With a more disciplined approach, and improved pitch selection instead of, "see-ball, hit-ball," he could become a threat near the top of the order. Similar to Gwynn, home runs aren't a large part of Daniel's game. Instead, hard contact to the gaps is where his true power shows and many believe as he mixes gaps, he could average over 25-30 doubles over the course of a full season at the highest levels.

It took some time, but when Denny Hocking (mentioned above) gave Daniel split-time between second and third base, the true colors of his defensive game showed. With a strong arm and quick release, Daniel was valuable at second base, but had much more value at the hot corner. His natural gift of athleticism and instinct made the transition relatively easy, and he is now adjusting well to regular time at third base. With the versatility in the field, and ability to hit the way he does, many believe he'd be a great bench piece with the ability to grow into a starting role with time.

Struggling out of the gate, Daniel went just 8-for-46 over his first 12 games. Following that, an offensive tear that was hard to match in the pitcher friendly Texas League. The 80 games after the early struggles, Daniel had a slash of .304/.370/.422, ranging among the top hitters in the league. The final months of the season were challenging for Daniel, as he hit .189 with a .467 OPS in his final 30 games. With a blockade at second and third base in the system, Daniel will likely begin 2017 in Double-A again, where he'll look to scratch out the poor streaks, and try to move quickly to Triple-A by mid-season.

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