In recent history, The Angels have been more miss than hit when it comes to third base prospects. Our gold standard has become Troy Glaus. Monster power, a great eye and much better defense at third than Mark Trumbo (I know, I know, basement level bar here). Not every third baseman can be Brooks Robinson with the glove, but Glaus was our boy. Not to mention there’s that whole World Series MVP thing in 2002, just in case you had forgotten.
Then we had the heir apparent in Dallas McPherson. Defense on par with Glaus and an eye that was couple ticks below his predecessor. But oh my, what. A. BAT. Three out of his first four years in the minors had him producing an OPS above 1.000. 40 home runs and 126 RBI’s between AA and AAA in 2004…..*drools*. We ignored the red flags in his hitting stats (climbing strikeout rates, falling walk rates), peripherals be damned, the boy could hit. Onnnnnnnne problem. He’s more fragile than Maicer Izturis. We got a total of 117 big league games from Dallas in an Angels uniform. The prospect disappointment began here, and I’m sure you already know where this is heading, but I’m gonna go there anyway.
Richard. Brandon. Wood. Oh boy, Brandon Wood. This one hurt. I personally pulled the Brandon Wood bandwagon for three years. A first round pick with projectable power, and great defensive skills. His first couple years in the minors were very so-so, but then came 2005. A 1.047 OPS, 43 home runs, 116 RBI’s, 101 total extra base hits. He immediately shot up the prospect lists, became every teams trade target, but the Angels weren’t letting him go. Again we ignored high strikeout rates, we pointed to walk rate that was climbing ever so slightly as he moved up the minor league ladder. Brandon Wood was our SAVIOR. Then he got to the big leagues, and he fell as flat on his face as any top prospect could. Some blamed Scioscia for putting him on the Salt Lake City shuttle for two years. Some blamed Mickey Hatcher for messing up a swing that seemed to work pretty well in the minors. Eventually we all got smart and saw Wood for what he really was, a AAAA player who had no business starting for a Major League team.
Luckily, there was this guy Mike Trout who came along. Besides curing cancer, saving the rain forest and putting a stop to communism once and for all, he also re-instilled hope in Angels fans that prospects can, in fact, become very good Major League ball players. Thank you Mike Trout, thank you.
Which brings us back to third base. Currently, Alberto Callaspo is doing a decent job at the hot corner. He plays good defense, he’s not a total slouch with the stick, but he lacks something. Power. He is a plenty fine stopgap at this time, but he becomes eligible for free agency after 2013. Just in time for, what I believe, to be the arrival of Kaleb Cowart. A kid who I’m gonna refer to as the new number one prospect in the Angels organization.
Currently, Kaleb is playing for the Inland Empire 66ers of the California League. He is 20 years old, enjoys twitter, hanging out with friends and the occasional stroll down a wooded path. His on base numbers settle right in between McPherson and Glaus, currently he sports a .286/.372/.472 slash line(A and A+ ball combined), and his defensive numbers are right in line with those two as well (although scouting reports do rate him as above average defensively). A switch hitter with more power from the right side, but a refined swing from the left side. Right now his power numbers lie in his doubles production (28 between A and A+ ball) rather than home runs (14), but he is driving in his fair share of runs (89 thus far). His strikeouts are far lower than both McPherson’s and Wood’s totals (91 this year), and he has a more than respectable walk rate (61 walks in 503 PA. He actually has a higher walk rate since being promoted to A+ ball). He has all the tools to be an above average producer at the big league level. And, he doesn’t have the pressure of being that guy. Kaleb Cowart could be a very important piece in the near future. At the rate that he is climbing the Minor league ladder, I would expect to see him as a September 1st call up next year, and then getting his shot to win the starting third base job in 2014.
Some people love the numbers that C.J. Cron is putting up, and no doubt they are ridiculous. He’s also two years older than Cowart, playing in the same league and has almost no defensive value whatsoever. Garrett Richards no longer has rookie status and is no longer a prospect. Nick Maronde is having a great year, but is three years older than Cowart and just moved up to AA. After that, the farm system is pretty barren. But all hope is not completely lost. There are a few to keep an eye on, and one in particular that I personally will be paying very close attention to.