The Angels have a legitimate problem looming within their organization. After years of trading prospects for battle-tested major leaguers (everyone recalls 2013 National League superstar Jean Segura, et al for Zack Greinke) the Halos have essentially gutted their farm system. A minor league system that was consistently ranked in the top five now ranks last. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: a once robust minor league system filled with talent at nearly every position now lacks depth. Period. And in addition to that, the Angels sacrificed their 2012 draft after signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to monster, multi-year contracts that costed them their first and second-round draft picks. Is this alarming? Maybe. But while it may be alarming, I would argue that it’s completely natural. Natural in a sense that it coincides with the usual ebb and flow of an organization’s’ minor league system. Just like the housing market in Los Angeles, there is a natural cycle at work here.
After all, Angels owner Arte Moreno wants to win. And he clearly wants to win right now. In any professional sport an owner will be required to give up something of value – whether it be money, prospects, draft picks – if they want pieces in return that will (in theory) allow them to contend. Moreno has shown a sense of urgency in the past few years – he knows that the time is now and that the window of opportunity (to win) doesn’t stay open very long. His actions may not always be 100% correct, but they show a sense of immediacy that fans have rarely witnessed in Anaheim.
According to Baseball America, the Angels farm system is currently ranked #30 out of 30 Major League Baseball teams. Scouts say there really isn’t much left – a shell of a once hyper-talented farm system that included recent graduates Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. But what exactly is left? According to Scoutingreport.com:
On the offensive side of the system, the prospects growing up in the shadow of Mike Trout include two lumbering corner bats in Kaleb Cowart and C.J. Cron, as well as a non-conventional and perhaps even more interesting one in Luis Jimenez. Outfielders with MLB potential tend to be more of the bench/role variety, but Kole Calhoun and Randal Grichuk, at least, show flashes that suggest MLB futures.
Fans immediately fell in love with Luis “Lucho” Jimenez when they were introduced to him this season. It’s clear that Lucho is capable of contributing on a daily basis based on his performance in Alberto Callaspo‘s absence. Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Garrett Richards are now fixtures on the Angels’ active roster. So this begs the question: what happened to the rest? Anyone remember Alexi Amarista and Jean Segura? How about Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg? All of these prospects are gone. Amarista was shipped to San Diego for closer Ernesto Frieri while Segura, Pena and Hellweg were used to acquire Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers. Hindsight is always 20/20, but fans will tell you that only one of those was a good move – Frieri has been a successful closer and fan favorite in Anaheim while Greinke was merely a two month rental that didn’t pay dividends.
And rest assured, Angels’ General Manager Jerry DiPoto has received some serious criticism for the Jean Segura trade. But in DiPoto’s defense, we all need to remember that this started long before JeDi took over as GM. Let’s look at the recent prospect depletion according to Alden Gonzalez at MLB.com:
They dealt Sean O’Sullivan and Will Smith to the Royals to get Callaspo on July 22, 2010. Three days later, top prospects Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs were sent to the D-backs to help nab Dan Haren, with Dipoto serving as Arizona’s interim GM at the time. Then Dipoto orchestrated some trades of his own. He sent Tyler Chatwood to the Rockies for Chris Iannetta in November 2011, Alexi Amarista and Donn Roach for Ernesto Frieri in May 2012, and three solid prospects — Jean Segura, John Hellweg and Ariel Pena — for two months of Zack Greinke this past July.
So it’s abundantly clear that the Angels lack depth in their minor league system. They’ve used up most of their chips at the proverbial table. And without those chips (i.e. prospects) being active during the 2013 trading season may prove difficult. It’s now May 25th and the MLB July 31 trade deadline is fast approaching – and may very well come and go without the big splash that fans have become accustomed to seeing in Anaheim. So what should the Angels do? Maybe the better question is, what can they do? The Angels’ current lineup is heating up and their pitching rotation (and bullpen) are starting to perform. For better or worse, we can’t change the past. It might be time to let this play out and begin rebuilding the farm. I believe minor league prospect expert Jonathan Mayo put it best when he said that it may be time for the Angels to replenish their stock:
Even if you’re always going to be a team that’s going to use your farm system more for trading chips than not, you still need to have those chips, so you do have to replenish the stock, even for those purposes.