With pitchers and catchers still yet to report, the baseball world is looking for things to talk about. Cue ESPN Insider Keith Law and his farm system rankings. While these rankings won’t have much effect on the upcoming season, they can be an inside look into how the team has done building towards the future, or how capable they will be to make a big trade during the season to bring in that missing piece. According to Law’s rankings, the San Diego Padres take the top spot despite not having a single player ranked in the top-25 prospects. Their drafting of several prospects in the last several years who look to develop into solid contributors at the Major League level overcomes their lack of future star power. In the AL West, the Rangers are in first place, even without the inclusion of Yu Darvish, as they are ranked 7th overall, Oakland comes in two places later at 9th, Seattle falls in a couple spots later at 11th, and the Angels find themselves ranked fourth in the division, at 15th overall.
Keith Law on the Angels:
"There’s only one real sure thing in the system (Mike Trout), but the Angels have a number of guys who are one major adjustment away from becoming impact prospects."
So there is one can’t-miss prospect in Trout and then a bunch of other guys with major holes to fill in their game. Not a great evaluation, but not all bad news either, which is how they ended up in a middle-of-the-pack ranking like 15.
Going a little more in depth into the state of the Angels’ farm system, we turn to MLB.com’s list of the top-100 prospects, where we find that the Angels currently have three players ranked in the top-100: Mike Trout (no. 3), Jean Segura (no. 55), and Garrett Richards (no. 67). Let’s break down these prospects and see what they have in store for fans this season.
Trout is almost universally considered a can’t-miss prospect for the Angels. He was actually ranked 1st on the top-100 last January, but has been passed this year by Rays’ lefty Matt Moore and Nationals’ right fielder Bryce Harper. Trout was the 25th overall selection in the 2009 first-year-player draft and spent the majority of last season with AA Arkansas. While there, he hit .326 with a .414 on-base percentage while hitting 11 home runs and stealing 33 bases. He also hit 13 triples during his 91 games with Arkansas.
Trout had two call-ups to the Majors last season, with varying success. His first call-up came on July 8 to replace the injured Peter Bourjos. While with the Angles, Trout hit just .163 in 47 plate appearances and was sent back down to AA on August 1. He wouldn’t be there for long, though, as the Angels called Trout back up on August 19 to add some pop to their offense, and he responded by hitting .250 with 4 home runs and 10 RBIs in 26 games. Trout’s combination of youth (he’s only 20 years old), power, and speed have many fans and members of the Angels’ organization salivating for his full-time promotion to the Majors.
For the immediate future, however, everyone may just have to continue waiting. Trout has yet to play a single game at the AAA level and his path to the Majors is currently blocked by Bourjos, Vernon Wells, and Torii Hunter for a spot in the outfield. He will undoubtedly be the first person to get called up in the event of an injury, especially to one of the outfielders. He could also find himself moved up in the event that Bobby Abreu is traded, which is rumored to be in the works if Kendrys Morales is able to return to the lineup this season. Will we see Trout in the big leagues this season? Probably for stretches, but he is probably one season away from becoming a full-time Angel.
Segura is a prospect with impressive speed and pop, much like Trout. However, last season, his fifth in the Minors, Segura was hampered by a hamstring injury that limited the 21-year-old to only 52 games. He spent 44 of those games with Class A Inland Empire, where he hit .281 with a .337 on-base percentage while hitting 3 home runs and stealing 18 bases. Segura will need to bounce back from his injury-plagued 2011 to get back on track towards becoming an impact prospect. It’s highly unlikely Segura will see significant time, or any time at all, in the Majors this season, with Erick Aybar roaming at short stop for the Angels and looking to defend his Gold Glove from last season. If Segura can get healthy and back on track, he could become a solid contributor in the next 3-4 years.
The lowest ranked prospect of the three, Richards may have the best opportunity to make the club this season as Richards is expected to challenge for the fifth spot in the Angels rotation during Spring Training. The 23-year old righty was impressive in 2011 during his time with AA Arkansas, posting a 12-2 record with a 3.15 ERA in 22 games, 21 of which were starts. In 14 MLB innings last season, Richards posted a 5.79 ERA with a 1.643 WHIP and a 1.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Mike Scioscia has raved about Richards’ raw stuff and his talent is unquestioned in the organization, but if he doesn’t crack the rotation, expect to see him spend some time in Salt Lake to refine his control and put all the tools he has together. Expect Richards to make an impact, if not this season, in the next 1-2 years.
All three prospects are currently on the Angels’ 40-man roster and will be in Tempe for Spring Training. Let’s hope the future looks bright in the hot Arizona sun.