Are The Angels Neglecting Their Farm System?


April 9, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto attends practice before the Angels play against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With September call-ups on their way to big league ballparks, many fans might not be familiar with a lot of names that hit the field. The Halos are no exception.

Most of these players came up through the Angels’ farm system; one which, for many years, faced backlash for organizational negligence. It’s easy to assume that when a team’s prospects go unranked on a national scale, they have little depth in its minor leagues.

Los Angeles certainly didn’t convince the public otherwise when they traded four of their top 10 prospects, including No. 1 ranked Taylor Lindsey, for closing pitcher Huston Street in July.

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But as noted in our recent Gordon Beckham story, it’s not the wisest blueprint to abide entirely by prospects rankings. They are not the end-all-be-all. The ball clubs are the ones who are working with these prospects on a regular basis; writers simply analyze what they see on the field.

And if there’s a team who has the right to operate under this model, it’s the Los Angeles Angels. Let’s take a look at their No. 1 ranked prospects of the last decade, as per Baseball America.

Casey Kotchman was the franchise’s No. 1 ranked prospect for three seasons (2001, 2003-2004) prior to his promotion to the Majors. The young first baseman broke out in 2007 with a .296 AVG and .840 OPS in 503 plate appearances.  The sky appeared to be the limit for Kotchman.

One year later, the Angels traded him for half-season rental Mark Teixeira. Wait, what?! Surely the Angels would live to regret this.

Turns out the Angels didn’t live to regret it. Though Teixeira did leave in free agency that very off-season, Kotchman bounced around from team to team and only had one season close to replicating his 2007 year, which was in 2011 with the Tampa Bay Rays. Kotchman unfortunately is no longer signed to any organization.

Following Kotchman’s ascent to The Show, Brandon Wood promptly took his spot as Angels’ No. 1 ranked prospect for the next three consecutive years (2006-2008). Unlike Kotchman, the infielder never even had a breakout year with the Angels in his five seasons. He was designated for assignment in 2011 and finished out the year with the Pittsburgh Pirates after being claimed. He never played a game in the majors since.

The late Nick Adenhart was the No. 1 prospect in 2009. He only pitched four games in the big leagues before he was tragically killed in a car accident by a drunk driver at the age of 22. Needless to say, he was taken from this world far too early. May he rest in peace.

Hank Conger was the No. 1 prospect in 2010. The jury is still out on the switch-hitting catcher, as he shown progress last season but has regressed a bit since. That said, for someone who was scouted for his bat, he certainly has shown strides defensively.

Mike Trout was Angels’ No. 1 prospect from 2011-2012. As a matter of fact, had him ranked No. 1 overall in the nation. He’s done pretty well for himself.

The 2013 No. 1 prospect was third baseman Kaleb Cowart. He most recently put up a .223 AVG and .619 OPS in his second year at the Double-A level. While he did rack up 26 stolen bases, his offense still has some ways to go before we see him in the majors.

Now there is a certain stereotype that is easy to attach to large market franchises, and Angels in some ways fit the description. Signed some marquee free agents to gargantuan contracts? Check. Gave up compensation draft picks as a result? Check. No recent prospects (aside from Trout) ranked in the Top 50? Check. So naturally… no homegrown players?

Guess again.

Here lies the misconception. The Halos currently have 36 players on the active roster. 18 of them were either drafted by the Angels or came up through their minor leagues before getting to play in Anaheim.

As such, the Angels appear to be singing a different mantra from most other teams nowadays. A much simpler yet–based off their MLB-best 84-55 record–equally effective one: “Forget rankings. If we see something in a prospect and want to keep him, then we will.”

Just because nobody else has heard of them doesn’t mean they won’t be good. Ask Garrett Richards. Or Kole Calhoun. Or Matt Shoemaker. Or Collin Cowgill. Or… well you get the point.