The LA Angels have multiple prospects who are moving on up

By David Rice
GOODYEAR, AZ - MARCH 08: Matt Thaiss
GOODYEAR, AZ - MARCH 08: Matt Thaiss /
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In the past 2 weeks the LA Angels have promoted 6 players from Single-A Inland Empire to Double-A Mobile. Two of these players were the Angels past two #1 draft picks catcher Taylor Ward (2015 #1 pick), &1B Matt Thaiss (2016 #1 pick).

The LA Angels farm system has been know as the worst in baseball over the past five years since former general managers Jerry DiPoto and Tony Reagins depleted it with trade deadline deals from 2008-2014. However, new Angels GM Billy Eppler and his staff are trying to rebuild it one draft at a time.

Many of the Angels top prospects are making progress, some more quickly than others, but 10 players have earned promotions recently. Let’s see who is moving on up, as well as looking at early returns with their new teams.

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Low Single-A Burlington moving up to High Single-A Inland Empire. 

Outfielder Jahmai Jones was drafted in the second round of the 2015 Amateur Draft with 70th pick overall.  Jones spurned a scholarship offer from the University of North Carolina to sign with the Angels.  Jones is a five-tool player who has shown a lot of upside already.  He Spent his first full season in 2016 with the Orem Owlz (Rookie League) and then Burlington (Low Class-A) and hit a combined .302 batting average with four homers 30 RBI’s and 20 stolen bases.

Jones started 2017 back in Burlington where he played 86 games hitting nine homers and driving in 30 RBI’s.  He hit .272 and also stole 18 bases.  Two weeks ago Jones got called up to the Angels High Single-A team Inland Empire. So far he has played well in 20 games he is hitting .295 with six RBI’s and one stolen base.

Jones could be in the majors by the end of 2018 or the start of the 2019 season.  However if he continues to do well we may see him in Angel red before then.

Jordan Zimmerman is another player that the Angels have recently moved up from Burlington to the Inland Empire 66’ers.  Zimmerman was a 6th round pick in 2016out of Michigan State whose primary position is second base. Zimmerman split time between Orem and Burlington last season hitting .258 with four homers and 35 RBI’s.

This season Zimmerman started out with Burlington but also got called up recently to Inland Empire. Zimmerman hit .270 with five homers and 43 RBI’s in 85 games for the Bees.  Since being called up to the 66’ers he has hit .339 with one homer and 11 RBI’s.  Could he be the second baseman of the future?  Maybe. Zimmerman has a tremendous upside as well, but it is still too early to tell if he will be a future Angel.

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High Single-A Inland Empire moving up to Double-A Mobile

This list has a plethora of names including two first round draft picks.

We will start with 3B Jose Ramos who was a 36th round pick out of Vanguard University in 2016.  Rojas has been tearing up the Angels minor league system since he started last year in Orem.  Rojas hit .308 with five homers and 31 RBI’s with nine steals.

Rojas earned a promotion to Single-A Inland Empire to start 2017 and again was outstanding.  In 79 games Rojas hit .319 with seven homers and 50 RBI’s stealing four bases.  Rojas was named to the Single-A All-Star team and no he has earned another promotion. This time Rojas will be heading to Double-A Mobile where he has hit .217 in 12 games with two homers and 12 RBI’s.

Rojas is very down-to-earth and is just hoping he will keep performing well enough to reach the majors.

“I am just trying to come out here and do my best job to help the team and trust the process,” Rojas said. “I feel we are all here with the same opportunity and chasing the same goal which is to make it to the top level possible. My goal is to be as consistent as possible.”

If Rojas is able to keep up his level of play he has shown so far he could be in the majors by mid-to-late 2018.

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Outfielder Brendon Sanger is another 66’ers player who was promoted recently.  Sanger was drafted in the fourth round (135th pick) of the 2015 Amateur Draft out of Florida Atlantic University. Sanger has been sort of a late bloomer as he did not get drafted out of Fort Myers High School after his senior year in 2012. He got over the disappointment and accepted  a scholarship to Florida Atlantic University.

While at FAU Sanger flourished especially his junior year where he batted .370 with seven homers and drove in 48 runs.  Sanger’s numbers earned him the Conference USA Player of the Year Award. It also got Sanger noticed by the Angels.

Sanger fared pretty well his first year in Orem hitting .300 with four homers and 29 RBI’s while stealing 13 bases.  Sanger’s second year wasn’t so good though and left him doubting himself as he almost identical numbers to his time in Orem except for a much lower average.  Sanger hit only .230 in a full season for Burlington hitting only four homers and driving in 30 runs.

2017 didn’t start much better when Sanger was promoted to Inland Empire as he hit below .200 for the first two months of the season. However, just as Sanger had done in college he worked that much harder to improve and it paid off. Sanger caught fire and raised his average to .278 smacking 10 homers and driving in 42 runs in 63 games.

“To say that Brendon has had a huge turn-around would be an understatement. He was really struggling into the middle of May hitting well below .200,” Inland Empire manager Chad Tracy said.  “He worked really hard with our hitting coach on a couple of things and it has paid off. He is mashing the ball and he will continue to get better as he as a great work ethic and plate discipline.”

Sanger unfortunately within a week of arriving in Mobile Sanger went on the disabled list. He has only played in three games going 2 for 11 with two RBI’s. However with his work ethic Sanger will work hard to improve and I’m sure he will bounce back.

The next player to look it is pitcher Jaime Barria.  Barria is a little farther the rest of this group as he was promoted back in early June to Mobile.  Barria like Rojas made the all-star team and pitched very well in the game striking out three in one inning of work.

Barria was undrafted out of Panama but signed as a free agent in 2013.  He is 22-21 in four and a half seasons with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP.  This year Barria really came on for Inland Empire going 4-3 with a 2.48 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP in 65 innings.  Since going up to Mobile Barria has continued to pitch well going 1-3 with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP.

Barria is considered the 9th best prospect in the Angels organization and you could see him by late next season.

The final two prospects that have been promoted need no introduction, Matt Thaiss and Taylor Ward. Both Ward and Thaiss were #1 draft picks in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Ward has been in the Angels organization since 2015 and has shown great defensive ability with decent numbers at the plate.

Ward was injured during Spring Training which caused him to start the 2017 season on the DL.  Ge recovered and joined Inland Empire in the beginning of May and has hit .242 with six homers and 30 RBI’s over 54 games. Ward was called up in mid-July to Mobile and has done very well so far hitting .300 with three RBI’s in six games.

Ward is said to be the catcher of the future for the Angels, but we will have to see when that future is.  Most likely 2019.  We will just have to wait and see how he develops.

1B Matt Thaiss was drafted in the first round by the Angels in 2016 out of the University of Virginia.  Thaiss was a catcher in college and growing up, but he has been converted to first base by the Angels.  When you look at him you might be surprised as he is only 5’11 (which is generous) and 185 lbs.  However, Thaiss packs quite a wallop.  In 2016 Thaiss played in 67 games and hit .292 with six homers and 43 RBI’s.  This season in 84 games for the Inland Empire 66’ers he hit .265 with eight homers and 48 RBI’s.

Since his promotion to Mobile, Thaiss is adjusting well hitting .261 with six RBI’s in 69 at-bats.  If he continues to play well the rest of the season there is a chance you could see late in 2018.  With the Angels current first base situation Thaiss could definitely be the answer to the Angels needs at that spot.

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So there you have it.  Hope this gives you a little more information about some of the Angels rising stars.  As for the Angels having the worst fam system in baseball, this could be changing in the not too distant future with this group of guys along with names like Nate Smith and David Fletcher leading the charge.

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