Ryan Ghan and Turk's Teeth team up to provide a post-draft, post-trade-deadline look at the lottery tickets and green shoots on the Angel's farm.
And now come the rooks!
It should be said from this point on that the separation between the players on our list becomes markedly thin. Given a shallow pool and only the most recent of evidence to go by, we could easily have placed these three players higher in the rankings based on upside alone, as the prospects to come, while at more advanced levels in the system, also come with their own sets of question marks (eg, low draft status, short track records). In the end, with some ambivalence, we decided to group the three here in the second half of our Top Ten due to age, level, and some recent volatility.
Each of these three are still teenagers, and have little more than a season of stateside rookie ball to their resumes. But they also each have exciting commonalities: high strikeout rates, and marked groundball tendencies. But they also share a less thrilling similarity; after strong stretches of excellent performance in early summer, each has been rocked in a few appearances in the past few weeks. In one sense, we should expect volatility form young players like this. On the other hand, one must always be guarded about injury among teen hurlers in this era of Tommy John.
One last note: You'll begin to see here (and in the next article) the first hints of a resurgence in our Latin American program. While the Angels continue to essentially bargain-hunt on the international front, and invest far less than our divisional rivals and other flagship franchises of the junior circuit (the Yankees, notably), they have had some modest successes in the early going with bringing talent from Venezuela and the Dominican to Arizona and Utah. Let's hope it's a trend, and the team continues to build up a presence overseas.
6 – 8
(6) Ricardo Sanchez (player page)
RG – He's 17 years old, he touches 92 mph from the left side, and he backs the heat with two promising secondary pitches. He's currently getting plenty of groundouts (52%) and K's (24%) in the AZL, while pairing a .376 BABIP allowed with low .99 isolated power against, which is a pretty good indicator of playing in front of an amateurish defensive squad. The control isn't quite there yet – he's walking 12% of the guys that he faces – but his present 3.06 FIP is a good indicator of present skill.
TT – The Angels signed Sanchez as recently as last July, for a comparatively lavish bonus of $580k (relative to the club's other signings on international front). Back in August last year, he was the winning pitcher in the gold medal game in Venezuela’s 15-and-under World Championship victory over Cuba in Mexico. He's made it to the States promptly, and has immediately shown what scouts were excited about with a 10.4 SO/9 and the makings of a three pitch starter's arsenal, with his curve needing the most development. Sanchez's aggressive ranking here is a rare place of consensus between us and the national rankers, as Sanchez came in at #7 on Baseball America's preseason list as well. A big part of this is his fastball, which while not likely to top out beyond 92-93 in coming years, nonetheless has good sink which explains the solid groundball rates. Sanchez probably has the highest ceiling among the rookies in the organization, and could be a consensus top three prospect for the Angels if he succeeds at Class A next year.
(7) Jonah Wesely (player page)
RG – Over his first 23 Pioneer League innings, our second prep southpaw from the 2013 draft punched out 25 guys to just 6 walks. Lefties pounded the ball into the ground nearly 70% of the time on contact, and he fanned over a quarter of opposite-handed hitters. He just pounded the zone with an 90-92 FB from an up-tempo delivery and a short, clean arm stroke. 14 hits allowed, and no homeruns.
In eight and a third innings beginning August 6th, he's yielded 11 walks and 12 hits. That's just weird, and sadly, a pretty glaring red flag for injury. If the Halos are lucky, his mechanics just broke temporarily. Regardless of what the issue is, we at least know what his ceiling might look like, and it's exciting – thick, stocky, and no-nonsense, I get Will Smith vibes from him. In an effort to limit his pitch count, the Owlz are using him only in 3-inning stints at present.
TT – Set aside his last four appearances in August, and Wesely has been developing pretty much how one would have hoped Hunter Green would have to this point. While Green may have the greater ceiling on his fastball velocity, they're both 6'2" lefties whose FB tops out in the low 90s, and who are developing a feel for their offspeed stuff. I've had conversations with folks who feel that his draft position, combined with meh velocity and unproven secondary pitches make this ranking aggressive, but I also think Wesely is a player who could've been drafted much higher, and who has shown tremendous poise against older competition in the Pioneer League. He has greater value as a starter, but it's not clear that the organization has made up their minds on his ultimate role yet. Read a couple nice profiles by Taylor Ward of Jonah here and here.
RG – Before getting shut down in July for some reason, soon-to-be-nineteen year old Rodriguez posted a 17 K/1 BB ratio against rookie ball hitters while inducing groundballs at a 53% rate. Since coming back, he's coughed up 12 hits in seven innings. Small sample sizes leave nothing for us to say definitively about him, other than that he shows signs of being a FIP-machine, with a 58 K's to just 16 walks on his professional resume. Last year, farm director Bobby Scales talked up Rodriguez' change-up, feel for pitching, and developing breaking ball.
TT – Not certain if Ryan remembers it, but he teased Rodriguez as a sleeper earlier this Februrary. He's the one righty in this selection of rookies, and has exhibited the sharpest control. It's hard not to believe that his BAA isn't to a reasonable extent due to lapses of defense, as his groundball rate suggests pressure on his rookie infield, and most of his hits are going for singles. His fastball lacks velocity at the moment, rarely topping 90mph, but he's also a mere 160lbs, if that, and has a lot of room for filling out in the next year or two. He's developing the beginnings of a good changeup. Otherwise he's a man of mystery at the moment, and could become anything from mid-rotation starter to flameout at higher levels.