Top Ten Prospects: Anaheim Angels
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Josh Boyd
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2004.
2. Jeff Mathis, c
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 180.
Background: Mathis projected as a fifth-round pick heading into the ’01 draft, but the Angels were prepared to take him 13th overall if Casey Kotchman was gone. He turned down a two-sport offer from Florida State, where he was recruited as a quarterback along with Joe Mauer. Mathis’ older brother Jake is an infielder in the Angels system.
Strengths: Mathis has conjured comparisons from Jason Kendall to Mike Lieberthal because of his athleticism, agility and offensive ceiling. His improved pitch recognition has allowed him to make adjustments at the plate and control the barrel of the bat. He has strength and bat speed, and his power numbers have increased each year. He has the attributes of a leader and the makeup to take charge of a pitching staff.
Weaknesses: While he has above-average arm strength and quick, soft hands, Mathis needs to make some subtle adjustments to deter basestealers. He threw out just 25 percent last year.
The Future: Only Mauer rates ahead of Mathis among the game’s catching prospects. Mathis will take over from Bengie Molina in Anaheim by no later than 2005.
3. Dallas McPherson, 3b
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 210.
Background: It would be foolish to doubt the mettle of McPherson. Last season, he shot himself in a finger with a BB gun and didn’t skip a day. After returning from a bulging disc that sidelined him for most of April, he ripped nine home runs in 14 games, highlighted by a double and home run against a rehabbing Randy Johnson. When Johnson beaned him in his third trip to the plate, McPherson stared him down and then stole second.
Strengths: McPherson generates explosive power with good bat speed and natural loft. His ability to adjust has helped him become a more complete hitter. While improving his plate discipline, he has worked his way into hitter’s counts and anticipated offspeed stuff better. He has a plus arm.
Weaknesses: McPherson’s glove lags behind his bat, though he works on his defense as much as anyone in the system. He cut down on his errors last year thanks to improved footwork and accuracy.
The Future: Given the strides McPherson has made to become adequate at third base, talk of moving him to right field has died down. He could make Troy Glaus expendable with another monster year.
4. Ervin Santana, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 160.
Background: Previously known as Johan and believed to be 10 months younger, Santana was the organization’s and California League’s 2003 pitcher of the year. He also was selected for the Futures Games. He missed a couple of starts with a tender elbow after a promotion to Double-A but finished the season strong.
Strengths: Santana’s electrifying stuff might be as good as any in the minors. His fastball regularly hits the upper 90s, topping out at 98 mph and sitting at 93-97. He throws a nasty 78-87 mph slider for strikes, varying speeds and breaks at will, and has a good feel for his changeup.
Weaknesses: Santana has a tendency to overthrow and occasionally fly open on the front side of his delivery and collapse in the back, affecting his command. He has displayed the ability to recognize those mistakes and make in-game adjustments on his own.
The Future: Santana has all the makings of a dominant frontline starter. The additions of Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar in Anaheim should buy him an extra year in the upper levels before he’s ready to make a push for a job in 2005.
5. Bobby Jenks, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 240.
Background: Jenks has overcome more obstacles than most 23-year-olds. Many of them have been self-induced, including a suspension for violating team rules in 2002. Just when he was starting to make the most significant progress of his career last season, he was the subject of a revealing ESPN Magazine article. Then he spent two months on the disabled list with a stress reaction in his elbow.
Strengths: Jenks lights up radar guns, generating easy 93-99 mph readings in every start. He has topped out at 102 but is learning the importance of command and movement over velocity. His curveball features hard, downward bite and can be an unhittable pitch. He rarely uses his changeup, but he’ll flash an above-average one on occasion.
Weaknesses: Jenks is still learning to harness his emotions and his overpowering repertoire. He came into spring last year 30 pounds overweight, which led to complications with his mechanics.
The Future: Angels officials noticed more ambition from Jenks after the ESPN article. If he follows up a strong winter in Puerto Rico with a good spring, he likely will head to Triple-A Salt Lake.
6. Alberto Callaspo, 2b
Age: 20. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 173.
Background: Angels scouts deserve kudos for discovering Callaspo, a virtual unknown in Venezuela before signing for $8,000. He led the Rookie-level Pioneer League in hits in 2002 before topping the low Class A Midwest League in batting, hits and doubles last year.
Strengths: Callaspo has such uncanny bat control that scouts mention names like Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn when describing his swing. He employs a similar contact-based approach with a short swing. While his raw power is limited, he hits the ball squarely and shows enough sock to drive the ball into the alleys. He has outstanding range with quick, soft hands and is exceptional at turning the double play. He’s a solid average runner who could play shortstop.
Weaknesses: While Callaspo puts everything he swings at in play, he’s not selective and rarely walks. He needs to become more patient as he faces more advanced pitching.
The Future: Coming off an outstanding winter performance in Venezuela, where he competed for another batting title, Callaspo will head to high Class A. He’s still at least two years away from Anaheim.
7. Brandon Wood, ss
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185.
Background: When Wood was a 5-foot-10, 130-pound freshman, he was so overmatched that his high school team used a DH for his spot in the lineup. It wasn’t until he blossomed physically last spring that his draft stock skyrocketed. After hitting 20 homers, two shy of the Arizona prep record, he signed for $1.3 million.
Strengths: Wood fits the profile of the modern shortstop. He worked hard to develop his swing with former big league manager Jim Lefebvre before his senior season. He stays behind the ball and can drive pitches with plus bat speed. His instincts, hands and plus arm make up for a lack of pure speed. If he plays his way off shortstop, he has the tools to excel at second base, third base or catcher.
Weaknesses: Wood swung and missed more often than expected after signing. The Angels say he was being overaggressive and trying to hit for too much power. He became too pull-conscious.
The Future: The Angels compare Wood’s makeup to that of Jeff Mathis and Dallas McPherson, and thus expect him to adjust and move swiftly. He’ll spend 2004 at low Class A Cedar Rapids.
8. Erick Aybar, ss
Age: 20. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 160.
Background: Former scouting director Donny Rowland and international supervisor Clay Daniel made several return visits to the Dominican to evaluate Aybar. The younger brother of Dodgers third-base prospect Willy Aybar, Erick lowered his asking price from $250,000 and signed for $100,000. He and Alberto Callaspo have formed all-star double-play combinations in the Pioneer and Midwest leagues the last two years.
Strengths: One scout coined Aybar and Callaspo “Hoover and Oreck,” because they vacuum up everything. Aybar is flashier with natural shortstop actions and has a strong and accurate arm. He also runs a tick faster, has more thump in his bat and drives the ball more consistently.
Weaknesses: Aybar doesn’t exhibit the same type of bat control as Callaspo and tends to be more of a free swinger. He has the tools for shortstop, though some scouts are concerned about his size and project him as more of a utilityman down the road.
The Future: Aybar and Callaspo will take their highlight-reel show to high Class A in 2004. Callaspo eventually will face strong competition from within the system in Brandon Wood.
9. Rafael Rodriguez, rhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 170.
Background: Rodriguez earned a $780,000 bonus after impressing Angels scouts in a private workout in 2002. He evokes comparisons to Ramon Ortiz and Ervin Santana, though he has been wildly inconsistent and isn’t as polished at the same stage. Rodriguez was torched for a 10.17 ERA in five starts last June, then he followed up with a 5-1, 1.86 July.
Strengths: Rodriguez’ lightning-quick arm was the first thing that caught scouts’ attention. He can dial his fastball up to 97 mph and sits at 90-96. His hard slider has out-pitch potential.
Weaknesses: Rodriguez has a high-maintenance delivery that instructors have to keep close tabs on. The ball jumps out of his hand, but his command is erratic because he tends to get out of whack with his mechanics. He shows a feel for a deceptive changeup but needs a more effective weapon against lefties. He has yet to mature physically or emotionally. The Angels believe he’ll turn the corner when he masters the English language.
The Future: Rodriguez spent his first full season in low Class A at age 18, so he’s ahead of schedule. He’ll join the high Class A rotation in 2004.
10. Steven Shell, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 190.
Background: Shell has been on the cusp of the top 10 since signing as a projection pick in 2001. He earned the starting assignment for the California League in its 2003 all-star game against the Carolina League, on the strength of his 6-5, 3.20 record in the first half. A tender elbow made him ineffective for much of the second half and cost him most of August.
Strengths: Thanks to his clean delivery, Shell has the best command and control in the organization. He paints both sides of the plate with an 88-92 mph fastball and will max out at 94 when he’s healthy. His spike curveball is a reliable weapon and a potential strikeout pitch. His changeup is solid.
Weaknesses: Shell has to trust his fastball as he did during the first half. He needs to become more consistent with his secondary pitches. He tried to pitch through pain last season and it cost him. The Angels plan on taking a conservative approach with his return, but are optimistic this wasn’t a significant setback.
The Future: If he comes to spring training at 100 percent, Shell could jump to Double-A. Otherwise, he’ll repeat high Class A and still be young for that level at 21.