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Angels organization preview, Top 20 Prospects
Angels organization preview, Top 20 Prospects
By Spencer Fordin
The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, MLB.com is looking at each team's farm system, from the top 20 prospects to under-the-radar types.
Scott Servais has spent his winter on a crash course, learning the prospects of his new organization. Servais, who left the Rangers to join the Angels in November, presides over a farm system that includes outfielder Mike Trout, lauded by many analysts as one of the top prospects in baseball.
Trout is on the verge of sticking in the Major Leagues, but Servais knows that his organization has a lot more talent that is close to making its way through the pipeline. Now, it's part of his job to usher them through to the other side, and he's excited to get started.
"I'm just learning about our players, and I'm looking forward to seeing them in Spring Training," said Servais, the team's assistant general manager of scouting and player development. "It takes a little time, and there may be some guys that surprise us. But it also gives these guys a fresh start. We will be very aggressive, especially with the younger guys, trying to move them up level to level."
Perhaps nobody reflects that policy better than Trout, who was moved aggressively by the previous regime. Trout, just 20 years old, blitzed through the organization and batted .326 in 91 games for Double-A Arkansas before stalling out to a .220 mark in 40 big league games.
The Angels may also make room for Garrett Richards, who went 12-2 with a 3.15 ERA for Arkansas before making his August debut in the Majors. Richards is on the fringe of the big league roster, and Servais singled out infielder Jean Segura as another player who could move quickly.
"I think we've got some higher-end guys at the upper levels that could end up making the club or creating depth for us at Triple-A," he said. "But we really need to focus and improve our depth throughout the farm system. It's important, because even if these guys don't make the team at some point, there will be still opportunities for us to make trades and help our ballclub."
Top 20 Prospects
The Angels have a few high-ceiling infield prospects in Kaleb Cowart and Taylor Lindsey, and they may be able to climb the organizational ladder simultaneously. Both players were lofty draftees in 2010, and they starred together at Orem in the rookie-level Pioneer League last year.
The Angels took first baseman C.J. Cron in the first round last year, but he signed late and played just 34 games for Orem. Cron has advanced hitting skills and should move up a couple rungs in 2012, and he punished Pioneer League pitchers for 13 home runs in his brief spin through the circuit.
"We're definitely trying to create waves through the system," said Servais. "Cron may be a little ahead of the other guys since he's a college guy, but there's a group there that we're excited about. Time will tell, but again, depth in our Minor League system will really be key."
Los Angeles also selected Cameron Bedrosian in the first round last year, but he underwent ligament replacement surgery on his elbow and has yet to pitch professionally. Servais said the Angels aren't sure whether Bedrosian will start or relieve this season, a decision that will be made in March.
Nick Maronde is another high-profile arm in the system, and the Angels believe that Daniel Tillman and John Hellweg have big league arms that just need some more nurturing.
"We have some hard throwers, guys that can help us at some point," said Servais. "Johnny Hellweg started in the bullpen, but he's grown 3 or 4 inches since he was drafted. He's 6-9 now. Is he a starter or a reliever? We believe that his arm will tell us over time."
angels' top prospects
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.
Under the radarEfren Navarro, 1B: A former 50th-round draftee who has exceeded expectations at every stop, Navarro exploded last year to the tune of a .317 average and 12 home runs for Triple-A Salt Lake. He will have to build on that performance to expand on his big league cup of coffee.
Matt Long, OF: A former 30th-round draftee, Long had his own standout season for Class A Inland Empire last season, and he'll need to repeat it at Arkansas to get some attention. Long, who will turn 25 in April, batted .301 with 16 homers and 26 stolen bases at Inland Empire last year.
Hitter of the Year
Let's get one thing out of the way: Trout will likely be in the big leagues for too much time to be the Minor League hitter of the year. With that caveat, Lindsey, who was named the Most Valuable Player in the Pioneer League last season, may well be the hitting prospect to watch.
Lindsey hit for average and for power at Orem, but he walked just 13 times in 63 games and was caught stealing four times in 14 attempts. The 20-year-old will need to round out his plate discipline, but he doesn't have much of a platoon split and should be able to stick at second base.
Pitcher of the Year
Richards may make the Angels' staff out of Spring Training, but if he doesn't, he'll be stashed at Salt Lake to round out the final portion of his Minor League resume. The right-hander struck out 103 batters against just 40 walks last season in his first run through Double-A.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.