Angels projected rosters are up. As many stars that they have on the Major League team, there minor league system is really, really thin right now. In my opinion it is one of the worst in the big leagues right now, with the White Sox as another that comes quickly to mind. That being said, they do have the best young player in the game, so it's not like the future isn't bright in L.A. Just a few notes:
1. Hank Conger vs. Chris Ianetta is an interesting position battle to watch in Spring Training. Conger has a ton of upside and has looked very good at the plate in Spring Training so far, going 4-for-5 with a HR and a 2B. Ianetta is still penciled in as the starter, but it's a very light pencil.
2. There's no room for Vernon Wells, so the veteran OF is probably going to be relegated to a bench role.
3. Bill Hall has a very good chance to make the team as a super utility guy, as he's learned to play a little bit of OF to go along with 2B, 3B and SS. I loved him when he was with the Red Sox, seems like a really cool guy and I hope nothing but the best for him.
4. The organization's starting pitching is embarrassingly bad. Outside of Nick Maronde, who is possibly best suited to be a bullpen guy, they really have no real interesting starting pitching prospects. One guy to possibly keep an eye on, A.J. Schugel, got roughed up pretty badly today. Makes you wonder why they traded two of their best rotation prospects, Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg, for half a year of Zack Greinke. They also traded Donn Roach, early in the year, but did get a good return for him, in stud reliever Ernesto Frieri.
5. Most of the guys to really keep an eye on this year will be with AA-Arkansas for most of the year. This list includes C.J. Cron, Taylor Lindsey, Randal Grichuk, and probably Kaleb Cowart at some point. All of those guys hit reasonably well in the hitter friendly California league with Inland Empire.
6. As brilliant of a first round selection Mike Trout was, the Angels have really struck out with their 1st round picks other than that in recent years. Cron and Grichuk look potentially promising, but are not full blown studs, and the rest have really struggled. Two 2010 draftees, Chevy Clarke and Ryan Bolden, are probably on their last chances with the organization after struggling to hit at the Mendoza line since being drafted. Kaleb Cowart, also in the 2010 draft, has also been fairly dissapointing, but showed signs of his potential last season, cracking many Top 100 prospect lists this year.
7. The Angels did not have a draft pick last year until the 3rd round, where they selected a RHP from Florida Atlantic, R.J. Alvarez. He is a bullpen arm who should progress pretty quickly through the system.
Overall Farm System Grade: D
Top 10 Prospects
1. Kaleb Cowart, Inland Empire
2. Randal Grichuk, Arkansas
3. Nick Maronde, Salt Lake
4. C.J. Cron, Arkansas
5. Taylor Lindsey, Arkansas
6. Kole Calhoun, Salt Lake
7. R.J. Alvarez, Burlington
8. Travis Witherspoon, Arkansas
9. Alex Yarbrough, Inland Empire
10. A.J. Schugel, Arkansas
HM: Wade Hinkle, Zach Wright, Luis Jimenez, Austin Wood, Eswarlin Jimenez, Mark Sappington, Eric Stamets, Steve Geltz, Cameron Bedrosian
The Yankees offense took a major blow on Sunday, as star center fielder Curtis Granderson learned that he would miss up to 10 weeks with a broken arm. Fortunately for the Yankees, broken bones usually are not lingering injuries and Granderson should come back fully healthy sometime in May.
It probably won't kill the Yankees, as it's only going to affect them for the month of April. But Granderson, especially due to the lack of replacements, is arguable the most important player in the lineup (besides possibly Robinson Cano). Brett Gardner can and will most likely shift over to CF, which leaves the spot of LF open. The Yankees have four possible routes they can go for in filling out their lineup.
1. Move Gardner to CF, use veteran (or combination of veterans) in LF
The Yankees have veteran guys Juan Rivera, Jayson Nix and Matt Diaz in camp, all of whom had a good chance to make the team as reserves before the injury. Now there's a very good chance one of the three will be the opening day LF. My vote would be for Rivera, as he probably has the most pop out of the three. Also, Nix is mostly an infielder, and his bat is not quite good enough to call for a change in position.
2. Bring up a young gun
Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams and Tyler Austin are the organizations three most promising outfield prospects, but all three are probably a year or two away from consistent success at the big league level and it is unlikely they serve as a temporary solution. Possible though, is a guy like Melky Mesa, who can play CF, or Zoilo Almonte, who hit a home run on Saturday, to get a look at the big league level in April.
If this had happened a few weeks ago the Yankees may have sprung for Michael Bourn, knowing them. But now just about every big free agent is taken, and the Yankees don't have much to pick from. Vernon Wells' name has been thrown around, as has Alfonso Soriano. Grady Sizemore is still unsigned as well, he could be an interesting fit in CF for New York, trying to resurrect his once promising career.
4. Eduardo Nunez
Eduardo Nunez has played sparingly in the outfield since he's been in the big leagues but he definitely is a true infielder right now. The Yankees, including Yogi Berra, love Nunez's bat and I would expect to see him trying some OF throughout the spring. If the Yanks find him adequate to play defensively out there, they can make Nix the utility infield guy and stick Nunez out in LF until Granderson heals.
When you think of the few teams that could possibly have the best farm system in baseball right now, the Seattle Mariners are always going to be one of the teams that comes up. And while the Cardinals also make a really strong case, I do think that the Mariners have he best system in baseball right now. They are absolutely loaded at just about every level, starting with their trio of "elite" prospects: Danny Hultzen, Mike Zunino, and Taijuan Walker. While they might not be competing with Oakland, LA, and Texas this year, they could be a very scary team quite soon. Here are my notes:
1. Casper Wells is out of options, and also looking unlikely to make the team due to the excess of outfielders that the Mariners have after picking up Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse. They already traded Mike Carp to the Red Sox for this reason.
2. Jason Bay hit a home run in his first at-bat as a Mariner today, and it is possible that he will return to somewhere close to prime form, after a few abysmal years with the Mets. That being said, I'm not sure where there's room for him in the everyday line-up, as Michael Saunders and Michael Morse seem to have the Corner OF spots lined up, with Kendrys Morales as the DH. Most likely Bay gets his ABs against lefties, replacing Saunders.
3. With the pickup of Morales, a switch hitter, it may be hard for the Mariners to find many at-bats for Raul Ibanez, but it's hard to imagine them letting him go due to his history with the organization. He is limited defensively, and will probably mostly be utilized as a pinch hitter and occasional DH.
4. Jeremy Bonderman, and perhaps more interestingly Jon Garland, are in camp on minor league contracts trying to resurrect their careers. Garland has a legitimate shot at making the rotation, but the 5th spot is likely leaning towards Erasmo Ramirez. Will be interesting to see what happens with these guys if they do not make the major league cuts. The minor leagues are quite crowded.
5. I've got Mike Zunino, Stefan Romero and James Paxton all moving up to AAA Tacoma after being very successful in AA last year. Romero is a pure hitter who tore up both High Desert and Jackson last year after being drafted out of Oregon State in 2010. He mainly plays 2B, but the Mariners are trying to move him to 3B or LF, where his bat makes more sense.
6. There's a long list of guys who hit the heck out of the ball in High Desert last year that need to prove their success wasn't a fluke due to the severe hitter-friendliness of playing in High Desert. Stefen Romero already did that, and so did, to an extent, Brad Miller. I would expect John Hicks, Jack Marder, Steven Proscia, Leon Landry, Julio Morban and James Jones to all play for Jackson this year, all guys who had eye-popping offensive numbers last year.
7. Taijuan Walker has the most upside out of any arm in the organization, and is listed up near the top of most prospect lists, but he struggled a bit last year and I'd expect him to stay with Jackson until he's truly dominant. Maybe he gets a September call-up, but I wouldn't be surprised if he stays in the minors all year. In the mean time, the Mariners have Paxton and Hultzen as top prospects who they can call on to make a spot start.
8. I've talked about Hultzen, Paxton and Walker but don't sleep on Brandon Maurer. God, this system is loaded with arms. Anthony Fernandez is a pretty good one too.
9. The Class-A Advanced level is the one place where the Mariners are not stacked with prospects, but High Desert always seems to turn non-prospects into studs real quick. Two guyswho should start there to keep an eye on: Jabari Blash and Daniel Paolini.
10. Jackson is getting most of the college hitters from the 2011 draft, but they also got a bunch of good ones in 2012, who will mostly be in Clinton. This includes Patrick Kivlehan, Taylor Ard, Chris Taylor and speed demon Jamodrick McGruder.
11. One of the things that I think really helps this organization is the fact that they have a class A-Short Season team, as well as an Appalachian League Rookie ball team. Most organizations have one or the other, not both. This allows the organization to get more players consistent at-bats and innings pitched.
Overall Farm System Grade: A
Top Ten Prospects
1. Mike Zunino, Tacoma
2. Taijuan Walker, Jackson
3. Danny Hultzen, Tacoma
4. Nick Franklin, Tacoma
5. James Paxton, Tacoma
6. Brad Miller, Jackson
7. Brandon Maurer, Jackson
8. Stefen Romeo, Tacoma
9. Victor Sanchez, XST
10. Carter Capps, Seattle
HM: John Hicks, Jack Marder, Patrick Kivlehan, Timmy Lopes, Leon Landry, Julio Morban, Anthony Fernandez
Obviously the big move that Tampa Bay made this off-season was in trading all-star pitcher James Shields to the Royals. While,in doing so the Rays may have taken a step back in the level of talent they have for this season, they depleted the Royals talent in the upper-minors, picking up three players who should have impacts in the major leagues this season: Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, and Michael Montgomery. While Shields is a stud, and it was a necessary move for Kansas City to make, the Rays could be the team that benefits long term if any of these players reach their maximum potential. Here are some notes I see regarding the Tampa Bay organization:
1. Let's start with discussing the Rays biggest problem with their organization right now. Drugs. Currently, the team has FIVE prospects serving suspensions for drugs of abuse, mostly methamphetamine, including pretty impressive prospects like Josh Sale and Ryan Brett. Both of these guys spent last year with Class A Bowling Green, so it may just be a culture thing that needs to be addressed at that level. But obviously something needs to be done by the organization to prevent this from happening so often for the protection of their individual player's careers and health, as well as their system.
2. The Rays picked up two guys, Shelley Duncan and Jack Cust, who both only do one thing well, and that's hit for a little bit of power. Luke Scott is a similar player, but he is probably the starting DH at the Major League level. I can't see Cust making the team, but it will be interesting to see if Shelly Duncan can make it to DH against lefties. If not they'll probably go with both utility guys Sean Rodriguez and Ryan Roberts.
3. Normally a guy who's in AAA at age 23 and can play a variety of infield positions is considered a bigtime prospect, but it's different when you're an underachieving #1 overall pick. It looks like Tim Beckham's future is as a backup infielder, and he may get a shot at the big league level this year after the Rays parted ways with both Reid Brignac and Elliot Johnson. But there's a good chance he won't even be an everyday guy at Durham, especially if Mike Fontenot hangs around and starts with Durham.
4. I see why they felt like Shields was expendable. Between Archer, Odorizzi, Montgomery, and Colome they have a load of dynamic and nearly big league ready arms. Montgomery has struggled bigtime the past two seasons, but he was a Top 20 prospect just two years ago. Change of scenery and coaching could benefit him.
5. I'm not sure what the Rays are planning to do with Vince Belnome and Nick Weglarz, both of whom they picked up in minor league deals, but I put them both in AA where they filled roles. Weglarz was the #58 prospect in baseball in 2009, but has really struggled to break through in the Cleveland organization.
6. For as many great arms that they have knocking on the major league door, they have just as many 2-3 years away. Taylor Guerreiri, Blake Snell and Jeff Ames are all studs.
Overall Farm System Grade: B
Top 10 Prospects
1. Wil Myers, Durham
2. Jake Odorizzi, Durham
3. Taylor Guerreri, Bowling Green
4. Blake Snell, Bowling Green
5. Hak Ju Lee, Durham
6. Chris Archer, Durham
7. Jeff Ames, Bowling Green
8. Richie Shaffer, Bowling Green
9. Drew Vettleson, Charlotte
10. Jake Hager, Charlotte
HM: Enny Romero, Mike Montgomery, Mikie Mahtook, Josh Sale, Alex Colome, Tyler Goeddel, Justin O'Conner, Grandon Goetzman
While the Twins have struggled in recent years, and most likely will be bringing up the rear in the AL Central in 2013, Minnesota's faithful has a lot to look forward to in the coming years, thanks to a deep, talented, and balanced farm system. The Twins have done a good job acquiring high level prospects in all three ways: draft (Byron Buxton), international (Miguel Sano), and trade (Alex Meyer). Here are some things I noted when looking at their rosters.
1. The competition for the center field job will be intense all spring between Aaron Hicks, Darin Mastrioanni and Joe Benson. In my opinion, it should be Hicks' job to lose. Mastrioanni is the ideal, speedy fourth outfielder who can play defense, steal a base and get on base. Looking forward there's no way the Twins view him as their long term option in center field. That leaves Hicks and Benson, both of whom I've seen plenty of with New Britain. Hicks proved to be a five-tool stud last year while Benson struggled mightily. While it might take Hicks a little while to adjust to big league pitching he will be an exciting, impact player right away. Unless they really think it will hinder his development, the Twins might as well go with their CF of the future, which is Hicks.
2. Pedro Florimon should win the shortstop spot by default. He will be competing with Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dozier.
3. They basically have five #3-#4 quality starting pitchers. Kevin Correia or Vance Worley are very weak in terms of a #1 guy, but a healthy Mike Pelfrey is actually a pretty strong #5 guy.
4. Kyle Gibson is finally fully healthy and has been getting rave reviews. He'll probably start in Rochester but should be starting games for the Twins sooner rather than later.
5. Oswaldo Arcia is a professional hitter. He should dominate the Eastern League this year and get a call up to the big leagues, with a possible stop in Rochester in between, by the middle of the season. He's not a real toolsy guy, but he can really hit the ball.
6. The Rock Cats will have three starting pitchers who are fairly close to the big leagues in Alex Meyer, Trevor May and B.J. Hermsen. Meyer, who was acquired in the Denard Span trade, has clearly the most upside, but it wouldn't surprise me if Hermsen, a big strike-throwing sinker-baller, is the first of the three to get a spot start.
7. It will be interesting to see how Alex Wimmers comes back from Tommy John surgery. The former first round pick has been a huge disappointment both by being constantly injured and failing to perform when healthy.
8. Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano are a dynamic middle of the lineup pair that should start in Fort Myers. The Twins are hoping for some of the holes in Sano's swing to be closed, as he has potential to be a 40+ HR guy.
9. It's obvious that one of the Twins' goals in the 2012 draft was to find a potential closer, as they drafted a bunch of powerful college arms that will be destined for the bullpen. Between Mason Melotakis, Luke Bard, J.T. Chargois, D.J. Baxendale, and Tyler Duffey they have a lot of guys who should move through the organization very fast.
10. Cedar Rapids will probably be the favorite in the Midwest League. One of the reason is the previously mentioned potential dominance of the bullpen, but just as important is he dynamic lineup filled with players who tore up the Appalachian League last year. Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Adam Walker, Travis Harrison, Jorge Polanco, and Niko Goodrum are all legitimate prospects to keep an eye on.
11. J.O. Berrios was one of the most exciting high school arms to come out of the 2012 draft. Will be interesting to see if they push him to full-season Cedar Rapids rather than keep him back in XST.
Overall Farm System Grade: A-
Top 10 Prospects
1. Miguel Sano, Fort Myers
2. Byron Buxton, Cedar Rapids
3. Oswaldo Arcia, New Britain
4. Alex Meyer, New Britain
5. Aaron Hicks, Minnesota
6. Kyle Gibson, Rochester
7. Eddie Rosario, Fort Myers
8. Max Kepler, Cedar Rapids
9. Jose Berrios, Cedar Rapids
10. Trevor May, New Britain
HM: Joe Benson, Mason Melotakis, D.J. Baxendale, Luke Bard, Daniel Santana, B.J. Hermsen, Travis Harrison, Adam Walker, Jorge Polanco, Niko Goodrum
As we all wait for Spring Training games to start later this week, College Baseball opened up it's season this week. Just figured I'd do a quick blog giving my thoughts on who I think are the top ten teams in the country after this weekend.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels (2-0)
Most people thought going into the season that the best team in the country was either Arkansas, or North Carolina. With Arkansas looking somewhat unimpressive against Western Illinois this weekend, even losing a game, UNC emerges as the team to beat nationwide. The Heels are led by Colin Moran at third base, but carrying the offense this weekend was Freshman outfielder Skye Bolt, who was drafted by the Washington Nationals last June. Kent Emanuel, who many think may be a first round pick with Moran this June, threw a complete game shut-out in a 1-0 win over Seton Hall friday night. After a rainout on Saturday, the Tar Heel's bats came alive on Sunday winning 17-2.
2. Louisiana State Tigers (3-0)
LSU started off their season with a dominant three game sweep of a decent Maryland team. The Tigers got dominant pitching performances from Sophomore Aaron Nola on Friday and Junior Ryan Eades on Saturday. Leading the way with the sticks were Sophomore outfielder Chris Sciambra, and Junior infielder, and potential first round pick, JaCoby Jones. Also giving the team an impressive weekend with the bad was Freshman shortstop, and draft pick of the Red Sox last June, Alex Bregman.
3. Kentucky Wildcats (2-0)
After the injury to Nerlens Noel, the passionate fans of Big Blue Nation should be jumping off the basketball bandwagon and onto that of their fantastic baseball team. Perhaps the breakout star of the weekend was Kentucky Junior infielder J.T. Riddle, who went 9-11 with three doubles and a triple, between two wins over UNC Asheville and Niagara. A.J. Reed and Jerad Grundy both turned out impressive outings on the mound, with Reed helping offensively as well. The best MLB draft prospect on the team, Sophomore outfielder Austin Cousino, didn't disappoint either, hitting .429 with a grand slam on the weekend.
4. UCLA Bruins (2-1)
UCLA started off the year with a disappointing extra inning loss to big time MLB draft prospect Tom Windle and the Minnesota Golden Gophers. But that didn't prevent them from having a successful first weekend, winning 14-0, and 14-1 over the next two days. Adam Plutko, Nick Vander Tuig and Grant Watson all impressed in quality starts for the Bruins, with two Sophomores outfielder Eric Filia and third baseman Kevin Kramer, anchoring a balanced offense.
5. Arkansas Razorbacks (2-1)
Quite simply, the preseason favorite Razorbacks just didn't show up Sunday afternoon, dropping a tough game to Western Illinois after two dominant wins against the same opponent. Fortunately for them, Ryne Stanek, potentially the #1 overall pick in June, was very good in a four inning outing on Friday. Arguably one of the best Saturday starters in the country, Junior Barrett Astin, also delivered a very impressive start. With Dominic Ficociello out with an injury all weekend, Sophomore Brian Anderson and Redshirt Freshman Tyler Spoon carried the offense, with Anderson going 6-11 with three extra base hits.
6. Vanderbilt Commodores (2-1)
Vanderbilt, like Arkansas, tainted an otherwise successful weekend by struggling on Sunday, in this case against a very good Long Beach State team. Starting pitcher T.J. Pecoraro and highly decorated Freshman recruit Carson Fulmer both struggled, and the Commodores couldn't quite overcome the early deficit. That being said, the offense was very good all weekend, led by Senior outfield Connor Harrel, who hit two home runs. Also, Kevin Ziomek and Tyler Beede, one of the more intimidating one-two punches in the country, were both very impressive on the mound.
7. Oregon Ducks (3-0)
Oregon may not have the big names that a lot of the other teams in the Top 10 have, but they got the job done this weekend, winning all three games against a good Hawaii team. Jake Reed was dominant in his start on Friday, and is looking to emerge as one of the best pitchers in a Pac-12 league which is filled with excellent starting pitchers.
8. Mississippi Rebels (3-0)
Ole Miss catapulted themselves from somewhere in the 20-25 range in the country, up into the Top 10 after a dominant sweep against a very good TCU team, which had been ranked #13 in the country. The Rebels have one of the best Friday night pitchers in the country, in Junior Bobby Wahl, who was set the tone for the weekend with 6.1 innings of scoreless baseball and 8 strikeouts in his start on Friday. Mississippi won by a score of 5-2 on both Saturday and Sunday, thanks in large part to excellent work by the bullpen, and a very good weekend offensively from Sophomore outfielder Auston Bousfield.
9. Florida State Seminoles (3-0)
The Seminoles didn't quite play their best baseball this weekend against a pretty weak Rhode Island team, but they were able to go into the week with a fairly dominant 3-0 record. Staff ace Brandon Leibrandt pitched well enough to win on Friday, allowing four earned runs in five innings, but the team hopes that he will pitch better as the season progresses. Offensively, Sophomore infielder Jose Brizuela was the breakout star for Florida State, driving in six runs while hitting .400 with a double, triple and home run.
10. Rice Owls (2-1)
I'm going to give the Owls credit this week for playing and beating a very, very good Stanford team, rather than awarding a team like Oregon State, Arizona or Mississippi State that came out unscathed against weaker opponents. Rice started off by beating last years #7 overall pick in the MLB Draft, Mark Appel, thanks to a brilliant pitching performance by preseason All-American, Junior Austin Kubitza. With Stanford's best hitter, Austin Wilson, out with an injury Rice was able to win one of the next two, wrapping up a very successful weekend against Stanford, who may have the most pro talent in the country.
Honorable Mention: Oregon State (3-0), Arizona (3-0), Mississippi State (4-0), Florida (2-1), Stanford (1-2), San Diego State (3-0), Oklahoma (4-0), Georgia Tech (3-0), Cal State Fullerton (4-0)
UC Irvine (3-0)
Offensive Player of the Week: IF J.T Riddle, Kentucky
9-11 (.818), 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 1 Run
Pitcher of the Week: RHP Austin Kubitza, Rice
1 GS, 6 IP 4 H 4 BB 12 K vs. Stanford
Minor league projections for the Indians, Royals, White Sox and Athletics are up and fully updated. I've fallen behind on blog entries for each of these teams, but will be starting tonight with discussing my pick for American League Champion, the Oakland Athletics.
Also, all recent transactions are updated on the team's that I have done. Most busy this past week or so was clearly the Indians, who picked up Daisuke Matsuzaka, Michael Bourn, Jason Giambi, and Jeremy Hermida, among others.
Just a quick update on the site...the Minor League projected rosters are done for the Twins and Blue Jays, and almost done for the Tampa Bay Rays. I will try to get blog posts up with my thoughts and the Top 10 prospects as soon as possible for these three organizations.
Also, the Orioles and Yankees pages were updated after Russ Canzler was claimed off waivers by Baltimore today. He was added to AAA-Norfolk, and Cody Johnson was added to AAA-Scranton.