So far, we've looked at 13 of the systems in the Majors, and seen some good and some not-so-good. The goal with each team I look at is to discuss a few players who are likely to have an impact in the Majors in 2012, a few who could be ready by the start of 2014, and a few more who are a long ways away, but could be interesting as well. You can find links to the previous teams below:
It's hard not to like a system that has the top prospect overall, but there's a lot of question marks after Mike Trout. You have a shortstop prospect who missed a majority of the 2011 season, but stayed in one top 50 in spite of that fact. There's a third base prospect drafted a couple years ago who won't likely be ready for a few more years. Overall, the system has graduated a fair amount of players in the past few seasons, and they will look to improve under new general manager Jerry DiPoto.
Ready in 2012
You know the name. You've seen him at either the #1 or #2 spot in nearly every top 100 list that has come out. Trout is the reminder that the players in the draft aren't always taken in order of potential skill level. Trout may have been slightly overlooked by teams coming into the draft due to being from New Jersey, not exactly a hotbed of high school baseball. But Trout has already shown that he's likely to be a top-flight outfielder and top-flight overall fantasy provider for years to come. In 40 games last year for the Angels, he hit 5 homers and stole 4 bases. At age 19. What else really is there to say about Trout? He looks like he could be a top 10 overall player in his prime, hitting for a high average, solid power, with solid speed and a lot of runs scored. For 2012, he will likely start the season in AAA due to the logjam that is the outfield for the Angels, but it's extremely likely at some point during the season that his performance will dictate moving him up to Anaheim. Honestly, if he's available in your dynasty league, I'd start questioning the other owners after I picked him up.
|2009||21||ANA-min||Rk||3||1||1.53||35.1||37||6||6||0||4||30||1.160||9.4||0.0||1.0||7.6||7.50||ORM · PION|
|2010||22||ANA-min||A,A+||12||5||3.52||143.0||130||65||56||10||43||149||1.210||8.2||0.6||2.7||9.4||3.47||CDR,RCU · MIDW,CALL|
|2011||23||ANA-min||AA||12||2||3.15||143.0||123||58||50||10||40||103||1.140||7.7||0.6||2.5||6.5||2.58||ARK · TL|
Richards pitched well enough in AA during the 2011 season to earn himself a callup at the end of the season. He was able to repeat most of his performance from the 2010 season while moving up to AA. The only number that really concerns me was his drop in strikeout rate (from 9.4 K/9 in 2010 to 6.5 K/9 in 2011). Here's what Al Skorupa of Bullpen Banter had to say about Richards as a part of their top 15 prospects:
Garrett Richards has some front line stuff and velocity. The problem is his mechanics aren't smooth or consistent and his arm action isn't pretty. This leads to poor command, inconsistent release points and pitches left up. I've seen a lot of questions about why Richards isn't striking out more guys... a lot of it goes back to his mechanics and delivery. His command and execution of his pitches isn't quite there but hitters are still unable to do much because his raw stuff is just so good. If Richards can clean up his flaws the sky is the ceiling, but he could still be an effective starter even if he doesn't. If he really falls apart he could be a late inning reliever.
Richards seems likely to be back at AAA to start the 2012 season, and if he has a good year in Salt Lake City could be in Anaheim to stay by September. I'd like to see his walk rate drop or his strikeout rate improve as well, but I think he'll be the 5th starter for the team fro the 2013 season.
Could Be Ready by 2014
Segura emerged as a name on top prospect lists after his 2010 season, where he hit 10 home runs, stole 50 bases, and a .313 batting average in the Midwest League. In addition to being promoted for the 2011 season, Segura was also moved from second base to shortstop. However, he missed a majority of the season due to hamstring injuries, and is likely to repeat High-A in the 2012 season. Here's what Nathaniel Stoltz had to say about Segura:
He projects as a player who can hit nearly .300 with some walks and doubles while contributing in the speed-and-defense areas. His skillset should translate well to the upper levels, since he has shown the ability to make good contact, he has some control of the strike zone, and he has enough power that he won’t be exposed by upper-level pitching.
I am a big fan of Segura, as a middle infielder who can hit 7-10 homers a season along with a high batting average and 30+ stolen bases will be extremely valuable for fantasy purposes. I think he'll likely be in AA before the end of the 2012 season, and could be in the bigs by the end of 2013.
Hellweg had spent his career as a middling (at best) relief prospect until being converted to the starting rotation during the 2011 season. And it all appears to have clicked for Hellweg. Here's what Keith Law had to say about Hellweg as a part of his top 100 prospects list:
He'll pitch at 97-98 mph with a hard curveball that also misses bats, although his changeup at 91-92 is more like a BP fastball at this point because it doesn't have much action.
He's huge -- 6-foot-9 and 210 pounds -- and despite a fair degree of athleticism has had trouble keeping his delivery in sync, although he's been better at that as a starter, which allows him more time to work it out.
Realistically, Hellweg has only been a starting pitcher for most of a season, and the 2012 season will be a big test as to whether or not he can be a big league starting pitcher. Here's how Marc Hulet of Fangraphs views his future:
Even if he doesn’t stick in the rotation – a big ‘if’ if he cannot improve his control – the pitcher will benefit from the extra innings needed to hone the command of his pitches. He may never command the ball well enough to be a starter or even a closer, but he could see duty as a high-leverage reliever in the eighth inning.
Long-Term Prospects (Might Not Be Ready until 2015 at least)
The Angels' top draft pick from the 2010 draft, Cowart was considered a high draft prospect both as a position player and as a pitcher. The Angels drafted him as a 3B, and 2011 was his first full season of professional ball. He showed solid across the board production on offense last year, hitting 7 homers, stealing 11 bases, and batting .283 in just 72 games. The one part of his game I am a bit concerned with is his strikeout rate, as he struck out 1 out of every 4 plate appearances last year. Here's what Marc Hulet of Fangraphs had to say about him:
He’s shown enough signs of progress with the bat that there is little pressure at this point to put him back on the mound. If everything clicks, Cowart has the potential to develop into a No. 3 hitter with a solid all-around game. He probably won’t be a slugger; a 20-25 home run output with full-time playing time is probably realistic.
Cowart remains a long way away, but he will be just 20 years old during the 2012 seasons, and I think he could jump a lot of rankings if he can produce in his assignment in 2012. Realistically, I believe he will start the season in Low-A, which would put him on pace (at a year per level) to get to the bigs after 2015.
The Angels top draft pick last year, Cron signed early and proceeded to tear up the Pioneer League. He hit 13 home runs and batted .308 in just 34 games before an injury ended his season. Here's what John Sickels had to say about Cron:
I want to see his bat outside the easy-offense Pioneer League. It didn't impact his production, but his plate discipline wasn't as good as it was in college, and he's not much of a fielder. He should still mash his way to the majors fairly quickly.
If Cron can come back from his injury in good shape, I could see the team assigning him to their High-A affiliate in the California League to start the year. I agree that he'll likely show that he's ready in quick order, but I'm a tiny bit concerned about where he'll fit long-term for the Angels. The impression I have from some of the other scouting reports is that he's unlikely to play a position other than 1B long-term, so he could be relegated to DH only with Albert Pujols in town. Either way, that's a problem that can be dealt with in the future. He could turn into a solid power producer once he gets to the bigs, but I also want to see his plate discipline improve by then.