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October
22nd
2006
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Post-2006 Prospect Review: Los Angeles(A)
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

The Angels' Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2007
Roster Filler and Long-Term Prospects
Team Overview and Organization Rankings


The Angels' Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2007

1. Reggie Willits, 25, OF-S
12/45 for .267/.411/.289 with 0 HR, 2 RBI, 12 R, 4/7 SB%,
and an 11:10 BB:K.
115/352 for .327/.448/.426 with 3 HR, 39 RBI, 85 R, 31/46 SB%,
and a 77:50 BB:K for AAA Salt Lake(PCL).

The Angels smartly employed Willits as their sixth outfielder for much of the summer, and if the club deals Chone Figgins without securing an obvious leadoff hitter or centerfielder, Willits could approach $30 with any luck. He owns excellent patience for someone with his baserunning skills, and when we consider his respectable contact rate, defensive acumen, and marginal power, he probably possesses one of the best profiles for a leadoff man among anyone in the upper minors. Definitely plan to spend a few bucks on Willits if he merely breaks camp in the majors as a reserve, but if he appears set to start, bid to $20 or more without hesitation. He owns the skills to reward that investment.


2. Brandon Wood, 21, SS-R
125/453 for .276/.355/.552 with 25 HR, 83 RBI, 74 R, 19/22 SB%,
and a 54:149 BB:K for AA Arkansas(TL).

Generally ranked among the top three prospects in the game prior to 2006, Wood posted extremely solid stats this year if not overly spectacular ones. Growing contact problems could limit his upside, and while his impressive steal total intrigues me for fantasy purposes, he may no reach Anaheim until next fall. Even if the club moves Orlando Cabrera or Erick Aybar, the likelihood of the Angels acquiring a veteran third baseman could create problems for Wood's continued advancement. Yes, Bill Stoneman should deal Chone Figgins and Cabrera within the next nine months, opening the infield for Wood, Aybar, Howie Kendrick, and Casey Kotchman, with Dallas McPherson and Maicer Izturis as all-purpose backups, but the reported organizational mandate to spend this winter inevitably will block at least one and perhaps all of these youngsters save Kendrick. Meanwhile Wood likely will start slowly under any circumstances, so although you could keep him with the expectation of deploying a $20 asset on the left side of your infield for a couple of seasons, leveraging his top prospect status into a safer asset makes more sense to me.


3. Jeff Mathis, 23, C-R
8/55 for .145/.238/.291 with 2 HR, 6 RBI, 9 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 7:14 BB:K.
111/384 for .289/.333/.430 with 5 HR, 45 RBI, 62 R, 3/4 SB%,
and a 26:75 BB:K for AAA Salt Lake(PCL).

Clearly not a favorite of manager Mike Scioscia, Mathis should rank atop the Angels' list of trade bait this winter. Mike Napoli should hold the starting job for the rest of the decade, and although retaining Mathis as a backup looks logical, the club seemingly still favors Jose Molina. The good news for Mathis is that I see nothing wrong with his hitting skills other than general overaggressiveness in the minors, almost certainly due to his desire to hit his way back to the majors. If a team looking for a long-term catching solution, such as the Brewers, Blue Jays, Yankees, or Marlins, acquires Mathis with the intent of starting him, I expect his confidence and overall performance to shoot upward, elevating him from an endgame gamble to a solid purchase anywhere in single digits.


4. Terry Evans, 24, OF-R
81/263 for .308/.380/.578 with 18 HR, 42 RBI, 61 R, 16/23 SB%,
and a 21:77 BB:K between AA Springfield(TL) and AA Arkansas(TL).
74/238 for .311/.373/.550 with 15 HR, 45 RBI, 43 R, 21/22 SB%,
and a 20:50 BB:K for A+ Palm Beach(FSL).

Few players matched Evans' march up prospect lists this summer. A career .239/.303/.394 hitter in four A-ball seasons before 2006, the 2001 forty-seventh round pick spent two months demolishing Florida State League pitchers before somehow improving his numbers after a promotion to the Texas League. The Angels accepted him in trade as the only compensation for Jeff Weaver, a vital component to the Cardinals' playoff efforts. Yet despite this outstanding breakout campaign, Evans never demonstrated this level of upside prior to this year and still suffers from weak plate discipline. I anticipate him requiring at least another full year of seasoning to consolidate these gains and then he faces plenty of competition for playing time on the Angels. Spending more than a late-round draft flyer on someone with his limited track record seems overly optimistic.


5. Nick Adenhart, 20, RH Starter
5-2 on a 46:16 K:BB in 52.1 IP over 9 GS
with 51 H, 1 HR, a 2.45 G-F, and a 3.78 ERA for A+ Rancho Cucamonga(Cal).
10-2 on a 99:26 K:BB in 106 IP over 16 GS
with 84 H, 2 HR, a 1.43 G-F, and a 1.95 ERA for A Cedar Rapids(Mid).

With no apparent health problems or skill flaws, Adenhart ranks as the top pitching prospect in the organization and could break into the Angels' rotation sometime in 2007, joining John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Jered Weaver to give the team a quartet of emerging aces. Hopefully he'll receive a full year in the upper minors just to minimize injury risk, but with nothing for Adenhart to prove in A-ball, spending an late-round pick on him in the spring could pay dividends as soon as next summer.


6. Sean Rodriguez, 21, SS-R
0/2 for .000/.000/.000 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 0:2 BB:K for AAA Salt Lake(PCL).
23/65 for .354/.462/.662 with 5 HR, 9 RBI, 16 R, 0/3 SB%,
and an 11:18 BB:K for AA Arkansas(TL) 137/455 for .301/.377/.545 with 24 HR, 77 RBI, 78 R, 15/18 SB%,
and a 47:124 BB:K for A+ Rancho Cucamonga(Cal).

Following a couple of unimpressive A-ball campaigns, this 2003 third round pick took full advantage of the hitter-friendly California League before outplaying nominal top prospect Brandon Wood in three weeks at Arkansas. Rodriguez appears perfectly prepared to open 2007 at Triple-A, perhaps pushing Wood to third base but more likely moving to the outfield if the Angels don't find a superior long-term option at center. With only a marginally unimpressive contact rate limiting Rodriguez's upside, he probably warrants an end-round pick in plenty of AL leagues unless the Angels attempt to boost his trade value by letting him further abuse AA pitching while remaining at shortstop.


7. Nick Gorneault, 27, OF-R
115/407 for .283/.343/.499 with 15 HR, 78 RBI, 66 R, 6/10 SB%,
and a 38:106 BB:K for AAA Sale Lake(PCL).

A busted left knee cap cost Gorneault a mid-season promotion and probably will push him back to Salt Lake for a fourth season in 2007. He offers nothing not already provided by Juan Rivera, and although I firmly believed he deserved a shot to start this spring after an excellent 2005 campaign, he simply isn't in the Angels' long-term plans. Only keep him in mind as a Dollar Days' candidate, if he somehow breaks camp in the majors.


8. Jose Arredondo, 22, RH Starter
2-3 on a 48:22 K:BB in 60.2 IP over 11 GS
with 80 H, 8 HR, a 1.08 G-F, and a 6.53 ERA for AA Arkansas(TL).
5-6 on a 115:35 K:BB in 90 IP over 15 GS
with 62 H, 4 HR, a .99 G-F, and a 2.30 ERA for A+ Rancho Cucamonga(Cal).

With no significant split affecting his AA numbers, Arredondo's second-half struggles appear out of place with the rest of his career. Only moving to the mound in 2004, the right-hander's dominant A-ball stats suggest plenty of upside, especially if he slides into the bullpen by next fall as expected. He should join the Angels as no less than another ridiculously effective, low-cost reliever.


9. Mike Eylward, 27, 1B-R
127/405 for .314/.389/.427 with 8 HR, 63 RBI, 57 R, 1/7 SB%,
and a 43:60 BB:K for AAA Salt Lake(PCL).
38/104 for .365/.407/.644 with 5 HR, 25 RBI, 16 R, 2/4 SB%,
and a 7:13 BB:K for AA Arkansas(TL).

With little time left to develop into anything more than a decent pinch-hitter, Eylward took full advantage of Salt Lake to burnish his batting average. Now he needs a move to an NL club in the near future or else risks peaking as an unknown AAAA hitter.


10. Dustin Moseley, 24, RH Starter
1-0 on a 3:2 K:BB in 11 IP over 2 GS(3G)
with 22 H, 3 HR, an 18-17 G-F, and a 9.00 ERA.
13-8 on a 114:51 K:BB in 149.2 IP over 26 GS
with 164 H, 18 HR, a 1.80 G-F, and a 4.69 ERA for AAA Salt Lake(PCL).

Rising skills at Salt Lake City continue to paint a bright future for Moseley, who heads to spring training as no worse than the Angels' seventh starter and could see plenty of time in the majors if Colon and at least one other pitcher can't stay healthy. While Moseley certainly isn't a future ace, I see no reason he can't develop into a middle-of-the-rotation option. Feel free to spend a couple of bucks as soon as he appears on free agent lists.


11. Bobby Wilson, 23, C
107/374 for .286/.350/.428 with 9 HR, 53 RBI, 45 R, 1/7 SB%,
and a 33:47 BB:K for AA Arkansas(TL).

Perhaps the Angels' best reason to either keep Jeff Mathis as Mike Napoli's backup or deal him this winter, Wilson's consistent development demands a AAA berth in 2007. He also appears a better fit behind Napoli than Mathis, so although I can't recommend Wilson for fantasy teams right now, he'll likely merit a roster spot in any reasonably deep AL Leagues as soon as he reaches the majors.


12. Eric Rodland, 26, 2B-L
119/397 for .300/.394/.426 with 8 HR, 51 RBI, 64 R, 2/7 SB%,
and a 58:54 BB:K for AA Arkansas(TL).

One of the best picks from the minor league phase of last year's Rule 5 draft, Rodland progressed from the Tigers' Florida State League team onto the Angels' AA affiliate yet somehow posted the best stats of his career. He demonstrated unexpectedly excellent plate discipline, which might shoot him to the majors in any organization without the Angels' scouting staff or infield depth. Rodland probably needs one additional line in his career transactions before seeing any big league at-bats.


13. Steven Shell, 23, RH Starter
5-9 on an 82:32 K:BB in 122.2 IP over 22 GS(24G)
with 156 H, 16 HR, a .87 G-F, and a 6.16 ERA for AAA Salt Lake(PCL).
1-2 on a 10:4 K:BB in 18 IP over 3 GS
with 20 H, 1 HR, a .95 G-F, and a 4.00 ERA for AA Arkansas(TL).

Pushed to Salt Lake slightly ahead of schedule in the spring, Shell's hit rate exploded, wrecking his qualitative numbers despite otherwise respectable skills. Perhaps a move to the bullpen makes the most sense given the competition he faces for a starting job on the Angels, but if he returns to Salt Lake in his current role, I expect to see Shell enter minor league free agency next fall.


14. Matthew Brown, 23, 3B-R
151/515 for .293/.362/.495 with 19 HR, 79 RBI, 77 R, 7/13 SB%,
and a 47:108 BB:K for AA Arkansas(TL).

An OPS surge despite departing the California League for the Texas League boosts Brown from organization soldier to prospective reserve in the majors. He probably lacks the plate discipline to develop into a regular, but if he echoes this performance in 2007, he'll likely insure several years of spring training NRIs, affording him the chance to break onto a big league bench.


15. Tommy Mendoza, 19, RH Starter
11-6 on a 134:32 K:BB in 170.2 IP over 27 GS
with 169 H, 15 HR, a 1.09 G-F, and a 4.17 ERA for A Cedar Rapids(Mid).

Only turned 19 in mid-August, the 2005 fourth round pick acquitted himself nicely as one of the youngest players in a full-season league. Nothing here requires you to draft him in the spring, but monitoring his progress seems wise since we could see Mendoza challenging for a rotation spot in 2008 even if he just maintains his current skill rates.


Roster Filler and Long-Term Prospects

Chris Bootcheck, 25, RH Swingman
0-1 on a 7:9 K:BB in 10.1 IP over 7 G
with 16 H, 3 HR, a 13-17 G-F, and a 10.45 ERA.
4-3 on a 43:34 K:BB in 65.2 IP over 5 GS(40G)
with 84 H, 10 HR, a 1.31 G-F, and a 6.72 ERA for AAA Salt Lake(PCL).

Equally ineffective this summer regardless of his role, the former first round pick desperately needs a change of scenery to regain his confidence in a friendlier AAA pitching environment. I still expect him to emerge as no worse than a capable middle reliever before he hits 30, but returning to Salt Lake for a sixth season simply isn't a smart move for Bootcheck or the Angels, who should try to include him in any deal they complete this winter.


Jason Bulger, 27, RH Reliever
0-0 on a 1:3 K:BB in 1.2 IP over 2 G
with 1 H, 0 HR, a 3-1 G-F, and a 16.20 ERA.
2-2 and 4 Saves on a 44:15 K:BB in 34.1 IP over 27 G
with 30 H, 0 HR, a 2.37 G-F, and a 4.72 ERA for AAA Salt Lake(PCL).

Bill Stoneman simply gave away Alberto Callaspo last winter in a deal for Bulger, who didn't even stay healthy while Callaspo nearly won the PCL MVP. At least Bulger posted fairly impressive skills in Salt Lake when avoiding the DL, registering a strikeout/groundball rate combination that suggests tremendous immediate upside. If he breaks camp in the majors, you can consider rostering Bulger as soon as posts a couple of solid outings.


Miguel Gonzalez, 22, RH Reliever
0-2 and 4 Saves on a 38:17 K:BB in 53.1 IP over 31 G
with 41 H, 8 HR, a 1.10 G-F, and a 3.88 ERA for AA Arkansas(TL).
1-0 and 1 Save on a 24:2 K:BB in 26.1 IP over 14 G
with 17 H, 2 HR, a .70 G-F, and a 1.71 ERA for A+ Rancho Cucamonga(Cal).

With a fairly clean track record in the lower minors and a respectable performance for Arkansas, Gonzalez could join the Angels next summer if he can echo these numbers at Salt Lake. However, I expect him to encounter plenty of problems in such an unfriendly home park, so Gonzalez probably won't see more than a cup-of-coffee in the majors until 2008.


Nick Green, 22, RH Starter
8-5 on a 77:21 K:BB in 112.1 IP over 17 GS
with 115 H, 23 HR, a .58 G-F, and a 4.41 ERA for AA Arkansas(TL).
5-3 on a 57:19 K:BB in 65 IP over 11 GS
with 77 H, 9 HR, a 1.08 G-F, and a 4.15 ERA for A+ Rancho Cucamonga(Cal).

One of the few Angels' pitchers to progress to Arkansas this summer without encountering massive difficulties, Green now ranks among the club's better pitching prospects despite lacking the upside of harder throwers. Excellent control similarly makes him a safer bet to reach the majors, but because he isn't likely to emerge as a significant role in the near future, don't draft Green in your spring drafts in 2007.


Marcus Gwyn, 29, RH Reliever
3-1 and 6 Saves on a 56:30 K:BB in 66.2 IP over 50 G
with 66 H, 6 H, a 2.00 G-F, and a 3.65 ERA for AAA Salt Lake(PCL).
0-0 and 1 Save on a 1:0 K:BB in 1 IP over 1 G
with 1 H, 0 HR, a 1.00 G-F, and a 0.00 ERA for AA Arkansas(TL).

Somehow Salt Lake proved the balm for Gwyn's past problems at AAA Sacramento. He still probably lacks the WHIP necessary to succeed in the majors, but he now at least merits an NRI and a long look during camp before a club dismisses him to the minors for the year.


Stephen Marek, 23, RH Starter
2-3 on a 33:13 K:BB in 32 IP over 6 GS
with 26 H, 4 HR, a 1.00 G-F, and a 3.94 ERA for A+ Rancho Cucamonga(Cal).
10-2 on a 100:24 K:BB in 119.1 IP over 19 GS
with 95 H, 8 HR, a 1.25 G-F, and a 1.96 ERA for A Cedar Rapids(Mid).

Another consistent season should push Marek to the brink of the majors by next fall. While I don't expect him to join the Angels as a starter, he appears on track to contribute in the near future, either out of the bullpen or as trade bait, especially if his outstanding Midwest League ERA catches the eye of another franchise.


Adam Pavkovich, 24, SS-R
78/317 for .246/.320/.413 with 11 HR, 46 RBI, 40 R, 7/13 SB%,
and a 35:66 BB:K for AAA Salt Lake(PCL).

Pavkovich looks like a capable AAAA middle infielder, fully capable of contributing as a club's seventh infielder but terribly unlikely to receive that opportunity on a club like the Angels. Don't expect to see him receive an extended look in the majors any time soon.


Aaron Peel, 23, OF-R
141/495 for .285/.344/.473 with 16 HR, 66 RBI, 67 R, 13/24 SB%,
and a 28:105 BB:K for AA Arkansas(TL).

With a career slugging percentage over .460, Peel still faces two significant obstacles in his path to the majors. He rarely walks and suffers from a significant reverse platoon split. While we could see him on a big league bench as a short-term injury replacement, don't expect him to hit positive fantasy value for a few more years.


Rafael Rodriguez, 22, RH Starter
5-10 on n 83:55 K:BB in 133 IP over 24 GS
with 175 H, 28 HR, a 1.33 G-F, and a 6.63 ERA for AA Arkansas(TL).
3-0 on a 20:2 K:BB in 17 IP over 3 GS
with 15 H, 0 HR, a .72 G-F, and a 0.53 ERA for A+ Rancho Cucamonga(Cal).

Clearly unprepared for Double-A after posting a 6.75 ERA over 14 stats in the California League last year, Rodriguez needs to follow his normal pattern of succeeding in his second season at his level if he wants to retain any semblance of his prospect status. Shunting the 22-year-old to the bullpen in the spring also isn't a bad idea, since despite his AA experience this summer, he appears a long way from reaching Los Angeles.


Matt Wilhite, 25, RH Reliever
7-2 and 1 Save on a 36:21 K:BB in 80 IP over 54 G
with 79 H, 7 HR, a .97 G-F, and a 3.49 ERA for AAA Salt Lake(PCL).

While Wilhite's weak strikeout rate severely limits his upside, his consistently effective work at every minor league level at least gives him a shot at big league success. Of course, wait until he starts experiencing said success before rostering him anywhere.


Today's Fantasy Rx: My predictions for today's games(all times CDT):

7:05: St. Louis@Detroit

Anything less than a split for the Tigers will qualify as an absolute shock, especially with Kenny Rogers taking the mound against a club surprisingly vulnerable to southpaws.


Team Overview and Organization Rankings

Few clubs graduated as much talent this summer as the Angels, who watched Jered Weaver, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Kendry Morales, Mike Napoli, and Joe Saunders all lose their respective rookie status. Fortunately the team created room for these prospects as necessary, and if Bill Stoneman doesn't break from his pattern of inaction to rush this club into contention, he possesses the pieces to contend for the next decade. The only obvious weaknesses look like a lack of left-handed pitching and gaping hole in center currently filled by Chone Figgins and Juan Rivera. Targeting someone like Alfonso Soriano could solve the latter problem without costing any depth and maintaining the Angels' offensive profile, though dealing Aybar for Coco Crisp, Morales or Casey Kotchman for Jeremy Reed, or even Nick Adenhart and Jeff Mathis for Lastings Milledge would improve the organization more organically. Another deal that absolutely intrigues me involves swapping Figgins, Aybar, and Mathis to the White Sox for Joe Crede and Neal Cotts, adding a competent southpaw reliever while leveraging marginally superfluous prospects into a still-developing borderline All-Star at third base. Regardless of what avenue Bill Stoneman takes in his pursuit of another Series title, expect the Angels to continue matriculating at least a couple of solid rookies every year. With guys like Wood, Mathis, Adenhart, Sean Rodriguez, and the newly-acquired Terry Evans heading the next wave of talent, even losing a quintet of top talent to the majors doesn't drop this system too precipitously.

Current ranking of potentially helpful fantasy depth for teams discussed thus far in 2006, based on both the quality and quantity of players ready to contribute in the majors, as well as consideration of the trade value of low-level minor leaguers from each system:

1. Kansas City Royals(A.Gordon, B.Butler, Ju.Huber, Lubanski)
2. Cleveland Indians(K.Kouzmanoff, T.Crowe, B.Barton)
3. Los Angeles Angels(Willits, B.Wood, J.Mathis)
4. Chicago White Sox(Fields, R.Sweeney, J.Owens)
5. Boston Red Sox(Pedroia, Ellsbury, Kottaras)
6. Detroit Tigers(Maybin, An.Miller)
7. Baltimore Orioles(Fiorentino)


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