Under the Dipoto regime, the Angels have gone from a team missing the “one big piece” to a team that simply has too many pieces, if there were such a thing. A team that was looking at playing second fiddle to the Rangers for the foreseeable future to a team that will play second fiddle to no one and is a legitimate World Series contender. Dipoto intends to take a franchise known for it’s free swinging, undisciplined ways and transform them into an organization capable of growing prospects/players that work the count and post a respectable OBP at any level. He wants to take pitchers with a great degree of upside that lack control and post higher fly-ball rates and change them out for pitchers that can throw more strikes and generate more ground balls.
It’s an idea that runs counterculture to the way Angels Baseball has been played for the past ten years. Though none would openly admit it, it’s clear that the Angels never placed a particular emphasis on getting on base. It is this philosophical shift that Dipoto and his staff are bringing to the Angels that suddenly make their most sacred source (prospects) a replaceable commodity. This isn’t to say Jerry Dipoto intends to do away with all Angels prospects and test his luck in free agency. It mostly means that heto take prospects that are incapable of fitting into this new system and exchange them for prospects that fit his (and his AGM, former Rangers minor league coordinator Scott Servais) scheme. 2012 should be a season where Dipoto and his staff familiarize themselves with prospects and gain an understanding for which ones can make the adjustment to their style of play, and those who can’t.
These are the prospects most likely to find themselves on the trade block.
10. RHP Ariel Pena
Pena’s ERA last season in the Cal League was at 4.45 but to his credit he posted an eye opening 10.7 K/9 as a starter. His home field in San Bernardino is perhaps the only neutral stadium in the extremely hitter friendly Cal League, and Pena carried a 3.93 ERA and more palatable 1.54 WHIP at home through 13 starts. It remains to be seen if Pena can develop the needed change up and control to stay in the rotation, but if he can’t, his 97 mph fastball and “plus-plus” slider could make him a lethal closer.
Expected Outcome: Though it wouldn’t surprise me if he were traded, I expect Pena to remain in the Angels system, make the transition to the bullpen within the next season or two and eventually turn into an elite setup man/closer.
9. C Hank Conger
Conger is no longer a prospect, but he remains a likely candidate to be traded. With the acquisition of Chris Iannetta, rumors swirling of a possible extension and Scioscia's displeasure with Hank's defensive play, Conger could find himself a hot trade commodity come deadline time in midseason. Conger is expected to report to AAA Salt Lake, where he hit .300 that past two consecutive seasons.
Expected Outcome: I just don’t think Scioscia will be able to stomach Conger’s defense. I believe the Angels intend to inflate Conger’s value by allowing him to crush AAA and use him as a depth piece in 2012 before being dealt in the offseason.
8. 2B/SS/LF/CF Alexi Amarista
Amarista, like Conger is no longer a prospect but should find himself headed for AAA. While Alexi can hit for average and play stellar defense, his plate discipline is lacking. This is disconcerting given that his small five and a half foot frame and lower batting stance could be used to his advantage were he capable of developing patience. With Kendrick already locked up long term and Scioscia’s love for plugging Maicer Izturis in the lineup, Amarista could find himself the odd man out. It’s a shame too, he could turn into a nice everyday addition somewhere.
Expected Outcome: I believe Amarista will stick around. The Angels seem to be the only system that likes using vertically challenged infielders for every spot on the team. Amarista plays too many positions to give up on and will eventually earn a spot as a super utility player.
7. LHP Trevor Reckling
Reckling is still looking to bounce back from his horrific 2010 campaign. In 2011 he was able to post solid numbers in AA, but an unfortunate elbow injury cut his season short. He’s back healthy to start 2012 and should be scheduled for another stint at AAA. He doesn’t generate as may ground balls or have the control that Dipoto prefers, but his deception and major league quality curveball and change up make him a dark horse future rotation candidate.
Expected Outcome: If only every prospect had half the heart and generosity Reckling has shown. Unfortunately, baseball is a business and if Reckling pitches well, other teams will come calling. I expect Reckling to pitch well and be packaged in a trade before 2013.
6. OF Randal Grichuk
Prospect publications have largely forgot about Grichuk, but smaller blogs still haven’t. Grichuk possesses significant power and has a beautiful, fluid swing. When he’s healthy, Grichuk has proven to be a force to be reckoned with in the low minors. Still, his approach is quite the opposite of what Dipoto and Servais want. Grichuk’s free swinging ways haven’t hurt his ability to make contact, but have caused him to generate a lower than normal OBP. Should no more freak injuries arise, Randal will head to Inland Empire for 2012.
Expected Outcome: It’s too early in Randal’s career for anyone to give up on him. He’s going to CRUSH the ball in the Cal League and will attract quite a few interested teams headed into 2013. However, the Angels system seems devoid of power hitting outfielders at the moment. I expect the Los Angeles to hold onto him for the foreseeable future.
5. OF Jeremy Moore
Moore has far too much talent to be a 4th outfielder, but his game is simply too unrefined and that forces him into such a role. Moore’s 5- tool talent will find him a spot on a major league team. But his inability to read pitches, lay off breaking balls or make contact often enough has relegated him to a super-athletic role player. If he somehow learns to manage the offensive side of the game the way Dipoto prefers, he’d be a force. As it stands, he’s a very good outfielder that will find himself in AAA again waiting for the outfield logjam in front of him to break up.
Expected Outcome: Teams aren’t interested in trading for a fourth outfielder, and the Angels really do have a good role waiting for him in 2013 as an outfielder and insurance option for Trout, Bourjos and Wells. He’s going to remain an Angel for quite a long time.
4. 2B Taylor Lindsey
If the Angels are looking for something big in return, dealing Lindsey may actually be the way to go. He absolutely murdered the Pioneer League in 2011, which was somewhat unexpected as he was playing with and against a lot of recently drafted and more refined college players. If the Angels were in dire need of a specific player you can bet other teams wouldn’t hesitate to ask for Lindsey specifically. Infielders that can hit for average and power aren’t common. However Lindsey doesn’t play the game the way Dipoto and crew prefer. When he sees a strike, he swings at it. But if you’re hitting close to .400 you don’t need to be worried about working counts, just see the ball and hit the ball and that’s what Lindsey does.
Expected Outcome: The Angels must be extremely impressed by what they see in Lindsey, as he got invited to big league camp as a non-roster invitee. High praise for a 19 year old. It’s possible that they could be showcasing him, but it seems unlikely since he still has more than likely three or more years worth of development before he’s major league ready. I think the Angels will hang onto him.
3. 3B Luis Jimenez
Luis (nicknamed “Lucho” by his teammates) qualifies as the “anti-moneyball” type of prospect. He wings at absolutely everything. Balls, strikes, curveballs, sliders, fastballs, change ups, he’s not picky. The interesting thing about Lucho is, he doesn’t miss that often and he’s strong enough to really do some damage when he makes contact. This makes him both a dangerous and risky prospect. Dangerous in that he could turn into an Adrian Beltre type of player very easily. Risky in that he wouldn’t be the first player of his type that major league pitchers dominated. The fact is you can’t walk off the island (Domincan Republic for those wondering), you have to swing your way off of it. Jimenez can do that and then some (.290 40 DB 18 HR in the biggest pitcher-friendly park in the pitcher- friendly Texas League).
Expected Outcome: Teams aren’t lining up around the corner for this guy because he’s going to be 24 in AAA (ancient in terms of prospects). He’s going to light the world on fire in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, but with Trumbo taking grounders at third and Callaspo and Maicer controlling the hot corner, Jimenez has some ground to make up if he hopes to be a big league third baseman for the Angels. The only way I see him staying is if Trumbo fails to adapt and Maicer Izturis isn’t resigned. The Angels will let him inflate his value with a good performance in AAA before dealing him either at the deadline or in the offseason. It’s a shame too, he’s one my favorites.
2. RHP John Hellweg
Hellweg profiles to be a major league pitcher. Whether or not he succeeds in the majors will ultimately depend on his ability to throw strikes. He was simply dominant when he transitioned to starter last season, and his high 90’s heater and sharp slider have some prospect enthusiasts dreaming of an ace when they see the 6’9 Hellweg. He’s started creeping up the prospect lists and should be able to net the Angels something useful in a trade were it to come to that.
Expected Outcome: I doubt Dipoto’s interested in trading Hellweg just after he got done placing him on the 40-man roster and inviting him to big league camp. The Angels want to see what they have here with Hellweg. You gotta figure his name would come up in trade talks though, especially if we’re talking about legit major league players the Angels might be chasing.
1. SS Jean Segura
He’s become a staple of Top 100 prospect lists and his transition to shortstop couldn’t have gone much better. He has the range and arm to play at the big league level, but lacks the offensive refinement the new Angels front office is looking for. He swings the bat a lot, too much even. If he can learn to control the count, he’ll have sealed his fate as an eventual major league star. But first, Segura simply needs to stay on the field. If he’s healthy, he can put up big offensive numbers and that should make fellow scouts and GM’s mouth’s water come hot stove season. Segura is slated for AA after lighting up the Arizona Fall League and could make an appearance with the Angels late in the season.
Expected Outcome: His future with the organization is ultimately tied to Erick Aybar’s decision to either stay with the Angels (they’ve been in extension talks) or explore free agency. Should Aybar remain an Angel long term, Segura will undoubtedly be traded and bring in quite a haul. However, should Aybar explore his options, then Segura could be an Angel for a long time. I expect Aybar will find his big payday elsewhere and the Angels will be forced to promote and start Segura at SS in 2013.