After an incredibly slow start, the Angels are now in the driver’s seat for an AL wild card seat and still easily within striking distance of Texas. Not surprisingly, Anaheim’s turnaround coincides with the promotion of Mike Trout to the majors. The New Jersey native not only looks like the AL’s Rookie of the Year, but he could win MVP. They’re now top five in the AL in runs after spending a month hitting so poorly they might not have been able to hit Chad Qualls.
Surprisingly, they seem to be in the market for starting pitching, and that includes Cole Hamels. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson have lived up to the billing, but Ervin Santana has stunk, and Dan Haren has struggled and is now on the DL. With all that money invested in the rotation, the Angels still have to be worried about slowing down some of the offenses they’ll have to compete with, especially Texas and New York.
They have plenty of holes in their own lineup, but it seems hard to find where they’re going to upgrade. They could use an outfielder, but they have so much money tied up in Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter, and they’re actually looking into trading an outfielder, Peter Bourjos. Their infield isn’t hitting, but again it seems unlikely that they’d replace Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar.
The ages for these players are what they’ll be next season.
Very Good Tier
SS Jean Segura, 23: Two years ago, Segura looked like he was on his way to the elite tier, but injuries and diminished performance have plagued him the last two years. He’s still a really good all-around talent though, and he would probably be a great fit in a #2 hole. He’s fast and makes nice contact, but he may not have the approach for an ideal leadoff hitter. He’s previously showed impressive power for a middle infielder, but that hasn’t been in play as of late. He’s an adequate or better defender at shortstop, but he would probably be a Gold Glove contender at second base.
3B Kaleb Cowart, 21: Cowart could probably fit in the very good or lottery ticket tier, but this splits the difference. He came into the season as a very raw player, but his performance has him rising up prospect lists. His plate approach has been much improved, and his power has improved as a result. He’s also improved as a left handed hitter, and it now appears that he can be a threat from both sides of the plate. His defense has tightened up at the hot corner with one of the best arms in the minors.
CF Travis Witherspoon, 24: Toolsy players often times never click, but if 2012 is any indication, the light has gone on for Witherspoon. He’s a great athlete and smart baserunner, and his defense in center field is tough to beat even though his arm is nothing special. He’s swinging for much better contact now, now batting .312 in 2012 after only hitting .250 in low-A in 2011. His plate approach is decent, and he could fit at the top of the lineup.
Lottery Ticket Tier
RF Randal Grichuk, 21: Anaheim had picks #24 and 25 in the 2009 draft. With the 24th pick, they took Grichuk. With the next pick, they took Mike Trout. Injuries have completely derailed Grichuk’s career. He only has 262 career games since 2009, a total he should have been able to eclipse in two seasons, not three and a half. He has pretty big power potential and enough secondary skills to be adequate in right field, but his approach needs to improve a lot.
RHP Johnny Hellweg, 24: Hellweg is one of the biggest pitchers in the minors, and until the second half of last year when he was moved into the rotation, had one of the biggest walk rates. As a reliever, he could touch triple digits with a wipeout breaking ball, but now that he’s in the rotation, he dials the fastball back a bit and shows better command. His changeup needs to improve if he’s going to remain in the rotation.
RHP Austin Wood, 22: Wood’s 2012 season has been nothing short of baffling. He’s had a lot of great moments but even more bad ones, and it seems like he’s been unable to ever harness his stuff consistently. He has the body and mid 90’s fastball of a top pitcher, but his secondary stuff lags behind. It’s certainly possible that he’s a reliever in the end if his changeup doesn’t return to the level it was at in the past.
OF Kole Calhoun, 25: He’s more of a 4th outfielder type, but he could be a really nice player off the bench. He has a good feel for contact with a solid plate approach, and his power has been better than expected. Calhoun is a better fit for a corner outfield spot, but he could probably play center in a pinch.
2B Taylor Lindsey, 21: This year has been a disappointment for Lindsey as the Angels jumped him from a rookie league to high-A, but some of the skills are still there. He has a good feel for contact, but he’s not particularly patient and might not gain much power.
LHP Nick Maronde, 23: Maronde has been outstanding in his brief pro career, but he’s probably not a starter long term. His fastball and slider are a nice combo that have improved since his college days. His changeup is a below average offering, and if it doesn’t improve, he’ll be ticketed for the bullpen.
RHP Ariel Pena, 24: He’ll be best remembered for his awful Futures Game performance at the moment, but he’s still a prospect having a solid year. His fastball and slider are both plus pitches with impressive velocity, but his changeup lags way behind. He may be a reliever in the end, and his stuff may play up even more in that role.
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