In absence of Andy Pages (we barely knew ya, Andy), there are still other green shoots to water and watch grow this season, and a few reliable prospect lists landed this week to measure the impact of the 4+ year farm-development project Billy Eppler began in 2016.
Fangraphs, Baseball America, and MiLB each have something to say about the Angels farm, and among them, the consensus is fairly clear. The Angels have a promising future outfield in three highly athletic prospects: Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, and Jordyn Adams. Beyond those three, there’s a significant gap, and then a rather speculative lot of young position players and mid-development arms that need another season of assessment before they are likely to land on top 100 lists.
Let’s devote a quick capsule to each media organization’s findings.
BA released its organizational rankings today, and finds the Los Angeles Angels system ranked at #16. This is a slight regression from their #12 ranking at the beginning of last season, but a slight improvement on their #18 grade last summer. This middling position is largely the result of having two players in the top 50 in Adell and Marsh:
2 Top 100 prospects: OF Jo Adell (2), OF Brandon Marsh (43)
Skinny: Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh are arguably the best pair of outfield prospects in any system. The system quickly drops off after that, but for an organization that has been making every move to try to not waste Mike Trout’s prime years, having Adell ready to contribute is a big asset.
Baseball America is not yet as bullish on Jordyn Adams as some other evaluator teams, but he did receive some consideration for BA’s Top 150 list, so he’s definitely on the radar, and could advance quickly if he has a quick start in 2020 at (most likely) high-A Inland Empire.
Eric Longenhagen – now painfully alone as his wingman Kiley McDaniel has fled to ESPN to take over prospect-peeping duties from Keith Law, who recently joined The Athletic – released his Top 100 list this morning. It’s actually a Top 120 list, but we’ll give him some margin for erring here. It actually appears to be a list of most or all of those prospects who have earned a FV (Future Value) grade of 50 or better at this juncture.
Longenhagen is arguably the most bullish on the Angels system to date, placing a full three prospects within his top 100, and giving them comparatively high rankings. The Angels system itself earned a #18 grade last fall, but there have been subtractions via trade and promotion since that time, as well as FV grade adjustments. I suspect the farm is still in the #16-20 range, but we’ll know soon enough. Here are the individual rankings Longenhagen gives to the favored trio:
- #4. Jo Adell, FV:65, ETA: 2021
- #36. Brandon Marsh, FV:55, ETA: 2020
- #79. Jordyn Adams, FV:50, ETA: 2023
One of the most interesting observations Longenhagen makes is on the limitations of Adell’s arm strength:
“I’ve settled on projecting Adell in left field. The arm strength he showed as an amateur, when he was into the mid-90s as a pitcher, never totally returned after it mysteriously evaporated during his senior year of high school. He has a 40 arm and is such a hulking dude that he’s just going to be a corner defender at maturity. Strikeouts may limit Adell’s productivity when he’s initially brought up, but I think eventually he’ll be a middle-of-the-order force who hits 35-plus homers.”
He also has some color on Jo’s stance, load and kick:
“Adell struck out a lot when he was challenged, and there are people in baseball who worry about how often he K’s, but he was just 20 years old and has had success amid many swing changes since he signed, a common theme among Angels prospects. Adell’s leg kick has been altered and he now raises it even with his waist at apex, and the height at which his hands load (as well as the angle of his bat when they do) was quite nomadic throughout last year. By the time Adell was done with Fall League and had joined Team USA’s Premier12 Olympic qualifying efforts, he had a Gary Sheffield-style bat wrap.”
Also interesting, Longenhagen joins me in believing that Brandon Marsh’s route to the MLB might be more direct than Adell’s, given his defensive profile, and he places a 2020 ETA on him:
Marsh is a better outfield defender that Adell and projects as a clean fit in center field, which, so long as this development holds, should enable him to be an above-average everyday player.
Lastly, it’s clear that FG values Jordyn Adams more than some other outlets, largely based on athleticism, projection and the fact that, as a very raw and inexperienced player, he held his own in a tough league last year:
Scouts were hesitant at first, worried they might be overreacting, but eventually they came to think that Adams’ only athletic peer in recent draft history was Byron Buxton. Teams assessed his signability and the Angels were comfortable using their first rounder on him. He didn’t play much during that first pro summer, but the Angels surprisingly skipped him over the Pioneer League and sent him right to full-season ball, even though he’d only been solely focused on baseball for a year. Adams had a slighty above-average statline there, which is incredible for someone who only just picked up a bat... Adams’ rare physical gifts make him a potential star, though Hi-A pitching will probably be a real challenge for him this year.
Jordyn will be one of two reasons to watch the Inland Empire 66ers this coming year. The offense is likely to be otherwise fairly underwhelming across the board, but the rotation will be stocked with young, mid-development pitchers who made the Midwest League franchise pretty exciting last year. These include Jose Soriano, Hector Yan, Cristopher Molina, Robinson Pina, and the high-octane (and hopefully healthy) Chris Rodriguez. I’ll write about this crew more as the MiLB season approaches.
And speaking of MiLB, their website is taking a novel approach to organizational farm evaluation and assessing by component. Their position player rankings are out, and the Angels’ system is ranked at #9 in positional talent, again chiefly on the strength of their outfielders. In addition to Adell, Marsh and Adams, they mention D’Shawn Knowles (one rumored prospect in the bungled Pederson trade) and Jeremiah Jackson, the Pioneer League leader in HRs in 2019, a likely 2b or 3b at higher levels.
MiLB shares MLB Pipeline’s prospect rankings, and MLB assessed Adell and Marsh at #6 and #79 respectively. MLB released its rankings in late January, and the Angels system was one of nine that had two or fewer prospects in the Top 100, though MLB notes that development among some of its younger players might vault it into positive territory in the coming year:
There’s a ton of upside in this system, and while that comes with some risk, even some moderate steps forward, particularly from the toolsy position players, would vault Los Angeles into the top half of farm systems in baseball.
We can hope. Let’s watch and see. More to come soon.