Tuesday, February 14, 2006

John Sickels has posted his Top 20 Prospects for the Angels. To wit:

1. Brandon Wood, SS, Grade A
2. Howie Kendrick, 2B, Grade A-
3. Kendry Morales, 1B, Grade B+
4. Jered Weaver, RHP, B+
5. Erick Aybar, SS, B+
6. Jeff Mathis, C, B
7. Thomas Mendoza, RHP, B
8. Steven Shell, RHP, B-
9. Nick Adenhart, RHP, B-
10. Alberto Callaspo, 2B, B-
11. Michael Collins, C, B-
12. Trevor Bell, RHP, B-
13. P.J. Phillips, SS, C+
14. Sean Rodriguez, SS, C+
15. Joe Saunders, LHP, C+
16. Hainley Statia, SS, C+
17. Mike Napoli, C, C+
18. Ryan Mount, SS, C+
19. Gustavo Espinosa, LHP, C+
20. Drew Toussaint, OF, C

Don't have much to argue about here. Maybe a few tweaks ...

... Baseball America had Tommy Mendoza tenth, but I'm still a bit surprised by his high ranking on this list. A converted catcher with electric stuff, Mendoza lit up the Arizona League last year with a dominant cup of coffee in the California League. But he's relatively new to pitching, and has only 62 professional innings under his belt.

Gustavo Espinoza, on the other hand, seems underrated by comparison. Check out their numbers in 2005, expressed as a percentage of batters faced:
Pitcher    K%    BB%    H%    HR%
Mendoza 29% 6% 20% 0%
Espinoza 35% 6% 34% 2%
Mendoza was better at preventing hits, but given that Gustavo was coming off a superb Dominican Summer League season, I don't know that one of them rates a B and the other a C+. And that's before considering that all but two of Espinoza's appearances came as a starter, but Mendoza started only five of his fifteen games (as you probably know, relievers have advantages over starters in racking up rate stats, as they get to go all out for short periods of time, while starters have to pace themselves over more innings).

For these same reasons, I'm surprised to see Mendoza outrank Steven Shell and Nick Adenhart.

I certainly don't want to give the impression that I'm down on Mendoza in any way -- his debut last season was tres impressive, and the Angels have had good results in converting backstops to moundsmen. And it's certainly a testament to his stuff that both BA and Sickels rank him so high despite his short track record. Both he and Espinoza (and Adenhart, too, for that matter) are still far away from the majors, so they have plenty of time to develop. Given the attrition rates for pitching prospects, we might be lucky if just one of these guys makes an impact at the major league level, but they're three highly intriguing pitchers that I any team would die to have.

Michael Collins outranking Mike Napoli is also a bit of a surprise, but Collins is three years younger, and Napoli's disastrous summer slump last year left him with a pretty unimpressive .237 average (though his power and walks were both prodigious). Collins also demonstrated solid bat control at Cedar Rapids last season (34 BB to 44 K in 363 AB), while Napoli has always struck out a ton.

Some of these guys seem to be ranked as much on their pre-draft reputations as their actual professional performance. Trevor Bell, P.J. Phillips, and Ryan Mount were all drafted in 2005; Bell has only eight professional innings, Phillips was unspectacular in the Arizona League (291/328/407, but with only nine walks against 53 strikeouts in only 182 AB), and Mount downright struggled on the same team (216/325/333 in 102 AB; a good number of walks [17] but also a lot of whiffs [31]). Ranking Phillips over Sean Rodriguez at this point is a matter of projection based on physical tools, but it's worth noting that S-Rod's performance in the Arizona League back in 2003 certainly didn't light the world on fire, either; with guys this far away from The Show, projection probably counts as much as their small-sample performances.

This list really demonstrates the depth of the Angel system. As I said, most any team would kill to have Gustavo Espinoza, and he ranks 19th here. Looking at some other lists at random, and keeping in mind that our bottom guy, Drew Toussaint, ranks a C ... in the Met system, for instance, a C grade might rank you in the top ten. The Halo farm is in great shape.

Yeah, but the Mets system is pretty abysmal. A fairer choice might be the improving Giants system, which is likely to be middle-of-the-pack, or the Cubs.
In fact, in Sickels' review of the Mets system, he flat-out says "Boy, what a depressing farm system, the guts ripped out by trades this winter." You're right, strictly speaking, that a Gustavo Espinoza would be a fine piece for the Mets, but once you get past Millege and Pelfrey, the cupboard's bare.
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