Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.
The Los Angeles Angels
First Taste of The Show: Jaime Barria, RHP: Barria was a godsend for the Angels’ rotation in 2018. He provided them with almost 130 innings of solid performance — owed almost exclusively to his slider… and a little luck. While he struggled with fastball command at times, Barria flashed above-average control at times, poise and that dangerous breaking ball. Going forward into 2019, he’ll want to try and keep more balls on the ground while spotting his fastball better and continuing to polish his changeup. He’s probably a stretch at anything more than a No. 4 starter but it’s possible he could settle into a mid-rotation innings-eater if he can make good on the above items.
The Draft Pick: Jordyn Adams, OF: With three of their Top 5 prospects already outfielders in Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh and Jahmai Jones you might think the Angels would shy away from targeting an outfielder at the top of their draft… but no. The club has even experimented with moving Jones to second base to help lessen the load, but they continued to focus on best player regardless of position in the draft and landed Adams, who had an encouraging debut. A former two-sport star, Adams is still raw when it comes to baseball but he possesses the athleticism that the Angels’ scouts crave, game-changing, plus-plus speed and a ton of time to development thanks to the players ahead of him.
The Riser: Jo Adell, OF: There were questions over Adell’s ability to make consistent contact when the 2017 first-rounder turned pro. However, while he still has swing-and-miss to his game, the athletic outfielder reached double-A in his first full season at the age of 19. Incredibly gifted and with more amateur focus on the baseball field than some of the Angels other recent high draft picks, Adell leveraged that experience and skill — coupled with outstanding make-up — to turn himself into one of the best outfield prospects in the game as a 20-20 (HR-SB) threat.
The Fallen: Kevin Maitan, SS: The top targeted in the 2016 international free agent pool, Maitan has enjoyed a steady decline since then. Perhaps letting the $4 mill go to his head, the 18-year-old has fallen out of shape and looked unfocused on the baseball diamond. The drama around the Braves didn’t help, which allowed him to become a free agent and earn another $2.2 million from the Angels. With that said, the raw power and strong arm are both still there. He’ll still be a teenager in 2019 but it will be a big year for him to prove that he still has the potential to develop into an above-average contributor in The Show.
The 2019 Contributor: Luis Rengifo, SS: Rengifo has quietly made himself into an interesting prospect and he could be ready to contribute to the Angels in 2019. He played at three levels in 2018 and had strong showings in both double-A and triple-A. In total, he showed a great eye at the plate with a BB-K of 75-75, which helped him spend enough time on base to nab 41 bases with his above-average speed. He’s improved to the point where he should be at least an average big league hitter. His versatility makes him even more valuable. Rengifo, 21, could fill in at second base or an injury hole elsewhere, or act as a super-utility guy.
The 2019 Sleeper: Jeremiah Jackson, SS: Jackson was one of my favorite picks of the 2018 draft and getting him 57th overall was a steal. He has good athleticism, surprising pop and a promising bat. He showed that promise early in his pro debut but struggled to make contact (K rate of more than 33%) when he was moved up to a more advanced league. Still just 18,Jackson might need to open 2019 in extended spring training to work on polishing the contact skills but once he gets going, he could be a relatively fast mover.
The 2019 Lottery Ticket: D’Shawn Knowles, OF: The Angels mind the small islands of the Bahamas to find a couple of tools prospects in Trent Deveaux and Knowles. I’ll take the latter player, if given the choice. The former, Deveaux, has more power potential but is also an extreme boom or bust player… with a ton of noise in his set-up and a swing that can get very long and uncontrolled. Also, he put on weight as the 2018 season went on and it wasn’t all good weight. Knowles won’t hit for as much power but he’s more likely to hold on to his athleticism and I love his short, compact swing that is geared for contact and has some line-drive pop to it. He’s also younger than Deveaux, playing all year at 17, and is a switch-hitter. With experience, Knowles could also be a threat on the base paths.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.