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'Angels Way' being established across levels

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

ANAHEIM -- General manager Billy Eppler didn't use the exact term, but it's clear he's trying to create a blueprint for the "Angels Way" throughout the organization, as even the club's new Major League coaches will have input on the club's Minor League philosophy and players.

Pitching coach Doug White and hitting coach Jeremy Reed will be tasked with not only helping implement their philosophies at the Major League level but also all the way down to the bottom rung of the Minors, as Eppler wants organizational continuity from the top down.

ANAHEIM -- General manager Billy Eppler didn't use the exact term, but it's clear he's trying to create a blueprint for the "Angels Way" throughout the organization, as even the club's new Major League coaches will have input on the club's Minor League philosophy and players.

Pitching coach Doug White and hitting coach Jeremy Reed will be tasked with not only helping implement their philosophies at the Major League level but also all the way down to the bottom rung of the Minors, as Eppler wants organizational continuity from the top down.

"Oftentimes you have the Major League team, then you have this kind of moat that gets built around them as they travel around, then you have all your affiliates around that," Eppler said. "What we're trying to do is dry that moat up. We don't want that to exist. Doug is handling our pitching from all the way to the Dominican. Jeremy Reed, who now has evolved to our hitting coach and came through our system, his system is already in place."

So in that sense, Eppler sees his Major League coaches as directors of their department, and they'll have regular conversations with the club's Minor League developmental staff. It also helps that several of the coaches come from a developmental background in the Minors, including assistant hitting coach Shawn Wooten, infield coach Mike Gallego, catching coach Jose Molina and Reed.

White and Reed have already had several meetings with the club's Minor League coaches and instructors about the upcoming season, and they will remain in close contact throughout the year.

"Anything that happens with our players in the Minor Leagues, we'll run it through a particular protocol before that change is allowed to be made," Eppler said. "If you bought a Ferrari and somebody switched the parts on the Ferrari before you drove it, you'd be a little upset, wouldn't you? You want to make sure it went through your best mechanics before they did it. Same philosophy, same mindset."

Eppler also hasn't been afraid to make non-traditional hires, and he values new technology to help both hitters and pitchers in their developmental process. White has a strong background in biomechanics, while the club has hired noted private hitting coaches to their developmental staff such as Ryan Parker, Tyler Jeske and Derek Florko this offseason. The club also employs Ryan Crotin as the director of performance integration, and he has a doctorate in biomechanics as well as a background as a strength coach.

"Understanding how the body moves through time and space and how the kinetic chain works is very important to us," Eppler said. "It's something that we have started from when we got over here. We take how the body moves and behaves and reacts, and the forces applied to the body as it makes different movements, those things are important to us. I think that will allow us to be more proficient in our acquisition and development of our players."

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels

Angels, slugger Bour agree to 1-year deal

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

The Angels officially announced the signing of Justin Bour to a one-year deal on Saturday. The contract is for $2.5 million, according to a Major League source. 

Bour, 30, brings left-handed power and he can be used as a platoon partner at first base with Albert Pujols. Pujols can also serve as a designated hitter with Bour at first base early in the season until Shohei Ohtani is ready to return from Tommy John surgery.

The Angels officially announced the signing of Justin Bour to a one-year deal on Saturday. The contract is for $2.5 million, according to a Major League source. 

Bour, 30, brings left-handed power and he can be used as a platoon partner at first base with Albert Pujols. Pujols can also serve as a designated hitter with Bour at first base early in the season until Shohei Ohtani is ready to return from Tommy John surgery.

But it doesn't give the Angels much flexibility, as Ohtani is limited to serving as the DH in 2019, while Bour and Pujols are both first basemen.

"It puts pressure on the other bench players to make sure they can really cover multiple spots," general manager Billy Eppler said.

Video: MIA@PHI: Bour drives in a pair of runs with a single

Bour hit a combined .227/.341/.404 with 20 homers, 13 doubles and 59 RBIs in 141 games with the Marlins and Phillies in 2018. He was non-tendered by Philadelphia on Nov. 30, which made him a free agent.

Bour's best season came in 2017, when he hit .289/.366/.536 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs in 108 games with Miami. He's a career .260/.344/.466 hitter with 84 homers and 277 RBIs in 507 games over five seasons. He's fared even better against right-handers, batting .269/.354/.499 in 1,415 plate appearances.

It was the only notable move by the Angels at the Winter Meetings, and Eppler said it's not due to a lack of trying, as they've been aggressive so far without much action.

"We've put a number of offers out on things," Eppler said. "We're ready to go. It's just if those points intersect and how we value it and how they see it from other side. But if we could fill out our entire roster tonight, I'd be all for it."

Eppler, though, said he's not frustrated with the lack of action, and said it's helped lay the groundwork for future moves.

"They have allowed us to further identify what we can do and what we can't do," Eppler said. "There are a lot of players in free agency and then you add in non-tenders and trade candidates, there are 30-40 more names to sift through. It takes time. You go through to see if it fits or not, and if it does fit, at what price point? It might not yield action, which a lot of people want to see, but it's productive from our standpoint to know what is reality."

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Justin Bour

Angels add depth, eye deals at Winter Meetings

GM Eppler sees potential for activity in free-agent market in coming months
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

LAS VEGAS -- It wasn't a flashy Winter Meetings for the Angels despite being on the Las Vegas Strip, but they did add depth, agreeing to terms with first baseman Justin Bour on a one-year, $2.5 million deal and signing seven players to Minor League contracts.

Bour figures to split time at first base with Albert Pujols and gives the Angels some much-needed power from the left side. But he fills just one of several needs for the Angels, as general manager Billy Eppler remains on the lookout for pitching help and a catcher.

LAS VEGAS -- It wasn't a flashy Winter Meetings for the Angels despite being on the Las Vegas Strip, but they did add depth, agreeing to terms with first baseman Justin Bour on a one-year, $2.5 million deal and signing seven players to Minor League contracts.

Bour figures to split time at first base with Albert Pujols and gives the Angels some much-needed power from the left side. But he fills just one of several needs for the Angels, as general manager Billy Eppler remains on the lookout for pitching help and a catcher.

Eppler explored trade opportunities early in the week, but comes away from the Winter Meetings believing he'll be more active in the free-agent market going forward.

"We're trying to make progress on what can and can't be a reality," Eppler said. "There were some conversations that turned out not to be realistic at this time. It's kind of changed us back to free agency, but there still has been some trade talk. We'll see."

Video: Justin Bour reportedly signs with Angels

Biggest remaining needs

1. Starting pitching: The Angels would like to add at least one starting pitcher, especially a durable one after injuries to the rotation derailed the 2018 season. Eppler said he leans toward pitchers with high strikeout and high groundball rates.

2. Relief pitching: Adding to the bullpen is a priority for Eppler, although he believes the club already has at least four in-house relievers who could serve as closer in 2019. Acquiring a left-handed reliever would make sense after trading away left-hander Jose Alvarez to the Phillies.

3. Catching: The Angels don't have much catching depth, and manager Brad Ausmus said he'd like to have a veteran backstop to help handle the pitching staff. Eppler said they're looking for a more defensively sound catcher to join Jose Briceno and Kevan Smith on the roster.

Video: Ausmus on expectations for 2019 season with Angels

Rule 5 Draft

The Angels didn't make a selection in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft and didn't lose any players either. Eppler said the Angels valued the roster spot too much to make a selection. But they did select right-hander Matt Esparza in the Minor League portion, while losing Mitch Ghelfi, Riley Unroe, Julio Garcia and Alberto Triunfel.

GM's bottom line

"We're clearly trying to build organically. I think anybody can figure that out now. We haven't traded many players in our Minor League system. Nobody impactful in terms of the top tier of our prospect tree has been traded. We know sustainable health is going to be achieved through our farm system, and then we do have the financial muscle to go outside at the right time and achieve those things as well. That's basically going to be our cookbook." -- Eppler

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels

Ausmus balancing Ohtani, Pujols playing time

Bour expected to join mix at first-base position for Angels
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

LAS VEGAS -- In his first year as Angels manager, Brad Ausmus knows how important it will be to find the right balance of playing time for both Shohei Ohtani and Albert Pujols.

Ohtani is coming off Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Oct. 1, while Pujols underwent surgery on his left knee on Aug. 9. Ausmus confirmed he doesn't believe Ohtani will be ready to play by Opening Day on March 28, but Pujols should be ready for the start of the season. Ohtani will be limited to serving as designated hitter in 2019, which means Pujols will have to play first base on days when Ohtani is in the lineup.

LAS VEGAS -- In his first year as Angels manager, Brad Ausmus knows how important it will be to find the right balance of playing time for both Shohei Ohtani and Albert Pujols.

Ohtani is coming off Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Oct. 1, while Pujols underwent surgery on his left knee on Aug. 9. Ausmus confirmed he doesn't believe Ohtani will be ready to play by Opening Day on March 28, but Pujols should be ready for the start of the season. Ohtani will be limited to serving as designated hitter in 2019, which means Pujols will have to play first base on days when Ohtani is in the lineup.

The Angels are also set to add left-handed-hitting Justin Bour to the mix, as he agreed to terms on a one-year deal on Wednesday, according to a Major League source. But the move happened after Ausmus met with the media at the Winter Meetings, and Bour is expected to split time at first base with Pujols, serving as a lefty platoon partner.

"There's going to be a balance," Ausmus said. "There will be DH at-bats earlier in the season more available to [Pujols], and hopefully he gets off to a hot start. But for me, the bigger and the more delicate balance is, how often can he go to first? That's really the most important thing, based on the health of his knees."

Pujols, 38, has yet to be cleared to swing a bat after surgery, but he has been able to do some low-impact work on his lower body, general manager Billy Eppler said on Tuesday. Pujols hit .245/.289/.411 with 19 homers, 20 doubles and 64 RBIs in 117 games last season. He made 70 starts at first base after making six in 2017 and 28 in '16.

Video: Ausmus discusses Pujols' recovery from knee surgery

"My first hope is that Albert is OK," Ausmus said. "He's had the knee surgery, and I've spoken to him a couple times. He says he feels great. But we're still going to have to take it slowly in Spring Training. And then it's just going to be a matter of how he feels and how he's performing."

Ausmus is familiar with both players, as he faced Pujols during his playing career and Ausmus also spent this past season as a special assistant with the Angels, watching Ohtani and Pujols play throughout the year.

Video: Ausmus on expectations for 2019 season with Angels

"In my mind, [Pujols] is one of the top five best hitters ever in the game of baseball," Ausmus said. "I saw him up close and personal when I was in Houston and they were in the National [League] and Central [Division], and the Cardinals as well. This guy is a phenomenal talent. But going forward, it's just going to be his health and performance. It's a performance-based game."

As for Ohtani, Ausmus compared his hitting ability to Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, who Ausmus managed from 2014-17 with Detroit. He said they both have rare power to all fields and that Ohtani has the ability to get better with his contact rates.

Video: Ohtani wins the AL Rookie of the Year Award

"I remember watching him take batting practice the first day in Tempe when I was there, and the one thing that stood out is how the ball came off his bat," Ausmus said. "The only way I can describe it is it's very similar to Miguel Cabrera. And these guys have tremendous power. And even more notable, they have tremendous power to the opposite field. And you just don't see guys like that. The other thing that was really impressive was his speed."

Ausmus said he's excited to be able to have Ohtani's bat in the lineup, but it's still too early to know how much he'll be able to play. But Ausmus believes Ohtani improved enough against left-handed pitching that he won't be a platoon player at DH.

"It's kind of unchartered territory in the sense he's coming back from Tommy John, and we really want to protect that elbow so he can pitch in 2020 and beyond," Ausmus said. "He's such a dominant pitcher, you want to make sure you preserve that. So we're going to probably rely on the medical team a little more and be a little bit more cautious. Obviously, we want him back because we want his bat in the lineup. But the priority is to make sure when he's back we're not risking him as a pitcher."

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani, Albert Pujols

Bourjos among 7 signed to Minors contracts

Veteran outfielder expected to compete for role at Angels camp
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

LAS VEGAS -- The Angels didn't make any significant moves on the second day of the Winter Meetings on Tuesday, but they did announce the signing of seven players to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.

The Angels inked right-handers Forrest Snow and Matt Ramsey, catcher Dustin Garneau, infielder Wilfredo Tovar and outfielders Peter Bourjos, Jarrett Parker and Cesar Puello to add to their depth.

LAS VEGAS -- The Angels didn't make any significant moves on the second day of the Winter Meetings on Tuesday, but they did announce the signing of seven players to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.

The Angels inked right-handers Forrest Snow and Matt Ramsey, catcher Dustin Garneau, infielder Wilfredo Tovar and outfielders Peter Bourjos, Jarrett Parker and Cesar Puello to add to their depth.

"Our history's been to use a lot of players," Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. "We're not trying to set records or anything. Odds are you'll see some of those guys at some point or even out of spring."

It marks a return to the organization for Bourjos, who played with the Angels from 2010-13 and appeared in 36 games with the Braves last season, hitting .205/.239/.364. He'll compete for a job as an extra outfielder.

Snow, who turns 30 this month, has been used as a starting pitcher in recent seasons in the Minors, posting a 4.82 ERA at Triple-A Durham (Rays) in 2018. Eppler said they liked Snow's off-speed as he struck out 119 in 126 2/3 innings.

"Some of his secondary stuff, we gravitated to," Eppler said. "Positive scouting reports. Our scouting reports and our analytics group kind of converged on that recommendation, so we went with it."

Ramsey, 29, is a reliever who struck out 63 batters in 53 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this year while in Houston's organization.

Garneau, a Cal State Fullerton product, has appeared in four Major League seasons, hitting .194/.269/.321 in 88 games. He gives the Angels some catching depth.

Video: CWS@TB: Garneau plates Anderson with an RBI single

Tovar, 27, also has some Major League experience, playing in nine games with the Mets from 2013-14.

Puello, 27, is a former top prospect who played in the Angels' system in 2017 and hit .317/.426/.454 in 73 games last season with the D-backs' Triple-A affiliate.

Parker is a .257/.335/.456 hitter in 135 games with Giants from 2015-17, but he didn't play last season after being released by San Francisco. He's healthy after breaking his clavicle in '17 and could be an option for the Angels as a lefty bat with power off the bench.

"He's good," Eppler said of Parker's injury situation. "I feel comfortable with it."

Video: LAD@SF: Parker bounces homer off the top of the wall

As for additions to the Major League roster, Eppler said Tuesday was about 50/50 in terms of meeting with agents and talking with other clubs about potential trades. He also clarified his football analogy from Monday, when he said they could go for a field goal but wanted to score a touchdown.

"There are some small things we could do right now, but we're not sure we want to do those quite yet in hopes we can do things that are above smaller," Eppler said.

He also said if all things were equal, he'd lean toward adding a defensive-minded catcher over one who is more offense-orientated. But adding pitching remains the top priority, and Eppler is not focusing more on starters or relief at this point.

"I'll take either," Eppler said. "Whatever one where the acquisition price or trade meets the value to the club. If it's a reliever, great, if it's a starter, great. If we get one, we'll probably continue to look for another and stay engaged in that marketplace on the mound."

Video: Rosenthal on Angels trying to add starting pitchers

Worth noting
Albert Pujols continues to make progress after undergoing left knee surgery in late August, but he has yet to start swinging a bat.

"He's doing all upper body stuff and he's doing light impact lower body stuff right now," Eppler said. "He's working with a strength coach. It's the same strength coach that he worked with last year."

• The Angels haven't decided whether right-hander JC Ramirez will serve as a starter or reliever when he returns from Tommy John surgery in June. Eppler said they don't have to make that decision until May, and much of it will be determined by the club's needs. Ramirez, 30, made just two starts with the Angels in 2018, but posted a 4.15 ERA with 105 strikeouts in 147 1/3 innings in '17, when he made 24 starts and three relief appearances.

• The Angels also haven't determined whether top prospects Jo Adell or Griffin Canning will be in Major League camp, but lefty Jose Suarez will be, as he's on the 40-man roster. Adell is the club's No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, while Canning is No. 2 and Suarez is ranked No. 8.

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Peter Bourjos, Dustin Garneau, Jarrett Parker, Cesar Puello, Matt Ramsey, Wilfredo Tovar

Ohtani progressing well from TJ surgery

Angels not ready to lay out two-way star's hitting plan for '19
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

LAS VEGAS -- Shohei Ohtani is making good progress with his rehab from Tommy John surgery, but it's too early to come up with a hitting plan for his 2019 season, Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Monday at the Winter Meetings.

Ohtani, who underwent the operation on his right elbow on Oct. 1, has been rehabbing in Japan without any issues and will have checkups over the next two months to further gauge his progress. He won't pitch in 2019 but will be able to serve as designated hitter.

LAS VEGAS -- Shohei Ohtani is making good progress with his rehab from Tommy John surgery, but it's too early to come up with a hitting plan for his 2019 season, Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Monday at the Winter Meetings.

Ohtani, who underwent the operation on his right elbow on Oct. 1, has been rehabbing in Japan without any issues and will have checkups over the next two months to further gauge his progress. He won't pitch in 2019 but will be able to serve as designated hitter.

"He's doing well," Eppler said. "Great range of motion. Full extension. Full flexion. We're sending some staff over there right now to see him and get another assessment. He'll have his next appointment with a doctor in Los Angeles in January. We're very happy with the way he's coming along. Not surprised."

The Angels aren't sure exactly when Ohtani will be ready to return and how many plate appearances he'll be able to make next season. 

"It's too early to tell right now," Eppler said. "We don't even have a hitting progression today. We won't be able to put that together until his late-January assessment. And then we can start putting some pen to paper and write out a first marker."

Ohtani, 24, won the American League Rookie of the Year Award after starring as a two-way player for the Angels. He hit .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers, 21 doubles and 61 RBIs in 104 games as a position player and posted a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 22 walks allowed in 51 2/3 innings as a starting pitcher.

Video: Ohtani wins the AL Rookie of the Year Award

Other injury updates
• Infielder Zack Cozart, who underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in June, has been hitting off a tee. Eppler said it's likely Cozart won't see live pitching until at least January as he continues to get ready for Spring Training.

"He's cleared to swing," Eppler said. "Anxious. He wants to get some at-bats. I said I can't get you at-bats in November or December."

• Outfielder Michael Hermosillo, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the club's No. 11 prospect, aggravated an injury to his core while playing in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, but he's expected to report to Spring Training without any issues.

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani

Angels focused on trades more than free agents

GM Eppler progressing on a few potential deals at Meetings
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

LAS VEGAS -- The first day of the Winter Meetings saw the Angels lose former first-round pick Kaleb Cowart to the Mariners via waivers, but general manager Billy Eppler said he's been making progress talking with other clubs about potential trades.

The Angels had previously discussed the possibility of Cowart becoming a two-way player like Shohei Ohtani, but tried to get him through waivers because he's out of Minor League options and couldn't be sent to the Minors to work on his pitching. Seattle opted to claim him and try him as a two-way player, leaving the Angels with 37 players on their 40-man roster.

LAS VEGAS -- The first day of the Winter Meetings saw the Angels lose former first-round pick Kaleb Cowart to the Mariners via waivers, but general manager Billy Eppler said he's been making progress talking with other clubs about potential trades.

The Angels had previously discussed the possibility of Cowart becoming a two-way player like Shohei Ohtani, but tried to get him through waivers because he's out of Minor League options and couldn't be sent to the Minors to work on his pitching. Seattle opted to claim him and try him as a two-way player, leaving the Angels with 37 players on their 40-man roster.

Latest Hot Stove rumors

Eppler said it was a productive first day despite not making any roster additions, noting that the Angels are close on a few possible trades, using a football analogy to make his point.

"I think there are some things we could do if we wanted to but maybe we should play time of possession for a little bit," Eppler said. "Keeping running the ball a little bit and march down. We could kick a field goal right now if we wanted to, but let's go for a touchdown."

Video: Rosenthal on Angels trying to add starting pitchers

The Angels remain active in free agency, and were interested in both left-hander Patrick Corbin, who signed a six-year, $140 million deal with the Nationals, and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who inked a four-year, $67.5 million deal to remain with the Red Sox. Eppler wouldn't comment on either player and he hasn't been frustrated with the free-agent market, but it's clear the Angels are still looking for a way to improve their rotation.

But that pitching help could come via trade instead of free agency, as Eppler is keeping his options open.

"I feel like I've been a little more engaged in the trade market recently than the free-agent market," Eppler said. "It's how I feel. I'm in both. My phone-call log today has plenty of sports agents on it, but it also has plenty of teams."

As for other areas to improve the roster, Eppler said he's comfortable with his current group of position players outside of catcher. Eppler added the farm system has improved to the point where many consider it among the top 10 in baseball after being ranked as the worst just a few years ago. He believes it can help the Angels become consistent contenders going forward, but they could also use prospects as trade chips.

Top 30 Angels prospects

Video: ETAs of Bucs' prospect Tucker, Halos' prospect Adell

Eppler said no prospect in the organization is technically untouchable, although there are a few who are highly unlikely to be traded. Outfielder Jo Adell, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 15 overall prospect, is among those not expected to be moved.

"I wouldn't make anybody off limits if something is going to improve the health of our organization," Eppler said. "I think it wouldn't be right for us as a baseball operation to not at least listen. But if you're going to go to Las Vegas and play the odds on some of those particular individuals being traded, I wouldn't put much money on it."

One player who could be traded is outfielder Kole Calhoun, as Addell is getting close to the Majors and Calhoun will make $10.5 million in 2019 after signing a three-year, $26 million deal in 2017. Clearing his salary would allow the Angels to be more aggressive in free agency.

"With what we've tried to do here, it's shorter-term decision-making on free agency and things like that," Eppler said. "Trades we've done have typically been on players of which we did not have control after that year, absent of like Jett Bandy. Most of ours have been through that lens. We just have to keep making decisions that don't jeopardize our health or put us in a financially unhealthy situation."

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels

Jones makes AFL's Top Prospects team

MLB.com @wboor

Braxton Davidson's dramatic walk-off homer in the 10th inning back on Nov. 17th lifted the Peoria Javelinas to back-to-back Arizona Fall League titles and signified the end of the AFL season.

However, here at MLB Pipeline, coverage of the AFL is constant. Following the on-the-field play, we have released our top 10 breakout prospects, the top 25 prospects of the AFL and our All-Arizona Fall League Team.

Braxton Davidson's dramatic walk-off homer in the 10th inning back on Nov. 17th lifted the Peoria Javelinas to back-to-back Arizona Fall League titles and signified the end of the AFL season.

However, here at MLB Pipeline, coverage of the AFL is constant. Following the on-the-field play, we have released our top 10 breakout prospects, the top 25 prospects of the AFL and our All-Arizona Fall League Team.

Of course, there's always room for more accolades and that's just what we have below as the Arizona Fall League announced its 2018 Top Prospects team on Monday morning.

The team, selected by league managers and coaches, recognizes players who distinguished themselves against other top prospects throughout the AFL. Voters were asked to consider not only a player's AFL performance, but also their Major League projectability.

Catchers

Daulton Varsho, D-backs No. 5 prospect: Varsho, who put together four multihit efforts over a five-game span, hit .262 and drove in nine runs in 18 games.

Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers No. 2 prospect (No. 39 on Top 100): Ruiz played in just 13 games, but left a strong impression on the league's managers and coaches. The 20-year-old hit .286 with six RBIs and also drew six walks while striking out just twice.

Video: Top Prospects: Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers

First Base

Tyler Nevin, Rockies No. 11 prospect: Nevin hit a career-best .328 over 100 games during the regular season and carried that momentum with him into Arizona. Nevin got off to a fast start in the AFL, opening play with a 10-game hitting streak. From there, it was more of the same. The 21-year-old was the AFL's only .400 hitter and ran away with the batting title, slashing .426/.535/.593 and also finished third in the league with 20 RBIs.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Nevin recovers nicely to end the 3rd

Evan White, Mariners No. 5 prospectWhite, who collected 14 RBIs over 18 games, hit .257 with a pair of homers in the AFL. White put together a nine-game hitting streak from late October to early November and also stole two bases after stealing just four during the regular season.

Second Base:

Keston Hiura, Brewers No. 1 prospect (No. 30 on the Top 100): Hiura's ability to hit was no secret -- something his 70-grade hit tool clearly indicated. However, just because it was known that Hiura can hit doesn't mean that watching him do so was any less impressive. The Brewers top prospect went to Arizona to work on his defense and while he made strides in that department, it was his offense that led to him MVP honors. Hiura, who hit .323, led the league in hits (31), RBIs (33) and total bases (54). He also hit the only grand slam of the AFL, put together 11 multihit games and turned in two five-RBI performances.

Jahmai Jones, Angels No. 4 prospect: Jones, coming off a season during which he hit just .239 over 123 games, hit .321 with two homers and 11 RBI in 19 AFL contests.

Third Base:

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays No. 1 prospect (No. 1 on Top 100): Guerrero entered the AFL as the most talked-about prospect and certainly didn't disappoint. Guerrero picked up a trio of hits on Opening Day and kept the hits coming as he began the season with a 13-game hitting streak. The 19-year-old also impressed on the league's biggest stage, hitting a 117 mph double in the Fall Stars Game and concluded his stint in Arizona with a .351 batting average.

Video: Chisholm on Vlad Jr.'s Fall League performance

Yu Chang, Indians No. 6 prospect: Chang, who also played in the 2017 Fall League, put together a strong offensive showing. The shortstop hit .337, thanks in large part to a stretch where he strung together eight multihit efforts over 12 games. Chang also finished tied for third in total bases (45) and fourth in hits (29).

Shortstops:

Cole Tucker, Pirates No. 5 prospect: Tucker's .370 average certainly jumps off the page, but the 22-year-old impressed defensively as well. Tucker's 11 multihit games tied for the league lead (Hiura) and his 30 hits left him tied for second. Tucker also impressed off the field, reguarily staying after the game to take photos and sign autographs and was honored with the league's sportsmanship award.

Video: Cole Tucker talks about his Fall League experience

 Lucius Fox, Rays No. 9 prospect: Fox, who hit .326 over 21 games, put together an eight-game hitting streak in mid-October and tied for second in the league with 10 multihit games. Fox also drew 16 walks and stole seven bases.

Outfielders:

Luis Robert, White Sox No. 4 prospect (No. 44 on Top 100): Robert missed a little bit of time with a minor injury during the AFL, but still hit .324 over 18 games. The winner of the week five Player of the Week Award, Robert put up a 14-game hitting streak from Oc. 9 to Nov. 9. The hitting streak was the longest in the AFL since 2014.

Cristian Pache, Braves No. 6 prospect (No. 68 on the Top 100): Pache hit .279 and turned in four straight multihit games in late October, but the 20-year-old may have been even more impressive defensively. Pache showed off his 60-grade arm and his 70-grade speed on numerous occasions in the outfield and also used that speed to steal three bases.

Ryan McKenna, Orioles No. 12 prospect: McKenna hit .315/.410/.457 over 127 games during the regular season, his best season since the Orioles picked him in the fourth-round of the 2015 Draft, and continued the breakout campaign in Arizona, where he hit .344/.474/.590.

Sam Hilliard, Rockies No. 9 prospectHilliard played in just 16 games, but the small sample size didn't keep him from producing. Hilliard had multiple hits in nearly half (seven) of the games he played and finished with two homers and a .328 average.

Daz Cameron, Tigers No. 8 prospectCameron stole 24 bases in the regular season and then swiped nine bases, which tied him for fourth, during the AFL. The son of former Major Leaguer Mike Cameron hit .342 over 20 games.

Nick Heath, Royals: Heath posted a .427 on-base percentage and once he got on base, he made the most of the opportunities. The Royals prospect led the AFL in stolen bases (13) and runs scored (21), while batting .338 over 21 games.

Designated Hitters:

Peter Alonso, Mets No. 2 prospect (No. 58 on the Top 100): Alonso tied for the Minor League home run lead with 36 during the regular season and then tied for the AFL lead with six. In addition to his six homers, Alonso also hit seven doubles and often showed off his power with eye-popping exit velocities.

Video: EAST@WEST: Alonso lays out for impressive diving stop

Will Craig, Pirates No. 16 prospectCraig tied with Alonso and Davidson for the home run title, while also hitting .304 over 21 games.

Starting Pitchers

Nate Pearson, Blue Jays No. 4 prospect (No. 90 on the Top 100): Pearson racked up 23 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings and although his ERA sat at 6.20, he did spin three scoreless outings. What's more, Pearson garnered plenty of attention during the Fall Stars Game when his fastball was clocked at 104 mph.

Video: EAST@WEST: Pearson flashes 101 mph+ with regularity

Erick Leal, Cubs: Leal nearly finished the AFL with a perfect 0.00 ERA, but gave up seven runs (six earned) in his final start. The right-hander began the AFL with a 19 1/3-inning scoreless streak and finished 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA over six starts.

Relief Pitchers:

Melvin Adon, Giants No. 19 prospect: Adon, a hard-throwing right-hander, was consistently missing bats out in Arizona. Adon notched 21 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings and limited opponents to a .163 batting average against. He was particuarily tough on right-handers as they managed to hit just .091 against him.

Justin Lawrence, Rockies No. 16 prospect: Lawrence tied for the AFL lead with three saves and used a nasty fastball-slider combo to strike out 13 batters in 10 2/3 innings.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

Napoli retires big bat after 12-year career

Slugger debuted with Angels in '06, won '13 title with Red Sox
MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Longtime slugger Mike Napoli announced his retirement Saturday via a statement released through his Twitter account.

"After much thought and consideration with my family, I have decided to retire from the game of baseball," Napoli said. "I dreamed about playing baseball since I was a little kid growing up in Hollywood, [Fla.], and I was lucky enough to get paid to play a kids game for 18 years."

Longtime slugger Mike Napoli announced his retirement Saturday via a statement released through his Twitter account.

"After much thought and consideration with my family, I have decided to retire from the game of baseball," Napoli said. "I dreamed about playing baseball since I was a little kid growing up in Hollywood, [Fla.], and I was lucky enough to get paid to play a kids game for 18 years."

Tweet from @MikeNapoli25: THANK YOU... pic.twitter.com/CzhaoU9YUH

Napoli, 37, was a free agent, and he hadn't suited up for a big league club since 2017, when he hit 29 home runs over 124 games for the Rangers. The former first baseman and catcher signed a Minor League deal with the Indians last spring, but he tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee during a Triple-A game in April and underwent season-ending surgery.

Napoli began his MLB career with the Angels in 2006 and played for four franchises over a 12-year span.

Video: Mike Napoli cranks 8 postseason home runs

"I was blessed to be mentored by great people at the beginning of my career with the Angels and was able to bring that winning attitude to each clubhouse that I was fortunate to be a part of," Napoli said. "I hope to be remembered as someone who always tried to keep the clubhouse atmosphere light and inclusive, making sure that everyone was respected by his peers while leading by example, both on and off the field.

"Most importantly, I am proudest of positively affecting people's lives and putting smiles on people's faces by simply being myself, reflecting the way I was brought up in South Florida."

Napoli's grit and professionalism endeared him to several fan bases, most notably in Cleveland where his powerful swings to the left-field seats inspired the "Party at Napoli's" catchphrase. The 2012 All-Star finishes his career with 267 homers and 744 RBIs while having played in three World Series, including Boston's championship run in '13.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels, Mike Napoli

Recalling Napoli's HR in 1st career at-bat

A fantastic career officially came to a close on Saturday, as longtime slugger Mike Napoli announced his retirement over Twitter. It was the end of a journey that many baseball players would envy -- the former All-Star got to play in the postseason eight times out of his 12 years in the Majors, winning the 2013 World Series with the Red Sox and nearly adding a second ring both in 2011 with the Rangers and 2016 with the Indians.

Napoli's place on these annual championship contenders was no coincidence. His presence in the lineup always meant a dangerous power threat, even dating back to the very beginning of his career.

Every team's current franchise icon

MLB.com @williamfleitch

In this thrilling Hot Stove season, let's remember to spare some sympathy for the D-backs. Their trade of Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals was a good one, a smart, prudent move for a franchise in transition, one that brought back an impressive haul considering Goldschmidt has only one year left on his contract.

But that doesn't make all those fans who bought Goldschmidt jerseys over the last half-decade feel that much better. He is, after all, their guy, a franchise icon who has been the face of the organization since breaking into the league in 2011. The future may be bright in Arizona … but it's tough to say goodbye to your hero.

In this thrilling Hot Stove season, let's remember to spare some sympathy for the D-backs. Their trade of Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals was a good one, a smart, prudent move for a franchise in transition, one that brought back an impressive haul considering Goldschmidt has only one year left on his contract.

But that doesn't make all those fans who bought Goldschmidt jerseys over the last half-decade feel that much better. He is, after all, their guy, a franchise icon who has been the face of the organization since breaking into the league in 2011. The future may be bright in Arizona … but it's tough to say goodbye to your hero.

Video: Paul Goldschmidt gets formally introduced

Thus, today, we look at the franchise icons for each team -- the guy who, if he were traded, would break the hearts of the local fans. Some of them, to be fair, stretch the definition of "icon"; you'll notice that more frequently with clubs that are in the midst of a rebuild. And while few of these players are likely to be going anywhere anytime soon, and some guys might seem "untradeable," consider that if Paul Goldschmidt -- probably the best position player in D-backs history -- can be traded, well, then nearly anyone can.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Russell Martin, C
The Blue Jays have moved on from the obvious names here -- your Jose Bautista, your Edwin Encarnacion, your Josh Donaldson -- but Martin is still around from those winning teams … and he is Canadian, after all.

Orioles: Mark Trumbo, DH
No tougher team in baseball to find a current franchise icon for than the Orioles (particularly with Adam Jones being a free agent and thus not eligible). The hope is that in a decade, they have several.

Rays: Blake Snell, LHP
Rays fans have gotten used to having to say goodbye to their icons in recent years. Perhaps the current AL Cy Young Award winner will stick around for a while.

Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Even with Mookie Betts as the MVP … Pedroia is Red Sox for life.

Yankees: Aaron Judge, RF
Already, two years in, Judge is one of the most popular Yankees of the last 30 years.

Video: Must C Crushed: Judge rips 2-run HR in Wild Card Game

AL CENTRAL

Indians: Francisco Lindor, SS
Lindor is the centerpiece of everything this franchise is about.

Royals: Salvador Perez, C
Perez will still be here when the next Royals team contends ... whenever that is.

Tigers: Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Miggy will go into the Hall of Fame as a Tiger, though he still has plenty of years in Detroit left to come.

Video: DET@BAL: Cabrera belts 3-run homer to deep right

Twins: Jose Berrios, RHP
Finding the next icon after Joe Mauer may take a while, but the young right-hander is off to a promising start.

White Sox: Jose Abreu, 1B
A constant at first base for the last five years, Abreu is still a decent bet to be traded this season given that he's eligible for free agency next offseason.

AL WEST

Angels: Mike Trout, CF
Trout has two more years left on his contract, as you might have heard. That's about to become the biggest story in the sport.

Astros: Jose Altuve, 2B
The Astros have all sorts of roster decisions to make in the next few years, but it is hard to see Altuve going anywhere, especially after the five-year extension he signed before last season.

Athletics: Matt Chapman, 3B
Chapman already feels like a player that the A's will want to open their new stadium around (should they get it).

Mariners: Felix Hernandez, RHP
Though it's looking like he'll never get that postseason start, he's still King Felix.

Rangers: Elvis Andrus, SS
Andrus is already No. 11 in lifetime WAR for the Rangers, and he still has four years of contract left to go.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Freddie Freeman, 1B
Freeman was there before the team broke through, and he'll still be the centerpiece now that they have.

Marlins: J.T. Realmuto, C
If Realmuto does get traded, as has been rumored, it's hard to say who would fill this spot. Martin Prado?

Mets: Jacob deGrom, RHP
Even if you see more Thor helmets at Citi Field, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner deGrom is the center of everything with this franchise right now. Imagine how Mets fans would react if he were traded. Heavens.

Video: ATL@NYM: Young fan goes wild cheering for deGrom

Nationals: Max Scherzer, RHP
It wouldn't be shocking if it were Juan Soto in a couple of years … or still Bryce Harper, for that matter (though that's looking less likely).

Phillies: Rhys Hoskins, 1B
The September Hoskins had in 2017 will keep him beloved in Philadelphia for years to come.

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: Christian Yelich, OF
Yelich's MVP campaign quickly got him here, though it would be bizarre to ever see Ryan Braun in another uniform.

Cardinals: Yadier Molina, C
Molina says he will retire when his current contract is up.

Tweet from @dgoold: "Three more years, that's it," Yadier Molina says. He's repeating his plan to complete his contract and then retire. #cardinals #stlcards

We'll believe it when we see it.

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Kris Bryant is the MVP … but no one spans this whole era of Cubs baseball like Rizzo does.

Pirates: Starling Marte, OF
Marte got back to his old self last year. Can you believe he's 30 already?

Reds: Joey Votto, 1B
The goal is to get the 35-year-old Votto back into the postseason before it's time to retire.

NL WEST

D-backs: Archie Bradley, RHP
One last cry for Goldschmidt.

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, LHP
Will L.A. be able to get Kershaw that World Series title, the only career achievement that continues to elude him?

Video: NLCS Gm7: Kershaw puts finishing touches on pennant

Giants: Buster Posey, C
Madison Bumgarner is obviously right there with him … but it's more inconceivable to imagine them trading Posey than Bumgarner, no?

Padres: Wil Myers, OF
You could argue for Eric Hosmer, but Myers has more of a track record in San Diego.

Rockies: Nolan Arenado, 3B
Arenado's contract status, and whether the Rockies contend this year, could be the driving storyline of the second half of 2019.

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

Angels get RHP Garcia from Phils for Alvarez

MLB.com @mi_guardado

The Angels executed a swap of relievers on Thursday, sending left-hander Jose Alvarez to the Phillies in exchange for right-hander Luis Garcia.

Garcia, 31, logged a 6.07 ERA over 46 innings in 59 relief appearances for the Phillies in 2018. Some of his peripheral numbers were far more encouraging, as he averaged 10 strikeouts per nine innings and recorded a 3.51 FIP.

The Angels executed a swap of relievers on Thursday, sending left-hander Jose Alvarez to the Phillies in exchange for right-hander Luis Garcia.

Garcia, 31, logged a 6.07 ERA over 46 innings in 59 relief appearances for the Phillies in 2018. Some of his peripheral numbers were far more encouraging, as he averaged 10 strikeouts per nine innings and recorded a 3.51 FIP.

Hot Stove Tracker

Garcia, who averaged 98 mph on his fastball this past season, profiles as a potential back-end arm for the Angels, who non-tendered erstwhile closer Blake Parker last week. Garcia has enjoyed success in the Majors in the past, as he posted a 2.65 ERA over 71 1/3 innings for the Phillies in 2017. In parts of six seasons in Philadelphia, Garcia pitched to a 4.12 ERA in 251 games.

To land Garcia, the Angels had to part with Alvarez, who had emerged as their most effective left-handed reliever in recent years. The 29-year-old was coming off his best season to date, logging a 2.71 ERA over 63 innings for the Angels in 2018. In his four seasons in Anaheim, Alvarez registered a 3.35 ERA in 270 relief appearances.

Alvarez's departure leaves rookie Williams Jerez as the only left-handed reliever on the Angels' 40-man roster. Jerez, who was acquired from the Red Sox as part of the Ian Kinsler trade, recorded a 6.00 ERA over 15 innings after debuting with the Angels in August.

Garcia and Alvarez are both entering their second year of arbitration and are projected to earn $1.7 million next year, according to MLB Trade Rumors. Both will be under team control for two more years.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter.

Los Angeles Angels, Jose Alvarez, Luis Garcia

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