Angels' system stocked with next wave of fast risers

March 21st, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If there's one thing the Angels system is famous for, it's getting draftees to Anaheim in a hurry. It produced the first player from the 2021 Draft to reach the Majors (Chase Silseth), the first three from 2022 (Zach Neto, Ben Joyce, Victor Mederos) and the first from 2023 (Nolan Schanuel).

The system stands out in another fashion as well. Our new Angels Top 30 Prospects list features 16 players who were signed on the international market, three more than any other organization and double the industry average. While amateur scouting director Tim McIlvaine and his staff have been finding players the Angels can fast-track to the big leagues, international scouting director Brian Parker and his team have been stocking up on talented teenagers.

"Brian Parker and his international group have done a very good job in Latin America the past couple of years," farm director Joey Prebynski said. "It's been a really nice complement to what Tim McIlvaine and the amateur group have done domestically. It's kind of a juxtaposition and we're excited about it. We're trying to create waves of players coming through the system."

The top signings from each of the Angels' last four international classes rank among the system's best prospects: Dominican shortstops Denzer Guzman ($2 million, 2021), Felix Morrobel ($900,000, 2023) and Joswa Lugo ($2.3 million, 2024) and Venezuelan outfielder Nelson Rada ($1.85 million, 2022).

Once Schanuel graduates from prospect status after playing on Opening Day, Rada will rank as the organization's top prospect. The only 17-year-old batting qualifier in Single-A last year, he hit .276/.395/.346 and led the California League with 55 steals. He's a tablesetter and quality center fielder whose biggest need is to add strength to his 5-foot-10 frame.

"With Nelson, the big thing is his ability to impact the game on both sides of the ball," Prebynski said. "He really handled himself well as one of the youngest players in the Cal League. He can really slow the game down, he steals bases, he controls the strike zone and he won a Minor League Gold Glove. We're excited with what he did last year and continues to do this spring."

Guzman and Morrobel have similar hit-over-power profiles without Rada's plate discipline, and both are solid defenders at shortstop. Lugo, who already has reached 6-foot-3 and just turned 17 in January, has the most pop among the group and has drawn some Noelvi Marte comparisons.

Camp standout: Juan Flores

Flores had a reputation as one of the best defensive catchers on the 2023 international market, which helped earn him a $280,000 bonus out of Venezuela. He threw out 53 percent of basestealers during his pro debut in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and has impressed so much with his advanced receiving and strong arm this spring that he got into two Cactus League games at age 18. His bat is more of a work in progress and produced a .236/.352/.388 line in the DSL.

"Good catchers have the ability to control the game and Juan shows the ability to do that," Prebynski said. "He has very good aptitude."

Breakout potential: Denzer Guzman

Scouts considered Guzman one of the best pure hitting prospects in the 2021 international crop but he initially struggled to drive the ball with any authority in his first extended taste of full-season ball last year. But after batting .238/.315/.327 in his first three months in Single-A, he hit .245/.308/.426 the rest of the way. Prebynski believes Guzman will build on that momentum in 2024.

"Denzer continued to get better over the course of last year and he put in work over the winter," Prebynski said. "His body is in a really good place and his ability to get to his power should continue to improve. We think he'll be able to stay at shortstop because he has very good instincts."

What's new: Werner Blakely

The Angels paid Blakely an over-slot $900,000 as a 2020 fourth-rounder out of a Detroit high school because they liked his athleticism and projectable 6-foot-3 frame. After the third baseman batted .295/.447/.470 during an injury-shortened 2022 season in Single-A, he dropped to .214/.316/.331 with a 37 percent strikeout rate in High-A last year. He'll move to the outfield this year in hopes relaxed defensive responsibilities will pay off with better offensive production.

"It's not dissimilar to what we did with Taylor Ward, who was a third baseman we converted to the outfield," Prebynski said. "Werner will still play a little bit in the infield but we're hoping transitioning to the outfield will free him up and let his athleticism come out on both sides of the ball."