Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the Los Angeles Angels

news

Related News

Angels' outfield trio among MLB's best

Trout, Upton, Calhoun provide offensive production, steady defense
MLB.com

With the start of Spring Training drawing closer, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 13, so it's time to break down the Angels' roster.

This is the fifth installment of a multi-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season. Today we'll examine the outfielders.

With the start of Spring Training drawing closer, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 13, so it's time to break down the Angels' roster.

This is the fifth installment of a multi-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season. Today we'll examine the outfielders.

Around the Horn: C | 2B | 3B | SS

ANAHEIM -- In November, the Angels initiated the offseason by locking up Justin Upton on a five-year, $106 million deal, adding an extra year to the slugger's contract to keep him away from free agency.

Upton, who landed in Anaheim after the rebuilding Tigers traded him to the Angels on Aug. 31, is expected to provide long-term stability in left field and team up with Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun to form one of the most talented outfield trios in the Majors.

The group is headlined by Trout, the 26-year-old star center fielder who is widely regarded as the best player in baseball. Despite missing more than six weeks due to a torn thumb ligament last season, Trout still put together one of his best offensive campaigns, slashing .306/.442/.629 with 33 home runs, 72 RBIs and 22 stolen bases over 114 games. He also led the Majors with a career-high 1.071 OPS and tied for third with a 6.9 WAR, according to FanGraphs.

Were it not for his first career stint on the disabled list, Trout likely would have been a favorite to win his third career American League MVP Award. Instead, he finished fourth, breaking his streak of five consecutive top-two finishes on the ballot.

Video: SEA@LAA: Trout nabs Haniger at home on 94.8-mph throw

The retention of Upton will give the Angels another big bat to pair with Trout in the middle of their order. Upton, 30, enjoyed a career season in 2017, batting .273/.361/.540 with 35 homers and 109 RBIs in 152 games between the Tigers and Angels while also emerging as a Gold Glove finalist in left field.

The Angels acquired Upton to bolster their playoff push over the final month of the season, and though they ultimately couldn't catch the Twins in the AL Wild Card race, Upton pretty much performed as expected, posting an .887 OPS and slugging seven home runs over 27 games with his new team.

A full season of Upton's production, plus the additions of infielders Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler, is one of the reasons the Angels believe they'll be able to improve their offense, which ranked last in the AL in slugging percentage (.397) last year.

Rounding out the Angels' outfield is Calhoun, who has long been an underrated player but showed a slight offensive dip in 2017. After signing a three-year, $26 million extension last January, the 30-year-old left-handed hitter batted .244/.333/.392 with 19 home runs and 71 RBIs over 155 games for the Angels last season. Prior to 2017, Calhoun slashed .266/.328/.438 over parts of five seasons in the Majors.

"I think if you looked at some numbers, it wasn't as down as you think," manager Mike Scioscia said during the Winter Meetings. "I'm talking about internal numbers. But he definitely came back and said he felt great. He was running well. So all the markers were to say he was over that surgery he had in the offseason a couple years ago. But I don't think his season was that out of balance to question whether he was one hundred percent or was he healthy."

Video: Must C Catch: Calhoun dives to make amazing grab

Calhoun, a Gold Glove Award winner in 2015, remains an above-average defender in right field and was once again a finalist for the fielding award last year, though he lost out to the Red Sox's Mookie Betts.

Given the strength of their starters, the Angels figure to deploy their reserve outfielders somewhat sparingly, barring any injuries. Eric Young Jr., who re-signed with the Angels on a Minor League deal earlier this month, is the most prominent backup option within the organization, though prospect Michael Hermosillo and Rymer Liriano, another Minor League signee, are also in the mix for the bench job.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels, Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout, Justin Upton

Former catcher Thaiss No. 10 prospect at first

MLB.com

Matt Thaiss is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Angels' No. 5 prospect and the No. 10 first-base prospect in baseball.

Los Angeles selected the 22-year-old with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 Draft out of the University of Virginia. He was the second New Jersey native drafted in the first round by the Angels, after Mike Trout in 2009.

Matt Thaiss is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Angels' No. 5 prospect and the No. 10 first-base prospect in baseball.

Los Angeles selected the 22-year-old with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 Draft out of the University of Virginia. He was the second New Jersey native drafted in the first round by the Angels, after Mike Trout in 2009.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Thaiss has produced well throughout his two Minor League seasons to this point, and while the power potential scouts saw in his bat hasn't shown up consistently yet, it is expected it will as he continues through the farm system.

A left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, the 6-foot, 195-pound Thaiss has moved quickly through the Angels' organizational ranks so far. He split the 2017 season between Class A Advanced Inland Empire and Double-A Mobile while hitting .274/.375/.395 with nine home runs in 133 games. He'll likely begin the 2018 season at Double-A.

Video: Thaiss hits at Fall League Bowman Hitting Challenge

Thaiss was considered one of the purest hitters of the 2016 Draft class as a catcher for Virginia. He's shown patience and good pitch selection, walking 103 times and striking out 141 times in 903 professional plate appearances. He doesn't possess elite speed on the basepaths, but enough of it to be an extra-base threat -- he had 27 doubles and four triples in 2017.

Defensively, the Angels are seeing significant improvements from Thaiss at first base, particularly with his footwork. Part of the rationale behind moving him from behind the plate was to help him focus on the primary asset for which he was drafted: his hitting. Former Angels first baseman Wally Joyner worked with Thaiss during Spring Training last year as he learned the new position.

"I've gone from really not playing there at all, maybe 25 games total in my career, to feeling very confident over there," Thaiss told MLB.com's Jim Callis last spring. "The big thing is getting ground balls and game experience. I think it's going really well. First base is definitely less demanding. I don't get beat up like I did behind the plate."

With his rapid ascension through the farm system to this point, and his advanced hitting approach among those in his Draft class, Thaiss could rise to the big league level by the 2019 season.

When Thaiss is called up, the Angels could have a crowded situation for first basemen and designated hitters, given that C.J. Cron is under team control through 2020, and Albert Pujols' contract runs through the 2021 season.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Justin Upton made an appearance at the Anaheim Ducks' #AngelsNight18

It was #AngelsNight18 at the Honda Center on Sunday night, with the Ducks hosting the Sharks in an NHL showdown. The evening consisted of Halo-themed uniforms worn by the Ducks during warmups, an interview with former GM Bill Stoneman and an appearance by outfielder Justin Upton.

During the pregame show, Upton, sporting the warmup jersey, talked about the offseason moves that were made, Mike Trout and the contract extension he acquired in November:

Simmons a sure thing at short; Cozart insurance

Angels have defensive wizard who broke out offensively in '17, plus another great shortstop at third
MLB.com

With the start of Spring Training drawing closer, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 13, so it's time to break down the Angels' roster.

This is the fourth installment of a multi-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season. We've already looked at the Angels' situations behind the plate, at second base and at third base. Today we'll examine shortstop.

With the start of Spring Training drawing closer, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 13, so it's time to break down the Angels' roster.

This is the fourth installment of a multi-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season. We've already looked at the Angels' situations behind the plate, at second base and at third base. Today we'll examine shortstop.

ANAHEIM -- Andrelton Simmons has long been one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, but he distinguished himself even further in 2017 by putting together his best offensive season to date.

Simmons, 28, batted .278 with a career-high .752 OPS and hit 14 home runs for the Angels last season, his most since belting 17 for the Braves in 2013. Prior to '17, Simmons had hit .261 with a .671 OPS over five seasons.

Video: HOU@LAA: Simmons belts a go-ahead three-run home run

Simmons' strides at the plate, coupled with his outstanding defense, made him one of the most valuable players in the Majors last season, leading to his eighth-place finish in voting for the American League MVP Award. Now a major piece of the Angels' young core, Simmons will return for his third season as the club's everyday shortstop and look to build on his breakout campaign at the plate.

Simmons' calling card will always be his all-world defense, however. After leading the Majors with 32 Defensive Runs Saved in 2017, according to FanGraphs, Simmons captured his third career Gold Glove Award, and first with the Angels. He'll continue to form the backbone of the infield, which promises to be even stronger defensively in 2018 due to the additions of second baseman Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart, who will shift from shortstop to third base.

Video: Kinsler discusses new double-play combo with Simmons

Simmons started a team-high 158 games last season, but when he needs a day off, the Angels will have a ready-made backup in Cozart. In Simmons and Cozart, the Angels have two of the top fielding shortstops in the Majors, as they rank first (144) and third (44), respectively, in Defensive Runs Saved at that position since 2013.

Video: Rogers on the Angels being the most improved team

Behind Simmons and Cozart on the shortstop depth chart is Nolan Fontana, who reached the Majors last season and went 1-for-20 with one home run in 12 games with the Angels.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels, Zack Cozart, Andrelton Simmons

Mike Trout sported a dog mask during the Eagles NFC Championship victory

It's no secret that Mike Trout's love for the Eagles mirrors his adoration for the game of baseball … and the weather. When he shows up to cheer on his favorite football team, he is sometimes gifted with the game ball -- compliments of tight end Zach Ertz. And on Sunday, Trout drew inspiration from another Eagles player. Prior to the Eagles-Vikings NFC Championship game on Sunday evening, Trout was at Lincoln Financial Field … wearing a dog mask:

Newcomer Cozart should adapt well at 3B

After years at shortstop, veteran set to move to hot corner
MLB.com

With the start of Spring Training drawing closer, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 13, so it's time to break down the Angels' roster.

This is the third installment of a multi-part "Around the Horn" series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season. We've already examined the Angels' situations at catcher and second base. Today we'll examine third base.

With the start of Spring Training drawing closer, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 13, so it's time to break down the Angels' roster.

This is the third installment of a multi-part "Around the Horn" series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season. We've already examined the Angels' situations at catcher and second base. Today we'll examine third base.

ANAHEIM -- Zack Cozart was willing to change positions not once but twice during his conversations with the Angels, a fact that endeared him to the club even before it signed him to a three-year, $38 million deal in December.

General manager Billy Eppler was originally interested in signing Cozart, a longtime shortstop, to fill the Angels' void at second base. But after Eppler reached a deal to acquire veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers, he circled back with Cozart and asked if he'd be open to playing third. Despite having no professional experience at third base, Cozart decided to accept the opportunity with the Angels, becoming the final piece in what could arguably be the best defensive infield in the Majors.

Cozart, 32, will replace veteran Yunel Escobar, who became a free agent this offseason after a two-year stint in Anaheim. A first-time All-Star in 2017, Cozart batted .297 with a .933 OPS and 24 home runs -- all career highs -- last season for the Reds. Cozart, who hit .246 with a .674 OPS over his first six Major League seasons, credited his offensive breakthrough to a tweak in his batting stance. Rather than start with his hands high, Cozart began resting his bat on his shoulder during his setup.

"It freed me up mentally," Cozart said last month. "I didn't have tension. I didn't have to think about anything other than seeing the ball and hitting or taking a good pitch."

Video: CIN@STL: Cozart makes a spectacular diving snag

Though Cozart has never played third base, he still figures to be a defensive upgrade over Escobar; his background as one of the top fielding shortstops in the Majors should help ease his transition to the hot corner. Cozart has also said that he plans to consult former Gold Glove third basemen Eric Chavez and Scott Rolen as he prepares for the position change.

With Cozart at third and defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons at shortstop, the Angels will have a special combination on the left side of their infield that should be fun to watch.

Cozart will garner most of his starts at third, though he is also projected to be the Angels' backup middle infielder and will give the club protection at those spots in the event of injury. Luis Valbuena is also available to play third, a position he manned regularly in the second half of last season after Escobar landed on the disabled list.

Also on the third-base depth chart will be Kaleb Cowart and Jefry Marte, though both displayed offensive shortcomings during their looks with the Angels in 2017.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels, Zack Cozart, Luis Valbuena

GM: Angels' use of Ohtani will be 'pretty unique'

Eppler says club mulling plan for Japanese star, expects Pujols to play full season
MLB.com

Angels general manager Billy Eppler has been a busy man this offseason, with the club acquiring Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani, re-signing Justin Upton, trading for Ian Kinsler and signing free agent Zack Cozart.

Eppler joined MLB Network's MLB Now on Tuesday to discuss the Angels' plans for Ohtani as he transitions from Nippon Professional Baseball to MLB, as well as what they expect from Albert Pujols in his age-38 season.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler has been a busy man this offseason, with the club acquiring Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani, re-signing Justin Upton, trading for Ian Kinsler and signing free agent Zack Cozart.

Eppler joined MLB Network's MLB Now on Tuesday to discuss the Angels' plans for Ohtani as he transitions from Nippon Professional Baseball to MLB, as well as what they expect from Albert Pujols in his age-38 season.

Eppler said the club is still deciding how to best utilize Ohtani's unique skill set. The 23-year-old right-hander posted a 2.52 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings over five NPB seasons, while also posting a 1.004 OPS with 18 home runs in 382 plate appearances for the Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2016 (injuries shortened his 2017 campaign to 65 games).

"We won't be aimlessly shooting from the hip on this one," Eppler said. "But we're not going to be afraid to challenge the status quo. ... What we'll attempt to do is pretty unique, so it should make for some pretty good theater."

Another question for the Angels is whether to implement a six-man rotation, given that Ohtani pitched every sixth day in Japan as a two-way player. The club has several options beyond Garrett Richards and Ohtani when it comes to the rotation, including Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, JC Ramirez, and Parker Bridwell.

"There'll be some times where we'll be playing 17, 18, maybe 20 games in a row, where we look to possibly incorporate that," Eppler said. "One of the things we feel comfortable with is the depth there. ... We might look to use that to our advantage, and also use that as a workload management program for guys."

Video: Eppler discusses handling an aging Pujols

With a revamped lineup, there is the question of what can be expected from Pujols, who turned 38 on Tuesday. Recovery from foot surgeries has cut into the past few offseasons for the 10-time All-Star, but this year he has a full offseason schedule with which to work.

"The last two offseasons, he's spent more time with a physical therapist than anything else," Eppler said. "This winter, he's spent more time with conditioning personnel as well as field staff, and working out on a very regular basis on the field, as we speak, getting ground balls. ... Our expectations are another 600 plate appearances and we'll see where it goes. Our latest feedback and some of the measurements on him have been very positive."

 

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani, Albert Pujols

Moreno: Pujols ready to make room for Ohtani

Angels owner says veteran slugger is working at 1B to open up DH slot
MLB.com

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Spring Training is less than a month away, and it's safe to say that a healthy share of the baseball world will descend upon Tempe Diablo Stadium on Feb. 14 for the unveiling of Shohei Ohtani, a two-way player from Japan who is preparing for his highly anticipated Major League debut in 2018.

That's the day Angels pitchers and catchers are slated to have their first workout, and the Angels are gearing up for the first high-profile two-way player since Babe Ruth and for the daily media crush.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Spring Training is less than a month away, and it's safe to say that a healthy share of the baseball world will descend upon Tempe Diablo Stadium on Feb. 14 for the unveiling of Shohei Ohtani, a two-way player from Japan who is preparing for his highly anticipated Major League debut in 2018.

That's the day Angels pitchers and catchers are slated to have their first workout, and the Angels are gearing up for the first high-profile two-way player since Babe Ruth and for the daily media crush.

In five seasons with the Nippon-Ham Fighters, the right-hander, whose fastball can reach 100 mph, was 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA and 624 strikeouts in 543 innings. As a left-handed hitter, Ohtani had 48 homers and hit .286.

In Japan, Ohtani was the designated hitter for three games between starts. He pitched every six days, but didn't hit on the days he pitched. His use in the Major Leagues is still to be determined by the Angels' baseball-operations staff headed by general manager Billy Eppler and veteran manager Mike Scioscia.

"He's 23, and we have six years to work him into it," Angels owner Arte Moreno told MLB.com. "It's not like he needs to go right in there and pull the wagon. We have a lot of flexibility."

Ohtani chose the Angels among seven finalists this offseason because of several factors: his relationship with Eppler, his status as the club's first high-profile Japanese player and the fact that the Angels are an American League club replete with the DH.

There are moving parts, however, and the most interesting is how Albert Pujols will adjust to playing a little more first base to make room for Ohtani as the DH. The 38-year-old Pujols has been limited in a defensive role by foot injuries in recent years.

Video: Ohtani's skill set broken down ahead of arrival

Last season, he started 149 games, 143 as the DH and only six at first base. He hit 23 homers and knocked in 101 runs.

The last time Pujols played with any sort of regularity at first base was in 2015, when he started 95 games there. He had surgery on his right foot after both the 2015 and '16 seasons.

GM: Angels' use of Ohtani will be 'pretty unique'

The latter surgery, to correct plantar fascia, caused him to miss the start of Spring Training in 2017. He returned in time to play in the season opener but got off to a slow start, with three homers and 22 RBIs in April.

Pujols heads into this season 32 hits short of 3,000, and with 614 home runs, he trails Ken Griffey Jr. by 16 for sixth on the all-time list.

The Angels have Pujols under guaranteed contract through 2021 and owe him $114 million. They had $2.32 million in international slot money to sign Ohtani.

What are the Angels to do? Pujols has been working out all winter in southern California.

"Albert's taking batting practice right now and has taken infield," Moreno said. "[Coach Dino Ebel] has been giving him infield [work] and said he looks strong. We won't know exactly what we're going to do until we see Albert play. But if we can get him into the field for 40-50 games, then Ohtani's going to have a lot of opportunity to bat."

Halos hope new pieces give lineup added punch

The last time any player regularly pitched and hit in the Major Leagues was 1919, when the left-handed Ruth made 17 starts for the Red Sox on the mound and 116 starts in the outfield and first base. He won nine games and led the Majors with 29 homers, 113 RBIs, 103 runs, a .456 on base percentage, .657 slugging percentage and 1.114 OPS.

Ruth was sold to the Yankees that offseason and was pretty much shut down as a pitcher thereafter. He made five more starts the rest of his career, winning all five and completing four.

The Yankees made the right move. He hit 714 home runs and is the all-time leader in slugging percentage (.690) and OPS (1.164). For those into newer metrics, Ruth is also the all-time leader with a 206 OPS+. One hundred is the mean in that statistic, and last season Pujols had an 81 OPS+.

Hitting and pitching in Nippon Professional Baseball is considered a similar level to Double- or Triple-A, so it will be interesting to see how Ohtani's skills translate to Major League Baseball. The prospect is exciting.

"We had a press conference at Angels Stadium about a month ago, and it was wild there," Moreno said. "You can only imagine how crazy it was. He was like a rock star."

But a regular DH? That remains to be seen.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.

 

Los Angeles Angels, Albert Pujols

Kinsler major 2B upgrade for revamped Halos

Position no longer weak spot as 4-time All-Star takes over
MLB.com

With the start of Spring Training drawing closer, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 13, so it's time to break down the Angels' roster.

This is the second installment of the Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups. We've examined the Angels' situation behind the plate. Today we'll focus on second base.

With the start of Spring Training drawing closer, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 13, so it's time to break down the Angels' roster.

This is the second installment of the Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups. We've examined the Angels' situation behind the plate. Today we'll focus on second base.

ANAHEIM -- The Angels filled one of their biggest needs of the offseason last month, acquiring veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers in exchange for prospects Wilkel Hernandez and Troy Montgomery.

After receiving a Major League-low .592 OPS out of their second basemen in 2017, the Angels were in dire need of an upgrade, and they found one in Kinsler, one of the most established players at his position who decided to waive his no-trade clause to come to Anaheim.

With only one year left on his contract, Kinsler is another short-term fix at second, but the Angels found the cost for him more palatable compared to other targets with more years of control.

Video: Eppler discusses acquiring Kinsler from the Tigers

A four-time All-Star and 2016 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner, Kinsler is a career .273 hitter with a .789 OPS and has averaged 23 home runs over his 12 seasons in the Majors. Still, the 35-year-old is coming off a down year, batting .236 with a .725 OPS and 22 homers for the Tigers.

Last month, Kinsler suggested that transitioning from a rebuilding team to a contender could help reinvigorate him in 2018.

"Last year was a tough year for the whole organization, myself included, in Detroit," Kinsler said. "But when you get on a club where there's excitement and you have a bunch of really good baseball players, it ups your intensity and focus. I'm excited, and I look to perform the same way I have my whole career, minus last year."

Kinsler's defense has remained strong as he's gotten older, as he was a Gold Glove finalist last year and ranked second among qualified second basemen in both Defensive Runs Saved (6) and Ultimate Zone Rating (6.1), according to FanGraphs. Kinsler will team up with shortstop Andrelton Simmons to give the Angels one of the better double-play combinations in the Majors.

Fellow newcomer Zack Cozart is expected to be the Angels' primary third baseman this season, but he'll also serve as a backup to Kinsler. Cozart exclusively played shortstop over his seven years with the Reds, but he made some appearances at second in the Minors and had expressed a willingness to shift to the position before the club acquired Kinsler. Kaleb Cowart, who started 28 games at second for the Halos last season, is another backup option.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels, Kaleb Cowart, Zack Cozart, Ian Kinsler

Ohtani leads list of top 10 RHP prospects

Astros phenom Whitley makes big leap to No. 2
MLB.com

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2018 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

It's prospect ranking season!

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2018 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

It's prospect ranking season!

Top 10 Prospects by Position

The countdown to the release of the Top 100 list officially begins, as it has for the past few seasons, with the Top 10 right-handed pitching prospects list.

Not surprisingly, the RHP list is a deep one and there will undoubtedly be many more than 10 righties on that Top 100 list, which goes live on Jan. 27, in conjunction with the MLB Network special at 8 p.m. ET (also streaming on MLB.com). The list starts with the player everyone is curious to see in action, the Angels' two-way star Shohei Ohtani.

Ohtani was added to the 2017 Top 10 RHP list when he signed with the Angels. There are two newcomers to the list compared to the end of 2017.

Video: Top Prospects: Shohei Ohtani, RHP, Angels

1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels
2. Forrest Whitley, Astros More »
3. Michael Kopech, White Sox More »
4. Brent Honeywell, Rays More »
5. Walker Buehler, Dodgers More »
6. Mitch Keller, Pirates More »
7. Alex Reyes, Cardinals More »
8. Hunter Greene, Reds More »
9. Triston McKenzie, Indians More »
10. Sixto Sanchez, Phillies More »

Top tools

Fastball: 80 -- Ohtani, Kopech, Greene
All three get top-of-the-scale grades for their heaters, with the ability to crack triple-digits. Kopech's might be a slight shade behind the other two solely because they have better command.

Video: Top Prospects: Hunter Greene, RHP, Reds

Curveball: 65 -- Whitley, Buehler
Both have nasty breaking stuff, with the ability to throw both a curve and a slider. The curve is a true out pitch for both right-handers, power breaking balls with excellent depth and spin.

Video: Top Prospects: Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers

Slider: 65 -- Ohtani, Kopech
These two again. Both offer plus power sliders, though both have also shown some inconsistencies with the pitch. It's on more often than not, and projects to be a swing-and-miss offering for each of them.

Video: Top Prospects: Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox

Changeup: 60 -- Honeywell
This is one of Honeywell's five pitches he chooses from in any given start, and it's a beauty of an offspeed pitch. It can miss bats as well as generate weak contact.

Video: Top Prospects: Brent Honeywell, RHP, Rays

Other: 65 -- Ohtani (splitter), Honeywell (screwball)
The splitter is a popular pitch in Japan and Ohtani's is nasty, a low-90s pitch that dives out of the strike zone. Honeywell doesn't throw the screwball, a very uncommon offering, frequently, but when he does, it's unhittable.

Control: 60 -- Honeywell, Keller, Sanchez
Honeywell, Keller and Sanchez all have plus control, and Keller was pinpoint especially in the Arizona Fall League, but it's hard to look past Honeywell's career 2.0 BB/9 rate (Keller is at 2.4).

Highest ceiling: Ohtani
There is some serious upside on the list, making it a little tough to pick just one. But Ohtani comes to the States with three pitches that get a 65 or higher on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. That's hard to beat.

Highest floor: Keller
Typically highest floor, or who has the highest likelihood of reaching his potential, goes to an advanced college type. But Keller's stuff to go along with his outstanding command and size makes him the safest bet to meet expectations.

Video: Top Prospects: Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates

Rookie of the Year candidate: Ohtani
Honeywell, Buehler and Reyes were other guys on this list who seem certain to make big contributions in the big leagues this year, but how can anyone other than Ohtani be the choice for most likely to contend for Rookie of the Year honors?

Highest riser: Whitley
The Astros' first-round pick in 2016 wasn't on the top 10 RHP list in 2017. After pitching across three levels and reaching Double-A as a teenager in his first full year, the 6-foot-7 right-hander has jumped all the way up to No. 2 on the list.

Video: Top Prospects: Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros

Humblest beginnings: Honeywell
Honeywell was pitching at Walters State Community College in 2014 and wasn't even on MLB.com's Top 200 Draft Prospects list. He went No. 72 overall in the Competitive Balance Round B and signed for $800,000, the smallest bonus of any of the right-handers on this list.

Most to prove: Reyes
Maybe an argument could be made that Ohtani belongs in this slot as well, but Reyes' return from Tommy John surgery will be important as the Cardinals try to get back to the top of the National League Central.

Video: Top Prospects: Alex Reyes, RHP, Cardinals

Keep an eye on: Matt Manning, Tigers
Manning, the Tigers' first-round pick in 2016, has just five starts in full-season ball, so he clearly has a ways to go. But the 6-foot-6 former basketball standout has a ton of ceiling and a strong full season in '18 could see him climb onto this list.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

 

Richards, Shoemaker strike deals

Relievers Alvarez, Ramirez also agree to contracts for 2018
MLB.com

The Angels have reached one-year agreements on Friday with pitchers Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, avoiding salary arbitration.

Richards, who had a 2.28 ERA in six starts, will receive $7.3 million after earning $3 million last year. Shoemaker, who went 6-3 with a 4.52 ERA in 14 starts, will earn $4.125 million after getting $3.325 million in 2017, a season cut short by forearm surgery.

The Angels have reached one-year agreements on Friday with pitchers Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, avoiding salary arbitration.

Richards, who had a 2.28 ERA in six starts, will receive $7.3 million after earning $3 million last year. Shoemaker, who went 6-3 with a 4.52 ERA in 14 starts, will earn $4.125 million after getting $3.325 million in 2017, a season cut short by forearm surgery.

Jose Alvarez ($1.05 million), JC Ramirez ($1.9 million) and Cam Bedrosian ($1.1 million) also agreed to contracts for 2018 and were eligible for arbitration. 

Earlier in the week, the Angels reached agreements with Gold Glove catcher Martin Maldonado ($3.9 million), pitcher Blake Parker ($1.8 million), first baseman C.J. Cron ($2.3 million), pitcher Tyler Skaggs ($1.875 million), pitcher Blake Wood ($1.45 million) and pitcher Andrew Heaney ($800,000).

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels, Jose Alvarez, JC Ramirez, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker

Rising prospect Barria's next stop may be MLB

Angels righty, 21, attends rookie program after excelling at three levels in '17
MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- Last season was a breakthrough for Angels pitching prospect Jaime Barria.

After opening the year at Class A Advanced Inland Empire, the 21-year-old right-hander made a steep ascent through the farm system, earning a promotion to Double-A Mobile before finishing the season at Triple-A Salt Lake. Barria maintained his success even as he progressed through each level, logging a combined 2.80 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP over 141 2/3 innings.

ANAHEIM -- Last season was a breakthrough for Angels pitching prospect Jaime Barria.

After opening the year at Class A Advanced Inland Empire, the 21-year-old right-hander made a steep ascent through the farm system, earning a promotion to Double-A Mobile before finishing the season at Triple-A Salt Lake. Barria maintained his success even as he progressed through each level, logging a combined 2.80 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP over 141 2/3 innings.

"I had the opportunity to face batters at Triple-A, and it was a little bit difficult," Barria said in Spanish during the Rookie Career Development Program in Leesburg, Va., last weekend. "Hopefully I'll be able to improve in 2018 and have more consistency and continue to develop."

Video: Barria named Angels' Pipeline pitcher of the year

The next challenge for Barria seems likely to be the Majors, as he has emerged as one of the Angels' top pitching prospects in the upper Minors and was added to the club's 40-man roster in November. General manager Billy Eppler has also included Barria among his list of nine pitchers who he believes will contribute to the Angels' rotation in 2018.

The club figures to get a closer look at Barria during Spring Training, as the Panama native received his first invitation to Major League camp.

"I'm preparing myself physically and mentally for what's ahead, since they invited me to Major League camp," Barria said. "I know it's going to be a difficult challenge, but you have to face it and show up."

Barria, who is ranked as the Angels' No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline, features a three-pitch mix, wielding a low-90s fastball with good life, a deceptive changeup and a curveball. He has already shown that his stuff can play against high levels of competition, as demonstrated by his successful appearance at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Miami last summer.

Still, Barria said his goal for 2018 is to continue to refine his pitches, particularly his breaking ball.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels, Jaime Barria

Halos' bullpen shaping up, but has holes to fill

MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- The Angels managed to build an effective bullpen without a ton of flashy names or big contracts last season, and they seem likely to try to replicate that model in 2018.

General manager Billy Eppler and his staff have shown an ability to procure pitching talent through inexpensive avenues, as demonstrated by the success of right-handers Yusmeiro Petit and Bud Norris, who emerged as two of the Angels' most valuable relievers last year after joining the team on Minor League deals.

ANAHEIM -- The Angels managed to build an effective bullpen without a ton of flashy names or big contracts last season, and they seem likely to try to replicate that model in 2018.

General manager Billy Eppler and his staff have shown an ability to procure pitching talent through inexpensive avenues, as demonstrated by the success of right-handers Yusmeiro Petit and Bud Norris, who emerged as two of the Angels' most valuable relievers last year after joining the team on Minor League deals.

With Petit signing with the A's, however, and Norris also expected to depart via free agency, the Angels will need more talent to emerge to fill the holes in their bullpen this year. They've already made a few moves to replenish their depth this offseason, acquiring veteran Jim Johnson from the Braves and Felix Pena from the Cubs, and selecting Luke Bard during the Rule 5 Draft.

Video: TOR@CHC: Pena fans Bautista to strike out the side

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected bullpen of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Angels might stack up:

BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
RHP Blake Parker
RHP Jim Johnson
RHP Cam Bedrosian
RHP Blake Wood
RHP Keynan Middleton
LHP Jose Alvarez
RHP Noe Ramirez

STRENGTH
The Angels largely eschewed traditional bullpen roles in 2017, preferring to deploy their best relievers in high-leverage situations rather than save them for specific innings. It's unclear if they'll have an official closer in '18 or keep the role fluid as they did last year, but they'll have a few ninth-inning options in Parker, Johnson and Bedrosian.

Video: LAA@WSH: Bedrosian gets a ground out to earn the save

Middleton made some key strides as a rookie and could continue to develop into another late-innings relief weapon for the Angels. Wood and Ramirez, who were claimed off waivers in August, impressed in their limited stints in Anaheim last year and could become important arms in 2018.

QUESTION MARK
Johnson, a longtime closer, struggled to a 5.56 ERA with the Braves in 2017, though the Angels believe he can perform closer to his 3.79 career mark with the help of some analytical data that the club has uncovered.

"His arm is still really good," manager Mike Scioscia said during the Winter Meetings. "I think there's some things from an analytical basis that we feel we can do to help him."

Video: ARI@ATL: Johnson fans Goldy to seal the Braves' win

The Angels are also hoping for a bounce-back year from Bedrosian, who looked like the club's closer of the future after recording a 1.12 ERA in 2016 but saw his ERA spike to 4.43 last season. The Angels could also use more left-handed relievers, as Alvarez is currently the only one on their 40-man roster.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
Bard, who must be offered back to the Twins if he doesn't stay on the Angels' 25-man roster for the entire 2018 season, will be in the mix for a bullpen job during Spring Training, along with Pena, Dayan Diaz and Eduardo Paredes. JC Ramirez, who is out of options, could also land in the bullpen as a multi-innings reliever if he's healthy and doesn't earn a rotation spot.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Halos sign veteran catcher Rivera to 1-year deal

Left-hander Smith DFA'd to clear room on roster
MLB.com

The Angels have added to their depth at catcher, agreeing to terms on a one-year contract with veteran Rene Rivera, the club announced Tuesday.

Rivera, 34, split last season between the Mets and Cubs. He's played parts of nine seasons in the Major Leagues since making his debut with the Mariners in 2004.

The Angels have added to their depth at catcher, agreeing to terms on a one-year contract with veteran Rene Rivera, the club announced Tuesday.

Rivera, 34, split last season between the Mets and Cubs. He's played parts of nine seasons in the Major Leagues since making his debut with the Mariners in 2004.

Rivera is expected to compete for the backup job behind Martin Maldonado, who won the American League Gold Glove Award at the position in his first season with the Angels in 2017. Juan Graterol and Carlos Perez will also be in the mix for the backup job.

Known for his strong arm behind the plate, Rivera has thrown out 36.4 percent of attempted base-stealers in his big league career. Among all active catchers (minimum 3,000 innings caught), Rivera ranks second in caught-stealing percentage, behind only Yadier Molina (41.2 percent).

Rivera hit .252 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs in 74 games last season. He's a career .220 hitter over 473 MLB games. Rivera has also played for the Padres, Twins and Rays.

In a corresponding roster move, left-hander Nate Smith was designated for assignment. Smith underwent shoulder surgery in December and will not pitch in 2018.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @JALaymance.

 

Los Angeles Angels, Rene Rivera