TEMPE, Ariz. – When a key part of an organization’s philosophy is to sign young, athletic, high-ceiling players, the need to remain patient is crucial. The Angels have been hoarding those kinds of high-risk, high-reward types and have managed to do just that, not pushing any of their premium athletes
TEMPE, Ariz. – When a key part of an organization’s philosophy is to sign young, athletic, high-ceiling players, the need to remain patient is crucial. The Angels have been hoarding those kinds of high-risk, high-reward types and have managed to do just that, not pushing any of their premium athletes too quickly.
On the flip side, some have moved more quickly than might have been anticipated, with top prospects Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh leading that charge. Behind them, Jordyn Adams, a two-sport star who was the club’s top pick from the 2018 Draft, had a strong first full season in the Midwest League and even got a bump up to the California League at the end of the year.
The hard work some of the Angels prospects have put in was evident at Spring Training before it was cancelled. And the Angels pushed them a bit by sending more over to big league games than has been typical.
“There are a handful of players who came into camp in as good shape as we could’ve hoped from offseason programs they were prescribed,” Angels farm director Mike LaCassa said. “Some of those players got the opportunity to get up in big league games. We sent more younger players up to big league games this year than we have in the past because we felt this group was ready for that opportunity, and they’ve really thrived on that experience. That was great to see early.”
• Angels Top 30 Prospects list
One of those young players who got some Cactus League action was Kyren Paris. The Angels’ second-round pick in 2019 and the system’s No. 5 prospect, Paris didn’t play a lot during his pro debut last summer, but he’s already answered some questions about his ability to impact the baseball by adding a lot of strength during the offseason.
“We drafted him last year and he played three games in the AZL as a 17-year-old,” LaCassa said. “He played three games in Major League Spring Training as an 18-year-old. That’s his professional experience to date.
“Kyren still hasn’t played a lot of baseball at the professional level. For him to go up to a Major League game, get into the game the first day he’s up there, he has a hit and a walk, playing defense. He’s taking it all in, he’s extremely inquisitive. That opportunity for him up there, we feel he’s grown a lot.”
Prospect we’ll be talking about in 2021
The Angels don’t only take those high-end players on the offensive side. Case in point was their third-round pick in 2019: right-hander Jack Kochanowicz. They gave the 6-foot-6 right-hander $1.25 million to sign him away from his commitment to the University of Virginia, so it’s clear they have high hopes for him. But the Pennsylvania high school standout didn’t pitch in games during his first summer, so the team’s No. 11 prospect has yet to make his official pro debut, but based on what LaCassa saw from him this spring, people are going to want to see him.
“What he showed in camp this spring has brought a lot of excitement,” LaCassa said. “He’s 6-foot-6 with a great delivery, an electric fastball and a sharp breaking ball. The feel for his changeup has improved already since he joined us. He has a bulldog demeanor out there on the mound, even in bullpen competitions.”
• Q&A with Jeremiah Jackson
Adding strength to that big frame has already brought more velocity, but Kochanowicz's ability to command his stuff given his size has really stood out.
“He’s already a lot stronger than he was at the point of the Draft,” LaCassa said. “The consistency and repeatability of his delivery is something that has been impressive for such a big young man. To be able to do what he does at that size at this age is extremely impressive -- the way he goes about competing in everything he’s tasked with doing. All of his stuff has taken steps forward.”
Something to prove
When Kevin Maitan signed with the Braves for $4.25 million in July 2016, he was one of the most hyped international amateur free agents in recent memory. The Braves pushed him to the Appalachian League at age 17. After he was named a free agent in the wake of the Braves’ international signing infractions, the Angels jumped in and gave him $2.2 million to join their organization. He went to the Pioneer League in 2018 and got pushed to full-season ball last year, where he proceeded to put up a .214/.278/.323 line.
There is a balance that needs to be found, of course. Yes, Maitan has yet to produce at a level that comes anywhere close to expectations. But he also was more than two years younger than all position players in the Midwest League last year and the Angels have seen plenty of progress.
“Kevin has made tremendous strides at third base,” LaCassa said. “He’s becoming a very solid defender over there.
“And he still has one of the more impressive batting practices in our entire system. When it comes to what he’s done on the field, I think it’s really easy to forget how aggressively he’s been assigned to levels. He’s always been going up against competition that is several years older than him. He’s handled it really well. He understands areas he needs to improve in and he doesn’t shy away from the work. He always wants more information, and this is a player who just turned 20. But because of how high the expectations were set and he didn’t reach it immediately, I think he does have something to prove.”
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.