Halos' No. 1 prospect Rada lapping the competition

May 24th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- The Angels are aggressive as it gets with their prospects, and their latest example was starting 18-year-old center fielder at Double-A Rocket City this season.

Rada, ranked as the club’s No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, struggled to get acclimated to the jump and playing against much older peers early in the season, hitting .213/.281/.238 in April (20 games). But he’s been heating up in May, batting .323/.375/.338 in 17 games. He's a prototypical leadoff hitter with speed to burn, and he's the organization's most prolific basestealer in the Minors with 19 stolen bases this season.

Rada has done it all despite being nearly six years younger than his average competition in the Southern League. But it’s nothing new for him, as he was impressive at Single-A Inland Empire last year, hitting .276/.395/.346 with 55 stolen bases in 115 games, despite being roughly four years younger than average.

He’s been stealing his bases in bunches -- he swiped three bags on May 15, two more on Saturday and another on Tuesday.

The Angels liked what they saw from him during Spring Training when he worked with coaches Bo Porter and Eric Young Sr. Rada stole five bases without getting caught in his first taste of Cactus League play.

“He’s a young kid with good bat-to-ball skills,” Angels manager Ron Washington said. “We just want him to play his game. He puts the ball in play and can run. We’re trying to get him a little more aggressive on the basepaths. But he’s 18 years old, so he’s in his head. We just told him to trust his speed and got an interpreter to tell him if he gets thrown out, just to dust himself off and try it again. He’s got carte blanche.”

Rada, listed at 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, is still growing into his frame and is expected to develop more power down the line. But for now, he’s learning to control the strike zone and utilize his speed in both center field and on the bases.

Rada, who was signed out of Venezuela for $1.85 million during the 2022 signing period, is envisioned as the club’s center fielder and leadoff hitter of the future, as he could possibly move superstar Mike Trout to a corner spot down the line. But Rada said during Spring Training he wasn’t worried about that just yet and was just honored to watch and learn from Trout.

He's also ranked just outside the Top 100 Prospects by MLB Pipeline, but said he’s not worried about his rankings and just wants to get to the Majors to help the Angels as soon as possible. Given his trajectory, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the Majors at some point next year.

“I feel very comfortable and I feel very happy,” Rada said. “I feel grateful for the opportunity, and I hope one time, I'll be in the real big leagues. I don’t think much of the [prospect rankings]. I’m just trying to do my best and give it 100 percent every time I play.”

Triple-A Salt Lake: RHP Hans Crouse
Crouse, 25, isn’t ranked among the club’s Top 30 Prospects, but he has pitched well in relief for Salt Lake, going 3-0 with a 3.45 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings. He's a former Rangers top prospect who reached the Majors with the Phillies for seven innings in 2021. The Dana Point, Calif., native could be an option for the bullpen if he keeps it up.

High-A Tri-City: RHP Walbert Urena
Urena, ranked as the club’s No. 12 prospect, is coming off a strong start against Hillsboro on Sunday, throwing seven scoreless innings. He's posted a 2.45 ERA in four starts in May and a 3.35 ERA on the year. But he needs to work on his control, as he has 29 strikeouts and 28 walks in 40 1/3 innings.

Single-A Inland Empire: C Juan Flores
The Angels are very high on Flores, who was in Major League camp in Spring Training for the first time as an 18-year-old. Flores, the club’s No. 21 prospect, is considered a strong defensive catcher and has held his own offensively, hitting .274/.341/.444 with three homers, nine doubles and 19 RBIs in 31 games.