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Inbox: Which Angels prospects could enter the Top 100?

September 14, 2017

The 2017 Minor League season is just about over, with playoff series finishing up over the next several days and prospects putting exclamation points on strong 2017 seasons (I'm looking at you, Tyler O'Neill!).You'd think that would lead to some down time, but not so fast. There will be instructional

The 2017 Minor League season is just about over, with playoff series finishing up over the next several days and prospects putting exclamation points on strong 2017 seasons (I'm looking at you, Tyler O'Neill!).
You'd think that would lead to some down time, but not so fast. There will be instructional league play, though Hurricane Irma is wreaking havoc with the schedules in Florida, followed by the start of the Arizona Fall League in early October.
In other words, there's still plenty to talk about and you proved that with a ton of quality questions this week. I'll try to get to the ones who didn't appear here on Twitter, but for now, here's an interesting (I hope) quartet of queries.

It's been a while since I've been able to talk about Angels prospects. But their farm system has improved and there are a couple of guys who could crack the Top 100 in 2018. Check out the video above to find out who I'm talking about.

Two questions about Jackson? How could I say no? It certainly hasn't been an easy path for Jackson, who was thought to be the best hitter in the Draft class in 2014 and went No. 6 overall to the Mariners as a result. He scuffled in his two-plus years with Seattle, with some moderate offensive improvement in 2016. And he had been moved immediately from behind the plate to the outfield, both because they thought it would allow his bat to move faster (see Harper, Bryce) and because there was some indication that Jackson wasn't overly enthused about being a backstop long-term.
Fast-forward to 2017. Jackson was traded to the Braves in November for pitchers Max Povse and Rob Whalen. Atlanta wanted to move Jackson, the Braves No. 16 prospect, back behind the plate and, to his credit, Jackson was all-in. Considering it had been three years since he caught, and he'd never done it professionally, the Braves were pleased with his progress defensively. He caught in 56 games across two levels and threw out 21 percent of would-be basestealers, improving from 19 to 25 percent when he moved up to Double-A. The organization thinks there's still work to be done there, but the plan is to definitely let him keep catching and he'll get more work in there in the Arizona Fall League.

At the same time, Jackson made strides with the bat as he was able to work his way from the Florida State League to the Southern League, finishing with career highs in home runs, slugging percentage and RBIs. His OPS and batting average were his best since his summer pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He could improve his 106/23 K/BB ratio for sure, but his walk rate did go up in his 30 games with Mississippi (granted, a small sample size). I'm not sure he'll hit enough to be a Top 100 guy, but there is confidence within the organization that he can be an offensive-minded catcher at the big league level and I can see it. Considering how things started out for him, that's a huge step in the right direction.

Ethan Hankins and Brady Singer, by many accounts, are the top high school and college arms in the 2018 Draft class. Hankins is coming off of a stellar summer showcase circuit where he found himself atop many top performers lists at a number of events. He capped it off by dominating competition in the WBSC U-18 World Cup for Team USA, allowing one run and three hits over 12 innings, walking just three and striking out an astounding 27. Even before that showing, Hankins was ranked No. 2 on our Top 10 high school prospects in the Class of 2018 thanks to his mid-to-upper-90s fastball and improved breaking ball.

Singer didn't pitch this summer, but anyone who watched Florida win the College World Series saw what he could do. He can carve up hitters with his 92-96 mph fastball with plenty of life and his nasty slider, and he will be the ace of the Gators staff in 2018. We recently had him atop our Top 10 college prospects list.
Obviously, we need to see how both perform in the spring before figuring out ultimate Draft status and then, placement on our Top 100 list post-Draft. But if both remain as the top college and prep arms in the country and are Drafted as such, I think we can look at our recent history to get a sense of where they belong. In 2017, Hunter Greene was the top high school pitcher, going No. 2 overall. When we launched our reranked list in July, we put him in at No. 21 overall (now ranked 18th).
On the college side, the top-ranked pitcher was either Brendan McKay (who was ranked as such as a two-way player and continues to do both with the Rays) or Kyle Wright, who went to the Braves. McKay went into the Top 100 at No. 23 (now No. 20th), while Wright debuted at No. 35 (now 32nd). In 2016, we were a little more conservative given some question marks surrounding the two top arms, with high schooler Jay Groome entering the Top 100 at 42 and another Florida pitcher, A.J. Puk, sliding in at No. 65. If Hankins and Singer continue to perform as they did in 2017, I could see both being closer to the Greene-McKay/Wright combo and landing in the top 40 for sure. 

Currently, there are seven pitchers from the Class of 2017 on the Top 100: The aforementioned Greene, McKay (if you want to count him as a pitcher) and Wright, the Padres' MacKenzie Gore, the Tigers' Alex Faedo, J.B. Bukauskas of the Astros and Pirates RHP Shane Baz. There's nothing that points to any of them not making the 2018 version of the list in January, though we obviously haven't started work on that just yet.
Other than that, honestly, it's tough to see any other 2017 Draft pitchers starting the year on our Top 100 for sure. There are a number of arms who could very easily work their way onto the list with a strong start to their first full seasons, however. Based on pure stuff, Seth Romero (makeup concerns make us pause, so we'll want to see him staying on a straight path) and Nate Pearson (tremendous pro debut in the Northwest League) likely lead the list. High school lefties Trevor Rogers and D.L. Hall could work their way on as well eventually.

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