Sunday, October 7, 2012

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Nick Maronde Tops Our Minor League Best Performers List

By Scott Stedman - AngelsWin.com Prospect Reporter

In looking back on the 2012 minor league season, I thought we'd capture the top 10 minor leaguer performers in the Los Angeles Angels organization. Disclaimer, this is not an Angels top prospect list, just the best performers down on the farm this season with some information on each player and a little scouting report.

1. Nick Maronde SP

2012 stats:
(AZL/IE/ARK) 6-4 2.26 ERA 20 G 99.2 IP 82 H 19 BB 90 K 

Nick Maronde was the Angels 3rd round pick in the 2011 First-Year-Player draft out of the University of Florida.  The conversion from a closer in college to a starter in pro ball has been very smooth for Maronde.  In his first full season in the Angels organization, Maronde put up impressive numbers mostly between High-A ball, and Double-A.  His 2.26 ERA was by far the best ERA in the Angels minor league system, and his 19 walks in nearly 100 innings show his complete control of the strike zone.  Maronde, 23, has an impressive repertoire of pitches that few lefties possess.  He features a four-seam fastball that sits in the low 90s, a sharp slider that dives away from left-handed-hitters and an advanced change up that he sells extremely well.  The Angels management showed huge faith in Maronde by promoting him to the big club this early in his development process.  Nick Maronde is knocking on the door, and he may be here to stay.

·Biggest asset: Fastball location

·MLB full-time prediction: Mid 2013

2. C.J. Cron, 1B/DH

2012 stats: (IE) .293/.327/.516 32 2B 2 3B 27 HR 123 RBI 3 SB

Cron, taken with the 17th overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, batted .293 with 27 homers and 123 RBIs (one short of the Minor League franchise record set by Todd Greene in 1994), topped the league with 271 total basesand and was named the Cal League Rookie of the Year in this season (2012). Cron has big time power, but isn't an all or nothing slugger, having the ability to foul off good pitches and lay off good breaking balls. Some people I talk to say Cron reminds them of Billy Butler with more power. Right shoulder issues have hampered Cron's throwing ability and may have led to him committing 19 errors while spending 95 of his 129 games at first base, but it didn't affect his ability to hit. Cron underwent labrum surgery to repair a right shoulder that had been bothering him since his final year at the University of Utah. Cron, the organization's No. 2 ranked prospect by MLB.com heading into the 2012 season, had the surgery in Los Angeles, performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum a few days before the minor league season ended, and will return to the team's Minor League complex in Arizona to start his rehab. He should be good to go by spring camp.

·Biggest asset: Power, RBI Production

·MLB full-time prediction: 2014

3. Kaleb Cowart 3B

2012 stats: (CR/IE) .276/.358/.452  31 2B 7 3B 16 HR 103 RBI 14 SB

The Angels took a risk in selecting Kaleb Cowart in the 1st round of the 2010 draft.  His potential was off the charts, but there were questions about his sign-ability.  When the dust settled Cowart signed for $2.3 million and in 2012, the Angels got a glimpse of his enormous potential at the hot corner.  After a very hot start in which Cowart had an .827 OPS in Low-A ball, the Angels decided to move him up to Inland Empire.  There, the 20-year-old switch-hitter had tremendous success up until the last week of the season where he struggled to maintain his swing.  His defense never slumped, however, and his arm at third base is second to none.  The fact that Cowart finished his 20-year-old season in High-A ball is impressive in itself.  His powerful stroke from both sides of the plate, coupled with his incredible eye at the plate and great defense is a recipe for success in Cowart’s career.

·Biggest asset: Plate discipline

·MLB full-time prediction:
Mid 2014

4. Wade Hinkle 1B

2012 stats: (Orem) .338/.443/.586 21 2B 0 3B 15 HR 57 RBI 1 SB

Wade Hinkle was an extremely surprising break-out prospect in 2012, leading the Owlz in nearly all major offensive categories.  The 23-year-old first baseman was the 837th overall pick in the 2012 draft, so the numbers that he put up for Orem were very surprising.  Hinkle led the team in average, on base percentage, OPS, total bases, etc.  Strangely enough, Hinkle hits lefties much better than he does righties. His line against lefties is .419/.519/.677 while his line against righties is .314/.418/.559.  If the 23-year-old wants to have a legit chance at being a useful MLB player, he will have to move through the system quickly.  I expect Hinkle to start 2013 as the starting first baseman for the Inland Empire 66ers.

·Biggest asset: On base/Power combo

·MLB full-time prediction: 2015

5. Randal Grichuk OF

2012 stats: (IE) .298/.335/.488  30 2B 9 3B 18 HR 71 RBI 16 SB

Randal Grichuk was another first round selection, in 2009, out of Lamar Consolidated High School (Texas).  Grichuk struggled mightily last year amid various injuries which cost him most of the season.  In 2012, however, the 21-year-old outfielder was healthy and he showed the Angels his true potential.  In the first half, Grichuk posted just a .714 OPS with a .296 OBP.  But once July came around, Grichuk began to click on all cylinders.  In the second half of the season, Grichuk hit .336 with a .941 OPS and his outfield defense continued to dazzle.  His notable performance during the 2012 season earned him a spot on the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.  Expect Grichuk to start the 2013 minor league season with the Arkansas Travelers, patrolling right field.

·Biggest asset:  Outfield arm

·MLB full-time prediction: Mid 2014

6. Eswarlin Jimenez SP
2012 stats: (CR/IE) 8-6 3.38 ERA 24 G 117.0 IP 136 H 20 BB 73 K

The Angels signed Eswarlin Jimenez as an international free agent on April 24, 2009 out of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  Jimenez breezed through the Dominican Summer League from 2009-2011, and in 2012 he made the jump to the States where turned heads.  In 17 starts with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, Jimenez, a 20-year-old southpaw, put up a 3.51 ERA in 97 quality innings.  From there, Jimenez made the transition to Inland Empire where he had 3 starts with a 2.75 ERA, striking out 14 and walking just 1.  Jimenez throws a fastball in the 89-94 range, and his curveball and changeup have made considerable improvements this year.  Look for Jimenez to start 2013 at Inland Empire and make his way up to the Arkansas Travelers by mid-season.  The future is bright for Eswarlin Jimenez is bright as long as he continues to throw strikes and keep hitters off-balanced.

·Biggest asset:
  Command

·MLB full-time prediction:  Mid 2014

7. Jonathan Walsh OF

2012 stats: (Orem) .300/.411/.522  16 2B 4 3B 9 HR 45 RBI 1 SB

Jonathan Walsh was selected in the 11th round of the 2012 draft out of the University of Texas and was sent to the Orem Owls to begin his professional career.  The 21-year-old switch-hitter flashed his advanced bat and great patience at the plate in Orem.  Walsh got on base at a 41% clip which shows how far ahead his approach is, compared to other players in rookie ball.  In college, Walsh was a catcher for the majority of the games so his outfield defense is still coming along slowly but surely.  As long as Walsh continues to show great discipline at the plate and a solid switch-hitting approach, look for him to climb up the list of Angels top prospects.  Walsh will likely begin the 2013 season in Cedar Rapids and could earn a promotion to Inland Empire by the year’s end. 

·Biggest asset: Plate discipline

·MLB full-time prediction: 2015

8. Taylor Lindsey 2B

2012 stats: (IE) .289/.328/.408  26 2B  6 3B 9 HR 58 RBI 8 SB

Lindsey was a supplemental first round pick in the 2010 draft, and turned heads last year with his stellar performance for the Orem Owlz.  He hit .362 with a .987 OPS and took home the Pioneer League MVP.  The Angels rewarded him by sending him straight to Inland Empire, skipping Cedar Rapids.  This year, Lindsey held his own for a 20-year-old in High-A ball.  His .289 average was good for 4th on the team and his 547 ABs led the team, a true testament to his durability and strength.  His quick stroke from the left side results in scores of line drives.  Look for Lindsey to spend a good chunk of time with the Angels in Spring Training and begin the 2013 season as the starting second baseman for the Arkansas Travelers.  If he continues to improve there, he could be a candidate for a September 2013 call-up.

·Biggest asset: Contact

·MLB full-time prediction: 2014

9. Zach Wright C

2012 stats:
(CR) .268/.385/.419  7 2B 1 3B 6 HR 23 RBI 1 SB

Zach Wright exceeded all expectations with his 2012 performance for the Cedar Rapids Kernels.  Wright was selected in the 12th round of the 2012 draft and was sent immediately to Low-A ball to split the catching duties with Abel Baker.  The 22-year-old out of Goldsboro, NC put up an .804 OPS and reports say that his defense was wonderful.  His .385 OBP is promising in a system that has seen overly-aggressive hitters flame out at the higher levels.  Given his age and college experience, I can see Wright moving up the ladder fairly quickly.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he finished the 2013 season with the Travelers.  The Angels are lacking depth at the catcher position behind Iannetta, but Zach Wright could help fill that void.

·Biggest asset: Plate discipline

·MLB full-time prediction: Mid 2014

10. R.J. Alvarez RP

2012 stats:
(CR) 3-2 3.29 ERA 23 G 27.2 IP 22 H 11 BB 38K

The Angels made R.J. Alvarez their first selection (3rd round) in the 2012 draft out of Florida Atlantic University.  Alvarez sits in the 93-95 MPH range but can pump it up to 97 when he needs to.  His slider is a work in progress and his command can be very spotty at times.  Still, Alvarez's fastball is a plus-plus pitch and he can rack up the strikeouts when he can locate it.  Opponents hit just .217 against Alvarez which shows that if he can control his pitches, hitters will have a tough time getting on base against him.  Look for Alvarez to begin the 2013 season in Inland Empire but if he has success there, I can see him ending the season with the Bees.

·Biggest asset: Heavy fastball

·MLB full-time prediction: 2014

Bonus: Alfonso Alcantara SP

2012 stats: (DSL) 5-4 2.13 ERA  13 G 72 IP 51 H 40 BB 77 K

Alfonso Alcantara was signed last summer as one of the only 6-figure signees from the international side of the game in the last few years.  Alcantara was signed as an 18-year-old out of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  He comes with a lively fastball and big 12-6 curveball, with his only downfall thus far being his control.  This was his first year in the Dominican Summer League, so he 2.13 ERA and 77 Ks showed great promise as he continues to adjust to better competition.  Depending on how well Alcantara is doing in his studies, as well as learning the English language, we could see him in the United States by next year. 

·Biggest asset:
Strikeout ability

·MLB full-time prediction: 2016

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