AL West Preview – Farm Systems
In a log delayed return to everyone’s favorite (if you are in the AL West anyhow) preview column, lets dive back in to our borderline stalkerish look at the AL West. Two of the top 5 farm systems in the league reside out in the West, and as a whole, they are actually the second highest rated division (according to OSA). I will look at them in the order that OSA ranks them overall, and will look at the leagues best specs, as well as some under the radar players who should make an impact in the future.
Oakland Athletics – OSA Rank #2 – AL West Rank #1
We have not begun a breakdown of this division out on the Bay yet, so this is a nice refreshing start. When you are looking up (Way….way up) at teams like LAA and SEA it is comforting to know that someone thinks the future is bright. Oakland’s top rated prospect is a young Dominican outfielder named David Vargas. The 23 year old has spent the last two years in single and double A respectively, and has flashed decent pop. He can defend both corner spots very well, and posses above average intelligence on the base paths. One league scout was quoted as saying that he is a “Can’t Miss prospect, Impact potential”. I agree the kid has some talent, but I think his rating as the #3 prospect in the nation may be a bit off. Either way, he starts the year in AAA and should be up by the ASB to replace Xavier Macklin (whom, as I believe we have established by this point, I am not a fan of). After Vargas, we drop way down the list to #41 and Rod “Super Joc” Cunningham. If I am being honest, I am quite put off by this nickname. Either way, the 20 year old from Newport, RI should be a nice piece in Oakland’s rotation in a few years.
Other top 100 OSA prospects on this team include; Luis Seda, Jesus Torres and Jeremy Sullivan. All of these players have some nice potential (Sullivan in particular seems to have a nice swing and should be able to reach those deep fences in Oakland), but none merit a lot of attention until they progress up the ladder a bit. Two players who did not make the OSA list that I like quite a bit are Juan Carlos Estrada and Jeremy Benson. Benson is a 20 year old pitcher from the Bronx who has not pitched above single A. Aquired from the Red Sox last year, a team that seemingly despises young talent, Benson still has quite a but of seasoning left to do. However, with 4 potentially plus pitches and a top speed of 98, I would expect him to be a big part of Oakland’s rotation in 2019. Estrada is another Dominican talent that is right there on the cusp. The 22 year old catcher hit .317 in a handful of games at the AAA level last year, and as much fun as it is to watch Larry Gonzalez struggle to stay above the Mendoza Line, I think the temptation of JCE’s bat will be to great to resist for the Oakland brass. Expect to see him making waves in Green and Gold this year. All in all, I like this system, but I do not think it deserves to be rated #2 behind a STACKED San Diego system and ahead of Houston (whom I like quite a bit).
Houston Astros – OSA Rank #4 – AL West Rank #2
As I have stated previously in this series, the future isn’t as bleak as it may seem in Houston. They have the #4 rated system according to OSA, and there are certainly some bright spots on the farm. 5 top 100 specs, with the lowest rated player coming in at 59th overall. Honestly, I don’t know why more teams don’t do what the Astros did. Take one big chip you have (Mark Appel) and turn him into 3 lottery tickets with good odds (Reith, Kawawe & Davila). Especially in a division like this one, where they are not going to be competing over the next few years, why not stockpile talent and see what you can develop. Anyhow, on to the specifics. Richard Fowler is the top prospect in Houston, and in my opinion, is the top hitting prospect in the division. The 22 year old rightfielder has never played above single A, but is making the jump all the way up to AAA in Fresno this year. If he continues to hit, I would expect him to hit the bigs late this year, and replace Patrick Leonard as the Stros everyday RF. I think I touched on this a bit in the OF preview, but I like Fowler a lot. I have him penciled in as a 30/20 guy who will also hit for average. Cant say enough about him. it is fun to look forwards a couple years at a Fowler, Moore (or Kawawe), Williams Of in Houston. Another hitting prospect in Houston that grabs a lot of attention is Aaron “Wino” White. the 21 year old (must have just earned this nickname recently) SS from Michigan flashed great power in college, but has yet to translate that at the major league level. Wino will start the year in Single A, and if he can flatten out his swing, I would expect to see him in Houston by 2019.
Lets track back to the OF for a second, because I almost forgot about Edgardo Arredondo. Arredondo (for some reason) is not listed as a top 100 prospect. Aquired from the Twins last season, Arredondo has plus plus power ability, and he can really put pressure on a defense with his speed as well. For those of you keeping track at home, that makes 5 very high level outfielders for a game that, last I checked, only has 3 outfield spots. Arredondo will likely DH for Houston, but it still leaves them with 4 players who will, should they reach full potential, deserve starting spots. Not a bad spot to be in if you are Houston GM Matt Wells.
Seattle Mariners – OSA Rank #14 – AL West Rank #3
The Seattle Mariners are just about as set as you can be at the major league level. There really isn’t room for any kids to come up from the minors and grab a major role (except maybe at 2nd base). Even still, they have a top half minor league system. This is kind of impressive, considering all the players GM Justin Kaiser has brought in over the years via trades. I don’t want to go through them all again, as we have covered this in previous previews, but its safe to say that most of the teams in the top 1/2 of the system ratings acquired some of their players from the M’s. Seattle has two top 100 prospects according to OSA, 2B Augusto Candelalia (#15) and SP Kyle Cody (#16). Not to make light of Candelalia’s career, but Cody is the far more interesting of the two.
Kyle Cody was previewed pretty heavily in the Pitching Futures article, so we wont go crazy here other than to mention his Killer changeup and Ace makeup. He will join a rotation that already has 3 legit top flight starters, and that is before I mention King Felix, so yea.. its kind of exciting in Seattle right now (if you can forget for a moment, that the Angels exist). As far as Candelalia, he is in a two man race as far as I am concerned. Who can get to the majors faster, he or Dave Allen. Either one at full potential would be an upgrade over Galvis, and they can both play the position.
Texas Rangers – OSA Rank #24 – AL West Rank #4
The Texas Rangers actually have more top 100 specs than the Mariners do, but the quality is much lower. #71, #78 & #92 all call the Rangers their parent club, though non of these fellas will reach the majors this season. A pair of 22 year old 2B are the top 2, with New York native Erik Lee holding down the top spot, and Dominican Artuto Moreno sliding in at #2. Both of these young men play great defense, and show enough power to make a splash in Arlington (it doesn’t take much, pretty sure Ichiro could hit 20 HR here). Incumbent Luis Mendez doesn’t pose much of a threat, so it is really all about who gets there first. My money is on Lee.
Ron Anderson is the Rangers lone interesting pitching prospect, but that doesn’t hold much hope for the future of his ERA. Balls fly down in Texas, and I wouldn’t be looking for anything south of 4.50 from him when he reaches the majors, at the earliest in 2018. Outside of these three young men, the cupboards are pretty bare in Texas. Luckily, the Rangers have TONS of young talent at the MLB level, and wont be relying on specs to save the day for awhile!
Los Angeles Angels – OSA Rank #23 – AL West #5
The Angels actually rank above the Rangers in OSA, but I am dropping them to 5th in my divisional ratings. Pettiness creeping up a bit? Perhaps. But it is also because they have been at the back end of the draft for the last 3 years, and most of their top prospects are in the majors right now. There are 2 ways to acquire high level specs in MLB Pro, draft them or trade for them. Matt Eiseneberg drafted them early, and is now reaping the rewards, but he hasn’t had the chance to replenish. This is not to say that there are not intriguing names down there. Anthony Kerr (#56 overall) is a 22 year old LA native who plays a number of infield positions, but specializes at 2B. He was likely slated for that role at one point, but then Matt uncharacteristically traded for Daniel Paolini and suddenly Kerr is without a role. The kid can certainly play, and should find his way onto a major league roster one day, but I do not think it will be as a starter in LA. the other top 100 spec is Chris Hughes, a 21 year old closer pitching in single A. He could one day be a serviceable reliever, but I do not care to spend time discussing him, as it is a few years off.
Coming up next (who knows when) is the final piece on the AL West, my predictions! I will predict records, standings, AL West MVP’s and so on. And then I will finally leave this hell hole and head East.