The Los Angeles Angels have been rumored recently to still be active in the free agent outfield market. Naturally, the inclination with any team searching for outfield help is to see if they could possibly line up with the Colorado Rockies in a trade for one of their outfielders on the chopping block.
And while the Angels at the moment don't appear to be in talks with Jeff Bridich and Colorado, the two teams have had discussions in the recent past centering around Carlos Gonzalez. As we have done with some of the other teams that could be looking to Colorado for an outfielder, let's look at the Angels' farm system to see what players could be of value to the Rockies.
LA's farm system is... not good. Considered by many to be a bottom-five system even before they traded Sean Newcomb to the Braves, it's worse now. Not only do they lack the top pieces that the Rockies would hopefully be looking for in a CarGo trade, they also do not have the depth of second-tier prospects that the Giants, for one, had that might make it easy to line up a trade for a player like Charlie Blackmon.
However, there are some intriguing minor league pieces that could possibly be packaged together with a young big leaguer if the Angels and Rockies were so inclined. Considering Drew Creasman's recent breakdown on the Rockies' organizational depth, some of these non-pitcher prospects are certainly worth a deeper look.
Taylor Ward, 22, a right-handed catcher, is probably the most intriguing prospect in the Angels' entire farm system. He represents the only first round pick the Angels have left after trading away Newcomb and not having a first rounder in either 2012 or 2013. The righty was originally touted as more of a defense-first catcher before having an absolutely stellar professional debut that saw him get promoted from Rookie to Low-A with phenomenal numbers the whole way.
Ward's best tool is his arm, though the rest of his defensive skills seem strong enough to allow him to be at least a back-up MLB catcher even if his bat didn't come around. Since being drafted, though, Ward put up all the offensive numbers that makes one think that he could become a solid MLB catcher. He also runs well for a catcher, though that may not hold as he ages.
For the rookie level Orem Owlz, Ward hit .349/.489/.459 with 29 walks and only eight strikeouts in 29 games before being promoted to Low-A Burlington. Once being promoted, Ward continued to hit the ball well, putting up a .348/.412/.418 line to finish the 2015 season. He has shown the ability to pull the ball at times, and if he can continue to develop his power, that could pair extremely well with his eye at the plate.
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With the Giants perhaps turning to trades to fill an outfield hole, who would they be willing to give up to acquire one of the Rockies' outfielders?
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Roberto Baldoquin, 21, a right handed middle infielder, was signed as an international free agent out of Cuba last offseason for an $8 million bonus. He struggled in his stateside debut, but has all the physical tools necessary to develop into a big league ballplayer. This next season will be telling as Baldoquin becomes more comfortable in America and is able to take advantage of consistent daily development that was lacking in Cuba.
Baldoquin's athleticism is definitely his best tool and should allow him to play anywhere in the infield. His arm is also strong and accurate enough to man all the infield positions. Despite all that athleticism and quickness, though, Baldoquin is not particularly fast.
Baldoquin struck out 70 times and walked only nine times in 309 plate appearances in 2015, and there are some legitimate concerns about his plate discipline and ability to identify pitches. His athleticism gives him natural power, but he'll need to be able to develop as a hitter in order to take advantage of it as he progresses through the minors.
Nate Smith, 24, a left-handed pitcher, was drafted in the 8th round of the 2013 draft as a senior out of Furman University. Since then, Smith has performed much better than a guy drafted to conserve signing cap space is expected. However, a call-up to Triple-A at the end of the 2015 season was the first sign of struggle in Smith's professional career. But, considering the track record of many pitching prospects' first experiences in the Pacific Coast League — Jon Gray included — that might not be too concerning.
Smith's best pitch is a changeup, though all four pitches in his arsenal are all pretty close to average offerings. That complete repertoire of fastball, changeup, slider and curve are probably the best thing about the pitcher, especially when combined with his advanced understanding of pitching. Definitely not flashy, Smith probably best fits the description of a crafty lefty prospect and could fill out the back end of a rotation one day.
Victor Alcantara, 22, is likely the pitcher with the best stuff left in the Angels' farm system. Signed as an 18-year-old international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, the righty struggled when coming to the states but he's improved every season.
Armed with an electric fastball, Alcantara has struck out over 100 batters in each of the last two seasons, including this past summer for High-A Inland Empire. However, Alcantara is the definition of raw as he's also paired those strikeouts with a career walk rate of 4.4 BB/9 which, granted, has been trending down every season. A good slider and developing changeup give Alcantara the repertoire necessary to stick as a starter.
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Unfortunately, these are probably the best prospects that the Angels could potentially offer in a trade for one of the Rockies' outfielders. This system has been devastated by years of not having top picks and trading away the few they did have for Major Leaguers like Andrelton Simmons. So unless the Halos want to include a young MLB player in a trade as the centerpiece, they may not have the pieces necessary to acquire Carlos Gonzalez or even Charlie Blackmon.
Here at Purple Row, though, we believe in finding solutions and not just pointing out problems (cheesy, right?), so let's look at the one player who could probably get the deal done (in the non-Mike Trout division, of course) if the Angels were willing to part ways with big league talent.
Heaney, a left-handed pitcher, was the Miami Marlins' first round pick (9th overall) in 2012 and was acquired by the Angels in a three-team trade that sent Dee Gordon to the Marlins and Howie Kendrick to the Los Angeles Dodgers last winter. Heaney had a stellar minor league career averaging almost a strikeout per inning, and a very solid rookie season as a starter for the Angels in 2015.
Heaney's best pitch is a heavy fastball that sits in the low 90s, though he can also throw a faster four-seem variation as well. Heaney also has a solid changeup and curveball and good control that allows him to not just avoid walks, but command his pitches within the strike zone. However, the most attractive part of Heaney's entire repertoire is how well it could match with what is needed to succeed at Coors Field.
Without Heaney, I struggle to see a package that could entice the Rockies to give up one of their talented outfielders to the Angels. However I also doubt that the Angels are going to be willing to give Heaney up in a trade — and thus, we may be left with just another club that's talked to the Rockies all winter without ever going through on a deal before Spring Training.