Prospect Countdown Review: #26-30
15 down, 25 left! We give you a look back at two of the higher end catching prospects in the Angels farm system, maybe the most promising power bat in the system, a talented right hander who has been plagued by injuries, and a speedy utility man who can play almost every position. 26. Michael Snyder, First Baseman There was a morning game June 26th of this past season. Two of our voters were at the game for a Scott Van Slyke rehab stint, but a different player shined that day. Michael Snyder absolutely destroyed a ball that ended up being a walkoff home run. It wasn't the first time he did it, or the last. This kid has some serious pop, and it's going to help him excel as a baseball player. A lot of that is behind his six-foot-four and 230 pound frame. Snyder has a lot of raw power from the right side of the plate that the Angels love, and so do we. SCOUTING REPORT: "Snyder has an advanced approach at the plate, and "Has" [Bill Haselman] really worked on having him select his pitch this past season. He has some good potential to be a good power bat in the future." Combine a long swing with good bat speed and a lot of strength behind that swing and you have Michael Snyder's bat. He has some serious pop that comes from raw strength, and it was showed this past season as he had the second most home runs in the farm system. Snyder does have holes in his swing though, and needs to work on patience at the plate. According to scouts and coaches, it was Snyder's focus this past season and the next to work on being more disciplined at the plate Snyder has good speed for a guy his size. He didn't steal any bases this past season, and according to stats only tried once, but he is a good base runner. Speed is probably a "B" grade, that he flashes well with his gap hitting. As for Snyder's glove, there aren't many holes. He's not flashy, but he gets the job done. The organization moved Snyder from his draft position, third base, over to first. Snyder has shown good lateral movement in the field, and he moves well for a bigger guy. He had the best defensive statistics in the Cal League this past season, and does not make many mistakes. STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN: Right out of the draft, Snyder tore the Pioneer League apart. Batting .332/.393/.531 with eight home runs and 59 RBI, the kid could not be stopped at the plate over his 70 games. Snyder was in the top three league leaders in five separate statistics, including being the league leader in doubles with 25. Snyder slowed down in 2013, but not by a whole lot. Holes were found in his bat when he showed a 25% strikeout rate, but he still managed to maintain a .280/.337/.506 slash at the plate. Snyder's power stayed constant though as he hit 25 home runs and 92 RBI, both good enough for second best in the Angels farm system only behind teammate, Zach Borenstein. EXPECTED OF THE FUTURE: Snyder is climbing the farm system ladder well, and we don't see it stopping in 2014. We expect Snyder to come out of Spring Training and head off to Double-A and the Arkansas Travelers in 2014. As for his Major League future, there is a slight jam at first base for the Angels for awhile with Albert Pujols, and potentially C.J. Cron. Snyder has the ability to climb the ladder each year and possibly land in the Majors in 2016, but it is more likely that they will fix the holes in his swing in Double-A and Triple-A while they have young talent and a future Hall of Famer, and he will end up being in the Majors in 2017. 27. Abel Baker, Catcher Grayson County College, ever heard of it? It might be reasonably familiar to Angels fans since the Angels seem to enjoy drafting pretty decent players out of there. Maybe you've heard the name Jordan Walden, or maybe, just maybe, John Lackey? A name from Grayson County College that is starting to become familiar with Angels fans is a name we enjoy talking about, Abel Baker. He has everything you want in a catching prospect; a good bat, good defense behind the plate, good communication with pitchers, an explosive arm. He's the real deal package. SCOUTING REPORT: "Baker makes it easy on the mound. He knows what to do to calm you down and he's not a guy you can blame your mistakes on. We have a really good connection and I prefer to have him behind the plate probably more than anyone else." Once again, a reminder we don't need, but we're going to explain anyways... the most important part of being a catcher is your communication with pitchers and ability to call a game. As one of Baker's teammates from the past few seasons told us in the quote above, Baker does a pretty good job of that. More than a few pitchers have told us that Baker is a calming catcher, and it also helps when is defensively sound behind the plate. Balls in the dirt tend to be swallowed up well by Baker, and his only flaw is slight "laziness on pop flys," according to some scouts. As for his arm, it's a loaded gun. Opposite of Bandy, who relies on his quick release, Baker has a rocket of an arm that he uses to his ability to throw runners out which he's done a darn good job at over his minor league career. When it comes to Baker's offensive game, he's picked up some habits of recent that have caused him some struggles. He's started to swing a little harder, making it harder to make better contact with the ball, forcing more strikeouts. With that said though, even out of college, Baker hit the ball hard off the bat. Something we've noticed from Baker that won't necessarily show up in a scouting report is that he has good speed for a catcher. We're not talking about "green light" on the base paths kind of speed, but he definitely has above average speed for a catcher, and has the ability to break open that speed for some extra base hits and maybe, a pair of steals each season. STATISICAL BREAKDOWN: Right out of the 2011 Draft where he selected in the seventh round, the Angels sent Baker right to Rookie Ball and the Orem Owlz. Baker showed that he was possibly better than what everyone expected, putting up big offensive and defensive numbers. Over 48 games, he had a .306/.406/.471 tear at the plate, which is beyond good as a catcher starting at the professional level. Baker also showed his natural talent to hit the ball hard hitting four balls out of the park. He also showed speed that no one knew about, stealing a base and hitting for a pair of triples. Baker slowed down in 2012, when he hit Single-A ball. A .246/.305/.352 line was the ending result for the season, where he tried to add some extra pop to his swing, resulting in more strikeouts, but higher power numbers. Baker didn't pick up much in High-A in 2013 in the hitter friendly California League, despite being in the pitcher friendly Inland Empire 66ers home ballpark for 70 games. He finished the season with a career high, 91 strikeouts, but impressed us once again with his speed, hitting four triples, an uncommon number for most catchers. EXPECTED IN THE FUTURE: Abel Baker had some struggles in the California League, but it shouldn't be enough to keep him from Double-A out of Spring Training in 2014. Catchers do take more time to develop, but there aren't a whole lot of flaws in Baker's game. Despite being sixth in line on the depth chart for the Angels, he should be on his way up come 2014, and bump himself even further up come 2015. At the pace he's at, Baker could be a Major Leaguer as early as 2016. 28. Michael Clevinger, RHP, Starter You have to really like a pitcher to take him in the early rounds out of a Junior College, so we assume the Angels must really like Michael Clevinger. Clevinger was taken in the fourth round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Seminole State College in Oklahoma. Never heard of it? We haven't either. Michael Clevinger though is someone we have heard of, and we like him. Tommy John surgery took Clevinger away from the game in 2013, but we're excited for what he'll bring to the table over the 2014 campaign. SCOUTING REPORT: When healthy, Clevinger has a pretty decent arsenal. Don't laugh at this, but his fastball sits anywhere between 89-95. Yeah... that sounds odd to us too. When we asked a scout about Clevinger's speed, he said he only has one fastball, a four-seam, and that some starts it is 89-92, and other starts it's 93-95. So we called an old coach of Clevinger's, and he told us the same thing. I'm sure after surgery, we'll get an actual idea of his pitch speed, but right now, his fastball is a high 80's to mid 90's fastball. Clevinger's big problem is following through in his delivery to the plate while throwing his fastball, his arm slot drops progressively as games go on, and he tends to overthrow the ball sometimes. Clevinger's three-quarter arm-slot delivery has helped with his off-speed pitches and their ability to break. Something even more special about Clevinger's off-speed pitches though is his command and ability to throw them over the plate. Clevinger has a changeup that has become his most effective swing and miss pitch, and is probably the best overall pitch in his arsenal. He also has a slider that is very effective in forcing groundballs. Clevinger's final pitch in his arsenal is a 12-6 curveball, just to throw something very off-speed and get batter's unbalanced, that became his two-strike pitch just prior to the injury. According to an Angels scout, all four of Clevinger's pitches are "Major League average or better, and can only get better." STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN: Clevinger has so little amount of stats, we could break down his game to game stats even. Clevinger has a career 4.26 earned run average and 1.322 WHIP over 11 starts and three relief appearances right out of the draft. In 2012, we at least got a glimpse of Clevinger, when he posted a 3.73 earned run average over eight starts that lasted 41 innings of pitching in Low-A. Over that same span, Clevinger struck out 34 (7.8 K per nine) while walking 13 (3.4 BB per nine). Sadly, Clevinger's last season only had three starts, including his last one with the Orem Owlz in the Pioneer League where he went 2.2 innings, allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits and a pair of walks. EXPECTED OF THE FUTURE: As for an immediate future, Michael Clevinger should be in a starting rotation in Single-A in 2014. It probably won't be High-A Inland Empire right off the bat, but instead, Low-A Burlington. Clevinger could even be the "ace" of that rotation next season. It's hard to predict progression in the not so immediate future for Clevinger due to his recent injury and Tommy John surgery. He will more than likely stay a starting pitcher over his minor league time, but has not proven that he will be a future Major League starter in any way. It is obvious that the Angels expect Clevinger to make the majors, and so do we. If healthy, scouts see Clevinger in the Majors by 2016, and we agree. Hopefully the injury will not deter Clevinger from his progression and possible outstanding future MLB career. 29. Jett Bandy, Catcher The guy always seems to be in a good mood, laughing and smiling, which is just about perfect for your clubhouse, dugout, and at mound visits. The first catcher to break the Top 40 on our countdown, Jett Bandy. Bandy is very well liked by his coaches and teammates, and is liked by us here at InsideTheHalos.com as well. So much so, that one of our voters had him as high as #11 on their voting list. SCOUTING REPORT The most important part of being a catcher is your communication with pitchers and ability to call a game. Of course, the first people you go to when you look for these? Pitchers, coaches, and managers. "I'm different so it's harder for someone to adjust to me... I had a good connection with Bandy last year, but I felt like it could've been a little better. It was just a little harder for to him to adjust to me." "Bandy and I worked perfect together. He knew me, what pitches worked well in what count and what didn't. If he said fastball, I threw a fastball. It was a good connection." Obviously not every catcher will work well with each pitcher, but Bandy has started to gain an ability to work with each pitcher differently and start adjusting. With some development, Bandy could become an excellent play caller behind the plate. Defensively, Bandy is above average. His arm strength is average but his release is far above average, which has been his advantage to throwing out potential base stealers. Bandy has good positioning as well, not allowing many pitches to sneak past him in the dirt. When it comes to being at the plate offensively, Bandy is a standard catcher. He has a quick swing but not a very powerful swing. One good thing about Bandy is he puts the ball in play often, not striking out much, but also not walking a lot either. If Bandy can work on good contact as opposed to just contact, he could actually become a very good bat late in any order. STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN Jett Bandy's first professional season was... well, incredible! After being drafted in the 31st round of the 2011 Draft, he was sent about six hours East of his hometown of Thousand Oaks, California, and about two hours East of his college (University of Arizona) to play in the Arizona Rookie League, where he was an offensive force. Bandy rode a batting average above .300 the entire 50 games he played, toting a .308/.392/.492 line by the end of his 2011 season. Bandy also struck out just over 10% of his plate appearances, which is incredible for a rookie just becoming a professional. Bandy even had decent power numbers putting up five home runs, 19 doubles, and 32 RBIs. Bandy played four games outside of AZL, one at Triple-A, and one with the Double-A Arkansas Travelers where he went 1-for-2 with a solo home run. 2012, Bandy came down to earth statistically in High-A, but still proved that he can be a dominant defensive and offensive catcher, batting .247/.318/.386, changing his swing a little to add just a little more pop at the plate. 2013, Jett Bandy spent the entire season in Double-A, and picked up his defensive game with a .991 defensive fielding percentage, a career high by four points. Not only did his defensive percentage pickup, but also his arm, throwing out 32% of potential base stealers. His bat stayed consistent at a new level, which is something every scout, coach, and fan love to see. One giant thing for Bandy is that against left handed pitchers in 2013, he had a line of .305/.364/.441, and the Texas League had some of the best left-handed pitching prospects that it'd seen in many seasons of late, a tough group to hit that well against. Bandy was given the chance to play in the 2013 Arizona Fall League as well. Bandy put up similar numbers to his regular season tear, but just about flip flopped his slant at the plate when it came to lefties and righties. Bandy in the AFL vs. right-handed pitchers: .296/.296/.481. EXPECTED OF THE FUTURE: Jett Bandy is still the fourth ranked catcher in the Angels system behind Hank Conger, Chris Iannetta, and John Hester (pending no free agent moves). Carlos Ramirez has been around for awhile and may be deserving of a callup, but his bat just hasn't excelled in Double-A. With that, we expect Jett Bandy to spend 2014 with the Salt Lake Bees in Triple-A. It all depends on Bandy's success at the plate and how pitchers develop with him, but we do expect to see Bandy in the Majors. Time set is hard to select when it comes to catchers, but you could see Bandy in the Majors as soon as 2015, but it's probably more likely to see him there in 2016. 30. Sherman Johnson, Utility Infielder Leadoff, leadoff, leadoff, oh my goodness leadoff man! Sherman Johnson is the definition of what a leadoff man should be with a nearly as many walks in his career as strikeouts, and a career on base percentage nearing .400. It's not the numbers that make this kid shine though. If you just watch him play baseball, you know that there's something special about him. SCOUTING REPORT: "I've never played with a guy like [Sherman Johnson]. He's such a natural athlete and it's like baseball is so engraved in his mind that it was just what he was born to do." A former teammate at Florida State University told us about Johnson this past season when none of us had seen him yet, but when we did, we got a glimpse of what he was talking about. Johnson had flawless fielding at each position he played, whether it was the corner outfield positions, third base, or second base. He has a big arm for a guy who isn't very tall or wide in stature. Johnson won a gold glove in college at third base, and has shown precision at the minor league level with some tweaks that need to be made. With time, Johnson could be an outstanding utility defenseman. It sounds simple but it's something minor leaguers usually don't figure out right away, and that's finding the right pitches to swing at, and the right pitches to avoid, and that's something Sherman Johnson has come to recognize. Now obviously, Johnson has a good eye as it shows mostly in his walk count, but something we noticed right away is Johnson's ability to read pitches and how well he does it. Even with the ability to read pitches well, Johnson still has struggles making good contact with the ball. This is something that coaching will fix, but it may delay his route to the show if it's not an immediate fix. Other than that, he has one other small problem, and it's power. Johnson is five-foot-ten and weighs right around 180 pounds, and he doesn't necessarily bring all of that weight around while swinging the bat. Johnson won't put up big power numbers at any point in his career, but could make up for it with his great presence as a leadoff hitter. Every good leadoff hitter needs a little bit of speed around the base paths. Well, look no further. Johnson is no Billy Hamilton or Ricky Henderson, but he sure can light up the base paths. He seems to be pretty steady with the league leaders in stolen bases and if he can find the gaps in the outfield, has no problem putting on the after burners to hit second or third for a double or triple. "I compare him to a Chone Figgins type of player, probably from the earlier part of his career, I really enjoy watching Johnson play." - Midwest League Broadcaster. STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN: Only two seasons in the minors after being drafted in the 14th round of the 2012 draft, Johnson has made strides through the Angels farm system. Jumping right out of the draft and in to Rookie Ball with the Orem Owlz, Johnson had no problem hitting the professional level with ease. Walking more times than he struckout (49 BB/40 K), he reached base on balls every 4.89 plate appearances, something you hardly ever see from someone who comes out of the draft. Along with that, Johnson posted a .427 on base percentage (20 points higher than his slugging percentage). 2013, everyone got to see what Johnson was really like in his first professional season, and he did not disappoint. He had just slight drops in the hitting numbers but still managed to maintain a strong presence as a leadoff hitter in Low-A with the Burlington Bees, before a very late season callup to the High-A Inland Empire 66ers, where he went on to be a big part of their California League Championship run. EXPECTED IN THE FUTURE: Taking a look at 2014 for Sherman Johnson, a year in the California League could boost his confidence as a hitter and might be the best thing for Johnson at this point in his career. We expect Johnson to play leadoff man in High-A over 2014, with a possible callup late in the season to Double-A pending what he does and how he improves. The majors are a possibility for Johnson, and we could see him there as early as 2016, but more likely in 2017. For more information on the Los Angeles Angels and their prospects, follow @ScoutAngels, and for to the minute updates on the Angels, follow our site publisher, @TaylorBlakeWard.