An American Band from the 70's called The Eagles (you may have heard of them) have a song called "Life In The Fast Lane" and that might be the best way to describe our next prospect.
Out of the 2012 draft, South Carolina Gamecock ace, Michael Roth was sent to Rookie Ball like most draft products. Right out of Spring Training is 2013, jumped him to Double-A. Also in 2013? A callup to the show not even a month in to the season. If you're thinking like we are, you're thinking... who the heck is this guy? Well we're going to tell you about this guy, and why the Angels like him so much.
Before we jump in to the scouting report and such, we just want to note the leader Roth is on and off the field. You will never see it in the box score, but Roth is always up beat, and all smiles, even on the not so good days. We give a tip of the cap to Mr. Roth for his outstanding character.
Michael Roth has one of the better changeups in the Angels farm system according to just about every scout/coach that has seen him in his short minor league career. He has nearly perfect command of it, and with good mechanics between the two, throws it from the identical arm slot as his fastball.
Roth has a pair of fastballs that both sit anywhere from 86-89, and has touched 90 a very limited amount of times. One is a sinking two-seam fastball that breaks away from right-handed batters, and a cutter that breaks away from left-handers. The sinking two-seam seems to be the better of the two, but it also helps that this left-handed pitcher has a pitch that breaks well against lefties at a "higher amount of speed" than his slider.
Roth's command on his slider and curveball are a little rough. He uses these pitches more just to throw batters off a tad, and just to show them something new from time to time. The best part about Roth and these pitches is that when he misses on command, they rarely hit the middle of the strike zone but instead break far and away or in the dirt and are non hit-able pitches.
Roth has had some trouble keeping a steady arm slot. He pitches from a sidearm slot against left-handed batters and a three-quarter arm slot against right-handed batters. This is something he HAS (notice that's all in caps?) to fix before taking his pitching to the next level.
As we said earlier, Roth went straight out of the ninth round of the 2012 draft and in to Rookie Ball. Roth that season was either perfect, or not so good in his performances. Roth had six appearances where he did not allow a run, three of those coming without a hit against, and three without any walks. In Roth's other five appearances, he allowed four runs twice. Combined at the end, Roth ended his first professional season with a 4.91 earned run average, and 1.545 WHIP.
Roth made the big jump out of his first Spring Training to Double-A where he started off flawless not allowing a run in his first three appearances (one start, two relief). Once he was turned in to a full time starter though, Roth allowed a minimum of one run every game. At the end of 2013, Roth posted a 4.20 earned run average and 1.424 WHIP with a six wins and three loss record.
Something you can't forget is that Roth saw Major League action in 2013 as well. In his first four appearances, Roth allowed a pair of runs on four hits while walking just one, and striking out seven. That's a mouth full, but in his first Major League appearance, Roth went two full innings, striking out four, and now allowing a hit. Roth's decline though was drastic, as over the next six games, he allowed 12 runs in ten innings. Roth finished the 2013 season in the Majors with spotless numbers again though. Over his last five appearances, he pitched five innings of relief, allowing just one, count it, ONE hit. The one big one for Roth was his loan start where he allowed five runs, bumping his season ERA to 7.20. However, the promise was shown both in the beginning and the end.
Roth was given the honor to pitch in the Arizona Fall League for the Angels, where he started six games before a cyst in his throwing wrist took him out of commission for the rest of the AFL. Over his time though, he posted a 3.43 earned run average and 1.33 WHIP while opposing holding batters to just a .237 batting average.
EXPECTED IN THE FUTURE:
Well, the Angels sure make it hard to give us an ETA on Roth's callups, but in a not so crazy world, we expect Roth to pitch in Triple-A next season, and work his way back to the Majors. Possibly another full year in the minors would do Roth good, just so he can learn a little bit more command on his pitches, and how to work on his arm slot problem. Other than that, Roth could earn himself a callup as early as late next season, but it is more likely that he'll be a full time Angel sometime in 2015. It is unspecified whether Roth would be a starter or reliever, but it makes much more sense for him to be a lefty in the bullpen, not just as a left-handed specialist, but also as a middle relief man against a strong left-handed lineup.
#22. Kevin Johnson, RHP, Closer
As a reliever, you have specific roles, and how good you are is defined by how you take over that role. The Angels have a reliever who quietly takes his role, and takes care of it with very little problems. An unorthodox closer who doesn't strike out a lot of guys, but instead, has become a ground out pitcher. A hero at the University of West Florida, and a rising star in the Angels system, coming in at #22 in our countdown, right-handed closer, Kevin Johnson.
"Johnson's sinker will be the pitch that gets him to the Major Leagues."
It's true, Johnson has one heck of a sinker with astonishing break. The "anvil sinker" described to us by Arkansas Travelers broadcaster, Phil Elson, is Johnson's best pitch. It also helps that the pitch is coming from a three quarter arm slot dropping from his six-foot-four stature. Johnson's sinker sits in the mid 90's.
One slight problem with Johnson's sinker is that he can't control the break, which has lead to quite a few walks. Johnson's command of location is fine, but his command of break on the sinker isn't fine. It sounds silly, but it's the truth, and with one of the best sinkers, if not the best in the system, if he can learn to command the break of his sinker, he could have one of the best pitches alone in the system with his sinker.
Johnson throws a standard slider that has inconsistencies, but breaks well. Something that Johnson also needs to tailor the movement of the pitch so he can gain a better command of his pitches.
Something we have to note is that Johnson has a toe tap just prior to his stride to the plate. We made a call to a player that faced Johnson quite a few times, and when we asked about the toe tap he said:
"That (expletive) tap drives me nuts! I hate Johnson, or at least facing him. I'm sure he's a nice guy and all, but that (expletive) toe tap throws your timing off just enough, you end up hating the guy."
Johnson got better with time, as out of the draft, he struggled in Rookie and Independent ball in 2010, posting a combined 5.95 earned run average, and 1.785 WHIP.
2011 was a breakout season for Johnson, as he posted a combined 3.34 earned run average and 1.253 WHIP between Low-A and High-A. Johnson was tagged in the hitter friendly confines of the Cal League and High Desert/Lancaster, throwing six pitches that left the park, three from High Desert and Lancaster.
Johnson posted All-Star numbers in 2012 in Double-A. Despite strikeouts being at an all-time low, so were all his other numbers. A career low almost all statistics (excluding 13.1 innings in Low-A), Johnson reached career best in earned run average (2.37), WHIP (1.211), hits per nine (8.3), home runs per nine (0.7), and a tie in career best saves (16).
Johnson countered his 2012 success with another good season in 2013. With struggles in Triple-A at the end of 2013 (7.45 ERA, 1.966 WHIP), his season numbers went up. But, Double-A, he was named a midseason All-Star for good reason. A 2.49 earned run average, as well as 1.246 WHIP were outstanding, but when you look at game to game stats, he really excelled. Excluding his last save opportunity which was blown, he was flawless in save opportunities. Johnson posted a 1.10 earned run average and 0.795 WHIP while in save opportunities where he saved 13 of 15 in Double-A, with one of the blown saves leading to a win instead.
EXPECTED IN THE FUTURE:
It would be unique if Johnson stays a closer with his WHIP and groundball pitching style, but he obviously is a clutch pitcher. Johnson has spent the last two years with success in Double-A, so you have to expect he'll be in Triple-A out of Spring Training in 2014. Johnson will have to learn how to command his break, and how to work well with the most talented minor leaguers at Triple-A, so we don't expect him to be a closer right away, but with time, possibly near the end of the 2014 season with the Salt Lake Bees.
If Johnson has success, he could easily pitch for the Angels in 2014, but we think he needs some growth in Triple-A. A full season, and possibly some time in 2015 would be great for Johnson's future career, and we see him reaching the Major Leagues sometime in mid 2015 as a late inning reliever. One thing is for sure, we are very big fans of Kevin Johnson here at InsideTheHalos.com
#23. Alex Keudell, RHP, Starter
Something that will never show up in a box score is the character you show, or the leadership you provide in the clubhouse. That's our job as writers to establish that certain baseball players are special members of the clubhouse and motivators in the organization. That's exactly what Alex Keudell is. The young man was released from the Tampa Bay Rays system out of Spring Training the season after he was drafted. The Angels swooped in and got a steal of the former Pac-12 Player of the Year and 27th rounder who has more potential than most draft picks that come from the top 10 rounds.
Alex Keudell's best asset is his delivery. A sidearm delivery with the exact same arm slot for each pitch has become a nightmare to young batters. Deception is a large key to Keudell's success and it helps with his six-foot-three frame.
Keudell's fastball has good sinking movement but not enough to be qualified as an official sinker. The fastball sits in the high 80's and occasionally touches 90 MPH. It's an effective pitch due to the sink and the groundballs that it forces, but it is not Keudell's go-to-pitch.
Keudell has a 9/6 curveball. We call it that because of his sidearm, but the drop is drastic like a 12/6 curveball. Keudell uses this pitch more often than none surprisingly, using it nearly 40% of the time. It is almost a gurrantee that Keudell will use his curve in any two-strike count, and though he doesn't strikeout many, it has become a swing and miss, strikeout pitch for Keudell.
Keudell has a changeup, but it is very standard. Just a third pitch in his arsenal to throw something different with a different speed to batters. Deception is the key to this pitch, as well as the other two.
Keudell has no problem with command, and he can place both his fastball and off-speed pitches anywhere he likes. Control is also no problem for the young pitcher.
Why Tampa Bay released Keudell is beyond us, and possibly, beyond everyone else. He posted a 2.28 earned run average over 43.1 innings pitched right out the draft. For a guy that is a groundball pitcher, he found a way to strike out quite a few, K'ing 8.7 per nine. Keudell also avoided walks and hits, posting a 1.062 WHIP over the 2012 season. To top off the great numbers, Keudell saved three games in Rookie ball.
Keudell had no issues at the higher levels of Low-A and High-A. He split time between both, posting almost identical numbers in just two games less in High-A. Of course, the hitter friendly California League tagged Keudell for just slightly higher statistics, but it didn't make them look bad in any way because... they were good! At the end of the 2013 season, Keudell combined for a 3.42 earned run average and a 1.231 WHIP, as well as a nine wins, four losses record over 24 starts.
EXPECTED OF THE FUTURE:
Alex Keudell will more than likely start in High-A out of Spring Training, possibly being the ace of the rotation. We don't expect him to stay in High-A very long, and his development doesn't need a lot of tweaks. Double-A should be the ending result of 2014 for Keudell.
He isn't as tall as him and is about two or three miles per hour slower on the velocity charts, but Keudell could develop in to a Brandon McCarthy type of guy. With that said, we believe Keudell is a good fourth or fifth starter of the future. If he climbs the ladder progressively with no flaws, Keudell could make the Major Leagues by early 2016, and with the way the Angels have developed him thus far, he will be a starter.
#24. Zach Wright, Catcher
Let's talk cars. Any standard car buyer wants to get something that takes you from destination A to destination B safely. It doesn't need to be flashy or expensive, but it also can't be a piece of junk. We drive five miles per hour over the speed limit wherever we are, not much faster, not much slower. As long as the car is a sure fired thing, we don't complain too much about it.
Meet the perfect car, Zach Wright. Wright is everything you want in a catcher. Sound behind the plate, sound while talking to you on the mound, sound while handling a bat at the plate, and makes sound choices. He may not have the strong arm of Baker, or the finesse bat of Bandy, but Wright has all the tools to make him the best catching prospect in the Angels system.
Discipline is the key to Baker. He has an ability to make adjustments that not many players have, and it changes with each pitch from each different pitcher.
The flaw to Wright's discipline is his contact, or lack of. His swing is quick, and has some power behind it, but he has trouble making good contact or any contact with the ball. Wright can and will make the adjustments to his swing to make better contact, but with better pitching, it may keep him from the next level in the immediate future. Wright's power though has been a surprising element of his game helped mostly by the fact that the kid is strong. He weighs 205 pounds, and we'll tell you this, not much of that is body fat.
Wright's abilities behind the plate are good. His arm strength is above average and if he can work on a quicker release out of the glove, he could match some of the best catching arms in the system. Balls in the dirt are no challenge for Wright, but balls away (far away) seem to be his miscue. That is something that is part of his play calling that he may need to adjust his placement behind the plate.
Something that the catchers prior both had, but Wright has more of is speed. We were shocked when we saw Wright's ability to kick on the after burners on the base paths, and his actual ability to steal bases. He's not going to be known as a base stealer, but Wright's speed may match or be better than that of Angels current catcher, Hank Conger.
Wright's numbers aren't going to wow you, but they are just as we said... a sure thing. In 2012, Wright put up a .268 batting average, but where his numbers really excelled were on base percentage at .385, and his slugging percentage at .419. Wright's slugging numbers were helped mainly by his six home runs.
2013, Wright dipped off a little once he saw better pitchers in High-A. He maintained the power numbers in Low-A, and improved from the season prior with four home runs in half the games and a .459 slugging percentage. Once he saw High-A though, his slash dropped to .253/.345/.356. One big note on Wright's 2013 season was his six stolen bases.
EXPECTED OF THE FUTURE:
There's no need to rush Wright, he's young (24 in six days). 2013 showed us the flaws in his bat, which could keep him in High-A Inland Empire for 2014. There's no doubt that Wright can adjust and progress well though, so Wright should see some time in Double-A in 2014, probably near the end of the season.
Wright's future with the big club would be as a backup, but a solid backup. With Jett Bandy, Abel Baker, and John Hester ahead of him in the minor league system, he'll have to show he is the better, which we believe he is. Wright could see the Majors as early as 2016, but it is more likely that he'll be there in 2017, possibly full time.
#25. Reid Scoggins, RHP, Reliever/Starter
Triple digits... ok we got that out of the way. Yes, we had to make some phone calls and check, but Scoggins has hit triple digits and has shown a 101 MPH fastball. It's not the norm for him, but he is still has one of the best fastballs in the Angels farm system. Scoggins has been plagued with injuries so we haven't seen his full ability yet, but what we have seen, we like.
Let's knock the fastball out first. Yes, we called old coaches and some scouts and he has hit 101, but he doesn't throw triple digits normally. His fastball sits anywhere from 95-97 normally, which is still great. His fastball has good movement, and is his go-to pitch in almost every count.
His slider is pretty standard, not a lot more to it. It could develop into a decent second pitch but right now, it's just average. He has recently developed a changeup that is already above average, though. It's not necessarily the break of the ball, but the deception instead, as when it comes out of the same arm slot, batters are fooled thinking the ball is coming at them at 96, but instead comes in the low 80's.
Scoggins has good command for a young pitcher with a quick fastball. It's not great, but you can't necessarily expect it to be great yet. Scoggins tends to have worse command in the beginning innings than in the latter, which is something he'll learn to handle with more innings pitched.
Scoggins made a change in his delivery late in his college days that frees up his elbow a little bit, and he's seemed to be able to keep the mechanics of that delivery. He's still learning how to use his legs more and more, but he's learning on a very rapid pace.
Scoggins statistics are... unique. In 2012, his first professional season, Scoggins went off the charts in the strikeout department, striking out 18.1 per nine (no, that's not a typo). However, he earned a lot of runs and had a high WHIP due to his walk count of eight per nine. Scoggins finished the season with a 4.43 earned run average, and 1.672 WHIP.
2013 was a great season of growth for Scoggins. He was moved to a starting role where he saw more batters and made more pitches, helping him learn how to setup hitters at another level. His strikeout count dropped, which happens when you see more advanced hitters, but he still succeeded in Low-A, striking out 10.5 per nine. His growth came in the control and command department, as his walk count was cut nearly in half (4.8 per nine), and it dropped his WHIP considerably to 1.354. Scoggins finished the 2013 season with a 3.46 earned run average, something most pitchers would be very proud of. One big note is that Scoggins allowed just one home run in 65 innings pitched, which averages out to one home run every seven games.
EXPECTED IN THE FUTURE:
It is uncertain as to if Scoggins will stay a starter, or be a bullpen pitcher. Either way, Scoggins has a bright future in the Angels system. He was injured near the end of last season, and hopefully he comes back healthy for Spring Training. Healthy or not, Scoggins should start his 2014 campaign with the Inland Empire 66ers in High-A, just to work on some pitching mechanics and develop his second and third pitches a little more. It wouldn't be surprising if Scoggins saw some minimal time to either fill starts or take a few learning steps in Double-A. He could earn a callup to Double-A as well, but it is more likely that a full season in High-A is in Scoggins future.
As to Scoggins future with the Angels big club, his fastball alone could be a big step towards quick progression and a quick rise to the Major Leagues. 2016, is our best prediction for Scoggins to reach the Majors.
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