Triple-A on the rise? …
Minor League win-loss records don’t necessarily correlate with a farm system’s overall crop of players. Look no further than the Angels, who went into the 2013 season with the worst-ranked farm system in the industry by Baseball America — the first of back-to-back years finishing 30th — and then saw their Triple-A, Double-A and Class A Advanced levels advance to the playoffs, with Class A Inland Empire winning the California League title.
Fielding a talented Triple-A roster, however, is crucial, because a lot of those players will wind up having an impact on the Major League club during the season.
The Angels used 54 players in 2014, 49 in 2013 and 44 in 2012. Active rosters, as you know, can’t exceed more than 25 players (until you get into September), and the vast majority of the players who matriculate come from Triple-A. The Angels’ Triple-A affiliate, the Salt Lake Bees, won the Pacific North division in 2013, going 78-66 with a roster made up mostly of journeyman Minor Leaguers obtained from other organizations or even independent ball. Last year, they went just 60-84.
This year, the Salt Lake Bees should field its most talented team in a while. Low-level prospects have matriculated to Triple-A and the Angels have taken steps toward building organizational depth the last couple years.
The Triple-A roster should finally start reflecting that.
This spring, the Angels will seemingly have competition for second base, three bench spots (catcher, utility infielder, additional bat), the fifth spot in the rotation (assuming Garret Richards is ready to go) and two bullpen roles. Let’s say, merely for the purposes of this exercise, that Josh Rutledge, Drew Butera, Taylor Featherston, C.J. Cron, Hector Santiago, Cory Rasmus and Vinnie Pestano win those seven spots, respectively.
Here are the players who would be left for Triple-A …
Starters: Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano, Drew Rucinski, Nate Smith, Jose Alvarez, Alex Sanabia, Adam Wilk, Brooks Raley
Relievers: Cam Bedrosian, Trevor Gott, Jeremy McBryde, Danny Reynolds, Yoslan Herrera, Scott Snodgress, Ryan Mattheus (signed today), Atahualpa Severino, Edgar Ibarra
Catchers: Carlos Perez, Jett Bandy, Jackson Williams
Infielders: Efren Navarro (1B/LF/RF), Marc Krauss (1B/LF/RF), Alex Yarbrough (2B), Eric Stamets (SS), Kyle Kubitza (3B), Ryan Wheeler (3B/1B), Grant Green (2B/SS/LF), Johnny Giavotella (2B/3B/LF), Chris Curley (3B/SS/2B), Brian Hernandez (1B/3B),
Outfielders: Daniel Robertson (LF/CF/RF), Roger Kieschnick (LF/RF), Alfredo Marte (LF/CF/RF), D’Arby Myers (LF/CF/RF), Kentrail Davis (LF/CF/RF)
There’s excess here, of course, because it’s impossible to predict a Triple-A roster at this point. But the only one in that group who can’t be optioned to the Minor Leagues without first clearing waivers is Giavotella. Eight of these players (Heaney, Tropeano, Kubitza, Bedrosian, Yarbrough, Perez, Stamets and Snodgress) make up the Angels’ top 20 prospects. It may not mean much given how much more work still needs to be done to improve the farm system, but that alone is a big step forward from having to scrape the bottom of the free-agent barrel just to fill out a Triple-A roster, as has been the case the last few years.