The AL West is working it’s way to being the best conference in baseball with the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics duking it out for best record in baseball. The Seattle Mariners also may take the second wild card spot giving the Division three playoff teams. The Astros have collected a bevy of top prospects thanks to their poor record for the last three seasons but the 2014 draft was a disaster as they failed to sign their number one pick. Below is myworld’s assessment of the top ten prospects in the AL West.
1. Carlos Correa SS (Astros) - Myworld has watched a lot of Carlos and we like his potential. We were tempted to put Joey Gallo ahead of Correa but we have not seen him play and our only assessment of him is based on his numbers and what we have read about him. Correa should find himself among the elite hitting shortstops in the league. His power is developing and he has the tools to play short. The concern with Correa is his 6′4″ height to go with his 205 pound weight. If he bulks up and slows down he may no longer have the range to play the position. If he does not play short he will have the bat to fit at any position and be one of the top hitters at that position. His 2014 season ended early with a leg injury but after just 62 games in High A his OPS was .926.
2. Joey Gallo 3B (Rangers) - He plays the same position as Adrian Beltre so no matter how well he plays Gallo will not take the job away from Beltre in the near future. His glove is not as smooth as Beltre but his bat should connect for more power. This is his second season of 40 or more homeruns. He still strikes out as much as last year, but his walk rate has increased giving hope that he could still hit for a decent average with that power. In high A his walk to whiff ratio was 51/64 which resulted in a .323 average. A promotion to AA saw his walk to whiff ratio decline to 30/108 and his average plummet to .238. His only above average tools are his power and arm, so those need to work for him if he wants to have success in the major leagues.
3. Taijuan Walker RHP (Mariners) - The Mariners could have an excellent rotation once Walker is ready. It was expected he would be ready at the beginning of the 2014 season but arm soreness forced him to miss the start. That forced him to pitch in a couple rehab starts and a stint in AAA where early season struggles extended his stay in the minors. The Mariners playoff run also complicated his status. Playoff teams don’t like to break in prospects unless they are certain of their success. Walker has a good fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a slider could be a good outpitch. He has three solid major league starts with the only troubling development a high walk rate (13 in 15 innings pitched). He has a much better walk to innings pitched ratio in the minor leagues, so that could be a reflection of nibbling and giving major league hitters too much respect.
4. Jorge Alfaro C (Rangers) - The Rangers signed Alfaro out of Colombia for $1.3 million. Injuries have slowed his development, limiting him to less than 100 games in three of his four seasons. His 116 games played this year is already a career high. Jorge has a plus arm for a catcher and big time power. He still needs to learn the other subtleties of the position such as reducing passed balls and calling a game before he is considered major league ready. Poor strike zone judgment may result in a low average. Last year he hit .258 with a 28/111 walk to whiff ratio. This year he is .263 with a 27/114 walk to whiff ratio. He has excellent speed for a catcher, allowing him to steal 16 bases in 19 attempts last year.
5. D.J. Peterson 3b/1b (Mariners) - Many feel the number one 2013 pick will eventually have to move to first. His defense will not win any gold gloves at third base. His bat and his power will keep him in the lineup. Last year he blasted 13 homeruns in just 55 games. This year he has sent 28 out of the park in 116 games. He doesn’t have a poor walk to whiff ratio (44/107) which could show some promise for a high average. A lack of speed will prevent a move to the outfield. With Kyle Seager anchored at third for the Mariners even if his defense was better it would still result in a move across the diamond.
6. Renato Nunez 3B (Athletics) - The Athletics signed him for $2.2 million out of Venezuela in 2010. Scouts projected he would hit for power and last year he slugged 19 homeruns with a .423 slugging in Low A, a promising development. This year in High A ball his power has broke out with 29 homeruns in less at bats than last year. There is some concern that his strike zone discipline (33/104) could result in a lower average. Because his defense is not strong and his speed is nil Renato will have to hit to get in the lineup. Last year his 39 errors led all Midwest third baseman.
7. Mike Foltynewicz RHP (Astros) - Last year Mike hit the radar gun with three digit fastballs more than any other pitcher in the minor leagues. His big problem is getting those fastballs to cross the plate for strikes. Last year his walk to whiff ratio was 66/124 in 129 innings. His ratio has not improved this year (52/102 in 103 innings) but he still got a promotion to the Astros based on his ability to throw hard. If he does not harness that command he may be forced to move to the bullpen. If he improves his control he has the potential to be an ace in the rotation. The Astros promoted him mid-season to their major league club but he is only working out of the bullpen. Next year he could be a candidate for the starting rotation.
8. Daniel Robertson SS (Athletics) - The first round 2012 pick may have been the reason Oakland was willing to trade Addison Russell. A smooth fielding shortstop, his lack of speed may eventually force a move to second. He doesn’t have any outstanding tool, but he has above average skills in most areas. This year his power has broken out with 15 homeruns with a solid .312 average. Daniel is also showing superior patience at the plate with a 70/88 walk to whiff ratio.
9. Nick Williams OF (Rangers) - Nick was a second round pick of the Rangers in 2012. Last year he broke out for power with 17 homeruns and a .543 slugging percentage. Like many power hitters the cause for concern is his swing and miss tendencies and his low walk rates (15/110). His inability to play a stellar defense will also limit him to a left field position. So he needs his bat to contribute to a major league team. This year he has again shown power with his 13 homeruns and .491 slugging percentage in High A. His triple numbers have taken a dive and his 5/12 stolen base success rate seems to indicate a drop in speed. A recent promotion to AA will prepare him for the major league roster in 2015.
10. Rio Ruiz 3B (Astros) - The Astros were praised for their 2012 draft when they could sign Carlos Correa for below slot in order to offer Rio Ruiz an above average contract. That plan did not work so well in 2014. Prior to 2014 Rio had not lived up to his hype, hitting just .258 with only 13 homeruns in his two seasons. This year he has improved his walk to whiff ratio (77/84) resulting in a higher average (.297). His power numbers have also improved, Ruiz showing more doubles power this year. His defense will not win any gold gloves but it should play at third and his speed is poor, making a move to the outfield a non-starter.
The Angels have been sacrificing draft choices for free agents making their farm system a bit weak. They finally had a first round pick this year and Sean Newcomb would be considered their top prospect in the system. The lefthander has good size (6′5″) with an above average fastball for a lefthander, sitting in the low 90s but reaching the mid-90s.