The Los Angeles Angels minor league system has fallen to the bottom of the barrel among major league clubs after several promotions and a large number of prospects being traded over the past year. The Angels, however, had a trio of prospects have solid debuts over the past week with Double-A Arkansas.
Victor Alcantara rolled into Little Rock with a reputation of being a high velocity fastball pitcher with no command of his secondary pitches. In his first outing, Alcantara got the win with six innings of three-hit shutout baseball. He struck out six Midland Rockhounds as well. Alcantara has seen his walk rate drop from a high of 5.3/9 innings in 2013 to 3.8/9 last season for High-A Inland Empire. His main issue has been a repeatable delivery.
Sitting mid-nineties with his fastball, Alcantara mixed in a solid changeup and slider combination that locked up many hitters. One change he has made going into 2016 is pitching entirely from the stretch. His delivery has been compared to that of Fernando Rodney in the past, but it seemed smooth and comfortable in his first start. Currently the Angels number four prospect, Alcantara will look to keep the consistency going Thursday night in a rematch with the Rockhounds.
Alex Blackford came into the 2016 season without the same prospect hype that Alcantara brought with him, but he dazzled just as well in his first outing. Blackford went 5 shutout innings against the Frisco Roughriders, only giving up 2 hits and striking out six. He got a no-decision as the Travelers offense and bullpen let him down.
Blackford, a 37th round pick out of Arizona State in 2013, has pitched mostly out of the bullpen until 2016. He features a low 90s fastball to go along with a wicked slider and curveball. A 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio backs up the fact he is a strike thrower with swing and miss stuff.
Draft picks this late will generally get overlooked, but as Tyler White has shown with the Houston Astros this season, if you keep putting up the numbers eventually they have to take notice. Blackford will get another shot at Midland this weekend.
Eric Aguilera has rocketed out of the gate in his first six games with a slash line of .381/.458/.667 with two home runs and six runs batted in. He has been the main spark in an early season offensive drought for the Travelers. Like his teammate Blackford, Aguilera was a late round draft pick, being selected in the 34th round in 2013.
Aguilera made the transition from the outfield to first base during his first professional season. He batted .327/.392/.532 with 17 home runs and 92 runs batted in at Single-A Inland Empire in 2014. The mark against him was a 23.8% strikeout rate. He has good range at first which complements his receiving skills.
Aguilera has a simple approach at the plate, working pitch counts with an advanced knowledge of pitchers. The left-hander has plus power, but his long swing does lead to a higher strikeout rate. He has always been a good hitter, but combining this with success defensively at his new-found position and more than respectable speed on the base paths has Aguilera rocketing up the Angels prospect lists. Not too shabby for a guy that every team in the majors passed on until the Angels nabbed him in the 34th round.
The Angels may have used a great number of their top prospects as trade bait recently, but the lower levels of their system are starting to make some noise. An ability to identify and develop talent drafted in the later rounds doesn’t hurt either. The win-now approach has put a crimp in their system, but as these three are showing, there is at least a little life out there.