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The Angels are finally on the cusp of joining the youth movement

The Angels have been notorious since 2010 or so for bloated contracts, aging veterans, and wasted payroll space. Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton headline the list of people that should never have been acquired, but things look to be changing just in time for the beginning of a new decade. It may be hard to believe, but the Angels have finally almost joined the youth movement that has been sweeping baseball.

It’s important to remember when examining each of these prospects and major league newcomers that age relative to the talent around them is just as much a consideration as hard numbers. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the success of the following youngsters punching way above their weight in AA, AAA, and the Show.

For the sake of not making this list too long, I’m going to be focusing on notable performances from players in their age 22 and younger season in AAA and MLB, and age 21 and younger in AA only.

Starting Pitchers

Name: Jaime Barria

Age in 2018: 21

Highest Level Played: MLB

Barria may not have too much in the way of stuff, but he makes up for it with solid control. His peripherals are not anywhere near electric and he could very likely regress, but the kid was called up 3 months before his 22nd birthday. Despite being 5.5 years younger than league average in the hitter’s paradise PCL and 7.5 years younger than league average in the majors, Barria more than held his own with a solid sub-3.50 ERA and a double digit whiff rate. There is a lot of promise in Barria, and he still has 3-5 years to go before he hits a player’s typical “prime.”

Name: Griffin Canning

Age in 2018: 22

Highest Level Played: AAA

What can be said about Canning that hasn’t already been said? In his first year of professional baseball, the UCLA alum jumped from A+ ball to AAA after making players his own age look downright silly. What was once thought to be a 2nd round steal is now a consensus top 100 (or better) prospect. Against players 4.5 years older than him or so in the hitter friendly PCL, he had a 5.49 ERA, but through his last 10 starts, his ERA was 4.18 and through his last 5 starts, his ERA was a cool 3.86. Meanwhile, his FIP suggested he was far better than his ERA indicated through all 3 timeframes. It looks like Canning is everything we hoped Sean Newcomb would be and more.

Name: Jose Suarez

Age in 2018: 20

Highest Level Played: AAA

Jose Suarez has gotten a lot of attention this season for skyrocketing through the minors to great success. He was 3.5 years younger than the league average in High-A Inland Empire, before cruising to a 2.00 ERA there. In AA Mobile, his ERA was a phenomenal 3.03 with an absolutely insane 15.5 K/9 (!!!!!). And in deadly AAA, his ERA was a solidly average 4.48.

Most interesting of all? Jose Suarez was the youngest pitcher in all three AAA leagues, being born in 1998. He performed better than similarly aged top prospects such as top 50 prospect Jesus Lazardo and top 10 Braves prospect Bryse Wilson.

Name: Patrick Sandoval

Age in 2018: 21

Highest Level Played: AA

Last, but not least among the pitchers is Patrick Sandoval who was acquired in the strangely-maligned Martin Maldonado trade. Patrick Sandoval did very little in his short tenure as a 66’er, allowing exactly 0 earned runs across 14.2 innings of work with just shy of a 13 K/9. Eppler decided that wasn’t challenging enough, so he quickly promoted him to AA where he struggled to the tune of a 1.37 ERA. One. Point. Three. Seven. In his 122.1 IP between both the Astros and Angels organizations last season, his ERA was 2.06 with 5 K/BB. Not too shabby at all.

Position Players

Name: Luis Rengifo

Age in 2018: 21

Highest Level Played: AAA

The pet prospect of anyone who remotely follows the Angels system, Rengifo is noted for being the piece that we got back for CJ Cron and then absolutely terrorizing the California League and Southern League. He got all the way up to AAA where his insanity cooled down and he played league average ball as one of only three 21-year olds in the league to amass 200 PAs. Everyone cross your fingers on his Jean Segura comps.

Name: Julian Leon

Age in 2018: 22

Highest Level Played: AAA

I know what you’re thinking: “Who?” You’re definitely right to think that, as this is an A+ player who found his way into 23 PAs between AA and AAA. So why include him? Because while his bat struggled to find itself in the high minors, his OBP did not. Across the 3 levels he played at, his OBP was a very impressive .371, with a .400+ OBP in AA and AAA. Does he deserve to be on this list? Maybe not, but just know that I appreciate you, Julian.

Name: Jo Adell

Age in 2018: 19

Highest Level Played: AA

It’s our top prospect, so obviously he was going to be on the list, but I don’t think some people realize just how good Adell was. He is playing in the high minors at the age that most people are still adjusting to rookie ball. He knows how to put the balls in the stands, and once he learns how to take a walk, he is going to be your everyday starting outfielder. By age 21. Book it.

Name: Jahmai Jones

Age in 2018: 20

Highest Level Played: AA

A lot has been made of Jahmai Jones’ “down year,” but context is key. Remember that Jahmai is only one year older than Adell at AA Mobile. It may feel like we’ve had him forever, but he wasn’t even an adult when he was signed. Also, of all the 19 and 20 year olds in the Southern League, he was the only one who had above a league average wRC+. At that same time, he also accumulated the most PAs of any of those same youngsters by far. Jahmai Jones is not done just because he moved to second base. In reality, Luis Rengifo better keep up the fire or he could lose the spot to our 2015 second round draft pick.

There’s a lot to take away here, but the team is only getting younger. The next decade is going to be a fun time to be an Angels fan.

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