The club is looking to bounce back from a difficult year. With a healthy Albert Pujols, more production from Josh Hamilton and additions to the lineup, rotation and bullpen, the team is poised to return with a more competitive run at the postseason.
If there is any player who could crack the 25-man roster this season, it may well be right-handed relief pitcher R.J. Alvarez. Alvarez was selected out of Florida Atlantic University in the third round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He has already made great strides in only two seasons of Minor League baseball.
Alvarez has a strong arm and a deceptive delivery. He can bring his fastball in the mid- to upper-90s, but he uses a great deal of effort in his mechanics and can wear himself out over longer stints. Nonetheless, Alvarez could fit nicely at the back end of the bullpen when a strikeout is needed. Both his fastball and slider baffle hitters, causing them to swing and miss.
Brian Moran is a left-handed reliever who was selected by the Angels in the Rule 5 Draft. He has a chance to stick in the bullpen. Moran is crafty and deceptive. He has five seasons of Minor League ball under his belt, having pitched in the Mariners' farm system. Moran has a bit of a strange angle to the plate, and his pitches have excellent movement. He may become strictly a lefty specialist.
C.J. Cron had an outstanding Arizona Fall League season. The 24-year-old showed that he provides power, hits for average and plays solid defense at first base. Cron led the league in hitting with a .413 mark, hitting five home runs and driving in 20 runs in his 20 games played. He has played only parts of three Minor League seasons and needs more time to develop, but his future looks very bright. The right-handed-hitting Cron is 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and is extremely agile for his size. In his brief Minor League career, he has hit 54 home runs and has a batting average of .286.
Second-base prospect Taylor Lindsey also played in the Arizona Fall League last year. He didn't have the positive results shown by Cron, but he flashed signs of a loud bat from the left side of the plate. Basically a line-drive hitter, Lindsey relies heavily on his upper body to do the work in his swing. However, he has some very real power in his quick hands. Lindsey's hand-eye coordination and pitch recognition are advanced. Last season at Double-A Arkansas, the 6-foot, 195-pound Lindsey hit .274 with 17 homers and 56 RBIs.
Now 21, switch-hitting third-base prospect Kaleb Cowart was the Halos' first-round selection in the 2010 Draft. Last season, he hit .221 with six homers and 42 RBIs at Double-A Arkansas. Cowart has shown more success as a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitching.
I scouted Cowart in the 2012 Arizona Fall League. He scuffled in the times I saw him, but he does have good raw power, and upside certainly remains, but additional patience with his bat will be required.
The Angels' shortstop of the future may be 20-year-old Venezuelan free agent Jose Rondon. Still a raw prospect and a couple years away from his big league debut, Rondon has hit wherever he has played. He hit .293 at Rookie level Orem in the Pioneer League last season. In 316 trips to the plate, Rondon managed to smack 22 doubles, two triples and a home run among his 81 hits. He has the ability to spray the ball to all fields.
Zach Borenstein is a highly regarded left fielder. He is an aggressive hitter who put up big numbers in both batting average (.337) and home runs (28) to earn the MVP Award in the Class A Advanced California League last season. Borenstein needs work on hitting breaking balls.
Mark Sappington may have a future in the rotation. It's tough to square up the ball against him, and the 6-foot-5, 209-pound righty misses bats with his downhill pitching mechanics. Sappington's plus fastball and slider are aggressive pitches.
Left-handed pitchers Hunter Green and Ricardo Sanchez are two potential starting pitchers the Halos will watch closely. Green is 6-foot-4, 175 pounds and throws an easy 93 mph fastball. Sanchez is smaller at 5-foot-10, 160 pounds. Both recent additions to the pitching depth of the club are advanced enough to signal bright futures, and much will be asked of them.