With the Los Angeles Angels a virtual lock for the playoffs -- their playoff odds are well above 90 percent, per the FanGraphs projections -- many have been curious as to how exactly they would go about improving their team for the October run, as their system has been consistently ranked among the worst in baseball. In fact, Los Angeles and Milwaukee were the only teams that didn't place a single player on Keith Law's initial top 100 prospects list this spring, with no player sniffing his updated top 50 published last week either.
We got that answer Friday, when the Angels sent four prospects to the San Diego Padres for closer Huston Street and Double-A pitcher Trevor Gott. While shortstop Jose Rondon has the most long-term value to San Diego, the player closest to the big leagues -- and the one who could help fantasy owners this year -- is second baseman Taylor Lindsey.
The 37th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Lindsey has hit at every level during his professional career, thanks in large part to a swing that gets through the zone with above-average bat speed, as well as a natural feel for hitting to the opposite field. He hasn't put up big numbers so far for Triple-A Salt Lake City, hitting just .243 with eight homers and 30 RBIs, but he has been much better since June, posting an OPS over .800 during the past two months.
"The hit tool [for Lindsey] is close to plus," an NL Central scout said. "Don't let the batting average fool you, he's very direct to the ball and he can hit it hard everywhere. He doesn't incorporate much of his lower half, which limits the potential for power a bit, but he's not just a punch hitter either. I don't think he's the next Chase Utley or anything like that, but he's definitely got the ability to be one of the better-hitting second basemen, assuming that he can stick there."
Unfortunately for Lindsey -- and his fantasy owners -- that's a pretty big if. The arm is strong enough to play anywhere in the infield, but the lack of athleticism and below-average hands make him a mediocre defender at the position, at best. He's good enough to play there in the short-to-medium future, but there's a non-zero chance he will have to move to a corner outfield position, which would obviously limit his long-term value.
Lindsey will start his Padres tenure in Triple-A, but it shouldn't surprise anyone if he made his big league debut at some point this summer. Current third baseman Chase Headley is a free agent-to-be, and many expect he'll be traded before the July 31 deadline as one of the few right-handed infield bats on the market. That will likely allow the Padres to move Jedd Gyorko to third base, which opens up a second-base spot for Lindsey.
It's not a lock to happen this year, but if Lindsey is called up, he's a potential .260/.300/.400 hitter who can also steal a handful of bases, and he can absolutely be a helper off the bench, or a viable starter in NL-only leagues.
The start of the second half brings a plethora of new names to this week's top 10, and with Jimmy Nelson's call-up, a new No. 1 prospect as well.
1. Mookie Betts, OF/IF, Boston Red Sox (Last week: NR)
2014 stats: .355/.443/.551, 6 HRs, 34 RBIs, 22 SBs at Double-A Portland; .309/.409/.426, 2 HRs, 14 RBIs, 7 SBs at Triple-A Pawtucket; .235/.278/.382, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 1 SB at Boston
Progress report: No, Betts was not great in his time with Boston, as you can see from the stats above. But it's the glut of outfielders that sees him back in the minor leagues, not his performance. I commend Red Sox for realizing it's better for him to play every day for Pawtucket than to sit on the bench in Boston, though I certainly think he's a better option in the outfield than Jonny Gomes or Daniel Nava. I'd be surprised if Betts didn't get another chance in Boston sometime this season, and I'd be surprised if he didn't perform much better in that second stint as well.