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Talented Youth Gives Angels Hope and Solidifies Their Future

These days, no farm system can compare to that of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in terms of top prospects.  Since winning the World Series over the Giants in 2002, the Angels have grown many of baseball’s current and future stars, and there is nothing to suggest that this streak will end. 

In 2002, the Angels’ most dominant relief pitcher was Francisco Rodriguez, then 20 years old.  He baffled the Giants throughout the World Series and combined with the fine pitching of other homegrown Angels like John Lackey and Jarrod Washburn, helped the Halos to their first World Series victory since the end of the “California Angels” era.  Rodriguez is now known as K-Rod, one of the best closers in Major League Baseball.  Since K-Rod’s arrival, the Angels and GM Bill Stoneman have been incredibly successful at finding and growing the best young players in baseball. 

At no time has it been more evident that the Angels are depending on their youth to keep them afloat than it is now.  The starting rotation lost Jarrod Washburn after 2005, which worried some Halo fans, but no one is worried about the current state or the future of Angels starting pitching now.  That is because of guys like Jered Weaver.  Jered forced his brother Jeff out of Anaheim because of his 8-0 record and 2.14ERA.  Winning his first 7 starts, and coming very close to winning 8 (the Angels blew a lead against the Red Sox in his 8th start), Weaver quickly rose to the top of the rookie class, and drew comparisons to Justin Verlander and Francisco Liriano in terms of young pitching talent.  Now Weaver has been joined by rookie Joe Saunders in the starting rotation, and Saunders is looking just as dominant.  Saunders has won each of his first four starts, and has compiled a 1.67ERA beating the high-powered bats of the Yankees, Indians, and Rangers in the process.  Weaver and Saunders are a major part of why the Halos are still in the thick of the AL West race.

On the offensive side, the Angels have top prospects in Howie Kendrick, Brandon Wood, and Kendry Morales.  Kendrick and Morales are the only two who have seen MLB experience, and both were unsuccessful in their first stints.  However, since being recalled from AAA Salt Lake, Kendrick has been spectacular, compiling a .319 average with 1HR and 13RBI as well as 3SB’s.  Over the past month, Kendrick has been one of the best hitters in baseball, with a .376 batting average and has kept the Angels from slipping in the standings by making up for sub-ability hitting from Garret Anderson, Orlando Cabrera, and Adam Kennedy.  In 2007, the Angels can expect contributions from Kendrick, as well as Morales and Wood.  Kendry Morales projects as a solid defensive 1B, and about a .280 hitter with decent power.  Wood, quite possibly the best shortstop prospect in baseball, has terrific defense and amazing power for his position.  Scouts have compared him to Miguel Tejada offensively, and Alex Gonzalez or Omar Vizquel defensively, making him an incredibly rare talent.  With guys like Kendrick, Morales, and Wood, the Halos offense should be fine for many years to come. 

No other team can boast a group of prospects with talent that rivals the Angels’ Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Howie Kendrick, Brandon Wood, and Kendry Morales pentet.  And that means that no team’s future is more certain than that of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  The Angels, for the remainder of this decade. will be a team to be reckoned with every season.

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