The biggest prospect at Angels camp will be someone who's never played a game in the Minor Leagues.
The club on Tuesday invited highly touted two-way signee Shohei Ohtani, MLB.com's top overall prospect, and 18 other non-roster players to Major League Spring Training. Angels No. 4 prospect Jahmai Jones, first baseman Matt Thaiss (No. 5), catcher Taylor Ward (No. 11), infielder David Fletcher (No. 12) and right-hander Osmer Morales (No. 29) also received invitations.
Signed out of Japan in December for $2.3 million, Ohtani is trying to become the Major Leagues' first successful two-way player since Babe Ruth. The 23-year-old was limited by injuries last season but put together a monster year in 2016 for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and 174 strikeouts over 140 innings while posting a .322/.416/.588 slash line and 22 homers in 104 games at the plate.
Early projections show Ohtani will provide more value as a pitcher than as a designated hitter in his first season stateside. With a fastball that has touched 102 mph, a splitter and a slider among his best offerings, the 6-foot-4, 203 pounder received the highest WAR projection (4.3) among Angels starters and the 12th-highest among all big league pitchers.
Jones, Thaiss among Angels' Organization All-Stars
The Angels have said they will initially limit Ohtani's offensive duties to the designated hitter role. The left-handed hitter slugger has plus power, receiving a 70 grade from MLB Pipeline on the 20-80 scale. He carries a similar offensive projection to current Angels DH Albert Pujols.
Jones, 20, was Los Angeles' second-round selection in the 2015 Draft. He was considered the club's top prospect at the start of the 2017 campaign, but the additions of Ohtani and shortstop Kevin Maitan in the offseason and the drafting of Jo Adell last year have pushed him to the No. 4 spot on the Angels' top 30 list. An impressive athlete, the Georgia native hit .282 with 14 homers, 47 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in 127 games between Class A Burlington and Class A Advanced Inland Empire.
Thaiss, 22, was drafted 16th overall in 2016 out of the University of Virginia. The 6-foot, 195-pound infielder batted .274 with nine homers, four triples, 27 doubles and 73 RBIs in 133 games with Inland Empire and Double-A Mobile.
Offseason MiLB include
Ward, 24, batted .258 with nine homers and 49 RBIs in 87 games across two levels last season, including .286 with 19 RBIs in 33 games with Mobile. Double-A. The 2015 first-round pick has received plus grades from scouts for his defensive abilities, but questions remain about whether his offense will progress enough to start at the highest level.
Fletcher, 23, was a sixth-round selection in the 2015 Draft out of Loyola Marymount University. He hit .266 with a career-high 20 stolen bases in 111 games between Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake.
Morales, 25, went 6-5 with a 4.19 ERA, 121 strikeouts and 50 walks over 126 2/3 innings in 25 starts for Salt Lake.