The Angels’ farm system hasn’t won much praise recently, but it seems to have produced a hit in Kole Calhoun. The outfielder sped through the minors despite a relatively modest pedigree (he was an eighth-round pick as a college senior in 2010), skipping Double-A and making it to the big leagues in two years. Last season, in his first extended shot in the Majors, he hit .282/.347/.462 in 222 plate appearances, and this year he’s proven that was no fluke, hitting .294/.349/.485 so far. Offensively, Calhoun combines high batting averages with good power, and he also provides reasonable baserunning and corner outfield defense.
Since he’s already nearly 27, Calhoun’s opportunities to cash in on his early-career success might be somewhat limited. He can’t become a free agent until the 2019-2020 offseason, by which point he’ll be 32. With so much time remaining before free agency, and after receiving a very modest $36K signing bonus out of college, it would probably behoove Calhoun to consider the security of a long-term deal. A pre-free agency extension might represent the best chance for Calhoun and his agent, Page Odle, to land a big contract.
Given that the Angels already control what are likely to be Calhoun’s prime years, an extension need not be such a priority for them. And since he isn’t exceptionally athletic and already plays corner outfield, betting on him continuing to be productive well into his thirties seems excessive, from the Angels’ perspective. Signing Calhoun to an extension would, however, have the benefit of controlling his arbitration salaries while possibly also giving the Angels options to control a year or two more than they do now.
Extensions for players with between one and two years of service time used to be somewhat rare, but they’ve become increasingly common since Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo signed deals in Spring 2013. Via MLBTR’s Extension Tracker, seven players with between one and two years of service have agreed to extensions this year: Julio Teheran, Andrelton Simmons, Jose Quintana, Starling Marte, Yan Gomes, Jedd Gyorko and Sean Doolittle.
Since Marte is an outfielder, his six-year, $31MM deal (which also includes two options) is the most obvious precedent that might guide a long-term deal for Calhoun. Before that, the last extensions for outfielders with between one and two years of service time were those of Jose Tabata (2011) and Denard Span (2010). Both contracts are now too ancient to really matter, with contracts for players like Simmons and Freddie Freeman reshaping the extension landscape since then.
The problem with using Marte’s deal as a precedent, though, is that a Calhoun contract would have a slightly different purpose. Marte was a toolsy, high-upside 25-year-old at the time of his deal, so for the Pirates, his contract was about retaining him long term. Calhoun is older and may have already reached his upside. On the other hand, his offense-heavy profile is more likely than Marte’s was to get him paid in arbitration. Therefore, we might expect a Calhoun contract to be a bit shorter than Marte’s, and perhaps a bit less option-heavy. We might also expect Calhoun to make more than Marte in his seasons of arbitration eligibility.
The possibility of Calhoun becoming a Super Two player following the 2015 season is also a factor. Calhoun entered the 2014 season with 130 days of service. This year’s projected Super Two threshold is two years and 128 days of service time, which means Calhoun could end up on either side of the line. Quintana had one year and 133 days of service when he signed his extension before the season, and his contract with the White Sox contains a clause that pays him an extra $5.5MM if he becomes Super Two eligible. Perhaps a Calhoun extension could include a similar clause.
Of course, Super Two eligibility would not affect Calhoun’s free agency timeline. A five-year deal (beginning in 2015) with one team option might make sense for both Calhoun and the Angels — such a deal would buy out all of Calhoun’s pre-free-agency seasons while giving the Angels the rights to his first season of free agency eligibility. Calhoun would become eligible for free agency as a 33-year-old at the latest, potentially giving him another shot at a multi-year deal if he continued to hit.
Given that the Angels already control one or perhaps two of those five years at the league minimum, the total guaranteed figure for a Calhoun extension need not be huge. Marte will make $21MM over the course of his contract if one leaves aside the last guaranteed year (including his signing bonus and a $2MM buyout on his option in 2020). Calhoun might get a little more than that guaranteed over a five-year deal if he is not Super Two eligible (including a buyout on the Angels’ option for a sixth year), perhaps with a clause bumping his contract to $27MM-$30MM if it turns out he is.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
“The Angels’ farm system hasn’t won much praise recently” Hmm, that’s not something you hear about a team that has produced the best player in a decade.
Having one good prospect doesn’t mean you have a good system. Not saying the Angels system is bad but judging a farm system is about the overall value of its prospects, not just one of them.
Calhoun proves that doesn’t mean anything.
No it doesn’t. Calhoun is the only prospect from the Angels 2010 draft who has matriculated and had an impact. The success of one prospect for the stretch of one year does not refute farm system rankings. In 2012, Baseball America ranked the Angels’ best five prospects were Trout, Richards, Segura, Cron and Hellweg. Three of those made it two the bigs with the MLB club, and the other two were traded for Greinke. Was Baseball America wrong? Was it completely meaningless? In that year, they still considered the Angels as having a middle of the pack farm, buoyed by Trout, Richards and Segura – and when those kids graduated, that’s when the farm was considered weak and in decline. They were not wrong. One decent position player in Calhoun does not change that.
These cherrypicked arguments where one or two highly ranked prospects underperformed (McPherson, Wood) and a couple others were overlooked (Calhoun, Napoli) just speaks to the fact that fullness and complexity of the game can’t be 100% described by any group of people. But that’s a completely different statement from saying that prospect analysis is “meaningless”, as are farm rankings. No, that’s just an emotional opinion.
The Angels farm system is very weak, but it has produced more than one good prospect since the 2009 draft: Trout, Garrett Richards, Pat Corbin, Tyler Skaggs, Kole Calhoun, Mike Morin, among others. CJ Cron, RJ Alvarez and Cam Bedrosian coming on.
I think if Calhoun can be locked up to a deal that’s similar to Marte’s, then it’s a no brainer.
His numbers suggest that he could make quite a bit in arbitration, especially if he’s a Super Two. He might want more than that, which lessen the incentive to make the deal since an injury would hurt his arb earnings.
J Robert Hanson
Wonder if he’d been better off financially if Hunter wasn’t sitting in front of him for all those years?
All two of them?
J Robert Hanson
Yep, all two of them! (Though I think Hunter’s 5 year deal is more the issue than the 2 years he spent in right field) Why? Because a 25 year old doing a multi-year deal (Calhoun) is a lot more attractive than a 27 year old. Baseball years are like dog years with a very small window of success for most.
People love to hate the Angels farm system. Yet, they still seem to find a fair amount of talent from that same system. Look around that roster and you’ll see a ton of guys that they drafted and developed …
C – Conger
1B – Cron
2B – Kendrick
SS – Aybar
RF – Calhoun
CF – Trout
SP – Weaver
SP – Richards
SP – Skaggs (kind of)
SP – Shoemaker
As for this article … Calhoun is a great player. He’s got 4-5 WAR potential. Marte’s deal would be a steal for the Angels. I think they’ll need to pay a lot more. However, I would hold firm on the price if I’m Angels management. The lure to lock up a player really only makes sense when you are after his FA years. I don’t see that in this case. I’d rather roll the dice on arbitration and revisit a long term contract once he hits year 5 or so of team control. Hard to estimate how a player like Calhoun will age.
Don’t forget Morin, Jepsen, Kohn and Roth. Those guys have contributed a lot this year.
All this proves is how little the “expert’s” organizational rankings mean. Prospects bomb, prospects flourish, and none of it means diddly until they take the mound or step in the box in the bigs.
East Coast Bias
I think we are supposed to read a highly touted prospect as “most likely to succeed” and not “will definitely succeed.”
Prospects that are regarded highly are just players that scouts think have the greatest chance at achieving success. The scouts are not always right, but I feel they are right more than they are wrong.
Aybar, Weaver and Kendrick were all called up years ago when the Angels farm system was considered very good.
The good old days when you had Wood as a top 10 prospect. Kendrick and McPherson were top 20 guys and Aybar and Weaver were top 50.
That said, the current group (outside of Trout) were all relatively unheralded prospects. Yet, the team has managed to get quite a bit of production out of them. And Marcus is right (above), I didn’t include the BP guys that have been solid.
Thank you. Glad to see someone who understands how it really works and not just relying on some rankings that have no tangible meaning beyond hype.
That list spans 10+ years of drafts, as well as a period when the Angels’ Latin program was excellent. Remember that the Angels had the #1 ranked farm system in baseball in the mid-to-late 2000s. The folks that ranked the system highly then were not wrong, nor are they wrong in ranking it poorly now. We shouldn’t conflate the products of a once-proud farm with the quality of the existing farm now. This really isn’t something that Angels fans should be defensive about – it’s just the facts.
Actually they’re wrong most of the time. Angels prospects were mostly over valued when their system was ranked high, and are undervalued while their system is ranked low. Nobody is getting defensive here. We’re just pointing out what the true facts are. Farm system rankings are meaningless. The only thing that matters is who makes it in the big leagues. And just in the past 2 seasons alone, the Angels have produced a number of players who have made it further in the big leagues than many top draft picks. Those are the facts.
East Coast Bias
Fact is… “Farm system rankings are meaningless.” is not a fact. More of an opinion.
McPherson and Wood were huge busts, and Mathis never lived up to his prospect reputation.
Not sure I would call McPherson a “huge” bust. His back basically gave out on him. He certainly wasn’t anywhere near as good as his minor league reputation, but he posted a .205 ISO in his major league career, so his power was as advertised.
Oh, the Angels are so chronically misunderstood!
The fact that some prospects go bust isn’t proof of farm analysts being “wrong” – most prospects go bust. When the Angels were well-ranked, they had a farm that would yield many franchise players: Weaver, Aybar, Kendrick, Morales, Napoli, Mathis, Adenhart (RIP) – all at the same time. They had so much depth that many prospects were “blocked”, and an ace like Jered Weaver had to compete to get playing time with his brother.
Now the Angels don’t have a single homegrown player to call up to replace Richards and Skaggs, now that they’ve gone down, or the sort of elite prospects it would take to trade for a starter. When the Angels had a top ranked farm, it perfectly coincided with their six years of dominance. When the Angels have had a low-ranked farm, it’s coincided with four years of missing the offseason. It would be a shame if the team had a quick exit this year due to that lack of depth.
But to you, these are all coincidences, because the scouts and prospect evaluators – which baseball orgs themselves employ to develop and assess their talent –have got it all wrong and you’ve got it all right. Such injustice in the world! Mostly focused on Angel fans, to boot!
Kole has been great so far this year but giving that he is still under team control for 4 more years and much of the Angels roster is already signed long term it would be wise to simply go year to year through arbitration with Kole.
They can lock him up for roughly the same amount he would likely get in arbitration. It would guarantee a commitment on both ends, which is better because then Calhoun can just focus on being a ballplayer.
This is interesting. And a very good candidate. Proof that farm system rankings mean absolutely nothing.
Corey Dickerson was another guy drafted in the 8th round in 2010. Two pretty big misses.
Calhoun’s numbers in both junior college and at Arizona State were really quite good.