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Last Week in Angels Baseball: The “Meatloaf” Edition

By Glen McKee, Staff Writer Meatloaf, not the delicious food but the man pictured above (aka Michael Lee Aday, something I know without having to google it, please applaud) is famous for two things: his songs, and for having bitch tits in the movie Fight Club.  Hey, don’t blame me, that’s a quote.  As evidence: Anyway, Meat’s second- or third-most-famous song is “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”  That’s a good way to look at the results from the last week of Angels baseball.  Yeah, they lost two games to the awful Mets, but they went 4-2, which over six games averages two out of three.  And that ain’t bad, ack ack. The team.  As I just mentioned, 4-2 on the week versus two sub-par teams.  The Angels are now in third place, a game behind Texas for second and way too far behind the Astros (they’re the best in baseball, so yeah) to even think about.  The Rangers are 9-1 in their last 10, the Angels are 6-4.  Which do you think is more sustainable?  I don’t wish ill on anybody but I’ll be glad if the Rangers cool off.  Eff Napoli. The binnacle list.  What?  Well, back in days of yore in the Navy they had what was called “the binnacle list,” a list of people that were too sick (for whatever reason, glug glug) to work that day.  Since the Angels can’t go a week without someone hurting a hamstring I decided to make this another weekly feature.  Albert Pujols missed all three games in New York with a…well, you know.  Cam Bedrosian is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today and could be back soon.  Tyler Skaggs is slightly ahead of schedule. Huston Street could be back soon, yippee.  Yunel Escobar needs to get back soon so we can get Valbuena back on the bench.  We miss you, Yunel!  Plus, I’m running out of pictures like these (he must have been cold that day):   The bad.  Unfortunately, Danny Espinosa still leads off here.  In limited exposure last week he hit .188, which is actually an improvement for him.  At this rate, he’ll be over the Mendoza line right about when we get eliminated from the playoffs!  Sigh.  David Hernandez only made two appearances last week.  In one of them, he pitched 0.1 innings and gave up one hit, no runs.  In the other appearance, he didn’t get an out but managed to give up three earned runs on four hits.  Such is the life of a reliever.  He still qualifies for clean peanut status, if just barely, with an ERA of 3.33 on the season.  Jesse Chavez had a rough week: two starts (both of them wins, oddly enough), 12.2 IP, 8 ER.  Chavez got the win in both of them.  Is that really bad?  And finally, Luis Valbuena.  I saved the worst for last.  0-17 last week, and you don’t need a calculator to figure out what his BA was.  Dishonorary mention for Kold Kole Kalhoun, who hit .143 last week, The good.  I should just rename this section The Mike Trout.  He hit .333 last week, which actually decreased his BA, with 3 HR, 8 RBI, and 10 BB.  Yes, 10 BB.  Damn, do we need somebody behind him who is a threat.  Andrelton Simmons is warming up again, hitting .385 last week.  JC Ramirez pitched seven innings, gave up 2 ER, and didn’t get the decision in a game the Angels eventually won.  CJ Cron went 5-18 last week, but he hit a grand slam, and that will always get you on the good list.  Grand slams are awesome.  It’s the best thing you can get at Denny’s (which, admittedly, ain’t saying much) and it’s the best thing you can do in any single AB as a hitter. The rest.  Contrarian poster Lou shared an interesting stat the other day: since the middle of April, despite losing their #s 1-18 starting pitchers, the Angels starting pitching ERA is third-best in all of baseball.  That’s pretty bleeping amazing, and a tribute to Eppler.  Our offense may blow donkeys most of the time, but our starting pitching has been aces, collectively and comparatively speaking.  The Angels are 16th in reliever ERA at 4.17, but they’re also 8th in MLB with 153.1 IP. Amazing non-Angels stat of the week.  Whilst looking at the team stats for bullpens, it was impossible not to notice Cleveland.  132 IP, 1.98 ERA.  That’s nuts. The week ahead.  Four in one of the few stadiums that make Oakland look minimally acceptable, Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay.  The Rays and Angels have an identical 23-23 record; this is a four-game series so the possibility of mediocrity is all but guaranteed.  After that, the Angels have three against the Marlins, where they’ll get to see this atrocity: Dafuq, Miami?  Yeah, I get it, The Birdcage was filmed there and it’s a great film (“I pierced the toast!”) but it didn’t need a permanent tribute in an MLB stadium.  Worth noting is that we have a full week of early baseball, and I love that.  Two of our games (Thursday and Sunday) start at 10:10 AM local time. Predictions.  As mentioned above, mediocrity will prevail in Tampa.  2-2 versus the Rays.  The Marlins are a trap team.  They’re 15-28 but it’s in Miami, which is hot and muggy.  It’s the end of a longish road trip and you know Sosh’s Sunday lineup will be bizarre.  1-2 against the Feesh.  I spurned the Angels on by going low on my predictions last week.  It’s a bold strategy, Cotton, and we’ll see if it pays off again this week.

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That moment when you realize everything you knew about prospects was a lie…

I’ve made it a hobby of predicting the future, quite unsuccessfully.  I am not a prophet (at least, I don’t think I am), but I sure do like baseball.  I loved playing it, watching it, dissecting it.  It helped me maximize my limited skills as a player and has led to some side jobs on the scouting side of things.  With a new family, I don’t travel as much as I used to, which makes the use of all the more important.  While it offers limited views, it helps with repeat exposure and allows me to singularize my focus when I do go out to watch them play live.  Having prefaced all of that, so far this season, pretty much everything I thought would happen, hasn’t, yet. Let’s start with our top picks… 1B Matt Thaiss – I thought he’d be in AA by now.  Clearly, such an advanced hitter with such a hot spring, playing in such an environment that would maximize his skill set would be too much for the Cal League.  As of writing this, Thaiss is batting a clean .250 with good-not-great power, but an advanced eye at the plate.  It looks like a full year at Inland Empire might still be the plan. INF Sherman Johnson – I really thought he’d have it all together in his repeat year at AAA.  Not so much so far.  While he is definitely better than last year, he still isn’t hitting the way I thought he would.  On the bright side, he is still getting on base and is a very efficient runner.  Maybe it’ll be another year before his promotion comes. RHP Vicente Campos and LHP Manny Banuelos – I did figure both would log some time in AAA, and while Manny has struggled finding the plate before, I don’t think I fully understood the magnitude of this.  Banuelos currently has more walks than strikeouts and has since moved back to relief.  Campos, who I thought would be a reliever has since moved back to starter, and while he was injured to begin the year, which I figured would happen, he hasn’t been able to find the plate at all, which is a very new development for him.  It’s early though. OF Michael Hermosillo – I did figure his numbers would be held at bay in AA as a 22 year old, I didn’t think he’d be hitting .163.  He’s still showing solid plate discipline and a good combination of power and speed, but AA has definitely been a difficult transition for a prospect that had as much helium as Hermosillo did. INF David Fletcher – Clearly, this was the year Fletcher would put the paper minors behind him and make the leap to Anaheim.  A third consecutive brilliant spring…this kid opens eyes with his defensive play, hustle and timely hitting.  The next David Eckstein…..except he still has’ conquered AA yet.  In fact, he’s hitting just .217. OF Troy Montgomery – I knew starting the year in A ball was ridiculous, and so did Montgomery, and he showed it.  However, upon being promoted to Inland Empire, he’s hitting just .188.  The plate discipline is still there, but that line is ugly. OF Jahmai Jones – I knew the numbers would be suppressed by the home field and league he’s in, but Jahmai’s early season struggles have been a bit of a eye opener.  He’s turned it around of late though, and his power and speed are both playing up in a way that’s quite surprising. And now for the good surprises… SS Roberto Baldoquin – I thought he was pretty much done after two terrible years in the Cal League.  however, upon his demotion down to A Ball, Baldoquin has actually been…..get ready for it….pretty darn good.  The defense looks better, more refined than it did before, he’s tracking the ball better, he’s hitting for some power finally, and he’s running the bases a lot better.  Perhaps the lack of expectations is just what Baldoquin has needed the thrive. RHP Jesus Castillo – We knew keeping down in A Ball was a mistake, and Castillo showed his typical dominant self in  Burlington before earning a promotion.  Now at Inland Empire, or more specifically, the California League, Castillo is still doing a bang up job.  4.15 ERA in that hitter friendly league is solid, and again, more K’s than innings pitched and spotting his pitches….Castillo looks like he’ll be a major leaguer someday. RHP Jaime Barria – Yeah, he was good in Burlington as a 19 year old.  But that was a pitching friendly league, and we have to see what he does in the Cal League before truly buying in.  53 innings, 46 K’s, only 8 walks and a 2.18 ERA.  Ummm, a 20 year old in AA?  Possibly the Angels best prospect?  Yeah, it’s all in play.  He conducts himself like a 10 year veteran in the majors.  He competes, nothing rattles him.  You can’t fake that. C Wade Wass – Always a physically imposing player, never the results to back it up.  But now in AA, he’s hitting .277 with great plate discipline and very good power.   I remember a breakout that was similar to this in Jett Bandy.  Bandy didn’t have Wass’s power, but was a better defender behind the plate.  Catchers tend to take a bit longer to develop, and I think Was stay have turned the proverbial corner. RHP Osmer Morales – A 2.63 ERA and more K’s than IP from a soft-tossing minor league free agent?  The Angels were excited when they got this kid, and he’s proving right now that what the Angels saw is real.  Read up on revolutions per minute with pitchers, or more specifically, spin rate.  Morales spins the ball and locates it.  The pitches are always moving and he generates swings and misses, caught looking, and weak contact. RHP Troy Scribner – He has a 3.34 ERA in the Pacific Coast League with more K’s than IP.  It’s getting harder and harder to ignore this kid.

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The perennially great yet different Mike Trout

It’s 2017 and Mike Trout still remains very good at playing baseball. This is not a surprise. He has been great in every single full season he has had in the big leagues dating back to 2012. So far in 2017, Mike Trout is hitting .352/.450/.752 along with a 225 wRC+ that ranks 1st in baseball. Trout just homered in his 4th straight game and has the chance to homer in 5 straight games Tuesday, which would tie an Angels record(Bobby Bonds in 1977). He also led baseball with a 171 wRC+ last year. Trout ranked 3rd in wRC+ in 2015 and 2014, 2nd in 2013 and 1st in 2012. Mike Trout is not only the best all around player in baseball; he’s the best hitter in baseball. Through today, Trout is neck and neck with Bryce Harper for the WAR(Wins Above Replacement) lead, coming in at 2.7 fWAR compared to Harper’s 2.8 mark. In his career, Trout has ranged between 7.9-10.5 WAR, leading baseball in that category ever year outside of 2015(Harper was 1st). None of this should be surprising to people. What is perhaps surprising is the manner in which Mike Trout is always great at baseball. Trout has been great every year by any measure you look at but if you break down each year, Trout has reached his all time greatness in different ways.   -In 2012, Trout was an all around monster, leading baseball in wRC+, WAR(10.3), BsR(Base Running Runs) and was the 17th best defender according to Fangraphs defensive rating. He finished 2nd in a highly controversial AL MVP race to Miguel Cabrera but took home the Rookie of the Year award . Trout was the better hitter, runner and defender than Cabrera but thats none of my business. *insert Kermit the Frog sipping coffee meme* -In 2013, Trout was a less effective base runner and defender but he cut back his strikeouts by 2.9%, cranked his walk rate up by 4.9% and was again baseball’s best player by WAR(10.5). Trout again lost to Miguel Cabrera, thanks to Cabrera winning the 1st AL Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Still, Cabrera wasn’t even the 2nd best AL player that year, ranking 3rd in WAR behind Josh Donaldson(7.6) and Trout. -2014 was Mike Trout’s “down year” where he only racked up 7.9 WAR due to a ballooned strikeout rate(26.1%), lower walk rate and poor defense and he had the worst 2nd half of his career(.257/.347/.502). Yet, Trout was an integral part of a 98 win Angels team, the only Angels team that has made it to the playoffs with Trout on it. He took home his 1st AL MVP. -Mike Trout continued to slip on the bases in 2015, only stealing 11 bags and posting his worst BsR but he cranked out a career high 41 home runs and saw his WAR bounce up to 9, showing 2014 was just a minor blip on the radar and not a sign of a declining Mike Trout. -Just when you thought you figured Mike Trout out going into 2016, he decided to go crazy and slash .315/.441/.550 and steal 30 bags, the most since 2013. He took home AL MVP honors while playing for an extremely poor Angels club. So far in 2017, Mike Trout is his usual great self but once again, he’s doing things differently and is even getting some luck on his side, according to a new recent stat that surfaced. Statcast rolled out a new statistic called xwOBA(Expected Weighted On Base Average), which looks at your exit velocity and launch angle to calculate what your expected wOBA should be. Mike Trout is currently running a .487 wOBA, while his xwOBA is .430. This is due to the fact that Trout’s average exit velocity is down from 90.8 mph in 2016 to 87.9 mph this year. Trout is also running a lower walk rate. However, a lot of this performance has to due with Trout’s new approach at the plate in 2017. Mike Trout is swinging more than ever(42.7 swing%) and is making contact just below his career best mark(82% this year, 82.1% in 2011 and 2013). More baseballs put in play means less overall damage will be done on baseballs but this approach is certainly working for him. He’s currently posting career best marks in average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and wRC+ and he has a career low strikeout rate(17.9%). He’s even running a lower BABIP than he did in 2016(.364 this year, .371 last year), which signals Trout could be getting unlucky in some regard. With his speed and his contact oriented approach this year, it’s very possible he could post a .370-.390 BABIP and end up with a batting average around .330-.340 this season. Once again, Michael Nelson Trout is having a phenomenal year but he’s doing it in a different way, just like he’s done in each individual year in his career. There was always a thought that Trout could decide to put every ball in play one year and not only is he doing that this year, he’s still doing damage on baseballs. Depending on what measurement you look at, Trout could either regress or he could possibly get even better, which doesn’t seem physically possible. Trout is averaging .077 WAR/game, which puts him on pace to rack up 11-12 WAR in 2017 if he reached 150+ games. It feels like Trout is still underrated in a sense. Playing for a mediocre ball club will do that to you but Trout is on a path to becoming one of the best players to ever play the game and he’s still not talked about with the likes of the sports greats today like LeBron James, Tom Brady and others. The combination of Trout’s laid back personality, lack off off the field drama and his team performance are main culprits but as an individual, Mike Trout deserves more attention. If you’re a baseball fan whose not appreciating what Trout is doing on a daily basis, start appreciating. If you’re an Angels fan whose discouraged with the team performance and don’t want to attend games, go to Angel Stadium to watch Mike Trout play. He is our modern day Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb. Mike Trout is on his way to an all time great career and that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

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Eppler has changed the way we view relievers

Admit it, you never thought we’d be here.  An Angels bullpen, one of the best in baseball?  The Angels’ relief pitching has been somewhere between “ok” and “terrible” for several years now, and coming into the year, I was among those who felt the bullpen would be absolutely horrendous in 2017.  But that was the old me.  The one that that bullpen roles should be fairly structured, that receivers needed to throw 94+ with a wipeout slider and grown from the minor leagues.  That’s what bullpens have been for a solid 25 years years now.  Yusmeiro Petit?  Bud Norris?  Jose Alvarez?  What is this? This is Eppler at his best. In order to have an advantage over other teams, a GM must recognize value where other teams don’t.  It’s the basics of “Moneyball”. Eppler (and perhaps a couple of other General Managers to a much lesser extent) has built a relief core made up of former starters, soft-tossers, pitchers that “spin the ball”.  These aren’t Kenley Jansens, or even Cam Bedrosians.  These are the guys that no one wanted at the end of Spring Training.  These were the unsigned all the way into January or February.  These are the ones that don’t even garner a headline on MLBTR, but only a footnote. These are also the men that have made up arguably baseball’s best bullpen over the first month and a half of 2017. Not Cam Bedrosian, note Huston Street, not Andrew Bailey. Bud Norris is over 30 years old, has never been a reliever in his life, hasn’t posted an ERA below 5.00 is three years.  He’s the Angels closer.  20 IP 25 K’s 7 saves and a 3.15 ERA.  Signed as a minor league invite. Yusmeiro Petit is also over 30 years old, with a declining fastball.  He was slapped around early in his career, and last year with the Nats.  He did have a solid three year run as the mop-up man for the Giants.  22 IP 24 K’s and a 2.38 ERA. Jose Alvarez failed as a starter in Detroit and was dealt to the Angels at the end of Spring Training in 2013 before the Tigers would have to cut him.  His first year, he was injured.  He probably should’ve been cut right there.  Yet here he is four years later with as many strikeouts as innings pitched and a 2.13 ERA. David Hernandez didn’t even make the Braves team out of Spring Training.  The Braves.  The worst team in baseball didn’t think he was good enough.  The Angels traded for him and so far he’s assumed the role of 8th inning set up man, and is sporting a 0.87 ERA in 10 innings, with 10 K’s and not a single walk. Blake Parker is in his 30’s and to date, he’s only posted an ERA under 4.67 once in his entire career.  Yet in Spring Training he managed to strikeout 17 consecutive batters, which is just silly, and made the team.  17 innings, 27! K’s and a 3.63 ERA (and a 0.93 FIP). So what do all these guys have in common? They’re all a bunch of pitchers that no one else wanted.  They’re old (for the most part), and don’t exactly have a long string of success as top shelf relievers.  Parker, Hernandez and Norris can still throw the ball pretty hard.  Alvarez and Petit generate weak contact.  Every single one of them can go multiple innings. More than anything, Eppler has done something that Jerry Dipoto, a former major league reliever himself could never do.  Build a shut down bullpen, and do it without much money.

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Last Week in Angels Baseball: The “Assumption of Mediocrity” Edition

By Glen McKee, Staff Writer Last week was, by definition, another mediocre week.  Mediocre: of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate.  There were some things to get excited about, some things to be bummed about, but on the whole, the week was a giant slice of meh.  The team.  The Angels went 3-4 against two teams that are on the same level as them.  Mediocre!  Mike Trout too a couple of days off with a tight hamstring, and while we were crapping our pants worrying about how unwatchable the rest of the season would be without Mike Trout, he, well… Trout returned to form like he hadn’t missed a game, and our collective sphincter unclenched.  Whew!  But in less devastating but still upsetting news (to most of us), Yunel Escobar injured his hamstring and because he’s not Mike Trout, he’s expected to miss 2-4 weeks.  Let me run “expected to miss 2-4 weeks” through my Angels translator and see what we get: OK, either he’ll die or he’ll be back around the ASB (yes, this year).  This is frustrating on several levels: first, because it’s yet another injury to a team that can ill afford any more injuries.  Second, because Escobar was just heating up after a slow start.  Finally, this kills me because there’d been a void in my heart ever since Aybar was traded, and only recently was that void beginning to be filled by Escobar and the pictures of him with his luggage or his satchel (Indiana Jones had one!).  I’ll miss him deeply until he returns, but until then I’ll enjoy Revere when he hits leadoff and having somebody with speed on the bases in front of Trout.  Until you return, Escobar, we’ll always have this: The bad.  Last week Albert Pujols hit one HR while posting a .227 BA.  As always, he’s due.  On the plus side, he’s hitting .300 with the bases loaded, so there’s always that.  Kole Calhoun hit .115 over the last seven days.  You know who was better than Kole last week?  Danny Espinosa, who ended a 0-68 streak (I may be exaggerating a bit there) but managed to finish the week strong, so strong that we may hear about him again shortly.  Cameron Maybin, who briefly showed signs of waking up, went 2-23 last week.  It’s the middle of May and he’s hitting .185.  I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest it may be time to give Revere a few more starts and see how it goes.  JC Ramirez had a rough start, giving up five ER in seven innings, but he’s still a fairly clean peanut for the year. The good.  For such a mediocre week there was a lot of good.  Cliff Pennington hit .375 for the week.  Shoemaker showed signs of being late-season Shoemaker, throwing six shutout innings against the Tigers.  Mike Trout ended a personal-best hitting streak but started a HR hitting streak of three games (as I write this) and hit .333 for the week.  I’m gonna give props to Danny Espinosa as well, for showing signs of ending his terrible slump, going 2-7 in the last two games with a home run and a double.  If he could catch on fire, that would be great, yeah.  Better than working Saturday and, since you’re gonna be here anyway, Sunday as well.  Finally, I’d like to give special notice to Alex Meyer in this section.  He got plenty of guff after his first terrible start, but he’s improved steadily over his last two.  11.2 IP and a 3.09 ERA for the week.  In his last start, he went 6.1 innings against the Tigers and gave up 1 ER.  He may be OK after all.  Here’s to you, Alex Meyer, and your hopeful continued success! The rest.  Cam Bedrosian has resumed a throwing program, whatever that means (the pitching equivalent of a weightless treadmill?) but there’s still no timetable for his return.  Bud Norris has been adequate as his replacement, which is better than expected; hopefully, Bud can continue that adequacy.  Huston Steet is expected to face hitters soon, so in about a month we can look forward to him duking it out with Norris for the closer spot.  Who am I kidding, as soon as Street is back he’ll close.  Again, let’s hope for the best. My wife and I went to the game Friday night (I’m terrible at segues, by the way, but I’m working on it).  After the game was over a huge van (for lack of a better word) pulled up in front of the exit gates and it was filled with Angels merchandise for sale.  I wish I’d taken a picture, but hanging in a row were t-shirt jerseys for RICHARDS, SKAGGS, TROPEANO, and HEANEY.  None of them were on sale.  I just thought that was worth sharing. This week.  The Angels start out with three at home versus the White Sox and three in New York against the Mets.  The White Sox are slightly better than us and the Mets are equally decimated by injuries and suffer the additional burden of being managed by Terry Collins, who goes through pitchers like someboy wearing cleats tears up a sleeping bag getting into it.  There could be reason for optimism, but then, well, you know…Angels. Predictions.  Last week I predicted 2-1 versus Oakland and 2-2 versus Detroit.  Again, I was one game off witht he Angels going 1-2 and 2-2 respectively.  That’s two weeks in a row I’ve been one game too optimistic, so I’ve learned my lesson.  0-3 versus the White Sox and 2-1 versus the Mets.  Seriously, I can’t predict 1-2 against the Mets.  If that happens, I’ll need to see a doctor for all the SMGDH I’ll be doing.  Feel free to post your predictions and challenge me, and if you do better I’ll give you a cookie or something.

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Chasing Upside

The draft is a little less than month away, and Billy Eppler has been universally applauded for his work on the Angels minor league system to date.  His predecessor, Jerry Dipoto’s drafting, international approach, free agency and general team building philosophy left the Angels system completely bare.  We’re talking about a General Manager that managed to trade away Jordan Walden, Andrew Romine, Tyler Chatwood, Will Smith, John Hellweg, Ariel Pena, Alexi Amarista, Taylor Lindsey, Jose Rondon, Donn Roach, A.J. Schugel, Mike Clevinger, Zach Borenstein, R.J. Alvarez, Mark Sappington, Austin Adams, Yency Almonte, Kody Eaves, Eric Stamets, Elliot Morris, Kyle McGowin, Randal Grichuk and Jean Segura.  All within a three and a half year reign of terror.  Basically, this guy traded away anything of value and didn’t think twice about it.  And the prospects Dipoto didn’t trade away are only still with the Angels because nobody wanted them at the time (Nate Smith, Keynan Middleton, etc..) In the mean time, Eppler has begun the slow, arduous job of rebuilding a completely depleted system.  First, he drafted Matt Thaiss, Brandon Marsh, Chris Rodriguez, Nonie Williams and Cole Duensing, in what has been lauded as the best Angels draft since Mike Trout.  He’s also scoured the waiver wire and traded for others like Alex Meyer, Vicente Campos, Damien Magnifico, Brooks Pounders, Abel De Los Santos and Parker Bridewell.  Something Eppler has also done which the Dipoto led Mariners are just learning about, Eppler has managed not to trade away international bonus slots. The farm can’t be fixed overnight.  They had a great draft last year, and they’ll need to have another one this year, and also have a solid showing after July 2nd with international prospects.  Still, the single biggest thing that Upper can do to improve the farm is chase upside. You might notice that all those names up there are all prospects with upside.  This makes it clear that the Angels scouts are as good as any in the business at unearthing premium major league talent in unexpected places.  They just have had trouble holding on to them.  But another reason for the farm faltering had to do with Dipoto’s drafts.  Consider that his top picks were Taylor Ward, Sean Newcomb, Hunter Green, and R.J. Alvarez.  One is a 23 year old catcher repeating A Ball, another was traded away and still can’t find the strike zone, one has retired from baseball and the last is currently sporting an ERA over 7.00 as a reliever in AA. The Angels system cannot survive another era like Dipoto, not unless the 80’s and 90’s should be relived in the new century.  So regardless of who Eppler picks, it has to be an upside pick.  Safety picks simply will be a wasted pick in which the Angels should’ve been using on “lottery tickets”.

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Angels Minor League Update 5/13

The minor league baseball season is now far enough in that we can start making some impressions of certain minor league performances, good or bad. The Angels farm system has shown incremental improvements since Billy Eppler was brought on board as general manager. There’s still a big shortage of talent throughout the system but there are finally signs of potential MLB players starting to surface across different levels. Here is an update on the 4 affiliates that are 30+ games into their season(Rookie Level Orem Owlz and the AZL Angels haven’t begun their seasons yet). *Stats current as of Friday 5/12* Low A: Burlington Bees(11-19) Position Players –Jahmai Jones is arguably the most talented prospect in the Angels system but he’s had a tough go around to start 2017. The young outfielder is slashing .198/.239/.315(60 wRC+) and is striking out roughly 4 times as many times as he is walking. He also doesn’t turn 20 years old until August and this is his 1st full season at A ball. Expect him to make the necessary adjustments to show why he is so highly touted. –Jordan Zimmerman, a 2016 7th round pick, has been lauded by scouts for his natural feel for hitting but lacks in other areas of his game. Zimmerman is slashing .257/.325/.404(111 wRC+) with a 9.2 BB% and 24.2 K%. The strikeout% as a 22 year old in Low A ball is concerning so that is something to monitor when he moves to High A ball. –Brennan Morgan, selected in the 24th round last year, has had a great start to 2017. A catcher/1st baseman, Morgan is hitting .306/.384/.449(143 wC+) this year. Morgan was drafted with the “organizational player” attachment but he’s done enough this year to warrant a promotion to Inland Empire. –Roberto Baldoquin might be the most controversial Angels prospect in recent memory but he’s shown signs of life after being demoted to Low A ball. His .247/.310/.403 line(107 wRC+) is entirely unspectacular but it’s a huge improvement from his sub .300 OBP seasons he posted in back to back years with Inland Empire. He’s striking out about 5 many times as he’s walking and you’d hope he would improve after being moved down a level but there’s at least a sign of potential being shown this year. –Brennon Lund isn’t hitting the ball with authority but his .341 OBP is allowing him to utilize his plus speed on the bases, evidenced by his 10 stolen bases. Lund has a below average hit tool and power but he has a good eye at the plate, runs well and is a decent defender. Pitchers –Travis Herrin, the 2015 18th round pick, has been the best pitcher for Burlington this year. He has struck out 29.3% of the batters he has faced while only walking 5.7% of the batters. His 3.96 ERA is a little less spectacular but he’s missing bats and not walking guys, a good sign. Herrin is a fastball/slider guy that is showing some ability to get swings and misses. –Joe Gatto was a highly touted 2nd round pick in 2014 but really struggled to even see success in the lower minors before 2017. He has turned it around this year, striking out 20.2% of hitters whole only walking 9.2% of batters. Still only 21 years old, Gatto has a solid 3.71 ERA and looks like he is cleaning up his mechanics a bit. He owns a good low-mid 90’s fastball and big curveball but his poor command has plagued him in the past. –Erik Manoah was acquired for Fernando Salas last summer and has looked decent to start 2017. In 26 innings, Manoah has struck out 22 batters but walked 14 and has 1.423 WHIP along with a 3.46 ERA. Manoah has a low 90’s fastball that touches the mid 90’s at times but he struggles to throw useful secondaries. –Sam Pastrone was considered a very good pick in the 17th round in 2015 but he’s had a tough go around this season. In 24.2 innings, Pastrone has struck out 18 batters, walked 16, allowed 31 hits and allowed 21 runs(16 earned), which leads to an ugly 5.84 ERA. Pastrone has poor command and many scouts think he’s a reliever so a move to the bullpen may come soon. He has a solid fastball/curveball combo that could really play up in relief. –Jonah Wesely has gone through quite a bit since he was drafted in the 11th round in 2013. Considered a steal in the 11th round(signability concerns), Wesely had to undergo Tommy John in 2015 which stalled his development. He’s now back to full strength and missing bats with Burlington, evidenced by his 13 strikeouts in 10.1 innings. He’s allowed 14 base runners, which is too much, but the hard throwing left hander is showcasing why the Angels liked his arm so much. High A: Inland Empire 66ers(16-18) Position Players –Jared Foster has been the 66ers best position player, posting an above average batting line(.282/.333/.435) while playing most games in center field. He’s popped 4 home runs, stolen 4 bases and he’s starting to tap into his potential a bit this year. Foster hits the ball with authority, runs well and plays solid defense but he has a flawed approach at the plate that leads to plenty of strikeouts and few walks. He is starting to look more comfortable and may be due for a promotion sometime soon. -The Angels 1st round pick last year, Matt Thaiss is holding his own in his 1st taste of High A ball, slashing .244/.350/.382 with 4 home runs. Thaiss has looked fine defensively and his approach at the plate is superb, which is what got him drafted high, but he’s not hitting the ball with the authority you want from your first baseman. Thaiss is extremely polished and will very likely be a major leaguer in some capacity but he needs to start hitting for more power or there’s going to be limited upside in his future. –Connor Justus slumped hard to start his season but he’s picking it up lately and he’s running a superb 16.1 BB%. Justus is striking out too much and he’s not tapping into his power but he’s running a league average line(99 wRC+) and playing above average defense at shortstop. There’s a very likely utility player in this skill set but if he can manage to keep the strikeouts in check, he could work his way into a starting role. –Taylor Ward finally debuted last week after a oblique injury that cost him all of Spring Training and the first month of 2017. This is a big year for the 2015 1st round pick, as he had a subpar 2016 offensively(82 wRC+) and defensively(19 passed balls, poor framing). Ward has a plus-plus arm and very good pop times, which is almost enough to be a backup MLB catcher, but he needs to grow a lot to become anything more than an ok backup catcher. –Troy Montgomery is a grinder, one who plays hard in the field and makes pitchers work at the plate. He crushed pitching in Low A, walking 3 times as many times as he was striking out, and was promoted to Inland Empire, where he’s struggled to the tune of a 71 wRC+. Montgomery has the type of skillset to carry him to the upper minors at the very least but how much power and ability to get hits will determine his future in the big leagues. At age 22, he still has time to figure that out. –Kyle Survance Jr. debuted on Thursday for the 66ers, his first game since 2015 after he missed all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery. Survance is an absolute burner on the field and will play above average defense in left or right field but really needs his hit tool to play up for him to be anything more than a 5th or 6th MLB outfielder. He tore up Rookie Ball in 2015 so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do in High A ball, making a 2 league jump skipping Burlington. Pitchers –Jaime Barria is off to a tremendous start in 2017 through his first 39.2 innings. The 20 year old Panamanian has struck out 20.8% of batters, only walked 5% and has a 2.75 ERA. Always known for his plus command, Barria’s curveball has taken a step forward and he’s throwing a tad harder this season. It’s very possible that Barria is the best pitching prospect in the Angels system now and there is a lot of hope surrounding his future. He projects as a 4/5 starter. –Jesus Castillo was recently promoted from Burlington and his overall season has been encouraging. Acquired for Joe Smith last season, Castillo has struck out 31 batters and walked 5 in 28.1 innings while running an ERA around 2 across Burlington and Inland Empire. Castillo is very simple pitcher, one who throws plenty of strikes with his low 90’s fastball and fringe secondary stuff. He projects as a swingman or reliever down the road unless his velocity bumps up or he can improve his secondaries. –Jose Rodriguez has racked up the most strikeouts of any Angels minor league pitcher and shows an idea of throwing strikes too. He has struck out 39 and walked 10 in his 39.1 innings along with his 4.35 ERA. Rodriguez has a very vanilla repertoire, throwing a high 80’s-low 90’s fastball, an above average change up and below average slider but throws plenty of strikes. His numbers have been solid in the minors as he’s flown under the radar so he is a pitcher worth following. –Luis Pena is a diminutive right hander who is very quirky but also has a big fastball. He channels his inner Johnny Cueto at times, frequently quick pitching from his small 5’9″ frame. Pena doesn’t offer enough off speed stuff or command to be effective as a starter. His 23.9 K% is solid but his 9.9 BB% and 37 hits allowed in 33.1 innings showcases his issues making it through the order more than once. A move to the bullpen may be in order to see if his 91-94 mph fastball can see a velocity spike. AA: Mobile Bay Bears(14-20) Position Players –Michael Hermosillo has really blossomed into a potential starting outfielder or 4th outfielder after crushing the High A level the past 2 seasons. His 1st taste of AA hasn’t been good(38 wRC+) but after posting a 139 wRC+ with Inland Empire last year and 151 this year, he showcased a real ability to get on base and slug a bit. His plus speed, solid defense and good plate discipline create a foundation for a useful major league player down the road. –David Fletcher missed about a week or so of action with an injury but when he’s been on the field, he’s shown why he may be a useful big leaguer very soon. He makes contact(10 % K rate this year), hits for average(.279), runs well(5 stolen bases) and is even getting on base more this year(.380). Fletcher is a scrappy player who may stick at shortstop and grind out at bats from game to game. He likely doesn’t stick as a full time starter but a solid utility infield profile is in the cards for Fletcher. –Zach Gibbons has already accomplished a ton after being selected in the 17th round in the 2016 draft. He torched Rookie Ball(146 wRC+), High A ball(142 wRC+) and is now doing damage in AA(119 wRC+). Gibbons is pretty maxed out physically, is a below average defender and doesn’t offer a ton of upside but all he’s done is hit in the minors and it’s time to take notice of him. With a hit tool that is playing well above average so far, he could work his way into a 4th outfielder/platoon bat role in the majors. –Forrestt Allday was a minor league free agent signing before 2016 and he has been totally locked in to start 2017. His .340 batting average and .450 slugging percentage are the best on the Mobile offense by far and he’s walking more than he’s striking out. A former 8th round selection of the Boston Red Sox, Allday plays decent defense in the outfield and has a very good approach at the plate but doesn’t do much else. He’ll likely be in Salt Lake at some point soon if a spot opens up for him. Pitchers –Osmer Morales was a minor league free agent signing this past offseason and has been one of the best pitchers in the system this year. Morales has a 2.82 ERA, 31.1 K% and 8.9 BB% in 22.1 innings, continuing his success of excelling in minor league ball. Morales doesn’t wow with any of his pitches but his high spin rate fastball plays well up in the zone. At age 24 along with a career ERA under 3, Morales is a candidate to receive MLB starts at some point this season if needed. He looks like a fringe MLB arm but deserves his shot to prove what he can do. –Jake Jewell is one of the several Bay Bears who were promoted from Inland Empire after crushing it with the 66ers. After posting a disastrous 6.31 ERA last season, Jewell came into 2017 with electric stuff, shoved in High A ball and was promoted very quick. Jewell has sat 92-94 on the four seam fastball, 89-91 on the two seam, is throwing sharp sliders and thrown some quality curveballs along with improved command. He posted a 2.25 ERA and 18.8 K-BB% with Inland Empire but has struggled to the tune of a 6.43 ERA with Mobile. If his command improves, he’s a viable starter with 4 pitches. If not, his stuff should play well in the bullpen. –Grayson Long, like Jewell, was promoted very quickly after striking out 25.9% of the hitters he faced in 12 innings at Inland Empire. Angels general manager Billy Eppler has had a quick trigger on promoting guys but Long has struggled mightily with Mobile. His 6.0 K-BB% is well below the 18.5% he had in High A ball but his ERA is actually lower at Mobile(3.00) than it was in Inland Empire(4.50). There’s a lot of random noise going on with his run prevention so don’t look too much into the ERA yet. Long projects as a potential durable #5 starter but could be a solid relief option if moved there. –Adam Hofacket has struck out 18 batters and only walked 3 in 18.1 innings of work across High A and AA ball while only allowing 6 runs(5 earned) in the process. Hofacket has a solid 91-94 mph fastball and a slider that can miss bats. A Riverside native, Hofacket has really pitched well and put himself on the map to be potentially pitching in Anaheim in 2018. –Eric Karch has been one of the best relievers in the system to start 2017, posting a 1.25 ERA and 17.3 K-BB% in his 12 games. The right hander was a 22nd round draft selection of the Pirates back in 2014 but was acquired a few years later and is off to a strong start in 2017. AAA: Salt Lake Bees(19-15) Position Players: –Kaleb Cowart has a strong .283/.396/.400(119 wRC+) line with the Bees in part to a stronger approach at the plate. Cowart has an exceptional 16% walk rate, is playing above average defense and is making it hard for the Angels to not give him another chance, especially with Danny Espinosa struggling at second base at the big league level. At this point in time, Cowart can only learn from extended MLB exposure and he may get some this season. –Sherman Johnson looks like a MLB utility man in the making and he’s having a solid year, slashing .282/.378/.398 while playing all over the diamond. Johnson’s defensive versatility, good approach at the plate and above average speed should get Johnson to the majors at some point this year where he can show his worth to the Angels. He’ll never be a star or everyday player but he can be a useful bench piece in the show. –Bo Way was promoted quickly after handling AA with ease(.311/.377/.400 line) but has had a tough learning period in AAA(.268/.279/.317). Way plays above average defense in the corners, runs pretty well and has a solid approach at the plate but lacks the hit tool or power to be an everyday player, or potentially 4th outfielder. He looks like a 5th outfielder who should offer useful depth from the AAA team. –Nolan Fontana is an above average defensive shortstop who is also running a .270/.383/.410 line in AAA. After posting an abysmal 43 wRC+ in 2016 with the Astros AAA affiliate, Fontana has been 17% better than the league average hitter, partially due to a very healthy 14.8 BB%. Fontana may have a short term future with the Angels as a utility man who can handle all the infield positions, especially with Yunel Escobar, Danny Espinosa and Cliff Pennington slated to be free agents after the year. –Eric Young Jr. has to be included here even though he’s not a prospect and is just a MLB veteran whose enjoying a nice start to his season. Still, he’s running a .344/.403/.484 line with 4 home runs and 8 stolen bases. He will likely be the first Angels outfielder called up if one is needed due to his experience and ability to do one thing well: steal bases. Pitchers: –Luis Diaz has struck out 37 batters and walked 9 across AA and AAA in 31 innings this year. He only allowed 1 run(unearned) in AA but has posted an ERA of 7 in AAA, although his peripheral stats look great. Diaz is a former meaningful prospect with the Red Sox who has an above average 91-94 mph fastball and 2 fringe secondary pitches. His good start to 2017 has put him on the radar to potentially give the Angels innings in the majors this year. –Troy Scribner continues his success story with his 3.76 ERA, 25.7 K% and 8.9 BB% in his work so far in 2017. Scribner doesn’t have overwhelming stuff but commands his pitches well enough to have success. He’s maintained an ERA around the mid 3’s in the past 2 years in Salt Lake, no small feat, but there’s not a ton here to project anything more than a AAAA arm. He does deserve a look at some point this year, however, as the 25 year old has really opened some eyes in the past calendar year. –Manny Banuelos is currently running a 6.60 ERA and 17:20 strikeout to walk ratio in AAA. The former top Yankees prospect is still plagued by command and inability to throw secondary pitches for strikes, although pitching in Salt Lake can really put a damper on your numbers. Still, Banuelos has not shown he’s a worthy MLB starter and a move to the bullpen as a power left handed reliever looks inevitable. –Eduardo Paredes has completely dominated AA and AAA hitters this year, allowing 2 runs in 18.2 innings while striking out 21 and walking 5. Paredes pitches from a 3/4 arm slot with a heavy riding low-mid 90’s fastball and tosses an average slider that can miss some bats. The recently promoted Keynan Middleton is the best Angels relief prospect but Paredes is not far behind and could join Middleton in Anaheim this year. –Nate Smith, the closest thing to a MLB starter the Angels have in the farm system as present, made his first start of 2017 this past week, tossing 5.2 scoreless innings with 4 strikeouts, no walks and 1 hit allowed. Smith is a very low upside, decent floor pitcher who should be able to eat some innings as a serviceable #5 starter as soon as this year. The elbow tendinitis that put him on the shelf to start the year is worrisome but if healthy and effective, he may be pitching in Anaheim sooner rather than later. -In 7.1 innings this year, Vicente Campos has allowed 15 hits, 7 home runs and 12 runs, which is not what you want. Campos was a sneaky good waiver pick up this past offseason as he’s a guy with prior prospect pedigree and possesses very good stuff when healthy. The issue is injuries have taken a toll on him and at age 24, he’s endured a ton of arm injuries. If he gets right, expect him to be in Anaheim and show some flashes of brilliance with an above average fastball and solid secondary pitches. –Parker Bridwell, picked up last week in a trade that sent Jordan Kipper to Baltimore, possesses a firm low-mid 90’s fastball with sink and plus change up but hasn’t had the command to succeed. Bridwell was moved from starting to relief last year but jumped back to starting with Mobile and Salt Lake. In 15 innings across those levels, Bridwell has struck out 14 batters, walked 2 and allowed only 2 runs. He might be an arm Billy Eppler wants to use as a multi inning reliever at some point in Anaheim this year.

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Angels still have more than enough pitching depth

The Angels don’t look so hot lately.  It seems that late game magic is still here, because they’re still making comebacks, but they’re also finding ways to cough up that comeback lead.  And with the injuries they’ve encountered, the Angels will need some help from their prospects again this year, namely, their pitching prospects.  First, let’s start with who has been promoted. RHP Keynan Middleton (#6 prospect) – This is one I think everyone and their grandma saw coming a mile away.  Middleton showed that he had nothing left to learn in AAA, and so was promoted and has since gone about learning the ropes in the majors.  His fastball isn’t the 102 we saw in Salt Lake last year, but it’s still consistently 96-98.  His slider comes in around 88-89 and is a true strikeout pitch.  Middleton will need to get settled and find the strike zone a bit more, but before the end of the season, he could be closing out games for the Angels. RHP Brooks Pounders (#22 prospect) – There was some debate as to whether the Angels would deploy Pounders as a starter or reliever.  For now, they like him better as a reliever (a questionable decision at best).  As a reliever, Brooks is sitting 90-92 on his fastball with weight to it and a decent change up and breaking ball.  Pounders didn’t last long in the majors before being sent back down to Salt Lake. But with the trouble Angels starters have encountered lately, and JC Ramirez and Jesse Chavez not looking like they’ll move to the pen any time soon, a spot as a reliever could open back up for someone that can cover multiple innings, like Pounders. RHP Alex Meyer (#3 prospect) – Meyer still hasn’t got locked into the new arm slot, which is understandable given that it’s such a new thing for him.  But the Angels have a need regardless, and Meyer’s upside could play up in a big way.  The 95+ fastball, knee bending slider and solid change up are still there.  So far,  we’ve seen a lot of walks and a lot of strikeouts, but not as many outs as we’d hope.  Still, he’s improving. Prospects on the horizon RHP Vicente Campos (#16 prospect) – Campos is still on the mend, but has made a couple appearances in Salt Lake.  The Angels are using him as a starter, which is a very smart move.  When campos is healthy, he’s an ace.  His combination of stuff and control is unbelievable for someone that was exposed to waivers.  Once Campos finds his footing, he’ll be an injury or poor performance away from promotion.  And if he finds a way to stay healthy, he won’t look back.  Big IF. LHP Nate Smith (#10 prospect) – Smith just recently got back on the mound, and his first start in AAA went swimmingly.  If he keeps putting up zeroes, the Angels will ask him to do the sea win Anaheim.  Smith tops out at 93 with his fastball, but will frequently hover at 89-91, but has a very good change up and good slider/curve. LHP Manny Banuelos (#13 prospect) – Banuelos’ first three starts in AAA were sparkling, and his last three have been a disaster.  As plainly as I can put it, Banuelos will live and die by his ability to throw strikes.  Whole he doesn’t throw 96+ as he used to when he was a top prospect, Banuelos still comes in at 91/92 and has a better change up than he ever did.  But his last three starts he’s walked 12 batters.  Should he ever find the plate again, Banuelos could make an impact in the rotation or bullpen for the Angels. RHP Troy Scribner (unranked) – The Angels best pitcher in AAA is Troy Scribner.  The Angels traded for him at the beginning of last season, after he had posted an ERA of 5.49 for the Astros Advanced A Ball affiliate.  Troy went on to record a 3.47 ERA in AA and 3.30 in AAA for the Angels.  Good trade.  So far this year, he’s at a 3.76 ERA (other-worldly in the PCL) with his signature high amount of strikeouts.  Scribbler throws a low-90’s fastball to go with two different variations of a breaking ball, one in the mid-60’s (yeah, you read right), and another in the high 70’s, and a change up with sink that sometimes looks like a splitter. RHP Eduardo Paredes (#19 prospect) – Just 22 years old and in AAA, teams still haven’t found an answer for Parades’ mid-90’s sidearm fastball.  They know it’s coming.  He throws it for a strike 90% of the time.  They just haven’t hit it yet.  I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work in Anaheim.    

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Return of the Point/Counterpoint Mailbox! Huzzah!

By Nate (Statler) Trop and Glen (Waldorf) McKee, Staff Writers Hey folks, guess what?  It’s early May and the Angels are once again mired in mediocracy, mostly due to injuries.  We’re still in second place in the AL West though!  Today is a day game against the As, sure to feature another wacky Scioscia getaway-day lineup, so what better time to answer your imaginary questions?  Let’s get to it! With Tyler Skaggs on the DL, is it time to sign Fister? – T. Can, Pinon Hills, CA Glen: Absolutely!  It’s never a bad time to get Fistered.  The starting pitching is already getting fisted, so why shouldn’t it get Fistered?  With Fister and Pounders on the pitching staff, the only one missing is Charlie Furbush.  This is a no-brainer. Nate: At this point, I think you have to take anyone you possibly can, the next step will probably be auditioning pitchers at the local beer league softball games.  Plus, as my cohort mentioned, you can’t beat having Pounders take over for Fister. Are there any self-help books for being such a bad pitcher you got cut by a team with more pitching injuries than Erick Aybar has screws loose?  G. Mahle, Unemployment Office Nate: Sorry man, I can’t imagine anyone thought you were here to stay… Glen: Who are you again?  Seriously, not racist (which, I know, means I’m about to say something incredibly racist) but I thought that Norris and Pounders were our only, um, Caucasian relievers the Angels had this year.  Anyway, here’s a good book to start with: I heard you guys need douchebags pitchers… – C. Wilson, dictated but not read Nate: I would happily continue to watch these guys I have never heard of give up too many runs as long as I never have to see Wilson throw another pitch for the Angels. Glen: I have no response to this.  You’re driving racecars and going home to your supermodel wife in your comfortable mansion.  I can’t even hate you anymore.  You don’t care one whit about us.  I surrender.   Will we see Garrett Richards again before the end of this season? – G. Richards, somewhere Glen: Sure.  We’ll see occasional shots of him in the dugout wearing a hoodie.  Where we won’t see him again this season is on the pitcher’s mound. Nate: We already saw him more than I expected to this season so I guess that is a win.  He should just get his UCL fixed while he is at it. Does anyone actually watch the Angels when Trout is sitting? N. Trop, Exile Nate: I honestly can’t see any reason to watch this team without Trout.  I used to be the person that never missed a game, but the last several years of very bad teams have completely changed that.  The only thing enjoyable about watching them is Trout. Glen:  Absolutely.  You can still see some great defensive plays from Andrelton Simmons.  Ah, crap.  (Editorial note: when I wrote this, Simmons had just been hit on the hand with a pitch and was removed from the game) Well, you can get excited about Pujols getting to 600 HR – maybe they’ll put a statue of him in an Angels uniform outside of Busch Stadium.  Um, you can make a drinking game out of how many times Espinosa will strike out every night.  Or, my favorite, while there’s nothing exciting going on you can google pics of Yunel Escobar and use them to salve the burn from the loss of Aybar.   Isn’t it awesome having a catcher on the team that performs defensively like Jeff Mathis was supposed to? – M. Maldonado, Southern California Glen: Indeed it is.  Maldonado has been a treat behind the plate and his bat, given what we’ve had for the last five years or so, is a bonus. Nate:  Jury is still out on Maldonado, I haven’t seen how good his throw to first is on an attempted steal of second yet.   Do you think Trout would notice if I borrowed one of his MVP awards to pick up chicks? – M. Napoli, Arlington Nate: I am sure something could be arranged if we could borrow you for 1B/DH this season. Glen: Mike Trout seems like the generous type so if you made up a legit reason for it (“I’m helping somebody’s ‘Make a Wish’ come true!”) he’d probably be down.  However, before you return the award to him just be sure to clean off your stray beard hairs, and clean it with some cold fusion to eliminate any STDs you might give it and to remove the smell of Drakkar Noir. Do you guys believe the attendance figures they give for each home game? – M. D’Arcy, TV Land Glen: I am thinking of making a comeback, do you know any reliable HGH dealers? – G. Matthews Jr., Tony Reagins Fanclub Nate: I guess this team can use all the help it can ge… NOPE. Glen: I’m not sure about HGH, but John Lamb can hook you up with something to make you feel a bit better. THANKS FOR THE PAYCHECK MOTHER$*(*#$S – J. Hamilton, My Palace in Texas Glen: F$#k Nate: You Well, that’s all we have time for now.  Once we have something relevant and real to discuss we’ll be back.  Until then, just remember: the Angels aren’t half bad.  No, they’re all bad!

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66ers lose series opener against Visalia

The Inland Empire 66ers and Visalia Rawhide kicked off their 3 game series on on a cold Tuesday night as Visalia claimed the 1st game of the series. After splitting the series in Rancho Cucamonga, the 66ers had a chance to move into sole possession of 2nd place with a win but they were unable to do so, despite another strong outing from Jaime Barria. The Rawhide shutout Inland Empire 4-0 thanks to some strong pitching and timely hitting. “We’re fine right now,” said Inland Empire 66ers manager Chad Tracy. “We’ve done a nice job. We’ve had a few spots where we’ve fallen under .500 and battled right back. We’re looking for that run that we need to go on. They’re playing hard and getting after it. We try to turn the page on games like these and move onto the next day.” Jaime Barria tossed 6 quality innings once again as he allowed only 3 hits and 2 runs on the night. His season ERA now sits at 2.72 and he has the good underlying numbers to back up his quality run prevention skills he’s showed. With 6 strikeouts and 0 walks on the night, Barria is now running a 33:8 strikeout to walk ratio in 39.2 innings this season. His fastball played a tick up more than usual on Tuesday night, settling into the 90-93 mph range but touching 94-95 on a handful of occasions. The fastball had around 2200 RPM, which helped it play up in the zone but he generally stayed low in the zone Tuesday. His change up was superb again as he generated plenty of awkward swings with the 79-85 mph offering that had around 1300 RPM on average. The curveball, which is his worst offering, was inconsistent at times but when he threw it well, the pitch was a good offering against Visalia’s right handed batters. The pitch was around 2300 RPM on the night, which is a below average figure but good enough to be used as a 3rd pitch. “He’s been great. Used all his stuff. He got quite a few sloppy swings on change ups, landed his breaking ball when he wanted to. Fastball was in the zone,” Chad Tracy said about Barria. “He got through 6 innings again and was in the low to mid 80’s in pitches. He’s very efficient, attacks the strike zone and he’s not scared. He pitched himself into a situation with a man on 3rd, less than 2 outs and didn’t let it faze him. He’s very poised. It’s the same Barria we’ve seen all year.” Visalia could hardly touch Jaime Barria but they capitalized on one hanging breaking ball in the 5th inning. Left fielder Grant Heyman belted a 79 mph curveball 109 mph down the right field line for a 385 foot 2 run home run that gave the Rawhide the lead and they wouldn’t look back after that. Ryan Atkinson was strong on the mound for the Rawhide with a no nonsense approach. He tossed 6 scoreless innings and only allowed 1 hit while striking out 5 and walking 2. He was around 88-90 on the fastball and featured an average curveball that had depth but was easy to read out of his hands. His change up also got some ugly looking swings from time to time but he didn’t use it too much. “He(Atkinson) used a lot of fastballs. He had a little ride up at the top of the zone and got some swings and misses and foul balls with that fastball up,” Chad Tracy said. “He attacked the zone and used the strike zone for most of the game. He got us into some bad counts offensively and put us into some passive counts.” The 66ers moved to 14-18 on the season after the loss. Here are some other notes about the team. -Jesus Castillo, who was acquired last season for Joe Smith, was recently promoted to Inland Empire and has posted a 1.93 ERA through his first 9.1 innings with the club, along with 9 strikeouts and 3 walks. “He fits the same mold and build as Barria and Jose Rodriguez. He’s young and attacks the zone. He gets some arm side sink on his fastball. He lands his breaking balls,” said Chad Tracy. “You’re talking about a bunch of young kids that can throw a breaking ball or off speed pitch in any count. In this league that helps immensely. He’s another guy that goes out and attacks the strike zone. When you work ahead in the count, control the count, and don’t let the hitters control you, you’ll be fine.” -Jared Walsh has recently been out after suffering a back injury after taking a knee to the back a few weeks ago. Chad Tracy said he’s starting up activities again but there isn’t a timetable on his return.  

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The tragic downfall of Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols is 5 home runs away from reaching the prestigious 600 home run mark, a number only 8 other players in MLB history have reached. His 3,000th hit is in sight to be reached possibly next season. It should be a time for celebration for Albert Pujols and the illustrious Hall of Fame numbers he’s accumulated. Yet, there is still a huge feeling of dissatisfaction among the Angels fan base and, presumably, the Angels organization. The feeling of wanting just a bit more from “The Machine” has been in existence since the very first month Albert Pujols played in an Angels uniform and it’s still present today. On December 8th, 2011, the Angels shocked the baseball world when they signed Albert Pujols to a 10 year 240 million dollar deal. At the time, Pujols was arguably one of the most valuable players in all of baseball and was on a surefire Hall of Fame path. The Angels knew the deal would likely not end very well on the backend years but the rationale behind it was to get a ton of production up front, plus a World Series title or 2, and deal with not so great production on the back end. As you may know by now, the Angels received neither great production up front nor any World Series titles. The first 5 years of the Pujols deal paid him 100 million dollars. On the open market, free agents are generally paid 8 million dollar per 1 Win Above Replacement(WAR). If you include inflation that has occurred since 2011, Pujols should’ve roughly been paid 7-8 million dollars per 1 WAR. Pujols, through his 1st 5 years as an Angel, racked up 9.8 WAR, which comes out to a rough estimate of 68.6-78.4 million dollars that he should have earned. In the years that were supposed to be the most productive years of the deal, Pujols fell short, by a wide margin, mainly due to declining plate discipline, athletic ability and constant injuries. If the original deal had been a 5/100 deal, the bad press that Pujols has received likely wouldn’t have occurred. The issue is he is owed a whopping 140 million dollars for the next 5 seasons, which doesn’t include incentives Pujols may make, including 3 million dollars for his 3,000th hit. Entering the 6th year of the deal, expectations were moderate for Pujols, with the simply hope that he could avoid declining even more. The signs so far in 2017 are not pretty, as the 37 year old is really struggling out of the gate. After undergoing another offseason surgery on his foot, Pujols came into Spring Training a tad rusty, just like in 2016 and the seasons before, and he has started slow as a result. While the previous seasons saw a slow start due to a little bit of bad luck, this year doesn’t just look like bad luck. Through 138 plate appearances, the numbers are down across the board in every possible way. Here are his career numbers lined up next to his 2017 numbers, all of which would represent career worst marks. Pujols is striking out more than ever while walking less. He’s pulling the ball more than ever but not in the way you’d want him to: he’s hitting a bunch of ground balls into the shift. He’s making less hard contact, hitting the ball on the ground more than ever and he’s hitting more infield fly balls. A look into his Statcast numbers line up exactly with his statistics he has posted so far. Albert Pujols has a 87.3 mph average exit velocity this year, compared to 92.5 mph in 2016 . He has only barreled up 4.9% of his batted balls in 2017(balls expected to have .500+ batting average and 1.500+ slugging percentage) compared to his 9.5% mark in 2016. Sure, he’s driving in runs, as evidenced by his 24 RBIs, which rank 19th in baseball, but it’s a byproduct of hitting behind the best player in baseball. Many fans and writers have claimed that Pujols is a “clutch hitter”, which is an argument that just isn’t factually correct and is an argument that has had plenty of research done on it. Many hitters hit better with runners in scoring position due to the fact that plenty of pitchers struggle to pitch out of the stretch compared to the windup so Pujols isn’t some special case. Pujols has been better with runners in scoring position(208 wRC+) compared to no runners on(16 wRC+) this year in a small sample. He was also better with runners on base last season. However, he was worse with runners on by a wide margin in 2015 and 2014. He was better with runners on in an injury shortened 2013 year and was just about equal in 2012, his 1st year with the Angels. Since he became an Angel, Pujols has a 112 wRC+ with no runners on compared to a 121 wRC+ with runners in scoring position. That’s a bit better but again, most hitters do a bit better with runners on. Pujols has driven in runs because Mike Trout is consistently on base in front of him. There’s also a theory floating around that Albert Pujols changes his approach with runners on base, essentially trying to put the ball in play, drive the ball away from the shift and just drive guys in. Pujols does have a significantly higher BB/K ratio with runners on(1.36) compared to the bases empty(0.42). Part of that is due to teams deciding to not pitch to Pujols and just loading the bases to face whoever is hitting behind him. Pujols does deserve some credit for that but those 52 intentional walks he’s received since 2012 have bloated his walk rate without him changing too much, which isn’t helping support the changed approach theory. Nothing changes with the way Pujols tries to hit the ball, however. With the bases empty since 2012, Pujols has a 43.2% ground ball rate, 38.6% fly ball rate, 49.4% pull rate and 17.4% opposite field rate. With runners on, Pujols has a 44.7% ground ball rate, 37.3% fly ball rate, 49.4% pull rate and 17.7% opposite field rate. So there is something to the idea that Pujols is better at putting the ball in play and has a more selective eye with runners on but he’s doing nothing differently with the way he’s hitting the baseball and the overall results don’t really portray a better Albert Pujols with runners on. Albert Pujols may be a shell of his former self but he does deserve credit for a number of achievements. Since he became an Angel, Pujols has posted a 118 wRC+ and 9.7 WAR, hardly disastrous numbers, just numbers that fall well short of the expectations you receive from signing a mega contract. Pujols has played through a number of injuries throughout this process, which is better than the Angels simply paying him to be on and off the disabled list and provide nothing for the team. He’s also still one of the most respected players in baseball, providing a clubhouse presence for many Angels players and has apparently been a huge help for Mike Trout since he arrived in his rookie year, which was coincidentally in 2012. The reality is Albert Pujols has performed at a level that would earn him half of the contract he signed but he hasn’t been a complete zero with the Angels. Unfortunately, Albert Pujols will be getting a raise each year until his contract ends in the year 2021. Barring Pujols retiring before the contract is up, something that probably shouldn’t be counted on, there are some potentially ugly years coming up in this deal. At 37 years old, Father Time is starting to really creep in and sap Albert Pujols of any baseball skills he might have remaining. The hope for the Angels is that Pujols is just starting slow and he can still be a 110-115 wRC+ bat just for a few more years but the early signs point to a potentially league average or worse bat going forward. It has been a remarkable career for Albert Pujols but the days of the elite level MVP performer, even above average player, may be gone.  

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Last Week in Angels Baseball – The “Fine Line” Edition

By Glen McKee, Staff Writer Baseball is a game of lines: stat lines, foul lines, lines for the bathroom at the stadium if you’re a woman.  Some of the lines are very fine, and no exception to that is my line for if the Angels had a good week.  For last week, it came down to one game.  One game made the difference between having a good week and a bad week.  It was actually two games, the two losses to Houston.  Had the Angels won either of those (and they could have) it would have been a good week, relative to the what we’re throwing out there every night.  However, they lost both of those games, one of them in a typically dispiriting manner and therefore we’re looking at another bad week.  How bad?  I’m glad you didn’t rhetorically ask. The Team.  The Angels went 2-4 last week, 1-2 against both the Dipotos and the Astros.  Yep.  Despite that, and while sitting at 16-17, they’re still in second place in the AL West.  We’re #2!  We’re #2!  To celebrate our tenuous hold on the deuce spot, here’s Vanessa Hudgens showing what place we’re in: In the scariest news possible for an Angels fan, Mike Trout sat out the last two games due to hamstring tightness, but according to rotoworld he’s expected back tonight.  If he was a pitcher that would mean he’s going on the 60-day DL, but since he’s Mike Trout, demigod, I expect he’ll be back out there. One other item of note: the Angels won another 2-1 game this week.  I’m too lazy to look it up but I would imagine they lead the league in 2-1 victories.  So they have that going for them, which is good, I guess. The bad.  Last week Danny Espinosa went 0-14 with 5 Ks.  I think we need a stronger word than “bad” to describe that performance.  Andrelton Simmons (still love you on the D) (yeah, I know, but I’m leaving it there anyways, you perverts) went 3-23.  Matt Shoemaker, who I’m reluctant to criticize, had two stats with 11.1 IP total, 8 ER, 7 BB and 9 strikeouts.  Jefry Marte, who had a short chance to prove something with CJ Cron being injured, went 1-8.  Here’s a recent picture from the Marte party: The Good.  There was some good, right?  Of course there was.  Yunel Escobar finally got woke AF (did I use that correctly?  Ah, shut up.) and went 11-27 with two HR and four RBI.  Escobar has the second-highest OPS on the team which both shows how well he is doing and how bad everybody else on the team whose name doesn’t rhyme with “Bike Shrout” is hitting.  Yunel has become the new Aybar for me, and there are two reasons that sum up why: he wears the number 0, and this recent pic of him: I can’t say anything that’s on my mind about that pic without possibly offending at least three different groups of people, but I will say that I love it.  Damn, it takes some stones to not only go out like that but to brag about it by posting the photo.  This guy is a f*****g boss. JC Ramirez gave us our one win against the Astros with a 6 IP, 1 ER performance.  3.74 ERA for the season, and he might be a clean peanut.  Martin Maldonado continues to do better than expected with the bat, hitting .294 last week.  Luis Valbuena made his Angels debut this week and went 4-14 for a .286 average.  That’s sustainable, right?  Right? The rest.  I went to my first game this year Friday night, against the Astros.  My wife sorta wanted to leave in the middle of the ninth but I told her “let’s hang around.  It’s baseball, you never know what will happen.”  So we did, and the Angels did their thing: they got us excited with a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, and then lost it in the 10th.  Indeed, you never know what will happen in baseball, but if you’re an Angels fan, you have a good idea of what to expect.  But hey, free maracas!  My record attending games this year is 0-1.  I’ll update that as the season progresses. The week ahead.  Three games in that cesspool (sometimes literally) of a stadium in Oakland against the As, and four games at home versus the Tigers.  Did you know that Tigers’ pitcher Justin Verlander is engaged to Kate Upton?  If you don’t know who Kate is, here’s a picture of her doing something patriotic: Predictions.  I didn’t nail it last week, 4-2 predicted versus 2-4 actual.  I could claim dyslexia but no, I was that optimistic.  Realism has set in, but even with that in mind there’s no reason the Angels can’t take the series from the As.  2-1 versus the As, and 2-2 versus the equally mediocre Tigers.  Post your predictions below.  See ya in seven.

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66ers-Quakes: Cinco De Mayo edition

4,622 fans swarmed to LoanMart Field on Friday night for Cinco De Mayo festivities, which included a matchup between the Inland Empire 66ers and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and a Julio Urias bobble head giveaway to the first 1,500 fans in attendance. Dennis Santana, the former shortstop now turned pitcher, got the nod for the Quakes as he faced off against 66ers starter Luis Pena. The Quakes came out in front on Friday night in the 2nd game of the series, as they used 2 separate 3 run innings to pull off the 7-4 win. Luis Pena, the 5’10” right hander, generally sat 91-93 mph on his fastball, bumping 94-95 when he needed to. The fastball had a few variations, sometimes featuring some late cutting action and at other times would feature some sinking action. Pena relied on the cutter quite a bit more, which was effective early on but lost its’ luster as he entered the middle innings. Pena threw his 78-84 mph curveball every so often to mix things up but did use utilize it quite a bit against the aggressive swingers for the Quakes. Pena ended up striking out 5 batters and walking none on the night but he ran into some trouble in the 4th inning, partially due to bad command but also some bad luck mixed in. Pena allowed 3 base hits, hit a batter then had a ground ball booted by shortstop Jake Yacinich, which led to the 3rd run coming home in the inning for the Quakes. Pena pitched pretty well, striking out 6 batters, walking 1 and allowing 5 hits and 2 runs in his 5.2 innings of work. He looks like an organizational arm due to his small figure(5’10” max) and the lack of a 3rd pitch to put away left handed batters. His peripheral stats this year look decent(31 strikeouts compared to 14 walks) but he gets hit around too hard to project more than a career minor leaguer. The 66ers were undone by that bad 4th inning, where they allowed 3 runs, and in the 7th inning, when some bad defense and pitching. Jake Yacinich committed another error, allowing 1 run to go home and sidearmer Sam Holland struggled with command, allowing 3 runs(only 1 earned) in his 1.1 innings of work. Winston Lavendier pitched in the 8th and allowed a gargantuan home run to Quakes 1st baseman Ibandel Isabel, who blasted it 450 feet the other way over the scoreboard at LoanMart Field. The 66ers offense actually had a solid night, pounding out 11 hits, including triples from Zach Gibbons and Jordan Serena and a double from Troy Montgomery, and also had 3 walks. Troy Montgomery had his 1st stellar night with the 66ers, singling twice and doubling, while also making a nice running grab in right field. Jordan Serena, who filled in for Matt Thaiss at 1st base, had a 3 hit night, including a big RBI triple late in the game. The big difference tonight really came down to the miscues the 66ers had defensively and the Quakes delivered 4 hits with runners in scoring position, compared to the 3 hits from the 66ers offense. Other Notes -Taylor Ward and Matt Thaiss both had the night off. These were simple nights off and not due to injury. Both participated in batting practice and Thaiss was particularly impressive. His above average raw power shows up during batting practice, when he shows the ability to elevate baseballs with ease, like he was able to Friday when he hit nearly 10 balls out to right field. He has been unable to bring that power in game so far and until he does, he projects more as a solid regular than a good everyday player. -The 66ers routinely move players around during the season, a trend that continued Friday. Troy Mongtomery, Jared Foster and the recently promoted Michael Hermosillo alternated between outfield spots, showing that the Angels potentially view all 3 guys as 4th outfielders down the road who can play the corners well and handle center field in a pinch. The same principle applies in the infield, as Connor Justus and Jake Yacinich have both played shortstop and 2nd base this season.    

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The life of a baseball “stringer”

The development of tracking baseball on applications, such as MLB Gameday, for phones and computers would not be possible if not for particular people who attend each game. With the upbringing of Pitch/FX, Trackman and Statcast, the need for able workers to track each pitch and play has been a necessity to keep baseball up to date with informing its’ fans. Some of these workers are known as stringers, who are now not only tracking Major League Baseball but Minor League Baseball and even some College Baseball. Nick Jones, the current Inland Empire 66ers stringer, who also happens to be a longtime family friend of mine, was kind enough to answer some questions about his daily tasks as a stringer for a minor league team. Brent Maguire: What are your daily tasks as a stringer for the Inland Empire 66ers? Nick Jones: “I first arrive to the ballpark about an hour before game time. I go to my room in the press box, turn on my laptop, and before doing anything else, I sign in to AOL Instant Messenger (using the 66ers team account) and wait for a message from a Major League Baseball staff member who is assigned to be my support for the game. Every single stringer is assigned their own support person. This MLB representative is with me the entire game to make sure everything goes smoothly and to correct any mistakes that I might make during the game. Once I’m connected with the MLB support person, I load up the online Stringer Client (the software that stringers use) and begin entering pregame information. I first check the paper rosters with the system’s rosters to make sure every player is in the system. After that, I enter in the starting lineups, umpires and official scorer, and weather information. When all that’s done, I connect to the MLB servers. From there, I wait around until both starting pitchers begin to warm up in their respective bullpens, and then I click a button labeled “Send Warmups” which notifies whoever is following the game that the game is about to start. Once the game starts, I enter in the results of every single pitch and game event. That information is updated live on all Minor League Baseball applications (like online and on their “First Pitch” app). With any play that is not obvious (like whether a ball in play was a hit or an error), I always follow the official scorekeeper’s decision. He sits right next to me, so it’s easy to see what he decides right away, and I enter in the play accordingly. Once the game is over, I enter in the attendance and the time of the game. Then I go over my results with the official scorer, and if everything checks out, then I send in the final data to Major League Baseball, and I’m free to go.” Brent Maguire: Can you explain how you track each pitch location, hit location and ball in play and how that whole process works for those who may be unfamiliar with it?  Nick Jones: “For pitch location, it’s actually a complete estimation on my part. I’m not connected to any pitch tracking technology, so I just have to click where I thought the pitch was (which isn’t exactly easy when I’m up in the press box). For hit location, it’s the same sort of thing. I click on the software’s field diagram in the general location of where the ball landed or was fielded (it’s a lot easier than pitch location). I then click on the fielders in the order that they were involved in the play. For example, on a groundout to shortstop, I would click where the shortstop fielded the ball, select “groundball” for hit type, and then click on the shortstop and first baseman, in that order, to signify that it was a 6-3 groundout.” Brent Maguire: Do you have access to any of the newer statistical measurements, such as launch angle and exit velocity, through the trackman systems at the ballpark? If so, how cool is it to be handling information that is generally not available to the public? Nick Jones: “I don’t use Trackman myself; however, a man named Ethan sits right next to me in the press box, and he’s the one dealing with Trackman. So while the software I’m using is completely separate from Trackman, I still do have access to some of the newer statistical measurements (and “normal” measurements like pitch speed) because of Ethan. Sometimes he’ll tell me a certain pitch’s spin rate or a ball’s exit velocity. Other times, if I’m curious, I’ll ask him something about the last pitch or the last ball hit, and he’ll tell me what I want to know. It’s very cool having access to these kinds of advanced measurements. It’s so interesting to learn about all the data that’s tracked on each pitch.” Brent Maguire: As a stringer, you have more access to see pitch locations, pitch types, etc that others might not have access to seeing. Does this enhance the baseball experience for you at a game or does your job keep you so occupied that the game sometimes comes too quick?  Nick Jones: “I would say it definitely enhances my experience in terms of my attention to detail. I’ve always loved watching baseball, but obviously this job requires me to pay attention to every single pitch and every little thing that goes on during each play. Watching the game this closely has helped me learn more about stuff like pitcher tendencies, pitch types, exit velocity (the speed of the ball off the bat), and picking these sort of things up without the help of technology. After watching so many pitches so closely, it’s easier for me now to tell what type of pitch was just thrown without any technological assistance. Another thing is that I’ve become more knowledgeable in determining earned vs. unearned runs, and that has helped me out a lot when entering in plays as a stringer.” Brent Maguire: What do you find to be the hardest part of being a stringer?  Nick Jones: “The hardest part about being a stringer would have to be entering in crazy or really strange plays where a lot of stuff happens in the field. This is one of the few times when things start to get stressful and the game really speeds up on you. I of course have to wait until the play is over and the official scorer has made his decisions before entering in all the information, so if something happens that involves a bunch of different fielders, a possible error or two, a mix of earned and unearned runs, and a runner being thrown out somewhere, it gets very hectic for me trying to correctly input all of it before the next pitch. It’s times like these where I wish there was a pause button. It’s not fun when I get behind and have to watch the next few pitches, and remember the results, while still finishing up the previous play.” Brent Maguire: How did you become a stringer? Was it a very competitive job to get hired for and how was that process of trying to get this job?  Nick Jones: “It was sort of a unique process for me getting this job. In September of 2016, I emailed 3 different Minor League General Managers (one of which being Joe Hudson, the GM of the 66ers) asking for their advice on how to get into a career in baseball. I didn’t ask for a job, just for a chance to talk to them and hopefully get some valuable advice while also getting my name out there. Joe Hudson replied to me a few weeks later and we set up a phone call. We talked for a little bit, but he couldn’t quite help me with what I wanted to do because I’m looking to get into the Sabermetrics side of baseball, and as a Minor League GM he doesn’t deal with that kind of stuff. However, he said to contact him again in February, closer to when the season started, to see what jobs might be available at the stadium. Fast forward to February, and I was able to set up a meeting with him in person, as I figured it’s always best to talk to someone face to face. I brought in a generic stadium application, but Joe said he would talk to someone to see if there was anything available that was more suited for someone like me. A couple weeks later I got a call from another person from the 66ers who said I’d be “working stats” for them (very vague, but I was excited nonetheless). Later in March I went to an Employee Orientation, and it was there that I was told I would be a stringer and work the Minor League Baseball applications. Looking back, I really just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Joe Hudson really helped me out and I’m very thankful for this opportunity.” Brent Maguire: This is obviously your first step into exploring careers in the baseball field. What do you think is next in line for you after this job?  Nick Jones: “I’ll be entering my senior year of college after I’m done with this job, so with school winding down and me finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Statistics, I’m thinking next in line for me would be an internship with an MLB team or even a data analyst type of job. Obviously I’d prefer a job related to baseball in some way, but at the same time it would be very beneficial to gain experience with different statistical software and become more skilled in data analysis. The one thing that’s certain is that I’m very passionate about baseball, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get where I want to be.”

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Minor League Musings

Here are just a few recent developments going on in the Angels farm 1. Right after writing about how ridiculous it was the Jesus Castillo was still in A Ball, the Angels promoted him to Inland Empire.  In his first start: 5 IP 2 H 1 ER 0 BB 4 K’s.  A fantastic beginning to his tenure there and proof that the Angels definitely are reading this….. 2. This offseason, there was quite a lot of debate within the AngelsWin prospect team surrounding Connor Justus.  We opted to put him in the honorable mention category.  But after hitting .230 and A Ball and batting below the Mendoza Line in the Cal League so far, Justus may be in danger of being labeled “all glove-no bat”, which isn’t necessarily accurate.  He hit quite well in college.  His bat should come around soon. 3. Troy Montgomery earned himself a promotion to Inland Empire, and has since bumped Matt Thaiss down to third in the order.  Montgomery had a .418 OBP in A Ball and is currently sporting a .467 OBP in Advanced A Ball. 4. 10 days ago, Matt Thaiss batting average was .174, and right now it’s .264.  That should tell you just how good he’s been over the last week and a half. 5. This should tell you all you need to know about the level of play at AA versus Advanced A Ball.  At Inland Empire, Michael Hermosillo collected 9 walks in only 13 games.  So far in AA Mobile, one walk in 8 games.  It’s the biggest jump in the minors.  But you can usually gauge how good a prospect in in relative terms by where they’re slotted in the lineup after promotion.  So far, Hermosillo has hit somewhere between leadoff and #5.  He’s pretty good. 6. After last night’s game, the lowest batting average on the Angels AAA affiliate Salt Lake Bees is .293, owned by none other than Sherman Johnson.  That should tell you a few things…..first, there are a ton of hits in the PCL, and second, if Sherman has the lowest average on your team, you’ve got a pretty outstanding team. 7. Speaking of Sherman Johnson, he’s clearly being groomed for a future promotion.  He’s spent most of his time at first base lately (a far cry from SS, 3B and 2B), and has recorded 15 hits in his last 10 games. During that span, he’s hitting .405.  When Luis Valbuena returns, he’ll be the Angels regular first baseman, but if Jefry Marte isn’t careful, he’ll be bumped off the 3B/1B depth chart by Sherman Johnson. 8. When you pay attention to the minor leagues, and prospects in general, you begin to notice patterns.  Low numbers in A Ball, high numbers in Advanced A, low numbers in AA, high numbers in AAA….Well since we’re still on the topic of Sherman Johnson, he’s definitely a player of patterns.  The firs time he saw AA, Johnson hit a meager .204 with just 7 HR’s in 135 games.  The second time he saw AA pitching, he hit .369 with 4 HR’s in only 19 games.  Last year, the talented utility player hit .226 with 16 stolen bases over 109 games.  This year so far, he’s hitting .293 with 5 SB in 22 games. Don’t be surprised if in his first stint in the majors, Johnson isn’t wholly impressive.  Don’t also be surprised if in his second stint, he’s very impressive. 9. When the Angels signed Dustin Ackley, it was more of a side note, “Oh the Angels just picked up another former top prospect.  Eppler move”.  Ackley wasn’t even ready to swing a bat yet, so basically the Angels were signing him so he could do his rehab with them.  Ho hum.  Ackley is hitting in the middle of the Salt Lake lineup, and while he’s been relegated to DH duty, he should be back in the field soon.  Ackley has never hit at the major league level the way he’s capable of, but it should be at least noted that Ackley currently has more walks than strikeouts, has always been a solid defensive second baseman, and has 11 hits in his last 9 games.  I’m not saying he’s ready for a promotion, but I am saying it might be fun to see what he can do when he’s fully healthy.

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Last Week in Angels Baseball – The “Welcome Back” Edition

(Not really me) I know the first questions will be “where the hell have you been for the last three weeks, you lazy bum?”  That’s a fair question and all I can say is, None of your business.  I’m back, that’s all.  Let’s get it on!  I’m doing a slightly different format this year and as always, I appreciate the feedback.  I’ll probably ignore it, but I still appreciate it. The Team.  6-1 for the week with wins against three different teams, including two in that hole in Arlington and a sweep of the As.  Three of those six wins were by a score of 2-1.  The Angels finished April with a winning record, even if just barely at 14-13.  I think the last time that happened, Burger King was still a Prince.  Amazingly enough, the Angels are 24th in the league with a run differential of -14.  They have the eighth-best record in the AL and are in second place in the AL West behind the Astros.  As usual, the Angels are somehow defying expectations, but this time it’s in a positive way.  Here’s Rosario Dawson showing us where we stand in the AL West right now: The Angels continued to get hit with injuries, and once again our starting pitching staff is comprised of cast-offs and hopefuls that started off slow but showed promise after a few starts. The Bad. Brown people in Texas.  Albert Pujols, I’m looking at you and the last two games.  You got buzzed by a pitch in two separate at-bats on Saturday (nice warning, by the way, ump) and after that, you stranded more runners than a coyotaje.  Thanks, Trump!  Before that Albert was on fire, proving once again that brown people love California.  Jose Valdez came in the game Saturday and promptly put it out of reach. The injuries.  As mentioned above there were a lot of them.  Tyler Skaggs is on the DL again. CJ Cron was just starting to hit and then he hurt something or other.  As of two days ago Cam Bedrosian (who would have been on the “good” list if I’d written anything in the last few weeks) still had not begun throwing again. The Good.   White people in Anaheim (and elsewhere).  It’s an understatement to start this section with Mike Trout.  He’s off to his best start yet, with a slash of .364/.443/.707/1.151, with 7 HR and 5 SB.  I’m not gay, but it Mike Trout wanted to have sex with me I’d totally let him.  I’d even brag about it.  Call me, Mike.  While we’re talking about Mike Trout, how about a big STFU to every east coast blowhard who speculates about Trout being traded.  It’s like the guy who insists he has a chance with Kate Upton (or Rosario Dawson ) (call me, Rosario!). And speaking of white people, how about the guy with the whitest name on the Angels, Bud Norris?  When Cam Bedrosian went down it looked like the Angels’ season was over, but Bud has stepped up with five saves, two of them in 2-1 games.  He’s already exceeded expectations, now we need him to keep it up. The Rest.  Martin Maldonado is hitting well above his career averages and providing the defense the Angels have lacked at catcher since Mathis left us and Scioscia went into a funk.  Andrelton Simmons is also exceeding his career norms.  The Angels still occasionally make a baserunning mistake so bad it makes you want to blame Gary Disarcina, and then you realize he’s not on the coaching staff anymore. What’s next.  A rare day off Monday, their first since April 10, and then three in Seattle against the Dipotos and three at home against the first-place Astros.  Every week is a chance for this team to live up to their potential and shut up the critics for a few moments.  Let me get on my soapbox for a moment and give some props to our bullpen, which nobody else seems to be talking about.  Despite missing out three best relievers, we’re tied for third in the MLB with eight saves.  Sure, we’re sixteenth in ERA but we’re also fourth in bullpen innings pitched.  Let’s hope the Angels use this week to keep surprising the rest of the league. My predictions.  Every week has the potential to be a trap week, and this one is no different.  That said, there’s no reason the Angels can’t go 4-2, 2-1 in each series or 3-0 and 1-2.  I’m going with the former: 2-1 versus the Mariners and 2-1 versus the Astros (we’re at home).  Feel free to post your predictions and see how you do against me.

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Prospect Stock: May Edition

By @Scotty@AW, Staff Writer  The Top 30 Prospect lists we here at AngelsWin put out are a snapshot in time.  Every top prospect list ever made is in fa ct, a snap shot in time.  But in order to provide readers with some degree of a “live feed” on these prospects, we’ll be releasing monthly updates to let you know if our view of this prospect has changed at all and why. 30. IF Sherman Johnson – Stock Rising – We already thought highly of Johnson, and the fact that he’s now putting it together in AAA with his signature blend of speed, discipline and defense should make his Anaheim ETA later this season.  (.269/.388 4 DB 1 HR 5 SB) 29. IF Leo Rivas – Stock Holding – He’s currently ticketed to play in short season Orem beginning in June. 28. RHP Jordan Kipper – Stock Rising – To be fair, Kipper shouldn’t be repeating AA after posting a 3.35 ERA in AA last season.  But the Angels are under a bit of a roster crunch, with their pitching staff performing better than anticipated.  Still, a 1.80 ERA through his first four starts.  Get this kid up. 27. OF Zach Gibbons – Stock Rising – Promoting Gibbons to Inland Empire was a bold move by the Angels, since he never spent a day in A Ball.  So far, the returns are solid. (.325/.391 4 DB 1 HR 5 SB). 26. OF Jared Foster – Stock Holding – We knew Foster was talented, but raw.  So far in the Cal League, he’s been talented, but raw.  (.283/.320 2 HR 2 SB 24 K’s 4 BB) 25. LHP Jonah Wesely – Stock Rising – Jonah was dominant in A Ball before Tommy John surgery, now that he’s healed up he’s back in A Ball and is even more dominant that he was before.  Promote this kid. 24. LHP Chris O’ Grady – Now with the Marlins. 23. RHP Joe Gatto – Stock Holding – Last year, he was absolutely torched in the Midwest League.  This year, he’s been somewhere between spectacular and “ok” depending on the start.  Gatto’s upside is strong enough for us to keep watching. 22. RHP Brooks Pounders Stock Holding – Has been promoted to the Angels and is doing a damn fine job. 21. OF Brennon Lund – Stock Falling – Keeping him in Burlington was a shocker to open the year.  One I openly disagreed with.  But so far, Lund has hit only .236.  But with plenty of season left, this could literally change two weeks from now. 20. IF Hutton Moyer – Stock Falling – Slotting him in AA was the right move, and to be fair, the 9 SB, 7 XBH and better than advertised play at SS are all positives.  But that .218/.218 batting line has to come up. 19. RHP Eduardo Parades – Stock Rising – He’s been dominant at every level he’s pitched at, and so far, he’s been dominant in AA.  (11 IP 16 K’s o.77 ERA).  In fact, the only thing I can say negative about him that while he’s listed at 170, he looks closer to 270. 18. OF Troy Montgomery – Stock Rising – After being drafted, his impressive showing brought his name to the forefront of trade rumors for a 2B for the Angels.  Those never came to fruition, and Montgomery is back and has just been promoted.  Montgomery has a Calhoun-streak in him, being a strong lefty that has across the board average or better tools. 17. RHP Cole Duensing – Stock Holding – He’s set for short season Orem. 16. RHP Vicente Campos – Stock Falling – Part of the knock on Campos was that he couldn’t stay healthy, regardless of how talented he is.  The Angels have seen this first hand with a spectacular Spring followed by the month of April spent on the DL. 15. RHP Jesus Castillo – Stock Skyrocketing – The Angels ultra-conservative promotion rate is bordering comical at this point with Castillo.  A former top international signee, between the Cubs and the Angels A Ball affiliates, Castillo has now logged 17 starts with an ERA well under 3.00, more K’s than IP and hardly any walks.  So far this year, Castillo has a 2.37 ERA and 22 K’s and only 2 BB through 19 innings.  Ridiculous. 14. RHP Jaime Barria – Stock Skyrocketing – Just 20 years old, after successfully navigating the pitcher friendly Midwest League, he’s off to a very good start in the hitter friendly Cal League (which just makes his numbers all the more impressive).  26 IP 23 K’s 6 BB and a 3.38 ERA. 13. IF David Fletcher – Stock Holding – Second consecutive Spring in which he was outstanding.  Second consecutive season in which he was injured right after Spring Training.  Just got activated and has a .435 OBP through 5 games in AA though, so that’s good. 12. LHP Manny Banuelos – Stock Falling – The big knock on Manny so far has been his inability to throw strikes.  While his overall numbers in AAA Salt Lake aren’t terrible considering the context, he has as many BB’s as he has K’s. 11. RHP Grayson Long – Stock Rising – Long profiles as a mid to end rotation workhorse in the big leagues, so when he got injured, that potential came into question.  After only three starts at Inland Empire he was promoted to AA Mobile, and his first two starts have gone swimmingly (11 IP 6 K’s 1 BB 2.45 ERA). 10 LHP Nate Smith – Stock Falling – Despite being major league ready, Smith has been hurt for quite a while now, spanning from the end of last season through the beginning of this season.  It’d be nice to see him on the mound soon.  Currently rehabbing in Instructional Ball in Arizona. 9. RHP Chris Rodriguez – Stock Holding – Currently ticketed for short season Orem beginning in June. 8. OF Michael Hermosillo – Stock Holding – After an impressive showing last year in A Ball, Advanced A Ball and the Arizona Fall League, I was very surprised to see him slotted back at Inland Empire.  That didn’t last long though, as he torched the league through 13 games before mercifully being promoted to AA.  The Angels really need to start promoting more aggressively. 7. IF Nonie Williams – Stock Holding – Currently ticketed for short season Orem beginning in June. 6. RHP Keynan Middleton – Stock Holding – Not the gaudy strikeout numbers we experienced last year, but a 3.38 ERA in AAA Salt Lake is pretty awesome any way you slice it.  Can’t wait to see that upper-90’s fastball in Anaheim. 5. OF Brandon Marsh – Stock Holding – Definitely had some helium through instructs and Spring Training.  Currently ticketed for short season Orem in June. 4. C Taylor Ward – Stock Falling – Currently rehabbing in Arizona. 3. RHP Alex Meyer – Stock Holding – A couple of great starts in AAA, a couple of not so great starts, and a mediocre one in Anaheim.  Right now he’s got to find some shred of consistency.  But at least he’s healthy and the veto readings are strong (97+). 2. OF Jahmai Jones – Stock Holding – Jahmai has got off to a very rocky start in A Ball, but the 3 HR’s and 4 SB do illuminate his strong power-speed skill set. 1. 1B Matt Thaiss – Stock Holding – After an ice cold start to the year, Thaiss has 13 hits in his last 7 games.  If he keeps going like this, the Angels will be forced to promote him to AA before June. Unranked Climbers: 2B Jordan Zimmerman, SS Roberto Baldaquin, RHP Jake Jewell, OF Bo Way, RHP Osmer Morales, RHP Luis Diaz, RHP Parker Bridwell, RHP Troy Scribner.
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The Angels surprisingly good bullpen

Coming into the 2017 season, the Angels were projected to have one of the worst bullpens in baseball by many measures. Fangraphs depth charts had the Angels unit with the 26th projected best cumulative Wins Above Replacement(WAR) among MLB bullpens. After finishing with the 3rd lowest WAR(0.3), the 5th lowest K-BB%(10.7%) and the 10th worst ground ball rate(44.1%) in 2016, there didn’t appear to be any hopes for optimism with the 2017 unit. Billy Eppler and the Angels did very little in free agency to fix their unit, re-signing Andrew Bailey, signing Yusmeiro Petit and Bud Norris to minor league deals and acquiring Blake Parker(several times). Huston Street injured himself before he could complete 1 Spring Training inning and Andrew Bailey hurt himself a week into the 2017 season. So how is it that the Angels are rolling out a solid bullpen that could be even better moving forward? The Angels under the radar acquisitions, or clean peanuts, as Angels Win members like to call them, have been wonderful. Blake Parker, owner of one of baseball’s nastiest splitters, has been a revelation so far, with an absurd 18:3 strikeout to walk ratio in 10 2/3 innings along with his 2.53 ERA. Bud Norris has struck out 15 batters in his 12 2/3 innings thanks to a nasty fastball/slider combo, throwing up a 2.84 ERA so far. Yusmeiro Petit has a 2.51 ERA and 14:3 strikeout to walk ratio in 14 1/3 innings, along with the 8th lowest exit velocity allowed among qualified MLB pitchers. Jose Alvarez has struck out 8 batters, walked 2 and generated a 52.4% ground ball rate along with a 2.08 ERA in 8 2/3 innings. Cam Bedrosian, who is out with an injury right now, struck out 9 batters, walked none and allowed 6 hits in his 6 2/3 innings before he went down with a leg injury. Even the recently acquired David Hernandez, who was acquired for a player to be named later(PTBNL) or cash, has 5 strikeouts and has allowed zero base runners in 2 2/3 innings. Deolis Guerra and Mike Morin are the only Angels relievers to have received extensive action and not pitch well, having allowed a combined 12 runs in 13 1/3 innings. If you can look past the lousy performances from the recently DFA’d Kirby Yates(5 hits, 2 home runs in 1 inning) and current Salt Lake Bee Brooks Pounders(6 hits and 4 runs in 2 2/3 innings), the overall performance from this Angels bullpen has been very good. The group as a whole has some very encouraging numbers. The Angels unit has the 10th highest bullpen WAR(0.8) and has thrown the 3rd most innings(86.1). They rank 9th in strikeout% among all MLB bullpens at 25.7%. They’re owners of the lowest walk% at 6.5%. The Angels bullpen is excelling at the two things a pitcher can control the most: missing bats and throwing strikes. The bullpen is doing this despite boasting the 2nd lowest fastball velocity(92.2 mph) among all MLB units. The one area where the bullpen is struggling is keeping the ball out of the air, as they have the 5th highest HR/9 rate and the highest fly ball rate(43.3%). The quality of contact the Angels have allowed has been near the bottom of the league, which is the reason why the Angels collective ERA(4.17) isn’t a bit better. Still, the Angels are doing very well in 2 of the 3 most important categories for pitchers, a welcomed development for the 2017 Angels. If the Angels home run rate stabilizes a bit and ends up being near league average, their collective ERA might line up more with the 3.70 xFIP the group has put up, the 9th best mark among bullpens. The interesting aspect about this bullpen is the manner in which the pitchers were acquired. The only members of the Angels bullpen who were acquired at a high cost was Cam Bedrosian, who was picked 29th overall in the 2010 MLB Draft, and Huston Street, who was acquired for a package of 4 prospects in the summer of 2014. Blake Parker was acquired on waivers this past offseason, as was Andrew Bailey late last year. Yusmeiro Petit will make 2.25 million dollars this year and Bud Norris will make 1.75 million dollars. Jose Alvarez was acquired for Andrew Romine, who has been a useful but near replacement level utility player with the Detroit Tigers. Mike Morin is a former 13th round pick. Deolis Guerra is a Rule 5 pick who had a useful 2016 season in Anaheim. J.C. Ramirez, who pitched well in relief last year, is currently showing signs as a useful starter in the Angels rotation right now. The way many of these players were acquired really lines up with Billy Eppler’s way of thinking in regards to building a bullpen. Eppler isn’t the only general manager to shy away from spending money on a bullpen but he has thrown almost no money into his bullpen since he became the Angels general manager, with Yusmeiro Petit’s 1 year 2.25 million dollar deal representing the biggest reliever contract handed out so far. Last year, the bullpen didn’t perform but the 3 top arms going into 2016 were from the previous Jerry Dipoto regime(Huston Street, Joe Smith, Fernando Salas), although Dipoto was responsible for acquiring Jose Alvarez. The point being: Billy Eppler has made it very clear that he thinks he can construct a bullpen by exploring the scrap heap, finding free agent bargains(Norris, Petit) and potential high upside arms through waiver claims(Parker, Ramirez). There are three things working against the Angels in this approach to the bullpen: 1) It’s very early to make too much of the 2017 results. 2) Many of these players aren’t under club control for too long. 3) Bullpen building is volatile, especially when you aren’t willing to devote money into big relievers. While the early season results are promising, this approach to building a bullpen doesn’t always work. Billy Eppler probably knows this and he’s been very cautious with building this Angels roster since he came on board, so the potential to start acquiring relievers at a higher cost is probably in the cards at some point. For now, Eppler’s patience and knack for finding under the radar relievers is paying dividends through the first month of the 2017 season. The Angels have turned a weakness into a strength so far in 2017 and that bodes well for a team with playoff aspirations. Right now, the bullpen has 4 arms who are providing reliable production(Parker, Norris, Petit, Alvarez). The best reliever on this team is hurt(Bedrosian). 2 other potential above average relievers are also hurt(Andrew Bailey and Huston Street). David Hernandez has flashed promise in a small sample. While it’s unwise to depend on every player reaching his best case outcome, there’s reason to believe this Angels bullpen can be a strength this year. If the current reliable arms can maintain their success when Cam Bedrosian returns, they’ll have 5 legitimate bullpen arms. If Huston Street, Andrew Bailey and David Hernandez just provide average to above average production, the Angels very quickly have a deep bullpen, one that has the ability to be a quality unit that can also pitch a lot of innings. If the Angels want to compete this season, they need the bullpen to keep up their current production for much of the season. If they can do that, the team might find themselves in a playoff battle in September.

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The Eddie Bane Archives (2006-2010)

Q&A sessions with Eddie Bane (2006-2010) Eddie Bane the Angels’ former scouting director top pitching prospect himself as a standout pitcher for the Sun Devils from 1971-73, Eddie anchored two College World Series runner-up teams, in 1972 and 1973. His college accolades read like a laundry list of virtually every honor possible: A first-team All American, an All-College World Series selection, the 1973 Sporting News Player of the Year — and later, a first-round draft pick. More specifically, Eddie led the ASU pitching staff to the tune of 130 strikeouts and a 2.18 era in 1971, 213 strikeouts and a 0.99 era in 1972, and 192 strikeouts in 1973. Over time, his accomplishments have proven to be timeless. Eddie’s numbers are as phenomenal today as they were some 25 years ago. He still owns several ASU pitching records, including the single-season record of 43 consecutive scoreless innings in 1972. He posted a school record 0.99 era and 7 shutouts that same year. His 505 strikeouts top the Sun Devil career charts, and he owns the great distinction of throwing the only perfect game in ASU baseball history. For you trivia buffs, it was against Cal State Northridge on March 2, 1973. Eddie was a first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1973 (11th pick overall), and went on to spend the 1973, 1975 and 1976 seasons with the club. In fact, since major league baseball began its free agent draft in 1965, eddie is one of only 18 players to ever advance directly to the major leagues without first playing in the minors. He shares this distinction with such players as Dave Winfield and Bob Horner. In 1994, Baseball America named Eddie to its All-Time College All-Star Team. Angels’ Director of Scouting Eddie Bane has been named to the 2008 induction class for the College Baseball Hall of Fame, the College Baseball Foundation announced. Bane will join Floyd Bannister in this year’s class to bring the number of ASU Sun Devils in the Hall of Fame to five, joining coaching legends Bobby Winkles and Dr. Jim Brock as well as former Golden Spikes Award winner Bob Horner. Bane begins his sixth campaign as Director of Scouting for the Angels. He oversees the scouting of amateur and minor league players as well as the signing of domestic amateur players and international players. Under his direction, Angels’ scouts have been responsible for drafting and signing highly-regarded Angels’ prospects such as Jered Weaver, Kendry Morales, Nick Adenhart, Trevor Reckling, Jordan Walden and Hank Conger. The Chicago, IL, native attended Westminster (CA) High School. Bane has four children: Jaymie, Kacey, Corey and Veronica.Check out our exclusive interview with Eddie Bane back in 2013 as he reflects on his past drafts, Angels Baseball, his relationship with Tony Reagins, Mike Trout, his time in Detroit with the Tigers and his new gig with the Boston Red Sox.  Read the entire interview here! Note: These links will direct you back to our old blog which is still live, but only for archival purposes. Enjoy! Here’s some past LIVE chats we had with Eddie Bane to check out:
The Bane Connection – The July – August Edition (2010) The Bane Connection – The April – June (2010) The Bane Connection – The February – March Edition (2010) The Bane Connection – The January Edition (2010) The Bane Connection – The September Edition (2009) The Bane Connection – The July Post Draft Edition (2009) The Bane Connection – The May-June Pre-Draft (2009) Edition By Chuck Richter – Executive Editor June 11th, 2009 Eddie Bane: Guys, this is Eddie Bane if anyone is here already Shane: Nice! Congrats on the draft Mr. Bane. Wow, Eddie you made it before Just wanted to say (This is Chuck) great job on the draft. Eddie Bane: Hey Shane. Please it is Eddie if you can. Yes. I am a bit early Eddie… First off, were you excited to see Grichuk and Trout available at 24 and 25? Give us your thoughts on these two kids. Eddie Bane: We really like our draft, but everybody likes their draft right afterwards so let’s see what happens. Eddie Bane: Of course we were happy with 24 and 25 being Grichuk and Mike Trout. We had some guys targeted and we were lucky enough to get them. Shane: Is there a certain round where you just draft players knowing they won’t sign? Or do you try to sign them all. Going into this draft, what were the Angels trying to accomplish the most? How well would you say you accomplished those goals? Upperdeck: Hi, Eddie: What’s the plan for Jake locker? Will you try to persuade him to give up football, or sign him but allow him to keeping playing baseball, basically just to obtain his right for the next 6 years? Also Selman and Nesseth seem to be good talents but tough signs, any plan to make run of them? Eddie Bane: The funniest thing was that one of the talking heads at ESPN, Keith Law said, “I dont have Randell Grichuk in my top 100 players.” I thought about it and realized that Jeff Malinoff, Ric Wilson, Ron Marigny and Kevin Ham all liked Randell in their top 10, That was good enough for me. Eddie Bane: We were looking at trying to add some power and some LHP. We would not have jumped guys just to get that, but it worked out well. What does Keith Law know? I wonder if he’s ever swung a bat or suited up for a game. Eddie Bane:Jake Locker is an incredible athlete. Could not pass him any longer. Jake is going to play qb at UW. We understand that. We still would like to work with him and see what we can do. He can do things on the baseball field that others cannot. Plus, at some point you have to get tired of taking a lot of shots from defenders. Shane: If Matt Davidson was around for pick #40, would the Angels have took him? I was a bit surprised to see him passed up in the first round. Eddie Bane:Not real worried about Keith as most people that know me should know. We try and do what we think is right and go from that point. Eddie Bane: Matt Davidson was a nice draft. He will be a real value for professional baseball Shane: Do the Angels get more satisfaction selecting projects and turning them into something over drafting the consensus top 100 pick? What is your take on Jamie Mallard, Eddie? This kid looks like he might be something special. Nice on base pct., incredible power. Looks like a right-handed hitting Prince Fielder. Thoughts? Guest: Eddie , is there a player you drafted that you knew would be available after the 1st few rounds, that you felt would be a sleeper? Eddie Bane: Shane, we have so many scouts running around the country and guys with tons of experience. Cannot really watch what ESPN or Baseball America has to say. You do read it afterwards as part of the job though. baseballmom: I don’t really have a question….just wanted to say I appreciate all you did at WHS back in the day….I was in your sister’s class….Go Lions! Eddie Bane: Obviously, most ot the attention was on Locker, but look at the fireplug we took from Norco HS. Wes Hatton is a great competitor with talent. Shane: Great pick on the Norco guy. Eddie Bane: Wow. Go WHS. Pardon me folks. That is our high school Eddie Bane:We were worried that when everyone came to see Hobgood that they would get an extra look at Hatton, but it worked out our way. Upperdeck: Do you agree with the baseballamerica ranking of Angels system at 25th? The last two years we spent the least amount of money on the draft among all 30 teams. Do you think we should’ve spend some extra to sign guys like Matt Harvey and Brian Matusz? Guest: Keith made a mistake with that knee-jerk comment. I think it was more a reflection of his own work, and he was attempting to justify it. No one else said “it was the worst pick in the first round” afterward, and funny, Keith hasn’t said it since then… Eddie Bane: Believe it or not some of the BA people got ahold of me and apologized for the 25th ranking(I had not seen it). They were overreacting to not signing Matusz and Harvey. Then they looked at our 2A roster and realized that it was stacked. Shane: Where are the guys from last year’s draft? Boshers, Gomez, Farnsworth, Washington, etc What’s a realistic timetable for judging how well this draft went? 1 year, 3 years or 5 years? What would be a success for this draft? Eddie Bane: Sure folks, Keith Law is fine. I just trust Malinoff and Wilson more. Shane, they’re tuning up for the Orem Owlz.. Eddie Bane: Most of our hs picks from last year will be in Orem. Some of the guys like Tyler Chatwood are already in Cedar Rapids. Both Chatwood and Chaffee made the MWL all start team Greg: which player drafted do you feel will be a “project” for the coaching staffs, but with huge upside? Eddie Bane: 4,5 even 6 years for a hs draft is reasonable. It is just a lot better now with sites like this that keep an interest in the players in the minor leagues. That is great for the players when they receive the attention. Shane: Was an autograph from the father in on the drafting of Asaad Ali? Eddie Bane: Our coaches do a great job building up our projects from the ASU guys to the hs players from Connecticut. Eddie, did the new focus on plate discipline affect how we selected in the draft? baseballmom: I loved seeing Trout there for the moment. Do you draft players for the intangibles that they may bring to the team? Guest: I’m actually a UA Wildcat and am interested in your thoughts on 11th rounder Dillon Baird. Seems like a good left-handed bat. Looks like you drafted some quality SunDevils too! Eddie Bane:Asaad was drafted because we saw some ability. The fact his father is the “Greatest” was just a cherry on top. Somebody had to tell me that Ali was his father after I read the report. Eddie Bane: Plate discipline has always been a play in our system, but yes it is an extra look now. Baird led the pac10 in hitting. Last guy I drafted that won that crown was Paul LoDuca. Hope the same happens with Dillon Shane: Is there a sleeper pick this year that we should look at for? Eddie Bane: Jon Bachanov will get his professional debut this season (soon). Tough breaks for the young man have really hurt him so far physically. Eddie Bane: Look at high draft Spence in the CWS. He does not throw hard, but can really carve up hitters. Shane: Is this the Trevor Bell you guys expected? Eddie Bane: Sure is fun to watch TBell have a big year. We have insights into some other stuff and Trevor’s velocity and command are much improved. It really pumps you up Eddie, as we always do after a draft. Let’s rate best tools for the Angels selected players. Shane: But at the same the high gets set back with performances like we’re seeing from Mark Trumbo. Eddie Bane: Wes Hatton will play 2B for us, but he does have a big arm so we may try him at other spots to see where he is best. Give Eddie some time on the longer question about the “Best Tools” guys.. Eddie Bane: I will wait to rank those players until after we sign a few of them. Cant give agents too much ammo. Best arm though is Richards and best breaking ball would be Skaggs. Trout fastest runner and Grichuk bat and power along with Jamie Mallard who has incredible power. Fair enough, Eddie… Eddie Bane: On the Mark Trumbo front I will say that we are still in the middle of June. Let’s play this season out and see what happens. Last year Hank Conger just started playing at this point. But, of course we would like to see Mark hit some homeruns and get his confidence going. Shane: Beau Brooks is the second best catcher in the system. True or false. Thanks for the quick list though.. I’m excited about Mallard, Grichuk and Trout… Richards and Skaggs are solid arms too. Good stuff. Bryan: OK…I’ll ask. What’s up with Wood playing first base? Eddie Bane:I saw where BW played 1st the other day. I like to see stuff like that as everyone can use increased versatility at the big league level. dochalo: Hi Eddie. Thanks for all your hard work and meeting with us tonight. I am very excited about this draft Upperdeck: It seems to me this couple years we start to draft outside of box more. Guys like Grichuk who can really hit, but is a LF, are not often drafted very high out of high school. We also took some short right hander but with big arms like Chatwood and Reynolds. Josh Spence can really pitch but without a blazing fastball. I didn’t see these kind of guys drafted high by us in the years past. Can I interpret this as an effort by Angels Scouting staff to go beyond the traditional scouting ideology? Maybe a different kind of “moneyball”? baseballmom: I am excited about talking to our CIF quarterback….let alone all the other stuff Eddie Bane: Thanks doc. Long last few days, but mine is the easy part. How about my area scout that ran all over the place for 6 months and then did not get any players in the draft. That is really tough. Eddie Bane:I have never been compared to Moneyball. Not a big fan. I think we see some other teams now drafting hs players like we have been for awhile so the water is a little more crowded. 8:03 Upperdeck: What do you think the long term roles of Richards and Kehrer are? Some scouting reports think they are likely going to be a power reliever and left-hand specialist. Are they capable of more than that because I read both can maintain the velocity of their fastball deep into game? Eddie Bane: I dont have a distinct like or dislike for shorter RHP’s. I do like guys that can pitch or that have huge velocity. I think people have this idea of Grichuk as a hitter only. Not so fast folks. Randell has power and can hit, but he is also a good athlete. Eddie Bane: I saw Richards in the Big12 tourney and he was throwing 96-97 in the 6th inning. Saw Kehrer the next day and he was 92 and had a real nice cutter. I like both as starters at this point. Shane: Do you think playing in the Cal League hurts a pitchers development and you want to get them the hell out of there as quick as possible if they have success, like with Reckling? dochalo: Eddie, I noticed that in the mid to late rounds that a lot of the hitters you selected were college products. Was this just coincidence or does it represent a bit of a change in philosophy? Or did I not realize this is similar to most years? Guest: How do you typically approach later round draft picks like Harris, Santigate, and Barkley now that there is no longer the draft-and-follow process? Do you work them out and evaluate them over the next couple of months to determine if you’ll sign them? Eddie Bane: If you have trouble in the Cal League then it might be a little tough on you in the Big Leagues. AngelDave: Hi Eddie, Seeing Trout at the draft, and being drafted by the Angels was very nice. I imagine it made the org happy too Eddie Bane: In the later rounds of the draft I try and look for at least one big tool. It is a good way to possibly find a big leaguer. That was the thinking with LoDuca and some others Angelsjunky: Hi Eddie, thanks for the good work. A couple questions: 1) Any thoughts on Howie Kendrick’s struggles this year? 2) Understanding that it is WAY too early to tell, who do you compare Grichuk and Trout to in terms of upside? In other words, if all goes well what sort of major leaguers do you think they can become? And where do you place those two in comparison to other Angels hitting prospects in terms of talent? Eddie Bane: Yeah, you cannot fake the emotion that Mike Trout showed at the draft. That was cool for everyone. I agree with Harold Reynolds. More guys should show up. Shane: Where did Sean Rodriguez’s plate discipline go? Eddie Bane: Someone said Mike Trout remind them of Aaron Rowand. I like Rowand, but Trout has a much better future than Aaron Rowand. Grichuk’s bat would be like an aggressive Todd Zeile. Speaking of Sean Rodriguez, how about that power? Leads the minors in Home Runs with 21. Eddie Bane: Tough to rank their bats this early and especially before they have signed. Depends on what you look for in hitters. Petit is a great hitter and hopefully the power will come a bit more. dochalo: Eddie, Any comments on Segura making the jump to AAA? Eddie Bane: Yeah, a little tough to get on Sean Rodriguez’s plate discipline. That is like saying that Halle Berry has a bad haircut. I’ll take 21 homeruns in the middle of June from anyone. Shane: As an organization, do the Angels keep track of a scouts record? As in, who’ve they drafted and what the success rate of the draftees are? Shane: LOL. Nice.’s 2017 Top-30 Los Angeles Angels Prospects

Following Angels prospects requires an unhealthy obsession with uncertain possibilities, an unjustifiable optimism in a brighter future, a unnatural curiosity and an eye to see things that may or may not be there.  And so of course, only a few Angel fans are actually crazy enough to undertake this mission.  From myself (going on seven years in a row), DocHalo’s memory of obscure details, Inside Pitch’s calculations, Dave’s traveling to different minor league parks and interviewing guys other people never heard of, and finally Chuck for organizing all of it, this year’s Top 30 is a conglomeration of countless man hours and different areas of expertise.  There’s no “one” person that can take credit for making this list, which offers readers a different perspective.  This isn’t one knowledgeable person’s perspective, this is, and this is a list of men we’ve debated over and assigned a value to. Without any further ado, here are your AngelsWin Top 30 Prospects! 1. 1B Matt Thaiss
2. OF Jahmai Jones
3. RHP Alex Meyer
4. C Taylor Ward
5. OF Brandon Marsh
6. RHP Keynan Middleton
7. IF Nonie Williams
8. OF Michael Hermosillo
9. RHP Chris Rodriguez
10. LHP Nate Smith
11. RHP Grayson Long
12. LHP Manny Banuelos
13. IF David Fletcher
14. RHP Jaime Barria
15. RHP Jesus Castillo
16. RHP Vicente Campos
17. RHP Cole Duensing
18. OF Troy Montgomery
19. RHP Eduardo Paredes
20. IF Hutton Moyer
21. OF Brennon Lund
22. RHP Brooks Pounders
23. RHP Joe Gatto
24. LHP Chris O’Grady
25. LHP Jonah Wesely
26. OF Jared Foster
27. OF Zach Gibbons
28. RHP Jordan Kipper
29. IF Leonardo Rivas
30. IF Sherman Johnson     #1 Prospect: Matt Thaiss    Position(s): First Base Level: Class A Ball     Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017. Height: 6’0”   Weight: 195 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         50  65 Power                       40  55 Base Running         40  40 Patience                    40  55 Fielding                    50  60 Range                       50  60 Arm                           55  60 Overall                     50  60 Floor: Pinch hitting specialist in AAA/MLB.  Ceiling: All-star caliber first baseman that hits in the middle of the lineup. Likely Outcome: Above average starting first baseman that is best suited to bat 2nd, 5th or 6th in the order. Summary: Thaiss spent his time at Virginia behind the dish, and while reports were divided as to his ability to remain a catcher in the major leagues, the Angels brass felt his bat was more than enough to play up at first base.  This is a very similar scenario the Cubs found themselves in with Kyle Schwarber, though the difference being Schwarber’s upside considerably outweighs that of Thaiss, and the Cubs were willing to at least roll the dice on his questionable defense behind the plate. Thaiss shouldn’t be the type of player that needs to spend a lot of time in the minor leagues before a promotion, and perhaps this, along with a decreased price tag was the Angels motivating factor in selecting Thaiss as high as they did.  There were questions surrounding Thaiss’ ability to play a competent first base, but those have since been answered by Thaiss’ impressive showing in Spring Training.  The Angels brass raved at his hard work and athleticism he showed in learning a new position.  Part of the reason they were willing to pick him s high as hey did was because Eppler and company asked him to play first base for them before the draft and felt he had the necessary instincts and approach to someday become a passable first baseman.  After camp, the hope now is that Thaiss could eventually be a gold glove level first baseman. There were also questions as to whether his power will show as the over the fence variety or the gap to gap sort.  Early showings indicate a bit of both.  During big league camp, Thiass was found spraying the ball to all gaps with authority.  His approach at the plate is highly simplistic.  Couched low in the zone, with feet spread apart, Thaiss’ feet don’t extend, but remain in place as his weight transfers and he rotates the bat through the zone.  Thaiss’ bat spend a ton of time in the strike zone and his swing is geared toward high line drives. What isn’t questionable however. is Thaiss’ floor.  He’s a safe bet to become a major league ball player.  The only question is when, and how good will he be? In my opinion, Thaiss will a very good starting first baseman in the major leagues, and if the Angels do end up moving him off first base, I think he could succeed in the corner outfield. What to expect next season: Before Spring Training, I would’ve told you Thaiss is a solid bet to begin next season at Advanced A Ball Inland Empire.  After the performance he put on this Spring, and what he was able to do last year after being drafted, I wonder if Thaiss should start the year in AA Mobile.  If Thaiss continues to hit, it shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see him in Anaheim later this year.  I admit, this isn’t likely though.  The most likely path will be a full yea rat Inland Empire and another full year next year in AA, and onto the majors after that.  I still think he climbs higher than that. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2018, as a 23 year old. Grade as a prospect: B+ — #2 Prospect: Jahmai Jones Position(s): Outfield Level: Class A Ball    Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2017. Height: 6’0”    Weight: 215 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         40  55 Power                       40  55 Base Running         60  60 Patience                    40  55 Fielding                    50  60 Range                       60  60 Arm                           40  50 Overall                      45  60 Floor: Defensive specialist/4th outfielder in MLB/AAA.  Ceiling: All-star caliber top or middle of the order hitter with gold glove level defense. Likely Outcome: Above average starting outfielder and top of the order hitter in the major leagues. Summary: Jahmai is a perfect example of what happens when a team drafts high upside players coming out of high school.  For such a long time under the Dipoto regime, the Angels focused on pitching, specifically collegiate pitching.  This approach netted the organization a dearth of back of the rotation starters and swingmen, and not much else.  The philosophy was that you can never have enough pitching, and prep hitters took too long to develop and were too big of a risk.  And while this is true in theory, in practice it actually means that you’ll never come away with game changing talent (this is normally the part where I’d say “Like Mike Trout”, except of course, there isn’t any player like Mike Trout). The Angels spent over their bonus in the second round two years ago to bring in Jones, and ever since, he’s been wowing scouts with his blend of unique athleticism, understanding of the game and general personality and work ethic. Jahmai has all the necessary physical tools to be a star someday.  He’s strong enough to develop into a power hitter, fast enough to steal 30 bases a year, athletic enough to implement adjustments on the fly, and smart enough to recognize real-time changes and play an instinctual game.  Jones’ older brother is a wide receiver in the NFL and his father was a standout football player at the University of Notre Dame.  Jones is still a raw player.  His mistakes aren’t so much mental as much as they’re related to experience versus top level play.  Though he can use the whole field, his power is almost exclusively pull side.  Defensively, he plays a solid CF and LF, though his arm plays up better in LF. The Angels knew they had a good player on their hands entering last season, but upon reaching Orem, they experienced just how good of a player Jahmai is at such an early stage.  In 48 games, Jones hit .321/.404 with 12 doubles 3 triples 3 home runs and 19 stolen bases and a high amount of walks to go with a low amount of strikeouts.  Though this isn’t applicable, if Jones were to play a 150 game season, he would’ve been on pace for 36 doubles 9 triples, 9 homeruns and close to 60 stolen bases.  That’s the Pioneer League for you. Once he was promoted for a short stint in A Ball, Jones had to face more refined pitching for the first time in his career. This resulted in a .242 batting average with a double, homer and a stolen base across 16 games.  It still was a solid performance though.  He clearly wasn’t over-matched by the competition, and he was beginning to make adjustments as the season concluded. What to expect next season: Jones had a breakout season at Rookie Level Orem playing against competition that’s generally a few years older than he island his play warranted a late season promotion.  Unless Jones takes another giant step forward in a short amount time, I’d expect him to play at Class A Burlington for most of this season as a 19 year old.  This park, and the Midwest League in general suppresses offensive numbers, so don’t be surprised if Jones numbers don’t mirror those that he put up in the hitter friendly Pioneer League.  There’s a slight chance that could be bumped up to Advanced A Ball this season as a 19 year old, but I wouldn’t count on it. Even Mike Trout spent a full season in A Ball before being promoted (he played in Advanced A Ball in the playoffs that year). Estimated Time of Arrival: 2021, as a 23 year old. Grade as a prospect: B   Check out our interview with Jahmai Jones — #3 Prospect: Alex Meyer Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: AAA Salt Lake/ LA Angels    Age: Entering Age 27 season in 2017. Height: 6’9”     Weight: 220 lb.    Present – Future Fastball          70  70 Slider             65  65 Change          50  50 Mechanics    40  50 Command    40  50 Control         45  50 Overall         50  60   Floor: A power reliever/closer in major leagues. Ceiling: Ace starting pitcher. Likely Outcome: An inconsistent but extremely dynamic #3/4 starter. Summary: Meyer is a former first round draft pick out of the University of Kentucky and consensus Top 50 MLB prospect.  With his long, lean, 6’9” frame, Meyer delivers power fastballs clocking in at over 100 mph, but typically sitting around 96-97.   Because of his abnormally large frame, mechanics have always been an issue with Meyer, but it didn’t truly begin leading to control problems until he reached the high minors.  Meyer’s slider has always been a true “out” pitch, as it comes in with high 80’s velocity and a big break.  What’s more impressive is that Meyer has never had any trouble throwing this pitch for a strike.  Even as a kid just learning the ropes, Meyer’s slider has left major league hitters with buckled knees. Upon being traded to the Angels, Meyer began sacrificing velocity for control.  What was once a 98 mph unguided fastball is now a 95 mph semi-guided fastball.  His ability to command this pitch is key to Meyer’s future.  After moving to the bullpen in the Twins organization, the Angels believed in Meyer’s arm, and have placed him in the rotation, and fully intend to allow him to develop as a starter. Though it’s a bit abnormal for a prospect of Meyer’s age to be so well regarded, it should be noted that at age 24, Meyer had breezed through AAA and was ready for the majors.  The Twins kept him down to manage her service clock.  In his age 25 season, shoulder injuries and fatigue robbed him of effectiveness.  At age 26 this past season, injuries again struck, though in his brief time in AAA, Meyer was again dominant. The Angels have tinkered with Meyer’s delivery a bit to try and save his shoulder from becoming completely detached.  Typically, I’m opposed to altering any elite pitcher’s delivery, but in Meyer’s case it’s a completely worthwhile gamble.  If the Angels can harness his frame, reach, torque/whipping motion and strength while take the pressure off his shoulder, Meyer could very well join Garrett Richards atop the Angels rotation.  And if the new motion saves his shoulder, yet Alex is still unable to fully command his pitches, then he still would make for an Andrew Miller-level reliever.  You know the type, tall lanky, former starting pitcher that throws in the high 90’s and can go multiple innings. The early results are pretty much exactly what you would expect.  His first outing was shaky, but he got through it.  Meyer’s second outing was a disaster, walking four batters and sacrificing velocity in an attempt at control.  His third outing was about as good as it gets.  Two scoreless innings, velocity back up at 96-99.  Scioscia described him as throwing “BB’s” (not base on balls, but the smaller metal projectiles).  And that’s how good Meyer can be.  He can be completely, and utterly dominant when it’s going right. What to expect next season: Meyer appears to be destined for AAA Salt Lake to begin the season.  This is a shame, because Meyer has never been challenged at AAA, and sending him there as a 27 year old is just silly.  But other factors have played a part in this assignment.  For one, Jesse Chavez, his primary competition for the 5th starter spot has looked very good this Spring, and there are indicators that suggest that Chavez may be in line for a career year in Anaheim.  There’s also Meyer’s new throwing motion that he’s ironing out and getting more comfortable with.  It’s better to get this under control in AAA than the majors.  Inevitably, Meyer will be up with the Angels at some point this season. Estimated Time of Arrival: He has arrived. Grade as a prospect: B — #4 Prospect: Taylor Ward   Position(s): Catcher Level: Rookie Ball    Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2017. Height: 6’1”     Weight: 190 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         40  50 Power                       50  55 Base Running         40  40 Patience                    45  50 Fielding                    50  60 Range                       50  60 Arm                           70  70 Overall                      45  55 Floor: Defensive specialist/back up catcher in MLB.  Ceiling: All-star caliber catcher that is capable of winning multiple gold gloves and hitting for considerable power. Likely Outcome: Platoon catcher with good defensive and solid power. Summary: The Angels were certainly an excited bunch when they had the opportunity to draft Ward, despite the rest of the baseball world scratching their head, trying to figure out just what the Angels saw in Ward.  Taylor was a very good defender in college at Fresno State, and as he grew older and filled out, the power began to come into into play.  While most of baseball rated Ward as a 2nd or 3rd round pick that may become a backup catcher in the major leagues, the Angels felt they’d landed a future star backstop.  During his first taste of pro ball, Ward lit the world on fire, and larger audiences began to take notice of Ward.  He was sent to Inland Empire this year, and we really got a handle on who Ward actually is as a player. His game calling and defense weren’t quite as good as previously believed, though the arm is unquestionably strong.  Offensively, Ward had no timing whatsoever in the first half of the season, and appeared destined to be a Jeff Mathis type of backup catcher, which is something many Angels fans feared when they selected Ward in the first round.  Then the second half of the season came, and Ward made an adjustment with his stance and timing mechanism.  The end result was a batting average 50 points higher and nine of his ten homers hit in a matter of 63 games, leading many to believe that Ward could end up hitting 20+ homers a year. It’s also important to note that Ward’s home field in San Bernardino was the only pitching friendly park in the Cal League.  At home, he hit a meager .187.  On the road, he hit .304.  Upon arriving in Arizona for the heralded Fall League showcase, scouts raved over Ward’s ability to hit the ball with authority and “howitzer” arm.  Clearly, there’s something here to work with.  Until Ward can put it together for a longer stretch of time, scouts will remain skeptical, but putting up numbers in the Texas League could go a long way in silencing those pesky critics. What to expect next season: Ward will be ticketed for AA Mobile.  The game tends to speed up considerably when reaching the high minors.  I won’t be paying attention to Ward’s offensive or power output as much as I’ll be focusing on his defensive progression.  The Southern League and Hank Aaron Stadium are both generally unfriendly toward the long ball, so I don’t expect Ward to do much to impress the box score checkers. But it’s his defense that will get Ward to the major leagues, and most scouts agree that he is a major league quality catcher.  The big thing to take away here is that Ward has considerably more growth needed in order to reach his potential.  He isn’t as polished as many collegiate players.  So Ward’s path to the major leagues likely won’t be a quick ascension as much as it will be a slow progression. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2019, as a 25 year old. Grade as a prospect: B-   Check out our interview with Taylor Ward — #5 Prospect: Brandon Marsh  Position(s): Outfield Level: Rookie Ball  Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2017. Height: 6’2”             Weight: 190 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         40  50 Power                       50  65 Base Running         60  60 Patience                    TBD Fielding                    50  60 Range                       50  60 Arm                           60  65 Overall                      45  55 Floor: Toolsy minor league outfielder Ceiling: All-star caliber outfielder Likely Outcome: Too early for any sort of prediction. (NOTE: I have not had a chance to watch Marsh yet, other than short video snips of him taking BP, playing the OF, etc.  The scouting grades are a consensus taken from other sites.  I should have a more accurate reading on Marsh and can update his profile after Spring Training, or once short season starts in June. Summary: Marsh is a very strong, ultra-toolsy outfielder the Angels were able to grab in the second round of the draft.  The most notable thing we can say so far about Marsh’s career is that there was quite a lot of drama surrounding him signing with the Angels.  Marsh had a commitment to Kennesaw State (not exactly a powerhouse), and most expected him to sign.  He even said upon being drafted, “I will sign with the Angels.”  When they met with Marsh a couple weeks later to go over his physical and sign the contract, the Angels discovered a pre-existing back injury.  The blog “Halos Heaven” which has come under turmoil multiple times for hateful rants and false rumors quoted Marsh as saying “I won’t sign”.  Marsh quickly quoted with a more reputable source that he was working things out with the Angels.  While Marsh was obviously looking to sign for above slot, he ended up singing for right at slot value with the Angels, but did not play in Rookie Ball, in an effort to fully heal the back injury.  He worked out in the instructional league and reports indicate that Marsh is very strong, much more so than previous reports indicated and extremely fast.  He’s eager and has a strong work ethic and has impressed coaches so far.  He also reported to Spring Training visibly stronger than he looked back in high school where his form was more built for speed, like the all sate wide receiver he is. What to expect next season: Marsh is likely ticketed for Rookie Ball Orem next season, though a trip to the AZL wouldn’t be a huge surprise either.  It’s important to remember that despite the immense tools, Marsh is as raw as they come.  If he makes tremendous strides, a trip to Burlington could be in the cards, though I’d call that a long shot, just from where I’m standing right now.  A trip to Arizona would slot the Angels second round pick a year behind the developmental curve, which is certainly not what you’d expect to see from a high draft pick. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2022, as a 24 year old. Grade as a prospect: B- — #6 Prospect: Keynan Middleton Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: AAA Salt Lake    Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2017. Height: 6’2”      Weight: 190 lb.    Present – Future Fastball          70  70 Slider             50  60 Change          40  40 Mechanics    50  50 Command    40  50 Control         45  50 Overall         50  65   Floor: Dynamic, yet inconsistent middle reliever. Ceiling: Dominant, elite, all-star caliber closer. Likely Outcome: A very good set up man. Summary:  Once upon a time, Keynan Middleton was a projectable Junior College arm out of Oregon of all places.  In 2014, he topped out at #21 on MWAH Top 30, never to return again until now. He was a standout collegiate basketball player and sat in the low-90’s on the mound.  His off-speed pitches showed promise, but no polish.  The same could be said for his mechanics and his command.  In 2014 and 2015, the Angels tried keeping Middleton in the rotation, but it just didn’t go as planned.  His velocity was inconsistent, his breaking balls were nothing more than “show me” pitches which were hit hard, and Middleton never materialized as the mid-rotation starter they thought he could be.  The Angels made the wise decision to move Middleton to relief in Spring Training, and he opened some eyes with his velocity climbing up over 95 for the first time in his professional career last March. He returned to the Cal League where he was torched as a starter, only to dominate for long stretches.  The Angels moved him up to AA, and he was even better, posting an ERA of 1.20 with more than a K per inning. More importantly, Middleton found the strike zone and his fastball went from 95-96 to 97-98.  The dominance in AA was short lived however, as the Angels saw enough and moved him up to AAA.  In AAA, Middleton was inconsistent.  At times, his fastball sat at 100, and others it sat 95-96.  Some appearances he was unhittable, and others his stuff just did not move or break.  On the whole, it was enough to excite scouts (and myself). A 22 year old hitting 102 on the radar gun is pretty serious.  While it has occurred to me the radar gun was probably hot, it has also become clear that Middleton can bring high 90’s heat night in and night out.  That alone is enough to merit a major league appearance.  It should be noted, that the slider is an average pitch at this point.  Middleton has progressed with his slider to the point where we saw a rather sharp break with the pitch, but until he can consistently spot it where he wants, it remains simply an average pitch, which could leave him susceptible to major league hitters.  We can equate this with Cam Bedrosian’s recent breakout as a reliever.  The velocity was always there, but it was Cam’s developed ability to spot his slider that made him a weapon, and effective in the majors. I also believe that Middleton began to tire at the end of the year, which was the reason behind the velocity fluctuation.  It’s hard to picture one night throwing 98-99 and the next night throwing 94-95 and not think there’s something wrong.  With Middleton, it comes down to the adjustments he’s made, and keeping his stamina in check.  If he can do this, he should be able to hang around 97-98 on a regular basis, which is the building block for something special.  At the end of the day, I think the Angels have a lethal set up man on their hands, one that can bridge the gap, or take the ball in the 9th if necessary. What to expect next season: Middleton should return to AAA next season unless he’s promoted to the majors.  The Angels will for sure be focusing on Middleton’s command of his slider and if he can repeat his mechanics and spot the fastball.  If he locates his slider, it’s reasonable to expect the Angels to break camp with Middleton.  If they’re worried about controlling his clock (typically a moot point with relievers) then they may choose to wait a month or two.  If Middleton does return to AAA, keep an eye on his GB% and HR/9.  Both looked solid in the PCL, which is a bit of a revelation.  If that continues, it’s reasonable to expect to see Middleton in Anaheim for the majority of the year. Estimated Time of Arrival: June, 2017. Grade as a prospect: B- — #7 Prospect: Nonie Williams Position(s): Shortstop Level: Rookie Ball    Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2017. Height: 6’2”              Weight: 200 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         40  50 Power                       50  65 Base Running         65  60 Patience                   40  50 Fielding                    50  50 Range                       50  50 Arm                           60  65 Overall                      45  55 Floor: Utility Infielder in the high minors. Ceiling: All-star caliber infielder or outfielder. Likely Outcome: A starting third baseman in MLB. Summary: Nonie Williams may have the highest upside of any player in the Angels minor league system.  And believe it or not, that actually means something now, with other upside prospects like Jahmai Jones, Matt Thaiss, Brandon Marsh and Michael Hermosillo in the system.  While he was taken in the third round of the draft, the consensus was that the Angels genuinely got a steal when they scooped up Williams.  It is true that several sourced had Nonie ticketed for the second round, and it’s also true the Angels signed him for borderline first round money.  That’s what it costs to get someone with Williams potential.  Had Williams waited one more year, it’s hard to say where he might’ve gone in the draft.  He technically would’ve been a high school senior but because of home-schooling schedules being slightly modified, he’d also be 19 years old instead of 18 like the rest of the prospects he’d be compared with.  The age difference certain could’ve hurt him, but one additional year of development, one additional year of scouts having the opportunity to come watch him play, it’s likely Nonie would’ve left the board in the first round. Upon reaching the Angels training facility, they immediately realized what they have, may truly be special.   It starts and ends with his bat speed, which has long been observed but only recently quantified.  Not only did Williams come with the highest bat speed in the 2016 draft class, but also the highest amount of bat speed in perhaps all of minor league baseball.  We’ve yet to fully understand whether or not this will transfer over to game time production, sometimes it does sometimes it doesn’t.  But what we do know is that it makes for a potential offensive juggernaut.  Comparable bat speeds in the last five years are Randal Grichuk and Bryce Harper, who both are incredibly strong individuals, but as we’ve seen, sometimes it just doesn’t transfer into the game.  So we’ll see with Williams. Nonie’s intangibles are off the charts, but in a more tangible sense, his foot speed, bat speed and power are very well charted, and very impressive.  He has the chance to hit 30 homers in the future and steal 30 bases.  While he began his career as a shortstop, few scouts envision this being Nonie’s permanent home.  He has the athleticism, arm strength and glove to stick at shortstop, but not necessarily the grace or range.  It’s for this reason scouts openly wonder where his future home may be.  He has the size and tools of a third baseman, but the range to potentially be an excellent second baseman as well.  There’s also some talk of moving out to the outfield.  As of right now, third base and second base seem the likeliest future homes for Nonie.  Williams is a switch hitter and offers different looks from each side.  From the right hand side, Williams is more contact oriented, with a more line-drive approach.  From the left side his natural power comes into play and he whips the bat through the zone with eye-popping speed and loft.  This swing is longer and more prone to a swing and miss, but there also seems to be more power from the left-handed side. Most of the time, there’s at least some discussion as to whether a player will hit for power or not, but with Nonie, there’s only observation.  He has the strength to hit oppo homers or turn on a ball.  Williams can also fly down the line.  It isn’t a freight train type of fly like Mike Trout or a dear gracefully gliding across the land like Peter Bourjos was, but it is somewhere in between.  There’s effort, but as Williams gets bigger and stronger, he’ll likely lose a step, which is fine, he’ll always likely have above average speed, at least until his mid-30’s if he’s fortunate to still be playing ball.  While Nonie’s numbers from this past season aren’t terribly impressive (.244 BA, gap power and speed, but no home runs and poor plate discipline), he continued to improve as the year went on, enough so that there shouldn’t be any cause for concern. What to expect next season: Nonie should be ticketed for Orem next season, though there is some talk about him making the jump to A Ball.  While the talent is certainly there, I’d expect Williams to continue to refine his approach at the plate in the Pioneer League in 2017.  It’ll be interesting to see where the Angels decide to play him.  It usually isn’t good to move players around too much this early in their professional career, as it’s a lot to take in, so the Angels won’t give him the utility role just yet.  But my guess is Williams will play the majority of his games at third base in the future.  As for the pace of his development, that’s really dictated by his own progression.  Being as raw as Nonie is, it’s probably best to simplify the game by keeping him at shortstop for now, and allowing him to really get his feet under him by spending an additional season in short season ball in Orem.  I know Angels fans are likely clamoring to get this upside talent into A Ball as soon as they can, but with guys like Williams, you just have to let them grow first. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2021, as a 23 year old. Grade as a prospect: B- — #8 Prospect: Michael Hermosillo Position(s): Outfield Level: Advanced A Ball      Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017. Height: 5’11”     Weight: 190 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         45  50 Power                      45  55 Base Running         55  55 Patience                   55  60 Fielding                    50  60 Range                       55  60 Arm                           50  50 Overall                      40  50 Floor: 4th OF in MLB. Ceiling: Starting OF in MLB and top of the order hitter. Likely Outcome: Starting OF in MLB, bottom of the order hitter. Summary: There really wasn’t much in the way of expectations for Hermosillo coming into 2016, but that’s simply a reoccurring pattern in his career.  Hermosillo wasn’t expected to be a baseball player at all coming out of high school.  While he was obviously a good athlete, Michael experienced far more success on the gridiron, so much so that he had a scholarship offer to play running back at Illinois.  The Angels picked Michael up late in the 2013 draft (the 28th round) and shocked many when they signed Hermosillo to an over-slot bonus to play baseball rather than play football collegiately.  Even after he signed, it was the consensus that while Michael was athletic, he lacked the necessary refinement to someday be a major leaguer. Undeterred, Michael did a solid job in the Arizona Summer League. Still, there was a belief that he was more of an athlete than a ball player. The next season in Orem, Michael again surprised many when he showed an advanced feel at the plate and increased pull-power (.358 OBP and 17 XBH in 54 games), you know, some of that “refinement” they like to talk about with baseball players.  This was done against competition that was generally a couple years older than him and for the first time, there were actually some expectations, though not many given his lack of pre-draft hype, and his unsightly .244 batting average.  The next season as a 20 year old in A Ball, Michael struggled.   Sure, he got on base and ran a little, but his batting average dwindled down to .218 and his defense was subpar in the outfield.  This sort of experience isn’t uncommon, as it was Michael’s first time in full season ball, and the step up from Rookie Ball to A Ball can be pretty steep.  In fact that sort of performance is generally what’s expected from players from the prep ranks that come off the draft board in the late rounds as Hermosillo did. Michael entered 2016 with no hype or expectations yet again.  In his career, he’d been a Top 30 prospect only once (by yours truly back in the MWAH days), and even then it wasn’t a repeat performance.  The plan in 2016 was for Michael to perhaps get some time in at Orem and maybe give it another go in A Ball.  Except this time, through circumstances out of his control, Hermosillo was sent to A Ball without ever going to Orem, which turned out to be a very good thing.  Once Hermosillo landed in Burlington, he lit the Midwest League on fire.  In 37 games as a 21 year old (which is still younger than the average player in the league), Michael hit .326/.411 with notably better defense.  This was a surprise, not only because no one was expecting Hermosillo to do it, but also because he was doing this in rather considerable pitcher friendly conditions.  There was no way to fake that sort of success, Michael had clearly turned a proverbial corner. In yet another surprise, the Angels found themselves promoting Hermosillo to Advanced A ball.  Typically, the Cal League would be a more inviting environment for hitter, except Angels prospects play their home games at Inland Empire, the only pitcher friendly park in the league.  This tends to even things out a legitimize their numbers.  Against better competition, Hermosillo hit an astounding .328 at Inland Empire with four doubles, four triples and a home run.  Hermosillo was equally as successful on the road, doing more damage with the long ball.  The end result here was a .309 batting average with a .393 OBP.  As if on cue, it appears the Angels brass, much like the fans, wanted to see more of Hermosillo’s breakout than a half season.  So the Angels sent him to the Arizona Fall League, to test his abilities against minor league baseball’s best talent.  Hermosillo didn’t disappoint, hitting .267/.353 with his signature solid blend of speed, power and defense. Michael passed every test he faced in 2016.  And what we’re left with is a bit of an enigma.  Michael can hit for power, but he isn’t a power hitter (yet).  He can flat out run, but he isn’t a base stealer (yet). Michael is a good hitter, but typically won’t wow you in the batting average department as much as he will in the on-base department.   He’s a good defender, but not a defense-first outfielder.  What we can say is the way Michael plays, is reminiscent of Mike Trout went his was 18 or 19.  Now obviously we aren’t claiming Hermosillo will be Trout, in fact I don’t think any prospect anywhere deserves that connection (though to be fair, many said the same thing when Trout was compared to Mickey Mantle).  But Hermosillo’s strength, grace of movement, coordination, athleticism, and effort are all reminders of the most exceptional athlete to ever grace the Angels system. And that in a nut shell wis why Hermosillo looks like a major leaguer out there.  It’s one thing to be strong and athletic, it’s another entirely to have that, plus strike zone judgement and a good head on your shoulders. As for the tools, Michael has exceptional “quick twitch” reflexes, solid pitch recognition and bat control.  He’s lowered his hands and narrowed his stance slightly from earlier in his career.  This has created a clearly stronger load than he had before, but also more control.  Michael absolutely explodes through the ball.  There’s a ton of power here, but it’s the line drive type, so you won’t see many moonshot home runs because of a lack of loft.  A perfect example of this was against the Cubs this Spring when Michael turned on an inside fastball.  The ball got out in a hurry and wasn’t a wall-scraper, but at the same time, coming off the bat, it didn’t look like anything more than a line drive.  That’s how strong this kid is. What to expect next season: Michael will likely be promoted to AA Mobile to begin next year, thought it wouldn’t surprise me if the Angels had him spend a month or so at Inland Empire.  Given what I saw Hermosillo do in, Spring Training, the Fall League and Burlington, another trip to Inland Empire would appear to be a waste of time.  But the Angels have been known to take such conservative routes before.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Hermosillo torched AA pitching, because of his ability.  It also wouldn’t surprise me if Michael struggled in high minors because it’s his first time facing this quality pitching.  But if I were to give it an official prediction, I’d say he goes to AA Mobile, and has a solid season for the Bay Bears. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2018, as a 23 year old. . Grade as a prospect: B- Check out our interview with Michael Hermosillo — #9 Prospect: Chris Rodriguez   Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: Rookie Ball      Age: Entering Age 18 season in 2017. Height: 6’2”       Weight: 190 lb.    Present – Future Fastball          60  65 Slider             50  60 Change          45  55 Mechanics    50  50 Command    55  60 Control         50  60 Overall         45  55   Floor: Middle reliever in the high minors Ceiling: A front of the rotation starter in MLB. Likely Outcome: A mid-rotation starter or a late inning reliever in MLB. Summary:  The Angels made a slough of upside picks in this past draft, which is the first time this has happened is five years.  It’s no coincidence that many consider the 2016 Angels draft class to be the strongest since 2009.  Chris Rodriguez is a big piece of that puzzle. He’s a prep right handed pitcher from Miami with a fastball that ranges from 91-93 to 94-96 (should likely reside in the middle, around 93-95) with lots of movement,  a good slider and tons of upside.  Rodriguez does throw a change up more frequently than one might expect from a prep pitchers, but so far, it doesn’t appear to be anything more than a “show me” pitch.  Rodriguez uses a hitch in his hands right after his leg kick that will temporarily disrupt the timing of the hitter.  He uses it in a little over half his pitches, but it adds just another wrinkle to the potential task of batting off this kid.  As a 17 year old in the Arizona Summer League, Rodriguez tossed 11 innings, gave up only 2 earned runs, walked only three batters and struck out 17!  This small sample size makes it evident that not only did hitters just not make any consistent contact with Rodriguez, but Chris likely wasn’t challenged enough at the lowest levels. Scouts are split on whether Rodriguez profiles best as a relief pitcher or starter.  Many side with reliever because a slightly unorthodox motion, firm fastball with life and sharp slider.  Still, others see an athletic kid with good command of all his pitches, and the right stuff to play up in the front of the rotation.  Regardless of where he profiles, there’s a strong contingent (myself among them) that believe with the exception of Alex Meyer, Rodriguez is currently the best pitching prospect in the Angels system.  In fact, with a strong showing this Spring, Rodriguez could find himself in the Midwest League next year, and if pitches as well there as I think he can, Chris could be a Top 100 prospect before long. I’m really excited about what the future holds with Chris Rodriguez and Cole Duensing pushing each other. What to expect next season: In his age-18 campaign, I’d expect Rodriguez to spend half of the season at instructs, refining his game and the other half of the season in Orem.  The gaudy strikeout numbers can be expected to continue, but a fair warning; if you’re someone who fancies ERA, it might be best to look away.  The Pioneer League is notoriously brutal on even the best pitching prospects, and Rodriguez is our best.  It only really says something if a pitcher comes to Orem and is dominant, like Garrett Richards was.  Otherwise, don’t bother looking at the numbers.  Pay more attention to LD%, BB/9, and if Rodriguez can effectively deploy a change up. Having said that, I hope to see Rodriguez in Burlington instead. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2021, as a 22 year old. . Grade as a prospect: B- — #10 Prospect: Nate Smith  Position(s): Left Handed Pitcher Level: AAA Salt Lake      Age: Entering Age 25 season in 2017. Height: 6’3”     Weight: 210 lb.    Present – Future Fastball          45  50 Slider             55  60 Curve             50  50 Change          60  60 Mechanics    60  60 Command    55  60 Control         55  60 Overall         45  55   Floor: Swing Starter or lefty specialist in MLB. Ceiling: A workhorse #3/4 starter in MLB Likely Outcome: A consistent #4/5 starter in MLB Summary:  It’s been difficult for Nate Smith to get any love as a pitcher, which is unfortunate because there really isn’t much more he could’ve done up to this point.  Drafted in the 8th round out of very little known Furman University, Smith was tabbed as a finesse lefty.  And for the most part, that was true.  He came to the Angels throwing 86-89 with a decent curve and solid change up.  Since then, Smith has gotten stronger at every level.  Now his fastball sits 88-89, and on nights he’s feeling particularly good, he’ll throw 92-93. which would classify him as a hard throwing lefty.  His curve ball is still decent, but has since been surpassed in effectiveness by his slider, which at times can resemble a plus pitch.  The solid change up has also turned into a legitimate plus pitch.  All of this progression was accomplished while still maintaining his roots in attacking the strike zone. Until this last season, Nate Smith had never once posted an ERA above 3.86 in the minor leagues. He even played for Team USA and led them to an eventual silver medal in the Pan-Am games.  Still, every talent evaluator doesn’t classify Smith as anything remarkable.  And that’s true, Smith isn’t a high upside pitcher.  He simply doesn’t have any real weakness to his game either, and that’s why he doesn’t get any love from big publications the way he should.  Smith is basically the Kole Calhoun of pitchers.  Nate’s just that pitcher other teams don’t have a ton of success against, but they also don’t remember why.  Well the truth is, Nate’s stuff isn’t that bad, and he spots his pitches in a manner that generates weak contact or swings and misses. If the Angels were in any sort of contention last season, it’s likely Nate Smith would’ve been promoted.  But since they weren’t, and Nate was injured down the stretch (which also explains the poor showing in August he had), the Angels chose to play it safe and delay his promotion until 2017.  While Billy Eppler has done a solid job building depth around Nate Smith like Manny Banuelos, Victor Campos, Alex Meyer and Jesse Chavez, we can still expect to see Nate Smith with the Angels in some capacity in 2017. What to expect next season: Nate was navigating the extremely hitter friendly environment in Salt Lake and the PCL until August, when I suspect Nate was injured and attempted to just pitch through it.  Smith can strike batters out, but for the most part he out-smarts them and allows hitters to get themselves out by keeping them off balance and hitting his spots.  If he continues this gameplay, we should see Smith in Anaheim by the all-star break, but regardless, I expect Nate Smith to break camp in AAA again.  But with all the uncertainty involving the Angels pitching staff, Smith finds himself in a free-for-all competition for the 5th starter spot and bullpen spots.  He’ll need to outpitch Alex Meyer, Manny Banuelos, Vicente Campos, Yusmeiro Petit, Brooks Pounders, Daniel Wright and more….  But he can do it, Smith has that capability to be sure. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2017, as a 25 year old. . Grade as a prospect: C+   Check out our interview with Nate Smith — #11 Prospect: Grayson Long  Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: Advanced A Ball     Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2017. Height: 6’5”       Weight: 230 lb.    Present – Future Fastball          55  55 Slider             50  55 Change          55  60 Mechanics    50  50 Command    55  60 Control         55  60 Overall         45  55   Floor: Swing Starter in AAA Ceiling: A workhorse #3/4 starter in MLB Likely Outcome: A workhorse #4/5 starter in MLB Summary:  Long is one of those prospects that’s constantly overlooked when the rest of the world is too busy talking about how terrible the Angels farm system is.  The apparent lack of depth doesn’t apply to Grayson Long I guess.  Long is a big bodied strike thrower that pumps a 91-93 mph “heavy” fastball.  It’s a difficult pitch to square up because of it’s strong downhill action, though hitters do make consistent contact due to a relative lack of side to side movement.  It’s a straight, heavy fastball with a downward plane.  Low-ball hitters probably love it.  But for the average prospect in the lower ranks, it can give them fits and cause a lot of early count groundouts to the shortstop. Long will also throw a good slider, which he gets over for strikes consistently.  His best pitch however, is his change up.  While he uses it to generate weak groundouts and popups, Long was able to generate a fair amount of swing and miss with it at the lower levels.  This likely won’t last as he reaches the upper minors, but it’s still a solid pitch. After being drafted by the Angels in the 3rd round out of Texas A&M, the organization really limited his innings in Rookie Ball due to fatigue.  The Angels somewhat surprisingly opted to keep Long in A Ball after Spring Training this year, which was absolutely puzzling.  As expected, Long was completely and utterly dominant in Burlington.  Across eight starts, he carried a 1.58 ERA with 45 K’s in only 40 innings.  Then injury occurred, and Long was shut down for much of the rest of the season, save for a few rehab appearances and short-lived promotion to Inland Empire. What to expect next season: Unfortunately, since Long was injured for a large chunk of the season in 2016, he lost what was essentially a half season to a full season worth of development.  I anticipate Grayson making a return trip to Inland Empire, at least for a couple months in 2017.  If things go well, we should see him spend a large chunk of the season in AA in 2017. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2019, as a 25 year old. . Grade as a prospect: C+   Check out our interview with Grayson Long — #12 Prospect: Manny Banuelos  Position(s): Left Handed Pitcher Level: AAA Salt Lake    Age: Entering Age 26 season in 2017. Height: 5’10”     Weight: 215 lb.    Present – Future Fastball         55  55 Curve            55  55 Change         55  60 Mechanics    50  50 Command    45  50 Control         45  50 Overall         45  55 Floor: Lefty Specialist in MLB. Ceiling: A #3/4 starter in MLB Likely Outcome: #4/5 starter in MLB Summary: Tommy John surgeries aren’t always a complete success.  Though the success rate is drastically higher today than it was 10-20 years ago, there are still some players that have trouble coming back, if ever making it back.  Manny is one of those stories.  Before surgery, Banuelos was part of the Yankees “Killer B’s prospects, all of which were labeled “front-line” starters.  It didn’t work out for any of those three, but then again, Yankee prospects in general are pretty overrated so it didn’t come as a complete surprise.  Still, in Betances and Banuelos, I can certainly see why the distinction was given.  In Banuelos, New York had a young lefty that sat in the mid-90’s and could reach back and touch the upper 90’s if needed.  He had decent control and an average curve, slider and “plus” change up. Manny went under the knife in 2013 though and missed the entire season.  When he returned in 2014, the kid just wasn’t the same.  What was once a dominant fastball and difficult collection of off-speed pitches had turned into a very average fastball and no feel for his other pitches whatsoever.  The Yankees traded Manny to the Braves, and after he was dealt, Banuelos began to recover the lost control of his curve and change up and began to dominate in AAA.  Once he reached the majors, Manny’s fastball velocity began to dwindle back into the high 80’s as he tired out.  Banuelos entered 2016 in the mix for a rotation spot with the Braves again, but the fatigue he experienced in the latter half of 2015 still hadn’t subsided.  He tried to pitch through it, he even reared back and started firing in the mid-90’’s for a hot moment, but none of it was sustainable. Upon being let go by the Braves, former Yankee AGM and current Angels GM Billy Eppler was eager to bring Banuelos in.  Though he was able to sit 91-92 at instructs in Arizona and expressed a willingness to transition into relief, Eppler made certain that Banuelos would have the chance to finally undergo a full recovery.  No one would press him into duty and there was no pressure put on him by prospects behind him or players in front of him.  So Banuelos has been given a very extended off-season of sorts.  The current plan is to have Banuelos remain in the rotation, but he could also see time in the bullpen.  It’s unlikely that Banuelos, even with rest, will ever recover the mid-90’s velocity he once had, but he should also throw harder than the 88 mph he was tossing back in 2015 with the Braves.  It’s more likely that 91-92 is the new norm for Banuelos.  But he’s proven in AAA before that he can still mow hitters down at that velocity.  The change up will be his go-to off-speed pitch to generate weak contact and quick outs, so as to keep his pitch count down.  The slider and curve are expected to be inter-mixed as he sees fit.  Both are average major league pitches. For Manny, this appears to be his last shot at the majors.  The Angels aren’t counting on him, but they also don’t have anyone so nailed down in the 5th starter spot that Banuelos couldn’t claim it with a healthy, and solid Spring.  Equally as important, the Angels also appear to have quite a few openings in the bullpen, so if Manny handles short appearances better, there’s nothing preventing him from claiming a spot.  For the Angels, Banuelos is a lottery ticket.  They certainly aren’t counting on him, because they still have Jesse Chavez, Alex Meyer, Nate Smith, Brooks Pounders and Bud Norris around him.  But if Banuelos regains his form, none of those players I mentioned, with the possible exception of Meyer, could out-pitch Manny. It is also important to note that across 42 career starts in AAA, Banuelos owns a lifetime 3.39 ERA. What to expect next season: Banuelos will likely be ticketed for AAA to start the season, and will be in a continual open competition for the 5th rotation spot or swingman in the bullpen all season long.  I expect we’ll see Banuelos in Anaheim at some point next season, but at this point it’s almost importable to predict which version of Banuelos we’ll see. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2017, as a 26 year old. . Grade as a prospect: C+ — #13 Prospect: David Fletcher Position(s): Infield Level: AA Mobile   Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2017. Height: 5’10”   Weight: 175 lb.                Present – Future Hitting Ability         45  50 Power                      30  30 Base Running         55  55 Patience                   45  50 Fielding                    65  70 Range                       60  60 Arm                           60  60 Overall                      40  50 Floor: Defensive Specialist in MLB Ceiling: Starting second baseman or shortstop in MLB Likely Outcome: High quality, glove first – utility infielder. Summary: Fletcher is one of the few prospects where what you see is inevitably what you get.  Normally we use this in the context that a prospect simply won’t improve, but with Fletcher it’s not a bad thing.  Coming out of unheralded regional powerhouse Loyola Marymount, Fletcher was so far developed that he gave scouts a bit more certainty in who they were drafting than is common.  Fletcher is a very good defensive middle infielder with solid bat to ball skills, but little in the way of power and speed.  It isn’t the sexiest package, but he is a near certain lock to be a major leaguer, especially under an Eppler-led organization that puts so much emphasis on defense.  Fletcher continues to draw comparisons with Angel legend David Eckstein and those comps are pretty fair.  Fletcher has a very short path to the ball and is a line drive hitter.  His offensive game is rather simplistic.  If it’s a strike, he’ll hit it.  If it isn’t, he won’t swing. Defensively, Fletcher has a sure glove, quick transition, good footwork and a strong arm.  His range is above average at best, but the rest of his game is solid, consistent.  Fletcher profiles best as a utility infielder because of his defense first skill set, however, there are some that believe Fletcher has enough bat to hold down a regular job in the majors.  I don’t completely disagree with this.  Fletcher reminds me a lot of David Eckstein or even Maicer Izturis, and coming up they both profiled as utility infielders, but once in the majors, they made the adjustments and were capable of holding down a regular job.  At any rate, Fletcher is a major leaguer, is some capacity. From a production standpoint, Fletcher was highly successful last year.  He really opened some eyes in Spring Training, and logged some time in major league camp.  Every time the Angels got him into the game, he started getting clutch hit after clutch hit, including a run scoring double off Dodgers super-prospect Julio Urias.  Fletcher had injury woes while in the Cal League and thus the numbers didn’t match his ability.  Once he was healthy, he started to really get into a groove.  That .300 batting average in AA is a result of Fletcher coming in hot and staying hot.  David was simply ok in the Arizona Fall League, he was a reserve so he didn’t get the playing time other more hyped prospects got.  Still, he was solid. What to expect next season: Fletcher is expected to make a return trip to AA next season.  He logged 20 games in Arkansas last year, and he hit .300, and it doesn’t look like it was a fluke.  But Fletcher could still use a little more time to fine tune his current skills.  We’ll see if David can see the same success next year as he did last year.  If he does, we may see Fletcher in the majors in 2017.  There’s also the off chance Fletcher opens camp in AAA, which makes his appearance in Anaheim next year all but certain.  Though it’s completely unlikely, Fletcher could potentially unseat Cliff Pennington as the utility infielder at some point this season.  More likely, he’ll inherit the job next year. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2018, as a 24 year old.   Grade as a prospect: C+ — #14 Prospect: Jaime Barria  Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: A Ball      Age: Entering Age 20 season in 2017. Height: 6’1”      Weight: 210 lb.    Present – Future Fastball         50  55 Curve            45  50 Change         55  60 Mechanics    60  60 Command    70  70 Control         70  70 Overall         55  60 Floor: Fifth starter or swingman in the majors. Ceiling: A #3 starter in the major leagues. Likely Outcome: Reliable #4 starter in the majors. Summary: Barria is one of those prospects every system should have.  Normally, when I think of a Latin American pitcher coming stateside, I think of a kid that was signed at age 16 from the Dominican Republic that pumps mid-90’s gas but has no idea what an efficient throwing motion might be, or what he needs to do to keep throwing strikes and getting hitters out.  Those guys are good.  They mostly end up as relievers, but there’s just a ton of room for error when you can throw 97.  Barria on the other hand is from Panama, he’s already physically mature, throws in the low-90’s with a beautiful throwing motion, and has the look of a starting pitcher in the long run.  He gets hitters out by locating his pitches in parts of the zone that hitters are forced to swing at, but can’t necessarily do a ton of damage with.  Furthermore, because he gets ahead in the count so often, Barria frequently forces hitters to hit the type of pitches they’ll tend to roll over on or pop up. Jaime will pitch backward or traditional in the count, which is to say he’ll throw any pitch he wants at any time, and he’ll throw them for strikes.  While his fastball  sits 91-93, it’s the location and movement that have given hitters fits.  Barria frequently will spin off a curve ball, and while he throws it for strikes, it doesn’t strike me as anything more than a change of pace pitch.  It’s his change up that is the “plus” pitch.  Hitters spend 7 innings a night rolling over at the third baseman or first baseman because of this pitch, and while he doesn’t necessarily use it as a strikeout pitch, hitters are left so off-balance that Jaime will rank of a few K’s during the game.  The arm speed, angle and delivery all closely mirror his fastball, so it’s darn near impossible to detect when he’ll drop a change up.  To make matters worse for hitters, he’ll throw it whenever he thinks he can get an out, and not just with two strikes. Now admittedly, at first, when Barria was on the Burlington roster, I didn’t give it a ton of thought.  He seemed like filler to me, someone that I’d seen a couple times but really didn’t separate himself.  But as a 19 year old in full season ball, once he started to get rolling, I began asking myself what it was about this kid that was generating such success especially against older competition.  The more I watched Barria, the more I became curious, why minor league hitters just couldn’t square him up.  This is what eventually made his starts that were broadcast on a must see, at least for a few innings until the major league game came on.  It was in these starts that I began to acquire an appreciation for Barria.  Nothing shakes his nerves or gets to him.  He’s calm and collected at all times.  He goes about his business methodically, and gets a lot of 2-3 pitch at bats that result in outs.  He works quickly so as to stay in a rhythm and not bore his fielders and gets back to the dugout as quickly as he can.  He isn’t flashy, isn’t striking out 12 batters a night, he’s just getting outs, quickly, and a lot of them. Typically, I avoid making specific playing comps, but this one is just so accurate, it’s hard not to make this connection.  Jaime Barria, reminds me a lot of Nick Tropeano.  Nick wasn’t exactly heralded when the Angels acquired him from the Astros, but his track record spoke for itself, and the longer you watch his starts, the more masterful you begin to see him as.  That’s the way Barria is.  He isn’t quite at Tropeano’s level in terms of quality pitches, but in a couple of years, he could go toe-to-toe with Tropeano and be a worthy comp. What to expect next season: Barria should head to the Cal League as a 20 year old, and typically, this would be a recipe for disaster.  A contact heavy pitcher in a very friendly offensive league.  But Barria works so quickly, and doesn’t get rattled that I doubt he’ll be as torched as other pitchers when they reach Advanced A Ball.  In fact, after he turns 21 late in the season, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Angels bumped him up to AA. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2019, as a 22 year old. . Grade as a prospect: C+ — #15 Prospect: Jesus Castillo  Position(s): RHP Level: AAA/MLB     Age: Entering Age 21 season in 2017. Height: 6’2”         Weight: 165 lb.    Present – Future Fastball         50  55 Curve            45  55 Change         55  60 Mechanics    70  70 Command    50  60 Control         60  60 Overall         55  60 Floor: Swingman or long reliever in the majors/AAA depth. Ceiling: A #3-4 starter in the majors. Likely Outcome: A steady #4-5 starter in the majors/ Summary: The work Billy Eppler has done so far to restock a barren and broken Angels farm system has been nothing short of amazing.  In only one season, he’s managed to draft eight of out Top 30 Prospects, and traded for another five.  Roughly half (7) of our Top 15 Prospects were acquired by Billy Eppler in the last year alone.  Jesus Castillo is just one example of Eppler knowing when to strike.  Joe Smith was pitching half-way decent for the Angels in the final year of his contract, and at the trade deadline, teams were looking to get deeper in the bullpen.  So Eppler dealt Smith, who really wasn’t going to make a difference for the Angels at that point in the season, for a promising 20 year old pitcher that the Cubs had buried so deep on their depth chart, they might’ve forgotten they even had him. After being a high profile signing as a 16 year old by Arizona, Castillo was traded to the Cubs and simply wasn’t developing as quickly as they thought he would.  At 16, he was skinny, under-sized with beautiful mechanics, and mid-80’s fastball and a solid change up.  That works for scouts, because they project more growth.  But for Castillo, he was still generally the same kid up through age 19, which had caused the Cubs to keep him buried in Rookie Ball, and even a transition to the bullpen.  Then Castillo started his age 20 season.  He showed up to camp more filled out (I’m guessing the 165 lb listing is dated at this point), and his 86-87 mph fastball had crept up to 90-92.  His curve which had been a “show me” pitch before came in with tighter spin and bigger break to it.  Castillo was maturing as a pitcher, and not a moment too soon. The Cubs still chose to keep him in short season ball, and Castillo responded with tossing 33 innings, striking out 38, walking only three batters per nine innings, and carrying a sparkling 3.27 ERA.  Then he was traded to the Angels at the trade deadline and things got really interesting.  The Angels aggressively moved him to full season A Ball in Burlington, and he hurled 29 innings with 23 K’s, cut his BB/9 down to 2.1 and his ERA down to 2.43.  What’s even more impressive, the reported 90-92 mph fastball in Chicago’s camp was showing up as consistently 92-93 with the Angels.  His change up was as advertised and the curve ball started to turn into a “swing and miss” pitch. While we can’t say for sure that Castillo’s transition will continue, we do know he’s a better pitcher than he was a year ago, and he was awfully impressive as a 20 year old down in A Ball.  But it is fair to expect physical maturation to continue.  Of course, hardly anyone is done growing at age 20, but if he is, Castillo has enough strength to succeed at the upper levels.  There’s always the chance that Castillo could hit another physical maturity level in another couple years and start pumping mid-90’s heat, you never know. What to expect next season: The Angels can go a couple different directions here.  If they feel Castillo’s ready for the pressure the California League offers pitchers than they can move him up.  In fact, I think this is probably the likeliest scenario as Castillo just didn’t look challenged at all in A Ball.  The curve could use a bit more polish and command so he could generate more swings and misses, but that’s really nit-picking.  The Angels could also opt to go a more conservative route with Castillo and keep him in A Ball a full year.  I’ve been critical of the Angels seeming unwillingness to promote or challenge prospects in the past, but honestly, I think they’d be justified in either case here. Estimated Time of Arrival: 2020 season, Castillo’s age 24 season. Grade as a prospect: C+ — #16 Prospect: Vicente Campos   Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: AAA/MLB    Age: Entering Age 24 season in 2017. Height: 6’3”        Weight: 230 lb.    Present – Future Fastball         65  65 Curve            50  60 Change         55  55 Mechanics    50  50 Command    60  60 Control         60  60 Overall         55  60 Floor: Middle reliever with upside in the majors. Ceiling: A #2-3 starter in major leagues. Likely Outcome: A late inning reliever or a dynamic #5 starter. Summary: Campos is an easy prospect to get excited about.  Let’s just get the single most important detail out of the way first.   EVERY single potential outcome for Campos is dependent upon his health.  If Vicente Campos is healthy, you have yourself Garrett Richards-lite.  Someone that can come in and dominate for 7 innings every fifth day.  If Campos can only stay healthy in short spurts, and his physical prowess deteriorates with increased use, then he can be one of the best relievers in baseball.  If the repeated elbow injuries take their toll and his tuff is diminished, his career could be over. Now obviously the reasons for excitement, and for the Garrett Richards-lite and elite receiver possibility is based off his stuff.  Campos’ fastball is an ever changing pitch that he can dial up and back at will.  Sometimes, he’ll come in and blow upper-90’s heat by you.  At other times, he’ll decide to take a little more off, and stay at 90-91.  For the most part, he seems to use two different fastballs that he can spot basically wherever he wants.  The first is a firm 4-seam fastball that hovers around 95-96, and the second seems to be a cut fastball that he throws 93-94.  Lately, he’s been using the second option more liberally, and has found success with it.  Campos throws a very firm curve ball that he can spot at the knees or bury in the dirt.  This is a true swing-and-miss pitch and is already at least an average major league pitch with the possibility of being more.  Personally, one of my favorite offerings (other than the high heat), is Campos’ change up, which tails down and in on a RHB.  It’s lethal against LHB with two strikes as it acts as almost another breaking ball.  He can also push it down at the feet of a RHB as another look in what can be an uncomfortable at bat. I think what makes Campos so special are all the ways he can get you out.  If he isn’t feeling his fastball on a particular night, he’ll dial back to 90-91 and live off movement.  IF the curve is working especially well, he’ll snap it off in any count, because it doesn’t matter if a batter is keying on it, it’s still a tough pitch to hit.  IF he’s feeling aggressive, he’ll attack under a batter’s hands in the mid-90’s.  If he’s facing a lefty heavy lineup, he’ll typically live firm on the inside to set up his change up away.  With righties, he’ll rely a little more on what looks like a cutter and get K’s via the curve. But again, this all depends on his health, and that’s a big question mark.  After signing with he Mariners at age 16, Campos blossomed into a very promising prospect, before being dealt to the Yankees in the Pineda-Montego deal.  Just a few starts into his Yankee career, he suffers an elbow fracture, and loses basically all of 2012. Vicente returns in 2013 after a surprisingly quick rehab and is back in form for the Yankees down in Advanced A Ball.  But clearly, the rushed rehab from 2012 had taken it’s toll and Campos needed Tommy John surgery, which ended his 2014 season before it even began.  He returned for half of 2015, and showed diminished stuff and less command than before, which can be expected. Campos again returned to form in 2016 and dominated in AA before being dealt to the D-Backs for Tyler Clippard.  After successful stints in AA/AAA for Arizona, he got the call to the major leagues and operated as a mop up man in the bullpen.  However, after just one appearance, where he did well without his best stuff, Campos was shut down again and again diagnosed with a fractured ulnar.  Upon hearing this, the D-Backs were under a bit of a roster crunch and tried to slip the injured Campos through waivers, which obviously didn’t work because Billy Eppler was very familiar with his kid from his days as the Yankees AGM. Now the good news with this is apparently there hasn’t been any damage sustained tot he ligament, just the bone.  So the rehab for Campos is supposed to be shorter.  However, as we saw from his first Ulnar fracture rehab, if he’s pushed, injury can follow.  Rehab for this type of break is expected to be around eight months, so more than likely, we won’t see Campos in Spring Training.  It’s likely he’ll spend April on site in Arizona getting his own mini-Spring Training and return to active duty in May. What to expect next season: Normally, this would be where I tell you what’s likely to happen next year, but if we’re being honest, I don’t have a clue with Campos.  Sure, he isn’t expected to be healthy until May, but what if he’s ready to start his rehab in March instead of April and gets time in Spring Training?  What if he’s so dang impressive (as he definitely can be) that the Angels choose him over Chavez, Meyer, Smith and Pounders for the 5th starter position?  I couldn’t tell you if the Angels are going to move him to relief or have him start again. There are just too many directions this can go to confidently provide you with what to expect. The only thing I will say is that Campos is one of my personal favorites among the Top 30, and I expect to see him in Anaheim at some point, in some role this year.  If he’s healthy, he’s just too good not to be a major leaguer. Estimated Time of Arrival: July, 2017. Grade as a prospect: C+ — #17 Prospect: Cole Duensing  Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: Rookie Ball     Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2017. Height: 6’4”      Weight: 190 lb.    Present – Future Fastball         55  65 Curve            45  55 Change         50  60 Mechanics    60  60 Command    50  55 Control         50  55 Overall         50  55 Floor: Lefty Specialist bouncing between upper minors and majors. Ceiling: A #2-3 starter in major leagues. Likely Outcome: A mid-rotation starter in the major leagues. Summary: When I see Duensing throw, I see a lot of Tyler Skaggs when the Angels first drafted him (minus the left-handedness).  Long, lean, flexible, fiercely competitive, tons of projection, room to grow physically, and an already impressive low-90’s fastball from a kid that still looks like a kid.  I don’t mean any offense by that, it just means that when this guy turn 21 or 22, there will be a lot of scouts attending his games, which explains why the Angels offered Duensing a well above slot bonus to sign.  Also similar to Skaggs, Duesning’s name is probably going to be brought up if the Angels wanted to make a trade in the future.  He’s the type of kid that’s good now, and has the work ethic and God-given ability to be great soon.  Blessed with a fastball that sits 91-92, already solid change up and a looping curve that with some tinkering and command could become a third viable pitch, there won’t be any question as to whether Duensing has the stuff to compete.  While he weighed in at just 175 lbs upon being drafted, reports indicated that late during the instructs and on into the winter, Cole had put on almost 20 lbs of muscle and added a tick or two on his fastball.  As for his performance this year, there wasn’t a lot to be gained from limited exposure.  He was good in the Arizona Rookie League, both the stats (1.38 ERA 13 IP 11K’s), and scouts said so.  During the Fall Instructs,  Mike LaCassa called Duensing one of the “breakout pitchers”.  So obviously since signing, this kid has impressed the team.  There don’t appear to be any current plans to use Duensing in any role other than starter, which looks like the role he’s meant for.  Angels fans that follow the minor leagues will want to make their way over to the minor league fields this Spring Training to check this kid out.   As a side note, though it isn’t quantifiable, some guys just look like major leaguers, if that makes sense.  Like you see them pitch, and you kind of just know, that’s going to be a major leaguer someday.  That’s what Duensing looks like, just someone you expect to see toeing the slab at Angels Stadium in the future. What to expect next season: This really depends on if the Angels plan to be aggressive or if they want to offer maximum opportunity to develop.  Judging by the reports, and Duesning’s sparkling performance, there’s little doubt he’s probably ready to make the jump to A Ball.  But if the Angels don’t feel the need to push him, and still want him to really get his feet under him and keep a closer eye on his development, he could be sent to short season Orem.  Either choice is justifiable.  Personally, I’d love to see the Angels move him up to A Ball, but it’s only for selfish reasons (more opportunity to catch him on  But if I were the Angels, I’d take it slow with Duensing.  With his sort of projection, and the maturity still to come, there’s nothing wrong with allowing Cole to fully develop at every level. Estimated Time of Arrival: Middle of 2021, Cole’s age 22 season. Grade as a prospect: C+ — #18 Prospect: Troy Montgomery    Position(s): Outfielder   Level: Class A Ball    Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017   Height: 5’10”      Weight: 185 lb.   Present –  Future    Hitting Ability: 40 – 50 Power: 45 – 50 Base Running: 65 – 65 Patience: 55 – 60 Fielding: 60 – 60 Range: 60 – 60 Arm: 60 – 60 Overall: 45 – 60   Floor: AAA Depth. Ceiling: Starting outfielder and leadoff hitter in the major leagues. Likely Outcome: Dynamic 4th outfielder   Summary: Montgomery is one of my favorite types of players to get drafted.  The type that don’t have any hype, and don’t come with the over-used “5-tool” moniker.  Just really good ball players, that do just about everything average or better on a baseball diamond.  The type that perform well at a big-time college, but fall to the 8th round of a draft because they’re only 5’10” tall.  The type that play a game with such intensity, that others can’t help but look up to this player.  Just good old fashioned, blue-collar hard work and the will to win.   If you haven’t caught on, I just described Kole Calhoun.  In fact, Troy even looks a bit like Kole Calhoun out there, minus the fiery red hair, and slightly less muscular.  Same left-handedness, similar skill-set, athleticism, same passion and competitive spirit.   That’s what we’ll see if everything breaks right for Troy Montgomery, a Kole Calhoun type of regular.  It’s no wonder the Reds asked for Montgomery in return when they were discussing trading Brandon Phillips to the Angels.  At Ohio State, Montgomery logged more BB than K, stole 56 bases between his junior and senior season, owned an OBP well north of .400, played in competitive scouting leagues during the offseason and performed spectacularly, and to top it off, was an elite defender.   It still makes me shake my head that guys like this last until the middle rounds of the draft when at bare minimum, you have yourself a useful depth piece between AAA and the majors.  Once drafted by the Angels, Montgomery torched Orem and the Pioneer League in general, and was promoted to Burlington, where he was quite solid, if not “pretty good”.   From the scouting side of things, Troy is a left handed hitter with more pop than the numbers show. Sure, he’s a speedy leadoff hitter that reaches base and can hit for average, but Troy swings hard, yet under control.  There’s “plus” bat speed and an advanced feel at the plate.  Every once in a while he’ll swing out of his shoes, but not too often.  Defensively, Montgomery can cover a ton of ground in CF and has a rocket for an arm, though the Angels have been using him in the corner outfield to start.   What to expect next season: Montgomery should head to Advanced A Ball at Inland Empire next season, and I’m guessing he’ll put up the gaudy HR/SB numbers (at least on the road) that will really open the eyes of more casual fans, and thus his ranking as a prospect will climb.  Personally, I’ll be watching to see how much contact Troy makes, if he’s using the whole field, and continues to show patience as many patient hitters don’t do in the Cal League environment.  With Troy, there is the off-chance the Cal League is too easy and he’ll be bumped up to AA for the season, but I wouldn’t count on it. Even Kole Calhoun was kept at Inland Empire for a full year.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Mid 2019, Troy’s age 24 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+: Projects to be a borderline MLB starter. — #19 Prospect: Eduardo Paredes    Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher   Level: AA      Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017.   Height: 6’1”      Weight: 190 lb.      Present – Future   Fastball         65  65 Curve            50  60 Change         50  50 Mechanics    60  60 Command    55  60 Control         70  70 Overall         55  65   Floor: Middle Reliever in the Major Leagues Ceiling: A closer in the Major Leagues. Likely Outcome: A 7th-8th-9th inning option, doesn’t matter.   Summary: It’s a shame we don’t rank relievers as high on prospect lists, otherwise Paredes would be getting a lot more notoriety among fans.  Everywhere Eduardo has gone, he’s succeeded, and he’s still very young.  When the Angels signed Eduardo as a 17 year old, he was completely and utterly dominant in the Dominican Summer League.  For reasons unknown, the Angels decided it would be a good idea to have Paredes repeat the DSL as an 18 year old, which he did and was again dominant. The Angels then brought him stateside as a 19 year old and put him in the hitter paradise that is Orem in the Pioneer League.  No matter, Paredes dispatched them with no problem at all. In fact, he finished with a 1.33 ERA and 31 K’s in one 20 innings.  That’s how easy Orem was for Eduardo.   You’d really think by now the Angels would start aggressively promoting Paredes, but still they’re going a level a year, and so for most of the next season, Eduardo Paredes fools hitters in A Ball to the tune of a 1.77 ERA with a 12.6 K/9 and an even more impressive 1.7 BB/9.  The Angels decide it might be a good idea to promote Paredes after he’s completely fatigued from an unusually large workload in A Ball and he gets to the Cal League and is simply “OK” for the first time in his career.   The Angels send him back to Inland Empire to start 2016 and Paredes, armed with a fresh arm sits batters down with no issues, so he is promoted to AA, as a 21 year old, which is pretty remarkable. While in Arkansas, we see a strange thing happen.  Parades’ ERA remains a very solid 3.35, but for the first time in his career, he isn’t striking out as many batters, which suggests that after five years of the Angels playing it conservative, they seem to have finally found a level in which Eduardo can grow by facing competition that challenges him.  It’s about time.   From the scouting side of things, Paredes attacked hitters with a low three-quarters, borderline sidearm release.  He still uses his legs to generate plenty of momentum going forward, and there doesn’t appear to be too much stress put on his shoulders or elbow.  Eduardo uses two different fastballs.  The first is a 4-seam fastball that sits 95-97 with cut action, the second is a 2-seam fastball that sits 92-94 with sinking action.  Both are regarded as “plus” pitches.  Parades also throws a curve that he keeps low in the zone.  It isn’t a “plus” pitch, but it does serve as a consistent change of pace pitch.  Finally, Eduardo has been experimenting with a change up the past couple seasons that has improved to the point where he can use it.   Paredes is a guy that has a few different ways to get a hitter out.  The heat will generate lots of swings and misses, but the curve and change up have created quite the uncomfortable at bat for both lefties and righties.   What to expect next season: Eduardo should head to AAA after being protected on the Angels 40-man roster this offseason.  But, with the way the Angels have handled Paredes so far in his career, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back in AA again, even after showing that he should be promoted.  If the Angels bullpen doesn’t round into form, and if they find themselves contending for a playoff spot, we should see Paredes in Anaheim this season.  If things go south quickly, it’s likely the Angels will delay Paredes’ arrival until 2018 so as to gain an additional year of control.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Middle of 2017, Paredes’ age 22 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+ — #20 Prospect: Hutton Moyer    Position(s): Utility Infielder   Level: Advanced A Ball      Age: Entering Age 24 season in 2017   Height: 6’1”       Weight: 185 lb.   Present –  Future    Hitting Ability: 45 – 50 Power: 45 – 50 Base Running: 50 – 50 Patience: 40 – 40 Fielding: 50 – 50 Range: 50 – 59 Arm: 50 – 50 Overall: 45 – 50   Floor: AAA Depth. Ceiling: Starting second baseman in the major leagues. Likely Outcome: Offensive-minded utility infielder.   Summary: Moyer had a pretty good year.  That’s me putting it in the simplest terms possible.  To elaborate, Moyer proved a lot of doubters wrong/  He still has a way to go, but the foundation is set for justified future promotions.  When Moyer was selected in the 7th round by the Angels out of Pepperdine, I was immediately intrigued, but surprised. For starters, Moyer wasn’t that great at Pepperdine.  It took until his final year there before we saw any sort of  promising tools, that being his power, begin to manifest. So yeah, there was a degree of suspicion that perhaps Moyer was selected as a bit of a hat tip to his father, Jamie Moyer, who spent 23 years pitching in the big leagues. This notion was only further supported by Moyer’s poor showing at Orem last year after being drafted. But a guy I talked to kept saying Moyer has some power, that I’ll be surprised.  And he was right.   Hutton hit 33 doubles 17 home runs and stole 13 bases between two levels of A Ball this year.  As a middle infielder, that’s pretty awesome.  His .276/.341 batting line isn’t too shabby either.   What’s even more impressive is Moyer’s performance in the Cal League.  Most of the extra base hits came at home, at Inland Empire, the only pitcher friendly venue in the California League.  This only serves as more proof that the power Moyer displayed is real.  More accurately, Moyer’s pull power is real. When his timing is down and he turns on a pitch, it can fly a very long way.   But speaking of timing, here’s where my skepticism creeps right back into the picture.  It’s Moyer’s approach at the plate.  There are a ton of moving parts.  Pre-pitch, his hands are all over the place. While the pitcher is mid-delivery, we see Hutton’s hands drop down to his waste before returning to shoulder height.  While this is happening, we see a very high leg kick and then a swing.  I’m certainly not opposed to leg kicks, but when you see Moyer’s you realize his timing mechanism is about as complicated as the come.  In fact, it’s likely a big reason why Moyer struck out 143 times in only 124 games!  This is something the Angels will need to iron out before Moyer reaches AA and AAA next season, because more advanced pitchers will be better prepared to exploit these timing and contact issues.  The trick here will be to keep his timing, while eliminating the movement and still maintaining the power he had before.  Not an easy thing to do.   Defensively, Moyer can be seen at second, third and shortstop. At second base, he’s a plus fielder, showing the range, arm, footwork and instincts of a truly impressive defensive asset.  When he moves over to third base, we see a lot more of an unsteady approach.  It seems like Hutton isn’t sure of the path the ball is taking or how much time he has to throw it to first base, or what to do with his feet.  At shortstop, Moyer is certainly better than he is at third base, but so much of this seems based purely off of Hutton’s athleticism and not his actual familiarity with the position.  Undoubtedly, Moyer will need to improve at third base if he wants to be a utility infielder in the major leagues, but if his bat continues to produce the way it did last year, then Hutton may not have to worry about it so much.  Most of his playing time should come at second base, where he is clearly comfortable.   What to expect next season: Moyer will be on the move to AA Mobile.  This is where we separate the prospects you dream on versus the prospects you can actually count on.  Success at the AA level is much more transferrable to the major leagues than anything in  A ball or Advanced A.  It’s the biggest jump in the minors.  I also expect Hutton to be able to settle in second base, seeing as he’ll have more gifted defenders around him to play shortstop and third base.  If Moyer cuts down on the stirekoputs and continues to hit for power, I’d be looking at a possible starting second baseman in the majors.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2019, Moyer’s age 26 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+: Projects to be a reserve infielder.   Check out our interview with Hutton Moyer   — #21 Prospect: Brennon Lund    Position(s): Outfield   Level: A Ball     Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017   Height: 5’11”    Weight: 185 lb.   Present –  Future    Hitting Ability: 50 – 55 Power: 30 – 40 Base Running: 60 – 60 Patience: 50 – 50 Fielding: 50 – 50 Range: 55 – 55 Arm: 45 – 45 Overall: 45 – 50   Floor: AAA Depth. Ceiling: Borderline starting outfielder. Likely Outcome: 4th/5th outfielder.   Summary: Brennon Lund is a case study in when do the numbers become legitimate? From a tools standpoint, he shouldn’t be THAT good.  He should be decent, but not team leader type of good.  He’s smaller in stature in terms of professional athletes, he doesn’t have any power, there’s some speed but not enough to be a base stealing threat at the highest level.  He’s a good defender, but not so good that you’d consider him a defensive replacement that will give you anything but decent performance.   When we take all of that into account, Lund is just minor league depth.   Except for the simple fact that he just keeps hitting.  His freshman year at BYU, he hit .303.  Not bad, especially considering it was his first year of college ball. His sophomore year, we see a modest jump up to .308, again, pretty good.  Then in his junior season, Lund just exploded, hitting .387 with career highs in every offensive category.  The Angels picked him up in the 11th round, which worked out in their favor.  Apparently other teams were scared off because he’s mormon, and kids that are mormon and his age tend to wear ties, ride bicycles and knock on doors.  But Lund made it clear to the Angels that he doesn’t intend to make a mission trip.   Just breaking down Lund’s swing, we see extremely simple mechanics.  His hands remain pretty close to the chest, he doesn’t have a big load which can elongate his swing.  In fact, Lund has barely any load mechanism at all.  It’s simple.  Hands fly through the zone, barrel of the bat to the ball, finish with hands high to ensure driving through the ball and not to the ball.  Lund uses the whole field, but being left-handed, occasionally he’ll drop the barrel of the bat on a low and inside pitch and get himself a round-tripper.   Lund’s first stop after signing with the Angels was the offensive paradise which is Orem in the Pioneer League, where he hit .397.  That’s over 18 games, which is a bit of a small sample zine, but still, .397, this kid was crushing the competition, even against his fellow collegiate athletes.  Then as a sort of mercy to everyone else, Lund was sent to Burlington.  His performance against competition quite a bit older and more experienced than him led to Lund’s numbers dropping to a modest .271/.320, but it still came with 9 doubles and 8 stolen bases in just 45 games.  Extrapolated across a full season, and without any improvement whatsoever (which is silly because of course Lund would improve, he was just drafted), Lund would’ve hit 27 doubles and stole 24 bases on the season.  Again, just solid numbers, especially for a kid that’s young and inexperienced for his league.   So this leads to the logical question, that if Lund continues to hit so well, when do the numbers become legitimate?   When do we just say, he’s a good hitter.  Good hitters are in the majors.   And that in a nut shell is exactly why Lund is ranked #21 on our list.   What to expect next season: Lund will almost assuredly find himself at Inland Empire next season. Since he isn’t a power hitter, the environment really shouldn’t have much of a positive effect on his overall performance.  I expect Lund should post numbers rather similar to Bo Way.  At Inland Empire he hit .277/.349 with 27 stolen bases.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2020, Lund’s age 25 season   Grade as a prospect: C: Projects to be a reserve outfielder. — #22 Prospect: Brooks Pounders   Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher   Level: AAA        Age: Entering Age 26 season in 2017.   Height: 6’5”      Weight: 265 lb.   Present – Future   Fastball         55 55 Curve 50 50 Change 60 65 Mechanics 60 60 Command    45 60 Control         55 55 Overall         50 55   Floor: Swing Starter or bullpen depth. Ceiling: A mid-rotation, workhorse starter.   Likely Outcome: A back-end starter, or swing starter. Summary: Pounders may end up being quite the steal for Angels GM Billy Eppler, a man known to have an eye for buying low.  The Angels traded Top 30 Prospect Jared Ruxer to Kansas City for Brooks Pounders early on in the offseason, and so far, it looks like a very interesting swap.  In Ruxer, the Angels dealt a pitcher with mid rotation upside (or better) that has been bit by the injury bug thus far in his career (very similar profile to former Angel prospect Michael Clevinger who was traded to Cleveland when his value was low after injury).  Ruxer still has a way to go before ever reaching the majors, so the Angels traded him for more of a sure thing in Pounders.  Pounders has shifted between the bullpen and rotation in his career, and always seems to be a guy that’s overlooked, which isn’t an easy thing to do considering his size and draft position (2nd round).  It’s likely that Pounders’ weight is precisely the reason why he gets overlooked by many scouts.  They have this idea of an ideal pitcher’s body being tall, lean, flexible, like a quarterback in football.  But when a player comes in that might be bigger or smaller than that, they can be met with skepticism.  Pounders mechanics have always been clean, and he comes downhill hard on his delivery, which gives the illusion of a ball “jumping” on a batter.  Because of his hight, there is a bit of sink or downhill motion to his pitches which can make Pounders a ground-ball specialist in the future.As far as arsenal, Brooks throws a heavy fastball at 92-93, a pretty decent slider in the low-80’s and a “plus” changeup in the mid 80’s.  To give you an idea of what the Angels managed to land her win Pounders, consider that in 2015, across 8 starts in AA he pitched to a sparkling 2.19 ERA, which the peripheral numbers seem to support.  That Fall, he went to the heralded Arizona Fall League, and pitched three consecutive scoreless outings before being shut down for the Winter.  Last season in AAA, posted a 3.14 ERA in the Pacific Coast League, logging 90 strikeouts across only 80 innings, working as a spot starter and piggy-necking other starters, so as to limit his innings.  His brief foray into the major leagues didn’t go well, but if nothing else, we can say that Pounds can strike batters out. And so we have a very good prospect on our hands, that is major league ready.  He won’t project to be much more than he is now, and that’s ok because right now, Pounders is already good. What to expect next season: Pounders will enter Spring Training in open competition for the 5th starter and long reliever spot along with Jesse Chavez, Alex Meyer, Nate Smith, Manny Banuelos, Chris O’Grady, Vicente Campos and more.  Naturally, only tow of these guys are likely to open the season with the Angels, so Pounders is going to need to be incredibly impressive to leapfrog Chavez and Meyer on the depth chart.  The likeliest outcome here is that Pounders goes to AAA, where he’ll again serve as a piggy-back starter or swingman along with Chris O’Grady.  Pounders’ previous success in AAA probably puts him first in line for a promotion, though admittedly, he’s going to have some very talented pitchers around him in AAA, so it could go any direction.  Inevitably, because Eppler likes to keep his arms fresh, Pounders will be part of a carousel of pitchers that log a lot of miles between Salt Lake and Anaheim.  But as it goes with the rest of those pitchers, all Pounders has to do is impress in his time in Anaheim, and Eppler will be forced to keep him around.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Middle of 2017, Pounders’ age 26 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+ — #23 Prospect: Joe Gatto   Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher   Level: A Ball     Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017.   Height: 6’3”     Weight: 220 lb.   Present – Future   Fastball   55 60 Curve       55 60 Change    40 50 Mechanics 60 60 Command    45 60 Control         45 50 Overall         45 55   Floor: Swing Starter or bullpen depth. Ceiling: A mid-rotation, workhorse starter.   Likely Outcome: A back-end starter that can go 180+ innings. Summary: Gatto’s career hasn’t taken off the way many thought it would after being taken in the second round of the draft.  Generally speaking, prep pitchers taken in the second round have quite a bit of upside and can climb the ladder rather quickly.  Gatto sort of bucks that trend.  While he has some upside, it isn’t the front of the rotation type attached to prep arms from his draft position.  But his floor is also higher than that of most pitchers taken in that position, because it looked like from the get-go that Gatto is all starter.  He has the right frame, mechanics and arsenal to log a lot of major league innings.  His upside is that of a John Lackey type of starter, which Angels fans are familiar with.  Joe comes straight downhill with his pitches, all of which have sink or a straight downward break, which makes Gatto a ground-ball inducing machine.  His fastball sits 92-93, his curveball in the low 80’s with a 12-6 break and his change up at times can look like a bugs-bunny type of pause.  For the most part, his change up still isn’t a consistent weapon yet, and he’s missing low a lot with his fastball and curve (could be worse).The results this past season in A Ball weren’t quite what I or anyone else was expecting.  Gatto was shelled in a pitching friendly environment to the tune of an ERA over 7.00 and only 15 starts.  The Angels mercifully shut him down for the remainder of the year to rest his arm and try to figure out exactly what was happening.  But the thing that Gatto has in his favor is time.  He’s only 21 years old, and repeating A Ball wouldn’t be the worst thing for a pitcher like himself.  Once Gatto is settled in and figures out how to get hitters out, he should have a steady climb to the majors.  At that’s something we can say with a degree of relative certainty, is that Joe Gatto looks like a future major leaguer.  He has all the tools, now he just needs to put it all together. What to expect next season: We should see Gatto get another shot as a starting pitcher in the Midwest League this year.  He’ll likely spend the entire season there, which isn’t a bad thing by any means.  What Gatto needs right now are quality innings, and if he can rack those up in A Ball and get his season innings up into the 150 range, the foundation will be set and we could see Gatto experience considerable future success.  It may not be a make or break season for Joe, but I do think this will likely be his final opportunity to show he can succeed as a starting pitcher before the Angels try tinkering with him in the bullpen.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Middle of 2020, Gatto’s age 25 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+   Check out our interview with Joe Gatto — #24 Prospect: Chris O’Grady   Position(s): Left Handed Pitcher   Level: AA      Age: Entering Age 27 season in 2017.   Height: 6’4”     Weight: 225 lb.   Present – Future   Fastball        50 50 Slider           45 55 Change        50 55 Mechanics  50 50 Command   55 60 Control        45 55 Overall        45 55   Floor: Lefty Specialist. Ceiling: A setup man, or potentially a back-rotation starter.   Likely Outcome: A 7th inning setup man. Summary: O’Grady’s had a pretty interesting ride in professional baseball so far.  As a mid-round draft pick out of George Mason, there weren’t a ton of expectations on O’Grady to perform.  He’s a tall lefty with a pulse, and those tend to get drafted.  But it’s O’Grady’s growth as a pitcher that’s truly led to a surprising run toward a major league roster.  O’Grady sits 89-90 with both sink and cut on his fastball (referred to as his cutter – definitely his best pitch), and can generate more weak contact than swing and misses with it.  In fact, it’s the re-development of his cutter which has led to so much success.  He used it in college, but moved away from the cutter early in his career because he couldn’t get a feel for it with MLB’s standard baseball.  However, upon being shown a new grip, O’Grady re-integrated the cut fastball to his arsenal and took off.  Chris also throws a “show me” slider to keep hitters off balance and a surprisingly effective change up that can generate its fair share of swings and misses.O’Grady is what I refer to as an “average” pitcher in that his velocity or breaking ball aren’t the sort that stand out.  But O’Grady gets outs by spotting his pitches and staying ahead of hitters, which makes him considerably better than your average pitcher.  He still lives low in the zone. which is good in that O’Grady can make hitters hit his pitches, but it also tends to lead to control issues due to less room for error. If all this were taken into consideration, O’Grady would probably still be a Top 30 prospect, but more specifically, it’s what he did in 2016 that has him placed on this list.  O’Grady was picked up in the Rule 5 Draft by the Reds.  It may not have gone as well as he or they had hoped in Spring Training, but it does make it clear that other major league teams feel O’Grady is big league caliber.  But the most surprising development was the Angels use of O’Grady in the rotation. It makes sense because O’Grady has the arsenal of a starting pitcher, but in this specific case, once O’Grady moved to the starting rotation in AA, he posted a 1.68 ERA across 50+ innings.  Though this was a small taste (roughly one third of a season), it was still enough to show fans and scouts that O’Grady can successfully operate in multiple roles, which makes him more valuable, and more likely to have a career in major league baseball.  He can be used as a situational lefty, a set up man, a closer, or a starter. What to expect next season: If he remains a starter, Chris will likely be back in AA this year, though not because his performance bears repeating the same level.  This is more of a result of Billy Eppler building a great deal of starting pitching depth in the majors and AAA this offseason.  If the Angels intend to deploy him as a reliever, or in a variety of roles, he should be in AAA Salt Lake.  The pitching environment won’t be so favorable, but if O’Grady keeps the ball in the yard and spots his pitches as well as he can, he could find himself in Anaheim this season.  For what it’s worth, when asked, O’Grady hadn’t been informed by the team if they intend to keep him as a starter or even if he’ll be invited to big league camp.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Beginning of 2018, O’Grady’s age 28 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+ — #25 Prospect: Jonah Wesely   Position(s): Left Handed Pitcher   Level: A Ball     Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017.   Height: 6’1”      Weight: 215 lb.   Present – Future   Fastball  50 55 Slurve    65 70 Change  40 50 Mechanics 50 50 Command    40 55 Control         45 55 Overall         40 55   Floor: Lefty Specialist. Ceiling: A closer, or potentially a mid-rotation starter.   Likely Outcome: A 7th inning setup man. Summary: It feels like we’ve been talking about Jonah Wesely forever, and that’s because in the ever-changing baseball world, it has been forever. Wesley was drafted three years ago, and was seen as the “steal” of the draft by numerous non-Angel experts.  Here’s a kid with a large frame, left handed, throws in the low-90’s with a great off-speed pitch, coming out of the baseball mecca that is California, and was signed away from his commitment to UCLA.  For good reason, most teams steered clear of Wesely in the early going precisely because he was likely a 3rd or 4th round talent (or better) that should require 1st or 2nd round compensation to forego college, where it’s likely he would’ve been a first round pick in a few years.  Still, the Angels scooped him up in the 11th round and in a surprising turnoff events, managed to sign him.  even more surprising, the Angels felt Wesely fit better as a reliever than a starter.As a reliever, Jonah throws in the low-90’s, reaching as high as 94 before needing Tommy John surgery.  He has an excellent “slurve” (slider-curve mix) that is death on lefties, but is similarly intimidating to RHB.  Wesley also throws a change up than he’ll “push” too much at times, and thus it isn’t anything more than a “show me” pitch right now, but if he ever gets a handle on it, it could be a third major league caliber pitch.  Jonah has a good head on his shoulders and has a fiery competitive nature that cannot simply be taught, which is a big reason why the Angels felt a future as a reliever could be the way to go.  Coming back from TJ surgery, Wesely will likely remain a relief pitcher in the near future, but there is still the possibility that he makes the transition back to the rotation at some point. Still, Jonah has a long journey ahead of him.  He’s going to need to fully recover from his surgery first, and once that happens, he’ll need to fully get a handle on his off-speed pitches again.  Then, Wesely will still need to progress normally as a prospect would, which means throwing more strikes, hitting his spots.  But even then, it’s easy to dream on what Wesely could be someday, which is a dominant, hard-throwing reliever that racks up a high number of strikeouts, is effective against both LHB and RHB, and can go multiple innings at a time.  Basically, as a reliever, Wesely’s ceiling could be that of lite-version of Andrew Miller. What to expect next season: Jonah made several appearances in Orem this year, but there were no expectations there.  Just him shaking off the rust.  I’d expect Jonah to return to Burlington (A Ball) for a bit, just to get his feet under him at first.  This may seem like a step backward because Wesely was already so effective in Burlington before his surgery, but this is a process that takes time.  It wouldn’t be surprising if Wesely truly didn’t round back into form until after the all-star break.  If he does before then, it’s basically just a bonus.  I’d expect Wesely to spend the second half of the season at Inland Empire.  I’ll be specifically looking at his second half stats for numerous reasons.  He’ll be fully recovered, and I’d like to see if he becomes too fatigued as the year rolls along.  Baseball season can be long and grueling.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Mid 2019, Jonah’s age 24 season.   Grade as a prospect: C+   Check out our interview with Jonah Wesely — #26 Prospect: Jared Foster  Position(s): Outfield   Level: Advanced A     Age: Entering Age 26 season in 2017.   Height: 5’10”     Weight: 190 lb.   Present –  Future    Hitting Ability: 40 – 45 Power: 50 – 55 Base Running: 50 – 50 Patience: 40 – 50 Fielding: 55 – 60 Range: 55 – 55 Arm: 55 – 55 Overall: 45 – 50   Floor: AAA Depth. Ceiling: Borderline starting outfielder.   Likely Outcome: 4th/5th outfielder.   Summary: Jared Foster is a completely different prospect depending on who you ask.  When the Angels drafted him, they were excited to get a player of Foster’s raw talent.  There’s power, speed and athleticism to work with (all pointing back to his days as QB at LSU), but not much in the way of refinement.  Foster was basically a lottery ticket.  He’d played baseball sparingly the two years before being drafted, but the Angels felt that if he focused all of his talents on one sport, that he could take off.  In his first full season, we’ve seen that the Angels weren’t totally wrong in this line of thought.  Foster really did improve by leaps and bounds throughout the season.  He didn’t necessarily because a superstar talent, but he did show glimpses of being a quality major leaguer on his way to a combined .276/.317 line, which included 27 doubles, 9 homeruns and 9 SB.  Not overly impressive numbers, but enough to show that Foster could hold his own.  But now that he’s had a full year and a half under his belt of focusing solely on professional ball, it’s time to see if Foster really has the breakout potential envisioned.   As far as Foster in a specific scouting sense, there is some to be liked.  His batting stance is open and when he gets a pitch to hit and stays within himself, he produces as easy flowing yet beautiful swing, capable of line drives and putting back spin on the ball (homeruns).  His hands begin high, then move back, which offers plenty of extra whip in his swing, but also makes him highly susceptible to anything up.  His timing is choppy, and he tends to foul off a lot of pitches he should be driving, but this is something that can be corrected with further instruction and development.  Defensive, Foster has a very good glove, covers his fair share of ground and can competently play any of the three outfield spots.   What to expect next season: Foster had a pretty successful campaign overall.  His numbers were skewed from playing in Burlington, but at the same time, his numbers were inflated by the Cal League (.247 BA at home in the only pitching friendly park, .342 elsewhere).  I’d expect Foster to spend a few months at Inland Empire just getting his feet wet before moving onto AA Mobile.  I’ll be particularly interested in seeing if his power further develops, or if Foster can picks his spots better when running.  He also needs to reach base at a better clip.  All of this will be taken into account for a promotion, because moving up to AA is the real test for prospects.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2019, Foster’s age 26 season   Grade as a prospect: C: Projects to be a reserve outfielder.   —   #27 Prospect: Zach Gibbons    Position(s): Outfield   Level: AA         Age: Entering Age 23 season in 2017. Height: 5’8”     Weight: 186 lb. Present         Future    Hitting Ability: 50 – 55 Power: 35 – 40 Base Running: 55 – 55 Patience: 55 – 65 Fielding: 50 – 55 Range: 55 – 55 Arm: 50 – 50 Overall: 45 – 50
Floor: AAA Depth. Ceiling: A leadoff hitting starting OF in the major leagues   Likely Outcome: A solid 4th OF.   Summary: Gibbons won’t be ranked as high on other prospect list mostly because other prospect lists tend to focus on potential rather than present ability.  And present ability is precisely why Gibbons makes it into our top 30.  There isn’t a ton of question about what Zach’s abilities are and aren’t.  He’s exactly what you see, and when you watch him, you see a ball player, through and through.  He’s smart, he works counts into his favor, and if he doesn’t get the pitch he wants, Gibbons will walk to first base.  Once he reaches base he’s of course a threat to steal, but much more than that, he’s aggressive, he’ll get bigger leads and annoy pitchers, he’s hustling and taking that extra bag.  Gibbons is also just a rock solid defensive outfielder with plus athleticism.  His swing is the most basic, compact, straight-to-the-ball approach you can imagine.  He’s a pure line drive hitter that will use the entire field, but can get into one and pull it over the wall.  Zach clearly wasn’t challenged by the Pioneer League, and given his success at Arizona, that was no surprise.  In fact, he just flat out torched the Pioneer League, hitting .351 with 17 SB and more walks than strikeouts.  Gibbons should be abler to climb the minor league ladder rather quickly, I don’t anticipate him being too caught up on any level.  Minor adjustments are always needed, especially as the quality of play increases, but Gibbons’ present ability suggests that with continued coaching and development, he should be a major leaguer.  I don’t think you’re looking at the next Mike Trout by any means, but a career as a Reggie Willits type is certainly within play.  That’s something the Angels have been without for a while.  A true reserve outfielder that can pinch run, pinch hit, pinch bunt, is a defensive replacement, and won’t hurt you if he gets a few starts to rest the regulars.   What to expect next season: Gibbons should be at Inland Empire next year, and I expect him to do pretty solid there.   The Angels may go the conservative route as they did with Jared Foster this year and give him a half season in A Ball before moving to the Cal League, but regardless, I think Gibbons can be done with the low minors by the end of next year.  I’ll keep an eye on his BA/OBP.  They were definitely inflated in Orem, but at the same time, it’s reasonable to expect Gibbons to hit .280+ at any level.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2020 – Gibbon’s age 26 season.   Grade as a prospect: C: Projects to be a 4th OF. — #28 Prospect: Jordan Kipper   Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher   Level: AA         Age: Entering Age 24 season in 2017.   Height: 6’4”     Weight: 185 lb.   Present – Future   Fastball         50 55 Slider            55 55 Change         40 50 Mechanics  65 65 Command   55 55 Control        55 55 Overall         40 50   Floor: AAA Depth or long reliever. Ceiling: #4 starting pitcher.   Likely Outcome: A 5th starter or swing man in the majors.   Summary: Kipper is an easy pitcher to like from a scouting perspective.  He’s just solid across the board.  He doesn’t need any major tweaks to his delivery, he has a good head on his shoulders and is projectable.  After serving as a de facto ace for TCU, Kipper was drafted for the third time in four years back in 2014.  The Dodgers and Phillies didn’t have any luck singing him, but the Angels fared better after selecting him in the 9th round.  Kipper is a tall, lean (though not skinny) pitcher.  He has a very clean, fluid delivery without excess effort.  Jordan’s fastball is of the hard sinking variety, sitting 90-91.  As he fills out, some in the organization believe he could sit 93 regularly.  There’s also some question as to whether he’ll continue as a starter or move to relief.  But after last season, it appears the Angels best bet is to keep him in the rotation, despite a lack of a third pitch.  Kipper throws a decent slider.  It comes in around 83, with similar downward motion as his fastball, and he keeps it in the strike zone, which is particularly dangerous.  Kipper’s been messing with a change up or curve ball as a third pitch, but neither appear to be something he can use with any consistency at the top level yet.  Even if they develop into a “show me” pitch, Kipper could experience more success than he has so far.  The big thing for Jordan will be surviving AAA Salt Lake.  Kipper is a smart pitcher that pitches to contact, and generates a metric ton of weak grounders and pop ups in foul territory.  This works at the lower levels, and especially in AA. where hitters are more confident and will swing at a pitch, even if it results in a two-hopper to shortstop.  In the PCL, pitching to contact is a very dangerous game.  Those shallow flys turn into medium depth sac flys, and the medium depth flys will go into the gaps or over the fence.  The pop ups in foul territory will leave into the stands.  It’s pretty much the hardest place to succeed.  But because of Kipper’s heavy downward motion on both his fastball and slider, he shouldn’t be as affected by the environment.    What to expect next season: Kipper should be in AAA.  Currently, the Angels have a lot of pitching depth on the back end with Jesse Chavez, Alex Meyer, Nate Smith, Manny Banuelos, Troy Scribner, Vicente Campos and Kyle McGowin.  This means there’s the off chance that Kipper could find himself repeating AA after so thoroughly succeeding at that level.  I still expect to see Kipper in Salt Lake though, and if he does succeed there, we could see him in Anaheim soon.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2018, Kipper’s age 25 season.   Grade as a prospect: C: Projects to be a long reliever or back end starter. — #29 Prospect: Leo Rivas   Position(s): Shortstop, Second Base and Third Base   Level: Rookie Ball Age: Entering Age 19 season in 2017.   Height: 5’10”   Weight: 150 lb.      Present – Future    Hitting Ability        40    50 Power                      30    40 Base running         65    60 Patience                  70    70 Fielding                  60    65 Range                    60    60 Arm                        45    50 Overall                   45    55   Floor: A defensive specialist and pinch runner.  Ceiling: Starting second baseman.   Likely Outcome: A utility infielder and pinch runner.   Summary: Rivas didn’t exactly come out of nowhere as much as he came from relative obscurity.  He wasn’t signed as a 16 year old the way most Latin American prospects are, instead Leonardo had to wait until age 17, and even then he signed with the Angels, a team that’s only signing the players that other teams don’t want.  That’s what happens when you repeatedly have to rebuild your scouting staff and have restrictions due to the Baldoquin signing.  Still Rivas made a nice first impression at age 17, but last year he really took off. Before coming stateside midway through the season (an uncommon practice), Rivas was among the best hitters in the DSL.  Upon reaching stateside, he played in the Arizona Summer League, and again was pretty solid there.  He’s shown a knack for getting on base, being put in motion and being a sure handed fielder.  While he doesn’t have the arm to remain at shortstop at the major league level, he offers more than enough to be a solid candidate for second base or a third baseman like Chone Figgins.  Rivas isn’t a slap hitter like Ayendy Perez is, but he is a light-hitter.  Leo has a solid line drive approach and is more of a ground ball hitter.   What to expect next season: Coming into his age 19 season, I expect Rivas to play in the instructional leagues and at Orem.  If things go right, he may even make an appearance in Burlington.  So far, he’s proven capable at all three infield positions he plays, so I’d expect more of him moving around.  Inevitably, second base should be his home though.   Estimated Time of Arrival: 2021 – Leo’s age 24 season.   Grade as a prospect: C: Projects to be a utility infielder.   —   #30 Prospect: Sherman Johnson    Position(s): 2B, 1B, 3B, OF   Level: AAA      Age: Entering Age 26 season in 2017.   Height: 5’10”   Weight: 190 lb.   Present –  Future    Hitting Ability: 45 – 50 Power: 45 – 50 Baserunning: 55 – 55 Patience: 60 – 60 Fielding: 60 – 60 Arm: 50 – 50 Overall: 45 – 50   Floor: AAA Depth. Ceiling: Starting second baseman in the majors.   Likely Outcome: A utility infielder.   Summary: Sherman Johnson has generated a cult-like following among Angels fans and FanGraphs due to his reoccurring appearance in their “Fringe Five” articles, which detail five fringe major leaguers that could end up being better than expected.  Sherman is basically the prototype for this type of article because Sherman isn’t supposed to be this good.  As an under-sized high school graduate, Sherman had to work his way onto Florida State’s team, and even then he wasn’t supposed to be a star.  But then he was, and even then, he wasn’t supposed to be drafted, his skills just didn’t translate.  Except he was drafted in the mid-rounds by the Angels and his skills are translating.  So of course, the next step in this progression will be “he shouldn’t be a major leaguer, he isn’t good enough”, except he likely will be a major leaguer, precisely because Sherman Johnson is good enough.  Sherman Johnson wants it more than you and I, he wants it more than the guys standing next to him in the field.  As if the grit he’s shown weren’t enough, it should be noted that Sherman is regarded as a clubhouse leader for every team he’s played for.  He’s just a natural, someone that gets along with everyone, and can be counted on to remain level headed and do his job.   From a baseball-specific standpoint, Johnson is a left handed hitter with considerable strength for his frame.  He uses the whole field, but the majority of his homeruns come when he gets his hands inside of a fastball on the inner half.  He’s fast on the bases, but not overly fast.  His speed plays up because he’s such a smart, aggressive baserunner.  Johnson is a very good defensive second baseman, showing decent range with a “plus” glove and arm for the position.  As a third baseman, he grades out more as average.  His range is “plus” on that side of the field, but his arm grades out slightly  below average.  At shortstop, Johnson is simply good enough not to hurt you for a few games.  He isn’t necessarily a shortstop, but his tools and athleticism allow him to play the position.  Sherman has also recently added LF to his resume, and by most reports he’s passable there too.   What to expect next season: Johnson is typically old for each level, but one thing is undeniable, Sherman will adjust and conquer each level of the minors.  it may not be in his first go-around, but he’ll make it happen. For example, Sherman hit just .204 in his first stint in AA.  Last year in a 19 game stretch, he hit .369/.481 with 10 XBH and more BB than K’s.  He may have only hit .226 in AAA this past season, but it’s safe to assume that if he’s healthy, Sherman Johnson will likely prove worthy of promotion beyond AAA.  So I expect Sherman Johnson to play a few months in Salt Lake before receiving his first promotion shortly before the all-star break and another promotion in September.  Come 2018, Pennington’s spot at the utility infielder will be Johnson’s to have and to hold onto.   Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2017, Johnson’s age 26 season   Grade as a prospect: C: Projects to be a utility infielder.   Grades are given from the 20-80 scouting scale.  20-being non-existent ability, 80-being the best I’ve ever seen.  MLB average is 50. And now, our Honorable Mentions…. SS Connor Justus – A fine defensive shortstop with the tools to stay there permanently.  A refined approach at the plate.  The only question is, will he hit enough to make it to the majors?   LHP Kevin Grendell – A left handed reliever that can touch the mid-90’s and the mentality to attack hitters. OF Johan Sala – 18 year old outfielder from the Dominican Republic that just oozes upside.  He should come stateside next year. RHP Jose Rodriguez – Soft tossing righty with a solid curve and change up.  Spots his pitches well.  An efficient pitcher, gets the easy outs. RHP Jared Ruxer – Would have been a first or second round pick out of Louisville, but needed TJ surgery.  Back in action now.  Sits 92+ with a good breaking ball and advanced feel for a change up. Dominant in A Ball, roughed up in Cal League, though still logged strikeouts. 2B Jordan Zimmerman – 7th round pick from Michigan State.  A middle infielder with considerable power. RHP Troy Scribner – Soft tossing righty with a chip on his shoulder.  Upper 80’s to low 90’s fastball, good change up and good curve ball.  Has succeeded at every level despite an average arsenal.  Buried on the depth chart, but if he continues to out-pitch his competition, he’ll make it to the majors. Good trade for the Angels.
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Angels pitching and the case of Homer-itis

The Angels just completed the 3rd week of the 2017 season and the results have not been pretty. After starting the season 6-2, which included 2 miraculous comeback wins, the team has totally stalled out, going 2-10 in their last 12 games. Recently, the Angels offense has been the problem, struggling to receive any production beyond Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons and Yunel Escobar. To start the year, the starting pitching could barely get the team through the 5th inning and put up bad results in the process, although they’ve picked it up recently. One huge problem for the Angels that has been consistent so far, however, is the alarming rate the pitching staff is allowing home runs at. Both the bullpen and the starting rotation are responsible here, a disturbing trend for a team that is aspiring to compete in 2017. The Angels staff allowed 9 home runs in 7 games in the 1st week of the season. Week 2 saw the team allow 11 home runs in 6 games. Week 3 didn’t get any better, as the Angels allowed 11 home runs in 7 games, bringing the season total up to a MLB high 31 home runs in 20 games. This pace probably won’t keep up but right now, the Angels are on pace to allow 251 home runs across 162 games. The all time single season record for home runs allowed was set just last year by the Cincinnati Reds, who allowed an absurd 258 home runs. Through 20 games, the Angels are allowing home runs at a historic rate, posting a 1.57 HR/9. After allowing 208 home runs last year, maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising the team is allowing a lot of home runs again, especially with Garrett Richards, their toughest starting pitcher to square up, out for an extended period of time. There isn’t just one player to put the blame on for these home runs. It’s been a team wide issue. Ricky Nolasco is the main culprit with 7 home runs allowed in 22.1 innings. Matt Shoemaker hasn’t been much better with his 6 home runs allowed in 21.1 innings. Tyler Skaggs and Jesse Chavez have allowed 3 apiece, albeit their home run rate isn’t too outrageously bad. J.C. Ramirez, Mike Morin, Deolis Guerra, Brooks Pounders and Kirby Yates have allowed 2 apiece. Pounders allowed those home runs on Sunday in 1.1 innings of work and Yates allowed his 2 big flies on Saturday night in 1 inning of work. Yusmeiro Petit and Jose Alvarez have each allowed 1 home run. Garrett Richards, Andrew Bailey, Bud Norris, Daniel Wright, Alex Meyer, Blake Parker and Cam Bedrosian are the only 7 pitchers that have not allowed home runs this year. It’s no surprise that those 7 pitchers have combined to strike out 47 batters and walk 15 batters and post a 2.35 ERA in 46 innings pitched. Why are the Angels having these home run issues? Well, you can look no further than how many balls are being put in the air and how hard the Angels are throwing as a team. The Angels pitching staff as a whole is not doing a good job of keeping the ball on the ground, which is a huge culprit to the home run issues. Their 41.2% ground ball rate is the 6th lowest mark in baseball. Their 39.8% fly ball rate is the 3rd highest mark in baseball. The Angels pitching staff is averaging 92.1 mph on their fastballs, which is the 7th lowest velocity among pitching staffs. Those same fastballs have a -13.6 wFB(Weighted Fastball Runs), which is the 3rd worst mark in baseball. In this day and age, fastball velocity(or spin rate) is necessary to miss bats and not allow hard contact. From what we have seen, the Angels pitching staff isn’t throwing hard enough and keeping the ball down enough to avoid serious damage when the ball is put in the air. Here’s some good news: The Angels are allowing home runs but they’re missing plenty of bats, ranking 10th in strikeout percentage(22.5%) among all MLB teams. They’re not walking many batters either, posting the 5th lowest walk rate so far(7.5%). As a result, the Angels pitching staff as a whole has a 3.89 xFIP, which ranks middle of the pack at 14th. Last year, the Angels had the league’s lowest strikeout rate at 18.6% and were middle of the pack with a 8.1 walk%. If there’s any bit of hope with this Angels pitching staff, you can at least squint and see the potential for an average pitching staff if they can mitigate these home runs problems moving forward. The other good news is Ricky Nolasco and Matt Shoemaker won’t have a combined 2.68 HR/9 rate the rest of their season, albeit they’ll still allow more home runs than most pitchers. A 15.6 HR/FB% probably won’t keep up either, which is the 3rd highest mark in the league, but that’s partially a byproduct of allowing so many home runs. Hopefully, the Angels can just experience some regression towards the mean(mathematical term for not being so unlucky) and see their home run rate drop a bit. Home runs can be fickle sometimes, in regards to predicting them moving forward, and we are only looking at a 20 game sample of a 162 game season. The other aspect of this that isn’t encouraging for the Angels is when you include context for these home run totals. The Angels play at a very friendly home ballpark(8th lowest Runs/Park Factor in 2016, 2nd lowest in 2015, 5th lowest in 2014), which means the team should hypothetically have an advantage with keeping the ball in the yard so far. The Angels haven’t gotten that message as they’ve allowed 16 of their 31 home runs in 9 games at home this year. They’ve allowed 15 home runs on the road in 11 games, coming in more pitcher friendly parks such as the Oakland Coliseum and Kaufmann Stadium and the not so pitcher friendly Minute Maid Park. The Angels have had huge home run issues and only 4 of the first 20 games, or 20% of their games, have taken place in a bandbox ballpark geared for high offense. The other scary aspect of including context is acknowledging that home runs generally increase as the year moves along, due to the weather getting warmer and helping more fly balls leave the yard. If the Angels don’t get a hold of these home runs issues, the warm summer games could have the Angels allowing home runs at an even higher rate. The Angels pitching has not been good, which shouldn’t surprise too many people. Injuries have played a part early but it was very predictable to see this Angels staff struggle some this year. The way they have struggled so far, however, has been a bit surprising. The Angels are missing bats and not walking many batters but they are allowing home runs at an enormous rate. One could be optimistic and say the Angels could have a good staff, or even an average staff, if the home runs start to come down. Regression to the mean is the more likely future scenario, however, so think less strikeouts, less home runs and more walks going forward. The home run rate will likely come down but will it come at the expense of walking more batters in the process? It’s very unlikely the Angels will allow 250 or so home runs in 2017 but the early signs for the Angels pitching staff aren’t good. For the Angels to be competitive this year, they need to start keeping the baseball in the yard or the team will likely be selling in July and many pitchers will be tweaking their necks after watching so many balls leave the yard.

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Simba’s roaring offensive start: Is it real?

Here’s your first warning and disclaimer that the 2017 MLB season is not even a month old so proceed with caution with these small sample sizes(SSS). With that out of the way, there’s one Angels player who is showing an encouraging trend early: Andrelton Simmons. Yes, his defense has been superb so far as it’s always been but that’s not the only area where Simmons is excelling. He’s doing some excellent work at the plate that might not just be random noise. Through 63 plate appearances, Andrelton Simmons has a .286/.365/.411 line, which is good for a healthy 131 wRC+ that is well above his career 86 wRC+. On Tuesday night in Houston, Simmons hit a 361 foot home run on a ball scalded at a 97 mph exit velocity. This home run in particular was special because it represented the 1st opposite field home run of his career, occurring after 36 home runs to start his career that were hit to left field or center but nothing the other way. His .411 slugging percentage and .125 ISO he’s putting up this season aren’t elite power numbers but they represent huge improvements over his career marks(.364 OBP and .103 ISO). To get a clearer idea if this production is real or not, it’s always smart to look at a players’ batted ball profile, viewing his ground ball rates and fly ball rates. Through 16 games, Simmons is posting career high marks in line drive rate(22.9%), opposite field hit rate(33.3%) and hard hit rate(33.3%). He’s posting a career low soft hit rate(16.7%) and his ground ball rate(50%) is the 2nd lowest figure of his career. Another big development for Simmons: He’s making harder contact by whopping standards. Last season, the Angels shortstop had a 86.4 mph average exit velocity, which was below league average. So far in 2017, Simmons is at 89.76, more than 3 mph better than 2016. As a result, Simmons is posting a .304 BABIP, well above his .275 career mark, and in this case, you can’t just discount it and assume that will regress. Again, we are talking about a grand total of 16 games but when you’re making harder contact, hitting more line drives and using the whole field more, it’s hard to not take notice. The improved batted ball numbers and the authority Simmons is hitting the baseball with isn’t the only noticeable trend. Simmons is walking way more than he ever has while also striking out more. For a player with this profile(career 6.2 BB% and 9.0 K%), the trade off to get on base more while striking out a bit more seems like an obvious positive move. Through 63 plate appearances, Simmons has walked 7 times while striking out 8 times, translating to a 11.1 BB% and 12.7 K%. Not only is that walk percentage a huge improvement but even the increase in strikeouts has Simmons well below the league average strikeout rate. With the 3 true outcomes(home runs, walks, strikeouts) becoming more popular at the plate, it looks like that epidemic has affected Simmons to start the season. More power and more walks are almost always a good thing, even with a few more strikeouts and it has created a well above average hitting Andrelton Simmons to start the year. The numbers are always a good place to start when viewing a player’s changes in his offensive profile but video evidence is another route to go. First, a video of a home run in the 1st week of the 2017 season, followed by a home run hit last September. A few things stand out immediately. In 2016, Simmons is hunched down a bit more, stands closer to home plate and his hands are lower and not in an optimal position to create a better bath path geared towards hitting the ball harder. Simmons 2016 stanceIn 2017, Simmons is more upright(see, Mike Trout progression from 2011 to now), he’s a bit further from home plate and his hands are in a more optimal position for hard contact. Simmons 2017 stanceIn many cases for players who improve in the power department, the first place they resort to is their hands. Simmons, based on the video, creates a steeper launch angle with his hands, dropping them during the transition from the load to the point of contact, which creates more upward plane to hitting the baseball. Compare that to 2016 when Simmons hands basically go from Point A(loading hands) to Point B(making contact). The 2016 swing matches up with the numbers, which looks more designed to just make contact with the baseball with a quick, choppy swing but saps some potential power. Simmons 2016 point of contactIn 2017, Simmons is creating more angle with his bat path, which leads to more authoritative contact but can lead to some more swings and misses. The results so far are promising for Simmons, who seems to be tapping into his raw power a bit more this season. 2017 Simmons point of contactAt age 27, Andrelton Simmons seems like he’s destined for a potential career year or may potentially set a higher bar at the plate. As discussed above, we are dealing with a short sample here but many of these statistics(specifically fly ball, ground ball, line drive and walk rates) tend to stabilize pretty quickly. Based on the swing changes we have seen so far, it’s possible that Simmons can be a league average bat, or potentially better, moving forward.  With elite level defense, Simmons is a borderline superstar with that type of bat. With 4 years remaining on his deal, the Angels could be getting some serious production until 2020. It’s early but the first look at the 2017 Andrelton Simmons is an encouraging one.

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There’s a lot riding on Alex Meyer

Baseball is already a hard enough game without all the pressure that comes along with it.  And fair or not, there seems to be a ton on Alex Meyer and the Angels right now.  First we need to understand that the team is currently in a tailspin, and it’s awfully early to be crashing and burning.  Oddly enough, it has very little to do with what most skeptics thought, pitching.  Sure, the starting pitchers scuffled to start the year, but the bullpen more than made up for this deficit and the offense clawed it’s way back into games. No, this time it’s the offense.  As simple as I can possibly put it, the Angels offense is Mike Trout and not a whole lot else.  There’s no one on in front of him, our corner outfielders aren’t hitting, neither is Pujols or C.J. Cron.  They’re sputtering big time.  And now that the starting rotation is starting to get it together, they’ll need the offense to perform. But this recent performance from the Angels starting rotation is unlikely to last.  History tells us that Skaggs, Shoemaker, Nolasco and Chavez are all best suited as #4/5 starters.  The Angels need an ace.  Someone they can depend on to get this team back on track when it’s down.  That was supposed to be Garrett Richards, who has all the talent to be that guy for the Angels.  But he’s on the shelf with some sort of bicep weakness and has no timetable for his return. Enter Alex Meyer.  Other than the fact that he throws hard and is a former top prospect, there’s nothing to suggest that Alex Meyer can be that guy for the Angels.  He’s been hurt frequently, he’s unproven in the majors, scouts think he profiles better as a reliever, and is just now learning a completely new delivery.  Not the best circumstances.  Not by a long shot.  But Meyer is the only pitcher with the upside to be that guy they can count on to stop the skid on a consistent basis. It all starts with his arsenal.  Fastball that sits 96-98 and moves.  When he spots it on the inner and outer half and keeps it low, he can generate a lot of swings and misses and weak contact.  Then there’s the slider, the one he’s better at throwing for a strike than his fastball.  It’s definitely a swing and miss offering, especially when they don’t know it’s coming.  And finally there’s the change up.  Meyer has always had a better than advertised change up, he just never used it effectively in the minors and always struggled locating it.  If he does, it becomes a third weapon. Then there’s the future to think about.  Right now, it’s just a spot start, because J.C. Ramirez is holding his own in the rotation.  He’s a much better weapon in relief, where he can shorten games by two innings at a time, and his presence in the rotation puts the bullpen at a disadvantage.  But if Meyer shows what he’s capable of, the Angels might find themselves in a good spot to win some games with Meyer in the rotation.  Furthermore, the better Meyer does, the less Daniel Wright we’ll see, which works out to everyone’s advantage. And in the unlikely event that Richards returns soon and is in ace form, a Richards-Meyer duo could suddenly give the Angels just what they need. Yes, it’s a long shot.  Yes, it’s only a spot start.  Yes, there’s no reason to believe Meyer is any of the things I say he can be.  But for Meyer’s sake, and the Angels sake, he might just need to be.

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66ers stay hot with 4th straight win

The Inland Empire 66ers won their 4th straight ballgame Tuesday night at home vs the Lake Elsinore Storm, pulling off the extra innings win in the 11th inning. With the go ahead run standing at 3rd base in a 2-2 tie, 66ers center fielder Jared Foster lofted a blooper into right field, scoring the winning run and securing another big win. After winning in extra innings on Saturday in Visalia, the 66ers used a 6 run 8th inning Monday night to pull off another big win, then won once again in extras on Tuesday. The game, however, could’ve ended 2 innings earlier but the Storm offense received a huge hit from one of their big boppers. The 66ers were 1 out away from shutting out the Storm but Padres prospect Josh Naylor hit an absolute moonshot off the scoreboard in right field, tying it up in the 9th inning. Sam Holland, trying to preserve a 1-0 win, left a sinking fastball over the plate and Naylor hit a no doubt shot to keep the game alive. The 2 sides exchanged runs in the 10th inning, sending the game to the 11th inning in a 2-2 tie, which then led to the walk off winner from Jared Foster. Grayson Long, the #11 Angels prospect on, started the game for the 66ers and had a solid outing after allowing 12 hits and 8 runs in his 1st 2 starts, although his 3.43 FIP across those 2 starts painted a rosier picture. On Tuesday night, Long utilized a heavy fastball approach from his big 6’5″ 230 lb frame, using that 89-93 mph fastball 62.5% of the time and generating 5 strikeouts from that pitch, often times featuring some late cutting action. Early on, he used a fringe-average change up that settled in the 84-86 mph range. The pitch lacks the movement and late action to be a bat missing offering but it offers just enough separation from the fastball and he has good arm action to make it a useful pitch. The big pitch for him later on in his outing was an above average slider that features more vertical movement than a prototypical slider. The 79-83 mph pitch features slurve like action and Long utilized that pitch against righties for the most part as a put away pitch(2 strikeouts) but used it a few times vs left handed hitters too. Long looks the part of a durable, innings eating #5 starter and while he won’t be a flashy prospect for many, he has enough to offer to either be an up and down arm, or potentially stick as a #5 starter in the big leagues. The 66ers offense pounded out 13 hits but 12 of them came in the singles department, as Michael Barash had the only extra base hit with a double in the 6th inning. Zach Gibbons had a 3 hit night, including the go ahead run scoring single in the 7th inning and scoring the game winning run in the 11th inning. Jared Foster had a 3 hit night as well, including the game winning hit in the 11th, although the 1st hit was arguably an error and the game winning hit was more or less a well placed hit. Matt Thaiss looked comfortable at the plate, singling once and walking 2 times, watching a lot of pitches in the process. He continues to show that he has an advanced approach at the plate, watching a lot of close pitches for balls and making contact with his pitches, although it hasn’t showed up in the season stat line yet. Garrett Nuss came in and tossed 2 shutout innings following Grayson Long, flashing an above average low 80’s curveball and fringe fastball, striking out 2 hitters and allowing 1 baserunner via a Michael Gettys single. Conor Lillis-White came in to pitch the 8th inning, going 1-2-3 and only used 8 pitches to do so. Sam Holland and his sidewinding ways came in try to close the 9th but struggled a little in his 2 innings of work. He struck out 3 batters but allowed the game tying home run in the 9th and allowed the go ahead run in the 10th inning. Jeremy Rhoades worked his magic in the 11th inning, loading the bases with no outs but managed to escape the inning without any damage done. With the win, the 66ers moved into a tie for 1st place in the California South League division with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Here are some pre game quotes from various 66ers players and post game quotes from manager Chad Tracy. Chad Tracy On their 4 game winning streak: “First and foremost, our pitching is doing an incredible job. Our starting pitchers are starting to pitch deep into the game, into the 6th inning and beyond, as well as the 5th inning tonight with Grayson (Long). Our bullpen has been lights out for the last 4 days or so. That’s where it starts. We’re also doing really good things offensively late in the games. I actually thought we swung the bats a lot better tonight. We had an opportunity to be winning that game 3 or 4 to nothing late in the game. We just have to do a better job of getting men in from 3rd base with less than 2 outs. But we’re not quitting and we’re taking really good at bats in big spots. That’s basically been the formula for the last 4 games. On Grayson Long’s performance Tuesday: “He looked great. He’s coming off of 2 rough ones. He made a couple of adjustments with Wuertz(pitching coach) over his side sessions in the middle of his week, trying to speed up his delivery a little bit. You could see the difference tonight. There wasn’t much life on everything he threw last outing. Tonight, he had life on the fastball and was getting swings and misses with it. He threw a lot of strikes. He was around the strike zone and worked ahead in the count. It was a big step forward for him.” On Jaime Barria’s performance so far this year: “For a kid that’s just 20 years old, it’s not even the 16 scoreless innings or whatever he threw to start the year off, it’s the composure that he shows. He never seems fazed. His demeanor never changes on the mound. He’s got a boatload of confidence. He feels like he can pitch out of anything. To see him attack the strike zone at his age in this league, he’s just getting after it and doing great.” RHP Adam Hofacket  On being a local kid playing for the Inland Empire 66ers and in the Angels organization: “It’s definitely fun. I have a lot of family come out. My mom and dad, my brother and sister, they come out to the games. A lot of my close friends come out, some who go to Cal State San Bernardino, they all come out and watch games. They’re here like every night. Monday, Tuesday, whatever night it is, they come out. It’s always good to have that kind of support. Living at home, saving some money, that’s also really nice.” On growing up as an Angels fan: “Always grew up as an Angels fan since I was really little. I was never any other fan other than an Angels fan. It was really cool being drafted by the Angels and playing here. I’ve been to so many Angels games and all that stuff. I also grew up going to Lake Elsinore games too but never came out here(Inland Empire) very much, since Lake Elsinore was a lot closer to home.” On making any changes for the 2017 season: “My biggest thing was wanting to keep the ball down. Attacking the zone. That’s always been my biggest thing. As long as I’m keeping the ball down, I’m good to go. If my ball is up, my stuff kind of flattens out. I’m not a high spin rate guy. I’m more of a sinker guy who gets the ball down. I get a lot of ground balls, not a lot of strikeouts but I get a lot of ground balls and have quick innings, getting the defense back to hitting.” On his interest in advanced stats and technology like Statcast: “I’m not big on spin rate and all of that. I’m more old school I guess, you know going in there and getting early contact, putting guys away pretty quickly.” On his best pitch and the pitch he wants to improve: “My best pitch right now is probably the curveball. That’s my best swing and miss pitch. If I want to strike out a guy, I’ll go with that. The pitch I need to work on the most is the change up. I actually threw a lot of change ups in Visalia(last series) and I got some broken bats with that so that was huge. I kind of lost that pitch from college. I actually had a really good change up in college and I lost it.” On what would make this season a success: “Getting promoted would obviously be a bonus but it’s geared more towards day to day things, outing to outing. Getting quick outs, attacking the zone, being efficient, everything like that. It will all work out in the end.” Favorite player growing up and favorite current player: “Growing up, I loved Vladimir Guerrero. He was the man. Right now, oh man that’s tough. It’s different having a favorite player now while playing pro ball. I like the way that (Madison) Bumgarner competes, for sure. I’m a big competitor too.” On his time at big league camp: “It was cool. You know, going up there and throwing a couple of innings here and there. It was really cool, just being immersed in that kind of atmosphere. It’s really, really exciting. It boosts your confidence. Coming into the season, it definitely helps you throw well. A lot of the bullpen guys were really helpful, just sitting in the bullpen the whole game. We just talked about situational things and what the pitchers did to work their way up. (Cam) Bedrosian was really cool, I had a lot of talks with him.” OF Jared Foster On how his season is going: ‘Things have been a bit slow so far but I feel like things are picking up. Today might even be the day that I get back on track and getting it going again. You never know.” On his 1st big league camp: “It was cool. It was nice getting up there. I got some experience and got in some games so it was fun.” On being a 2 sport athlete in college and how it benefitted him: “Growing up, I played everything I could play. That’s what I suggest for anybody to do, play as many sports as you can. You know there’s so many opportunities and chances to get. If you’re good, then it will make you a better baseball player in the end.” On his growth from 2015 to 2016: “I worked on a lot of different stuff at the plate. Just using the whole field. I was mainly a pull hitter. Getting used to a full season and getting that under your belt. Being comfortable up there is the main thing. Once you’re getting comfortable up there, you let the game come to you and understand it’s a process. Just go from there.” On what would make this season a success: “It’s always nice to get promoted but you gotta stay where you are and where you’re playing at the moment. Get better every day, improve on the little things they want you to improve on. Making it to the next level would be nice but if you don’t, just get better every day and do what you need to do.” OF Brendon Sanger On how his current start to the season: “I’m struggling at the plate a little bit. Pretty much my entire career, I start slow. It’s just asking myself what I can do to snap out of it. I’m on the right track. I made a few adjustments in BP today.” On his advanced approach at the plate: “I could always see the ball pretty well. It’s always been about trying to find consistent barrels at the plate. It’s obviously a struggle I’ve had early on in this season. I take pride in my walks. I like to have the 1:1 if I possibly can, trying to have as many or more walks than strikeouts. It’s kind of something I’ve tried to do my whole career.” On utilizing launch angle, exit velocities, etc: “I honestly had never heard of launch angle until (Josh) Donaldson came on and talked about it. It had never been a part of my game. I’ve always just tried to go out there and put up the best swings I possibly can and whatever happens with that happens. Launch angles are definitely starting to be a bigger part of the game. It’s something I might look into but it’s not something I’ve looked into yet.” On what would make this season a success: “I feel like if I play the game the way I’m capable of, hit doubles, drive in some runs, play the game hard, it will be a success for me. Whatever happens with going up a level, staying here, as long as I’m playing my game to the full potential, that’s a successful year for me.” On facing pitchers, like Cal Quantrill or Walker Buehler, who are advanced pitchers for their age: “I think you gotta have success early. If you try to wait for that perfect pitch, that’s when those guys get more comfortable. They’ll start painting the outside corner or start doing things that got them drafted high in the first place. You can take pitches if you want, but if you try to get to them early, that’s when you’ll be more successful.” On his favorite players growing up: “My favorite player was Cal Ripken Jr. I grew up near Baltimore and always watched him as a little kid. I like that he played the game the right way. He played the 2,000 plus consecutive games. That’s pretty tough to do. Just like the wear and tear of baseball and playing that many games is cool. He’s a guy I liked to watch because he did things the right way.”

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Los Angeles Angels Prospect Hotlist (Games through 4/16/17)

1. Kaleb Cowart (3B) – The Angels top 3B prospect has filled up the stat sheet over his first 11 games of 2017 minor league season posting an impressive .341/.438/.537 slash line to go along with a league leading 5 stolen bases. Cowart has also walked seven times already and has clubbed a couple bombs. 2. Michael Hermosillo (CF) – The only thing Hermosillo hasn’t done yet is hit a home run, though he’s clubbed 4 doubles across 9 games. The Angels outfield prospect was impressive slashing .395/.489/.500 while tieing Cowart for the org’s lead in stolen bases with 5. 3. Luis Diaz (RHP) – The former prospect from San Diego and Boston has shined through two starts in Double-A and has yet to be scored up through 12 innings. Diaz has fanned 15 batters across 12 IP, giving up 4 hits and 4 walks. 4. Jordan Zimmerman (2B) – J-Zim boasts a 1.023 OPS through 9 games, while hitting .364. The Angels second base prospect has walked as many times as he’s K’d (3/3) and has clubbed 4 double, a triple and home run thus far. 5. Jaime Barria (RHP) – Like Diaz, Barria has yet to give up an earned run through two starts over 10 innings of work. The Angels #14 prospect has fanned 10 batters and walked four. 6. Jake Jewel (RHP) – The Jewel of the Angels top pitching prospects, Jake has given up just 1 ER through 11 innings of work, while fanning 12 and issuing just two walks. 7. Jonah Wesley (LHP) – The hard throwing southpaw had a tremendous opening to the minor league season, throwing up zeroes across 6 1/3 innings of relief work, while whiffing 9, giving up just 1 hit. Wesley is someone who may move quickly through the system and could be a solid left-handed relief arm out of the bullpen for the Angels in the near future. 8. Ramon Flores (OF) – The former Brewers prospect was picked up by the Angels to add outfield depth in the off-season and he’s come out swinging to start the season. Flores has slashed .400/.500/.520 over seven games, while posting a solid 5:6 walk-to-strikeout rate. Flores could be an option in left field if one of Revere/Maybin fail to deliver in 2017. 9. Troy Scribner (RHP) – Scribner made his 2017 debut last week and it was a good one. Troy pitched 5-scoreless innings, fanning seven, while walking two. The righthander is coming off a solid 2016 campaign where he went 12-5 with a 3.41 ERA over 132 innings. 10. Eduardo Paredes (RHP) – The flame throwing relief pitcher has two holds already on the young season, while posting a solid 1.35 ERA, whiffing 8 over 6 2/3 innings. Bonus: Alex Blackford (RHP) – After a solid ’16 season where Blackford posted a 3.07 ERA over a full season in Double-A, with an impressive .189 BAA, Blackford has started a game in both Double-A and Triple-A on the young season. In Blackford’s Triple-A debut last week he notched a quality start, going 6 innings while allowing just two runs. Blackford currently has a 3.09 ERA and looks to build off his last start in the PCL. Just missed the list: Joey Gatto, Roberto Baldoquin, Jeyson Sanchez, Osmer Morales, Zach Gibbons. The not so hot list: Matt Thaiss (1B) – .189/.297/.318 through 9 games. 1 HR, 2 SB. Jahmai Jones (CF) – .200/.222/.371 through 8 games. 3 SB and 2 HR. Kenyan Middleton (RHP) – 6.75 ERA through over 5 1/3 innings, giving up 7 hits, while fanning just three. Grayson Long (RHP) – 7.71 ERA over two starts. 12 Hits allowed over 7 IP, though he fanned seven batters.

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