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Entries in this blog’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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Four More Moves The Los Angeles Angels Need to Make: 2018 Midseason Edition

By Tres Hefter, Contributor Piggybacking off this thread from the winter…with so many threads jumping up each day on different bullpen trade ideas, I thought it might be a good time to create one centralized “What would you do?” thread for all to post their ideas in. We’re still 6 weeks out from the trade deadline, but signs point to an earlier than usual trade market developing this year, and the Angels certainly are in a position where they may need to move sooner rather than later to stay in the race. Needs and costs will obviously change over the next month and a half, but we’re probably at a point where we can generalize these ideas enough to come close to the mark. Here’s my ideas… 1) Acquire a controllable SP // Angels trade LHP Jose Suarez, OF Michael Hermosillo, and IF Leonardo Rivas to Miami for RHP Jose Urena The Angels receive Urena (2-8, 4.18 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 1.16 WHIP) immediately steps into the back of the Angels rotation and offers stability with significant upside at a great value, as he’s making league-minimum and is under control through 2021. His presence allows the Angels to utilize Tropeano and Pena as additional bullpen depth, and he helps fill a 2019 rotation void if Richards leaves via FA. The Marlins receive an MLB-ready SP prospect in Suarez who would have been titled an Angels’ rotation too far left, an OF prospect they can play everyday instead of Shuck and Maybin, and a promising potential lead-off hitter and IF prospect in Rivas. Expansion Idea: The Angels add OF Brandon Marsh (and perhaps RHP Cam Bedrosian) to the deal, and receive either RHP Kyle Barraclough (1.11 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 0.77 WHIP, 9.5 K/9) or RHP Drew Streckenrider (3.55 ERA, 3.01 FIP, 1.24 WHIP, 10.9 K/9) as well, replacing the #2 trade on my list. Comparable Targets: Dylan Bundy (BAL), Jake Junis (KCR), Aaron Sanchez (TOR), Zack Wheeler (NYM), or Jameson Taillon (PIT) with Marsh added into the deal. 2) Acquire a controllable RP // Angels trade RHP Joe Gatto, RHP Jesus Castillo, and RHP Cam Bedrosian to Toronto for RHP Ryan Tepera The Angels acquire a steady reliever in Tepera (2.75 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 1.17 WHIP, 9.5 K/9) who comes under control through 2021 and cheaply, on the verge of entering arbitration. The Blues Jays receive a change of scenery project in the option-less Bedrosian who is squeezed out of the ‘win-now’ Angels pen, as well as 12 years of control of projectable arms who should see MLB innings in Gatto and Castillo who are a little less crucial after the acquisition of Urena and growth of Canning, Barria, Pena, and Jose Rodriguez, as well as the ’18 draft class. Comparable Targets: Adam Cimber, Kirby Yates (SDP), Mychal Givens (BAL), Ryan Stanek, Jose Alvarado, Chaz Roe, Matt Andriese (TBR), Jared Hughes (CIN), Tony Barnette (TEX), Bruce Rondon, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno (CWS), Sam Freeman, Jesse Biddle, Dan Winkler (ATL), Alex Wilson, Shane Greene, Louis Coleman (DET), Kevin McCarthy (KCR) 3) Acquire another RP, either a pending FA or expensive vet // Angels trade RHP Cole Duensing and OF Nonie Williams to Chicago for RHP Joakim Soria The Angels add another layer of depth to the pen, absorbing a few million in salary for veteran presence and potentially declining talent. Soria (3.00 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, 10 K/9) provides an option with closer experience. The White Sox receive salary relief, but also two once-heralded prospects who have failed to achieve any real results, but still have time on their side. Comparable Targets: Darren O’Day (BAL), Tyler Clippard (TOR), Bud Norris (STL), David Hernandez (CIN), Yusmeiro Petit (OAK), Anthony Swarzak (NYM), Trevor Cahill (OAK), any of the names mentioned in #2 4) DFA Luis Valbuena…and maybe Jefry Marte. Luis, I’ve been one of your strongest supporters, but you haven’t been able to find a rhythm this year and the future is nigh. Cut bait and send him packing, maybe he gets warm enough Eppler is able to replicate a Cron for Rengifo or David Hernandez for Luis Madero heist. Jose Fernandez replace Luis, and while he won’t match the power numbers, he’ll be a far steadier and balanced offensive player, costing pennies and able to play additional positions. If Marte returns and also fails to produce, he too finds an end to his Angel days, replaced by Fletcher, Cowart, or even Thaiss or Ward. …and, cheating a bit by throwing a hypothetical fifth move (or first post-midseason move?) one post-deadline August trade possibility: 5) Acquire Adam Jones or Andrew McCutchen
Either would handle 4th OF/RF during a stretch run or playoff series, should Calhoun, Young, and Blash fail to ever amount to anything. Their salaries and age are high enough that it likely wouldn’t cost much more than one or two of names like, at most, Jewell, Pena, Rodriguez, Barash, Lund, Walsh, Houchins. Resulting roster: 
SP: Likely Richards, Skaggs, Heaney, Barria, Urena, with Lamb, Felix Pena, Luis Pena, Miguel Almonte, and Canning as depth, and Ohtani, Trop, Shoemaker on DL and possible to return. RP: Soria, Parker, Tepera, Anderson, Alvarez, Noe Ramirez with above SPs, Jewell, Paredes, Morris as depth and Johnson on DL.
Line-up: Remains the same.
Bench: Fernandez IF, Briceno/Rivera C, Marte/Fletcher/Ward/Thaiss/Cowart IF, and Chris and Eric Young/Liriano/Blash/Revere as 4th OF options New Top 30 Prospects:
Adell, Canning, Marsh, Jones, Thaiss, Ward, Maitan, Jordyn Adams, Rengifo, Jeremiah Jackson, C. Rodriguez, Soriano, Lund, Rivera, Deveaux, Hunter Jr., Pena, Knowles, J. Rodriguez, Soto, Walsh, Gibbons, Bradish, Hernandez, Yan, English, Uceta, O. Martinez, A. Ramirez*, Bonilla* Graduates: Barria, Fletcher, Jewell, Paredes Departures: Suarez, Hermosillo, Rivas, Gatto, Castillo, Duensing, Nonie Williams I tried to make moves that took advantage of our farm, without eating into our best prospects, and still securing MLB-ready players who would help for the long-term without breaking payroll. It also sets up the team well enough to still conceivably push for the playoffs now, but definitely doesn’t boost our chances significantly.
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How Tyler Skaggs has emerged to be the Angels ace

By Steve Zavala, Columnist When the season began, the Angels starting rotation was much of an unknown filled with questions and concerns. Andrew Heaney, Garrett Richards and Nick Tropeano were all coming off three straight injury-riddled seasons. Prized prospect Shohei Ohtani was coming over from Japan with high expectations. Alex Meyer and J.C Ramirez hurt the Angels depth early on with season-ending injuries. The team had several promising pitching prospects in the minors but did not have a set timeline as to when they would be ready for a call-up to the majors. And most importantly, the team has been waiting for a pitcher to step up and finally have an All-Star caliber season to lead the rotation. In the midst of it all, the starting rotation has overachieved expectations as they have been led by the emergence of a new ace, Tyler Skaggs. The 26-year-old left-hander is currently having a breakout, near All-Star type season and by far the best year of his career. Skaggs is currently on pace to set career highs in ERA, innings pitched, and strikeouts while also sporting an impressive 2.3 WAR– which is higher than his first five seasons combined (0.8). His eight quality starts this season has already tied a career from that of his 2014 season but he has done it in three fewer starts so far. Skaggs is most notably impressing with his 2.69 ERA, which leads all Angels starters and currently ranks 9th among qualified AL starters. June has arguably been his most impressive month. Among qualified AL starting pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched, Skaggs leads all starters with an outstanding 0.67 ERA in June.   Now while ERA does not paint the entire picture as to why a pitcher is having major success or is struggling, Skaggs has in large part been able to successfully minimize damage when in trouble and finish with a quality start. While Skaggs has allowed a mediocre .246 opponents batting average (BAA), he has been fair in allowing a .226 average with runners in scoring position (RISP) and an overall .199 average with men on base. This can be credited also to his success against lefties as he has held them to a .178 average. Seeing a pitcher be able to take command of a situation when in trouble such as when the opposing team has RISP is like a breath of fresh air for Angels fans. The fan base has had to endure seasons with starting pitchers who struggled mightily to escape RISP situations such as with Joe Blanton, Ricky Nolasco and C.J Wilson. Skaggs has delivered the most when needed by the Angels, whether it has been to end a losing streak or to clinch a pivotal series win. Over the course of the first half of the season, Skaggs has earned the trust of Angels manager Mike Scioscia to go deeper into games and fight his way through difficult innings. From his seven scoreless innings performance against the Astros in April to his latest start which saw him go seven scoreless against the Royals, Skaggs has been the workhorse pitcher that the Angeles desperately needed this season. Now when digging deep to examine his pitch arsenal, he uses four pitches: four seam fastball, curveball, changeup and sinker. None of his four main pitches are a nasty, lights out pitch that can fool batters time after time even when the opponent has an idea of which pitch to expect. Instead, Skaggs has been effective with his command and aggressive when ahead of the count. Starting with his four seam fastball, the pitch has undergone gradual improvement over the years. His fastball is not an Aroldis Chapman type that would light up the radar gun or a Max Scherzer type with excellent command in the high 90s. Instead, it ranges in the low 90s with an average speed of 92 mph. It is not outstanding like Scherzer’s or atrocious like Jered Weaver late in his career but at the end of the day, it is effective. Skaggs utilizes his fastball 41% of the time, most of any pitch. Last season in 16 starts, opponents were hitting .290 off of his fastball but in comparison to this season, opponents are hitting .235. Also last season, he recorded a .303 on batting average on balls in play (BABIP) while having a .295 BABIP this season. As alluded to before, it is not great nor atrocious but it gets the job done. One trait about his fastball is that he is beginning to throw it high out of the zone. This is preferable for Skaggs especially when he is ahead in the count and looking to fool a batter. As seen in this pitch, Skaggs goes for the high 92 mph fastball to strike out Jake Marisnick. Onto his curveball, the pitch has become one that Skaggs is relying on more but has not had consistent results with it. Last season, he threw the curve 432 times in 113 plate appearances while recording a .208 BAA. This season, he has thrown the curve 455 times in 116 plate appearances but opponents are hitting .264 against it. The .264 BAA is not something to worry about but rather a pitch that could need vast improvement, especially down in the zone. When used effectively and with control in the zone, it could be his biggest strength pitch. A 75 mph curve, which he has recorded 40% of his strikeouts with, can be his nasty pitch if developed well. Skaggs’ curveball has a good, late drop as seen in his last start against the Royals with his 6th inning strikeout of Salvador Perez. Skaggs’ 84 mph changeup, his 3rd main pitch, has also undergone a positive transformation with superb direction and movement. Opponents are hitting .180 against the pitch. He has also doubled the SwSTR%, swings and misses percentage, up to 14.8%. To an extent, his changeup success can be credited to playing behind an outstanding Angels defense as the pitch has a .207 BABIP. With his 4th and final pitch, Skaggs’ 91 mph sinker is far from what he had hoped it would deliver this season as opponents are hitting .300 against it. He has recorded just three strikeouts from it with a 40.2 Swing%. If he can get the sinker to suddenly become a reliable one that can be used as a strikeout pitch, it would only give him more flexibility and options to finish off a batter. Even with his success this season, there is still room for improvement. His fastball and changeup are two pitches that he has had promising success with when located in the zone but he must still work to perfect his sinker and curveball. At this stage in his career, Skaggs is a work in progress but there is promise in his pitch arsenal. The Angels are finally starting to see Skaggs’ potential as a starter but at this rate, the best is yet to come. Skaggs is one of the bright spots on an unbalanced Angels team that is currently on a rough patch over the past month. If the team begins to pick it up with the offense producing up to their capabilities and bullpen suddenly becoming a reliable force, then Skaggs could very well be leading the pitching staff into a tightly contested playoff race. Among others, the Angels hope that Skaggs performances over the past three months are not a one-hit wonder but rather the beginning of a new chapter as the Angels prominent ace.
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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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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.


2017 Trade Deadline Series: Bud Norris

2015-2017 Split vs. LHH as of June 20, 2017 2015-2017 Split vs. RHH as of June 20, 2017 We started the Trade Deadline Series with Cameron Maybin because he probably has the most overall value in trade out of all of the players with less than one year of control but right-handed reliever Bud Norris is not too far behind him in the market. Bud has taken to the closer role quite well once Street and Bedrosian hit the disabled list. Not only is his fastball velocity sitting in the mid-90’s but he is complimenting that pitch with a quality cut fastball and slider. The four-seam fastball has been a weakness against both RHH’s and LHH’s but the cutter and slider have been very effective against both sides of the plate per Perhaps a lot less noticeable is the fact that, as a reliever, his LOB% has risen significantly against both sides of the plate and his batting average against has gone down considerably particularly against LHH’s. Norris has less than $1M left on his contract so he is a very attractive asset from both a performance and team payroll point of view. Relievers are almost always in high demand at the deadline so there should be quite a strong market for someone like Bud who can effectively get LHH’s and RHH’s out. After we have executed our basic analysis we will also discuss David Hernandez and Yusmeiro Petit who happen to have profiles that are similar to Norris so keep that in mind when reading the rest of the article. Let us take a look at some teams that have a need for Norris’ services. Twins Minnesota is in dire need of relief help against both sides of the plate. Overall their rotation and bullpen rank 25th vs. LHH’s and dead last vs. RHH’s in K-BB%. When you dig deeper the only member of the Twins bullpen getting it done against both sides of the plate is Tyler Duffey. Even Brandon Kintzler, the team’s current closer, is struggling against left-handed hitters. All of this simply means that Minnesota needs to solve its bullpen woes if they really want to compete, particularly in a playoff series where reliever use is critical. Twins Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, RHP Jesse Chavez, and RHP David Hernandez Angels Likely Target(s): AA LHP Stephen Gonsalves, AA LHP Tyler Jay, R OF Alex Kirilloff, R SS Wander Javier, AA RHP Fernando Romero, AA RHP Kohl Stewart, AAA C Mitch Garver, AAA OF Zack Granite, A+ LHP Lewis Thorpe, AAA RHP J.T. Chargois, AA RHP Nick Burdi, A 1B Lewin Diaz, AA OF Lamonte Wade, AA RHP Felix Jorge, R RHP Huascar Ynoa, A+ LHP Lachlan Wells, R RHP Brusdar Graterol, AAA RHP Aaron Slegers, AA RHP John Curtiss, A+ 2B Luis Arraez, R RHP James Jax, and A RHP Sean Poppen Trade Scenario(s): The Twins really could use a more productive outfielder and are in dire need of right-handed and left-handed relief help. Additionally adding a lead-off hitter would move Dozier to the 2-hole and strengthen and lengthen their lineup as a whole.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Twins in exchange for AA LHP Stephen Gonsalves and R RHP James Jax
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris and RHP Yusmeiro Petit to the Twins in exchange for AAA OF Zack Granite, A+ LHP Lewis Thorpe, and A+ 2B Luis Arraez
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RP Bud Norris to the Twins in exchange for AA LHP Stephen Gonsalves, R OF Alex Kirilloff, A+ 2B Luis Arraez, and R SS Wander Javier Rangers Standing literally right behind the Twins in rotation and bullpen suck-age is our A.L. West opponent, the Texas Rangers. They currently rank 27th versus LHH’s and 29th against RHH’s in our tables we generated in the second submission of the series (the Methodology article). Obviously this is an issue that needs to be addressed if the Rangers want to succeed moving forward. When you examine the Rangers bullpen two names, Jeremy Jeffress and Dario Alvarez, stand out as under-performers. The former is a bit surprising as he was the other guy in the Lucroy trade (and boy is that looking not so good for Texas now) and there was an expectation he would make an impact. Most of Texas’ woes are in the back-end of the rotation and in set-up (Jeffress) and middle relief (Alvarez). Normally the Angels might not want to bargain with a team in their own Division but if the trade asset is only a pure rental it should not be an issue for Billy Eppler to strike a deal (although Texas may be loathe to do so). Rangers Likely Target(s): RHP David Hernandez and RHP Yusmeiro Petit Angels Likely Target(s): AA LHP Yohander Mendez, A OF Leody Taveras, AA RHP Ariel Jurado, R LHP Cole Ragans, AA C Jose Trevino, A+ LHP Joe Palumbo, A+ LHP Brett Martin, AA 2B Andy Ibanez, AA RHP Connor Sadzeck, A RHP Michael Matuella, RHP Josh LeClerc, AAA UTIL Drew Robinson, R 2B Kole Enright, A+ RHP Jonathan Hernandez, AAA C Brett Nicholas, A RHP Kyle Cody, AA OF Jose Cardona, and AA RHP Pedro Payano Trade Scenario(s): The Rangers, just like the Angels, are on the outskirts of the Wild Card race. If they do close the gap adding one of our relievers as a pure rental piece is the most likely outcome if Eppler chooses to do business with a Division rival.
Angels trade RHP David Hernandez to the Rangers in exchange for AA RHP Ariel Jurado and A RHP Michael Matuella
Angels trade RHP Yusmeiro Petit to the Rangers in exchange for A+ RHP Jonathan Hernandez and A RHP Kyle Cody
Tigers Detroit is doing a touch better than the previous two teams as their pitching staff is ranked 16th against LHH’s and 27th versus RHH’s. Clearly they need to improve as a whole against the latter but a deeper look shows where the real problem lies. When you peel back the layers you quickly realize that 40% of the Tigers rotation (Zimmerman and Verlander) are really under-performing against both sides of the plate as are relievers LHP Daniel Stumpf and RHP Alex Wilson. There may be very little the Tigers can do about the former when you consider the contracts owed but the latter could be alleviated by acquiring a reliever or two to reinforce their bullpen if Detroit stays in it. Tigers Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, OF Eric Young Jr., RHP David Hernandez, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, RHP Blake Parker, and RHP Bud Norris Angels Likely Target(s): R RHP Matt Manning, AA RHP Beau Burrows, AA LHP Tyler Alexander, AA OF Mike Gerber, RHP Joe Jimenez, SS Dixon Machado, A+ RHP Kyle Funkhouser, AA RHP Adam Ravanelle, A+ RHP Gerson Moreno, A+ RHP Sandy Baez, R 2B Hector Martinez, A+ RHP Spencer Turnbull, R RHP Wladimir Pinto, AA RHP Myles Jaye, AA LHP Jairo Labourt, A+ RHP Drew Smith, A+ LHP Matt Hall, and AA RHP Artie Lewicki,
Trade Scenario(s): Detroit, in the current standings, are still in the mix for a shot at the Division and Wild Card. If that holds they could certainly use a shot in the arm in center field. Additionally the Tigers rotation has been quite ineffective against RHP so that is likely a concern for their management although it is unclear how they can address the issue. Finally Detroit probably needs an additional reliever or two if they want to make a run at a Wild Card spot.
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RHP Yusmeiro Petit to the Tigers in exchange for RHP Joe Jimenez, R RHP Wladimir Pinto, A+ RHP Kyle Funkhouser, and A+ LHP Matt Hall Angels trade RHP Yusmeiro Petit to the Tigers in exchange for AA RHP Adam Ravanelle Angels trade RHP David Hernandez to the Tigers in exchange for A+ RHP Kyle Funkhouser and A+ RHP Spencer Turnbull Brewers Milwaukee, like Anaheim and Texas, sits on the fringe of the Wild Card race waiting to see how things firm up before the All Star Break. If the Brew Crew finds themselves as buyers at the deadline they will have to account for their current 13th place ranking versus LHH’s and 26th place ranking against RHH’s if they want to sustain a run through the rest of the year. Relievers like Carlos Torres, Paolo Espino, and Wily Peralta along with starters Zach Davies and Junior Guerra are dragging down Milwaukee’s pitching numbers due to bland results and under-performance. Brewers Likely Target(s): RHP Bud Norris, RHP David Hernandez, RHP Jesse Chavez, RHP Blake Parker, and RHP Yusmeiro Petit
Angels Likely Target(s): RHP Brandon Woodruff, A+ 3B Lucas Erceg, A+ RHP Marcos Diplan, A+ RHP Phil Bickford, AAA OF Ryan Cordell, AA RHP Jorge Lopez, A+ RHP Cody Ponce, AAA OF Brett Phillips, AA RHP Corbin Burnes, A+ LHP Kodi Medeiros, AA RHP Freddy Peralta, A C Mario Feliciano, A+ RHP Jordan Yamamoto, AAA OF Kyle Wren, AA RHP Adrian Houser, R RHP Nash Walters, A+ OF Troy Stokes, AA RHP Jon Perrin, and AA RHP Aaron Wilkerson
Trade Scenario(s): Milwaukee has been hanging in the playoff hunt and recently they have indicated they are open to potentially adding bullpen help as they near the deadline. The caveat to that need is that they are unwilling to trade any of their top tier pieces, per, so in light of that we will only consider certain Brewers prospects and players in this discussion. The Brewers primary need is relievers that can put away right-handed hitters.
Angels trade RHP Yusmeiro Petit to the Brewers in exchange for AA RHP Aaron Wilkerson and A+ LHP Kodi Medeiros
Angels trade RHP David Hernandez to the Brewers in exchange for AAA OF Ryan Cordell and R RHP Nash Walters Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Brewers in exchange for AA RHP Jorge Lopez and A+ RHP Phil Bickford Angels trade RHP Blake Parker to the Brewers in exchange for AAA OF Ryan Cordell, AA RHP Corbin Burnes, and A+ RHP Cody Ponce Rays
When you look closer at Tampa’s bullpen you see a group that is a little bit split in their efficiency against both sides of the plate. Danny Farquhar in particular has had his troubles and frankly this is an area where the Rays could improve by adding a reliever that can get both LHH’s and RHH’s out if they want to compete more effectively down the stretch and especially if they make the playoffs. Rays Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, OF Eric Young Jr., SP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, and RHP David Hernandez Angels Likely Target(s): AAA RHP Brent Honeywell, RHP Jose De Leon, A OF Jesus Sanchez, AAA RHP Chih-Wei Hu, AA OF Justin Williams, RHP Jacob Faria, AAA RHP Ryne Stanek, AAA RHP Diego Castillo, R LHP Resly Linares, A+ 3B Kevin Padlo, AAA RHP Taylor Guerrieri, AA RHP Hunter Wood, AAA RHP Jaime Schultz, AA RHP Greg Harris, A+ C David Rodriguez, LHP Jose Alvarado, A+ RHP Brandon Koch, A+ LHP Genesis Cabrera, AAA LHP Ryan Yarbrough, A RHP Deivy Mendez, A- Vidal Brujan, A+ RHP Blake Bivens, A RHP Adrian Navas, A RHP Kevin Gadea, A RHP Peter Bayer, R C Ronaldo Hernandez, and A LHP Kenny Rosenberg Trade Scenario(s): The Rays have had their fair share of bullpen injuries so reinforcing their relief corps by adding one good, two-way reliever might be prudent.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Rays in exchange for AAA RHP Jaime Schultz and A+ RHP Brandon Koch
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RHP Bud Norris to the Rays in exchange for AAA RHP Diego Castillo, AAA RHP Jaime Schultz, and R C Ronaldo Hernandez
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin, SP Ricky Nolasco, and RHP David Hernandez to the Rays in exchange for AAA Chih-Wei Hu, AAA RHP Jaime Schultz, LHP Jose Alvarado, and A+ LHP Genesis Cabrera. Angels absorb $2MM of Nolasco’s remaining 2017 salary Mets New York has been taking on water recently and finds themselves on the bubble of completely falling out of the Wild Card race. Realistically the Mets season might be done but like every other team on this list they are one large winning streak away from putting themselves back into the discussion. When you examine New York’s bullpen you can see that they are more match-up based with only their closer, Addison Reed, being a true two-way reliever. It would probably be in their best interest to acquire one more bullpen piece if they are in it at the deadline. Mets Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Blake Parker, and RHP David Hernandez
Angels Likely Target(s): AAA 1B Dominic Smith, A+ RHP Justin Dunn, A SS Andres Gimenez, A OF Desmond Lindsay, A LHP Thomas Szapucki, AA C Tomas Nido, OF Brandon Nimmo, R SS Gregory Guerrero, AAA 2B Gavin Cecchini, A+ 1B Peter Alonso, A+ OF Wuilmer Becerra, A RHP Merandy Gonzalez, AA RHP Marcos Molina, UTIL T.J. Rivera, A C Ali Sanchez, A RHP Harol Gonzalez, AA RHP Chris Flexen, R OF Anthony Dirocie, R RHP Michel Otanez, R OF Raul Beracierta, A+ RHP Nabil Crismatt, and A+ 3B Jhoan Urena
Trade Scenario(s): The Mets need another reliable reliever and based on the lackluster performance of some of their middle infield, someone like Yunel Escobar might be a rental they would be interested in.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Mets in exchange for AAA 2B Gavin Cecchini and R RHP Michel Otanez
Angels trade RHP David Hernandez to the Mets in exchange for OF Brandon Nimmo and R OF Anthony Dirocie Angels trade RHP Bud Norris and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Mets in exchange for AAA 2B Gavin Cecchini, A+ 1B Peter Alonso, and AA RHP Chris Flexen Yankees The Bronx Bombers actually have a pretty good bullpen with the likes of Chapman, Betances, and Chad Green being able to control both sides of the plate. However when you look a little closer it is clear they may want to beef up their middle right-handed relief before the deadline as they are a little heavy the other way. To be clear New York does not have to do anything here and they could probably get by adequately particularly in a playoff situation with the three listed above. A move to increase the length and breadth of their bullpen would be a depth one, perhaps even a luxury, which, of course, the Yankees can afford. Yankees Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Blake Parker, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, and RHP David Hernandez
Angels Likely Target(s): A+ RHP James Kaprielian, A+ SS Jorge Mateo, AAA OF Dustin Fowler, AA LHP Justus Sheffield, A+ RHP Albert Abreu, AAA RHP Chance Adams, AAA 3B Miguel Andujar, A+ RHP Dillon Tate, AAA UTIL Tyler Wade, A OF Estevan Florial, AAA RHP Domingo Acevedo, R 3B Dermis Garcia, A+ LHP Ian Clarkin, AAA RHP Gio Gallegos, R RHP Rony Garcia, A+ SS Kyle Holder, AAA RHP Ben Heller, A- RHP Jorge Guzman, AA RHP Yefry Ramirez, R SS Eduardo Torrealba, A RHP Nick Green, A SS Diego Castillo, AA RHP Zack Littell, AAA RHP Adonis Rosa, R RHP Deivi Garcia, AA RHP Travis Hissong, AA RHP Nick Rumbelow, A+ RHP Erik Swanson, and AA 2B Thairo Estrada
Trade Scenario(s): The Yankees might take a flyer on Escobar as part of a platoon with Chase Headley but if they were to inquire on anyone first it would probably be one of our available relievers, particularly one that can get RHH’s out well.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Yankees in exchange for AAA 3B Miguel Andujar and R RHP Deivi Garcia
Angels trade RHP David Hernandez to the Yankees in exchange for AAA RHP Domingo Acevedo and R RHP Rony Garcia
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Yankees in exchange for AAA OF Dustin Fowler, A- RHP Jorge Guzman, and AA RHP Travis Hissong
Nationals Washington’s bullpen woes have been fairly well documented since the beginning of the season. When you look at the current state of their bullpen it becomes clear that they probably need one more reliever that can get lefties out and preferably that person should be a two-way guy that can get RHH’s out too. Nationals Likely Target(s): OF Cameron Maybin, UTIL Danny Espinosa, UTIL Cliff Pennington, RHP David Hernandez, RHP Blake Parker, and RHP Bud Norris Angels Likely Target(s): A+ OF Victor Robles, A OF Juan Soto, AAA RHP Erick Fedde, DSL SS Luis Garcia, A 3B Carter Kieboom, RHP Koda Glover, AAA C Pedro Severino, AA 1B Jose Marmolejos, A OF Daniel Johnson, A C Jakson Reetz, A LHP Tyler Watson, and AA RHP Ryan Brinley Trade Scenario(s): Certain members of the Nat’s bullpen are not performing well so adding someone like David Hernandez or Bud Norris would give them more firepower, particularly against left-handed hitters, in later innings. Also Washington may be a serious player to acquire Cameron Maybin if the Angels are out of it near the trade deadline. Finally a left-handed hitting defensive-minded utility backup like Espinosa (questionable considering the way he argued with Nat’s management before they traded him to the Halos) or Pennington might be in the cards.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Nationals in exchange for AAA RHP Erick Fedde and A C Jakson Reetz
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin and RHP David Hernandez to the Nationals in exchange for RHP Koda Glover, AA RHP Ryan Brinley, A OF Juan Soto, and A LHP Tyler Watson
Angels trade OF Cameron Maybin, UTIL Danny Espinosa, and RHP Bud Norris to the Nationals in exchange for AAA Erick Fedde, RHP Koda Glover, A OF Juan Soto, and A LHP Tyler Watson
Red Sox Boston has the best reliever, hands-down, in baseball right now in the form of Craig Kimbrel so they are operating off of a great base. However behind Craig the only other two-way guy is Heath Hembree. The rest of the bullpen can play match-ups reasonably well but the Red Sox could use a third two-way reliever to add depth and prepare them for a playoff run. Realistically the Sox are a likely trade partner as they may be on the lookout for a 3B to replace the struggling Pablo Sandoval so they may have interest in Yunel Escobar if the Angels are out of it at the deadline or decide that Kaleb Cowart or Luis Valbuena can replace his production. Red Sox Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, RHP Bud Norris, RHP David Hernandez,  UTIL Danny Espinosa, UTIL Cliff Pennington, and RHP Blake Parker
Angels Likely Target(s): AA 3B Rafael Devers, A LHP Jay Groome, A 3B Bobby Dalbec, A SS C.J. Chatham, A+ RHP Roniel Raudes, AA RHP Travis Lakins, A+ 1B Josh Ockimey, AAA RHP Ben Taylor, AA 3B Michael Chavis, AAA RHP Kyle Martin, A RHP Bryan Mata, A+ RHP Shaun Anderson, A+ OF Trenton Kemp, AAA RHP Chandler Shepard, A+ RHP Marc Brakeman, A+ RHP Stephen Nogosek, R 1B Pedro Castellanos, and AAA RHP Jaime Callahan
Trade Scenario(s): Boston almost assuredly would like to beef up their bullpen for a stretch run in the very competitive A.L. East, preferably a two-way type reliever that can impact both sides of the plate. Also the Red Sox are running out their 6th 3B over the last week and might have serious interest in Yunel Escobar as a less expensive option. Finally Boston might have interest in a quality defensive utility player so Espinosa and Pennington might be in play too.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris to the Red Sox in exchange for AA 3B Michael Chavis and A+ RHP Marc Brakeman
Angels trade RHP David Hernandez and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Red Sox in exchange for A LHP Jay Groome, A+ 1B Josh Ockimey, and AAA RHP Kyle Martin Angels trade RHP Blake Parker and 3B Yunel Escobar to the Red Sox in exchange for AA 3B Rafael Devers and A LHP Jay Groome Angels trade RHP Bud Norris, 3B Yunel Escobar, and UTIL Danny Espinosa to the Red Sox in exchange for AA 3B Rafael Devers, A+ RHP Stephen Nogosek, and R 1B Pedro Castellanos
Indians Cleveland’s pitching as a whole, despite the actual results, has been pretty darn good and is a testament to the front office and coaching staff. However like many teams they do have some holes and one of them may be a lack of middle relief that can effectively close out LHH’s. The Indians have a strong and competitive playoff team and they may be in need of a utility infielder that can hit LHP in addition to a bullpen arm. Indians Likely Target(s): RHP Bud Norris, RHP David Hernandez, RHP Blake Parker, LHP Jose Alvarez, RHP Cam Bedrosian, UTIL Danny Espinosa, and UTIL Cliff Pennington
Angels Likely Target(s): AA C Francisco Mejia, AAA 3B Yandy Diaz, AA OF Greg Allen, AA 1B Bobbie Bradley, A- 3B Nolan Jones, AA SS Yu-Cheng Chang, A LHP Brady Aiken, A LHP Juan Hillman, A+ OF Anthony Santander, AAA RHP Shawn Armstrong, A+ RHP Triston McKenzie, A LHP Sam Hentges, A- OF Oscar Gonzalez, A C Logan Ice, A RHP Yoiber Marquina, AA RHP Perci Garner, A+ RHP Shane Bieber, A+ RHP Aaron Civale, and A+ OF Andrew Calica
Trade Scenario(s): Cleveland could certainly use another strong reliever that can get left-handed hitters out at the minimum. The Indians are one team that have a plethora of different prospects that the Angels actually need (OF, 3B, and C) so certain Angels players that Eppler may not be offering to other teams might be in play here. Besides relief pitching Cleveland may want a more experienced, defense-first utility player like Espinosa or Pennington that can hit LHP.
Angels trade RHP Bud Norris and A RHP Joe Gatto to the Indians in exchange for 3B Yandy Diaz and A+ RHP Shane Bieber Angels trade LHP Jose Alvarez and UTIL Danny Espinosa to the Indians in exchange for AA OF Greg Allen and A RHP Yoiber Marquina Angels trade RHP Blake Parker and UTIL Danny Espinosa to the Indians in exchange for 3B Yandy Diaz and A+ RHP Triston McKenzie Angels trade RHP Cam Bedrosian to the Indians in exchange for AA C Francisco Mejia, AAA 3B Yandy Diaz, and A LHP Juan Hillman Conclusion In terms of overall trade value, Bud Norris certainly has a lot for any team looking to strengthen their relief corps leading up to the trade deadline. Realistically Norris, like Maybin, should bring back a good quality prospect plus a secondary piece of some sort. It won’t be quite the return Cameron generates but it will be in the ballpark. The 10 teams above, the Twins, Rangers, Tigers, Brewers, Rays, Mets, Yankees, Nationals, Red Sox, and Indians are all likely suitors based on our initial analysis. Certainly a couple of these teams are close to being out of the running for Norris’ services but that could mean that there are other teams inching closer to competing that could have a need. To be clear the author examined each of the non-listed teams in detail to determine if they had a need. A bit surprisingly certain teams such as the Astros (Giles, Devenski, and Feliz), Diamondbacks (Bradley, Chafin, and Delgado), Cubs (Davis, Edwards Jr., and Duensing), and Blue Jays (Osuna, Smith, and Barnes) have excellent bullpens with, in the author’s opinion, virtually no holes at this point in time. Essentially this is a season of the have’s and the have not’s which will add a layer of complexity to the trade market. However reliever volatility and injury is quite random and occurs often so any of those squads not mentioned could, at a moment’s notice, become a buyer for an Angels bullpen piece if the need arises. Bud will definitely not be the only reliever on the market so trade competition will be fierce. This is one area the Angels have been very strong in and when you consider the return of Cam Bedrosian to the bullpen, the Angels, if they stick in the playoff hunt, can afford to part with one of their other relievers to bolster the team now or continue building the farm system with prospects. Also what applies to Bud Norris would also apply to David Hernandez as seen below: 2015-2017 Split vs. LHH as of June 20, 2017 2015-2017 Split vs. RHH as of June 20, 2017 In fact there is a compelling case that Hernandez should bring in slightly more than Norris based on the comparison of their splits in 2017. Norris obviously has the more recent high leverage (closer) experience but Hernandez is no stranger to that role either as he spent some time closing for the Diamondbacks a few years back. Based on this similarity between Bud and David we will forego writing a separate article on the latter and simply use this list of teams as a guideline for interested trade partners. One or both should bring in a reasonably good return on investment for the Angels, netting at least one mid-tier prospect and perhaps a secondary piece. We should all applaud Billy Eppler and his staff for the great cherry-picking effort off of the free agent market and waiver wires last year. One other Angels pitcher that does not have closer experience but is, to a lesser degree, similar to Norris and Hernandez is RHP Yusmeiro Petit who has more of an extreme platoon split as seen below: 2015-2017 Split vs. LHH as of June 20, 2017 2015-2017 Split vs. RHH as of June 20, 2017 Yusmeiro has been lights out against right-handed hitters this year in relief. He has given up a large number of walks (12.5%) to left-handed hitters but has managed to suppress their batting average against (.194) through poor contact. Teams in need of specific right-handed relief should find Petit quite appealing in terms of price and ability. Some of those clubs would include the Tigers, Twins, Brewers, and Rangers among others. Yusmeiro will not bring in as much value as Norris or Hernandez but he could snag a reasonably decent prospect in a deadline sale. Because of Petit’s similarity to Norris and Hernandez, he too will not have his own separate article written for this series. Yusmeiro’s interested suitors, as noted above, will be a sub-set of Norris’ gentlemen callers but should draw just as much interest based on his stronger ability to punch RHH’s out. Author’s Best Guess: This is a close call between the Red Sox and the Nationals. I’m going with the former because if the Angels are still in the playoff race Boston still makes some sense as a deadline trade partner for 3B Yunel Escobar (who can be potentially be replaced by Valbuena or Cowart) and one of either Bud Norris or David Hernandez (because one or the other is expendable with the return of Cam Bedrosian).
If the Angels sell-off completely here are my predictions for all three: Bud Norris to the Red Sox David Hernandez to the Nationals Yusmeiro Petit to the Brewers

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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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So, You Want to Make a Trade? Part 1—It’s a Lot More Complicated Than You Think

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer In Part 1 of this 2-part series, I’ll discuss some of the complicating factors involved in making a trade. I’ll share some insights into all those involved in the process and how they all work together to make a trade happen or how they can each individually prevent a trade from occurring. It’s the July trade deadline, and baseball fans are in fever pitch about making trades. On any given day right now, fans are logging millions of visits on sites like, and posting thousands of trade ideas on sites like Personally, I like reading Robert Cunningham’s articles for Angels trade ideas, as he does a thorough job analyzing the needs and values of trades from multiple perspectives. His ideas are sound and well-reasoned, and about as logical as any on the internet. They are definitely more thought-provoking than most. But, for all the other keyboard GMs out there, I thought I’d share some of the insights I’ve gained over the years to show just how complicated it is to make a trade. So, you want to make a trade? Great! Quick question: how do you do so? If you really think that GM “A” from Team “A” calls up GM “B” from Team “B” and proposes a deal, and gets it done in a single phone call, like in “Moneyball”, then you’ve been duped by Hollywood. Just like no one who lives in Southern California believes that Jack Bauer could drive from West LA to Simi Valley in less than 20 minutes of “real time”, no one I’ve ever talked to within the industry has ever said an MLB team would make a trade of any significance in just 1 phone call and no advance work. If that’s not how it’s done, then how is it done? To answer that question, you have to really answer two different questions: First, how many individuals/groups within an MLB club need to approve a trade before it gets done? Second, how do you get them all to agree to the trade? By my count, in talking with many within the industry, before any substantial to quasi-substantial trade happens, there are at least 8 different groups/individuals within every MLB organization who need to approve it. And for many cases, that list can grow to 10 or more groups and individuals. These groups/individuals are: the external scouts (those who watch other organizations), the internal scouts (those who scout their own organization), the analytics team, the director of player development, the MLB team management (field manager and coaches), the medical staff, the financial/contract managers, and the GM. In many cases ownership, and some special advisors to the GM are often very much involved in the decisions. That’s just for both of the teams involved in the trade! If the player has any limited trade clauses in his contract, add the player and the agent into the mix. The player may have strong preferences as to where he ends up playing, and through his agent, may try to exert some leverage for a contract (such as having an option picked up or not exercised by the team). So, before any trade actually happens, all of these independent and moving parts have to come together in consensus to make a trade. Knowing all of this, it’s actually somewhat surprising to see how often trades actually occur throughout the year. Each individual/group plays a substantial and different role in the process, and many trade ideas fall apart because all the groups can’t come to agreement. I will give you some examples in generality. I will not mention names, teams, etc. You can choose to believe these examples or not, but they are entirely true based on actual discussions that I’ve had with people within the industry. Many times I’ve talked with people within the industry about certain players that are listed as “available” by fairly reliable sites or reporters. Sometimes, I’ve had scouts tell me “I really like him, but I can’t get the analytics guys to sign off on him.” In that situation, the scouts–the eyes of the game—can’t convince the sabermetrics team (every club has a group dedicated to statistical analysis) to believe that what they are seeing on the field is better than what the numbers are telling them. I’ve heard of many trades killed for players that scouts want because the sabermetrics might say that the player “won’t play as well in our ballpark” or might have some flaw that their analysis found, such as “too much swing and miss in their swing”. In other cases, I’ve talked with management types who would love to acquire a player but can’t get it done because there is a clause in that player’s contract that the financial people don’t want. The GM may even send one or more scouts to watch that player in every game and will call the scout asking if the player did anything to impress enough to justify the trade. The scout may nix the deal because he’s determined that the proposed player is playing with an “unreported injury,” or “not doing enough to impress him [the scout],” even though the numbers might imply otherwise. And of course, there’s always the possibility that the player’s personality “won’t work in the [new team’s] clubhouse”. There are times when the team’s manager may be desperate to acquire a player to fill a role on the team, but the internal scouts or player development won’t approve of giving up the talent that it would take to acquire him. This might push a team to making a lesser deal, or even no deal, if the asking prices skyrocket. Lastly, teams with very involved owners, or owners who have placed firm financial caps on a club has to always get ownership to approve of any deals. That’s not always easy. Trying to convince an owner to go over those limits, or take on a player that ownership doesn’t want, is always tricky. The bigger the move, the more the ownership will be involved in the decision. Even clubs going through a complete rebuild might be reluctant to trade off a key piece if they perceive the player to be an integral part of the team’s marketing. As for getting all of these individuals and groups to agree, that’s an unbelievable complication that can’t be summarized in any single article. Every trade and non-trade has its own story and nuance. There are so many factors that come into play. Each individual/group involved in the decision has its own interests and goals that may be separate from actual baseball decision. For example, larger market teams are under greater pressure to never do a full rebuild, so even if a team can benefit long-term from a trade, the short-term marketing/financial consequences may prevent the ownership and management from agreeing to it. Far more trades get into the exploratory phase than ever get reported. Every team is constantly looking for ways to improve on this season and into the future. The amount of information available to organizations is rather staggering, and by the time a trade is completed, has been thoroughly vetted by numerous individuals and groups within an organization. If you, as a fan, are wondering why deals that appear to make obvious sense aren’t getting done, it’s probably because somewhere in the process, one or more parts failed to come together. So, now that we’ve seen just how many different individuals and groups are involved in making a trade, and how complicated it is to get them all to agree to a trade, in Part 2, I’ll share some insights as to how trades are actually done according to those who have made them.
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Here's how ridiculous Shohei Ohtani's recent offensive rampage has been

We all love it when there’s an opportunity to use the #PitchersWhoRake hashtag, but Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani has brought a whole other meaning to it during the 2018 season. Sure, he’s only appeared as a pitcher once since the beginning of June and is now potentially facing a long road back to the mound via Tommy John surgery, but that hasn’t stopped him from raking at the plate. He showed us the kind of focus he has on the day it was announced he may need to go under the knife by staying in the lineup and belting two homers a few hours later. Ohtani’s production on offense has run a little deeper than just this one game, though. He’s been a rousing success overall at the plate — entering Sunday’s action, he’s the proud owner of a .290/.372/.592 triple slash with 19 home runs, and 53 RBI in just 289 plate appearances, which is good for a 161 wRC+. But the dude’s been on another planet since the start of August. So if some quick math is done, you can see that just about half of his offensive production for the entire season has happened in the last five weeks. If we include Saturday’s game, he’s actually hit more homers and driven in more runs over his past 90 plate appearances than his first 199. Mental math is hard for me, so here’s the quick breakdown because I like tables. Ohtani has even thrown in six stolen bases since the start of August after swiping just two bags in the four months prior for good measure. It’s a huge bummer that he can’t finish out the year as a two-way player due to his injury, especially when he ends up on lists like these. What we can enjoy for now, though, is Ohtani the hitter, as he’ll finish the year in that role while deciding exactly how he wants to approach the situation with his throwing arm. For now, let’s just sit back and watch him continue punishing baseballs for the last three weeks of the season. About Matt Musico
Matt currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book about how to become a sports blogger. You can sign up for his email newsletter here. Email Twitter
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Mid Season Angels All-Star Minor League Team

Here’s a quick look at the Angels top minor league players at the midway point of the season. Congratulations to Jose Miguel Fernandez on graduating to the majors, while collecting his first major league hit in his first at bat against the Twins this past weekend. Fernandez is hitting a cool .444 with two doubles across three games for the Halos thus far. Hermosillo was also recalled a few weeks back after Kole Calhoun went on the DL, but I wanted to make sure we gave him some love for his accomplishments with Salt Lake over his 2+ months of play there. So who’s the next Angels farmhand to get promoted? Your guess is as good as mine, but let’s take a look at the numbers they’ve put up to see who may warrant a promotion next. -Starters- 1B Jose Miguel Fernandez: .345/.412/.562 10 HR, 20 BB 2B David Fletcher: .353/.398/.566 6 HR, 7 SB, 37 RBI SS Luis Rengifo: .330.432/.491 3 HR, 26 SB, 35 BB 3B Taylor Ward: .348/.439/.525 7 HR, 33 RBI, 10 SB LF Brennon Lund: .276/.367/.388 3 HR, 33 R, 14 SB CF Jo Adell: .283/.339/.549 10 HR, 39 RBI, 8 SB RF Jabari Blash: .324/.421/.746 18 HR, 44 RBI C Jack Kruger: .275/.367/.360 3 HR, 26 BB, 10 SB DH/U Jared Walsh: .287/.384/.622 18 HR, 54 RBI -Reserves- 1B Matt Thaiss: .293/.352/.513. 10 HR, 38 RBI 2B Jahmai Jones: .253/.352/.419 6 HR, 30 BB, 9 SB SS Leo Rivas: .238/.376/.350 3 HR, 6 SB, 45 BB LF Torii Hunter Jr.: .274/.362/.391 1 HR, 14 SB CF Michael Hermosillo: .265/.387/.477 7 HR, 7 SB RF Brandon Marsh: 257/.348/.372 3 HR, 34 RBI, 9 SB C Connor Fitzsimons:  .372/.400/.655 2 HR, 5 RBI (8 Games) U Jose Rojas: .304/.383/.514 6 HR, 5 SB -Starting Pitchers- SP Griffin Canning: 1.85 ERA, 55 K, 48 2/3 IP, 1.03 WHIP SP Jose Suarez: 3.31 ERA, 77 K, 51 2/3 IP, 1.35 WHIP SP John Lamb: 3.44 ERA, 54 K, 49 2/3 IP, 1.29 WHIP SP Luis Madero: 3.05 ERA, 35 K, 44 1/3 IP, 1.11 WHIP SP Luis Pena: 4.27 ERA, 63 K, 59 IP, 1.20 WHIP -Relief Pitchers- RP Jeremy Rhodes: 1.70 ERA, 27 K, 37 IP, 1 Save, 0.89 WHIP RP Ryan Clark: 3.23 ERA, 39 K, 30 2/3 IP, 6 Saves, 1.34 WHIP RP Jake Jewell: 2.86 ERA, 32 K, 34 2/3 IP, 5 Saves, 1.56 WHIP
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Angels Pitcher Griffin Canning Talks with

Interview conducted by David Saltzer, Senior Writer One of the many rising stars in the Angels Minor Leagues is pitcher Griffin Canning. A local boy, out of UCLA and Rancho Santa Margarita, Griffin grew up an Angels fan and yearns to pitch for his home town team. The Angels were lucky to get Griffin in the second round of the 2017 draft. After drafting him, the Angels decided to be cautious with him, due to his large workload in college, and shut him down for the remainder of the season. But, that did not diminish either the Angels plans for him, or temper their enthusiasm for him. Instead, after seeing his development in Spring Training, they are challenging him with his initial pro-experience coming at High-A ball, with the Inland Empire 66ers. It’s as if he lost no development and he is up for the challenge. got to sit down with Griffin and get to know him as a player and a person better. Based on reports that we have heard about him, we, like the Angels, are very excited to watch Griffin develop as a professional. He has frontline starter material, and he could move through the system quickly. Fans who wish to see Griffin pitch can do so with the Inland Empire 66ers. Griffin is scheduled to pitch the Home Opener this Thursday. But they better do so quickly, as seats are selling fast, and Griffin is someone you definitely want to go see pitch. Please click here to watch our interview with this rising star.
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Mike Scioscia's former colleagues & players sound off

Mike Scioscia stepped down as manager after spending 19 seasons with the Angels Sunday at the conclusion of game-162 in walk-off fashion. Scioscia’s managerial record is: 1,650 – 1428)and he’s one of five managers all-time to lead a team for 19+ consecutive years. His 19 seasons with the Angels make him the longest tenured manager in the Majors. Fifth all-time in games managed with one franchise (3,078). Owns a (.536 winning .pct)  and his 1,650 wins rank 18th all-time and are second most (Walter Alston – 2040) by a manager with one team. Scioscia was the only Angels manager to make seven playoff appearances (previous best was two) which ranks tied for 12th all-time. Sosh was the only Angels manager to win six division titles, and has won 21 career playoff games including the 2002 World Series. 12 of his 19 teams have finished .500 and above. His .536 winning percentage is the best in club history and is one of six managers all-time to win 1,500 games with one team. Mike Scioscia is also Two-time BBWAA A.L. Manager of the Year (2002 and 2009). Here’s what former players, colleagues and the Angels current owner had to say about the Angels greatest manager in the history of the organization. “The dedication and commitment Mike Scioscia has given Angels Baseball over the last 19 years greatly contributed to our evolution into an elite Organization.  Mike’s tenure as Manager of the Angels includes six division titles, a pennant, and a World Championship that transformed this franchise, and its perception on both local and national levels. We will always be grateful and proud that the Angels played a part in his Hall of Fame career.  On behalf of the entire Angels Organization, we want to express our gratitude to Mike for his time and devotion as our Manager. We wish Mike, his wife Anne, and children Taylor and Matt the very best; you will always be a part of the Angels Family. Thank you.” –          Arte Moreno, Los Angeles Angels Owner “As I said in my Angels Hall of Fame speech, Mike changed the culture of the Angels. We went from thinking we could win to knowing we could win. Every spring he talked only once of winning the World Series. He then then turned to using the analogy of taking one step on a ladder to reach our goal. The first season he took over was the most mentally fatiguing season I’ve ever had because I bought into our two biggest thieves were yesterday and tomorrow. He taught me how to prepare for that day to win a major league game.” –          Garret Anderson, Angels Hall of Famer “Mike Scioscia impacted my career is ways I’m forever grateful for. He brought leadership, vision, and a winning style of play to the teams I was a part of. As the architect of our 2002 World Championship he taught us the importance of “checking your ego in at the door” and playing as a team. I will always remember Sosh’s hilarious morning meetings each spring that were so instrumental in building team chemistry and bonded our teams in ways I had never seen before. His “one day at a time” montra kept his players focus where it needed to be and was the hallmark of the blue collar teams he lead. Sosh’s consistent demeanor and steadiness influenced those around him and brought the Angels organization stability at the helm and their greatest run of success the past 19 seasons. Words of gratitude just don’t seem to be enough for what Mike has meant to us all.” –          Tim Salmon, Angels Hall of Famer “Mike Scioscia is a true Angel. Mike has dedicated his heart and soul for the last 20 years to making the Angels a first class organization. Over this time, he has become one of the best and most respected managers in the game today. I am forever grateful to Mike Scioscia for giving me the opportunity to start my major league career. He took a chance on me when most experts in the game deemed that I could not play in the big leagues. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to play for him, learn from him and win with him. I am blessed to call Mike Scioscia a mentor and friend, and the game still has a lot to learn from him. “ –          David Eckstein, Member of Angels 2002 World Series Champions  “I had the pleasure to work alongside Mike since his arrival in 2000 until 2011.  I simply believe that Mike is one of the brightest baseball minds in the history of the Angels Organization. His passion and commitment to the finest details of his craft are evident in his performance throughout his 19 years in the Angels dugout. From the memorable Spring Training morning meetings and our late night conversations following Angels ballgames to a 2002 World Championship, Mike was the consummate professional. His personal accomplishments never outweighed his desire to compete and win. I was his baseball conscience and he was mine. I wish nothing but the best to Anne, Matt and Taylor. Much success in the next chapter.” –          Tony Reagins, former Angels General Manager “In the year 2000, the Angels brought on board and welcomed a former “Dodger” …Mike Scioscia as our new manager.  Little did we know how the trajectory and the path of the organization would change for the better with his hiring. I have had the opportunity to ‘compete against’ as a player….’play for’…’coach with’… and ‘coach against’ Mike.  He defines everything a ‘Champion’ represents. Mike changed the expectations of our organization….brought out the best in all of us…AND no longer did we hope to win BUT we were going to win.   As a player for him; he challenged me, pushed me to new limits and introduced me to a new approach….”Play Free.”  He was a World Series champion as a player, so Mike brought instant credibility into our dugout. As a coach on his staff; he showed me how important preparation, conviction, passion, and boldness were in the dugout. Those days when we were not playing well…Mike was always at his best….calm, determined and adamant that we would turn things around. As a coach against him; he forced you to be more prepared than ever. Ready for anything. You never knew what he was going to do next. If your team did not play sound, fundamental baseball then Mike would expose it and capitalize on it. Mike came into the Angels organization at a time when we had a difficult time reaching the next level. His leadership, knowledge, work ethic, and confidence helped pushed the organization to new heights. Those flags you see out there …flying beyond the centerfield wall say it all…..and….speak volumes about what Mike Scioscia meant to the Angels organization.   Much love and Thanks Mike !” –          Gary DiSarcina, former Angels Infielder & Coach “I’ve known Mike a long, long time. First as a person I competed against, and then as person I learned so much from. First and foremost, I have the utmost respect for him as a husband and father. His upbringing set the foundation for him treating all of us as his family. His leadership skills and intelligence were the best I’ve seen as a manager since the late Dick Howser in my opinion. I wouldn’t play poker with him because I never knew if we were up by 10 or down by 10. I cherish our friendship. His sense of humor was highly underrated. I conclude by saying to me, he is a Hall of Famer in the baseball world and off the field also.” –          Mark Gubicza, former Major League Pitcher & current Angels Broadcaster “I first met Mike Scioscia when I was broadcasting for ESPN in the early 90’s. It was a game at Dodger Stadium and Mike was catching Orel Hershiser that night. I asked Mike if he had a few minutes before BP to discuss his catching philosophy along with his game plan for Hershiser that night. We must have sat in the dugout for fifteen minutes as Mike went on about growing up in Philly, then who helped him along the way, from John Roseboro, to Roy Campanella, to Del Crandell. He gave me a scouting report on not only Orel but each Dodgers pitcher. It was awesome. I must have used everything he gave me that night on the air. A decade later, I would truly get to know Mike when he took over the Angels and led them to their first World Championship. He was a natural leader, a man who not only challenged every player but inspired them to be their best. And that 2002 team became the best. From Eck, to Ersty, to GA to Percy, to Tim Salmon, they were a reflection of their manager. No one cared who got the credit. They just wanted to win. And when the team struggled, Sosh gave them a pat on the back, when they got on a roll, he told them they could do better, and when a member of the media went after one of his players after they made a mistake, Sosh had this unique ability to twist the conversation in some self-deprecating way that had the media laughing and the players mistake somehow forgotten. I’ll always remember the look on his face when Ersty caught the final out to win the championship. It was a look of pride, and not for himself, as he searched for coaches and players and trainers and clubhouse guys to hug. Great managers are people who share their success and believe that incredible things can happen when no one cares who gets the credit. Sosh is one of those guys. He’s the very definition of what we want in our leaders. Integrity, trust, toughness. Mike Scioscia is a good man, good son, good father, good husband, good friend. It was my honor to broadcast games he managed.  Blessings always,” –          Steve Physioc, former Angels Broadcaster “I don’t know that I can fully explain what Mike Scioscia has meant to me personally over the last 9 seasons but I’ll certainly try. From the moment I went out to dinner with Arte, Mike and his coaching staff in March of 2010, he has been nothing but the most accommodating person on a daily basis. Maybe it was the connection to Philadelphia through my dad but whatever the case, he made me feel like I mattered every time we talked. And it wasn’t just with me, he made every member of my family feel as if they were the most important person in the room when he visited with them.  He was never in a hurry and always took the time to chat about the previous night’s game, his Eagles/Flyers/Sixers and/or everyday happenings in and around the ballpark. I wish more fans had a chance to see this side of Mike.  He’s a man of integrity whose loyalty you never questioned.  They broke the mold with Mike Scioscia. Tough as nails competitor that wanted to beat you every single night and it carried over into the dugout as manager. What a run…Hall of Fame husband, father and manager. Our loss is the Scioscia family’s gain. Be well, Skip!” –          Victor Rojas, Angels Broadcaster “Mike encouraged the players to have an aggressive, team-first style of play.  His positive attitude enabled the players to focus on the job to be done today regardless of what may have happened yesterday.” –          Bill Stoneman, former Angels General Manager “In the nearly two decades that I have known Mike Scioscia, the trait that has most impressed me about him is his character.  His integrity, honesty and kindness are things I admire in someone I will always consider a dear friend.  Professionally, Mike has distinguished himself in baseball as both a player and manager.  In his tenure as manager of the Angels, he guided the franchise to heights it had never previously attained.  Mike is an integral part of the Golden Years of Angels baseball.  He is a Hall-of-Famer in his profession, but most importantly as a person.” –          Terry Smith, Angels Broadcaster “Sosh is someone that I would want to study under if I was to become a manager one day. I watched him think outside the box on so many different occasions in the clubhouse and on the field. He didn’t care about the scrutiny and the aftermath that came with his decisions. It was the one he felt he had to make at that crucial moment. That’s what true leaders do for everyone he/she is leading. I’m proud to have spent 5 years playing for him. I’ve learned so much in the years I played for him.” –          Torii Hunter, former Angels Outfielder “Mike was essential in my success and longevity as a MLB player.  His ability to show he believed in me on a daily basis as well as teach me tough lessons along the way made it possible for me as a player to fit in and help his team and my future teams moving forward.  No matter what point in the game, whether it was offense or defense, you knew you could look in the dugout and have his confidence and support that we would get the job done.  His strong presence in the clubhouse as our leader gave us added confidence.  Mike created a new buzz in and around Anaheim with his team’s style of play that the fan base will forever appreciate.” –          Adam Kennedy,  former Angels Infielder
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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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Inland Empire 66ers Opening Day Recap

By Brent Maguire, Staff Reporter The 2017 Minor League Baseball season kicked off Thursday as the Inland Empire 66ers faced off against the San Jose Giants. The 66ers roster has some familiar names from last year’s team, including Michael Hermosillo and Jake Jewell, but also brings some new faces, including 2016 draft picks Matt Thaiss and Connor Justus. The long season ahead begins as many players will continue their path towards reaching the next minor league levels and, hopefully, the major leagues. Their path to reaching that stage continued on Thursday night. In the longest Opening Day game in Inland Empire’s history, the 66ers came away victorious in a 16 inning walk off win. Jaime Barria, the Panama born right hander, is the youngest player on this 66ers roster and was the Opening Day starter. The 6’1″ right hander, who posted a 3.85 ERA and 3.42 FIP in 117 innings with Low A Burlington last year, had a fine first outing. Barria pitched 4 innings of scoreless ball, striking out 2 batters and walking 2 while allowing 3 hits. He struggled throwing first pitch strikes, throwing 8 first pitch strikes to 17 batters and had a 61.3% strike rate on the night. Barria was flashing an above average fastball in the 89-92 mph range and commanding it well, making the pitch even tougher to square up. His change up, is best secondary offering, was flashing above average and even plus at times, sitting in the low 80’s with good deception and depth. His curveball is behind those pitches in terms of quality but Barria utilized it a lot as more of a change of pace or get me over pitch. The 66ers started off the first few innings with 4 hits and 2 walks but only managed 1 run due to 2 outs made on the bases by Michael Hermosillo and Jose Rojas. Connor Justus, a newcomer to the 66ers, laced a RBI double down the RF line to start off the scoring in the 1st inning. Jared Walsh, the Angels 2015 39th round pick, crushed a solo home run to left center field in the 4th inning to give the 66ers a 2-0 lead. Garrett Nuss was the first 66ers reliever to enter in the 5th inning. He struggled a bit in 1.2 innings as he allowed 3 hits and a walk in his outing and loaded the bases with 2 outs in the 6th inning. Justin Anderson, who started for Inland Empire but is in the bullpen this year, came in and got out of the jam. Anderson was throwing 93-96 mph fastballs with sink and showing an above average slider in the 83-86 mph range at times but also threw some loopy sliders that were hittable or out of the zone. Anderson struggled with his command in the 7th inning but also didn’t get some help behind him when the lead was coughed up. Jake Yacinich and Michael Hermosillo both committed errors in the 7th inning, helping lead to the Giants taking the 3-2 lead. Matt Thaiss, the Angels 2016 1st round pick, uncorked a solo shot in the bottom of the 7th inning, tying up the game at 3. Thaiss got a fastball low in the zone from Giants reliever Caleb Simpson and hit a bullet over the right field wall. Ontario native Conor Lillis-White was the 4th 66ers reliever of the night in the 8th inning and threw 2 scoreless innings, striking out 3 batters and walking 1. Lillis-White is a tall 6’4″ left hander who sits in the upper 80’s with a sinking fastball and throws a sweeping curveball. Tied up after 9 innings of play, Sam Holland entered in the 10th inning as the 5th 66ers reliever and pitched 2 scoreless innings, flashing a nice sinker-slider combination from a sidearm angle. The Australian born right hander had a 0.83 ERA and 5.14 K/BB ratio in 2016 and looks like an interesting bullpen piece potentially down the road. Tyler Warmoth, an undrafted free agent, pitched 2.1 scoreless innings following Holland, flashing an average slider. Maybe the most impressive pitcher of the night was left hander Winston Lavendier, who was sitting 93-96 mph on his fastball and punched out 4 batters. In the 16th inning, the 66ers finally finished the night with a win, as Connor Justus took a walk with the bases loaded in the 16th inning.  Jeremy Rhoades was the winning pitcher on the night, pitching a scoreless 9th inning, as he got 3 straight outs thanks to a firm 92-93 mph fastball. Here are some noteworthy pregame quotes from the 66ers manager, Chad Tracy, and a few of the players about the 2017 season and what lies ahead. Chad Tracy On the 2016 season and the poor W/L record: “There’s multiple ways to judge a minor league season. One being the wins and losses and the other being player development. By last year’s record, we weren’t where we wanted to be but there was a lot of good stories that came out of it. We promoted a lot of position players to AA and Keynan Middleton was a huge question mark coming into the season and ended up in AAA and almost made it the major leagues. Those are the kinds of things we are looking for. Our main job is to get guys to the big leagues and help out Mike Scioscia. The more that happens, the better. We definitely want a nice record but the main goal is to get guys playing at the AA and AAA level.” On balancing winning games and developing players: “It’s a balance that you have to weigh. There’s certain things that you do and you think, man is that going to help us win tonight? Maybe not but it might not be in the best interests of that particular player that we are talking about. If that particular player is important to the organization that we want to advance, that takes priority every time. I don’t want to say we don’t care about winning, we’d love to win a championship like Orem did last year, which was really cool, but we ultimately want to win a championship in Anaheim. Whatever is best for our organization, that’s what we are going to do.” Any players on this 66ers team who is flying under the radar: “We have some interesting stories this year with some pitching. We have some guys who were in the rotation here last year who went through some struggles that we believe in. They are now back here in a bullpen role. It’s not that we necessarily don’t believe in them but because they have power stuff who we think could do well in the bullpen. We’ve got some guys like Jeremy Rhoades and Justin Anderson who have really good stuff who can pitch 2-3 innings out of the bullpen instead of 6 innings in a start. We’re hoping the stuff will play up and make them guys to keep an eye on. Many of the position players are guys who were drafted last year who were highly thought of so there might not be any guys flying under the radar there but there are a lot of quality players. Matt Thaiss and Connor Justus are quality players who played at big schools. We have quite a few good athletes that we just want to see go out there and do their thing. Hopefully, more of them than less will end up in Mobile with Sal Fasano before the year ends.” On utilizing certain new advancements such as launch angle measure: “Not so much since it’s tough to see from the naked eye. There’s obviously a lot of accessible stats and metrics out there for people to view. From the standpoint of hitting, Brian Betancourth, our hitting coach, spends a lot of time with out hitters to help get their routine down. He can help get them mechanically right when things might not be looking so good. Launch angle may come up but if it does, it’s more of something based on the eye test. For me, it’s hard to measure up a guy and say hey, he’s hitting the ball at this launch angle and needs to be. From our perspective, we want our guys to control the strike zone, get a ball in the strike zone and hit it hard. If our guys are getting strikes and not squaring them up, we might want to try to evaluate where they’re going wrong. If the guys are squaring up baseballs but making outs, we can live with that.” When he thought about becoming a manager: “I’ve always wanted to do it, even when I was just getting started playing. I wanted to have a long playing career and 9.5 years was pretty long although I wish I could’ve played longer. There were different things with my body that didn’t allow me to play longer. I always knew I wanted to manage though, due to me growing up around baseball in a baseball household and having my dad(Jim Tracy) helped. I always loved the cat and mouse games and the strategy involved with it. I’ve also really liked players. I was a player myself and always thought connecting with others on the team was fun. Having 25 guys on a team and trying to manage them is something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m very grateful I got the opportunity to do this.” Connor Justus On his first Spring Training: “It was awesome. It was a great experience getting to know some of the older guys and learn through them. It was cool seeing how they go about their business and how they conduct themselves and separate themselves from the rest of the world. It was definitely a growing and learning experience for me.” On any of the players reaching out to him: “I just tried to learn and grow from just watching these guys. I actually knew Shane Robinson, who I worked out with during the offseason, so I tried to ask him a bunch of questions and he helped me a lot. I asked him a few questions about Andrelton Simmons since we play the same position. I tried to eat up as much information as I could and just see how these guys went about their business.” On being in the same organization employing Andrelton Simmons: “it’s awesome. He’s a really laid back guy. If you ask a question, he’ll be the first one to answer. He’s a great mentor by just watching him. He’s so great on the defensive side and he’s really grown on the offensive side. He’s a glove glove guy and that’s awesome. I grew up in Atlanta so I was able to watch a lot of him so being in the same organization now is great.” On his interest in advanced stats and the new Statcast information: “During the offseason, I did some mechanical stuff with things like my launch angle. Things that can help myself on the offensive and defensive side are always going to be looked at by me. During the season, I try to not tweak too much since I’ve already laid down a great foundation for myself. During the season, I try to go about my business and have fun and make little tweaks here and there. We have trackman installed in the ballpark but during the season, I’m more concerned about the quality of my at bat. How hard I’m hitting the ball and how I’m feeling at the plate and seeing the ball are more important in season. If I’m hitting the ball hard but not seeing the results, those results will eventually come.” Matt Thaiss On his 1st big league camp: “It was a good time. It was a cool experience. I got to learn some things and watch some guys on and off the field and take things to implement into my game. A lot of guys, such as Kaleb Cowart and Eric Young Jr., went out of their way to help me out. I was in the same BP group as Eric Young Jr. so he was definitely helpful. These guys have recently been through the same position I am in and they were able to talk me through certain things” On any offseason changes: “I got a little bit stronger and put on a little bit more weight. Everything else was the same for the most part.”      
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Shohei Ohtani gives bat to fan, then crushes triple with new one

If you’re not feeling Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani — the second coming of Babe Ruth — then you’re not a baseball fan. Ohtani has burst onto the scene, crushing home runs and nearly even pulling off a perfect game in his first career MLB start. Not only that, he’s an awesome guy, which we recently learned. Ohtani was signing autographs for fans before a recent game, when he gave one particular kid his bat, which was pretty great. Not only that, the loss of the bat clearly didn’t affect him, as he crushed a triple with a new one. Yeah, we’re on the Ohtani bandwagon.
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Los Angeles Angels Midseason Minor League Update

Here’s a midseason snapshot of what the Angels prospects and minor league depth have done to this point of the season. STARTING PITCHERS Jose Suarez (20, LHP, A+/AA/AAA): 11 GS, 47.1 IP, 46 H, only 1 HR allowed, 15 walks, 75 strikeouts (14.3 K/9!), 1.29 WHIP, 2.85 ERA Griffin Canning (21, RHP, A+/AA): 10 GS, 44.2 IP, only 20 hits allowed, 2 HR allowed, 21 walks, 51 strikeouts, 0.92 WHIP, 1.21 ERA – 2018 AA All-Star John Lamb (27, LHP, AAA): 12 GS, 46 IP, 46 hits allowed, 12 walks, 51 strikeouts, 1.26 WHIP, 3.72 ERA Luis Pena (22, RHP, AA): 11 GS, 54 IP, 41 hits allowed, 25 walks, 59 strikeouts, 1.22 WHIP, 4.50 ERA Jose Rodriguez (22, RHP, AA): 11 GS, 53 IP, 58 hits allowed, only 3 HR allowed, 16 walks, 50 strikeouts, 1.40 WHIP, 4.58 ERA Worth watching… Joe Gatto (23, RHP, A+): 11 GS, 50.1 IP, 54 hits allowed, 24 walks, 56 strikeouts, 1.55 WHIP, 5.54 ERA Luis Madero (21, RHP, A): 10 GS, 44.1 IP, 41 hits allowed, 3 HR allowed, 8 walks, 35 strikeouts, 1.11 WHIP, 3.05 ERA Felix Pena (28, RHP, AAA): 8 GS, 26 IP, 24 hits allowed, 12 walks, 34 strikeouts, 1.38 WHIP, 4.15 ERA (as a starter) RELIEVERS Jeremy Rhoades (25, RHP, AA/AAA): 19 G, 35 IP, 25 H, 2 HR allowed, 5 walks, 26 strikeouts (14.3 K/9!), 0.86 WHIP, 1.80 ERA Jake Jewell (25, RHP, AA/AAA): 20 G, 32 IP, 34 hits allowed, only 1 HR allowed, 15 walks, 30 strikeouts, 1.53 WHIP, 2.53 ERA Ryan Clark (24, RHP, A+/AA/AAA): 20 G, 28 IP, 23 hits allowed, 0 home runs allowed, 10 walks, 38 strikeouts, 1.18 WHIP, 1.61 ERA (converted to bullpen this year) Tyler Stevens (22, RHP, A+/AA): 20 G, 30.2 IP, 24 hits allowed, 3 HR allowed, 8 walks, 39 strikeouts, 1.04 WHIP, 2.05 ERA Daniel Procopio (22, RHP, A+/AA): 15 G, 24 IP, 16 hits allowed, zero HR allowed, 18 walks, 38 strikeouts, 1.42 WHIP, 3.75 ERA Connor Lillis-White (25, LHP, AA): 15 G, 27.1 IP, 24 hits allowed, only 1 HR allowed, 15 walks, 38 strikeouts, 1.42 WHIP, 3.95 ERA Worth watching… Matt Custred (24, RHP, A+/AA): 18 G, 29.2 IP, 15 hits allowed, zero home runs, 19 walks, 33 strikeouts, 1.15 WHIP, 3.03 ERA Greg Mahle (25, LHP, AA): 18 G, 24 IP, 14 hits allowed, zero home runs, 9 walks, 24 strikeouts, 0.96 WHIP, 1.88 ERA – allowing lefties to a .083 BAA through 10 innings (one hit) with 2 BB and 12 K Adrian Almeida (23, LHP, A+/AA): 19 GS, 30.2 IP, 19 hits allowed, only 1 HR allowed, 27 walks, 41 strikeouts, 1.50 WHIP, 2.64 ERA CATCHERS Juan Graterol (29, b:R/t: R, C, AAA): 24 G, 96 PA – .322/.3437/.378/.725 with 5 doubles, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts, 32% CS% Francisco Arcia (28, L/R, C, AA/AAA) 15 G, 59 PA – .364/.386/.473/.859 with 2 HR, 2 walks, and 9 strikeouts, 17% CS% Michael Barash (23, R/R, AA): 39 G, 161 PA – .208/.346/.300/.646 with 6 doubles, 2 HR, 27 walks, 32 strikeouts, 17% CS%, 2018 AA All-Star Jack Kruger (23, R/R, A+): 47 G, 211 PA – .291/.389/.385/.773 with 8 doubles, 3 HR, 26 walks, 27 strikeouts, 24% CS% Worth watching… Keinner Pina (21, R/R, A): 36 G, 155 PA – ..248/.303/.298/.601 with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 11 walks, 38 strikeouts, 41% CS% CORNER INFIELDERS Matt Thaiss (23, b:L/t:R, 1B AA/AAA): 52 G, 233 PA – .294/.357/.519/.876 with 15 doubles, 3 triples, 9 home runs, 20 walks, 42 strikeouts, .993 FP% Taylor Ward (24, R/R, 3B, AA/AAA) 45 G, 192 PA – .335/.437/.512/.949 with 8 doubles, 7 home runs, 30 walks, 35 strikeouts, 8 for 9 in SB attempts, .919 FP% – 2018 AA All-Star Jared Walsh (24, L/L, 1B, RF, RP, A+/AA): 53 G, 232 PA – .290/.388/.632/1.020 with 13 doubles, 1 triple, 17 home runs, 34 walks, 64 strikeouts, .993 FP% – also pitched 3 G, 3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Jose Miguel Fernandez (30, L/R, 1B, 3B, 2B, AAA): 53 G, 226 PA – .345/.412/.562/.973 with 12 doubles, 1 triple, 10 home runs, 20 walks, 19 strikeouts, .995% (1 error) Worth watching… Zach Houchins (25, R/R, 3B, RF, 1B, AA/AAA) 40 G, 155 PA – .301/.342/.462/.803 with 6 doubles, 1 triple, 5 home runs, 8 walks, 34 strikeouts – .990 FP% Jose Rojas (25, L/R 1B, 3B, 2B, DH, AA): 36 G, 148 PA – .288/.365/.492/.857 with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 6 home runs, 16 walks, 34 strikeouts – .949 FP% Dustin Ackley (30, L/R 1B, LF, 2B, DH, AAA): 25 G, 102 PA – .337/.431/.488/.920 with 4 doubles, 3 home runs, 14 walks, 9 strikeouts – .995 FP% MID-INFIELDERS David Fletcher (24, R/R, SS, 2B, 3B, AAA): 52 G, 246 PA – .350/.396/.580/.976 with 24 doubles, 5 triples, 6 home runs, 15 walks, 17 strikeouts, 6 for 8 in SB attempts, .981 FP% Luis Rengifo (21, S/R, SS, A+/AA): 53 G, 245 PA – .329/.424/.467/.891 with 13 doubles, 5 triples, 2 home runs, 31 walks, 25 strikeouts, 26 for 27 in SB attempts, .963 FP% Jahmai Jones (20, R/R, 2B, A+): 49 G, 227 PA – .249/.348/.426/.774 with 7 doubles, 5 triples, 6 home runs, 27 walks, 46 strikeouts, 7 for 10 in SB attempts, .953 FP% Kaleb Cowart (26, S/R, SS, RF, 3B, 2B, AAA): 35 G, 162 PA – .302/.352/.456/.808 with 12 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, 11 walks, 34 strikeouts, .951 FP% Leonardo Rivas (20, S/R,SS, 2B, A): 51 G, 238 PA – .241/.380/.340/.720 with 7 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs, 42 walks, 53 strikeouts, 5 for 9 in SB attempts, .964 FP% Worth watching… Nolan Fontana (27, L/R, 2B, DSL) 19 G, 87 PA – .266/.430/.453/.883 with 7 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 19 walks, 18 strikeouts .977 FP% Roberto Baldoquin (24, R/R, SS, 3B, 2B, A+) 21 G, 87 PA – .316/.395/.487/.882 with 2 doubles, 4 triples, 1 home run, 8 walks, 22 strikeouts, 3 for 3 in SB attempts, .970 FP% Julio de la Cruz (17, R/R, A+/AA): 3 G, 13 PA – .273/.385/.636/1.021 with 1 double, 1 home run, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts – very good debut last year as a 16-yr old Hutton Moyer (25, S/R, DH, 3B, 2B, SS, AA): 31 G, 133 PA – .205/.256/.393/.649 with 3 doubles, triple, 6 home runs, 8 walks, 44 strikeouts, 7 for 11 in SB attempts, .989 FP% – started red hot and crashed OUTFIELDERS Jo Adell (19, b:R/t: R, CF, RF, LF, A/A+): 38 G, 166 PA – .267/.331/.533/.865 with 9 doubles, 2 triples, 9 home runs, 14 walks, 45 strikeouts, 7 for 8 in SB attempts, .938 FP% Brandon Marsh (20, L/R, RF, CF, LF, A/A+): 50 G, 227 PA – .266/.352/.392/.744 with 14 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, 27 walks, 59 strikeouts, 8 for 8 in SB attempts, 3 assists, .966 FP% Torii Hunter, Jr. (23, R/R, LF, CF, RF, A) 46 G, 207 PA – .274/.362/.391/.753 with 8 doubles, 5 triples, 1 home run, 26 walks, 55 strikeouts, 14 for 16 in SB attempts, 2 assists, 1.000 FP% Michael Hermosillo (23, R/R, CF, RF, LF AAA) 40 G, 187 PA – .265/.387/.477/.865 with 4 doubles, 4 triples, 7 home runs, 21 walks, 56 strikeouts, 7 for 10 in SB attempts, 6 assists, .971 FP% Jabari Blash (28, R/R, RF, LF, CF, AAA): 42 G, 180 PA – .327/.417/.737/1.154 with 17 doubles, 1 triple, 15 home runs, 19 walks, 55 strikeouts, 5 assists, .972 FP% Worth watching… Rymer Liriano (27, R/R, CF, RF, LF, AAA): 40 G, 163 PA – .264/.340/.569/.909 with 4 doubles, 2 triples, 12 home runs, 5 for 5 in SB attempts, 16 walks, 52 strikeouts, 6 assists, .976 FP% Sherman Johnson (27, L/R, LF, 2B, 3B, SS, RF, AAA): 12 G, 48 PA – .286/.354/.738/1.092 with 3 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, 5 walks, 9 strikeouts, .950 FP% Zach Gibbons (24, R/R, LF, RF AA): 42 G, 162 PA – .283/.352/.338/.690 with 6 doubles,1 triple, 16 walks, 17 strikeouts, 3 assists, .985 FP% – 2018 AA All-Star
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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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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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2017 Season Primer Part XV: Lineup Construction

By @ettin, Senior Writer Before we dive into the projected probable lineups for 2017 it would be good to have a conversation about lineup optimization, batted ball data, balls in play, and hitter contact. In 2007, a groundbreaking baseball novel, The Book, was written by three esteemed statisticians, Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman, and Andy Dolphin. The Book took long-held baseball traditions, such as lineup optimization, platooning, and batting/pitching match ups for example, and placed a spotlight on them to determine if they are really true or need an updated approach and strategy. One chapter of that book speaks to a topic relevant to the Primer series regarding lineup optimization. Rather than spell out everything The Book says it would be easier to point you to a tidy summation written here by Sky Kalkman in 2012. Take a moment to go read it so that the following discussion makes more sense. In regard to the Angels let us examine what The Book’s authors suggest for each spot in the lineup and which players on the team best fit the mold against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers. If you stick strictly to the authors recommendations the lineups might look something like the following: Per, in 2016, the total number of plate appearances for hitters that reached on error (ROE) via ground balls, fly balls, line drives, and bunts are noted below:To be clear you could make good arguments for and against the placement of these players in different spots of the order. One lineup randomization might prefer Trout hitting lead-off while another might like him in the 2-hole. What virtually all the systems agree with is that Mike Trout should be in the Top 3 to maximize his production. There are also other factors to consider in this lineup optimization discussion including balls in play, batted ball data, and quality of contact. 2016 League Totals and Averages by Hit Type           Ground balls are the most likely type of hit, by far, to produce an error by the opponent’s defense. Whether the defender takes their eye off the ball, does not field it cleanly, takes a bad route, or succumbs to the pressure to throw it efficiently and quickly to the appropriate bag, ground balls are the #1 source of errors in baseball by a huge margin. However ground balls are also the least productive type of hit. These facts are likely the primary drivers of why teams prefer ground ball pitchers with infielders playing strong defense behind them because the tradeoff of errors for double plays and low tOPS+ has probably been proven to be the best in-game strategy (although Dipoto might have felt differently with the fly ball staff he had in his final years). When you break BABIP apart into its constituent components it becomes readily apparent that line drives are hands down the best type of hit a batter can execute at the plate as seen above. Bunts and ground balls are a distant 2nd and 3rd with fly balls bringing up the rear. Your ideal hitter should be one that hits a high percentage of line drives and ground balls while limiting fly balls. The only time this might not be as desirable is if you have a really big bat in your order (high ISO, above average exit velocity) who can regularly make the ball leave the park. Recent research into launch angles supports the line drive argument as the ideal angle at contact generally falls somewhere between 15 to 25 degrees to maximize quality of contact (barreling the ball). As part of the research put into the Primers the author has plunged deep into the statistical abyss in search of information and data to support the idea that Billy Eppler has a strategy in place for the offense and there is some evidence that indicates, yes, there is one. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently published one of his weekly articles and at the end of that article he pointed out that over the last 10 years strikeouts have increased year to year with 2016 being the highest strikeout rate per 9 innings ever recorded (8.03 K/9). This immediately caught my attention because prior to reading that article, while visiting, I exported a bunch of data including Balls Put in Play/Strikeouts (I/STR) and Contact% for the entire League in 2016. If you sort by a minimum of 50 plate appearances and I/STR, three Angels players, Simmons, Escobar, and Revere, appear in the Top 20. In fact every Angels hitter, except Mike Trout and Danny Espinosa, are above League average and the Angels as a whole led all teams at 31.4%. The Angels were also ranked 2nd lowest in Swinging strikes without contact on a per strike basis at 15% and also ranked 2nd in total contact rate at 79.8%. In regard to the former, it is considered the best method of striking a hitter out. Essentially what this is saying is that in an era of baseball where strikeout rates are consistently rising, primarily due to pitchers throwing harder, Angels hitters are more efficient at making contact, swinging only at pitches in the zone, and putting the ball into play on a per strike basis. It is a counter-method to employ against rising strikeout rates. The next question should be is this a good thing? Putting the ball in play is always a good goal. It is better than striking out. The potential problem is that if you do not have a good all-fields approach or you make soft contact, you will hit the ball into defensive shifts or weakly bounce it right into the hands of the opponent’s defense, possibly even resulting in a double play. A hitter with a high I/STR needs to have some combination of bat manipulation, ability to barrel the ball, hitting ability to all-fields, decent exit velocity, or speed to make those balls in play turn into actual hits. We constantly hear from hitting coaches about teaching players a good “up-the-middle line drive approach” in combination with good athleticism. This certainly is not a new concept but only in the last few years have modern day measurements and statistics proven out and supported this long held adage. All of this conversation leads back to Billy Eppler’s construction of the 2017 lineup and what we can expect in terms of offensive performance from the 25-man roster. About 70% of the pitchers in baseball are right-handed. This of course means 30% are left-handed. This simply means that teams, in general while ignoring the specific percentages of handedness within their own Divisions, want to have more hitters that perform well against right-handers than they do left-handers. Typically this takes the form of looking at a hitters platoon splits, which we did above, and determining how good their splits are, over preferably large sample sizes, to get a more accurate read on expected player performance. In a lot of cases you find that left-handed batters tend to perform better against right-handed pitchers and right-handed batters tend to perform better against left-handed pitchers. This is simply a general rule of thumb and there are exceptions to it like Kole Calhoun in 2016 (and notably over his Minor League career too). In order to continue it would be best to take a snapshot of individual Angels player offensive contributions by handedness over the last three seasons as seen in the table below. Please realize that some players like Carlos Perez and Jefry Marte have not been in the Majors that long so their career numbers are shown to date. Others like Kaleb Cowart, Ryan LaMarre, and Nolan Fontana either have a limited history of at-bats or no Major League experience at all so the author has made best-guess projections based on Major and Minor League history: That offensive performance was obviously above average and if the Angels had not suffered such devastating injuries to their pitching staff and bullpen it may have been enough to get them into the playoffs.In 2016 the Angels offense was ranked 9th overall in Major League baseball with a wRC+ of 100. By handedness the Angels ranked 10th versus LHP with a wRC+ of 101 and ranked 12th versus RHP with a wRC+ of 99. The question now becomes can the Angels at least maintain that level of performance or, better yet, improve it for the 2017 season? So with this thought in mind let us start building and examining the projected lineup by placing our core four of Trout, Pujols, Calhoun, and Simmons in their likely hitting spots vs. LHP and RHP, respectively: Simmons will likely hit out of the 9-hole this year because of his ability to put the ball in play, as mentioned above, and as an above average base runner to hopefully be driven in by the top of the lineup when he does manage to get on-base. If Andrelton is able to carry over his 2nd half performance and raise his isolated power a bit he could turn into a new version of Yunel Escobar which would be immensely useful.So first of all the order you place your hitters in will probably not make or break your season. As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register noted batting order generally doesn’t overtly impact the season (unless you completely mismanage it of course). Eppler and Scioscia are not likely to break the mold of success that drove the 2016 lineup and will probably run Trout, Pujols, and Calhoun back-to-back-to-back against LHP and slide Kole down a spot against RHP (mostly due to Cron probably hitting 5th as we will discuss below). Update: Based on late spring returns it appears Scioscia will run Calhoun out of the 2-hole which is not ideal but should produce above average results. Some, such as the authors of The Book, would argue that Trout belongs in the 2-hole since he is the best hitter on the team and they would probably be right. Trout is a unique specimen who is an excellent hitter and hits for significant power. He is without a doubt a run creator and producer all wrapped up in one. However his ability is so great that he can hit anywhere in the top of the order and he will add value with the differences in position being minimal. Mike produced a wRC+ of 170 in 2016, so the 3-hole seems to be the best combination of plate appearances and run-producing opportunities but it defies statistical logic to a degree. The author would make a strong argument that when the team faces a LHP, they should put Trout in the 2-hole and have Escobar hit 3rd but we are discussing what Scioscia is likely to do not me, so Mike will hit 3rd. Based on all of that the Angels need to decide who is leading off and who hits out of the 2-hole if Mike is permanently in the 3-hole. Escobar did an excellent job hitting leadoff last year and it is possible Eppler and Scioscia do not want to upset the apple cart by having him hit second. However the numbers do not support this argument if you believe, as Eppler clearly does, that Maybin’s revamped swing mechanics, as discussed in Part XI of the Primer series, are legitimate improvements. It is the author’s recommendation that, despite his early Spring Training struggles, Cameron should start the season hitting leadoff based on his recent returns. Maybin is an efficient base stealer against RHP with a career 83.6% success rate (65.8% vs. LHP). However based on some old research found here stolen base success rates, as related to run production, should vary based on who is at the plate. Basically if you have a power hitter or a high walk rate player at the plate, the stolen base success rate needs to be higher because, in the case of the former, a home run will drive in the runner anyway and, in the case of the latter, stealing a base and then having the batter walk defeats the purpose of the steal. Yunel Escobar does not walk much and does not strike out much. He gets on base through his excellent contact ability to spray hits around the field. Having Maybin on-base in front of him not only brings down Cameron’s minimum stolen base success rate (about 63% in front of Yunel) it also allows Scioscia to harken back to the good old days of the hit and run and going first to third. If Maybin can recreate at least a .340 OBP from both sides of the plate (he was .384 and .383 respectively in 2016) and use his speed too tactically and selectively steal bases in front of Escobar, the top of our order will have a dynamic impact on early run scoring for the team. Basically it breaks down into a percentage game of scoring at least one run in the 1st inning of any game. If you put Mike in the 2-hole and have, say, Escobar hit in front of him, the odds that Yunel will even be on-base in the 1st inning is about 35%. By having both Maybin and Escobar hit in front of Trout you are raising the odds of one of them being on-base from about 35% to 57%. Maybin is an efficient base stealer so if he gets on-base he will likely have the green light on most days to try and take second base in front of Yunel (if he is not already there!). Notably you could substitute Ben Revere here with the same general results as he has a very high stolen base success rate against RHP. Additionally Escobar is fantastic at hitting singles and doubles so this should create a lot of situations where Trout comes up to the plate with runners in scoring position. Under this assumption let us update the lineups vs. LHP and RHP, respectively: Logically if they are getting to Albert often the Angels probably want to set up their next best group of hitters for follow-on innings behind Pujols.The top of the lineup on both sides looks pretty strong based only on these running averages. If Maybin recreates his 2016 magic, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols will have plenty of RBI opportunities in 2017. In fact if the Top 3 in the order play to these 3-year running average OBP numbers, Pujols should come up in the 1st inning approximately 75% of the time with at least one runner on-base (or more) or one or more of the hitters in front of him have already scored. This top four of the order should be able to threaten opposing pitchers on a regular basis. If the team is not getting to Pujols in the 1st inning often then clearly there is something wrong that needs correction. Against both sides you could make a logical argument that Calhoun should hit out of the 5-hole and The Book agrees with a hitter like him. It is likely that Kole would be the leadoff hitter to start a subsequent inning after the first four have batted and we all know that he is capable of hitting both at the top and middle of the order. He ranks 3rd on the team in total hits plus walks (regular and intentional) plus hit by pitches on a per plate appearance basis so he is productive. This versatility allows him to hit anywhere which certainly appeals to Scioscia and Eppler (and is yet one more reason why they extended him). C.J. Cron, as we discussed in Part VI of the Primer Series, has had fairly wide platoon splits across his career, hitting a wRC+ of 119 vs. RHP and 91 vs. LHP. Although Kole appears to be a reasonable choice, Scioscia will probably put Cron in the 5-hole against RHP to create a double home run threat to drive in the top of the order. If Christopher continues to struggle against LHP as he did last year (wRC+ of 79) the Angels could have Jefry Marte step into a platoon role with him. C.J. will likely be given the opportunity to hit against both sides of the mound to start the season until he succeeds or plays himself into the platoon but for the purposes of this exercise we will pencil Jefry in against LHP. Luis Valbuena is nearly a clone of Cron with a little more positional and defensive versatility. He too puts the ball in the air a lot especially against RHP so you can simply substitute one out for the other as needed and achieve the same goals. The primary difference for Luis would be as a possible 2 or 3-hole hitter against RHP as his OBP is superior to Cron’s giving Scioscia a little more lineup flexibility. Danny Espinosa has hit LHP a lot better than RHP over the course of his career. He will likely pick up a full season’s worth of at-bats playing at the keystone so we will pencil him in against both sides hitting out of the 7-hole. Espinosa could possibly hit higher in the order vs. LHP (for instance hitting in front of Marte) but against RHP he will likely be relegated to the back of the lineup along with Perez and Simmons where any production those three create will simply be “bonus” runs for the team. The Book agrees with placing a player like Danny in the middle-back of the order who has some base stealing capability to hit in front of singles hitters like Perez or Simmons. Finally the Angels currently have Martin Maldonado and Carlos Perez as their projected tandem behind the plate. As seen in the splits chart above Martin hits LHP better (wRC+ of 95) while Perez hits RHP better (wRC+ of 76). To finish off this projected lineup we will pencil in both Maldonado and Perez leaving us with the following projected lineups: Now to be clear they will not hit that mark in all likelihood. Injuries and replacement players will probably bring down that 108 number down about 5%-7%. Also, technically, this number could fluctuate based on the number of plate appearances each hitter receives but the impact should be minimal once the 5%-7% attrition reduction is applied.First of all to be distinct, there are certainly cases to be made of placing other Angels hitters in the spots above. Nothing is sacrosanct this is just a discussion This leaves the Angels with an approximate combined projected wRC+ of 108 for the 2017 season. When you consider the Angels ended 2016 with a wRC+ of 100 there is an above average probability that the 2017 squad will outperform their numbers from last season which would be a positive outcome for the team’s playoff aspirations. The offensive upgrade in LF actually makes a significant difference compared to what we rolled out last season. Maldonado should provide increased production against LHP. Beyond those two areas the only remaining one the Angels could potentially upgrade offensively is Carlos Perez against RHP but payroll may limit the team from executing on that initiative. Hypothetically if the Angels acquired a catcher like Miguel Montero, who has a career wRC+ of 108 vs. RHP, it would be a big upgrade offensively over Perez but that type of move might not be in the cards. A free agent like Matt Wieters might have made sense as well, as was discussed here, but that move no longer appears to be in the cards. In the end the Angels should excel, as they did in 2016, against left-handed pitching. Against right-handers the Angels will have to consolidate their on-base and run producers into the top and middle of the order to create optimal scoring opportunities and just be happy with whatever they can squeeze out of the bottom of the order on a daily basis. Eppler’s strategy is to have the team utilize a line drive, all-fields approach with the goal of reducing strikeouts and putting the ball into play through high, efficient contact rates, particularly on balls in the zone. Many teams want this approach but the Angels are the ones executing it well right now. The bottom line is, barring injuries or poor performance, the Angels have the capacity to be a Top 10 offense again in 2017. View the full article


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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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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Shohei Ohtani sings 'Despacito' on team bus for rookie hazing (Video)

All eyes have been on Angels rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani this season, and he continues to amaze, both on and off the diamond. Ohtani continues to crush home runs, and he’s been doing this with UCL damage, which will cause him to undergo Tommy John Surgery in the offseason. Most players would have called it quits during that time, but not Ohtani, who continues to amaze. Speaking of amazing, you need to see this video of him signing “Despacito” on the team bus, which his teammates talked him into doing as rookie hazing. That’s a heck of a lot better than dressing up in some eccentric outfit, as many teams have rookies do.  
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2019 Primer Series: Financials

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer Now that we have established some of the Angels primary goals, restrictions, and needs we can take a deeper dive into the teams projected finances heading into the off-season. Below is the projected, 40-man roster, financial table that includes team benefits and all payouts (option buyouts, dead contracts, etc.) owed and is based on the assumption that the Angels bring back all of their guaranteed, contractually-controlled and current pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players: Under these premises, as seen above, projected salary (actual) and Average Annual Value (AAV) will be approximately $161M and $143.3M, respectively. Here are some notes regarding the table above: The roster does not consider or include any potential acquisitions, only those who are likely to stay based on the current 40-man roster at the time of publication. The ‘Payouts’ number has only one input, which is the $500,000 buyout of Luis Valbuena’s 2019 option. The arbitration numbers for Shoemaker, Skaggs, Parker, Heaney, Ramirez, Alvarez, Bedrosian, Tropeano, and Robles were obtained from annual Projected Arbitration series, which is an annual snapshot of all arbitration controlled players, by team, and their projected salaries. Their system has proven to be reliably accurate over the years and the projected salaries for each of the Angels players, listed above, should not vary too widely, resulting in a negligible impact to this payroll discussion. It is the author’s opinion that the Angels will reward Shohei Ohtani for his superior performance by giving him a higher than normal pre-arbitration salary in the $570,000 range. This is merely speculation but it is not unprecedented in MLB history and would be warranted in Ohtani’s case. Finally, in regard to the Finances table above, we need to discuss the ‘Benefits’ number. Here is the relevant excerpt from the MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA): and the following page: In last and this year’s Primer Series the author has been calculating team ‘Benefits’ using the base sum for 2017 ($219.3M above) and then adding a presumed 6%, as listed in Part (2), based on the low spending during the 2017-2018 off-season, to apply to this one. Based on brief discussions with the OCRegister’s Jeff Fletcher on and upon further review of the relevant excerpt above, it is possible that Section (1), Part (a) may contain an elusive, additional sum that should be a part of the ‘Benefits’ number listed in the Finances table at the top of the article. This sum may be close to $5M which has a marginal impact on this payroll discussion but is not a deal breaker overall. It is very probable that Jeff is correct based on discussions he has had with Major League General Managers in the past on this subject. The reader should be advised that Eppler’s ability to spend is probably less than what is advertised above based on Fletcher’s knowledge. Moving on, the league minimum player salary for 2019 is $555,000, a $10K increase over last year, and is reflected in the Finances table, above. This, of course, applies to the pre-arbitration players except, possibly, for Shohei Ohtani. Please remember that any player not on the 25-man roster receives only Minor League pay unless their contract says otherwise. This simply means that the total payroll number, above, will be offset by about $2M-4M due to roster fluctuation throughout the 2019 season, so please keep that in mind. As the 2018 season began, the Angels installed a new video board and offered a new series of food concessions which is a continuation of the renovations that the team committed to, as was discussed in last years Financial section of the Primer Series. These and other upgrades were supposedly in lieu of a new stadium which may have limited significant expenditures elsewhere as the author cited in a report that indicated Moreno was committed to staying in the current stadium for the next 13 years and would not opt-out. However, Arte did, in fact, opt-out recently, setting the potential for some off-field drama if the team and the new mayor and reconstituted city council cannot arrive at an amicable agreement for the Angels to stay. This move, by most appearances, seems to be a non-event and is probably a small-scale leverage tool to extract an additional concession or two from the city to convince Moreno to stay in Anaheim. Unless Arte has secretly negotiated a new stadium deal somewhere else, it seems to be in the best interests of both sides that the Angels stay put in Anaheim moving forward. Ultimately, it needs to make financial sense to Arte Moreno. The city needs to avoid bad political optics, so they need to ensure that the taxpayers are not screwed and that the city receives tangible benefits in terms of employment, business, and land development opportunities. Stay tuned with the OCRegister’s Jeff Fletcher and for updates on this topic moving forward. So, based on the above, Billy Eppler should have above average payroll flexibility once the current financial year closes on December 2nd, 2018. This will allow him to target virtually any player he likes whether it is in trade or through free agency to help reinforce the 2019 Halos squad. As was stated over the last several years, the caveat to this financial discussion is that Arte has consistently and fully funded team payroll during his time as owner so these perceived cash-related issues and thresholds may just be guidelines and could be violated at Moreno’s whim. In fact Arte did go over the Luxury Tax threshold once back in 2004, albeit, by a measly $927,000. One potential roadblock that could curtail spending overall is actual team payroll, which is about $17M-$18M higher than AAV. If Moreno does not allow Eppler to go over a specific number, say $190M-$195M (versus the CBT threshold of $206M) in actual payroll, then Billy may not be able to fully utilize all of the Luxury Tax space available. Arte probably could authorize and handle a measured increase but by how much is anyone’s guess due to our lack of complete team financial information and insight into Moreno’s approach to spending under this current set of circumstances. Keep in mind that one way Eppler can utilize the extra Luxury Tax payroll space is to extend one or more players (Trout being the prime target) on the roster while keeping their 2019 and 2020 actual salaries close to their current and projected numbers. For example if the Angels extend Andrelton Simmons to a 6-year, $102M deal, they can keep his 2019 salary at $13M but raise his AAV from $8.3M to $17M per season, thereby keeping actual payroll even while sponging up some of the excess AAV dollars available. Remember, as we discussed last year, the team pulls in an annual sum of $150M from their cable deal plus an unknown amount from their partial control of the Fox Sports West Regional Sports Network (RSN) in addition to ticket and merchandise sales. In the end Moreno completely controls how far the Angels dive in, but it seems crystal clear that Eppler has set a path that will allow Arte to choose exactly how much money is spent, how many resources are expended and where they are applied, and even how long we stay in the deep-end of the pool, which gives Moreno a great deal of leeway to get involved as much or as little as he desires. To illustrate how Eppler has positioned the team heading into 2019, here is a snapshot of the guaranteed contractual money owed to Angels players in the coming seasons: The Angels currently have six guaranteed contracts to pay in 2019 for Trout, Pujols, Upton, Simmons, Calhoun, and Cozart, totaling $98,569,048. In the following year, which is Trout’s last season (currently) of contractual control, if the Angels do not hand out any more guaranteed deals before December 2nd, 2020 and they trade Kole or decline his team option, the total guaranteed money owed that season will decrease to $90,235,714. If they retain Calhoun it will rise to $104,235,714. In the following year, which is Albert’s last season of contractual control, the total guaranteed money projects to be $45,200,000. After that only Justin Upton’s $21,200,000 remains, in the final season of his 5-year deal. The good news here is that the Angels are in a better place financially heading into this off-season. In order to compete in 2019 they will spend more, resulting in more commitments, but the trend appears to be heading in what the author would describe as a positive direction. It will even leave room for other extensions, trade acquisitions and free agent signings. The freedom of those decreasing guaranteed commitments leaves enough room for the Angels to extend Mike Trout this year, likely before Opening Day 2019, after the free agent market has dolled out record contracts to Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Frankly there are virtually zero roadblocks in Eppler’s way to re-sign Trout other than Moreno’s willingness to spend which, honestly, has never been an issue and Mike’s alacrity to put pen to paper. It should also be noted that the Angels have a few qualified players entering their 1st and 2nd years of arbitration control. This will result, dependent upon whom the Angels tender contracts to, in about $20M-25M in additional payroll for the upcoming season. It is not a huge amount for the Halos but it will have an impact on team payroll. This arbitration situation will worsen a bit in 2020 when a lot of these players hit their 2nd and 3rd years of arbitration which will likely result in Eppler trading one or more of them away for other areas of need or perhaps not tendering a contract at all. Certain arbitration players could potentially be extended soon, as well, including Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney for example, eliminating unknown arbitration numbers and adding fidelity to team payroll in succeeding seasons. The bottom line is that Billy Eppler continues to re-tool the team year-to-year as the Angels continue to compete in the American League West. As a large market team with solid financial flexibility, a core group of competent players, and a rapidly improving farm system the team is set on a path for success despite the setbacks, performance issues, and injuries that have plagued the Halos over the last couple of seasons. Fans should, however, temper their expectations on whom the team will acquire. As Eppler said recently, “… I’m not going to jeopardize the health of the organization to make sure I check a box.” This simply means that the Angels have set a path to sustainable success and they will not readily deviate from that path on a whim. Also, if an opportunity to truly upgrade the 2019 team materializes, Moreno may extend the financial rope a modest amount if it involved his proverbial “… right player, in the right situation…”. Again this type of player is unlikely to be acquired by the Angels this off-season. However, if they hit the Trade Deadline and have the opportunity to add one or two finishing pieces to push all-in to make the playoffs, Arte could put his blessing on pushing past the artificial CBT threshold and trading away one or two quality prospects to give a solid nudge to a playoff-caliber squad. A “Big Splash”, as seen in the movie Draft Day, should not be expected in the months leading up to Opening Day 2019. Based on this outlook the Angels are likely to start the year by staying within their means, remaining under the 2019 CBT threshold of $206M (AAV) with an actual team payroll of about $190M-195M, give or take. Finally, if the Angels are able to extend Mike Trout this off-season (or next) every Angels fan should rejoice. That, by itself, would be the crown jewel of an exciting off-season. In the next section we will discuss team Production.
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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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Why Mike Trout Might Be the Most Dominant Player Ever

By Jonathan Northrop, Contributor What I’m about to share with you is so mind-blowing that it is worth its own thread outside of the Troutstanding one. Let me take you for a journey… I went through every seven-year span in baseball history, from 1871-77 to the current one, 2012-18, and looked at WAR leaders over those seven year stretches. Why seven years? Because that is how long Trout has been a major league regular, so it encapsulates the fullness of his career thus far. I then compared the WAR leader to the runner-up, and noted the gap the two. Why? Well, when we are talking about dominance it is always relative to his peers. I would argue that the best definition of dominance is just that: how good a player is relative to his peers. There have been many players who have had truly amazing years, but seven years gives us a sense of sustained dominance, and the true greats combine peak greatness and sustained dominance. For instance, Norm Cash (10.2 fWAR in 1961), Darin Erstad (8.7 fWAR in 2000), and Jacoby Ellsbury (9.4 fWAR in 2011) have all had seasons that could safely fit into a Hall of Famer’s peak, but the difference is that players like Mantle, Bonds, and Trout have those kinds of performances season after season. Anyhow, so we’re looking at 142 seven-year spans of time, from 1871-77 to 2012-18. There are 33 players who have had the most dominant seven-year spans, from Ross Barnes to Mike Trout. Trout has done it for three years in a row, starting in 2010-16 even though he didn’t play in 2010 and barely in 2011. The current span, 2012-18, is his first full seven-year stretch and, of course, we’ve still got 90 games to play. Here’s the current WAR leaders (Fangraphs) for 2012-18: 1. MIke Trout 60.4 2. Josh Donaldson 35.9 3. Andrew McCutchen 34.9 Anything look funny there? Well, the gap between Trout and Donaldson is huge: 24.5 WAR, or 3.5 WAR a year! Trout has averaged  8.6 WAR during that span vs. Donaldson’s 5.1. Think about that for a moment. OK, so how does that 24.5 seven-year gap compare to the rest of baseball history? How many seven year gaps are as big or bigger? The answer is…. NONE. And none are particularly close. The second largest gap is 1989-95 when Barry Bonds accumulated 58.5 fWAR over Cal RIpken’s 38.6, a gap of 19.9 WAR. And no, it wasn’t early 00s Bondzilla, when Alex Rodriguez was always relatively close and a terrifically great (if roided) player in his own right. And no, it wasn’t Babe Ruth, when the often under-remembered Rogers Hornsby was a strong second fiddle (although the two of them were often quite far ahead of the rest of the pack). So let me put this another way: Mike Trout has been more dominant relative to his peers over the last seven years than any position player in major league history. Let that sink in. I’ll say it again in a slightly different way for effect, so you really get it: Over the course of Trout’s full-time career, he has been more dominant relative to the field of position players than any player has been in all of baseball history. According to fWAR, of course. So let me ask you. If that is the case, is it not then the case that Trout–so far, at least–has been the greatest player ever? I mean, isn’t that the logical extension? We can leave that as an open-ended question, because I’m not quite ready to answer in the affirmative, even though the numbers say as much. But let’s finish up with a bit more. So there have been 33 “7WAR” leaders (seven-year span fWAR leaders). Of the 33, 20 have done it at least three times – which is Trout’s current total. Given Trout’s lead over the lack, he is an absolute lock to do it at least two more times, so five. So far only 12 players lead 7WAR five or more times. Chances are Trout will do it a time or two more. And the most? No, it isn’t Ruth, its Bonds, with 15. Yes, that’s right. Bonds has been the 7WAR leader 15 different times, every year from 1986-92 to 2000-06. What a beast. OK, I’m done. Hope you had a cloth of some kind nearby.
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