Tuesday, May 5, 2015

By Adrian Noche, AngelsWin.com Minor League Reporter - 

1.) Jeremy Rhoades, Starting Pitcher, Burlington Bees
Last two starts: 1-0  11.2 IP  3.86 ERA  11 H  2 BB  11 SO  1.11 WHIP
Overall: 3-0  26.1 IP  2.05 ERA  26 H  5 BB  31 SO  1.18 WHIP  .252 BAA

Jeremy Rhoades is yet another pitcher from the Angels’ 2014 draft class. Drafted in the 4th round out of Illinois State, Jeremy possesses arguable the best slider in the entire organization. There were many questions as to whether Rhoades would be better suited as a reliever or starter, with the majority choosing the former. However, the Angels decided to give Jeremy a shot as a starter and the results have been more than promising. So far this season, Rhoades has posted impressive per 9 numbers with a SO9 of 10.6 to go along with a BB9 of 1.7. Jeremy has given up more than one earned run in a start only once so far this season, allowing 4 in 5.2 innings pitched on Monday. Take away that start and Jeremy owns an even more impressive 0.87 ERA across 20.2 innings pitched.

2.) Austin Robichaux, Starting Pitcher, Burlington Bees
Last two starts: 0-0  11.0 IP  0.82 ERA  9 H  0 BB  6 SO  0.818 WHIP
Overall: 1-1  19.2 IP  2.75 ERA  16 H  5 BB  11 SO  1.07 WHIP  .229 BAA

It’s time for another starting pitcher to introduce himself to the prospect hotlist. His name is Austin Robichaux and he is also a member of the Angels’ 2014 draft class. Prior to being drafted, Austin pitched 3 years at Louisiana-Lafayette and was arguable their best pitcher. Austin owned a career 19-9 record with a 3.05 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 189 strikeouts in 242 IP (57 BBs). After only lasting 2.2 innings and giving up 3 earned runs in his first start of the season, Austin has since only given up a combined 3 earned runs in his last three starts (17.0 innings pitched). Drafted in the 18th round, Austin has been a steal thus far for the Angels.

3.) Caleb Adams, Outfielder, Burlington Bees
Past 10 games: .359 AVG  14 H  1 Doubles  0 Triples  0 HR  1 SB
Overall: .356/.486/.471

Caleb Adams managed to sustain his high batting average on the season with a batting average of .346 and 1 double since our last prospect report. What stands out with Adams is his eye, the outfielder boasts an impressive .486 OBP on the season. Adams saw his 9-game hitting streak come to an end on Monday, going hitless in 4 at-bats. 

4.)Alex Yarbrough, Second Baseman, Salt Lake Bees
Past 10 games: .298 AVG  14 H  6 Doubles  0 Triples  0 HR  0 SB
Overall: .248/.278/.347

Alex Yarbrough has found his way back into our prospect hotlist. After a very slow start to the season, Yarbrough has been playing like the Texas League MVP he was with the Travelers a year ago. Over his past 6 games, Yarbrough is batting .419 to go along with 6 doubles and 7 RBI’s. Prior to that stretch, Yarbrough only had 2 doubles all season. Since April 22nd, Yarbrough has seen his batting average climb from an average of .173 to .248. Hitting in the PCL, one can expect that average to climb even higher for the second baseman.

5.) Keynan Middleton, Starting Pitcher, Burlington Bees
Last two starts: 0-0  11.0 IP  3.27 ERA  11 H  4 BB  6 SO  1.36 WHIP
Overall: 1-0  28.1 IP  3.49 ERA  25 H  9 BB  19 SO  1.20 WHIP  .248 BAA

Unlike the pitchers mentioned before him, Keynan Middleton was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 First Year Player Draft. Despite pitching in college, Middleton is an intriguing prospect due to the fact that he was a 2-sport athlete up until he was drafted. Due to this, Middleton is very raw and could take some time to develop. His play so far this season has been very encouraging. Middleton threw is 4th straight quality start on Monday, pitching 5.0 complete innings while only giving up 6 hits, 3 walks and 2 earned runs (3 strikeouts). During his stretch of quality starts, Middleton has an ERA of 2.42 and 1.11 WHIP.

Minor League Affiliate Report

Triple-A Salt Lake Bees

The Bees went 3-4 in their last 7 games and now sit 7.0 GB first place with an overall record of 9-15. Andrew Heaney saw himself go 7.0 complete innings on Friday. The southpaw struck out 7 batters while allowing 9 hits, 1 walk and 4 earned runs. Grant Green continued to hit as he is 3-6 to go along with 1 double in two games following his demotion back to Salt Lake. 1st baseman, Mark Krauss’ bat is starting to heat up as well. Mark is currently on a  4-game hitting streak where he owns an average of .428 (14 at-bats) and a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio. After a rough patch to start the season, Josh Rutledge has seen his batting average climb up to .280 for the season. The trio of Bees outfielders have performed well as of late. Roger Kieschnick, extended his hitting streak to 10 games on Monday. He is hitting .425 during that stretch. Left fielder, Alfredo Marte, hit .386 this past week to go along with two doubles and one triple. Former Giants top prospect, Gary Brown, is currently on a 5-game hitting streak where he is hitting .347 (23 at-bats) with one double, one triple, a stolen base and  7 RBI’s.

Double-A Arkansas Travelers

The Travelers went 5-3 in their last 8 games. The Travs are currently in first place of the Texas League North and hold a 1 game lead over the second place Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Tyler DeLoach continued to pitch the ball well with 7.0 complete innings to go along with 8 strikeouts and 2 runs allowed on Monday. His second start didn’t fare as well, having allowed 4 earned runs in 6 innings with no strikeouts. Overall, the southpaw still owns a strong ERA of 2.25 and 0.97 WHIP. Starting pitcher, Kyle McGowin, is looking to right the ship after a rough start to the season. McGowin struck out 8 batters in 6.0 innings while only allowing 5 hits, 2 walks and 2 earned runs. Brian Hernandez continued to be as consistent as ever, batting .321 with 2 doubles and 8 RBI’s over these past 8 games. Wade Hinkle is batting .347 during the same stretch to go along with 5 walks. Hinkle owns a career minor league OBP of .397.

High-A Inland Empire 66ers

The 66ers went 3-4 since our last affiliate report and fell to 2.0 GB first place with an overall record of 12-13. Victor Alcantara pitched 5.0 quality innings on Monday, striking out 7 batters while only allowing 5 hits, 2 walks and 3 earned runs. Alcantara struggled with his last start on Sunday, allowing 5 earned over 4.1 innings pitched. Chris Ellis had a strong start on Friday. The 3rd round draft pick only allowed 1 hit, 1 walk and 1 earned run while striking out 4 batters across 6.0 innings pitched. Starting pitcher, Jordan Kipper, pitched his 4th straight quality start on Thursday. Kipper struck out 4 batters in 6.0 innings pitched while only giving up 4 hits, 1 walk and 2 earned runs. Austin Adams stretched his scoreless inning streak to 11.0 innings. Adams struck out 4 batters in 1.2 innings pitched (2 appearances). Kaleb Cowart hit his 1st home run of the season on Thursday, but is still managing to hit only .170 on the season. Roberto Baldoquin is currently on the 7-day DL for a strained left lat.

Low-A Burlington Bees

Like the 66ers, the Bees went 3-4 and currently sit 5.0 GB first place with an overall record of 14-11(2nd place). Sean Newcomb pitched 4 innings in his last start on Friday. The top prospect struck out 7 batters while giving up 5 hits, 3 walks and 2 earned runs. Overall, Newcomb owns a 2.25 ERA on the season to go along with a WHIP of 1.21 and 35 strikeouts in 24.0 innings pitched. 5th round draft pick, Jake Jewell, gave up just 2 hits, 1 walk and a single earned run while striking out 4 batters in 3.1 innings pitched on Wednesday. Jewell has managed to just walk 2 batters all season (16.0 innings pitched) and owns a sterling 2.81 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. Shortstop, Jake Yacinich, is starting to heat up again. The 8th round draft pick (2014 draft) is batting .400 in 6 games this week (25 at-bats) and has brought his average up to .295 on the season. Third baseman, Zachary Houchins, is batting .286 in his last 10 games to go along with 3 doubles and a triple. Outfielder, Natanael Delgado, is batting .310 during that same stretch, with the help of a 4-hit game on Saturday.

Friday, May 1, 2015

By Glen McKee, Senior AngelsWin.com Nostalgistican - 

Almost a week ago, there was magic on the field at Angels Stadium as the only three Angels to be honored as MVP were on the field together.  Mike Trout was the newest member of the exclusive club, joining current hitting coach Don Baylor, all-time awesome dude Vladimir Guerrero and nobody else.  (Trout is a safe bet to become the only Angel to get the award more than once.) (No whammy!)

I started rooting for the Angels way back in 1979 and that was a great time for a young boy to jump on the Halo bandwagon.  Baylor had a monster season and capped it with his MVP award.  The Angels were suddenly relevant and there was a lot of reason for optimism (something the late 80s through the entire 90s would cure).  They even had Rod Carew, who I loved because I hit like him, or so I kidded myself. (Not much pop but I got on base.) 

After 1979 the Angels had mixed luck dipping their toes in the free-agent market; most of the mix was bad.  They made a habit of signing just-past-their-prime big names and watching their performance tail off while paying them way too much to do it.  That trend continued until before the 2003 season, when the Angels surprised everybody (their loyal fans most of all) by signing Vladimir Guerrero to a five-year, $70 million deal.  I know that in 2015 that doesn’t sound like much but it was huge back then.  It was a big contract and the Angels had a history of being burned on those in the past, but Vlad finally broke that streak.  Boy, did he break it.  

There are no words to adequately describe how surprised and overjoyed I was at that signing.  It was amazing.  At the time Vlad was one of the most exciting players to watch.  Every at bat, hell, every pitch was something you had to see.  Even if the pitch bounced before hitting the plate, Vlad could still take a hack at it and knock it out of the park.  He was a unique hitter, and he had the personality to complement his talent.  Vlad was always smiling and looked like he was always having fun.  He was so damn easy to root for.  Truly, the Angels had never had a player like him before, and it was shocking that he wound up on the Angels.  Every team that had the financial resources wanted him, and before he signed with the Angels he was expected, almost guaranteed, to go the Yankees. 

Nobody expected him to sign with the Angels.  I didn’t even think there was a chance he’d end up here.

A bit of personal history here, to further explain how great this signing was to me: the Montreal Expos were my #2 team after the Angels.  I was living in San Diego and I wished the Padres well as they were the local team, but I liked the Expos more.  They were a fun and exciting team, and they continually produced good players that went on to greatness on other, more popular teams.  The Expos were shafted hard by the baseball strike in 1994 that prematurely ended a season in which they were the consensus best team and had a very good chance of winning the World Series.  That was the kind of luck the Expos had, and I found it easy to root for them, since I was already rooting for a team that had an excess of bad luck.  Plus, they had one of my favorite logos:

It was a horrible logo, for sure, but a bit clever and it represented their outsider status.  It’s the logo that will be on Vlad’s hat when he goes into the Hall of Fame.  (We dare not hope that it could ever be an Angels hat.)  I still like it, and Vlad always reminds me of the logo.

Back on topic.  Vlad signed with the Angels and I was ecstatic.  Again, it is difficult to find words to express what that signing meant.  A few years prior the Angels had finally won a World Series championship, and the team was showing signs of being good for a while, but it was still missing something.  Vlad was that something.

He rewarded the Angels by having a great season with them in the first year of his contract, a feat that hasn’t been duplicated since.  We’re talking MVP-great here: 124 runs, 39 HR, .337/.391/.538/.989.  To put that in perspective, Mike Trout’s MVP numbers were 115 runs, 36 HR, .287/.377/.561/.939 and Don Baylor’s MVP year was 120, 36, .296/.371/.530/.901.  Vlad’s MVP season was arguably the best season ever posted by an Angel (although Trout’s first two years, in which he should have won at least one MVP award, are certainly close).  

Vlad also had a cannon for an arm in right field.  It wasn’t unusual to see him making a close play or an out of somebody trying to tag up from second and go to third.  His only liability was as a baserunner, and while Trout has received the spirit of Vlad’s hitting, it seems like the rest of the Angels have inherited Vlad’s recklessness on the bases.
There were many great moments for Vlad on the Angels, but the one that sticks out in my mind was in the first round of the 2009 AL division playoffs.  October 11, 2009.  A Sunday, and the game was in the wretched Fenway Park.  The Angels were up two games and looking for a sweep but it didn’t look like it was going to happen.  Top of the 9th inning and the Angels were down 6-4 and facing Jonathan Papplebon, in his prime, at home.  AngelsWin.com was hosting a party to watch the game at a local (and now defunct) sports bar and the atmosphere was resigned.  Not much of a chance against Papplebon, and the Red Sox had a history of owning the Angels in the post season.  Everybody was trying not to think about 1986 but not succeeding. 

Papplebon was one strike away from ending the game several times, but Erick Aybar got a single, Chone Figgins got a full-count walk, and Bobby Abreu (he was a blast, too) doubled to drive in a run. Torii Hunter was up next and was intentionally walked.  As feared as he was in the regular season, Vlad was bad in the post-season.  The bad feelings intensified.  Honestly, nobody wanted to see Vlad in that situation.  The crowd in the bar was silent. 

The silence didn’t last long.  Vlad blooped the first pitch for a single and Figgins and Abreu scored, giving the Angels a lead that would lead to the sweep.  My memory is spotty about a lot of things, but I believe that until the day I die I’ll still remember what it was like to be in that bar with all those Angels fans when Vlad ended the Angels misery against the Red Sox.  It was incredible.  People were hollering and hugging, champagne bottle corks were popped; it’s not an exaggeration to say it was euphoric.  There was absolutely no doubt after that single that the Angels would win the game.  

The Red Sox were beat down; it’s safe to say they felt the way the Angels did in the divisional playoffs of 1986.  Anguish was laid to rest and while it was as always a team effort, it was Vladimir Guerrero who waved the magic wand to make it happen.  

It was also the last moment that Vlad would have on the Angels, as his contract expired that year and he moved on to the Texas Rangers.  It was a sad parting but not unexpected, as he was showing some slight decline and his free-swinging style didn’t seem to be a safe bet to avoid more regression.  He had two more decent years, in 2010 with the Rangers and 2011 with the Orioles.  The 2011 season was his last in the majors.   On March 31, 2014 Vladimir Guerrero signed a one-day contract with the Angels and officially retired.  

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing: it lets you remember the good and gloss over the bad.  Nostalgia will always let me see Vlad getting that game-clinching playoff single and never remind me of his playoffs performances before that.  Nostalgia will always give me Vlad’s smile and his ability to hit any pitch.  Nostalgia keeps Vlad in the memory of all Angels fans.  I miss Vlad.  He was a great and inimitable player.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

 photo MarcusMariotaSmile_zpsp9y0x5nf.jpg

By Ellen Bell, AngelsWin.com Staff Reporter - 

Almost one year ago, I had dinner at The Original Roadhouse Grill near Eugene, Oregon. My son was a soon-to-graduate senior at U of O, so a meal with a bunch of college kids wasn’t all that unusual. What made this forgettable dinner an extraordinary experience was the young man seated across the table from me, a Human Physiology major named Marcus Mariota. 

It was just like any other casual gathering of parents and their college students, except for the presence of #8, a painfully shy, dark-eyed kid who apologized profusely for being a little late.

“I was trying to play golf,” he said as he shook my hand and sat down. “I’m terrible, he said. “I hate being terrible.”

Like any other Oregon football fan, I had heard a lot about Marcus Mariota. I’d read about his legendary humility, his quiet competitive nature, and his unfathomable like-ability. To be honest, I felt the reports were too good to be true. How was it possible that a kid with that much talent, that kind of attention and praise, could still be so solidly grounded?

Marcus told me how he was taking golf lessons because he was asked to participate in so many charity matches that he felt he needed to play better for those who donated their money. Then he went on to talk about some of his other off-field job requirements. I soon realized how hard he was working to stretch out of his comfort zone. 

Playing football is the easy part. The challenge comes when he has to speak about his performance in public, or attend post game Meet and Greets with alums, or accept accolades of any kind. The more I spoke with him, the more I found it hard to imagine this gentle soul in the heat of the national spotlight, accepting a Heisman Trophy and gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Since I had never met a potential first-round draft pick before, I asked him my own Dan Patrick question over a plate of onion rings. 

“If you had a magic wand,” I said, “where would you want to be drafted?”

He smiled as if he didn’t want to assume the future, but then answered,  “I guess if I had my choice, I’d pick San Diego because it’s the shortest flight home.”

Home is Honolulu, Hawaii.  where Marcus was infused with a culture that honors family ties and promotes a tradition of stoic excellence. Even after our short conversation, it was clear that these values are at the core of Marcus Mariota. How refreshing. An athlete that understands he is a role model and accepts the responsibility that goes along with it. How interesting, that this attitude of “doing the right thing” is seen by many as a weakness; as if leadership can only be shown with bravado and flash. 

At the end of dinner, he shook my hand once again and I wished him luck in his senior season. I laughed to myself when I realized that my greatest desire wan’t for his picture or an autograph. The Mom in me just wanted to give him a hug and make sure he’d be OK. 

Marcus Mariota and I are not personal friends and I’m sure our paths will never cross again. But that dinner made a lasting impression on me, and not simply because of his budding celebrity. He was authentic and polite and carried himself with a quiet confidence that will help him navigate the sea change that is on the way.

No matter what NFL franchise hat he wears on draft night, I know he will be just fine. He will use his gifts to the best of his ability, he’ll show up to work, and he’ll be grateful for any success that comes his way. And then, when he finishes his job, he’ll head back to what really matters in life; the people he loves. 

I know it’s a long shot, but as a fan and as a Mom, I’ll be hoping for a hat with a lightening bolt.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

By Glen McKee and Nate Trop, AngelsWin.com Staff Writers - 

For us at PCP headquarters, this feels weird.  We are about to tackle a subject that is both serious and very current.  That subject is of course Collin Cowgill’s abs Josh Hamilton.  There is a huge range of opinions on how everything went down and who is at fault and we are prepared to bring you the most narrow-minded of those opinions.  At this point, some 24+ hours after the official announcement that Josh Hamilton is embarking on his post-Angels career, what can be said about the situation that hasn’t already been uttered a dozen times?   You guessed it: absolutely nothing.  As always, that doesn’t stop us here at PCP.  Our voices will be heard!  And then forgotten, but we’ll still shout into that void.  Away we go!

Two Wrongs Sorta Make a Right – Glen McKee

There are so many angels (wink) to this story that it’s difficult to pick just one or two for focus.  The media consensus (outside of Anaheim) seems to be that Arte Moreno is a huge asshole that is getting exactly what he deserves, and that Josh Hamilton is an addict that needs baseball’s help to defeat his demons.   I’d like to address each of those separately, in reverse order.

First: yes, Hamilton is indeed an addict and I have sympathy for that.  We all have our addictions and/or crutches that get us through the day.  Hamilton just happens to be a highly-functioning addict with a talent set that enables him to avoid responsibility for his actions.  Look no further than this quote from his press conference for returning to the team he rejected in favor of the Angels a few winters ago: “They just didn’t want that to happen for some reason. It doesn’t hurt my feelings or make me mad, but I prepared. [Moreno] knew what the deal was when he signed me. Hands down, he knew what he was getting. He knew what the risks were. He knew all those things. Under the [joint drug agreement], it is what it is.”  To paraphrase: it wasn’t Hamilton’s fault, Arte knew what he was getting when he signed an addict.

And you know what the pisser is?  Hamilton is right.  Moreno should have known what he was getting into when he offered that contract.  Hamilton’s record in the season before he signed with the Angels should have been an indication of what was to come.  Rangers’ fans had tired of his act before the burned his jersey when he left.  I can only speculate about what Moreno was thinking when he signed Hamilton, but I imagine he was trying to make a big splash as well as stick it to a division rival, a rival that had eclipsed the Angels in the previous years.  

Hamilton being right doesn’t remove his culpability, though.  It’s easy to ascribe his actions to the manipulations of an addict and it makes an attract conspiracy if you want to go down that road.  He relapsed and immediately realized what he had done and sought to not only control the damage, but set himself up for a better situation.  His personal life was deteriorating and he wanted to return to where he was last appreciated and a super star, instead of staying where he was a punchline.  It makes for a good story.  Is it true?  Only Hamilton knows.  I think that parts of it may be authentic but as a whole it’s a bit too much to take at face values.  What I know for certain is that Hamilton is no longer on the Angels and the team can now move forward from perhaps the biggest mistake in franchise history (breathe easy, Vernon Wells).

And that brings us to Arte Moreno, the new George Steinbrenner of the west coast.   You don’t have to look hard or far to see him cast as the comic-book villain; the only thing missing is twirly-ends to his moustache that he can roll between his thumbs and index fingers.  I don’t think he’s the villain, though; he’s just the pissed-off rich guy, and I understand that.  As I mentioned above Moreno offered the contract so he’s responsible for the consequences.  Caveat emptor and all of that.  I think that most Angels’ fans will admit that when Hamilton was signed our reaction was more of “ha ha, take that, Texas!” than it was “we got a player that will really help the team going forward!”  Spite is dangerous, and now Moreno is paying the price.  He has to write a huge check to watch Hamilton play for a division rival while he badmouths (covertly, but let’s not kid ourselves) the team that gifted him with such largesse.  He also has to get raked over the media coals while all of this happens.  I’m not suggesting that Moreno deserves pity; it’s difficult for me to muster up compassion for somebody who can write a $70 million check like he’s taking a twenty out of the petty cash drawer.  That’s not class envy, it’s just recognizing that Moreno and I live in vastly different worlds.  However, I don’t think Moreno is the villain here.  I don’t think there’s a villain at all.  Hamilton did what he should have been expected to do, and Moreno reacted poorly but still made amends (by giving Hamilton an all-expenses paid ticket out of town).  If anything, Moreno is an enabler more than a villain.  

What was Arte thinking!? - Nathan Trop

Because I lack creativity I want to start this off as I always do, with a disclaimer.  I don’t support Josh Hamilton and I do think that he was wrong.  Josh is a professional athlete rehabbing from a shoulder injury.  He definitely shouldn’t be out on cocaine bender.  I also don’t think it is necessarily the Angels job to support him and tell him everything is ok.  If you want to privately tell him how disappointed you are in him and that he let the team and his fans down fine.

My problem lies with how Arte and the Angels handled it.  I don’t think what the Angels said about him was off base or unwarranted as it pertains to a true reaction to what he did.  The issue is that Arte and John Carpino went on the offensive as soon as the news leaked out that Hamilton had a relapse (and many around baseball believe that the Angels had something to do with the news leaking).  If you want to publicly chastise and alienate a man you still owe some 80 million dollars then you sure as heck better be sure that you can get out of the contract.

Within hours of the news that the arbitrator decided not to suspend Hamilton, the Angels brass proclaimed that they have language in Josh’s contract that they can exercise to void the contract.  They attacked his character and honor, and like I said I don’t disagree with what they said, just why they did it.  How foolish do the Angels look now, they didn’t even try to void his contract, the JDA clearly says that they can’t.  Why didn’t they know this?  If they did know this then why did they publicly shame him?  It made Arte and the Angels look petty and clueless.

I know Josh has performed poorly as an Angel but consider his ceiling as a player.  Now consider the ceiling of a player you can get for the $15-20 million they are saving on him.  Maybe you get rid of a distraction to the team, which I am not even sure he was, considering the support the players gave him in the weeks since this all came out.  The Angels are paying him 60 million dollars for the next three years to play for a rival, where he had a lot of success.

There is no way this doesn’t have an impact on future FAs.  If you were offered the same money to play for another large market team, why would you choose the Angels, knowing that if you screw up the owner and president of the team will publicly blast you?

As hard as it would be and as much as it doesn’t make sense, I think this is a time where the Angels needed to go into PR mode, publicly support him, even if to privately chastise him.  Let him rehab and come back from his shoulder injury, offer to put him on bereavement so he can go to drug rehab, bring back his sober coach, whatever it takes.  Then privately hope that he performs and trade him or accept that you took a risk in the first place signing a guy like him and deal with the fallout.  I don’t agree with Josh not taking accountability in this, he has made some huge mistakes and really screwed the team that gave him a chance, but Arte has some accountability here too.  They signed a guy with a past of drug abuse, and now instead of living with their mistake they hastily swept it under the rug to the tune of $60+ million.

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