Friday, December 12, 2014

By Robert Cunningham, Staff Writer - 

Starting Bullpen Players

A perfect bullpen pitcher is not unlike what you look for in a good starting pitcher as described in the previous section.

Mariano Rivera, Craig Kimbrel, Wade Davis, or, perhaps Aroldis Chapman are more recent examples of what a high quality reliever can do to impact the game.

Generally a high strikeout rate is a very desirable characteristic. Combine that with a low walk rate and a high strand rate and you have yourself a valuable asset for the final innings of a close game.

Let’s take a look at what the Angels bullpen might look like to begin 2015.

Late Inning Relievers

Author’s Note: I have purposely left Jairo Diaz in this article despite his trade to the Rockies for Josh Rutledge. Although it would have been interesting to see what Jairo could do in our bullpen, generally relievers are easily replaceable and the team needed additional middle infield depth. Additionally new lefty Scott Snodgress has been left off of the Steamer Projections because there was no projection available.

The $7MM option on Huston Street was exercised by the Angels on October 30th.

In the 28 games that Huston participated in after he joined the Angels in mid-July he tossed 26.1 innings of 1.71 ERA while limiting hard contact by his opponents, holding them to a collective .249 Slugging percentage.

It would only make sense for the Angels to bring him back and have him anchor the bullpen again. Considering how well he suppresses slugging the Angels may even consider negotiating an extension with Huston.

Beyond Street, Joe Smith will return for the 2nd year of his 3-year contract. At $5.25MM, Smith should provide quality work as a set-up man as part of the bridge to Huston Street.

Joe participated in 76 games in 2014, throwing in 74.2 innings with a sparkling 1.81 ERA and a 0.804 WHIP. He only gave up four long balls the entire season.

Cesar Ramos, recently acquired from the Rays in exchange for fan favorite Mark Sappington, is a lefty reliever the Angels will use in a LOOGY or long relief capacity.

Look for the Angels pitching staff to encourage Ramos to use his sinker more in combination with his excellent slider, curve ball and changeup.

Kevin Jespen, entering his 3rd year of arbitration, should prove to be an interesting decision for the Angels. His salary will likely escalate over $2.5MM and Jerry Dipoto will have to decide whether they keep him one more year, try to offer him an extension, or trade him this off-season.

After changing his arm slot pre-season, Jepsen had his best MLB season to-date, pitching 65 innings of 2.63 ERA ball. The real question is, was this a fluke (his 2014, .263 BABIP was much lower than his career .322 BABIP), the addition of a changeup, or a real mechanical change that contributed to his success?

It would seem like the latter two but only the Angels coaching staff and analytics department know the full truth. His changeup did rate a 1.52 on Pitch F/X per 100 pitches which is certainly above average so that was a contributor to his success.

Although Jepsen would still be cheap at $2.5MM-$3MM he may be expendable in trade due to the possible budget constraints that Dipoto may be facing in 2015.

Behind Street, Smith, Ramos, and, maybe, Jepsen you have a set of young, high-upside relievers including:

Vinnie Pestano
Jeremy Mcbryde
Cam Bedrosian
Jairo Diaz

Pestano was recently acquired from the Indians and, despite his poor results in limited Major League action before coming to Anaheim, had terrific peripheral numbers (2.22 xFIP and 2.20 xFIP for Cleveland in the Majors and Minors respectively). Barring an injury in 2015, this may prove to be one of Dipoto’s savvier moves from 2014.

Besides Pestano, the Angels recently signed free agent Minor Leaguer Jeremy Mcbryde to a Major League contract. Also they have homegrown player Cam Bedrosian.

Both are right-handed and have solid upside. Cam can really dial up the velocity on his fastball consistently coming in at the mid to upper 90’s and can even touch triple digit heat.

Middle Relief

If the above bullpen options haven’t got you salivating by now, imagine a relief corps that has Mike Morin pitching in middle relief?

Really the options here are Jeremy Mcbryde, Mike Morin, Yoslan Herrera, Danny Reynolds, Scott Snodgress, and Fernando Salas. Morin has certainly proved he is capable of contributing to the team’s success (2.90 ERA across 59 MLB innings pitched in 2014) but it is possible that since he has options he might start down in the Minors, being one of the first called up in case of injury.

Yoslan, who signed a Minor League deal in December 2013, pitched 16.2 innings in relief, although he needs to reduce the number of walks he issues. Herrera would be a good middle relief candidate at the league minimum.

Salas had a solid season with a 3.38 ERA and increased use and success with his changeup. Fernando will be entering his 1st year of arbitration and could make about $1.5MM for 2015. This will be another case where Dipoto will have to decide if he keeps Salas, non-tender’s him, or trades him.

Notably Fernando has minimal platoon splits, which is a useful trait in a reliever and a strong reason why he may be retained.

Right-hander Danny Reynolds, a 6th round pick for the Angels in 2009, switched from being a starter to a reliever this year with strong results across three different levels. As a reliever his stuff has played up and he has shown a good ability, in a small sample size, to miss bats and limit the long ball.

Finally the Angels just signed left-hander Scott Snodgress to a Minor League contract with a Spring Training invitation. The Angels liked the velocity spike they saw last year when Scott pitched out of the bullpen for the first time. He features a quality fastball/slider combination.

Best Guess 2015 Starting Bullpen

In no particular order:

Huston Street
Joe Smith
Vinnie Pestano
Jeremy Mcbryde
Fernando Salas
Kevin Jepsen (if Jepsen is traded then Morin or Bedrosian)
Yoslan Herrera or Mike Morin (only if the Angels start the season with an 8-man bullpen)
Cesar Ramos

Bullpen Depth

Cam Bedrosian
Mike Morin
Jairo Diaz
Atahualpa Severino (not on 40-man)
Trevor Gott (not on 40-man)
Daniel Reynolds

Street, Smith, Pestano, and Salas all have previous MLB closing experience. Jepsen, if he is not traded, also has closing experience.

By trading for Pestano last season and signing Mcbryde early this off-season Dipoto has set the table for starting 2015 with solid relievers and good depth.

It would not be surprising to see the Angels acquire or trade for additional AA or AAA Minor League relievers to continue to supplement the Major League staff later in the season.

Relievers have the highest turnover rate in baseball. Dipoto knows this and he also knows that for that reason you shouldn’t spend significant amounts of payroll on them.

A reliever like Street, who is one of the best at suppressing hard contact by an opposing team, is someone that Dipoto will pay money for because he is that good.

Jerry understands that investing in one or two elite relievers is required at times but his goal is to continue digging under the rocks and trading for bullpen pieces like Pestano that have previous late inning experience or have underlying peripherals that point to pitching excellence.

In Part VI we will discuss the Bench players.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer

Since becoming a baseball fan, I’ve always loved following the Minor Leagues. It’s just one more dimension to the game that adds hope for the future. There’s always that guy down on the farm, who maybe, just maybe, can be the one to put our team over the top.

In 2005, I went out to see the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, the Angels Single-A affiliate at the time. There was some talent on that team, and I wanted to see if they were really that good. This was before I started writing for, so I went out with some friends to see those players in person.

One of the guys I really wanted to see was Howie Kendrick. Since being drafted, Kendrick had torn the cover off of baseballs. So, in 2005, I wanted to see for myself just how good he was.

He was that good.

After seeing him play, I knew he would be a good player for the Angels. There’s just something about a player, especially in the Minor Leagues, that makes him standout amongst his peers. Kendrick stood out.

The first time I met Howie was sometime in 2007. The Angels were in town, it was early in the season. My wife had sent me to the store to get some items for the home. And, to make the trip more fun, I took my infant son with me. He was dressed in his Angels uniform outfit and we were having a good time together.

While I was standing by some milk, I heard a man say “Nice outfit,” as he pointed to my son. 

I turned to see who it was, and it was Howie Kendrick. I said “Good game last night.” 

He said “Thanks!” We shook hands and parted ways.

This was still before I started writing for He was just a player talking with a fan.

When I finally made it into the clubhouse, one of the first people I talked with was Howie Kendrick. He was polite and friendly, even though he was very busy at the time.

With, Howie has always been a class act. It’s not easy dealing with the media on a daily basis and answering every reporter’s questions. I can only imagine the grind of dealing like that on a daily basis. 

However, every time I’ve been on the field or in the clubhouse, he’s always said “hello”. I’ve seen him signing plenty of items for fans. I’ve seen him participating in several charity events, including Eddie Guardado’s Stars & Strikes that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for children with autism.

He’s a class act.

One of the things about Howie is just how steady he has been manning second base for the Angels. Year in and year out, he’s doing his job. According to Baseball Reference, he’s generated 27.6 WAR in his 9 years as an Angel. That’s an average over 3 per year. Steady, solid production.

Howie’s done that, all while batting in many places in the lineup. Last year, when Hamilton wasn’t producing, he became our cleanup hitter. In previous years, when the top of the lineup needed help, Howie batted second. He never complained, never whined to the media. He just went out there and gave us 100%, and put up solid, steady production. 

Even when he was traded, he took to time to thank us, the fans, for the time he spent with the Angels.

A class act.

Sometimes I think Howie suffered from the unrealistic projections made by others about him. Sure, he showed strong potential, and was hyped—maybe even overhyped—and some fans have criticized him for not living up to that hype. But, when we look at his numbers, and the way he went about his game, he had a very good career with the Angels. 

It’s often easiest to overlook the quiet production of a player like Howie. Until viewed in totality, it’s easy to forget just how much he contributed. As an Angel, Howie ranks 5th overall in doubles. He ranks 6th all-time in Hits and ABs. In fact, he ranks in the Top-10 for several offensive categories. And that’s for all-time Angels. Every team could use a player like Howie—which is why he ultimately got traded. 

As an Angels fan, I really like the trade that we made to get Andrew Heaney. In the long run, this is a good move for our team. The Angels get younger, and many more years of a top starter in exchange for Howie’s last year on his contract. You have to give talent to get talent, and Howie is definitely a talent. My friend Randy, a Pirates fan, has always wanted us to trade Howie to his team, but never was willing to see his team pay the price it would take to get him. It’s easy to see how valuable Howie was to the Angels by seeing what the Dodgers were willing to give up to get just 1 year of his services.

The Angels have the depth to fill his position internally. I like Grant Green, and would like to see what he can do with the opportunity. He has a capable bat, and for the first time in a while can focus on just one position defensively. I think he will do well. But, I’m willing to bet that there will be times when we all will be missing the steady presence that Howie provided in the position.

Like all Angels fans, it’s in my blood to dislike the Dodgers. Baseball needs heroes and villains, and, when the Dodgers come to our stadium, they wear the black hats. You always “boo” the guys in the black hats.

But, there’s one player on their team I will never boo—that’s Howie Kendrick. He's a class act.

By Greg Bearringer, Columnist - 

Last night, I decided to take some time off of Twitter and spend even more time with my not-yet-four-week-old son. The Angels offseason, and the Michigan coaching search, had evaporated too much of my productivity and watching my son examine my face like I'm some alien monster was worth not knowing the 411 on a bunch of non-news.

Then… a few very interesting things actually happened. Well played, MLB Winter Meetings. Well played.

The most interesting story line of this Angels off-season was their amorous pursuit of middle infield depth. Anyone capable of holding a glove and standing in the sun for a few hours was brought up as a potential target. Their actual prize was Josh Rutledge, a poor defender with an OK-but-possibly-altitude-enhanced record of hitting (at least in the minors). Last season his offensive stats were okay (.269/.323.405), but were inflated by a .353 BABIP. His road splits last season are pretty scary (.215/.265/.333!) and haven't been much better over the course of his career.

Having him stick to one position (he had been depth for Colorado at SS, 2nd, and 3rd) may help his defense eventually become "average". However, it would be hard to see him as a worthwhile starter at 2nd base. Luckily, the cost was pretty low. Here's how the conversation for this trade probably went:

Jerry Dipoto: "We want Josh Rutledge and are willing to pay little more than the bare minimum."
Jeff Bridich: "Do you have anyone who throws hard?”
Jerry Dipoto: "Yeah. Kid's name Jairo Diaz. He's OK."
Jeff Bridich: "We have a deal!"

Again, it's hard to be too mad at this trade because of the cost (though Jairo Diaz has a chance, since he throws hard) , but I don't think Rutledge is going to do much for our infield depth.

Good thing we have the most under-rated infield in the majors. Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar are really good.

Ah.... erm.

Well, the Angels made a second swap last night, this time sending Kendrick to the Dodgers for recent Marlins prospect Andrew Heaney. That is a decent move considering Kendrick is one measly year from free agency.

Heaney is a left-hander with three big-league pitches: A good, low-to-mid-90's fastball, a decent change-up, and a pretty good slider. Though he has a slight frame (6'2", 185 lbs), he has a fairly repeatable delivery and has slowly been refining his craft since being drafted. He's a quality, future mid-rotation cog. Okay, so he's not an ace. Still, controllable (through 2020), quality, left-handed starters aren't exactly cheap. Kendrick is a pretty good player, but it's hard to see how one year of Kendrick comes close to the value of Heaney over the next six seasons. And, if the Angels regret the trade, they will likely have the chance to bid for him again next off-season.

Of course, this also means that your starting second baseman next year will likely be Grant Green, an athletic player who has yet to become the defensive player his abilities hint at. He is, however, talented enough to come close to matching or even bettering Kendrick at the plate (despite last season). And, like Rutledge above, perhaps sticking at second base instead of moving him around as the A's and Angels have in his career can make him acceptable at 2nd base. Of course, Green's career has been characterized by “should." This could be the proverbial put-up or shut-up year for Mr. Green.

All along I've thought that the Angels wanted one more starting pitcher, and today they got a really good young one. While it did cost them a step back in the infield, they do have a little more payroll room to add another piece. I could see the Angels adding a 1B/LF/DH option on a one-year deal, but Dipoto is now in a position to wait for the market to develop. Kendrick will be missed, but this move was worth the cost.

The question now becomes, “Are they done making moves?"

Monday, December 8, 2014

By Joe McDonnell, Staff Reporter - 

San Diego, CA -- Angels' General Manager Jerry Dipoto shot down reports that his team was actively trying to trade lefthanded starter C.J. Wilson,

"We've talked to one team," Dipoto said at Baseball's Winter Meetings in San Diego, CA.. "And they called us. We've not been shopping C.J. at a reduced price to any team.

"He's one of the hardest working players that I've ever seen and I'm sure he'll refocus and pitch well in 2015."

Rumors were rampant in the days leading up to the Winter Meetings that the Halos might make a big splash at baseball's winter showcase--again. Various reports had them in the Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields sweepstakes. Any one of them would cost the Angels a boatload of money, and to do it they would need rid themselves of Wilson and his remaining 38 million dollars in salary over the next two years. According to Dipoto that's just a bad rumor....

For  you fans who think the Angels will get a big name player such as Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton, think again.

"We're  probably going to sign a player before the Winter Meetings are over," the GM said. "But it's going to be a complimentary piece for our team." Dipoto said this off-season will be spent finding players "who fit in with what we're trying to do." 

Jerry Dipoto said he's fine with the depth of the pitching staff and that the Angels are a very good team offensively and defensively. So, Halo fans, don't expect a lot of big news from San Diego.

Unless Dipoto and owner Arte Moreno are smoke-screening us like they did before signing Pujols and Hamilton. Stay tuned....

Winter Meetings are usually full of rumors, but the first day has been without a lot of excitement. The usual stuff is being talked about--the Dodgers are trying to trade Matt Kemp and the Padres are making a hard push for the outfielder. The Washington Nationals are still trying to trade Jordan Zimmerman, but would prefer to sign the outstanding righthander to a contract extension according to GM MIke Rizzo. The Angels are shopping C.J. Wilson--just kidding. Supposedly Jon Lester has narrowed his choices to the Giants and Cubs. But insiders say the Dodgers could step in at any minute and grab the lefthander. That's reminiscent of what the Halos did in 2011 when they came in at the last minute and talked Pujols into Anaheim over Miami.....

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