January 19th, 2008
By Chuck Richter
I'm going to take the opportunity to kick off the New Year with our first Ask Angelswin.com segment, with questions regarding our recently published Top 50 Angels Prospect List and items pertaining to our web site that Angels fans or our readers have asked over the last couple months. Based on the increase of fan mail of late, the Ask Angelswin.com segment will be an annual feature on our blog.
On to the questions and comments......
James McKnight (New York) - My question is regarding Young-il Jung, is this guy badly injured and what is his status for this upcoming year? any info would be greatly appreciated! I'm from New York and a Mets fan but the Angels are my 2nd favorite team! thanks!
Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - The Korean High School coaches have proven to overwork their pitchers and are stubborn about pitch count and limit. In one instance according to the Korean Times a young HS hurler was asked to pitch 18 innings over 2 days. 200 pitches in a single game is common over in Korea, so it's not surprising that after the Angels signed Jung who was entering the 2007 season as his first professional campaign in Orem, that his elbow had soreness and showed a forearm strain that enabled him to throw just 9 innings in '07 with unspectacular results (9.00 ERA in 3 starts).
Baseball America, the quintessential Minor League publication, ranked Jung 4th in their Angels Top 10 Prospects list going into the 2007 season, but I think even they would tell you their ranking was a bit too high and premature for a guy that's never played professional ball.
The Angels are hopeful that Jung will be ready to show what they saw of him in Korea as a High Schooler in camp in less than a month. If his elbow and forearm are 100% he may get the nod to start in Cedar Rapids, otherwise look for another shot later in the summer in Orem.
Roland Smith (Walnut Grove, CA) - Do you think the Angels will sign Vladimir Guerrero to a contract extension?
Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Yes! I really do. In fact, I think he'll be the primary DH for the Halos as soon as 2009, getting some occasional starts in right field. Vladimir is a future Hall of Famer that the Angels want getting inducted in as the first Halos player in the history of their franchise.
Robert MacKenzie (Lake Forest, CA) - Loved your top prospects report, best I've seen on the net. Thank you for supplying all these scouting reports for free, while others charge for theirs. Speaking of which, do you ever plan on charging for these, making your content subscription based?
Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Thank you Robert for passing along those kind words. I can't see making money off a product that is not mine, whether it is photos, articles or scouting reports via online subscriptions, or by having ads all of my web site in the name of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I have turned down numerous ad banners to be posted on our web site or blog over the last 3-4 years, so the answer would be no.
Our motto is and will always be this: An Angels Web site of the fans, by the fans, for the fans. We're just a group of passionate Angels fans spread out across the country that want to contribute to not only the Angelswin community, but to our world-wide readers throughout the year.
Be that as it may, we do have a donation option for those who enjoy our content and want to give back a little to Angelswin.com. If we're ever in a situation were we need to charge $ to keep this thing running, we'll look at every opportunity to stay afloat without doing so.
Alisha Gutierrez (Santa Ana, CA) - The group that is headed to Rancho Cucamonga is going to be exciting to watch in 2007. Do you think any of the group of hitters headed there can match what Brandon Wood did in 2005? or what Brok Butcher did on the mound in 2007?
Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Hello Alisha, I used to work in Santa Ana off McFadden and Ritchey a few years back. Anyhow, on to your question. It would be hard for any top prospect from other teams' to duplicate what Brandon Wood did in 2005 (.312, 43 HR's and 51 doubles, leading the minors in extra-base hits). However, if I had to pick a hitter that would come close or equal to what Wood did in '05 it would be Matt Sweeney. He reminds me a lot of Dallas McPherson (minus the back issues and high strikeouts). Hank Conger should put up some nice totals too if he stays healthy the entire season.
As far as the pitcher to keep an eye on and one that could mirror or come close to what Brok Butcher did in Rancho in '07, that would be Sean O'Sullivan. He has similar stuff, but more upside. The key to pitchers having success in the Cal League (hitter friendly league due to ball park dimensions and favorable weather) is to keep the ball down and get ahead of the count. That is something that Brok did with the Quakes and what O'Sullivan has done the last two seasons (with Orem and Cedar Rapids) as ERA champion 2 years running.
Jeffery Mitchell (Carson City, NV) - Your MLB Player comparisons seem to be unrealistic and really could create an expectation of failure for fans. I love the list, but do you think that was a bit too much? or was that just a way to illustrate what the maximum potential would be for those players?
Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Your last comment is exactly it. Truth is, their are Angels fans who do not follow the minor leagues like we do and they like to capture a vision of what these players could be like should they reach their potential in the future. In following the Angels minor leaguers since the age of 13 years old (37 now), purchasing over the counter Baseball America magazines, I have seen top prospects or non-ranked minor leaguers come out of nowhere and end up as successful major leaguers, if not all-stars. But I just trust our guys, from the data we've gathered from our area scouts and Director of Scouting - Eddie Bane, I felt safe making these comparisons, should they reach their full potential.
Travis Lorne (San Jacinto, TX) - Hi, nice prospect list, question for you though. Why was Stephen Marek ranked so low (35) on your prospect list after posting a successful 2006 season in Cedar Rapids? I got to see him pitch at San Jacinto community college and he threw as hard as anyone I've ever seen, followed up by what was a pretty good start to professional career. I know his numbers weren't there, but not bad for pitching in an extreme hitter's league.
Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Thank you for the question and patience in getting back to you Travis.
First off, regarding our prospect rankings, I would like to mention that it is no knock on Marek or any of the talented players ranked 31 and beyond, but rather a testament of how good the Angels farm system really is. While some may think it was weaker than years past, I disagree as we were more top heavy with prospects then, while we're more spread out now from top to bottom in this years list. There are a handful of Angels prospects ranked 31-50 that could easily shoot up into the top 15 bracket next year in our 2009 report, one of which is Stephen Marek.
As far as Stephen Marek, he got off to an awful start with the Quakes, learning to pitch in a tougher environment than Cedar Rapids, getting hit hard to the tune of a .257 BAA while giving up 17 Home Runs in 25 starts. Marek primarily struggled with his secondary pitches which caused him to use his heater too often in a fastball hitters count. The fastball velocity is still there (92-95 MPH), but he needs to get more consistent with his off-speed stuff if he wants to remain a starter. To his credit, he did finish the season well, giving up just 3 runs in one start (7 inn) out of 6 to finish the season with the Quakes. The rest of his 6 remaining starts he gave up just 1 run or less to lower his ERA to 4.30.
Marek should be in Arkansas in 2008 so you'll be able to see him pitch in the Texas League which is a better environment for pitchers ERA's. I'm hopeful that he improves his secondary stuff so that he can shoot up the list and be a successful Major League starter, if not a good late inning reliever with that fastball of his.
Marcus Johnson (Long Beach, CA) - Hi Chuck, we met in Seattle at the Mariners-Angels ball game. I wanted to tell you that your web site is off the charts and for that matter, nothing really comes close with regards to fulfilling this Angels fans needs . Though I never signed up for the Message Board, I read daily, including your blog articles. A talented group of people that make up Angelswin.com, I tell everyone about it. Thanks for giving me that card at Safeco Field, I spend the majority of my day on your web site when I'm not busy at work.
Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Marcus, good to hear from you and yes, I remember meeting you. Too bad the outcome of the game wasn't good, but hey we won the Division and got back at the Mariners in late August. Thank you for the props, it's good to receive comments like this. Our entire staff and community at Angelswin.com appreciates the feedback.
Al Grams (So Cal) - I see that Ryan Mount (our grandson) was dropped considerably from your prospect list in '06. Hopefully he will have the year we all think he can. When he was healthy at CR he had a good streak going, he finished well, lighting it up in the playoffs. Many of us think this will be the year. I've known Wilfong since he was 16 and coached him a few years. I coached two National Champions in the 70's. Love the game. The consensus on Ryan that we hear is they expect him to have some pop for a middle infielder.
Chuck Richter (Angelswin.com) - Al, we corresponded via email in short, but I wanted to get this included in the segment. Like my response to the Stephen Marek question, no shame in getting ranked where Ryan's at as the Angels farm system is loaded. With regards to Ryan Mount, 2008 is huge for him as he heads to Rancho Cucamonga with Conger, Bourjos, Sweeney and double-play partner PJ Phillips. If Ryan can stay healthy and put up the #'s in a full season he too could shoot up into the 1-15 bracket entering 2009. He's got some pop in his bat as you noted and his defense at 2B is above average, so the skills are there, but his contact rate and plate discipline declined in 2007 so I'm anxious to see how he performs with the Quakes before he re-enters the top 20 bracket.
Lastly in this months' edition of Ask Angelswin, Eddie Bane gave us a ringing endorsement with regards to our Top 50 Angels Prospect Report. The Angels will use our scouting reports as a point of reference for the scout meetings throughout the year.
Eddie Bane (Anaheim, CA) - Chuck: Outstanding job with regards to the Top 50 Angels Prospect Report and I mean that. I will take this and present it in front of our scouts and be able to use it as a reference point for meetings. Quite a compliment to you guys that we would be able to use this as a starting point for our scouts at the meetings. I really think you guys are really close especially on the top 6-7 guys. But, I am glad that you used your own stuff instead of just spouting what I think. I don't need a lot of confirmation of what I think Chuck, as I already know that so it is good to hear how other people see us.
Still think it is almost unheard of that a contending big market team like us has homegrown's at all the infield positions including catcher, 3 of 5 in the rotation and the top 2 from the bullpen. Look at the other clubs and it is just not that way.
Keep up the great work.
If you have a question, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org Please include your full name and hometown if you'd like your letter to be considered for use in an upcoming column. Also, please understand that we can't respond to every question. Ask Angelswin.com takes questions both on the Angels minor leagues & current players on the parent team, including your comments.