Sunday, April 13, 2008


1B Mark Trumbo has 3 HR's, 5 2B's and is hitting .300 thus far for the Quakes

By David Saltzer - Angelswin.com Columnist

After a close look at all of the Angels minor league affiliates, this week we'll focus on the Single-A club as I pose these 5 burning questions with regards to the prospects playing for the Salt Lake Bees, to start the 2008 season.

Question #1: Is this the best Quakes team ever?
Without doing a lot more research, a bold statement like that is just rhetoric. But, there is no doubt that this team has the makings for something special. According to Baseball America, we have (or will have when healthy) our organization’s: Best Hitter For Average (Conger), Fastest Runner (Bourjos); Best Control for a pitcher (O’Sullivan); and our Best Defensive Outfielder (Bourjos). Baseball America ranks Conger as our 4th best prospect, O’Sullivan as our 5th best prospect, and Bourjos as our 9th best prospect.

And, the praise doesn’t end there. Baseball Prospectus ranks Conger as a 4-star prospect, Bourjos and O’Sullivan as 3-star prospects and Matt Sweeney as a 2-star prospect.

And, if that isn’t enough praise, at minorleaguebaseball.com, John Sickels, a notoriously tough grader gave out the following grades for players at Rancho: Hank Conger and Sean O’Sullivan (B); Felipe Arredondo, Trevor Bell, Peter Bourjos and Matt Sweeney (C+); and Barrett Browning as a (C).

It behooves all Southern California Angels fans to make the drive to see the team play. Besides, if you love baseball, you’ll love watching a minor league game. All of these players are worth following, and almost all could qualify as sleepers. Writing up the 5-Key Questions for this team has been extremely difficult because I’ve had to limit it to just 5 questions and limit the sleepers to a reasonable number.

Question #2: Is this the year that Trumbo figures it all out?
When Eddie Bane says about a player that “he has about as much power as anyone in baseball” people take notice—especially when the player only slugged 427 last year. Usually that makes the player and or the scout a target—especially if the player doesn’t live up to the hype. And, at 6’4”, 220 lbs, he’s a big and developing target.

Through 9 games, it does appear that this will be the year that Trumbo figures it all out and posts some incredible numbers. So far, Mark’s numbers are 297/366/703! More importantly, he’s posting a 6:4 K:BB ratio through 37 ABs. That is a noticeable improvement from last year in which he had a 98:34 ratio in 497 ABs and a 99:44 ratio in 427 ABs the year before that. Projecting this year’s numbers to 497 ABs, he’d have about 54 walks and only 80 Ks—a much better ratio!

As mentioned earlier, Rancho’s lineup is missing 2-key components: Conger and Sweeney. Trumbo is batting cleanup in a lineup missing two out of its 3 MOTO bats. Yet, he’s still on pace to hit about 40 dingers over the course of the season. Imagine how much better his numbers will be when he has Conger and Sweeney hitting around him! If he’s this big at age 22, he should continue to develop more power as he fills out over the next 2-3 years.

Question #3: Can Bourjos steal a spot in our outfield?
It’s a good thing that the Angels are like getting new CF'ers every year. That’s because in about 2-3 years, they might be looking at making space for another one with Peter Bourjos.

If you want to play for Mike Scioscia, it helps to have some speed in your arsenal. Well, Bourjos has speed. He’s been described by many (including Scioscia himself) as the fastest player in our organization. So far he’s stolen 9 bases in 10 attempts through 10 games. This is a big improvement from last year where he stole 19 bases in 28 attempts (in reduced playing time). Having speed is one thing—knowing how and when to steal a base is another. While a 90% success rate isn’t likely at the ML level, it is a huge improvement from last year’s 68%.

Bourjos’s plate discipline is also much improved this year. So far, as a leadoff hitter, he has a 6:5 K:BB rate in 41 ABs giving him a 391 OB%. As a result, he’s tied for second on the team in runs scored with 7 (Trumbo is leading the team with 8 runs so far).

With tools like these, and, some developing power, Bourjos could necessitate a move for Torii Hunter to a corner OF spot in few years. It’s no wonder why Eddie Bane says “if one of my guys is telling me how good a centerfielder at a college is then I want to hear how he compares to Peter Bourjos.”

For an interview that we did with Peter Bourjos, please click here.

Question #4: Can O’Sullivan win another ERA title?
Most pitchers never win an ERA title in any league in which they pitch. Winning it once would be more than enough excitement for a career. Winning it twice in a row is nothing short of a major accomplishment. That’s exactly what O’Sullivan has done in his short professional career and that’s why he is our #4 ranked prospect!

Drafted out of high school, O’Sullivan went to work right away in 2006 posting a 2.15 ERA to capture the rookie league title. More impressively, he had a 55:7 K:BB ratio and a microscopic WHIP of 1.01. In 2007, our #4 prospect won the Midwest ERA title with a 2.22 ERA and a 125:40 K:BB ratio with a 1.11 WHIP!

Now there’s no denying that the Cal league is a high octane league. There are plenty of parks where the ball just flies. But, that should affect everyone in the league at more or less the same rate, so, he could still dominate—even though he’ll still be one of the youngest hurlers in his league.

So far, O’Sullivan has gotten off to a good start (but not as great as he can be). In his first start, he struggled with his command and gave up 5 walks and 3 runs in 5 innings—and yet he still won the game. In his second start, he gave up 2 runs in 6 innings, no walks and struck out 7—and still lost. Today, even better, blanking the Visalia Oakes for 5 innings without giving up a hit. Overall he is 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA, and a 14:7 K:BB ratio.

Question #5: Is this the year that PJ breaks out of Brandon’s shadow?
The Question is which player named Phillips hit 13 HRs and stole 34 bases in single A at age 20? If you said Brandon Phillips, the star now playing in Cincinnati, you’d be wrong. Those numbers were posted by his younger brother PJ Phillips, not Brandon (Brandon hit 11 and stole 30 at age 20). So, the question is: Is this the year that PJ finally steps out of his older brother’s shadow?

For that to happen, PJ is going to have to work on his biggest weakness: plate discipline. While the power and speed numbers for Brandon and PJ are rather similar at comparable ages (with PJ possibly having more and better speed and power), the biggest differences between them offensively has been in plate discipline. At age 20, Brandon posted a 50:87 K:BB ratio whereas PJ has only posted a 154:15 ratio. Not good. With a ratio like that, he’s following in the footsteps of a different Brandon in our organization—and even Brandon Wood does not strike out that much!

So far, things aren’t faring too well for PJ in the plate discipline department. PJ has 10 Ks in 9 games and no walks. His BA is 268 and his OB% is 286. Both numbers are below league average for the Rancho.

Aside from that, PJ needs to work on his defense. At the same age, Brandon Phillips posted only 12 errors to PJ’s 40.

There’s no doubt that PJ has the blend of speed and power that his brother has. If he can put it together with some discipline at the plate and better defense, he will post some monstrous numbers at Rancho. Hopefully this is the year that PJ does figure it all out and pushes his way up the depth chart in our stacked MIF department.

Sleepers to Keep an Eye On

Felipe Arredondo (RP): Another young bullpen candidate, Arredondo has posted a 177:40 BB:K ration in 158 innings pitched over the past 3 years. This year will go a long way towards determining if he breaks into the mid-tiers of our prospect chart.

Trevor Bell (SP): Yes, they clown around in the minor leagues while playing. No, Trevor doesn’t channel his grandfather to choreograph their skits. What he does do is pitch, and pitch well. So far, in 2 starts and 11.2 innings, he’s struck out 10, walked one, has a 2.31 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP. Not too shabby for a 21 year old in the Cal League.

Barrett Browning (RP): Another potential closer in the making, Browning could move up quickly if he continues to dominate. Over the past 2 years, Browning has had nearly a 1:1 K:IP ratio, a 2.90 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. So far, he’s off to a hot start. In 4 games, he’s pitched 5.2 innings, earning 2 saves and posting a microscopic 0.53 WHIP.

Hank Conger (C): While he’s out rehabbing his injury to his throwing shoulder, he’s not forgotten. Conger has a bat—no doubt and he’ll rise as fast as his bat can take him. While some fans think he should be moved from catching, the Angels have shown no signs of making that change. For an interview that we did with Hank Conger, please click here.

Tommy Mendoza (SP):
Just missing out top 30 due to a sub-standard season for him last year, Tommy looks to return to the strikeout form that made him a breakout candidate over the prior 2 years. As a hard thrower, Tommy can bring it. But, at this level, he’ll lose it if he can’t spot his pitches. Let’s hope he gets back to his former self where over 2 years he posted a 202:45 K:BB ratio in 233.1 innings.

Matt Sweeney (3B): For those who target their CIF spots for power, Matt Sweeney is the type of player to follow. He’s a lefty with power (18 dingers, 29 doubles last year in 119 games) and should stick at the hot corner. His defense does need to improve, but, it’s not so bad that he will be moved to a less demanding position. Although he has been out since the spring with an injury, he should be back in a month or so. For an interview that we did with Matt Sweeney, please click here.
Love to hear what you think!

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