By Chuck Richter - Angelswin.com Executive Editor
Q: (Angelswin.com) - Since we're titling this the Spring Camp Edition, what are you hearing from your scouts and coaches thus far in Tempe about the Angels prospects in camp? Who's really turning heads on the hill, defensively and with the lumber?
A: (Eddie Bane) – Sorry, guys, that it has taken awhile to get back with Angels fans, but blame Chris McAlpin, Kevin Ham and Bobby Dejardin. They are our area scouts that have had me running around the country seeing their players. One day recently in southern California, I was able to watch six high school pitchers on one Saturday. A scout lives for those kind of days. OK, onto the questions for spring training.
I think if you look at who Mike, Ron, Alfredo and Mickey play in the spring training games, you can tell who are turning the big league heads. Romine is playing a lot, Peter Bourjos is playing a lot, Petit is getting a lot of hits and O’Sullivan, Walden, Herndon, Browning and Adenhart are getting innings on the mound; nothing but positives from the camp, with the extra emphasis perhaps on a bit more plate discipline for some of our guys.
Q: (Angelswin.com) - What guys are flying under the radar right now that we should keep an eye on this season?
A: (Eddie Bane) - I think this is the year to keep an eye on Matt Sweeney; injured last year, but still a premium bat. Same thing with Chris Petit. He was hurt some last year, but finished strong and then tore up the Fall League. David Herndon will jump quickly as a closer type, also. Hard to keep guys under the radar any longer as you guys are so good at picking through our stuff that most of the fans already know most of the guys. Remember, last year we kept predicting Trumbo had monster power and then he hit 30 plus home runs. Now he just needs to do it again, huh? Easy enough, right?
Q: (Angelswin.com) – Nick Adenhart — how's he looking? I'm hoping last year was just a blip, ala Ervin Santana.
A: (Eddie Bane) - Nick Adenhart is as good a pitching prospect as the game has. He is about the same age as the college guys I am chasing right now. And he has already touched the big leagues. So far in the spring, from what I hear his stuff has been dynamite as always. When Nick gets ahead of the count with a pitch low and in the middle of the plate, he will win consistently in the major leagues. His stuff is top drawer and, specifically, his fastball gets on the hitters.
Q: (Angelswin.com) - Now that we've learned more about the player development from Abe Flores, do you and your staff draft toward the organization's strengths in developing players? What are some of your early thoughts on the draft for 2009? Have you already targeted a few kids?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Shoot, the process started right after the 2008 draft ended. All of our scouts, but especially the crosscheckers — Jeff Malinoff, Ric Wilson, Bo Hughes, Ron Marigny and Mike Silvestri — have been chasing players since the ’08 draft finished. No, we cannot target positions, but it is obvious that I would like to put more corner power into the system. We have only had two first round picks since 2004 and while that is fine with me it means we have to do a good job at finding the Mounts and Recklings while they are in high school and get first round picks in that manner.
This year, we have six picks before we ever selected in the 2008 draft. If we can get six guys with the upside that Tyler Chatwood (our first pick in ’08) has, then we will be happy.
One of the things that hurts a premium system like ours are things like the Rule V Draft. It is a way for teams to draft players off your roster that you are unable to protect on your 40-man. We lost three pitchers in the Rule V Draft and that is tough to replace immediately, those type arms. But we would rather have other teams admiring our system like that instead of ignoring us.
Q: (Angelswin.com) - When you came on board in 2004, the Angels had a solid outfield of run producers which included Vladimir Guerrero. Since, we've acquired Torii Hunter, Gary Matthews Jr. and Juan Rivera, not exactly the Angels outfield of old, which consisted of Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds and Tim Salmon at one point — three outfielders drafted and developed by the Angels. Will you go after some power hitting outfielders in this up and coming draft to replace Guerrero, Hunter and Rivera down the road?
A: (Eddie Bane) - As I was able to state above, we need to develop a few more guys with corner bat power. That will happen between what myself and Abe Flores do. Peter Bourjos is a future star centerfielder and Fuller behind him is a major leaguer. Some of our corner infield types like Sweeney could also play left field. When the Angels had those three guys in the outfield for a short period of time they did not have the homegrown starting or relief pitching that we currently have. They also did not have an infield of home growns at first, second and two guys of Major League quality at shortstop, to go along with at least four deep of homegrown Major League catchers.
Q: (Angelswin.com) - How much work does Hank Conger have to do defensively before he can start moving up in the organization? Why is he not able to throw in spring camp? I thought Hank was cleared to catch going into the 2009 minor league season?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Hank has to get behind the plate and see if the body can take a season of catching. But, the part that people just steam right by it seems to me is that the game does not have many hitting prospects as good as this young man. He drove in 88 runs in 83 games last season. That is remarkable. He is like a bear around a honey pot when there is a runner in scoring position. I got ripped for saying I would take Hank over Matt Weiters and J.P. Arrenciba. I stick by that statement and time will tell. Hank was driving in runs in the playoffs in the Texas League when those guys were finishing their college career. Remember, if Hank had gone to USC instead of signing, then he would be in the 2009 draft. Put his bat in this draft and see where he would fit.
Q: (Angelswin.com) - How do the Angels plan on dealing with the organization's semi-logjam of middle infielders — Izturis, Aybar, Wood, Rodriguez, Kendrick, Statia, Phillips, Mount, Romine — and where do you see each of them starting the year? What do you do with players like Wood and Rodriguez, who seem to have little to prove at AAA, but don't have a spot on the big league roster because of a stud like Kendrick at second, a lead-off hitter/catalyst (when healthy) like Figgins at third, and a platoon of Aybar and Izturis at short?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Chuck, that is the best problem in the world to have. That is not a logjam. That is what we are supposed to do. The cream rises to the top. Open up the competition and let the best guys get the time at the top. Our job is to have a quality second baseman in place. We do. Our other job is to have someone behind that quality second baseman to take his spot if the lead guy has something happen. We have that now in Mount, Statia, Rodriguez, etc. Who is to say that one of those middle infield types could not go to the corner outfield and make a mark as an outfielder? Phillips and Rodriguez certainly have good enough offensive skills to play any position on the diamond.
Q: (Angelswin.com) - Is the apparent emphasis on plate discipline that is going on with the Major League club something that is being emphasized throughout the organization? Is this a change in philosophy or just a change in perception from the outside?
A: (Eddie Bane) - No. I think it is a new emphasis from the top on down; just something to remind the players of. Stay aggressive, but do it in a relaxed way. Everyone already knows that is the best way to hit anyhow.
Q: (Angelswin.com) - It's Kendry Morales’ time to shine. You must be excited to see him get a full time gig after scouting and signing him four years ago. Any predictions on how you think Morales will do with a full season of at-bats for the Halos?
A: (Eddie Bane) - If Kendry can stay healthy, he will hit as he always has. It is great to see a young man that has put in the hard work, after being the top dog in Cuba, to make himself a Major League hitter. This is something that everybody should root for. Kendry is one of those types of hitters that his power will even get better with regular time at the Major League level. It is hard to see his power potential in looking at his stats, but when you see that type of swing with that type balance, then you know power is coming.
Q: (Angelswin.com) - What do scouts say about Howie Kendrick's ability to hit for power in the big leagues? With only 12 home runs in 945 Major League at-bats, do you think Kendrick can hit 20-plus home runs in the big leagues down the road?
A: (Eddie Bane) - 20 home runs in Angel Stadium for half your games is a monster season for any player. But Howie is a premium hitter. I was one of those that said Howie would win a batting title and I stand by that. Health has been tough on Howie Kendrick, but that is not something you can predict. He is a gamer and that will show. “Line drive doubles power” is what scouts call the type power that Kendrick has.
Q: (Angelswin.com) - Finally, who is your preseason pick for Minor League Player of the Year?
A: (Eddie Bane) - Ryan Mount. See guys, I don’t duck any questions. I hope all the other guys that could win the award end up helping our big league team so they wont be eligible for minor league awards.
This concludes our monthly feature with Eddie Bane. To discuss this feature or any of the questions and answers, visit our forum.