Saturday, November 27, 2010

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By Eric Notti - AngelsWin.com Contributor

The case against Napoli being traded. Surprised by the change in direction? You shouldn't be because for the betterment of the team this season Mike Napoli has more worth on the roster than in a weak trade scenario before the season starts. The reason I say weak is that the Angels, if they follow through on their free agent targets, will have no glaring holes to be filled. Mike Napoli would end up as either a giveaway for a bench player or prospects. That is not a wise allocation of resources.

Let's make sure we are clear on the ground rules for not trading Napoli before the season starts. This is predicated on one acquisition and that is for Carl Crawford for left field. Crawford changes so many of the dynamics of how the Angels offense can run and with the complimentary defense of Bourjos in center and Hunter in right field the outfield is like one giant glove web where rarely anything can pass through. On offense this reshuffles the batting order to present a 2,3,4,5 lineup that can actually get something done. Who bats leadoff will be a question mark but everyone following that is going to be a solid contributor.

Friday, November 26, 2010

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Interview Conducted By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
Conducted on November 19, 2010
 

Throughout the year, AngelsWin.com interviews Abe Flores, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Director for Player Development about the status of the organization and the development of key prospects throughout the system. This year, several prospects separated themselves from the pack and pushed themselves up to elite status. Additionally, players such as Peter Bourjos, Michael Kohn and Jordan Walden all made the jump to the Major Leagues to achieve success. And, unfortunately, Brandon Wood, once a bright spot in the Angels’ system, took a tremendous step backwards.

In this interview, we talked with Abe Flores about all the changes that are going on with the Angels’ coaching staff, the development of key stars such as Conger, Trout and Trumbo, and the lessons to be learned from Brandon Wood.


AngelsWin.com: How are all the coaching promotions and changes affecting the player development department?

Abe Flores: Obviously it’s had a huge impact. It’s probably the most changes we’ve had on this staff—taking an educational guess—since 2001, before we came on board. We usually have a couple of changes, but not as many as we’ve had this year. But, we’re getting through it. We’re putting our staff together. We should have something official after Thanksgiving.

AngelsWin.com: What strengths do you think that Rob Picciolo will bring as the bench coach for Mike Scioscia?

Abe Flores: Oh man, he brings a lot of things. He’s just a tremendous teacher—an insightful baseball man. Level-headed, approachable. He will be a great person to talk to so far as the players leaning on him. He’s a professional personally. So, I think that he’s going to be a tremendous addition. Ron was great too, but, “Peach” brings a different skill set to that job than Ron. They are both tremendous baseball men, but Rob was a good pickup for our Major League club. We’ll miss him down in the Minors, and the players will too.

AngelsWin.com: I’ve heard nothing but good things about him from some of the players I’ve interviewed.

Abe Flores: Oh yes. He cares. And you can tell that he cares.

AngelsWin.com: Last year when we spoke at this time, you talked about looking to fill some Triple-A outfield depth via minor league free agency, and that came in handy for the team. What, if any depth, are you looking to fill this year?

Abe Flores: We’re looking for a catcher, some starters, and some relief pitchers. So, a lot of pitching, primarily. Shortstop and maybe a bat. A lot of help for that Triple-A roster. We’re a little thin.

AngelsWin.com: What did you think of the development of Bourjos, Kohn, and Walden at the Major League level?

Abe Flores: I thought it was great. Obviously there is a tremendous learning curve from Triple-A to the Major Leagues. But, they are making that transition. It’s not an easy transition. It takes time. It takes patience. But obviously at that level you need to produce. And, they definitely got a feel for what is required up there. In the case of Kohn, he did very well. And those other guys, they are feeling their way through it.

AngelsWin.com: Are there any lessons that can be, or have been, learned from Brandon Wood?

Abe Flores: Great question! It’s kind of tough to answer that one. You know, it’s such a case-by-case situation on how people react and succeed at the Major League level. There are always expectations of a player who has that much success in the Minor Leagues. It just goes to show you that just never know quite how it will play out at the Major League level.

AngelsWin.com: Aside from Trout, who really stood out in the organization as taking a big step forward?

Abe Flores: There were quite a few guys. Guys that snuck up on us and had very good season were guys like Steven Geltz, Jeremy Berg, the second half for Jeremy Moore. Romine had a solid season. Alexi Amarista. Mark Trumbo had a big year for playing for the first time at a new level. Just a bunch of guys. A bunch of them. Jean Segura, Dillon Baird, Luis Jimenez even though he kind of got injured at the end but still played. Jeremy Cruz. Grichuk even though he got injured a couple of times. Andrew Heid. There’s a bunch. Heath Nichols. Ryan Chaffee, especially down the stretch and into the playoffs. Daniel Tillman.

AngelsWin.com: With a talent like Trout, how do you effectively manage the need to challenge him with the need to ensure that he learns all that he should at each level?

Abe Flores: It’s really easy because he is a very coachable guy who has very high expectations of himself and a very team-oriented player. It’s easy. We can challenge him. We don’t coddle him. We will continue to challenge him, especially if something he is not doing correctly and needs to be altered. But we have no problem making that. It’s not that we have put him on some ivory tower. He’s 19 years old. He’s by no means a finished product.

AngelsWin.com: There have been lots of timetables set forth for how quickly Trout can make it to the Major Leagues. How do you ensure that you don’t overly rush him?

Abe Flores: Because our organization develops on having that player going from level to level. When we feel that he is mentally and physically ready for the challenge at Double-A, we’ll make that determination and do that. And then, when he’s ready for Triple-A, we’ll do that. And really, he’s not unique. He’s just a very advanced skillful player. But, don’t ever expect Mike Trout to carry this franchise or any team that he is on. He is part of a team. That part I tend to hammer home with everybody who asks about him.

AngelsWin.com: That’s a great point. We shouldn’t put too many lofty expectations on him.

Abe Flores: He can’t win the game by himself on a nightly basis. He can’t. That’s unrealistic. Can he? On occasion, sure he can. But, not over 140 games in the Minor League schedule. Just expect him to do his part.

AngelsWin.com: What happened with Conger this Fall?

Abe Flores: He just enough. He came home, felt like he had enough at-bats, and enough exposure to Venezuela and came home. No injury. He didn’t really swing the bat particularly well. But, that’s the thing. You’ve got to produce and perform in those Winter Leagues. That’s what I love about them. In some ways it mirrors advancement to the Major Leagues: You’ve got to perform on a certain level or you’re going to get sent back. In this case you get sent home.
AngelsWin.com: Will be a negative on him or hinder his development?

Abe Flores: No. I think it is always a tremendous learning experience to go somewhere, whether the Dominican, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, or Mexico, because of the environment. They love baseball. They are passionate fans. But you have to produce. You’re getting paid pretty good money, so you have to produce.

AngelsWin.com: Trumbo followed up an incredible year with a great performance in the Fall. What more does he need to do to become a Major Leaguer?

Abe Flores: Continue understand his strike zone and continue to hone that. Continue to scratch and claw and get better on defense and his all-around game, which he has made tremendous strides on. Otherwise, he is progressing nicely in his own way.

AngelsWin.com: How did he look playing the outfield?

Abe Flores: Fine. He has got a chance to be a good outfielder. Not great, but good.

AngelsWin.com: He had a couple of games at third base. Was there any reason for that?

Abe Flores: No. I don’t know any reason for that to tell you the truth.

AngelsWin.com: How did Jean Segura look at shortstop?

Abe Flores: Good. Good to have that option. Not as good as he is at second, but he can play the position. He’s just scratching the surface on how well he can play because he hasn’t been exposed to it for very long.

AngelsWin.com: Do you see him sticking there or staying at second?

Abe Flores: At this point, I would just say that we’ll continue to explore it, but, his primary position is second base. If he flourishes at short, then hey, we’ll run with it.

AngelsWin.com: Tyler Chatwood had a great year, but the strikeouts dropped off in Double-A. Is there any reason to be concerned about him?

Abe Flores: None. No concerns. Still like his upside. He still has good stuff. His command has continued to improve. No concerns.

AngelsWin.com: In one of the articles about the AFL, Jeremy Moore was quoted as giving advice to Brandon Wood. In addition to all his other skills, is he a clubhouse leader?

Abe Flores: Yes. That has emerged as part of his package. Obviously that depends on what team he’s on. If he ever lands on our Major League team, then there’s a little bit of a different pecking order on his leadership ability. He’s really blossomed before our eyes, on a lot of facets of his game.

Abe Flores: If you were to compare Jeremy Moore to any player, who would he be?

Abe Flores: I couldn’t say at this point.

AngelsWin.com: Fabio Mesa-Martinez had another good year, but was shut down at the end of July. Are there any concerns about his durability?

Abe Flores: None. No concerns about his durability at all. He came back and pitched Instructional League. He’s good to go.

AngelsWin.com: Steven Geltz doesn’t quite have the traditional pitcher’s build, but is striking out hitters in bunches. How would you profile him?

Abe Flores: You know what, I didn’t get to see Steven this year. I really didn’t. I just missed him every time. Whether it was a promotion, or whatever, I just missed him.

AngelsWin.com: Are you getting great scouting reports on him?

Abe Flores: Yes. You know what, the good thing about Steven is that he’s an aggressive, fearless guy on the mound. He’ll attack the strike zone and he will get after the hitters. He’s got velocity and the breaking ball has improved. So, he has a lot going for him.

AngelsWin.com: Jeremy Berg throws side armed, almost submarine style. Can you tell us more about him?

Abe Flores: Aggressive, competitive guy. Strike thrower. Causes a lot of swings and misses—funky swings. Changes speeds. Can work soft on soft. He’s just a deceptive guy. He’s just a different package so far as what he brings to the mound, but it works.

AngelsWin.com: How do you develop someone with such an unorthodox delivery?

Abe Flores: You know what, there isn’t much I would say to develop, other than we’ve focused on him continuing to master his changeup. Otherwise, there really hasn’t been that we’ve tinkered with. The guy has had a lot of success.

AngelsWin.com: Luis Jimenez played in the Futures Game, and split time with Dillon Baird at third base. Are they continue to split time going forward?

Abe Flores: Something that we will discuss and we’ll evaluate going in to Spring Training. Definitely. But, that’s a good problem to have.

AngelsWin.com: Who really stood out in your mind from the 2010 draft?

Abe Flores: Definitely I would say Daniel Tillman. Daniel Tillman stood out.

AngelsWin.com: Baseball America speculated that Daniel Tillman might be converted into a starter. Is that something you’re considering?

Abe Flores: At this point we haven’t discussed it.

AngelsWin.com: Kaleb Cowart drew some lofty comparisons when he was drafted by the Angels. What is your take on him now that you’ve seen a little bit of him?

Abe Flores: Nice looking player, trying to understand how we go about the game—the Angels way of doing things. We haven’t had him for very long. He was only basically with us for 14 days and Instructional League. A player who has a bunch of tools and he has a soft skill level. We’ll get a really more in-depth look at him this year.

AngelsWin.com: Last year the Angels challenged Dillon Baird with a jump to Rancho. Is Andrew Heid someone else who might get a similar challenge?

Abe Flores: Not at this point. No.

AngelsWin.com: What was your first impression of Taylor Lindsey?

Abe Flores: A nice looking player. His bat is ahead of his defense, but his defense has vastly improved over the course of the season and Instructional League. He has really come a long way with his quality of work on a daily basis. There’s a nice upside to him.

AngelsWin.com: What were your impressions of Ryan Bolden?

Abe Flores: A “toolsy” player that’s raw. So, it’s going to take time and require patience.

AngelsWin.com: What about Cam Bedrosian?

Abe Flores: Didn’t see him. He was hurt.

AngelsWin.com: How about Chevez Clarke?

Abe Flores: Once again his bat is a little bit more polished than Bolden. Also a “toolsy” type player. He just needs to refine his game and understand his game so he can have value for us down the road.

AngelsWin.com: Lastly, are you maintaining contact with Jake Locker to see if he’s still going to continue to play baseball for the Angels or will pursue professional football?

Abe Flores: I have made no contact with Jake Locker.

AngelsWin.com: On behalf of AngelsWin.com, I’d like to thank you for taking the time today to speak with the fans.

Abe Flores: Thank you. I appreciate the interview and Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

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By Jonathan Northrop, AngelsWin.com Contributor

It is Hot Stove season and the trade rumors are circulating like text messages in Gossip Girl. One recent rumor, from Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman’s Twitter page, is that Adrian Beltre (that is, Scott Boras) is using Torii Hunter’s 5 year, $90M contract as a benchmark for what his expectations are. We’re talking about a 13-year veteran that has had two—yes, two—seasons with an OPS+ above 115. They were truly remarkable seasons, especially 2004 when he hit a Triple Crown-worthy .334-48-121 with a 163 OPS+ that led to his (over-priced) Seattle contract, but he’s only been a star-caliber player for two of thirteen years (or twelve full seasons).

Let’s take a look at Beltre’s Adjusted OPS numbers, from highest to lowest, and excluding his 1998 season, when the 19-year old had only 214 PA (remember, 100 is average):

163, 141, 114, 112, 108, 105, 101, 98, 97, 93, 88, 83.

What do you see there? Let’s take out the outliers—the two best seasons, which any person with a minimal knowledge of mathematics would tell you stick out like a sore thumb; you then have a player who has averaged an OPS+ of 99.9, that is, has been dead average. In other words, if you take out Beltre’s two best seasons—that have five seasons between them—you have an average hitter, with very good (but declining) defense.

5 years, $90 million? Are you kidding me?!

Even outside of his best seasons, Beltre is a solid player. He hits around .270/.320/.460 with 25 HR and excellent defense at a position that the Angels have struggled with since Troy Glaus left. But let’s be real, here: Adrian Beltre has been an average hitter for over 85% of his career, and at 32-years old next year is declining defensively. Would you guarantee an average hitter with declining third base defense $90M—or even half that much—for the next five years? Especially when you have a player with a similar skill set approximately two years away in Luis Jimenez, and a highly talented Kaleb Cowart a year or so behind? It is, or should be, a rhetorical question.

The case against Adrian Beltre is easy, and was made above. The case for him is harder, and is only really possible if at least two of the three happen: 1) Beltre is given a three-year contract, B) he isn’t offered more than $10-12M a year, and C) he continues at a level somewhat close to 2010’s performance.

None of the three will happen. Beltre will be given at least four years, will make at least $14M a year, and will not be as good as 2010. One could also argue that the Angels have no good options and there are no guarantees that Jimenez or Cowart will even make it to the major leagues. True enough. But the Angels could do worse than to see if Alberto Callaspo can recapture his 2009/early-2010 bat that produced an .800 OPS, or give Brandon Wood—who has played very well in the Arizona Fall League—one more chance (just one more!). If neither pans out then you have Maicer Izturis, or even Freddy Sandoval, to hold down the hot corner until 2012.

But no matter how problematic the third base position is for the Angels, there is no case to give Beltre the $15-18M at 4-5 years that he is looking for, and probably will get. He is not worth the money, or would it be wise to tie up the payroll with another over-priced contract.

Need I say more? There is no case for Adrian Beltre.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

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Interview Conducted by David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
Interview Conducted November 14, 2010

 
Steve Geltz has had to overcome many obstacles on his path to becoming a Major League pitcher. At 5’10”, he didn’t quite reach the magic height that scouts look for in a pitcher. Coming out of college, he wasn’t drafted. But, he didn’t give up on his dream.

Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008, Geltz has been dominating as a reliever for the Angels. In 2010, he posted a 14.87 K/9 IP rate combined at two different levels. But, that doesn’t tell the whole story. After his promotion to Double-A Arkansas, Steve posted a 17.36 K/9 IP rate and lowered his BAA to .145! Considering that he accomplished that against tougher pitching, he had an exceptional season.

This fall, the Angels sent Geltz to the Arizona Fall League to continue to refine his game. He has continued to excel against the elite prospects in baseball, and is establishing himself as a strong candidate for a bullpen spot later in 2011. For a complete look at his current stats, click here.

AngelsWin.com recently sat down with Steve to find out more about him as a player, as a person, and about his career. Click below to listen to our interview with him:

Friday, November 12, 2010

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Interview conducted by David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
Conducted on November 11, 2010


As the play-by-play man for the Angels in 2010, Victor Rojas had a unique perspective on the team and its players. He saw the team at its best and at its worst. He grew into his role in front of the camera and became a recognizable voice for the Angels.

AngelsWin.com recently spoke with Victor Rojas about his first year in the booth for the Angels, his thoughts on the offseason, and looking forward to the 2011 season. As he was known for in the booth, Victor called it like he saw it and gave an insider’s view into how to view the offseason and what to make of all the speculation about free agents and potential trades.

Click below to listen to the AngelsWin.com interview with Victor Rojas:




Editor’s Note: At approximately 4:15 into the interview, there was a minor technical issue which resulted in the staggered response to the question.

Monday, November 8, 2010

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By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer

In the first article in this series, I analyzed which Angels’ prospects should not be traded for anything short of a mammoth deal. But, heading into 2011, the Angels have numerous holes to fill and will need to make some deals. While the Angels’ Front Office might not want to admit it, this team needs more than just some window dressing to improve itself. It needs to find a leadoff hitter, another middle of the order bat, a solution at third base and some help for the bullpen if it wants to make a serious run at the post season in 2011.

In order for the Angels to accomplish all of that, it seems likely that one or more trades need to be made. These trades need to involve both Major League players and Minor League players. The Angels will have to give up some talent in order to get some talent, and, in some cases, absorb some payroll in order to clear salary hurdles. And, to round out any deal, the Angels will most likely have to trade some Minor League talent.

Friday, November 5, 2010

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By Jonathan Northrop, AngelsWin.com Contributor

Now that the World Series is behind us, we can start focusing on what truly matters in baseball: the Angels and, better yet, Hot Stove season! After the worst Angels season since 2003, Arte Moreno and Tony Reagins will be focused on returning this team to competitiveness in 2011. The question is, how to do this? Is the best approach to stand pat and let the farm system feed the big club and hope that underperforming, injured, and young players improve enough to complement the stellar rotation and improving bullpen and at least come within spitting distance of 2009’s offensive performance? Or should the Angels reload with a big name free agent or two like Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Adam Dunn, and Cliff Lee? Or should they merely tinker a bit, add a lefty reliever and maybe an aging Lance Berkman off the bench?

We’ll have months to discuss, but let’s start with the biggest name of all, or at least the most talked about: Carl Crawford. It seems that every Angels fan wants to see him in left field next year, no matter what the cost, and the cost will be immense—certainly the largest contract the Angels have ever paid out. Given the current market, I think we can start with Torii Hunter’s 5-year, $90 million contract as a base and go up from there to somewhere below Matt Holliday’s 7-year, $120MM contract. Let’s split the difference and say that Crawford will require approximately 6 years, $110 million, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less – but somewhere in that vicinity.

Let’s get the obvious questions out of the way: Is he worth it? Of course not, but what big free agent is? Would he improve the team? Of course he would—he hits for average with a bit of pop, steals 50 bases a year, and is a very good defender in left field.

But here’s the harder question: should the Angels sign him? The answer is not so clear.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

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By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
 
Now that the World Series is over (congrats Giants), it’s time for the Hot Stove season to begin. This offseason, the Angels are going to have to be creative in order to solve all of their needs. They need a leadoff hitter, improved outfield defense, a third baseman, and a reliever in order to recapture their dominance from previous years. They will have to dive into the free agent pool and they are going to have to work a trade or two in order to keep their payroll within a reasonable level and to maximize the performance from each position.

Since it’s almost always impossible to trade an exact “value” of one Major League player for another, most trades involve Minor Leaguers to “round out” the deal. While Tony Reagins showed a willingness to trade Minor Leaguers in 2010 (trading many Minor Leaguers for Callaspo and Haren), there are some players in the Angels’ organization who should not be dealt for anything short of a monstrous return on the investment (the type of dream deal that only happens in fantasy baseball and internet fan sites).

Below are my list of players that the Angels should not trade under any realistic situation:

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