Tuesday, February 27, 2007

If you haven't had the chance to visit the Angels in Tempe Arizona for spring training do yourself a favor and make the trip.

There is no greater opportunity to get up close with your favorite players than at spring training. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal. If you are an autograph or photo seeker this is the place for you.

Spring training is also the only time fans get the chance to see future Angels in the same place at the same time before the players are sent out to various cities across the country.

If you've only heard of Nick Adenhart or Brandon Wood, this is the place to see them. Since the regulars typically play just a few innings the minor leaguers get a lot of time on the field. While attending a game last March I was able to see Wood at SS, Kendrick at 2B, Morales at 1B and Adenhart on the mound, was that a possible preview of the 2009 Angels?

Adjacent to Tempe Diablo Stadium is the practice facilities. Many fans congregate outside the fences to snap pictures and watch the Angels take infield drills and batting practice. Watching Mike Scioscia give a catchers clinic to his core of backstops Jeff Mathis, Mike Napoli, Jose Molina and Bobby Wilson is a treat.

A word of warning though. Once you attend Angels spring training you'll become hooked. If you are going to be in Tempe March 9 - 11th keep an eye out for the AngelsWin.com contingent of fans in attendance and introduce yourself.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I asked Eddie Bane over the weekend who has stood out early on after the entire squad has reported now for more than a week.

This is what he has to say.

Chuck; It is a bit early, for certain. but Mosebach separates himself whenever he throws in the pen with some of the older, more established pitchers. He will be one to watch in 2007.

Out of the media guys (Adenhart, Mendoza, Marek, etc.) Adenhart has stood out so far as Nick is now bigger and stronger and obviously worked hard in the off season. He is already bigger than I envisioned him. A big man now. Might even get to the great pitchers size like John Lackey has.

Also, Kendry Morales was bombing balls all over the place the other day. From both sides of the plate. He has a special bat and it should come out sometime this season. Led the DR in most categories this winter with the bat. Though not many games won on Feb 22. Still early.

All for now.

Eddie Bane
Angels baseball

Thursday, February 22, 2007

By Chuck Richter - Angelswin.com Executive Editor

The Angels have one of baseball's top 3 overall systems, highlighted by the dynamite potential future double-play combination of Brandon Wood and Howie Kendrick. Erick Aybar is no slouch either, and if the Angels decided to move Wood to 3B, how's this for an infield?: 1B - Kendry Morales, 2B - Howie Kendrick, SS - Erick Aybar, 3B - Brandon Wood. Not bad. The system is lacking in high-ceiling outfielders, so that will likely be the focus of any free agent signings in the future. Pitching-wise, the system graduated Ervin Santana to the majors this year and he's had a major impact already and should be in the 2006 rotation. There is still Jered Weaver though, who will debut for the Angels sometime in 2006. A little further down the list, C Michael Collins has made a major jump up the list while the 2004 and 2005 drafts have brought high-ceiling prospects Nick Adenhart, Mark Trumbo, and Trevor Bell into the fold. It's a great time to be an Angel fan with a winning team, an owner that spends money, and a well-stocked farm system. Now it's up to GM Bill Stoneman to know who to keep, who to trade, and how to continue winning. He has no excuses.

1. Brandon Wood, SS (DOB: 3/2/85; Drafted 2003 1st round - #23 overall)

Wood has taken quite a jump up the prospect charts since being #11 on the Angels’ list last year for AngelsWin.com. I suppose 101 extra-base hits will do that for a guy, especially a SS! Not only did he lead the entire minor leagues in XBH’s, but he also was tops in doubles, homeruns, and total bases. Not bad for a guy who hit .251 with 11 homeruns last year in Low A. Wood did add some muscle (10 lbs or so) in the offseason, but scouts say his power is legit (no BALCO jokes please). He’s tall and lanky, but has tremendous bat speed. Yes he did play in the thin desert air, but according to a scout we talked to, his power is 100% legit and most of his HR’s this year would have been out of any park. He’s a very good defensive SS, but should he grow much beyond his 6’3” 200 lb. frame, his range could be in question as a big league SS. No worries though, his bat will play anywhere. Look for him to start 2006 in AA with a call up to the big leagues not out of the question.

2. Howie Kendrick, 2B (DOB: 7/12/83; Drafted 2002 10th round - #294 overall)

The kid can HIT, plain and simple. Kendrick is called the best contact hitter in the minors by multiple scouts and some think he is near big league ready now. AA is usually a big adjustment for most minor leaguers, but Kendrick didn’t seem to miss a beat after being promoted there. He’s a kid that can hit most any pitch to any part of the field, often going the other way on balls low and away and turning on inside fastballs quickly. The added power this year is nice and should allow him to be an above average 2B in the majors. Sure, you’d like to see more than 20 walks to 469 at-bats, but a .367 total average is tough to overlook. He’ll be out to take Adam Kennedy’s job sometime this year.

3. Kendry Morales, 1B (DOB: 6/20/83; Signed Cuba, 2004)

Kendry found the adjustment a bit tough after signing a $3 million contract after defecting from Cuba last year, but sure found his groove in the second half of the 2005 season and continued his success in the Arizona Fall League. The switch-hitter had his ups and downs, but finished the season absolutely on fire, going 21 for his last 34. I think he’ll be more consistent this year as he adjusts to full-season ball and perhaps more importantly, the American culture. Defensively, he’s improving and now is said to have okay range with a plus arm. I expect him to make his major league debut next year sometime (DH?), but look for Morales to start in AAA. I see him being Cuba’s best position player ever.

4. Erick Aybar, SS (DOB: 1/14/84; Signed Dominican Republic 2002)

A team interested in playing small-ball would be wise to try and trade for Aybar. It’s a crowded middle infield situation in the Angels organization, but I could see Wood in the outfield and a double play combination of Kendrick and Aybar. More likely, one will be traded, but I’d love to see all these guys come up together over the next couple years. Aybar is an electrifying player capable of stealing 50+ in his prime. He still needs another year at least in the minors to work on his pitch recognition skills, and some tutoring on running the bases is in order, as he was caught stealing 23 times. He’ll never be a big power threat, but if you’re stealing 50 bags, 10 homeruns is fine. Could be the next Chone Figgins.

5. Jered Weaver, RHP (DOB: 10/4/82; Drafted 2004 1st round - #12 overall)

About as polished as they come. Most scouts think Weaver could step into a rotation today and be as good or better than most team’s 5th starters. Most thought he could step right off the Long Beach State diamond and into a rotation after going 15-1, 1.62 as a senior with 213 K’s and just 21 walks in 144 innings. Not so fast. There’s really nothing negative to say except that he may not ever be a #1 starter as he doesn’t dominate hitters the way someone like a Mark Prior can. Still, a guy with command of four pitches, a successful brother as a pitcher, and a great college career equals almost a sure thing in my book. Worst case, a #2 starter  in the bigs. Probably starts back in the minors, as it’s unlikely Mike Scioscia would go with both Santana and Weaver to start the year and Santana deserves the first chance at a permanent rotation spot. Someone will get hurt though and Weaver will get the call.

6. Jeff Mathis, C (DOB: 3/31/83; Drafted 2001 1st round - #33 overall)

Star has fallen a bit this year to the point where some no longer attach the “future superstar” label to Mathis. Posted solid, but not spectacular AAA numbers considering it’s the PCL, but nevertheless, I have him as the likely #3 catching prospect in all the minors behind Saltalamacchia and Martin. Mathis still looks like a future regular to me and I think he’ll be a solid offensive catcher, perhaps along the lines of a Michael Barrett type. He’s solid behind the plate, only lacking a rifle arm. Not the type that’s going to be a masher, but I think he could hit .280+ with 15 homeruns minimum at his peak. He’ll more than hold his own in the majors, probably in the 8 hole. Could be the Angels catcher this year as Benji Molina is a free agent who is sure to attract a lot of interest and the Angels could choose to save their money to upgrade their lineup and add a starting pitcher.

7. Alberto Callaspo, 2B (DOB: 4/19/83; Signed 2002 - Venezuela)

Alberto who? With all the hype surrounding Wood, Kendrick, and Aybar, Callaspo gets a bit lost in the shuffle. He still projects as a solid utility man or perhaps a regular on a non-contending team. Callaspo is a true hacker, rarely striking out, but also not drawing enough walks considering he isn’t exactly a slugger. His base running instincts need work as well, as he was caught stealing more times than he was actually successful. His glove will get him to the majors as he has great range and a good arm, as well as the ability to play multiple positions. It’s the bat though that will determine what type of career he has in the majors.

8. Joe Saunders, LHP (DOB: 6/16/81; Drafted 2002 1st round - #12 overall)

Not exactly a soft-tosser, Saunders brings the heater up in the low 90s range, occasionally touching 93. He’s got a great change and a curve that functions as his third offering. Missed the 2003 season with shoulder problems but has rebounded rather nicely. I watched his major league debut vs. the Blue Jays and was really impressed with his composure after he went seven and 1/3 innings and allowed just two runs. Like any lefty who doesn’t blow hitters away, command is key with Saunders and he shows a decent walk rate. May get a chance to compete for a rotation spot this year with Paul Byrd and Jarrod Washburn both being free agents, but will have to pitch very well in spring to win a job. He doesn’t have the biggest ceiling, but if given a chance, I think he could be a solid #3 or a good #4 innings-eater type.

9. Michael Collins, C (DOB: 4/18/84; Signed 2001 - Australia)

A few things jump out when you look at Collins’ stat line: .412 OBP and 25 HBP’s! Sounds like the guy needs to perhaps back off the plate a little. Where did Collins come from to leap up into the top 10 of a very good farm system? I don’t know, but he did! After toiling in rookie ball for and hitting .207 in the Midwest League last year, Collins put up a very good season this year in Cedar Rapids. He’s still pretty raw defensively, but with the progress he’s shown offensively this year, the Angels will develop him as a catcher. He may not have hit a lot of Hr’s this year, but some of those 32 doubles will start going over the fence, particularly as he takes his game to the CAL league in 2006. Keep an eye on him.

10. Nick Adenhart, RHP (DOB: 8/24/86; Drafted 2004 14th round - #413 overall)

Has more upside than any pitcher on this list, including yes, Jered Weaver. He would have been a first rounder had he not got hurt prior to the draft and undergone Tommy John surgery. The Angels though have deep pockets and took a chance on Adenhart in the 14th round and gave him well above slot money to sign, rehab with them, and then return this year. It seems to be paying off so far, as he’s nearly back to 100%, flashing a mid 90s fastball, and solid secondary offerings including a plus change, curve, and slider. Control was an issue at times, but chalk that up to rust. 2006 will go a long way in determining how fast he’ll move. Not sure where he starts, but he has the talent to make the jump to the Midwest League to start 2006.

11. Steven Shell, RHP (DOB: 3/10/83; Drafted 2001 3rd round - #81 overall)

With his frame (Shell stands 6’5”) and stuff, he really should have had a better year than he did, but Shell still ranks as a solid pitching prospect and would be in many teams’ top 5 overall. He is consistently in the low 90s with room to add a little more velocity as he fills out. His curve is a plus pitch and devastating when it’s on. His change needs work (how often is that said?) and its development (he’s also got a splitter he’s working on) will only enhance his fastball and curve. What is maddening about Shell though is his inconsistency. One game he’s pitching like Felix Hernandez and the next he looks like Pat Mahomes. He did finish on a high note with a solid playoff performance and going into 2006, he is likely to be underrated on most prospect charts.

He’s ready for AAA and should see a spot start in the majors at some point.

12. Mark Trumbo, 3B/1B (DOB: 1/16/86; Drafted 2004 18th round - # 533 overall)

Scouts were mixed on Trumbo prior to the 2004 draft with some thinking he had first round ability as a pitcher and others (Angels) who saw more potential in his bat. Wasn’t considered signable, and as a result, fell to the 18th round where the Angels scooped him up and signed him for $1.425 million. So far, the results are mixed. He shows very good power potential, often connecting on McGwire-esque moon shots. However, he doesn’t have the greatest-looking swing, and his plate discipline so far is below average. His placement at #12 though is all about potential. He’s still a teenager, just getting used to playing full-time as a hitter. Defensively, he has a very good arm as an ex-pitcher, but lacks the proper instincts around the bag and is now being tried at 1B. He’s got a lot of work to do.

13. Sean Rodriguez, SS (DOB: 4/26/85; Drafted 2003 3rd round - #90 overall)

Sean is the son of a former Marlins hitting instructor and as a result is said to have an advanced feel for the game. He was the Pioneer League MVP last year after hitting .338/.486/.586 (wow!), but found full-season ball a bit more challenging in 2005. He was actually demoted last year from the Midwest League to the Pioneer League, so what he did this year is definitely progress. Sean has a strong arm at SS and very good range, although he could stand to take more time with his throws. The Angels have given some thought of converting him to catcher given his instincts, arm, and organizational middle-infield depth, but for now he’ll stay at SS. I really like the plate discipline he showed this year and he has more than enough power potential for a middle infielder. When/if he puts it all together, he could rocket up this chart.

14. Rafael Rodriguez, RHP (DOB: 9/24/84; Signed 2001 – Dominican Republic)

Coming off an injury-plagued (elbow) 2004, Rodriguez managed to stay healthy this year and make 27 starts. He earns comparisons to Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez (no relation) for his violent delivery, excellent slider, and 92-97 mph fastball. His stuff was sufficient to blow away Midwest League hitters, but when he advanced, he was exposed as a 2-pitch pitcher and hitters were better able to catch up to his stuff. Really needs a changeup if he’s going to stay as a starter and many scouts see him winding up in the pen as a result. He’ll get another crack at the CAL league in 2006.

15. P.J. Phillips, SS (DOB: 9/23/86; Drafted 2005 2nd round - #71 overall)

Brother of Indians SS Brandon Phillips, once a highly thought of prospect. Has a lot of power potential in his bat as a result of his 6’2 – 6’3” frame, but obviously the power isn’t there yet. A very good athlete, he doesn’t have blazing speed, but is aggressive on the basepaths and could steal 25-30 as a pro. May grow out of the SS position, but has a great arm and could handle a corner OF position defensively, as long as his bat develops. The potential is there, but he’s got a lot of work to do (plate discipline primarily) to reach his high ceiling. Probably not quite ready for the Midwest League, but as a high draft pick, he could be challenged.

16. Mike Napoli, C (DOB: 10/31/81; Drafted 2000 17th round - #500 overall)

Adam Dunn alert!! Low average, prodigious power, lots of whiffs, and lots of walks characterize Napoli in a nutshell. The primary knock on Napoli coming into 2005 though was his defense (or lack thereof) behind the plate. What does he do in response? Leads the Texas League with a CS rate of 47%. Not bad and it really highlights his hard-working attitude. He wants to succeed. He may never hit for a high average, but a catcher that can hit .250 with an OBP of .360 and 30 HR’s is easily a starter in the big leagues. He’ll move up to AAA and probably post very good numbers there in 2006. Some team should look to trade for this guy and consider making him their every day catcher at some point in 2006 or 2007 if the the ex catcher & manager Mike Scioscia doesn't think he can hang behind the dish with his high standards of defense.

17. Trevor Bell, RHP (DOB: 10/12/86; Drafted 2005 – Supplemental 1st - #37 overall)

He’s got a great story. Grew up an Angels fan and was born on the same day that Dave Henderson hit his famous homerun off the now-late Donnie Moore. Has a fastball that’s been clocked as high as 96 and a curveball that will be a plus pitch. Could either be a #1 starter or get hurt and flame out. I have no idea how to project these high school pitchers. The Angels can afford to bring him along slowly and it’s likely he’ll start in rookie ball again in 2006 with a possible late-season promotion to the Midwest League if he shows progress and stays healthy.

18. Tommy Mendoza, RHP (DOB: 8/18/87; Drafted 2005 5th round - #163 overall)

The Angels liked what they saw from Mendoza in Miami (Monsignor Pace HS) and he didn’t disappoint after signing a contract. Mendoza through 52 innings struck out 56 posting a 1.55 ERA and a 3-3 record. The Angels were so impressed with his performance in the AZL after he was named an All-Star that they promoted him to Rancho Cucamonga (High Class-A) where he threw three perfect innings which earned him a save and in his first and only start he whirled 7 shutout innings. Mendoza at the age of 18 throws 95 MPH with good life on his fastball. His Curveball looked solid after getting some instruction from the Angels coaching staff and it appears to be a plus out pitch. His secondary pitches include a slider, cutter and change-up which are now inconsistent but have the chance to be plus pitches in the future. Look for Mendoza to start the season off in Cedar Rapids but don’t be surprised if he moves quickly through the system.

19. Hainley Statia, SS (DOB: 1/19/86; Drafted 2004 9th round - #263 overall)

Yet another solid SS prospect for the Angels. At the plate, he’s more of a line drive hitter and shows the ability to hit the ball in the gaps from both sides of the plate. He’s just 5’10”, so it’s hard to project much power from him in the future. Doesn’t show the greatest of instincts on the base paths, but that can be something that is worked on as he works his way up the ladder. His makeup is said to be top-notch, so he’s got that working for him. I’d like to see him draw more walks, work on his base-stealing, and turn on the inside fastballs now and then. Defensively, he projects as above average and doesn’t make the mental mistakes typical of teenagers. Look for him in the Midwest League next year.

20. Reggie Willits (DOB: 5/30/81; Drafted 2003 7th round - #210 overall)

He’s fast (40 steals), he gets on base (.377 OBP), and he plays a solid CF. Sounds like a young Kenny Lofton. Comes from an athletic family as his sister won a ring as a member of the L.A. Sparks WNBA team. He’s a switch-hitter with little power, but you don’t need a lot of power to be a leadoff guy. He’s got a good makeup as well, as Angels Farm Director Tony Reagins had this to say about him before the season, “His package will play at higher levels. He has that David Eckstein-type mentality, where you grind it out every day. He can definitely be a top-of-the-order guy.” Did a good job cutting down on his strikeouts this year. He’ll play in AAA this year which will give us and the Angels a much better idea as to whether he has a future with the team and in what role.

Keep an eye on:

Jose Arredondo, RHP (DOB: 3/12/84; Signed 2001 – Dominican Republic)

Arredondo was going nowhere as a SS in the Angels system after hitting .191 in the Arizona League last year. So, they decided that his arm was too electric to waste and gave him a shot on the mound where in 12 IP, he struck out 14 while allowing four earned runs. This year he continued to show that promise despite being so raw and unrefined. In the Pioneer League playoffs, he allowed just one run in 15 impressive innings. His fastball gets up in the mid 90s consistently and his slider is already solid. He’s refining the change and is also working on a splitter. His taste of AA was just temporary last year, but I could see a jump to the High A (CAL league) to start 2006. He’s definitely one to watch with his arm. He could be a dynamic late inning reliever or if his secondary stuff improves, a good #2 starter.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

D-Mac-2.jpg picture by chuckster70

By Chuck Richter - Angelswin.com Executive Editor

The Angels have one of the best organizations in baseball when it comes to developing its own stars (Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds, Tim Salmon, Jarrod Washburn, Francisco Rodriguez, Troy Glaus, Troy Percival and Darin Erstad). Eddie Bane (the Angels scouting director) took some chances in the 2004 amateur draft and while he didn’t have a 2nd or 3rd round pick and lost Patrick White in the 4th round he picked up Mike Trumbo and Nick Adenhart who were equivalent to 1st round picks along with the best player in the draft; Jered Weaver. The scouting department under the new direction of Bill Stoneman and Eddie Bane seem to go after toolsy, athletic type contact-power hitters rather than the Moneyball approach. The Angels believe that McPherson, Kotchman, Mathis, Santana, Weaver, Shell and Aybar (to name a few) will be future stars in the big leagues much like the homegrown talent we’ve already seen blossom above. I agree with them and below you’ll see why….

1. Dallas McPherson 3B, (DOB: 7/23/80; Drafted 2001 2nd round - #57 overall)

Dallas McPherson has all but established himself as one of the best power hitting prospects in baseball and #1 in an organization stacked with talent. D-Mac not only hit 40 Home Runs, but he also smashed 36 doubles and 14 triples. McPherson hit a combined batting average of .317 between both AA & AAA; he was not intimidated by either level of pitching. Dallas has a natural loft to his swing much like Jason Giambi and he hits the ball with authority to the opposite field. McPherson runs well for a big guy and is aggressive on the base paths (12 stolen bases in ’04). I could see him stealing 15-20 bases under Mike Scioscia’s regime with no problem.

Like most power hitters McPherson whiffed a bit too much. A grand total of 169 times between both levels in fact. McPherson is an average third baseman as of now but I feel he’s athletic enough and determined to become an outstanding defender at the hot corner. I’d like to see him cut down on his strikeouts and improve his footwork a bit at third base but he’s made strides to improving that towards the end of the season at Salt Lake and his time with the Angels in Sept-Oct. He’s got a canon for an arm and the accuracy of his throws have improved with more experience.

The Future: McPherson's bat will carry him in the big leagues and his defense will only get better. In fact his D looked significantly better after spending some time with Alfredo Griffin and Troy Glaus after his Sept. call up. His brief stint in September and appearance in the ALDS suggest he’ll struggle initially against pitchers that can throw off-speed stuff in a hitters count. With that said, he’s been getting rave reviews from the coaching staff about his ability to adjust, being teachable and his work ethic is simply off the charts. I can see McPherson putting up .305/.350/.530 #’s while crushing 35-45+ home runs annually. ETA 2005

2. Kendry Morales 1B/OF, (DOB: 06/20/1983;) Signed by Eddie Bane in 2005

Morales built his legacy as a teenager on Cuba's 16-and-under youth national team and 18-and-under junior national team, where Angel’s international scouting supervisor Clay Daniel first scouted him. In 2003, Morales batted cleanup for the Cuban national team in the World Cup in Havana. His grand slam helped secure Cuba's 6-3 victory over Taiwan in the finals, and he also homered versus Brazil to give Cuba a dramatic comeback win during the medal round. He batted .391-9-42 that year for Industrialists in Cuba's Series Nacional (national league). In 2002, at the age of 19, he was the first teenager to star for Cuba's national team since Omar Linares.

Morales, 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, has power from both sides of the plate, is an above-average defender with solid-average arm strength and fringe-average speed. He has advanced instincts and a good feel for the game. He profiles as a corner outfielder, but has also played first and third base.

The Future: Morales, 21, is a switch-hitting outfielder who has been considered the best post-revolution Cuban position prospect to defect. "He's a middle-of-the-order hitter that's getting ready to play in the big leagues," Angels scouting director Eddie Bane said. "He's on the big league roster going into (spring) camp with a chance to win (an Opening Day) job." Morales has been considered the best post-revolution Cuban position prospect to defect.

3. Casey Kotchman 1B, (DOB: 2/22/83; Drafted 2001 1st round - #13 overall)

Casey Kotchman is the quintessential hitter that most teams covet. Like McPherson Kotchman wasn’t fazed by either AA or AAA pitching. In AA he went .368/.438/.544 and in AAA Salt Lake .372/.423/.558 while slugging 31 doubles and 7 home runs combined. In his brief stint with the Halos when Erstad went down, he showed early on that he can hit ML pitching. It took him 48 plate appearances before even striking out and his classic 17 pitch duel with Pedro Martinez showed many that he isn’t far off. Kotchman showed flashes of defensive brilliance that lead the Angels to believe the 21-year-old will eventually be a perennial Gold Glove award candidate.

Growing up around pro clubhouses with his father, Kotchman was well prepared for pro ball so there isn’t much to add in this section for Casey. With that said, Casey does have below average speed and his power potential at this point seems to determine whether he’ll be a Mark Grace, Will Clark type first baseman or Rafael Palmeiro/Todd Helton type. He had only 8 home runs in 429 total at bats.

The Future: Whatever the Angels decide what to do with Darin Erstad will determine when Kotchman will be given the first base job. Kotchman has all the makings of becoming a perennial all star and golden glove winner. ETA: 2005

4. Erick Aybar SS, (DOB: 1/14/84; Signed in 2002)

While his older brother Willy was playing in the AA Southern League putting up decent stats Erick wowed scouts with talents in the California League. Erick makes hard consistent contact and has the ability to put the ball in play and utilize his well above average speed. Though he’s small in stature Aybar has enough strength to hit the ball into the gaps and out of ballparks. His knack for making contact (only struck out only 66 times in nearly 600 at bats) suggests he’d be a great #2 hit and run hitter. He’s one of the Angels fastest runners in the system and once he learns to get better reads on the pitchers and tones down his aggressiveness on the bases a bit he’ll be an elite base stealer in the major leagues (51 SB’s, 36 CS). Aybar is a flashy SS with range, soft hands and a strong arm. He’s a true shortstop and his upside is huge!

Erick Aybar reminds me of Joe Morgan. 5’11 but strong frame, excellent defensively, makes hard consistent contact and has some pop in his bat. With Orlando Cabrera in the fold for the next 4 years Aybar will be giving significant amount of time in the minors to work off any deficiencies. ETA: 2007-2008

5. Jered Weaver RHP, (DOB: 10/4/82; Drafted 2004 1st round - #12 overall)

The Angels were excited when they found out Weaver was falling to them and then selected Jered with the 12th pick overall. Weaver matched the sixth highest strikeout total in NCAA history, fanning 213 batters in 2004. He finished the year 15-1 with a 1.62 ERA in 19 starts this season. He walked just 21 in 144 innings of work while leading Long Beach to the Super Regional round of the NCAA playoffs. Twice in the season, he fanned the first 10 batters he faced in a game. He fanned 16 of 18 batters he faced in a start vs. Wichita State. An intense competitor with an excellent feel for his craft, he can throw strikes with Prior-like precision--in, out, up, down. Weaver pitches off his fastball, which he normally throws at 91-92, touching 95. His curve is just an average offering. He also throws two kinds of sliders, one with greater depth that he added just this year. His changeup is good but he doesn't use it much.

Weaver is a future #1 type pitcher in the big leagues and he’s so advanced in all areas of pitching that he could hold his own in the big leagues right now. It’s too bad the notorious Scott Boras is his agent because he still isn’t signed but most including myself feel Weaver will sign on the dotted line by spring training. If Jered Weaver for whatever reason doesn’t sign, move everyone up one and Abel Moreno will claim the #20 spot.

6. Ervin Santana RHP, (DOB: 1/10/83)

I was disappointed that I couldn’t see Santana pitch in a full season this year because he’s truly magical on the hill. He was bothered by a sore shoulder in the spring and then again after just 8 starts in Arkansas. His slight build worries some scouts for durability and injuries but make no mistake about it though; Ervin (Magic) Santana is one of the best young right-handers in the game and has a chance to be a top of the rotation starter. He can dial it upwards to 98 on the radar gun when healthy and shows a nasty K-Rod like slider. His changeup is still a work in progress but he showed vast improvement with it towards the end of the 2003 season and in limited action in 2004.

7. Steven Shell RHP, (DOB: 3/10/83; Drafted 2001 3rd round - #81 overall)

Though he is ranked behind Weaver and Santana for the organization’s best starting pitchers Shell has the repertoire to be a good #2 starter in the big leagues. He made significant progress after being shutdown in ’03 with tender elbow. In ’04 he led the California league in strikeouts (190) while showing a low 90’s fastball (occasionally mid 90’s), spike curve and a devastating splitter-change. Shell knows how to work the corners and can pretty much put it anywhere. Shell will start in AA Arkansas along with Santana and possibly Jered Weaver. Steven Shell is my sleeper in the organization.

8. Jeff Mathis C, (DOB: 3/31/83; Drafted 2001 1st round - #33 overall)

While Jeff Mathis took a step back in 2004 hitting just .227 most feel that this was caused by Kotchman and McPherson being promoted leaving Mathis with no protection in the lineup (hit just .167 the rest of the way). Mathis got off to a hot start with the bat but then got pull happy. He showed excellent game calling skills behind the plate, a strong arm, blocked almost everything throw in the dirt and quick on his feet. But his defense also slipped after D-Mac and Kotch left as he threw out just 21 percent of base runners. Mathis still profiles as a future all star type catcher that will hit with Mike Lieberthal type power and rack up a ton of doubles. He showed flashes of gold glove ability behind the plate but still has some refining to do. If Mathis has a good first half in AA Arkansas look for him to get a mid season promotion to AAA Salt Lake and possibly take the starting C job in 2006 from Bengie Molina.

9. Alberto Callaspo SS (DOB: 4/19/83)

Callaspo was one of the hardest players to strikeout in the minors (only striking out 25 times in 550 at bats). He also walked more then he struck out (47 times). Callaspo he a hitter with excellent bat control from both sides of the plate. He doesn’t have the potential power of Kendrick, Wood or Aybar but he’ll get his share of doubles. Callaspo runs well but isn’t a burner (stole 15 bases, but was caught 14 times). Though Alberto played an exceptional shortstop in 2004 the Angels are said to be moving him back to 2B where both Callaspo and his buddy Aybar will once again flash one of the best double play duos in the minors. Look for Callaspo to spend another season in Arkansas. Callaspo profiles as a above average table setter in the major leagues.

10. Howie Kendrick 2B, (DOB: 7/12/83; Drafted 2002 10th round - #294 overall)

Though a groin injury interrupted Howie’s fine start to the season Kendrick didn’t miss a beat when he came off the DL in August. Kendrick who owns a career minor league average of .357 won the Midwest league batting title in 2004 hitting .367. Howie’s bat control much like Callaspo’s is exceptional. He puts the ball in play, has extra base power and profiles as a really good #2 hitter in the future. Kendrick has average speed but can steal a base. He’s a smart player that gets good reads off the pitchers and studies the opposing pitchers tendencies.

Kendrick’s defensive abilities are a work in progress as he grades out as average in all categories but he showed tremendous improvements as the season went on. I see Kendrick and Callaspo challenging each other for the future 2B position in Anaheim. Kendrick reminds me a lot of Ray Durham.

11. Brandon Wood SS, (DOB: 3/2/85; Drafted 2003 1st round - #23 overall)

Wood showed us all in 2004 that he can hit for the projected power most scouts thought he would. With a tall, lean muscular build and room for a lot of growth Wood’s ceiling is off the charts. Brandon hit 11 hr’s, 30 doubles and 5 triples in 2004. He has a natural loft to his swing, extremely strong wrists and strong baseball instincts. Wood reminds me a lot of a young Cal Ripken (though I am not predicting he’ll have even remotely the kind of career Cal did). His defense at SS is above average as he’s quick to the ball, shows excellent positioning and has an above average arm.

Wood should start the season off in High Class A Rancho Cucamonga with Kendrick as his double play partner.

12. Kevin Jepsen RHP, (DOB: 7/26/84; Drafted 2002 2nd round - #53 overall)

Kevin Jepsen possesses one of the best fastballs in the system ranking just behind Jenks but ahead of Zimmermann. Jepsen consistently hits mid 90’s on the radar gun and he threatens triple digits at times. Jepsen’s slider can be un-hittable when he has control of it. His changeup is coming around. Jepsen has as much upside as any starter in the organization and has #1 starter stuff. The problem is he has trouble controlling his pitches (77 walks). If Jepsen gets command of his 3 quality pitches he can be a future Roger Clemens or Curt Schilling type in the big leagues.

13. Abel Moreno RHP, (DOB: 6/15/83)

Armed with the best changeup in the organization Abel Moreno combines that with a low 90’s fastball and average curve to shut down the opposition. Moreno who was the 2003 Pioneer League pitcher of the year had a good year in Cedar Rapids posting a 3.41 era, 33/120 walk to strikeout ratio. He did give up 141 hits however in 142 2/3 innings due in part to hanging his curve that lacks the downward spike we like and at times left his change in the middle of the zone. Moreno should head to Rancho along with Jepsen and will look to miss a few more bats like he did in 2003. Abel has significant upside and could be as high as a good #2 or a back of the rotation starter in the big leagues.

14. Sean Rodriguez SS (DOB: 4/26/85; Drafted 2003 3rd round - #90 overall)

While Shell was my sleeper pitcher in the organization S-Rod is my hitting prospect that you should be keeping a close eye on. Their has been talk about Sean moving from SS to catcher but for now the Angels plan to keep him at SS and start the season off in Cedar Rapids. S-Rod is a quality 4 tool prospect (lacking the speed to be a true 5 tool type). His arm rates only 2nd to Madrigal in the organization and the Angels believe he has the makings of becoming a future vacuum at any position. Sean who flirted with .400 in Provo saw his average slip to .338 when the season concluded.

Rodriguez has some pop in his bat, hit 14 hr’s total, 22 doubles, 8 triples and drove in 77 runs. While he isn’t a speedster he managed to steal 23 bases which brings me to this: Sean Rodriguez has the best baseball instincts of anyone on this list. I think you can attribute that to being raised in a baseball home (dad manages in the Marlins system and brother is a catcher in the Nationals system.) and his off the charts work ethic.

15. Joe Saunders LHP, (DOB: 6/16/81; Drafted 2002 1st round - #12 overall)

Joe Saunders regained some velocity back in 2004 and is poised for a better campaign in 2005. Saunders who reached 91-92 MPH (but was usually in the high 80’s) flashed an above average change and curve in the Cal League and showed excellent command. Joe keeps hitters on their toes with a good tempo, shows tremendous confidence on the hill and looks like he’s big league ready once he gets more innings in after missing the entire 2003 season with a torn rotator cuff and bad labrum. Saunders was promoted to AA Arkansas and got banged around a bit (5.77 era and 51 hits in 39 innings). Some scouts believe Saunders is a back of the rotation starter while others say he’s a good #3 type starter that will eat some innings. 2005 is pivotal for Saunders and could determine what his ceiling is.

16. Michael Napoli C, (DOB: 10/31/81; Drafted 2000 17th round - #500 overall)

Napoli who missed most of 2003 with surgery to repair a torn right labrum came on strong in 2004 crushing 29 home runs, 29 doubles and drove in a league’s leading 118 Rbi’s. Strong and can crush fastballs out of the park. His swing is awfully long however as he swings over the top of good breaking pitches and chases low and away sliders/curves (resulting in 166 K’s) though he did walk 88 times. While not a polished defender behind the plate Napoli showed significant improvement with his hands, feet work and game calling abilities as the season went on. The Angels will continue to shuffle Napoli between C and 1B in Arkansas and will try and find a position for him before season end. He could get picked in the rule 5 draft since he was left unprotected.

17. Dustin Moseley RHP, (DOB: 12/26/81; Drafted 2000 1st round - #34 overall)

Traded to the Angels for Ramon Ortiz in December, ’04 Moseley looks to replace Jenks after his removal from the 40 man roster. Developed a back injury that caused him some DL time in AAA and didn't pitch as well there, but I think it was the injury that was holding him back. He's pretty much conquered AAA.

Normally sits in the 90-93 range but is young enough to add velocity still, and he has the frame to do so. Has a plus plus curve, his change has improved and he’s throwing it more down in the count. Since he missed time this year, the Reds sent him to the AFL where he posted a 4.30 ERA in 18+ innings. The Angels will give him a shot in ST as a reliever but will most likely send him to AAA Salt Lake and he’ll be the first starter to come up if there’s a need in the rotation.

18. Maicer Izturis SS (DOB: 9/12/80)

Acquired from the Nationals in the Jose Guillen trade Izturis will backup Orlando Cabrera in ‘05. Izturis really improved his stock by hitting .338 in AAA and posting a .428 OBP (51 walks and only 30 strikeouts in 376 ab’s). Maicer has excellent range, soft hands and an average SS arm. Good speed but not as fast as his brother in LA, I can see him stealing 15-25 bases however in Anaheim’s aggressive style on the bases. Maicer who got a look in Montreal after the Expos traded Alex Gonzales showed some defensive jitters (7 errors in 111 chances) and didn’t hit much but Bill Stoneman really likes this kid’s future as a top of the order table setter.

19. Baltazar Lopez 1B (DOB: 11/22/83)

Lopez has a sweet swing from the left side of the plate and looks a lot like a young Rafael Palmeiro. Hit .314, with 9 Hr’s, 14 doubles in 236 at bats after joining the Cedar Rapids lineup in mid-June. He’s slick around the bag at first and gobbles up potential extra base hits. Baltazar should open up the season in Rancho (High-A ball) and could see his #’s jump through the roof in the California League.

20. Warner Madrigal OF (DOB: 3/21/84)

Warner missed the first few months of the season with a stress fracture in his left wrist. Upon his return late in the summer he hit (.275/.330/.396) with 2 hr’s in 91 at bats. Warner has some strong quick wrists and the ball really fly’s off his bat to all fields. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts as he has trouble recognizing breaking stuff, swinging at balls out of the zone. He’s a prototypical right fielder and tops all the outfielders in the organization for arm strength. Warner doesn’t move that well or get good reads on balls in the gaps but he’s still young and should get better. Madrigal puts on a show in BP and with his arm and power potential he could be a future replacement for Vladimir Guerrero in 4-5 years. The Angels are going to let him come along slowly.

Keep an eye on: rhp Chris Bootcheck, rhp Robert Zimmermann, rhp Nick Adenhart, 3b Matt Brown, lhp Michel Simard, lhp Nic Touchstone,of Reggie Willits, of Quan Crosby, of Nick Gorneault, 3b/1b Mike Trumbo, 3b Andrew Toussaint, 1b Nate Sutton, lhp Jake Woods, lhp Eric Cyr, c Bobby Wilson, lhp Tim Bittner, rhp Rafael Rodriguez and rhp Chris Hunter.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

I came home from work last night, carefully removed my Cole-Hahns, pulled my sweater over my head, took off my trousers and stood in my closet in boxers and t shirt wondering what to wear.

And for the first time this Winter I slipped the Angels Jersey off its hangar and put it on, buttoning it up gently and carefully as if it were late October and the clatter of cleats had not just been my imagination. I can almost smell the perfume of baseball, that perfect mix of grass, beer and peanuts that couldn’t possibly be duplicated anywhere else in the world. I even imagine grabbing a bat as my name is announced. I grab the barrel and drop the bat on its ear and watch the weight fall to the grass as if in slow motion. It falls softly and rests comfortably in the footsteps of my innocence. My song for this moment begins at the precise moment that I make my way to the box.

In the Howling wind comes a stinging rain
See it driving nails into the souls on the tree of pain
From the firefly, a red orange glow
See the face of fear running scared in the valley below
Bullet the Blue Sky, Bullet the Blue Sky

This is the game we all played and this is the time of year that we’ve held our breath for. As Super Bowl Sunday turns to darkness and hockey season moves peripherally and Basketball reminds us that Spring training is coming soon, we can finally stop talking about what a lonely off-season its been. Finally we can stop talking about what our team should do and look to what our team can and will do.

In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum
Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was over come

I grew up in the shadows of Magic and Kareem and Orel and Ron Cey, somewhere between the Ravine and Manchester Avenue. I watched Carew and Downing. While they won…a lot, we lost…a lot, it seemed.

Through the alleys of a quiet city street
You take a staircase to the first floor
Turn the key and slowly unlock the door

This is still our team, our game. Fall came too soon for us last year. I hope the leaves fall slowly for us this time around. We can all hope that way now. The nights begin to lose their muster and give way sooner to warmer days. We can all feel this way.

As a man breathes into a saxaphone
And through the walls you hear the city groan

I don’t want to be back here again, standing alone in my closet. I want to be out there watching our game, daydreaming about base-hits, splitting the outfielders, going first to third. All of it. In our Springs and Summers we are kids again. We marvel at Vladdy’s homers and Figgy’s speed. We scowl like Lackey and rise in unison as Franky races to the mound. This is for you guys. Raise your glasses and tip your caps. The off-season is for stress and worry, the time is finally upon us to turn the page and go back, to be kids again. This is our team, this is our game

Outside is America, outside is America.

Listen to "A Fish Like This" Tribute song to Mike Trout's Greatness

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