Wednesday, June 27, 2007

1. Brandon Wood, 3B, Class AAA Salt Lake (Angels)
Wood is on fire hitting 321/.396/.667 this month with six bombs, eight doubles and 21 RBIs in 21 games. Wood’s bat has come alive in June, after struggling through April and May with just six homers in 167 at-bats. His average is up to .266, with 13 HR’s, 45 RBI’s and with 8 SB’s. The most impressive part of Wood’s game this season is his plate discipline; he’s making more contact at the plate. After striking out 149 times last year, Wood has posted a .353 on-base pct., fanning 69 times, while walking 34. If Wood continues his hot hitting through July it will be interesting to see what they do with Figgins and the third base situation.

2. Mark Trumbo, 1B, Low Class A Cedar Rapids (Angels)After hitting .220 last year in Cedar Rapids, Mark Trumbo appears poised to improve this season and so far, the results have been there. Trumbo has been consistently good of late, seeing his average rise to .282 on the season. In Mark’s last 10 games he’s batted 344 with 3 multi-hit games out of the last 5.

3. Young-Il Jung, SP, Short Season A Ball Orem (Angels)In his first start of the season for the Orem Owlz, Jung tossed 5 innings, giving up just one run (a home run), while fanning 5. His velocity as reported was in the low 90’s with movement and he showed a good breaking ball and change. Keep your eye on the Korean hurler as he possesses some top of the rotation stuff.

4. Christopher Garcia, 3B, Short Season A Ball Orem (Angels)Garcia selected 477th overall in this years amateur draft out of St. Petersburg JC, scouted by Tom Kotchman, is on fire for the Orem Owlz. The left-handed swinging, 6’2, 225 lb slugger is hitting .400 through 7 games, leading the Owlz in batting average and on-base pct. Kotchman knows the area in Florida and the Angels think they scored late in the draft here with Garcia. Keep an eye on his progress in short season A Ball.

5. Jeremy Haynes, SP, Low Class A Ball Cedar Rapids (Angels)Haynes is back on track and has not allowed more than 2 runs in his last 7 starts, though a few of those starts have been shortened by rain or cold weather. In 11 starts this season, Haynes has posted a 3.62 ERA.

6. Matt Sweeney, 3B, Low Class A Ball Cedar Rapids (Angels)Sliding from the #2 spot to #6, Sweeney who took a couple of 0’fers after his ascent to no. 2 last week, picked it back up with 2 multi-hit games, going 3-4 last night with another dinger, giving him 10 on the season.

7. Freddy Sandoval, 3B, Class AA Arkansas (Angels)Sandoval got some recognition outside of when he was selected to the World’s Roster for the Future Game coming up in July. Sandoval has an impressive batting eye as he’s walked 47 times, opposed to 46 strike outs. Freddy has been hitting around .300 all season, showing some gap power (18 doubles, 1 triple and 6 Hr’s) at the hot corner. With his speed, it seems like he has a nice shot at being at worse, a major league utility guy.

8. Rich Thompson, RP, Class AA Arkansas (Angels)Like Sandoval, Thompson made the Futures Game World roster. Rich has a 12-6 curveball that’s one of the best in the minors. He compliments that with a low 90’s fastball that he commands very well. After a dismal 2006 season, Thompson has put it all together with a 2.14 ERA, fanning 49 in 46.1 innings of work out of the pen. Thompson could be a nice addition to the roster in Sept. for the Los Angeles Angels.

9. Brok Butcher, SP, Class A Rancho Cucamonga (Angels)It’s hard to leave Butcher, who turned in another quality start at home vs. Stockton with his last start off the list somewhere. Butcher is making a case to be the Angels minor league player of the year with the type of season he’s had. His ERA is at 2.15 and the opposing batters are hitting just .239 against him, which amazing considering his low 90’s sinker gets a lot of balls put in play.

10. Douglas Brandt, SP/RP, Class A Rancho Cucamonga (Angels)After posting a 2.35 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 61.1 innings at Cedar Rapids, 9 of which were starts, Brandt was promoted to Rancho Cucamonga (High-A Ball) last week. As of now, the Angels are using Brandt, the lefty out of the bullpen. He’s thrown just 1.1 innings of work, fanning two, while giving up 0 runs on 1 hit thus far. Track his progress as he could be a future lefty out of the pen, not named Romero or Oliver.

Keep an eye on: Jay Brossman, 1B, Short Season Class A Orem (Angels)What does former Ute baseball star Jay Brossman hope to have in common with annual Cy Young candidate Roy Oswalt, Cleveland Indian's masher Travis Hafner and future Hall-of-Fame catcher Mike Piazza? Well, besides massive amounts of money, which would basically ensure financial security for his children's children's children, the former first-base standout is hoping for a shot at a good old-fashioned Cinderella story. Brossman--recently drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 36th round of Major League Baseball's first-year player draft--will now begin a long and, more often than not, unsuccessful journey to the major leagues. Through 8 games, the 6’2, 210lb first baseman Brossman, hasn’t disappointed, hitting .341 with 4 doubles and 5 RBI’s for the Orem Owlz.

On the outside looking to get in soon:Chris Pettit, Jose Arredondo, Anthony Ortega, Jordan Walden, Hank Conger, Robert Mosebach, Nick Adenhart, P.J. Phillips, David Herndon, Sean O’Sullivan, Peter Bourjos, Sean Rodriguez, Stephen Marek, Jeff Mathis, Ryan Aldridge, Terry Evans, Nick Gorneault, Jordan Renz, Kevin Jepsen, Trevor Bell, and Hainley Statia.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

1. Darren O’Day, RP, Class A Rancho Cucamonga (Angels)

With due respect to Jose Guillen, I have two words to describe Darren O’Day – “Un-hittable”. In his last 9.1 innings over the span of 9 games, the big right hander has given up one measly hit and walked three while striking out 9. On the season he is 4-0 with 11 saves, has 26k’s in 24ip, has held opponents to a .120 avg., and has a microscopic ERA of 0.75. WOW! At 24 years old he is a little old for A ball, but I doubt he will be there much longer putting up those numbers.

2. Matthew Sweeney, 3b, Low Class A Cedar Rapid (Angels)

Matt has been eating his Wheaties. He turned around his early season power outage and has 3hr in his last three games, and 5 in his last 9. He has 1/3rd of his extra base hits in the last ten games. His average is holding steady at .276 and he has knocked in nine in his last nine games. If he starts to show a bit more patience at the plate like last season (23bb/27k) his current OPS of .789 will continue to approach the 1.007 mark he put last year in the AZL.

3 . Tim Schoeninger, SP, Low Class A Cedar Rapids (Angels)

Tim continues to control batters in the Midwest league. He turned out another strong start of 5ip, 6h, 1er, 0bb, and 5k’s to run his season totals to a 2.67era in 81ip while striking out 64 and only giving up six free passes moving his record to 9-2.

4. Bobby Wilson, C, Class AA Arkansas (Angels)

Bobby continues to steadily improve. Since the last weeks hot list, he has gone 7 for 22 with a hr, 2 doubles, 7rbi and 4bb/3k in his last 6 games to raise his avg. to .273 and his ops above to .800. In addition to being the primary C for the Travs, Bobby has been seeing some time at 1b and DH. It may not be long before he passes Jeff Mathis on the organizational depth chart.

5. Anthony Ortega, SP, Class AA Arkansas (Angels)

Anthony is putting together a very fine season for the Travs. Although at times he seems to struggle with his control, he continues to get guys out and go deep into games. His last two starts he has gone 7ip and is threatening to move his season ERA below 3.00 (currently at 3.16). Sometimes lost in the shuffle, the 21 year old Venezuelan product has outperformed his more highly touted teammates, Robert Mosebach and Stephen Marek.

6. Brandon Wood, SS, Class AAA Salt Lake (Angels)

Has Wood finally turned the corner this season? We’ll have to wait and see yet for now he continues to show signs of returning to form. He ran his hit streak to 13 on Wednesday night with a 3b giving him 10 extra base hits in his last ten games. Although he is only hitting .249 overall, he is showing signs of becoming a more patient hitter by improving his BB/SO ratio which is now near 1/2 where as last year it was 1/3.

7. Jason Bulger, RP, Class AAA Salt Lake (Angels)

After his scoreless streak ended, Bulger returned to form in his next two outings, pitching a scoreless inning in each and striking out four. His ERA for the season is back below three at 2.96 and he now has a total of 44 strikeouts in 27.1ip. He certainly is making it difficult to justify the jobs of Oliver and Carrasco. Maybe that’s why Hector sweats so much.

8. Rich Thompson, RP, Class AA Arkansas (Angels)

Although taking the loss tonight the 22 year old right hander dropped his ERA to 2.18 on the season and now has 44 strikeouts in 41.1ip and has held batters to a .193 avg. Rich had some problems giving up the long ball last year to the tune of 13 in 66.2ip which ballooned his ERA to 5.13 even thought he held batters to a .218avg. He seems to have turned a corner in that area giving up only five so far in his second go around with the Travs.

9. Vladimir Veras, SP, Short Season Class A Orem (Angels)

The first of the Orem crew to be a part of the hotlist, Veras was a bit overmatched in his first 3 starts for Cedar Rapids posting an 8.18era. However, in his first start for Orem it was a different story. The 21-year old right-hander went 6.0 innings giving up no earned runs on two hits while walking one and striking out 8. The slight of build (6’0”, 150lb) Dominican native is looking to build on a strong 2006 AZL debut where he posted a 1.35era in 60ip while striking out 58 and limiting opposing batters to a .210 avg.

10. Miguel Gonzalez, SP, Class AA Arkansas (Angels)

Gonzalez appears to have flown under the prospect radar during his tenure as an Angel farm hand. Converted to a starter in 2007 the 6’0” 165lb native of Mexico has done nothing but put up solid numbers. He recently threw 7 solid innings of four hit ball giving up an earned run against a Springfield team that touched him for 5er in 5ip in his previous start. On the season, the recently turned 23 year old righty has pitched 54.2 inning giving up 55hits while walking 14 and striking out 41 with a 3.62 ERA.

Keep an eye on: Jordan Walden, SP, Short Season Class A Orem (Angels)
A 12th round pick by the Angels in 2006, Walden was considered one of the top high school pitching prospects in last years draft. Due to current rule changes, he was one of the final players that the Angels were allowed to “draft and follow” as he agreed to a seven figure bonus in the 25th hour before this years draft. The 19 year old has a classic pitchers build at 6’4”, 225lbs and will look to make his first pro start with the Owls sometime this week.

On the outside looking to get in soon:
Chris Pettit, Mark Trumbo, Jose Arredondo, Robert Mosebach, Nick Adenhart, P.J. Phillips, David Herndon, Sean O’Sullivan, Freddy Sandoval, Peter Bourjos, Sean Rodriguez, Stephen Marek, Jeff Mathis, Ryan Aldridge, Jeremy Haynes, Nick Gorneault, Jordan Renz, Kendry Morales, Kevin Jepsen, Brok Butcher, Trevor Bell, and Hainley Statia.
AL West Leaders Continue to Roll
By Adam Dodge - Angelswin Senior Writer

No one is crowned “Champion” in June, but one of the great things about baseball is the ongoing speculation as to which team is best at any point of the season. And on seemingly any given day an argument can be made for one of a half-dozen teams. Today, to say that any team is better than the Los Angeles Angels would result in a difficult to win argument to be sure.

And truly there is only one team in baseball that one could argue is in the Angels’ class. The Boston Red Sox, who have cooled of late, are still percentage points ahead of the Halos in the standings. The New York Mets are often called a “great” team. Well, if a great team is good hitting team with a weak pitching staff that plays in a bad league, then yes, the Mets are great. With arguably the top five or six teams all playing in the American League, the Angels’ franchise best 46-27 start is even more impressive when you consider they match up with the likes of Cleveland, Detroit, Oakland, Boston and the New York Yankees, who are on a torrid streak of winning games at the moment.

Most baseball related arguments are based on statistical data and a comparison between teams. That is an efficient, if not effective way of settling such debates. However, to fully appreciate what the Angels are doing, we must look beyond statistics. The brilliance of Scioscia’s bunch must be witnessed first hand. The Angels are winning games in every way possible. They will shut you out, blow you out and come from behind. We all knew the Angels would out pitch their share of opponents, but it’s been the hitting that has led the Angels to the top of a lot of power rankings. They lack power and rank near the bottom of the American League in homeruns, but they can score with anyone right now. The Angels are second in MLB in hitting, fourth in runs scored, fifth in on base percentage and sixth in team ERA. Define “balance.”

And unlike last season, which saw the Angels win 89 games, the difference this year is that the team is winning games it has no business winning largely due to the frenzy hitting offense. Take Tuesday night’s game for example. John Lackey was uncharacteristically awful. The defense was bad. The Angels found themselves down 9-4 entering the bottom of the 7th inning. Some 20 minutes and 3 outs later the game was tied. This team resembles the 2002 group. They’re never out of a game, and they know how to ride and maintain momentum. Last night the Angels found themselves in a 4-2 hole entering the bottom of the 7th inning and scored 6 runs to put the game away. The amazing thing…they scored all 6 runs while getting just 1 hit. Unlike Angel teams past, this group has shown an ability to work counts and take walks thanks in large part due to Reggie Willits and Gary Matthews Jr.

The Angels have been lucky. For example, the injury to Garret Anderson allowed Willits to enter the line up. Willits has responded by posting a .400+ OBP, and is hitting around .330, while fitting in nicely to the Angels running game.

This team is not Vladimir Guerrero and a bunch of throw ins. Still in the midst of their hottest streak of the season, which has seen the Angels win 8 consecutive series and 12 of 13, they’ve done in large part without a hot Guerrero or Matthews. The two have been okay over the past month, but not what they were in April. Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman, Mike Napoli and Howie Kendrick have been blazing hot recently. And this is noteworthy because many fans and media members were of the opinion that Scioscia and the Angels should bench both Figgins and Kotchman in favor of Maicer Izturis and Kendry Morales. This is a case of Scioscia’s loyalty and patience paying off. Ironic because it’s his patience and loyalty, which often earns Scioscia the majority of his criticism. In 2007 it might be responsible for the team’s best start in franchise history.

At 46-27 the Angels look to be cruising towards the playoffs. They’ve done it by displaying better balance than any team in the bigs. Their starting pitching, back end of the bullpen and surprisingly good offense makes the Angels good. That they’re beating good teams when they themselves play poorly, that makes them great. And right now, there is no one greater.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The June Edition
May 15th, 2007
Interview conducted by Senior Editor, Chuck Richter

Q: (Angelswin) - So, to start off Eddie, why don't you give me an overview of the 2007 draft and how you think the Angels did this year.

A: (Eddie Bane) - Every club in baseball always thinks they did great right after the draft and the Angels are no exception. We are doing very well on the signings so far and will have a few more to announce shortly.

Q: (Angelswin) - What are the chances of signing Matt Harvey? Some reports have suggested that this could be difficult and that the Angels rolled the dice with their 3rd round pick selecting him, because of the uncertainty of him signing.

A: (Eddie Bane) - Matt Harvey was projected to go very high in the draft by the so-called experts. Matt was available with the 118th pick of the draft and we selected him. That is all I really want to say on that situation right now.

Q: (Angelswin) - Lots of pitching selected in this draft. Was that because there were more quality pitchers in the draft or is it something the Angels wanted to target in this draft?

A: (Eddie Bane) - No Chuck, our staff never targets anything and we will take any position available. Catching was something that we did not really go after this year because we are happy with our catching although you can never have enough at that position. But, Conger and our big league guys are doing really well so far.

Q: (Angelswin) - What can you tell us about the first 3 pitchers selected in this draft, in Jonathan Bachanov, Matt Harvey & Ryan Brasier?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Jon Bachanov has a big arm, very good pitchers body and the makings of a good breaking ball. He will be one of the harder throwers in the complete draft by it is all said and done. Brasier has a big arm also and is a converted guy so it will take some time to get him acclimated to the mound. Fresh arm though. Harvey is a guy we will have to wait to talk about. Lots of people read your stuff Chuck and I do not want to give any agents an extra jump on me and use that stuff against me. LOL is what I think the kids write when they are kidding.

Q: (Angelswin) - Outfielder, Trevor Pippin was the first non pitcher selected in the draft, with the 4th round pick. What can you tell us about Trevor?

A: (Eddie Bane) - Trevor is a guy that looks like I guy we signed when I was with the Dodgers, Todd Hollandsworth. Same type body and same type swing. Trevor runs well enough that we will give him a shot in center at some point. Pippin has a nice at least average arm also.

Q: (Angelswin) - Every year it seems like the Angels steal someone in the draft late, who should we be looking at this year as a potential gem taken in the draft?

A: (Eddie Bane) - It is easy to see that we drafted Robles, Viramontes and some of the others as summer draft and follows. With that rule now taken away we have to evaluate these young men now. I will know more on that question when I see more of the crop that we did not just draft, but the guys we signed also.

Q: (Angelswin) - Lastly, which of all the players drafted has the best chance to make it to the big leagues the fastest?

A: (Eddie Bane) - The player that we drafted that has played the most and comes from a great background is Andrew Romine, our 5th round pick. He is the shortstop at ASU. Father played in the major leagues and has a brother that was also drafted. Andrew has a very good glove, plays the game correctly but has went backwards with the bat while at ASU. He is in the CWS right now and after Omaha is over with we hope to get Andrew out playing as quickly as possible as we think we can help him with the bat.

As always Eddie, we thank you for your time and efforts. Your fans are many in the community!

(Eddie Bane) Thanks guys, and thanks for doing the columns. I hope they spark some debate and keep Angel fans up to date on what we are doing out on the trails.
Business as usual for the Angels this weekend as they took two of three from their cross-town "rivals" the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Is this really a rivalry though ? They are not in the same division and the odds of the Angels and Dodgers making the World Series in the same year is remote. I say it's not a rivalry. It's the Angels showing the Dodgers and their fans how baseball should be played and what franchise is headed in the right direction.

How have things gone so right for the Angels and so wrong for the Dodgers ?

If you were listening to Vin Scully during Friday night's game he summed it up this way.

"Kevin Malone told Mike Scioscia to his face that he had no future in the organization."

The rest as they say is history. In 1999 the Dodgers started the Davy Johnson era that lasted two seasons. It took the Dodgers five seasons and two managers to get back to the post-season in 2004.

The Angels on the other hand hired Mike Scioscia after the front office house cleaning of 1999.

Scioscia is now the All-Time Franchise leader in wins for the Angels. Mike has lead the Angels into the post-season three times including of course, winning the franchises sole World Series Championship in 2002.

What happened ? It's easy to blame Malone or FOX on the downfall of the Dodgers organization.

However, it wasn't Malone that allowed Adrian Beltre to walk away and it wasn't the FOX ownerships minor league system that hasn't produced any everyday players outside of Russell Martin. The Dodger rotation also does not feature any home grown talent. While it appears the Dodgers may be getting back to building from within, they do have some talented prospects in James Loney and Chad Billingsley, but this is not the same farm system that produced Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Todd Hollandsworth and Hideo Nomo like they did in the 90's.

What changed with the Angels ?

Bill Stoneman and Mike Scioscia
knew the best way to turn the Angels into a winner was from building from within and preaching the importance of strong pitching and defense. Sound familiar ?

That's what the Dodgers had been known for. However, it's the Angels that have taken that baseball philosophy to heart. The 2002 team featured 17 players that came directly from Angel drafts, let alone the minor league pick ups that turned into big contributors like David Eckstein and Brendan Donnelly. Of those 17 players, four of them were in the starting rotation, Ramon Ortiz, Jarrod Washburn, Scott Schoeneweis and John Lackey.

Fast forward to today and the Angels still have the majority of their roster dependent on their farm system. 20 players used by Scioscia this year came directly from the MLB draft to the Angels, this does not include players like Chone Figgins, Dustin Mosely, Terry Evans and Nathan Haynes who were traded for during their minor league careers and made their MLB debuts with the Halos.

If the Angels stick to this way of building teams (build from within, sign free agents to fill holes) I believe the Angels will be the team to dominate the Southern California baseball landscape. The Dodgers still have a lot of history on their side, but the farther away they get from their glory days, the more opportunities the Angels will have to become the area's most successful MLB franchise.

By Chuck Richter - Executive Editor

For those criticizing the lack of production and the overabundance of hype of the Angels’ minor league system, consider that for every Dallas McPherson, Jeff Mathis, and Casey Kotchman, there is a Howie Kendrick, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Mike Napoli, and Jered Weaver. There isn’t a single organization out there that sees 100% of their “top” prospects immediately make a big impact upon reaching the big leagues. Should McPherson, Mathis, and Kotchman all fail (not likely), the team still has Brandon Wood and others for third base, Mike Napoli and Hank Conger at catcher, and Kendry Morales for 1B. That is the epitome of a deep organization. The Angels have not been shy about rolling the dice on risky signees like Nick Adenhart, Sean O’Sullivan, and others, and it’s starting to pay off with improving farm depth. The only real weak spot in the organization is in the outfield, so look for the Angels to be aggressive in free agency in that area this off season. GM Bill Stoneman has drawn a lot of criticism from fans and the media for his “stand pat” policy during recent trade deadlines and with guys like Kotchman and McPherson yet to live up to their potential, he needs guys like Kendrick and Weaver to be major contributors in 2007. The key to any GM’s success is knowing which prospects to hold onto and which to trade (and when). Whether Stoneman has learned this is still to be determined. On to the Top 20...

1. Brandon Wood, SS - DOB: 3/2/85 - Drafted 2003 1st Round - #23 overall

When Wood blossomed in 2005 to the tune of 101 overall XBH’s, Angels fans had to be lamenting the fact that GM Bill Stoneman had locked up SS Orlando Cabrera through 2008. Well, in Stoneman’s defense, he along with the rest of us, had no reason to expect Wood to explode and start putting up corner outfield numbers from the shortstop position. Wood answered his doubters somewhat this year who termed his 2005 season an “aberration” and “park-aided”. Wood’s power is legit. His wiry frame, strong wrists, and Sheffield-like bat speed generates tremendous torque in his swing. He’s a legitimate threat to lead majors league shortstops in home runs for a decade once he makes it up.

Power is not all Wood has however. He’s able to draw his share of walks and while he won’t win any batting titles with his swing, I think he can be a .280 hitter in the big leagues. The jump in his strikeout rate (K/AB) from last year (24% to 33%) is a bit alarming, but give the kid a break. He was one of the youngest hitters in Double-A. He’ll also steal a few bases and more than one scout thinks he can work hard enough to make himself a legitimate defender at SS. Most likely will move to 3B for the Angels, who also have Erick Aybar in addition to Cabrera, but Wood’ bat will play anywhere, including left field if necessary. A perennial All-Star in the making and will debut in the majors sometime in 2007. An impressive spring training could hasten his arrival.

2. Nick Adenhart, RHP - DOB: 8/24/86 - Drafted 2004 14th Round - #413 overall

Tommy John surgery in 2004 got his career with the Angels off to a slow start, but since the surgery happened prior to the draft, the Angels knew what they were getting in terms of his health, and after being brought along slowly in 2005, the organization took the reins off in 2006. The results? Quite good. Adenhart is the complete package, possessing three plus pitches (low 90s and higher fastball, plus curve, and a very good change, especially for a kid who just turned 20). Adenhart also exhibits very good command as you can see by his better than 3:1 K:BB ratio in the minors, including a near-3.5:1 rate in 2006. Adenhart also has a nice 6’3” frame, confidence, etc. The total package. Will compete with several guys to be a top three overall pitching prospects (behind Homer Bailey and Phil Hughes) on the pre-season RotoAmerica Top 100 prospect list. Has true #1 starter ability and could push for the big leagues by 2008. He was also Eddie Bane’s “Angels Minor League Pitcher of the Year”. If he stays healthy and dominates at Rancho Cucamonga early on he could rise to Arkansas & possible Salt Lake by season end.

3. Erick Aybar, SS - DOB: 1/14/84 - Signed 2002 – Dominican Republic

Utilityman or future major league regular? I’d tend to lean towards the latter, but Aybar’s regression in the hitter-friendly PCL this year was somewhat concerning, as was his 8/0 K/BB ratio in 40 major league at-bats. Aybar in the field exhibits plus range and a great arm, which alone are good enough to ensure that he hangs around the big leagues for awhile. At the plate, he makes hard, consistent contact, and has a bit of pop, especially for a shortstop. I could potentially see 35 doubles, double-digit triples, and 10-15 homers annually. He’s got a quick bat and possesses above-average speed on the bases as you can see from his SB totals. Some scouts say he’s Jose Reyes-lite and we’re inclined to believe them.

The downside? Plate discipline! First and foremost, though as Jose Reyes proved, that can improve with the proper teaching. While Aybar doesn’t strike out a lot, as a possible future leadoff man, he could certainly benefit from taking a few more pitches. His career minor league OBP of .356 is solid enough, but it’s also declined in each of the last two seasons. Additionally, he can be too reckless on the base paths, as evidenced by his sub-par 65% SB rate over five seasons. With Brandon Wood and Orlando Cabrera ahead of him, his immediate future is as a utility man, but a move of Wood to 3B and a Cabrera deal could potentially open up SS for him. More likely I think: a trade to another organization.

4. Sean Rodriguez, SS - DOB: 4/26/85 - Drafted 2003 3rd Round - #90 overall

Eddie Bane’s “Angels Minor League Hitter of the Year” Rodriguez, like fellow SS Brandon Wood in 2005, used the CAL league as his coming out party and now ranks as a very good prospect. According to one scout, he shortened his long swing up a bit, allowing for an increase in his AVG of 51 points while still knocking 29 balls out of the yard. I am concerned about the regression in his plate discipline (BB/AB rate dropped from 17% in 2005 to 11% in 2006). One theory is that he got a bit power-hungry (happens in the CAL league) and swung at too many bad pitches. Decreasing his strikeouts and continuing his progression will be the focus in Triple-A for “S-Rod” this year. Long term most see him winding up in left field or third base, as he does have plenty of arm for shortstop, but lacks the range and is a bit erratic. It will be interesting to see what the Angels do with him this year. Probably he or Wood winds up at 3B at Salt Lake to begin the year. Some scouts believe he could be a very good utility guy in the big leagues, but I see him as a future regular no matter where he plays defensively.

5. Hank Conger, C - DOB: 1/29/88 - Drafted 2006 1st Round - #25 overall

Despite already having major-league ready catchers in Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli, the Angels went with whom they believed to be the top talent available when their pick came up in the 2006 draft. The Korean Conger is a local kid (Huntington Beach) whose real name is Hyun (Dad gave him the nickname after the HR champ, Hank Aaron). He certainly acquitted himself well in his 2006 debut, showing solid skills from both sides of the plate.

Hit just one homer in 19 games before breaking the hamate bone in his wrist, but his power really isn’t in doubt. In addition to his solid raw power, Conger shows a good approach at the plate and should be a consistent .350+ OBP type guy. What really set him apart for the Angels was his overall makeup and willingness to work on his deficiencies, particularly the defensive ones. With a natural strong arm and the willingness to improve, he should be able to stick behind the plate. He should be ready for full-season ball at age 19 in 2007.

6. Matthew Sweeney, 3B - DOB: 4/4/88 - Drafted 2006 8th Round - #252 overall

Who? Sweeney has been hearing that throughout his career, even back in high school when the best he could do was wind up at Potomac St. JC, which of course he decided to pass on in favor of joining the Angels. According to Eddie Bane, area scouts, Dan Radcliff and Eastern supervisor Mark Russo wouldn’t let Bane have another team snatch him away in the ’06 amateur draft, they were really high on him, said Bane. Sweeney presents an intriguing mix of hitting ability, power potential, and plate discipline. According to Eddie Bane “We’re pleasantly surprised as he has a beautiful LH swing with power”. The only question is where he’ll wind up defensively, though he works very hard on his defense, outstanding work ethic. As long as his performance at the plate continues, the Angels will worry about that at the higher levels. Intriguing: he played catcher in High School.

7. Ryan Mount, SS - DOB: 8/17/86 - Drafted 2005 2nd Round - #58 overall

Hard to imagine that after an awful debut in 2005, that he’d rank this high on the Angels’ list headed into 2007, but that’s a testament to Mount’s focus and determination. The big thing with Mount, a left-handed hitter, is his inability to hit same-side pitching. In 52 at-bats, he hit just .173/.259/.231 against southpaws and struck out 21 times. Guys like Ryan Howard have shown that this handicap can be overcome, but then again, not every young prospect will turn into Ryan Howard. Mount shows advanced plate discipline skills for his age, although he could certainly stand to lower his strikeout totals. Second base may be in his future (especially in this organization), but he has the tools to stick at short as well.

8. Stephen Marek, RHP - DOB: 9/3/83 - Drafted 2004 40th Round - #1193 overall

A draft-and-follow who was primarily a reliever in college, Marek had a so-so debut last year in the Pioneer League, all while facing competition that was by and large younger than himself. Given another year as a starter however, Marek blossomed in 2006 in the Midwest League, and eventually formed a solid 1-2 punch with Nick Adenhart in the CAL league. Pitching-wise, Marek features a fastball that reportedly reached as high as 98 but sat comfortably in the low 90s with movement. Some think his curve is his best pitch and the right-hander also features a solid change that he used to keep hitters off balance. He repeats his delivery well and with three solid pitches, Marek should be able to remain in the starting rotation, although organizational needs could eventually dictate a move to the bullpen. As he turns 24 late in 2007, the organization could be aggressive with him and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up in August and September as an injury fill-in or extra arm out of the bullpen. Marek looks like a future #3 starter or late-inning reliever.

9. Jose Arredondo, RHP - DOB: 3/30/84 - Signed 2002 – Dominican Republic

Most may not know, but Arredondo is a converted shortstop who converted to pitching in 2004, so pardon him if he’s a bit raw. Despite his inexperience, the Angels were aggressive with him this year, jumping him to High-A to start the year despite Arredondo having just five-plus innings at a level higher than rookie ball entering 2006. He responded by showing off an upper 90s fastball (hit 99 MPH at times), splitter, slider, and change. Since he’s still so new to pitching, his change and slider are works in progress, but both show potential. He’s slight-of-build at 6-foot, 170, leading to some speculation that his electric arm could be best-served in the bullpen, but for now the organization seems committed to giving him a chance to develop as a starter. Struggled with his command and confidence upon reaching Double-A, so look for him to return there to open 2007.

10. Terry Evans, OF - DOB: 1/19/82 - Drafted 2001 47th Round - #1409 overall

Ok, who had heard of Terry Evans in 2003? 2004? How about 2005? I’ll freely admit that Evans wasn’t even approaching my radar prior to 2006, upon which he had a clear-cut prototypical “breakout” year. Came to the Angels from St. Louis in the Jeff Weaver deal (worked out well for both sides as it turned out). Evans had, prior to 2006, always been regarded as one of those “toolsy” type players that you hear so much about (i.e. the Rubens - Rivera and Mateo), but it took four-plus years for tools to translate into production. 33 home runs and 37 stolen bases later, he’s a legitimate prospect knocking on the major league door, and for a team devoid of high-ceiling outfield prospects and lacking in depth at the major league level, Evans has at least a chance of winning a fourth outfielder job this spring. Sure, his 127/41 K/BB ratio isn’t all that pretty, but he has shown improvement there this year as well. At 6’4”, 210+, he has the strength to be a thirty home run guy and despite his bulk, he’s a very good athlete with good speed, so he could stick in center, but most scouts see him in right field long term considering his body type and plus arm.

Rest of the Top 20 (11-20):

11. Sean O'Sullivan, RHP – 55/7 K/BB ratio in 14 Pioneer League starts this year.
12. Jeff Mathis, C – star has faded, but still has the tools to be an everyday catcher.
13. Peter Bourjos, OF – 2005 10th rounder showed promise in pro debut in 2006.
14. Reggie Willits, OF – gets on base, runs like the wind, but no power.
15. Chris Pettit, OF – 19th round pick far better than expected in '06: .336/.445/.566.
16. Thomas Mendoza, RHP – control artist who’s probably two years away.
17. Hainley Statia, SS – solid contact hitter, lacks pop, but excels defensively.
18. Trevor Bell, RHP – 2005 #37 overall pick impressed in '06. Big fastball and curve!
19. Felipe Arredondo, RHP – 12.3 K/9 rate. Profiles as a late inning reliever.
20. Robert Mosebach, RHP – 22 year-old is a potential #5 starter, lacks of top-shelf stuff

Others to watch: Matt Brown, 3B; Clay Fuller, OF; Rafael Rodriguez, RHP; David Herndon, RHP; Chris Armstrong, LHP; Nick Green, RHP, Bobby Wilson, C; Kevin Jepsen, RHP.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

1. Brok Butcher, SP, Class A RC Quakes (Angels) Against a very good hitting Lake Elsinore Storm team, Butcher threw a gem of a game, going 9 innings, for his 3rd complete game of the season, putting a goose egg in the run column for the Storm. Brok has been a stud this season, and is having the kind of season Jered Weaver had in ’06 in the minors. It’s worth noting, that while Brok isn’t a strikeout artist (only 52 strikeouts in 89 innings), he’s got a low 90’s power sinker and good off-speed stuff that resembles Brandon Webb, Aaron Cook and Fausto Carmona who have been successful in the big leagues.

2. Terry Evans, OF, Class AAA Salt Lake (Angels) Evans slugged a couple more home runs, giving him 9 on the season, driving in 6 RBI’s since last Wednesday. While Evans may not post another 30/30 season this year, a 25/25 campaign is not out of the reach. Evans has 11 stolen bases and is hitting .324 on the season thus far.

3. Nick Green, SP, Class AA Arkansas (Angels) Nick has had an up and down season in Arkansas, with consistency being an issue, but he’s thrown back to back quality starts while getting more swings and misses off his pitches. In Green’s last 2 starts he’s fanned 15 in 14 innings, giving up just 3 runs. His ERA is sitting at 4.01 on the season, with a 5-4 record.

4. Trevor Bell, SP, Low Class A Cedar Rapids (Angels) Coming off a fine start on last Tuesday, Trevor pitched another fine gem on Monday, going 7 innings while giving up just 2 runs, fanning 5, earning the W. Keep an eye on our 2005 1st round pick as the season progresses.

5. Bobby Wilson, C, Class AA Arkansas (Angels) Bobby Wilson started the season off extremely
slow, hitting around .220-.230 for the first 2+ months of the season, has turned it around of late, pushing his average up to .268. In his last 10 games, Wilson is hitting .324, racking up 3 hit games in 2 of those 10 games. Wilson has shown some discipline at the plate as well, walking 15 times vs. 17 strikeouts.

6. Ryan Mount, 2B, Low Class A Cedar Rapids (Angels) Like Bobby Wilson, Ryan Mount was also struggling to hit on a consistent basis early on. Like Bobby, Ryan has turned it up a notch, hitting .378 in his last 10 games, with 3 multi hit games in his last 4 contests. Ryan Mount’s batting average is now up to .272 on the season and has been a spark plug at the top of the Kernels lineup.

7. Hank Conger, C, Low Class A Cedar Rapids (Angels) Our 2006 1st rounder is steadily progressing of late, getting his average up to .281 after hovering in the .260’s for the majority of the season. Like Trevor Bell, track these two high rounder’s progress as the season moves on.

8. Tim Schoeninger, SP, Low Class A Cedar Rapids (Angels) Schoeninger in his last 2 starts has fanned 15 hitters in 15 innings, notching 2 quality starts and a W. Schoeninger’s ERA currently sits at 2.72, which is impressive with all of the top prospect hitters in the Mid-West League.

9. Jason Bulger, RP, Class AAA Salt Lake (Angels) Well the scoreless innings streak is over for Bulger, as he gave up 3 runs in an inning on Monday, but he also struck out 3 in that same inning, giving him 40 on the season in just 25 innings of relief work. Bulger will be the first reliever called upon if an injury occurs or if someone struggles.

10. Amalio Diaz, SP, Class AA Arkansas (Angels) Diaz got a no decision against Springfield on Sunday, but that was no knock on him as he went 8 innings, giving up just 2 runs, while fanning 5. Diaz has looked good since his promotion to Double-A, posting a 3.12 ERA while inducing a ton of ground balls.

Keep an eye on: Young-Il Jung, SP, Short Season Class A Orem (Angels) Just 6 days away from the Orem Owlz season opener and all eyes will be on Young-Il Jung as he sets to make his debut on American soil vs. a slew of good hitting prospects in the Pioneer League.

On the outside looking to get in soon:Chris Pettit, Mark Trumbo, Jose Arredondo, Robert Mosebach, Anthony Ortega, Nick Adenhart, P.J. Phillips, David Herndon, Brandon Wood, Sean O’Sullivan, Freddy Sandoval, Peter Bourjos, Sean Rodriguez, Stephen Marek, Jeff Mathis, Ryan Aldridge, Matthew Sweeney, Jeremy Haynes, Darren O’Day, Nick Gorneault, Jordan Renz, Kendry Morales, Kevin Jepsen, and Hainley Statia.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Orlando Cabrera and Reggie Willits are not your typical baseball heroes. They are not outspoken. They don’t hit for power. They do, however, provide the Angels with great defense and high on-base percentages. But in this league it seems that those two attributes are often overlooked.

Willits was not even considered a top prospect for the Halos this season, and when Garret Anderson appeared to finally be back to full health, things didn’t look good for the now 26-year-old utility outfielder. But as fate would have it, fan favorite GA would be put on the disabled list and Reggie given his chance to shine. Needless to say, Willits has taken that opportunity and refused to loosen his grasp on it.

While Anderson was out, Willits added extra speed to left field. Anderson’s arthritic knees have held him back from performing at what was once his own athletic standard. Willits quick speed led to many impressive catches down the left field line, and only helped newly-acquired center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. In the 48 games Willits has played in the outfield, he has compiled an impressive 1.000 fielding percentage.

Willits' speed has also helped on the base paths. Willits has 14 stolen bases this season in 16 attempts. But, as everyone knows, to steal a base one must first get on. The young outfielder has done just that as he has impressed everyone by batting .320 (entering Friday’s game) in 153 at bats. More impressively, he has the eighth-best on-base percentage in the American League this season, sitting at .414. All of these stats have earned the youngster an opportunity to DH, and allow the other outfielders a few days rest.

Orlando Cabrera, on the other hand, has little (if anything) to prove. Cabrera is in his eleventh season in the majors, and a World Series champion at that. Cabrera has a consistently high fielding percentage. This season, his percentage is a full .017 higher than the league average, as he has only made four errors in 159 attempts.

But, as with Willits, it is more than just OC’s defense that has propelled the Angels to the peak of the AL West. It has also been his bat. Cabrera’s OBP is now at a very nice .381, while his batting average is a comfortable .333. These numbers may not be great for a middle-of-the-lineup guy, but the fact of the matter is Cabrera is a top-of-the-lineup guy.

Perhaps more importantly is the veteran presence that Cabrera contributes to a team full of rookies. With guys such as Willits in the dugout, the wise words of a proven player can do nothing but help.

So, the Angels found two heroes in one of the most unlikely places of the line up as The Wizard of OC and his table-setting counterpart, rookie outfielder Reggie Willits, have helped annual all star Vladimir Guererro lift the Angels into first place in the American League West.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

#1 Christopher Pettit, OF, Cedar Rapids (Angels) How does a 1.069 OPS sound for starters? That is exactly what Mr. Pettit has accomplished thus far at Cedar Rapids this season and his batting average keeps climbing, earning him the top spot in this week’s Prospect Hotlist, a first for Chris. Pettit is hitting .423 in his last 10 games and in those 10 games he’s walked 8 times vs. 2 strikeouts and clubbed 2 Hr’s and 2 doubles. His average over the last week was pushed up to .370 where it currently sits, giving indication that he’s probably ready for the bump up to Rancho Cucamonga. Pettit has some wheels too as he’s 1 stolen base behind team leader P.J. Phillips with 14 bags stolen.

2. Mark Trumbo, 1B, Low Class A Ball Cedar Rapids (Angels)There have been some that have questioned why the organization has let Trumbo go this long as an offensive player rather than what he did in HS, pitching. Up until a couple weeks ago, the argument was valid, but Mark has made some adjustments at the plate of late and he’s starting to see some positive results of late, earning him the #2 spot on this week’s hotlist. In Trumbo’s last 10 games, he’s hit .371, with 4 multi-hit games in that span, with 8 RBI’s. He’s also cut down on his strikeouts, fanning just 6 times, with 4 walks in those 10 games which for him is improvement. Trumbo has 5 Home Runs and 13 doubles currently but as his plate discipline improves look for more power to come.

3 Trevor Bell, SP, Low Class A Cedar Rapids (Angels)Fresh off the DL on May 20th, Bell has been on a mission to show some positive results from the hill and he hasn’t disappointed. Bell hasn’t giving up more than 2 runs in any of his starts coming back from the DL, though 2 of them he was on a strict pitch count. Bell looked excellent last night vs. Burlington, going 6 innings, giving up just 1 one while fanning 6. The #1 draft pick of the Angels in 2005 has an ERA that currently sits at 3.54 which is impressive considering his rocky start to the season.

4. Jason Bulger, RP, Class AAA Salt Lake (Angels) One must ask, Darren Oliver or Jason Bulger? I say go with Bulger as Oliver brought in as a lefty specialist has a 22.50 ERA vs. left-handed batters, giving up 12 hits, 11 runs in 4 innings of work against them. Interesting that Oliver has more success vs. right-handed batters, posting a 2.31 ERA against them in 11 innings of work. Is the lefty specialist in the bullpen working? Most would say no and when you consider Bulger hasn’t given up a run in nearly a month and his ERA vs. right-handed hitters is 0.75 and 3.97 vs. left-handed batters, fanning 34 in 23.1 innings, you have to give Bulger the nod here. His ERA sits at 2.31 currently and he won’t be in Salt Lake much longer if he keeps this up!

5. Bradley Coon, OF, Class A Rancho Cucamonga (Angels)Pushing his average back up to .300 Coon also boasts the 2nd most stolen bases in the California League, with 26, 3 behind Eric Young Jr. There is always room for a leadoff hitter that gets on base, can hit for a decent average, play a solid centerfield and steal a good amount of bases in the majors, whether it’s as a 4th outfielder or starting for a club in need of a leadoff hitter with speed.

6. Brok Butcher, SP, Class A Rancho Cucamonga (Angels)Butcher is tied with Rockies pitching prospect, Brandon Hynick for the most innings pitched (75) and complete games (2) in the Cal League. He’s also 2nd in the league in ERA with a 1.80 behind Hynick, though Butcher is one up on him for most quality starts. Butcher went 9 innings against the High Desert club giving up only 2 runs in his last start. His incredible season on the mound just keeps getting better.

7. Hank Conger, C, Low Class A Cedar Rapids (Angels)The Angels #1 pick of last year makes his debut on the Prospect Hotlist, hitting .333 in his last 10 games, clubbing 5 doubles and 2 dingers in that span. Conger has 8 home runs on the season and 33 RBI’s for the Kernels. His defense needs some work behind the dish as he’s committed 6 errors and has only thrown out 22% of runners trying to steal.

8. Anthony Ortega, SP, Class A Rancho Cucamonga (Angels)Anthony Ortega went a strong 5 and 2/3 on Sunday, fanning 7 Lake Elsinore Storm hitters. Ortega is on fire of late as he’s only given up 3 runs in his last 30 innings pitched, lowering his ERA to 3.01 on the season.

9. Robert Mosebach, SP, Class A Rancho Cucamonga (Angels)Like Ortega, Mosebach got off to a slow start, but has reeled off some really good starts that date back into late April, the 25th to be exact. Since then, Mosebach has had 9 straight quality starts, lowering his ERA down to 3.55. Eddie Bane said to keep an eye on this kid as he turned heads in Tempe earlier this spring with his stuff. He wasn’t kidding!

10. Ryan Mount, 2B, Low Class A Ball Cedar Rapids (Angels)Ryan Mount has hit .300 in his last 10 games, pushing his average up to .266, scoring 10 runs in those 10 games for the Kernels at the top of the lineup. Mount hasn’t shown the power that we saw in Orem last season where he hit 9 Hr’s, 14 doubles in just 69 games. This season through 49 games he’s only hit 2 home runs, 3 doubles and 1 triple, though he has stolen more bags (13).

Keep an eye on: Amalio Diaz, SP, Class AA Arkansas (Angels) After floundering in Rancho Cucamonga with a 6.27 ERA, Diaz has notched 2 quality starts out of 3 since being promoted to Class AA Arkansas. One of which was an impressive 9 inning complete game shutout vs. Corpus Christi.

On the outside looking to get in soon: Jose Arredondo, Nick Adenhart, P.J. Phillips, David Herndon, Brandon Wood, Sean O’Sullivan, Freddy Sandoval, Peter Bourjos, Sean Rodriguez, Stephen Marek, Jeff Mathis, Ryan Aldridge, Timothy Schoeninger, Matthew Sweeney, Jeremy Haynes, Darren O’Day, Nick Gorneault, Jordan Renz, Terry Evans, Kendry Morales, Kevin Jepsen, and Hainley Statia.
Angels Should be Well Represented in San Francisco
By Adam Dodge - Angelswin Senior Writer

With their 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins last night the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim earned their league best 38th victory. The hottest team in baseball has won 9 of 11 and 16 of 20. That the Angels are in first place is no surprise. That they’re pitching has been as good any team in baseball was to be expected. It has been the surprisingly efficient offense that has caused many to declare the Angels the team to beat in the American League. Angel teams past have never been as balanced as the 2007 version, which should be recognized in a month’s time.

On July 10th the American and National Leagues will meet once again in Major League Baseball’s All Star game at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. Of the 64 players that will participate (32 from each team) only 16 players will be voted in by the fans. The remaining four dozen players will be chosen by the game’s managers, Tony Larussa and Jim Leyland. This is significant, because of the deserving Angels only perennial All Star and MVP candidate, Vladimir Guerrero will be voted in. It will be up to Leyland to decide which other Angels will make the trip to the bay area.

And many are deserving. As many as nine Angels currently have a legitimate shot at representing the American League, of which five should be considered locks.

Aside from Guerrero, who will be voted in by the fans, starting pitchers John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, closer Francisco Rodriguez and shortstop Orlando Cabrera have all earned selections this season.

John Lackey is vying for his Major League leading 10th victory this afternoon, while also boasting a 2.37 ERA. Lackey has emerged as the ace on arguably the league’s best starting staff and might just be the best right-handed pitcher in all of baseball. If the game were played today, Lackey, Cleveland’s CC Sabathia, Boston’s Josh Beckett and Oakland’s Dan Haren are the only four pitchers worthy of starting for the American League.

Kelvim Escobar boasts an equally impressive ERA, has a 7-3 records, and has tossed two complete games for the Angels. Escobar seems to be fully recovered from the shoulder problems which plagued him in 2005. Perhaps the steadiest Angel pitcher over the last three seasons, Escobar’s record can be attributed to decent run support, something that has plagued the Venezuelan right-hander in his time with the Angels.

Francisco Rodriguez may have finally usurped Mariano Rivera as the premiere closer in Major League baseball. Rodriguez is the fastest to 100 saves in the history of baseball, broke the franchise record for saves in a season last year, and has been lights out in the playoffs. An All-Star last year, K-Rod might finally get his chance to close out an American League victory in next month’s game. How about this scenario? Mariano Rivera sets up Rodriguez, symbolizing the changing of the guard. It could happen, though Rivera has some work to do to make the team himself.

Orlando Cabrera may be the team MVP. He’s certainly the leader of the Angels. Cabrera has been performed well for the Angels since signing with the team before the 2005 season. In 2007 he’s been awesome, displaying the best combination of offense and defense at the shortstop position this season. In the midst of a career year, Cabrera should be the first option to replace Jeter, the game’s likely starter.

But Leyland may have other Angels to consider. Though not likely to make the team at this juncture, with a hot month leading into the game the following players have an outside shot of making appearances in the midsummer classic.

Gary Matthews Jr. signed a “ridiculous” five year, $50 million contract based solely on his 2006 performance for the Texas Rangers but through two months of the season you’d be hard pressed to find a better free agent signing. Matthews Jr. is hitting over .290 with 8 homeruns and 38 RBI. Good numbers, but not great you might say. Consider that Matthews Jr. hit out of the lead-off spot for the first month of the season. It’s reasonable to assume that had he hit clean-up in April Matthews would be leading the team, and possibly the American League in RBI. He’s been that good behind Vladimir Guerrero, and thanks to the emergence of Rookie of the Year candidate and leadoff man Reggie Willits, Matthews Jr. can expect to hit behind Guerrero for the remainder of the season. In addition, Matthews has been a ballerina in centerfield, robbing opposing hitters of extra bases on a weekly basis. He was an all-star last year and is certainly on the radar in 2007.

Scott Shields, though not as dominant as in years past, is on an upswing, and may deserve an All-star nod based on past performance. Shields is widely considered the best set-up man in baseball, a role which receives much more recognition in today’s game.

Two young players, who got off to slow starts for the club have turned it on over the past few weeks and compare well to others at their position. Casey Kotchman and Mike Napoli are big reasons why the Angels are 32-13 over their past 45 games. Each has 7 homeruns and rank well in the OPS department. It will take big months from each of these players, and in Napoli’s case an injury or two around the league, as there are at least 5 catchers ahead of him. But both players have an outside shot at making their first All-Star appearances, with Kotchman’s being more realistic.

ESPN has done it’s best to alienate west coast baseball. Hopefully Jim Leyland will do the right thing and reward the best players on arguably the best team in the American League. After all “this game counts.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

At this point in during the 2006 season, things were bleak for Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman. After hitting an abysmal .152 with only one home run, Casey was placed on the disabled list on May 9th and didn't appear in a Major League game again until Opening Day of 2007.

During the off-season, Angels owner Arte Moreno's promise of a "big splash" in the free agent market led some to believe that any position was up for grabs. However, the free agent market was thin at first base and Bill Stoneman rightfully decided that at the very least Kotchman would out produce hitters such as Aubrey Huff, Sean Casey and Kevin Millar. Besides, there were other options on the table. Outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Gary Matthews Jr., along with the impending free agency of Aramis Ramirez.

As the winter moved on, Ramirez stayed with the Cubs, never allowing the Angels an opportunity to speak with him, the Cubs also outbid the Angels for Soriano. While the Angels did add Gary Matthews to play center field, there was still concern he wasn't the "big bat" needed. First base was a disaster in 2006 without Kotchman, could the Angels compete in 2007 going with an unknown commodity ?

Enter the Todd Helton rumors. With the Colorado Rockies looking to move salary rumors were floated that the teams were discussing Helton to the Angels for Kotchman, Figgins and Aybar. Whether or not it was Helton being uninterested in waiving his no-trade clause or Stoneman deciding he was giving up too much talent for a player with a huge salary on the wrong side of 30. The right move was again made, stick with Kotchman and we'll see what happens.

Fast forward to June of 2007. After getting off to a slow start (.224 BA on May 11) and causing a panic amongst the Halo faithful, Casey Kotchman has caught fire. Since that time Kotchman has produced a .406 ba .471 ob% .684 slg% with 4 home runs, 7 doubles along with 15 rbi and 11 runs scored.

Ironically, the stats Casey Kotchman has produced for the Angels are almost an exact match with Helton.

Kotchman .309 HR 6 RBI 27 OBP .381 SLG .514
Helton .335 HR 6 RBI 29 OBP . .460 SLG . .503

Bill Stoneman stuck with Kotchman and has saved owner Arte Moreno 16,599,615 an unnecessary payroll increase as well as keeping the handy Erick Aybar in the fold.

The moral of the story is patience pays off. While the big names are fun to talk about during the Hot Stove league and Spring Training, sometimes the best thing for a ball club is just to let the talent you already have develop. The Angels are seeing it now out of Kotchman and another young player who started the season in the same dismal manor, Mike Napoli.

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