Saturday, April 5, 2008

By Chuck Richter - Angelswin Executive Editor

Well the minor league season is upon us (albeit just 2 games in) and has some early on impressions, notables and injury reports to update all of our readers with. After a successful spring camp for Darren O'Day which opened the door for him to make the team after Bootcheck's and Shields' injuries, the Arizona sun shined upon outfielder Peter Bourjos (Rancho) and two fellow relievers in Jose Arredondo (Salt Lake) and Rich Thompson (Big league club, but will be demoted to Salt Lake after Shields comes off the DL this weekend).

Salt Lake Bees Report:
The Bees opening day starter Nick Green and top prospect Nick Adenhart opened the season for the Bees and neither disappointed. Green pitched 5 innings giving up just 1 earned run against Las Vegas, while fanning 3, while Adenhart threw 5 scoreless innings, giving up just 3 hits. Jose Arredondo who is currently the Bees closer, with Thompson and Bulger with the Angels, notched a save with a scoreless ninth inning, fanning 2 Las Vegas 51's.

On offense, it's worth noting that Brandon Wood has been moved to SS to begin the 2008 minor league season. Thus far, he has continued his play from spring camp, striking out 5 times, but providing a HR with his only hit in 9 at bats. The true heroes on offense have been 3B Matt Brown (6-9, with 1 HR), OF Brad Coon (5-9, 1 walk and 1 SB, with many more of those to come) and C Bobby Wilson (4-9, 2 doubles and a team leading 4 RBI's). Sean Rodriguez is getting PT at 2B to start the season, has also homered to begin the season, while Kendry Morales has yet to register a hit in 9 at bats, though he has driven in 2 as the Bees #3 hitter in the lineup.

Terry Evans should join Brad Coon and Dee Brown in the outfield before the end of the weekend. The Bees lineup, rotation and bullpen should the core of this team stay in tact for the majority of the season, should be poised for another playoff berth and possible PCL Championship.

Arkansas Travelers Report:
Good news and Bad news to report out of Arkansas early on. The good news is that Brok Butcher, "Author of the "Brok Butcher Journal" threw 6 innings of quality ball, giving up just 2 runs, while fanning 5. In other good news, the Angels have made Stephen Marek the club's closer, a move I think is fantastic as it will enable Marek to focus on his two quality pitches in short relief. Marek throws a 93-96 MPH fastball with good life, as well as a 12-6 curveball, but has struggled with his changeup as a starting pitcher which was one of the reasons he was ranked in the 30-40 range in our 2008 top-50 prospects report last December. I mentioned in our "Ask" segment when asked why Marek was ranked so low, that if he had been a reliever at the time of our rankings, he'd be in the top-20 range without a doubt.

The bad news, and it's bad, as he's the Traveler's best hitter going into the season, Chris Pettit may be out for the season with a broken right foot. Right now, he's out indefinitely. Looks like the Travelers will have another season without any real force in the meat of their lineup. Last season, they did have Sean Rodriguez, but he had no protection, were at least Pettit would of had C Ben Johnson who I believe will have a strong offensive season, perhaps his best in his minor league career.

SS Hainley Statia is one to keep an eye on, as his defense is fun to watch, while Corey Smith who was signed in the off-season, returns to his position at 3B, where he played when the Indians made him their #1 pick in the 2000 amateur draft out of HS.

Rancho Cucamonga Report:
The Quakes begin the season without Top Prospects: C Hank Conger, 3B Matt Sweeney and 2B Ryan Mount, all who suffered injuries in spring training. They've begun the season in rehab, in Arizona getting some extended spring training after rehab. We'll update you all on their progress as soon as I find out from the Angels. Check our message board for current updates on these players, before the next Angelswin Crop Report.

Despite losing three of the Quakes sluggers to begin the season, PJ Phillips at SS has provided a ton of offense in their absence. Phillips the 2nd rounder of the Angels 2 years ago, Brandon Phillips little brother, has slugged 3 doubles, 1 triple, driven in 4 runs, while stealing 2 bases to begin the season for the Quakes. He's hitting a red hot .600 going 6-10 in the first 2 games. C Brian Walker who has replaced Hank Conger as the starting C has started off the season with a bang, with 4 hits in 9 at bats, while clubbing 2 doubles, and in place of projected starters Matt Sweeney at 3B and 2B Ryan Mount, has seen Larry Infante and Wilberto Ortiz fill in nicely offensively, both hitting well to begin the season.

Phillips isn't the only top prospect to keep an eye on in Rancho, but also Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo, both of whom had good spring camps and top prospects for the Angels. Eddie Bane believes big things are in store for both of these kids, especially Trumbo who seeks to turn some of those mammoth BP home runs into real game big fly's.

On the pitching side, the Quakes are loaded in the rotation and bullpen. With a rotation of Sean O'Sullivan, David Herndon, Trevor Bell and Tommy Mendoza, with possibly Amalio Diaz filling out the rotation for the 5th spot. Barret Browning should see the brunt of the closing duties for the Quakes.

Speaking Sean O'Sullivan, his dad gave us his insight on his son Sean and his first outing of the 2008 season in our forum here See how he faired against slugger Jim Edmonds who was rehabbing for the Padres.

Cedar Rapids Kernels Report:
The Kernels opening day affair got postponed due to weather, a common theme in the Midwest League. Opening for the Kernels last night was southpaw Robert Fish, who I feel is going to have a huge season for the Kernels. Last night in his first start of the season, it wasn't a good one as Robert gave up 4 earned runs on 3 hits and 3 walks in 3 2/3 innings, though he did fan 5. On the bright side, Ryan Braiser the Kernels closer, pitched a scoreless inning to earn his first save of many on the 2008 season.

On offense, the Kernels OF Tyler Johnson who is repeating Low-A Ball, got off to a nice start, going 2-4 with a 2-run HR to start the season.

Tune in tonight as top prospect Jordan Walden takes the mound for the Kernels. We'll give his report on the Angels Future Stars forum later on tonight.

SS Andrew Romine, C Anel De Los Santos, RHP Mason Tobin, LHP Trevor Reckling, LHP Michael Anton, OF Jeremy Moore, OF Clay Fuller and 3B Jay Brossman are the top prospects to follow for the Kernels this season.

* For daily updates, box score discussions and Angels minor league news as it happens, check our Angels Future Stars forum daily.
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