Monday, June 30, 2008

By Jason Sinner - Columnist

It’s that time of year. The 2008 season is flying by and we have reached the midpoint, so it’s about time to hand out some marks. The Halos find themselves with a 48-33 record and a 3.5 game lead over the 2nd place Oakland Athletics. The team sports the best road record in the majors at 26-15 and the second best record overall--putting them on a 96 win pace. They are 15-11 in one run games and have been excellent against southpaws with a 16-4 mark.

A lot has gone right, yet not everything has been clicking on all cylinders. In fact, it’s essentially been a tale of two teams thus far this season.


The Halos came off a solid campaign in 2007 where they scored 822 runs and ended up 4th in the league overall in this category. They started the season right where they left off with very solid numbers in April, scoring a league high 138 runs. There was joy all around as Kotch found his power stroke and the catching tandem of Mathis and Napoli were making quite an offensive impression. There were plenty of others contributing and making up for relatively slow starts by Vlad and GA.

Then came May and June. Thank God for the lowly Mariners as the Halos scored only 199 runs in those two months combined, and were only second to last in the league for offense.

The offensive ineptitude started with injuries to key players (Kendrick, Figgins) and an unlikely source—a struggling Vladimir Guerrero. Kotchman ran out of Wheaties, our catchers starting using bats left by Shea Hillebrand, and injury replacements (Wood, Rodriguez, Brown) played like deer caught in major league floodlights.

Even as the wounded returned, and Vlad caught fire, others struggles prevented the generation of any kind of offensive momentum whatsoever. The game prior to the mid point of the season (Saturday June 28th) was perhaps a perfect microcosm of the offense as the team lost 1-0 while throwing an 8-inning no-hitter against their cross town rivals, the Dodgers.

The good news is that every player on the offensive side of the ball has yet to reach his potential—so things are likely to improve. Although we are not likely to see any drastic personnel moves, we likely don’t need any. If players perform to their ability, there are few easy outs in this lineup. We may see some increased roles from guys on the bench (Willits, Rivera), yet it remains to be seen whether they deserve any more playing time than the struggling starters.

The key, once again, is the presence of Chone Figgins in the lineup—which was painfully evident as the team failed to score in the first two games of the Dodgers series in his absence. The Halos average almost a full run per game more when he is on the field. Perhaps we could all chip in for a clear plastic bubble sporting the Angelswin logo to keep him injury free.

Bench – F

With a collective batting average of .190 (66-348), 3hr, and 19rbi we relied upon this group heavily to fill in for a slew of early season injuries and they unfortunately fell flat on their face or were clearly overmatched compared to their minor league performances. The good news is that most of these guys are no longer with the big club or are starting as our injured players have returned.

Starters – C-

It hasn’t been all bad, as several players have been decent individually (Figgins, Aybar, Kotchman, Vlad, Hunter), and as a team they have been hit fairly solidly with RISP overall (.275avg, .759 OPS).

Overall – D

The offense needs improvement. There is light at the end of the tunnel, though. The team is back to being in good health and they will likely pick things up to find a happy medium somewhere between what they did in April versus that of May and June.


As with the past, our pitching was going to be good this year, and so far, they are. Kicking off a season with a team’s top two starters on the DL is a tough way to go about winning any division for any team. When those two starters both happen to be in the top 10 for the Cy Young award in 2007, and the division in question is the American League West, then a team can certainly expect to have its hands full.

Fortunately, our pitching did exactly the opposite of our offense in the first half. The replacements for our injured starters (Escobar and Lackey) stepped up for their injured mates. Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana were co-team MVP’s for the month of April going a combined 10-0 with a sub 2.50 ERA.

As for the rest of the staff, Jon Garland started off slowly but picked things up. The entire staff got a major boost with the return of Big John Lackey and the emergence of Jose Arredondo. The team ERA has dropped almost a half-run per month (4.25 in April, 3.81 in May, and 3.44 so far in June). The starters appear to be feeding off one another as they attempt to outdo each other’s previous performance from one night to the next. Even with Saunders and Santana cooling off a bit, the rest of the rotation has picked up the slack in keeping the team in the hunt.

The pen is rounding into form nicely as well. Scott Shields is back to getting very little publicity—which means he has been lights out in the 8th. Frankie is on pace to break the all time major league record for saves in a single season and has 32 so far. We may also see Kelvim Escobar back sooner than later with his likely destination being the front end of the bullpen—a spot in which he excelled and played a key role for the club’s post season run in 2005.

Bullpen – A-

The return of Escobar likely pushes Darren O’day back to Triple-A Salt Lake City and drops Justin Speier down to the mop up role. If Speier can even remotely return to form, this is by far the best pen in the majors and even in spite of his struggles may be the best pen anyway.

Starters – A-

Although big John may not sport a sub 2.00 era the whole season, he is the anchor of a group that can dominate on any given day. As good as these guys have been, there is no reason to believe that they can’t continue at this level as they are all feeding off of each other’s performances and all have the makeup and stuff to continue to dominate.

Overall – A-

The pitching could have earned straight A’s across the board in the 1st half if not for a couple rotten apples. Although the team ERA currently sits at 3.84 several players who are no longer on the big club are responsible for a good chunk of the teams earned runs allowed. Minus those contributions, the team’s ERA of the players currently on the club is an incredible 3.33! There’s no doubt that the strength of the club, and the reason for our success has once again been the pitching.

By Eric Notti - Contributor

June 30, 2008

Behind every problem is a reason. There seems to be a simple way to quantify relationships between Vladimir Guerrero’s plate approach and his power number drop off and a statistical indicator for this decline can be found in Bill James book Baseball Goldmine 2008.

Let's first look at the basics that is his power numbers as viewed through his slugging percentage and home runs totals are decreasing every year since 2004.

2004 HR 39 Slg % .598

2005 HR 32 Slg % .565

2006 HR 33 Slg % .552

2007 HR 27 Slg % .547

Now it is not as those are unacceptable numbers but anyone can see a drop off but no one has pin pointed the reason for this steady decrease in productivity.

For years we've been happily saying Vlad is the best bad ball hitter they've ever seen but that is precisely why his numbers are on the downward spiral. His passion for hitting anything pitched to him has become increasingly noticeable that he has lost his plate discipline. The AL has adjusted and he no longer is getting anything reasonable to swing at, and yet he still does. From Bill James recent book entitled Baseball Goldmine 2008 are these very telling statistics.

2004 TS 112 SOZ 281

2005 TS 131 SOZ 303

2006 TS 121 SOZ 428

2007 TS 139 SOZ 604

The TS stands for taken strikes, the amount of times Vlad stared at pitch called a strike. The SOZ simply stands for swinging outside the zone. What is it that stands out is that the TS has only risen by about 15% while the TOZ has progressed 214% of his first year in the AL.

Vlad saw a total of 2,037 pitches last year and swung at 57% of them. Of those he missed 20%, fouled off 35% and put in play 45%.

His increase in swinging at pitches out of the zone results in a loss of power, instead of home runs he is hitting fewer triples and more singles. It is not that he isn't productive, he is just no longer as much of a threat to opposing pitchers because he has expanded his zone for each at bat to the point the odds are against him to make solid contact.

I love watching Vlad but I hate watching Vlad reach so far out of the zone to hit a weak grounder that may or may not squeak through the infield rather than the rockets he was hitting his first couple years. I think if someone can convince him to stay within the boundaries of the plate you will see two things happen. At first his walk totals will increase as pitchers try to bait him with junk and then the power numbers will increase as the league adjusts and goes back to challenging him rather than giving away free bases.

I think Bill James missed the boat on calling him the best bad ball hitter ever and that no kids coming up are being labeled as the next Vlad. I don't think any hitters are allowed the leniency with the strike zone Vlad has so there will never be a comparison. And soon, if he does not change his approach, he will no longer be a bad ball hitter, but just a bad hitter.

By Victor Varadi - Columnist

Overall Record: 49-33
Games Ahead: 4.5
Week Record: 3-3

Week in Review:

If John Lackey (2-0 this week) continues to pitch like he has so far this year, it will be an absolute travesty for him to not be taken to the All Star Game. In fact, he has been so consistently magnificent that it’s getting hard to come up with new superlatives to describe his performances. In 2 games this week, Lackey threw 16 and 2/3 innings while striking out 15 and giving up just one earned run. Lackey has yet to throw less than 7 innings in any one start.

Meanwhile, Jered Weaver was the story of the week and not just because he threw so well. Weaver combined with Jose Arredondo to throw 8 innings of no-hit ball against the Dodgers, only to see an unearned run drop an “L” on his record. Little Weaver has been up and down all year but even when he is dominant he can’t catch a break. Jon Garland pitched well in a win against the D.C. Nationals, the first time the Angels had been to the nation’s capital for a game since 1971. The Angels’ dynamic duo, Saunders and Santana, had rough outings against the Dodgers and Nationals, respectively.

Honorable Mention: The entire pitching staff…again. I may have to just start cutting and pasting from the week prior into this section. The Angels offense continues to sleep-walk, forcing the pitching staff to be near perfect; and even when they are, as they were against the Dodgers, they lose because of an anemic offense that couldn’t even score a single run. I am never one for calling out management, but this can’t continue much longer. The Angels are a lock for the post-season, but they won’t get far if the pitcher’s have to carry the team like this.

The Angels offense averaged 2.6 runs per game this week. And they scored 8 of their 16 total runs in one game! Take away that one game against the lowly Nats and the offensive output per game is down to a run and a half. And the team still went .500! Figgins was in and out of the lineup again and interleague play only seemed to highlight the ineffectiveness of the offense.

The Bottom Line: The Angels offense stinks! There is little consistency from night to night and the lineup has got to look weak to opposing pitchers. Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis are terrible at the plate and it is starting to affect their defensive abilities (Mathis’ throwing error to 2nd base/center field led to the unearned run in the 1-0 loss to the Dodgers despite the Angels throwing a no-hitter through 8 innings). The Angels will keep winning, but something will have to give soon.

The Week Ahead:

The Angels leave behind interleague play and come home to face division rivals, the Oakland A’s. While the Athletics have stuck around in the AL West race so far, they will need to start doing more than winning series’ against the Angels to make up ground. Tuesday’s match-up is the one to watch as Ervin Santana and Rich Harden square off. The Angels celebrate America’s birthday by welcoming Canada’s team, the Toronto Blue Jays, to the Big A for a 3 game set. If this offense continues to struggle, all predictions for win-loss records are out the window.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

OF, Peter Bourjos rises to the #1 spot with a solid 1st half

By Chuck Richter, David Saltzer & Jason Sinner

So the time has come to evaluate the top prospects in the Angels organization at the midway point of the minor league season. When looking at where we ranked these youngsters in November of 2007 in our Top-50 Angels Prospects List, there have been some that have moved up quite a bit due to performance and some who have moved down--whether it was based on the lack of development due to injury or because of performance at a higher level. David, Jason and I agree on where we felt these guys are at now in late June, but realize that a 2nd half push in performance to cap off their 2008 minor league season will weigh heavily on where these kids will be ranked in our winter's Top-50 2009 Prospect List.

So, without further adieu we're proud to announce a new selection for the Top spot in our Prospect Rankings, at the midway point of the season . . .

1. Peter Bourjos, Centerfield, High-A Ball - Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
The fastest man in spring camp according to Mike Scioscia was also the fastest to rise to the top in just a half of a minor league season. Bourjos, who we rated as the #7 prospect in our Top-50 Prospect Report back in December, has always shown the ability to run, track down balls in the outfield, flash an above average arm, and hit-- and boy has he hit this season to the tune of a .344 batting average! What is more impressive is that Bourjos, who is one of the youngest offensive performers in the league, has hit well against a strong class of starting pitchers in the California League. This was taken into account when we decided to move Peter to #1 at the midway point of the season.

Bourjos has a chance to be a future gold glove centerfielder and prolific base stealer. With his speed, he can track down would-be extra base hits and change the outcome of games. Scouts say he has "game changing speed". Bourjos, after tonight's game, has more stolen bases (39) than strike outs (38) and he has only been caught stealing three times. Impressive ratio and stolen base totals, especially since Bourjos missed about 2 and a half weeks of action this season with injuries.

The only knocks on Bourjos are that he doesn't walk a lot (13 walks) and that he hasn't shown a lot of power (knocking out just 3 HR's thus far in 245 at bats). The Angels emphasize on their minor leaguers the importance of making good hard contact however, so this is no knock on Peter and with regards to the power. The fact that he can club extra base hits (17 doubles, 5 triples) tells the scouts that he'll add more power totals down the road once he adds more physical strength. The ball sounds different coming off Bourjos’ bat and that is a telling sign about his power potential

2. Jose Arredondo, Reliever, Los Angeles Angels
What a great calendar year it’s been for Jose Arredondo. From demoted a level to promoted to the majors, he’s been both insolent and impressive on the mound. Last year, on June 6, 2007, Jose was demoted from Double-A to Single-A for personal reasons. That cost him his appearance in the Texas League All-Star game. But, on June 6, 2008, Jose was in the majors, earning a Hold in a close game win over Oakland.

With the potential departure of Frankie Rodriguez, the comparisons between Rodriguez and Arredondo are already being made. Both throw hard (Jose has been clocked at 96 on the stadium gun—just as Frankie did when first called up). Both throw sliders (Frankie’s slider breaks more than Jose’s right now). Both needed to learn a changeup in order to continue to fool batters (Frankie will now throw one or two changeups in a game—we have yet to see Jose throw one). Both are closers. However, Jose’s mechanics are cleaner and less violent than Frankie’s.

Jose’s future in the majors is not entirely in his hands at the moment. It’s hard to walk away from a guy who is on pace to have 64 saves in a year—smashing the ML record. If the Angels do resign K-Rod, then Jose will move into the setup role for him in the 8th inning. That would give the Angels a very deep pen for the future with Shields and Speier moving into the 6th and 7th innings. But, if the Angels are unable to resign Frankie, they may have his replacement already in place in Jose Arredondo. Either way, it’s hard to see Jose returning to the minors. He’s earned a roster spot—Congrats!

3. Jordan Walden, Starting Pitcher, Low-A Ball - Cedar Rapids Kernels
Talk about hard luck. Jordan made 15 starts last year for the Owls posting a 3.08 era and 63 strikeout in 64 innings. So far this year, he has made 15 starts (one of which is happening as this is being typed) and has a 2.57era in 80.2 innings while fanning 64. His overall record is 4-6. Hard luck or not, the kid can bring it. His fastball routinely sits at 95-97mph and he has hit 100mph on occasion.

The Halos made him a draft and follow out of high school in 2006 after taking him in the 12th round. You may wonder how a guy that can hit triple digits on the gun can drop so far in the draft. Strangely enough, his velocity dropped into the high eighties just before the draft yet a short stint in JC ball and he was back to throwing bb's. He also features a good yet inconsistent slider and a changeup that needs work. He's got decent control and gets grounders at a rate of about 2:1 over fly balls. He will have to develop his secondary offerings but overall he has massive upside and projects as a #1 or #2 starter.

4. Nick Adenhart, Starting Pitcher, Triple-A - Salt Lake Bees
Before Nick was promoted to the Angels, he held opponents to a low .200 batting average and had an ERA under 2 in a very difficult league and home park in which to pitch. This is indicative of what Adenhart can do when his command is on and he's mixing up 3 of his quality pitches. After struggling in his 3 major league starts, posting a 9.00 ERA, giving up 18 hits in 12 innings, walking 18 and striking out just 4 batters, Adenhart has fallen completely on his face in the PCL.

Right now, at the midway point of the season, Adenhart has a 4.73 ERA with the Salt Lake Bees, and opposing hitters are hitting .289 off him. Nick has had trouble commanding his pitches, in what is becoming a mirror of his season last year with the Travelers when he was solid for the first 5 weeks only to hit a bump in the road with his command from that point on while he dealt with an injury. The good news is that Adenhart is still awfully young, especially considering he's in Triple-A. That, and he still possesses good stuff--stuff and poise that has made him one of the best pitching prospects coming into this season. With more experience, improved fastball command, and a sense of pride to put away hitters with knee buckling curve or changeup, Adenhart will fulfill his potential and pitch in the front of the rotation someday.

5. Trevor Reckling, Starting Pitcher, Low-A Ball - Cedar Rapids Kernels
Question: What lasted 32+ innings and scored no runs? If you answered the Angels offense in the mid 90s, you’d be wrong. The real answer is the streak of innings pitched by Trevor Reckling without a giving up a run this season.

At 19, this lefty has a knee-buckling curve. Like most lefties, he throws in the high 80s to low 90s, but, could add some velocity as he develops. Trevor is one of the youngest pitchers in his league and has already drawn comparisons to Barry Zito (when he pitched for Oakland, not in the current form).

At this point there is no need to rush Reckling through the system. The tools are there as is the potential. But, as a rare lefty in our system, he has a high ceiling with the potential to make the rotation around 2011.

6. Hank Conger, Catcher, High-A Ball - Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Hank was the 25th overall pick in the 2006 draft and has put up very solid numbers to start his career. The problem is that his career keeps getting put on pause. A wrist injury limited him last year, and a shoulder malady delayed the start of his season at Rancho this year. He's come back with little ill effect at the plate getting a good portion of his 73 at bats as a DH (.301 avg, 7 doubles, 1 hr, 16 RBI).

The real question for Hank is how his defense will develop. To be a backstop for a Mike Scioscia run club, handling pitchers and playing defense is priority number one. Regardless, it appears the kid can hit for average and power and there is always a place in the lineup for a good bat.

7. Steve Marek, Reliever, Double-A - Arkansas Travelers
As a starting pitcher Steve Marek ranked in the 30-40 range of our Top-50 Prospect Report. But, as I said in an edition of our "Ask" segment, he's easily ranked a lot higher as a reliever with two plus pitches. Marek pitches in the low to mid 90's, touching 97 MPH, and has a hammer curve. When the Angels converted him back into a reliever it was the right move as his lack of a consistent changeup was hurting his value as a starting pitcher. The results of the move have spoken for themselves so far this year in Arkansas.

Marek has a 3.00 ERA, but has held opposing hitters to a .218 batting average while fanning 46 hitters in 36 innings as the Travelers setup man. He has a good chance to be a part of what looks to be a dynamite bullpen for the Angels in the future.

8. Brandon Wood, Shortstop, Triple-A, Salt Lake Bees
If we told you that we had a minor league player who has slugged 12 HRs in 45 games while at AAA, posting a 535 SLG%, and was only 23 years old, most of you would be salivating over the chances of seeing him play in the majors. Well, those are the numbers for Brandon Wood as of June 24, 2008.

Yes, he strikes out too much and needs to walk more. Yes, he needs to cut down on his swing and stand deeper in the box. Yes, he was working on that while readjusting to 3B at the major league level. Sure, Brandon Wood was overmatched this year—that’s to be expected. He wasn’t supposed to be a full-time starter this year and was supposed to be working on his swing at AAA where it is a lot easier to make adjustments. But, if the past week is any indication, he’s made some serious progress, raising his average up to 278.

What we liked most about Brandon Wood this year is that he is making much better pitch selection this year compared to last year. He’s swung at more fastballs than he did in the past. Unlike the past, he hasn’t been fooled as much when swinging and instead has just been missing at fastballs—an indication that he’s still struggling to incorporate the changes that he’s needed to make. And, in spite of it all, he’s handled playing both SS and 3B without showing much of a drop in defense at either position.

Brandon Wood is going to need to win a spot next year in Spring Training. If he does, he needs to be handed the keys to the spot and the locker for half a season to see if he can make the adjustment to the majors. He will most likely struggle, but we are going to have to stick with him through the struggles because when he figures it out, he has the potential to change games with one of his swings.

9. Mark Trumbo, First Baseman, High-A Ball - Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
You know how we know that Mark is a very smart guy? He turned down a scholarship to USC to sign with the Halos. After getting his $1.425 million as an 18th round pick in 2004, baseball folk have been wondering when he was going to start living up to his potential. Well, we can wonder no more.

Tabbed by Eddie Bane as having the most raw power in the Angels minor league system, Mark is breaking out in 2008. Halfway through the year at Rancho, he is hitting .289 with 23 doubles, 49 RBI, and an organization leading 19 home runs. If he keeps this up, Casey Kotchman is going to be looking over his shoulder.

10. Anthony Norman, Left Fielder, High-A Ball - Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Anthony Norman, who was undrafted out of UCLA last year and signed by the Angels as a free agent, led the Arizona League in batting in 2007 with a .362 average, finished fifth in hits (63), fifth in runs scored (40), sixth in RBIs (33), third in on-base percentage (.440), fifth in slugging percentage (.500) and first in triples (10). Norman was also an AZL Postseason All-Star, the AZL Most Valuable Player and the Topps AZL Player of the Year.

Penciled in the Cedar Rapids lineup to start the season, Norman got a bump up to High-A Ball after an injury opened the door for him-- and he has taken the promotion with flying colors. Norman, who has the best plate discipline in the organization, has 46 walks to match his 46 strikeouts. Norman has taken advantage of his on base skills and speed, swiping 30 bases at the midway point, while only being caught twice.

Anthony, has also shown the ability to drive the ball, as he has knocked 12 HR's while knocking 12 doubles and 6 triples batting .274 on the season and a solid .923 OPS. Norman's arm is average which will relegate him to left field, but that is OK considering his offensive potential. The only knock on Norman is that he's considered old for his league. , But considering Norman was drafted out of college and got a late start in his Baseball career, that is no knock on him. It'll be interesting to see how Norman does against higher levels of competition.

11. Ryan Aldridge, Reliever, Double-A - Arkansas Travelers
After losing a year to shoulder injuries, Ryan is back on track. In what is becoming a deep battle for bullpen spots, Aldridge has a live arm and the ability to get guys out. In 15.1 innings, he’s only allowed 3 walks and 9 hits while striking out 20. Three of those hits came in one inning, so, when isolated, he’s been dominating.

At 24 and in Double-A, Aldridge is not too far off track to still make it—especially when considering he lost a year to injury. In May, Eddie Bane said that Ryan is “getting healthy enough to start showing how special he could be.” If there’s a chance that Aldridge could improve on a 0.59 ERA and a .164 BAA, then he truly is something special.

Look for Aldridge to most likely finish the season at AA with a potential late season callup to Salt Lake City. There’s no reason to rush him, especially coming off of an injury season. But, he could get a long look in Spring Training next year and could be on the shuttle to the majors, so definitely keep an eye on him.

12. Sean Rodriguez, Second Baseman, Triple-A - Salt Lake Bees
Sean got a cup of coffee earlier this year and, as we all know, he struggled at the plate. One thing that became readily apparent regarding Sean's game is that he can pick it defensively. He was very impressive with the glove and it appears that he will able to handle either middle infield position with relative ease.

The question for Sean is will his offense be there to match his defense. So far things are looking up for him at the plate. After a breakout year in 2006, when he hit .307 with 29 hrs and 86 RBI with time spent at Rancho and Arkansas, Sean struggled a bit in 2007 with a .254avg, 17hrs, and 73 RBI in a full season with the Travs. He was off to a very solid start this year to warrant his callup, and it appears that he doesn't like spending any more time in the minors as he is doing all he can to get called back up with 13 hits in 38 abs (.342avg), 4 hrs, and 8 RBI since his demotion. A big clue to his progress as a hitter has been his 20:17 BB:K ratio with the Bees this year which is a drastic improvement over the 1:2 rate he had posted in his minor league career prior to this season.

13. Michael Anton, Starting Pitcher, High-A Ball - Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Anton dominated the Midwest League, posting a 2.40 ERA, while notching two 9 inning complete game shutouts with the Kernels, which earned him a promotion to High-A Ball with the Quakes 2 weeks ago. Anton, a southpaw, has a fastball in the 88-92 MPH range, a solid average breaking ball, and a changeup that is one of the best in the minors.

Though his first two games with the Quakes have been rough, Anton has the makeup and assortment of pitches to become a solid pitcher in the big leagues in the mold of Joe Saunders if he continues to keep the ball down. The true test for Anton will be how he fares against tougher competition at higher levels, so how he finishes with the Quakes will determine where we rank him in our end of the season, '09 Top-50 Prospects List in December.

14. Tyler Chatwood, Starting Pitcher, Arizona Rookie League - AZL Angels
The kid we just drafted (and signed). Ranking him here before he’s thrown a professional pitch says 3 things about him and the organization. First, it says that Tyler has the potential to be a top-end pitcher. With comparisons to Roy Oswalt, he could be a steal in the draft, having slipped a bit due to his height (5’11”).

Second, it says that as an organization, we’re willing to buck the norm and look at Chatwood’s potential regardless of whether or not he meets the magical 6’ mark for pitchers. Chatwood works in the low 90s, but has reached the mid to upper 90's with his fastball and he has a plus pitch curveball. His changeup is developing, and, in our organization it will be developed.

Third, it says that our organization is deep, especially in pitching. In many organizations, their top pick immediately becomes one of their top 5 prospects the moment he signs. In our organization, Chatwood will still have to prove himself and work his way up the ladder. We have pitchers at all levels with potential. Chatwood will have to earn each promotion, but, with his stuff, he should be able to do so. Definitely keep an eye on him.

15. Kevin Jepsen, Reliever, Triple-A - Salt Lake Bees
Congratulations to Kevin for being selected to the Futures squad. It appears that he's now healthy after having various arm issues that started in 2005. He's a fireballer that gets plenty of strikeouts but allows his fair share of walks. The Angel's organization appears confident that he has figured things out as he is now in AAA after finishing last year in High-A ball. After racking up 35 K in 31.2 IP and a 1.42 ERA for the Travelers, Kevin has been solid for the Bees in his first 10.2 IP with a 3.38 ERA and 12 K.

No doubt he will be on the bubble to fill out the pen in 2009, and could end up playing a big role as a late innings guy or perhaps as a closer (31 saves over the last 2 1/2 seasons).

Disappointing 1st half

• Sean O'Sullivan - After winning back to back league ERA titles and being named the 2007 Angels Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Sean has struggled in the high octane California League. His ERA has ballooned up to 6.35! At 19, he still has plenty of time to turn it around.

• Trevor Bell - Recently demoted from Rancho Cucamonga (High Single-A) to Cedar Rapids (Low Single-A), this former first round draft pick also struggled against the stiff competition and the explosive parks in the California League. So far, things are going better for Bell back in Cedar Rapids, and, throughout the whole situation his BB:K ratio has remained relatively good.

• P.J. Phillips - With a 12:74 BB:K ratio, he’s not helping himself to take advantage of his speed (21 SBs so far). And, with only 3 HRs in 270 ABs, and a 367 SLG, he’s not showing the power potential he should be posting in a hitter’s league. If PJ wants to continue to climb towards the majors, he’s going to need to demonstrate better plate discipline which will help him achieve more power.

• Anel De Los Santos - While catching may be viewed primarily as a defensive position within the organization, a catcher still needs to hit above the Mendoza line. Unfortunately, Anel is not, posting a 187 average in 203 ABS. With a 5:60 BB:K ratio, it’s a felony that he’s murdered so much empty air instead of so many baseballs.

• Rich Thompson - With a 4.38 ERA this year in Salt Lake City (Triple-A), this Aussie is not building on last year’s surge through minors that saw him get a cup of coffee in the majors. With surprises in O’Day and Arredondo, the rising competition from Marek, Jepsen and Aldridge, and the present competition from Bulger, Thompson may be sinking fast on the depth chart.

• Others to mention: Jeremy Moore, Brok Butcher, Hainley Statia and Robert Fish.

Season Impacting Injuries

• Matt Sweeney - Matt, still considered a top prospect within the Angels organization, badly damaged his ankle in spring training before he could even get into spring minor league games, and it cost him the entire minor league season. We anticipated a big season from Sweeney this year with the Quakes, but he'll have to wait until next year to show the organization and fans that he is a legit run producer from the hot corner.

• Young-Il Jung - After seeing him pitch in spring camp, popping the catcher's glove with his fastball, we thought that this was the season for Jung to come upon the scene and show the type of stuff that he did while in Korea. Instead, he's still having throwing arm issues and rehabbing in Arizona, and we're not sure he'll pitch in minor league games this season. Note to all of the Korean Baseball coaches and managers: 190 pitch games from your starters every 5th day IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!!

• Chris Pettit - Pettit who had an incredible season combined between Low-A and High-A Ball last season and was up for a big test this season with the Travelers in Double-A. Just a couple weeks into the season, Pettit broke his foot and has missed more than 2 months of action The good news is that he's back with the Travs, so monitor his progress with Arkansas from here on out. Chris got off to a slow start initially before the injury, so let's see if he can turn it up a few notches to finish out the season so he could jump to Triple-A in 2009.

• Jon Bachanov - The Angels 2007 1st pick in the draft, never got a chance to pitch in pro ball last season and has since had Tommy John surgery. He most likely won't make his debut with the Angels until May or June of 2009. Bummer!

• Miguel Gonzalez - After posting a solid campaign with the Travelers (3.37 ERA in 19 starts) and being named a post-season All Star in the Texas League last season, the right-handed strike thrower suffered an arm injury in winter ball pitching in the Mexican League. Miguel is rehabbing in Arizona, but there is no timetable for his return at this point.

• Others nicked up: Tim Schoeninger, Terry Evans, Hank Conger, Jeremy Haynes, Ryan Mount, Rich Thompson, Kendry Morales, and Seth Loman are others that have either missed significant action of the '09 season or in fact the entire season.

2008 Surprises

• Jose Arredondo - From demoted to promoted within 1 year, this setup man/potential closer has done it all this year. He’s sporting a 1.56 ERA in 17.1 innings and is striking 8.31 batters per 9 innings.

• Darren O'Day - Who says you can’t win a job in Spring Training for the Halos? That’s what O’Day did with an impressive spring and is still doing it in the majors sporting a 3.91 ERA. He’s making a case that he should be a mainstay in the pen.

• Matt Brown - Matt Brown has already been a bit overshadowed while posting solid numbers, but this season he just blossomed. For a while he was dominating AAA pitching hitting around 380 with power. He’s still posting a 330 average and a 996 OPS and should earn a corner infield backup spot with us or another team.

• Kevin Jepsen - After spending the entire season last year in Rancho Cucamonga (High Single-A) and posting solid numbers, Jepsen has just blown through AA and has already been promoted to Salt Lake City (Triple-A). He could see some time in the majors in September with a chance to earn a spot next spring.

• Anthony Norman - The counterpart to Bourjos at Rancho, Anthony Norman is a 5-Tools corner OFer in development. While a bit old for the league (23), he is only in his second professional season. He is definitely a sleeper well worth keeping an eye on.

• Honorable Mention: Jason Bulger, Anthony Ortega, Francisco Rodriguez (AA), Dan Denham, Brad Coon, Giancarlo Alvarado and Shane Loux.

Five Prospects to keep an eye on

• Angel Castillo - Kicked off the 2008 season with a bang with the Owlz, clubbing two HR's and going 4-5 against Ogden. Keep an eye on Castillo as the outfielder has tremendous power. He's currently hitting .392 and has 4 HR's already!

• Gabe Jacobo - Drafted in the 10th round by the Angels, Jacobo ranked second in the Western Athletic Conference in home runs as a sophomore with 14 and had 13 this season. He has strength in his short swing, enough bat speed to catch up to velocity, and a high finish that gives him loft power. He's currently hitting .342, with 5 doubles, 1 triple and 1 HR in just 9 games playing 1B and some 3B.

• Ryan Chaffee - Chaffee should be reporting soon to the Orem club soon as he has already signed for $338,000. Ryan pitches in the low 90s and throws a plus changeup. When healthy and commanding all his pitches, Chaffee can be dominant.

• Ben Johnson - Catcher's that hit for power always draw attention and Ben Johnson has shown that he can catch and club HR's as he's 2nd to Trumbo in the organization with 18 dingers so far.. Mathis & Napoli aren't exactly productive on the offensive side, so Johnson could see some time if he continues to punish opposing pitchers and look good behind the dish.

• Ryan Mount - Debuted with Hank Conger for the Quakes 3 weeks ago after rehabbing in Arizona with a leg injury all spring. Ryan Mount has the ability to put up some solid numbers across the board in Rancho for the remainder of the season. Ryan has seemed to have found the plate discipline he had before last season, as he's walked 10 times against 14 strikeouts, and has already paid dividends with his stick with a walk off HR. A left-handed hitter with some pop that plays 2nd base always intrigues us.

• Keep an eye on these prospects as well: Ivan Contreras, Mason Tobin, Clay Fuller, Freddie Sandoval (Fantastic utility player), Nick Green (has done well in the PCL considering he's a fly ball pitcher), Andrew Romine (has gotten hot of late), Nicholas Farnsworth, Tyler Mann, Alexander Torres, Josh Blanco, Manuarys Correa, Daniel Davidson, Jayson Miller, William Smith, Ryan Braiser, Jose Perez, Chris Scholl and Andrew Taylor.

Best Tools

Best Hitter for Average - Peter Bourjos
Best Power Hitter - Mark Trumbo
Best Strike-Zone Discipline - Anthony Norman
Fastest Baserunner - Peter Bourjos
Best Athlete - Peter Bourjos, Tyler Johnson, PJ Phillips
Best Fastball - Jordan Walden
Best Curveball - Trevor Reckling, Steve Marek, Nick Adenhart
Best Slider - Jose Arredondo, Jason Bulger
Best Changeup - Michael Anton & Nick Green
Best Control - Sean O'Sullivan
Best Defensive Catcher - Anel de los Santos
Best Defensive Infielder - Andrew Romine
Best Infield Arm - Sean Rodriguez
Best Defensive Outfielder - Peter Bourjos
Best Outfield Arm - Julio Perez

Friday, June 27, 2008

By Eric Denton, Columnist

For many years Angels fans felt like the red-headed stepchild of Southern California baseball. However, times have changed and it’s the Halos time to shine. While the Dodgers still do well at the box office, they just aren’t the same franchise they used to be. The years of tradition they had were flushed down the toilet by FOX and Frank McCourt. Without further adieu I give you many reasons why there is room on the Angels bandwagon if you want to get off the sinking ship that is Dodgers baseball.

10. The Rally Monkey
Is there a team in baseball that gets more out of its mascot than the Angels? If the Angels are down in the later innings and those videos play, more often than not it spells doom for the visiting team. So much so that the Oakland Athletics will not watch the videos like other opposing teams do.

9. Angels fans stay for the entire game, less stabbings.

 fans3.jpg picture by chuckster70
Southern California has the rap of the fans not showing up to the games on time and then leaving in the 7th inning. Not at Angels Stadium. The fans know if the Halos are down in the 9th inning a walk off victory could be just a few minutes away (The Angels had 4 in a 6 game series in June alone). And while you’re headed out of the park after a win, you’re much more likely to reach your vehicle without major blood loss.

8. Angels Stadium doesn’t smell like pee.

 Latrine.jpg picture by chuckster70
I’ve been to my fair share of stadiums; Oakland, San Francisco, San Diego, New York. However, I never experienced the discomfort I did the last time I was at Chavez Latrine; I was overwhelmed by the smell of urine coming from the men’s room. The odor wafted down from the concourse to the field seats. Disgusting!

7. Vin Scully is creepy.
Attention Chris Hansen, keep your eye on Vin Scully. Every time I tune into a Dodger game Scully will make creepy comments about the little boys and girls in the stands. He's a living legend, but he should've hung them up years ago.

6. Kevin Malone = FAIL

In 1999 the Dodgers general manager fired Mike Scioscia as manager of the Dodgers AAA team, which led to his hiring by the Angels. Since that time the Dodgers have had four managers, two of the celebrity type in Davy Johnson and Joe Torre and no World Series to show for it.

Well we know what has happened since Sosh took over. Since 2000, he’s brought the Angels their first World Series Championship and is currently leading all active managers is winning percentage. 751-624 (.547)

5. Angels Second baseman doesn’t look like a 1980’s porn star.
Enough said....

4. Angels are 14-7 in their last 21 meetings.

 DODGERSANGELS.jpg picture by chuckster70

The lowly Kansas City Royals give the Angels a tougher time than the Dodgers. I used to make bets on the Freeway Series with the Dodger fans at my workplace. No more, they accept the inevitable and would rather keep their money. The Angels vs. The Dodgers has turned into those wrestling matches where King Kong Bundy would fight a little person.

3. FAIL, part 2.
In the winter of 2003, the Dodgers passed on signing then free agent Vladimir Guerrero. However, this wasn’t the first time the Dodgers missed out on Vladdy. In the Fox Sports produced “In My Own Words” it was revealed that the Dodgers also passed on signing the teenaged Guerrero because he was deemed “too fat”. Not to fret Dodger fans, you still have your memories of the Guerrero you did sign.

2. FAIL, part 3
Speaking of fat... Good call on signing Andruw Jones.
Torii Hunter was very interested in signing with the Dodgers. "The Dodgers are definitely near the top," Hunter told Yahoo! Sports. "With Joe Torre there, things have got to change. He's bringing his history with them. I'm telling you, they're going to start winning."

Hunter was no soothsayer, that’s for sure, and luckily for him, Angels GM Tony Reagins stepped in and stopped Hunter from wasting the next 5 years of his life.

1. Arte Moreno vs. Frank McCourt.
From the day he took over as owner of the franchise Moreno has put the fans first. From lowering beer and concession prices and has shown a willingness to spend money when the team needed a boost from a free agent. The team has won the division 3 out of 6 seasons under his guidance and is in-line for another in 2008.

The day Frank McCourt took over the Dodgers he told the press he would have preferred to own the Boston Red Sox. Since he took over as owner there have been three general managers and three field managers.

Read fan reaction or comment on this article on our message board here

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

By Chuck Richter - Executive Editor

Real quick, let's go around the horn on some of the hot items in Angels Baseball this week and what Angels fans are talking about after the Philadelphia Phillies sweep. Check out in this week's feature what Angels fans are talking about on our forum & some information on our upcoming Summer Fanfest on July 5th.

  • According to Jerry Crasnick at ESPN, Ervin Santana & Joe Saunders are the best 1-2 combo in the pitching rotation in all of Baseball. Who can argue? It's pretty sick when Lackey is the third wheel eh. Check out the discussion on the board here
  • Kelvim Escobar threw 32 pitches today in the ASL and was hitting 92-94 mph on the radar gun. The Angels were "very excited" about his velocity and Escobar said he felt "Great!" afterwards! Kelvim will pitch Monday in Rancho Cucamonga for the Quakes.
  • On Tuesday, Cedar Rapids pitcher and former 1st round pick Trevor Bell was fantastic on the mound, pitching a complete game, while giving up just 1 run and striking out 7 hitters. It is the 7 strikeouts that is note worthy as he pledged before the game to give $100 bucks per strikeout to the Cedar Rapids flood victims. The end result was $700 of his own money that was donated to the families that were affected by this disaster. Major kudos to Trevor Bell.
  • If you were Mike Scioscia how would you set the pitching rotation after the All Star Break? If it were me, I'd go with Lackey, Saunders, Santana. Garland and then Weaver. Chime in on our message board here to sort your rotation and why.
  • So with our current roster of offensive performers, do you think we need a MOTO (middle of the order bat)? If so, who and what player or players could we offer to a club that will be sellers on the July 31st trade deadline? Give us your two sense here on the board.
  • Lastly, sign up now for our 2008 Summer Fanfest on July 5th!! The event will feature an members softball game at El Camino Park in the city of Orange at 10:00 am. Then we'll have a couple grills cookin' up some ballpark food and supply side dishes and drinks for our tailgate party starting at 3 pm (Under the Big A). A surprise appearance by a member of the Angels will join us during this time. Next, a big group of us members will watch the Angels take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Lastly, we'll head on over to Throwbacks for our first "official" shindig at an Angels fan friendly bar that has partnered up with the Angels and For more details and to sign up for this event, navigate here to RSVP.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

By Kevin Mark - Columnist
Former Salt Lake Bees pitcher Steve Shell made his Major League debut for the Washington Nationals last Sunday. In the game Shell pitched one inning and retired the Texas Rangers in order. Tonight against his former team the Los Angeles Angels he pitched two innings, giving up no runs, two hits, while striking out one. I was able to see both games on television and it was exciting to see Shell finally make it to the big leagues.

For two seasons I watched Shell work hard as a starter and reliever for the Salt Lake Bees. But despite the hard work and Major League talent, Shell could never find a level of consistency and at the end of the 2007 season he was released by the Angels. During the off season Shell signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals. After posting a 2.62 ERA and a 54/14 K/BB in 58.1 innings for Washington's AAA team at Columbus Shell got the call to the Major Leagues. Steve Shell is a talented pitcher with three Major League quality pitches. If he is able to find consistency he will be a positive addition to the Nationals bullpen.

What I remember most about Shell's career in Salt Lake is that he is a great guy. Before a game that he wasn't scheduled to pitch he would always take the time to visit with fans and sign autographs. He was a good friend of Dave "Net Man" Pratt and I know Dave would be very happy and proud of Shell for making it to the Major Leagues. I am also happy for Steve Shell and I wish him nothing but good luck. I am rooting for him to have a long and productive Major League career.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Will GM Tony Reagins make a deal this July?

By David Saltzer - Columnist

It’s That Time of Year Again . . . for TRADESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!

Yes, once again, Angels fans know the offense is struggling and want to see a championship in October. So, how do we get there? Do we need to make a trade to fix the offense? Or will we stand pat as usual?

If history is any guide, odds are we won’t be making a major trade. So far, Mr. Moreno has said that there is no available player out there presently who “wows” him. But, it’s also clear that our offense is in a funk—a funk that has lasted 3+ years, even with the addition of Torii Hunter. Our offense is prone to funks and cannot afford to have another one at the wrong time, such as in the post season. The lineup still needs another MOTO (middle of the order) bat—one with a high OB% who can have a multiplying effect throughout the lineup. So the question is: where can we fit another MOTO bat on the field to improve the team?

The best way to see where we can fit in a new player is to measure our current lineup and project our future lineup to what our needs are and what could be filled internally. There’s no point filling a hole that doesn’t need filling and there’s no point making one hole just to fill another.

Right now, we need a MOTO bat, preferably a lefty, with a high OB%. And, in the future, we will still need that. Our best potential MOTO lefty bat is Mark Trumbo, who is playing at Rancho, and who still needs to work on improving his OB%. While he could fill that position, like Kendry Morales, he plays 1B which most likely will be manned by Kotchman and still needs to improve his plate discipline to be that presence in the order that we need.

By 2010, our infield appears to be set. Kotchman’s defense and steady hitting will most likely make him a fixture for the infield. Kendrick is still starting to blossom, will relatively cheap due to his arbitration years, so, he’s most likely not going anywhere. Shortstop is most likely covered by either Wood or Aybar who again will be relatively cheap and productive. 3B will still be manned by Figgins with his improved defense and leadoff abilities. Catching, which Scioscia views as a defensive position, could receive a major boost offensively with Hank Conger’s arrival.

As for the Outfield, there could be a lot of transition here. Even with his struggles, Vlad will most likely be resigned. The Angels want a Hall of Famer, and Vlad is exactly that. He’s already showing signs of coming out of his season-long slump, and will still be good for around 25 HRs, 100 rbis and a 300 BA. However, his defense is definitely declining and as much as he may not want it, he needs to move to the DH spot.

Hunter will be on year 3 of his contract, and should be earning every penny of it. However, his spot in the OF may be changing. Already, we are seeing signs of our potential future CF at Rancho in Peter Bourjos. By 2010, he could be making his debut in our OF, possibly taking over CF. Hunter could move to RF giving us an incredible defense in the OF. That leaves LF as a potentially open position.

Most likely, GA’s option will not be picked up. While he has meant a lot to the organization over the years, his offense and his health are both in decline and not likely to get better. He could be replaced by GMJr, but, the reality is that GMJr does not fit the profile of the player we need to boost our offense. He’s not a MOTO bat, and, he’s not a leadoff/2-hole hitter. So, while Mr. Moreno’s checkbook may not like it, we will need to find a way to trade him or sit him and replace him with a player who better fits out lineup needs.

Looking at that future team in 2010, the vast majority of it is right handed. Vlad, Kendrick, Hunter, Bourjos, and Wood are all righties and Kotchman is our sole lefty (Figgy, Aybar, and Conger are all switch hitters). So, if we are going to make the move for a MOTO bat, ideally, he should be a lefty.

So, who presently fits our needs? Three players come to mind. But, before I get into this, I have to issue the standard disclaimers: I have no knowledge if any of these players are or will be available—these are just my thoughts as to who could fill our needs. And, I have no special knowledge about the other teams’ needs—only making a guess on the value of the player.

The first player is that comes close to fitting our needs and who might be available at a reasonable price is Adam Dunn. He should be a lot easier and cheaper to trade for since he will be a FA next year and will most likely leave his present team for greener pastures. While many point to his low BA, he still gets on base at an amazing rate and hits for power. Sure, Dunn won’t hit as many dingers in Anaheim as he does in Cincinnati, but, he’ll still hit plenty of doubles for us and will post a SLG over 500. While I don’t know their needs fully, I believe they need a leadoff hitter and a SS, so, a combination of Willits and Izturis could get the job done.

The second player, Lance Berkman, would cost a LOT, is most likely not available but would fit the mold perfectly. Berkman is still on the younger side of 30, can play in the field or DH and is an ideal MOTO bat. Most likely he is not available, and, if he were available, we’d have to pony up most of our farm to get him (think M. Cabrera type trade). I doubt we’d make that move, although, Berkman is in the middle of a long term deal—so the money issues are more well known with him. If Houston decides to go into a serious rebuilding mode (again unlikely), he would be the one prize worth pursuing.

The third player, Jason Giambi, most likely will not be considered due to his age, his steroid past, his salary, and because he is not the ideal defensive fit for us. He’s 37, but, is posting great numbers, hopefully steroid free. It’s highly unlikely that Mr. Moreno would take a gamble on him due to his stance on steroids (although Giambi is one of the few who has come away from the scandals with his image not totally ruined). However, if the Yankees offered to eat a large portion of his salary this year, and Mr. Moreno approved for the character issues, a trade for Kendry Morales and Adenhart might get the deal done.

Looking at our needs and looking at what’s out there, I can see why a trade for us is not likely. Our needs and what’s available don’t match up. Who knows if any of those players are available? Who knows who else is available (such as Holliday or Bay?). But, the key for us to is recognize and work towards filling our need for a MOTO bat who can play either OF or DH both now and in the future.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

(LHP) Daniel Davidson - Arkansas Travelers

Interview Conducted by Columnist - David Saltzer

On June 1st, Daniel Davidson returned to the Arkansas Travelers after returning from extended Spring Training. Daniel had been rehabbing from rotator cuff surgery last year for a variety of ailments.

Originally drafted in the 13th round of the 2003 Amateur Draft, Daniel led the Pioneer League in ERA while at Orem and finished third in the league in wins. In 2004, the lefty led the league in starts and finished third in the league in wins. Davidson led the 2005 Travelers in wins with 13 (making him second in the league). After a difficult year in 2006, Daniel had the honor of throwing the first pitch ever Dickey-Stephens Park, home of the Travlers. He was posting great numbers last year when he was shut down due to injuries.

Since his return this year, Daniel is off to a good start with a 1.17 ERA. With the emergence of many new offensive players, and with the return of Davidson and others, the Travelers captured the 1st half Division title making a great comeback from 8 under 500!

While Daniel Davidson may be new to many on the board, for some, he is no stranger. Many on here were lucky enough to meet him in person during Spring Training when he stopped by to meet the crowd.

Now that he’s back to pitching, it’s time to catch up with him again and to get to know him better. When did you start playing baseball?

Daniel Davidson: The earliest memories that I have of baseball are playing catch with my grandfather while he was sitting in his recliner. But organized baseball was around the age of 5. Have you always pitched?

Daniel Davidson: I pitched a little in little league and then when I turned 13 I started to pitch a lot more. I actually played all over the field more when I was younger. Great! What was your biggest accomplishment as a player growing up?

Daniel Davidson: I have two and both are from high school. I pitched in a game that my high school (Mosley High School Panama City, FL) beat Tate High from Pensacola, FL and they were the number 1 team in the state and top 5 in the country and then, in my senior year, helping lead our team to the state runner up. We were terrible the year before that. So I guess helping turn my high school program back around. That definitely is something to be proud of. Who would you say was the most influential in your pursuit to the big leagues?

Daniel Davidson: My grandfather. He is someone that has always been behind me in anything that I do. Now my wife and daughter are my driving force to get there. It sounds like you had a special relationship with your grandfather.

Daniel Davidson: Yeah, he was and is still a big part of my life. He helped my mom raise me for the most part. I talk to him about every 3 or 4 days or so. If I can be half the man he is, I will live a good life. Who was your favorite baseball player when you were growing up?

Daniel Davidson: Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones. Easy. So, I'm guessing you were a Braves fan growing up.

Daniel Davidson: Yeah I WAS. What has been your best 1-game performance in your career to date?

Daniel Davidson: That’s a tough question. Maybe the one that I had the other night to help win the first half title. I threw 4 and 1/3 with 1 run, 2 hits, and 6 strikeouts. It meant so much to this team that night. Who was it against?

Daniel Davidson: Springfield, the team we were battling against to win the first half. What part of your game do you take the most pride in?

Daniel Davidson: Throwing strikes. What part of your game needs the most improvement?

Daniel Davidson: More velocity would be nice. But other than that, getting my slider to have a sharper bite. What's been your favorite city to visit?

Daniel Davidson: Springfield, MO. The fans there absolutely love that team, maybe because it’s the Cardinals Double-A team. And they know the game. What is your favorite hotel chain to stay in?

Daniel Davidson: Embassy Suites, even though we don’t stay in one anymore. And the worst hotel experience you've had?

Daniel Davidson: I couldn’t tell you one other than the hotels in the Pioneer League aren’t the best. What has been your favorite field to play on so far?

Daniel Davidson: Angel Stadium. In the minors maybe Frisco and Springfield. Who has been the best player you've played with in the minors--both at the plate and on the mound?

Daniel Davidson: That’s tough to choose just one. Howie Kendrick was a phenomenal hitter. He can just flat out hit. Mathis, Napoli, Willits and Morales are all not to shabby themselves. On the mound, I got to watch Santana throw for a month or so in 2005 he was fun to watch pitch. Those are some good players. Who has been the best player that you've played against both at the plate and on the mound?

Daniel Davidson: Felix Hernandez in 2004 in the Cal League and then the hitter would be Alex Gordon. In the clubhouse, dugout or on the bus traveling to other cities, what was one of the most hilarious pranks you've either been a part of or witnessed?

Daniel Davidson: Some good ones--not going to use any names but I saw someone have another player’s bats sawed in half and then put them back into his locker like they were so when the player grabbed them to go hit he was a little upset. Also, I saw someone sewing the bottom of someone’s pant legs up so that when he went to put his feet in them he fell down or stumbled around. In our old clubhouse at Ray Winder someone nailed plywood up to the side of another guy’s locker so that he couldn’t get into it. Those are some good pranks. Of course you just observed these . . .

Daniel Davidson: Actually I really did observe all of them. I can’t keep secrets very well when I did something like that.

The Lighter Side of Daniel Davidson If there is one thing people should know about Daniel Davidson the person, it is . . .

Daniel Davidson: That young children have a soft spot in my heart. Maybe because my daughter is only 21 months old and when I see them I give them a baseball if they ask for it. One more thing to add is that God is important in my life. That's very generous of you. Kids always appreciate the players who go the extra mile like that or stay long for autographs.

Daniel Davidson: I think they do. What do you like to do besides playing baseball? What's your hobby?

Daniel Davidson: Umm, besides being with my family. I attempt to play golf (its funny how bad I am) and watching Florida State football. What's your favorite food?

Daniel Davidson: Tacos and burritos. From where?

Daniel Davidson: Taco Bell and then this little hometown place called Taco Casa. What kind of music do you listen to? What's in your CD player/Ipod right now?

Daniel Davidson: Country and Christian music. Cd player in the car has this CD that has a bunch of different country songs What TV shows do you watch?

Daniel Davidson: CSI:Miami and Sportscenter/Baseball Tonight. What's your all-time favorite movie?

Daniel Davidson: Karate Kid easy. What's your most visited website?

Daniel Davidson: MILB and Speaking of websites, what do you think of

Daniel Davidson: I really like it. I think it is great that the Angels have fans out there that are interested in more than just the big league team. It is run great as well. How did you like hanging with the fans from the site in Spring Training?

Daniel Davidson: It was very cool. Like I said you guys on the website love the Angels and their organization. It was great to get to meet other fans than the ones we meet in our cities. Besides your wife, daughter, grandfather and mother, who will you call first when you get promoted to the big leagues?

Daniel Davidson: If I could would be God. Then after my family I have three friends. Scott Bostwick, Keith Moody and his dad James and Eddie Cannon. Well, that about wraps it up for the interview. On behalf of all the Angels fans, thanks for taking the time to chat with us and for sharing things about your life. We're all rooting for you and look forward to when you make your ML debut.

Daniel Davidson: Thank you very much and I definitely appreciate what you guys do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

By Chuck Richter - Executive Editor

The Good news - Howie Kendrick, Chone Figgins and now Erick Aybar are back with the big league club. John Lackey who made his first start of the season on May 14th, has been lights out for the Angels, throwing at least 7 innings in each of his 7 starts this season, with 5 of those 7 starts giving up just 1 run.

Kelvim Escobar was back on a major league mound Tuesday for the first time since October, throwing 76 pitches in a workout he called "a big step for me." An 18-game winner in 2007, Escobar went on the disabled list in March with a torn muscle in his shoulder. But Tuesday he threw 30 pitches to a catcher, then pitched a two-inning simulated game in which he faced four Angels hitters. Scioscia said the Angels will wait to see how Escobar feels in a day or two before scheduling another simulated game. If there are no setbacks, Escobar could be sent out on a minor-league rehab assignment before the end of the month.

On the minor league front, Jeremy Haynes (shoulder) made his season debut for the Quakes last Friday and quickly learned how tough the California League can be, especially when your command isn't there. Just ask Sean O'Sullivan, Tommy Mendoza, David Herndon and recently demoted to Low-Class A, Trevor Bell.

Hank Conger (labrum tear) ranked #3 on our Top 50 Prospect List, is back with the Quakes (as we noted 3 weeks ago) and DH'ing for now, but he's almost ready to strap on the catchers' gear and get behind the plate again as the shoulder is feeling good, just waiting for the doc's blessing.

28th ranked prospect, Second baseman Ryan Mount was activated off the DL after rehabbing in Arizona on the same day as Conger, and has been solid for the Quakes thus far. Mount hit a walk off 3-run HR tonight for Rancho Cucamonga.

Reliever Ryan Aldridge who was promoted to Arkansas over a week ago after dominating California League hitters, missed the entire 2007 campaign but has been lights out since returning to action a month ago, giving up just 1 run in 13.1 innings, while fanning 17 batters.

Chris Pettit, the Angels 9th ranked prospect who broke his foot after just a couple weeks of action with the Travelers, is headed to the AZL Angels club and he'll rehab there for a few games and then report back to the Travelers to finish off his season.

The Bad News - Matt Sweeney, 6th ranked prospect, is out for the season after having ankle surgery today. According to Matt, they had to re-connect a bone, remove bone chips and retie 4 ligaments in his ankle. They repaired both sides of Sweeney's ankle so we're not going to see him until next season, unless he's good to go in the AFL.

Terry Evans who placed on the DL on May 21st with a torn labrum and is rehabbing in Arizona. Evans injured his shoulder trying to break up a double play earlier in May, but kept playing despite the pain, potentially making it worse. There is no time table for his return to the Bees.

Cedar Rapids starting pitcher, Mason Tobin was placed on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain and LHP Chris Armstrong will join the Kernels from Salt Lake of the PCL.

Update from Baseball America (June 24th, 2008)

Los Angeles Angels
Signed: RHP Abraham Gonzalez (NDFA—JC of the Desert (Calif.)), RHP Josh Keller (NDFA—Oregon State), RHP Nick Pugliese (NDFA—Stetson)
Draft picks signed: RHP Tyler Chatwood (2), LHP Buddy Boshiers (4), LHP Drew Taylor (34)
Optioned to Triple-A: SS Sean Rodriguez
Placed on 7-day DL: RHP Derek Schlecker, RHP Juan Chevalier, RHP Michael Kohn, RHP Nick Veras, RHP Pedro Herrera, RHP Ryan Chaffee, RHP Tremayne Holland, LHP Gustavo Espinoza
Placed on 60-day DL: RHP Jon Bachanov, RHP Young-Il Jung, SS Chris Lewis
Transferred to 60-day DL: 3B Matt Sweeney
Reinstated from DL: RHP David Austen, RHP Jeremy Haynes, OF Adam Greenberg, OF Peter Bourjos

Bachanov, a supplemental first-rounder and the club’s top pick in 2007, is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bengie Molina could provide a boost to the Angels weak position in the lineup

Catcher: One position Angels may look to improve
By Adam Dodge - Senior Writer

During the Bill Stoneman era July 31st of each year proved to be just another day for Angel fans. The conservative General Manager did not make a major deadline deal while at the helm of the organization much to the displeasure of a portion of the fan base.

Tony Reagins is in charge now and while most view him as nothing more than a Stoneman clone (Angel fans should be so lucky), he has yet to negotiate a trade deadline of his own. Will he make a splash in 2008 and appease the those fans that feel that “standing pat,” regardless of the team’s talent and depth, is somehow contrary to a winning philosophy?

If Reagins is to try and improve the roster via mid-season trade it appears that the catching position is what we should keep our eye on. Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis have shared the catching duties, with each player getting the majority of starts at different points of the season. Both have played extremely well for short stretches, but neither guy has hit with any consistency.

Entering Friday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves, Mike Napoli is hitting just .205, after a recent slump that has seen him get just 2 hits in his last 33 at-bats. Napoli is tied for the team lead with 10 home runs, but hasn’t hit one since May 18th.

Jeff Mathis has been no better, hitting just .208 with 4 home runs heading into the weekend series versus the Atlanta Braves. Scioscia has given the majority of starts to Mathis recently opting for the better defender behind the plate.

The Angels are unlikely to make a major move again this season. Both Napoli and Mathis have done a fine job of handling the pitching staff and both are expected by Angel management to improve. However, it is the one area of the team we can expect Reagins to at least look at improving.

At the top of the list of available catchers this season might be former Angel Bengie Molina, who is in the midst of perhaps his best season. Molina is hitting .321 with 6 home runs and 42 RBI for the San Francisco Giants. A key piece of the Angels World Series Championship in 2002 under Mike Scioscia, Molina certainly understands the Angel philosophy and would fit right into the clubhouse. He’s also very familiar with Angel pitchers John Lackey, Scot Shields, Frankie Rodriguez and Ervin Santana.

The Giants are certainly not going anywhere, and are crippled by an old roster, with a high payroll. They need to get younger.

Of course, what San Francisco would want in return would be determined by the market for Molina, which likely would not include any of the elite American League teams other than the Angels. Every other contender in the AL has weaknesses other than at starting catcher. There are several National League teams which may have interest.

The Angels could offer one of their two young catchers and perhaps either Reggie Willits or Juan Rivera, who would immediately impact the weak Giants’ line-up. In the meantime they’d save several million dollars in payroll.

Will we see Bengie Molina back in an Angel uniform? Doubtful. But, he is the one guy out there that makes perfect sense for Reagins to pursue, especially if Napoli and Mathis continue to struggle at the plate. He’s an ex-Angel, who understands the pitching staff and can hit.

The Angels one weakness this season, like in recent seasons, has been offense. Bengie Molina makes the Angels a better offensive team, and is not yet a liability behind the plate. He’s made just two errors in 2008 and has thrown out a respectable 28% of the potential base-stealers.

Allowing Molina to walk after 2005 was arguably at least a minor mistake. It could be rectified if he were to help the Angels to win it all in 2008.

By Victor Varadi - Columnist

Overall Record: 42-28 Games Ahead: 3.5 Week Record: 3-3

Week in Review:

Joe Saunders (1-1) had his worst outing of the season, getting tagged by the Tampa Bay Rays. Saunders gave up 8 runs and didn’t make it out of the 5th inning in a game where the Rays hit a franchise record 3 home runs in 3 consecutive at-bats. The lefty from Virginia rebounded at the end of the week by shutting out the Atlanta Braves through 7 1/3 and helping the Angels avoid a sweep.

Jered Weaver continued his topsy-turvy season in spectacular fashion: 8 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 5 K’s. The only question is which Weaver will show up for his next start, the opener of a 3 game home series against the Mets. John Lackey mowed through a tough Rays lineup, limiting them to 2 runs through 7 1/3. Big John’s late season start may have cost him a spot on the All Star team, but it won’t keep from earning Cy Young votes. Jon Garland started a less than stellar weekend for the Angels by giving up 5 runs on 12 hits and took his first loss in 8 games. Ervin Santana, seemingly feeding off of Garland’s start the previous night, was equally as bad as the Braves denied him what could have been his 9th win of the season.

Honorable Mention: The entire pitching staff. They had an off week but still carried the team. The Angels offense has been asleep for 3 weeks and the pitching staff has been ridiculously stingy on the mound. Times were tough this week, but they still stepped up and got the Angels in the win column 3 out of 6.

Last week the Angels won 5 out of 6 while averaging a paltry 4 runs per game; things couldn’t get any worse. This week, the Angels offense averaged 2 and a half runs per game and in an attempt to get the bats rolling, Mike Scioscia posted a different lineup card almost every single night. The only ray of hope might be that Vlad Guerrero is finally heating up. In the 6 games played this week Vlad posted an even .500 batting average (11-22), 2 doubles, 2 homers and 7 runs scored.

The Bottom Line: While Vlad’s numbers were…well…Vlad-like, he only had 3 RBI to show for all his work. In an attempt to add depth to an otherwise shallow offensive lineup, Sosh dropped Vlad to the 4-hole. Needless to say, this is an experiment that should be short-lived. The lineup would benefit from opposing pitcher’s knowing they had to face a suddenly hot Guerrero in the first inning. With Figgins back at the top of the order, the offense should start scoring runs at a higher clip in no time.

The Week Ahead:

The Angels welcome the New York Mets to Anaheim for a 3 game set. The Angels have been National League killers in recent interleague play and that trend should continue against the struggling Mets. The big draw is Tuesday night with John Lackey squaring off against Johan Santana. Then the Angels take their act on the road to Philadelphia where they will face Ryan Howard and the Phillies. Howard was NL Rookie of the Year in 2005 and league MVP in 2006, but is struggling to find his form this season. The Angels hope things stay that way and should take both series’ handily.

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