Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sean Rodriguez and Brandon Wood are the top 2 in this week's Hotlist

By David Saltzer - Columnist

Once a week (Every Monday) will cover the top 10 hottest prospects in the organization. We will list their current stats and feats with a little blurb on each player. This is a great way for you Halo fans to find out who's hot in the Angels organization. It is important as a fan to know who is up and coming in the organization because prospects not only strengthen our team in the future, but they also become trade fodder for teams looking to rebuild who might give up an established player in the big leagues.

Covering the minor leagues has been something we at enjoy doing for for the fans and parents of the Halos minor leaguers, giving recognition to top performers for the previous week . The top 10 hottest future Halos will be covered here, but if you have any questions on other prospects in other organizations or if want to send your comments on our weekly lists, send me an email at and I will respond in a timely manner.

Now, on to this weeks' Prospect Hotlist....

1. Sean Rodriguez, INF, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
Past 10 Games: 12/36 (333), 1 Doubles, 1Triple, 4 HRs, 11 Runs, 8 RBIs, 0 SB
Overall: 312/410/665 with 19 HRs and 4 SBs

While Sean’s been working out at a variety of positions, one thing has been steady: His hitting. With only about 60% of the ABs as the league leaders, Sean’s numbers would rank him in the top 20 in several categories. Sean takes walks, hits for both average and power, and should get another shot to stick in the majors next year. The only question for Sean will be where he will play—either SS or 3B.

2. Brandon Wood, INF, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
Past 10 Games: 15/38 (395), 1 Doubles, 0 Triple, 6 HRs, 12 Runs, 9 RBIs, 1 SB
Overall: 290/356/587 with 23 HRs and 4 SBs

Brandon currently ranks 4th in HRs in the PCL with 71 fewer ABs than the guy above him. He’s ranked 5th in SLG and 11th in OPS. And this is after he got off to a very rough start while he bounced back and forth from the majors. Once he got settled and locked in, he has been much improved. With a strong showing in winter ball, Brandon should stick in the majors in 2009. The Angels will have to choose whether to keep him at 3B or SS, but either way, Brandon will be a power bat in our lineup.

3. Freddy Sandoval, INF, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
Past 10 Games: 21/41 (512), 6 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 HR, 6 Runs, 6 RBIs, 0 SB
Overall: 341/396/539 with 14 HRs and 6 SBs

For those who want to replace Quinlan, they need to look at Freddy Sandoval. He’s not overly impressive in any major category, but, can backup both CIF spots. Should he get the shot to win the job, his main competition will come from Matt Brown, another CIFer. Freddy offers better plate discipline and average, but Brown has more power and better defense.

4. Jason Bulger, RP, Class AAA Salt Lake Bees
Past 10 Days: 0-0, 3 Saves, 0.00 ERA, 3.2 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 9 K, 1.09 WHIP
Overall: 2-0, 13 Saves, 0.56 ERA, 32.0 IP, 20 H, 13 BB, 57 K, 1.03 WHIP, 177 BAA

Bulger is 5th in the PCL in saves. His 57:13 K:BB ratio is off the charts, and he is finally starting to show the mound presence, maturity, and composure to be an ML pitcher. That’s good because he has earned another shot at being one—but likely his last shot. When he gets up here, he needs to keep the movement on his ball (in previous callups the ball has not had much movement) and he needs to keep his composure better. If he does that he should stick as a 7th inning type player.

5. Sean O’Sullivan, SP, Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Past 10 Days: 2-0, 0 Saves, 0.00 ERA, 15 IP, 9 H, 2 BB, 11 K, 0.73 WHIP
Overall: 13-4, 0 Saves, 4.63 ERA, 114.2 IP, 119 H, 36 BB, 82 K, 1.35 WHIP, 262 BAA

After struggling with the adjustment to the high octane Cal League, Sean is finally returning to form that led him to win 2 ERA titles. Sean’s leading the league with wins. He’s 16th in ERA and strikeouts. And, he’s only 20—one of the youngest players in the league. Sean has the potential to be a top of the rotation pitcher. There’s no need to rush him—at his present pace he should hit AAA at age 22. But it is great to see him making the adjustments to a much tougher league and a much more explosive league.

6. Michael Anton, SP, Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Past 10 Days: 2-0, 0 Saves, 1.38 ERA, 13 IP, 10 H, 5 BB, 4 K, 1.15 WHIP
Overall: 10-7, 0 Saves, 3.26 ERA, 135.1 IP, 127 H, 43 BB, 86 K, 1.11 WHIP, 257 BAA

After a rough welcome to the Cal League (Sean O’Sullivan can talk to him about that), Michael is starting to turn the corner. He has 3 quality starts in a row, and 4 out of his last 5. Michael should finish up the year here and depending on how he does, may either start here next year for a brief refresher or may earn a spot in Arkansas.

7. Andrew Romine, SS, Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels
Past 10 Games: 18/39 (462), 4 Doubles, 0 Triples, 0 HRs, 12 Runs, 3 RBIs, 6 SBs
Overall: 253/334/672 with 2 HRs and 47 SBs

Andrew is a tall (6’1”) switch hitting SS with speed. Drafted in the 5th round last year, his speed and plate discipline (43 walks so far) could help him move up the organizational depth chart. Originally from Orange County (he played for Trabuco High School), he needs to work a bit on the fundamentals of base stealing (he’s been caught 12 times to go with his 47 SBs) and his defense (he has 22 errors in 98 games).

8. Drew Touissant, OF, Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Past 10 Games: 18/41 (439), 3 Doubles, 1 Triple, 3 HRs, 7 Runs, 9 RBIs, 0 SBs
Overall: 292/330/438 with 10 HRs and 5 SBs

For the past 10 games, Drew has been showing the promise that had fans excited when he was first drafted. At his best, Drew has power and speed. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always have plate discipline, and his power has been sapped at times. At this point, Drew is a bit behind the curve in development, having only briefly reaching AA this year (and struggling). But, since going back down to Rancho, it appears that he’s starting to figure things out more.

9. Brian Stavisky, OF/DH, Class AA Arkansas Travelers
For the Week: 15/39 (385), 3 Doubles, 0 Triple, 4 HRs, 9 Runs, 13 RBIs, 0 SBs
Overall: 338/418/580 with 12 HRs and 10 SBs

A month ago, I said that this veteran of the Texas League hit the ground running. Well, he hasn’t stopped. In an OF that has been plagued with injuries, and on a team without much firepower, Brian has been a very pleasant surprise. Brian should form the heart of a lineup with Trumbo and Pettit.

10. Amalio Diaz, SP, Class AA Arkansas Travelers
Past 10 Days: 1-0, 0 Saves, 0.60 ERA, 15 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 14 K, 1.07 WHIP
Overall: 8-6, 0 Saves, 4.08 ERA, 128.0 IP, 134 H, 35 BB, 83 K, 1.32 WHIP, 269 BAA

Signed out of Venezuela in 2003, and developed in our Dominican Academy, Amalio has bounced between A and AA for the past year and a half. For a 21 year old, he’s doing much better with this trip to AA, and needs to continue to spend time here to develop.

Others to Watch:

AAA Salt Lake Bees
Matt Brown

AA Arkansas Travelers
Mark Trumbo—just promoted so not ranked this week.

A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Bryan Rembisz
Jordan Walden—just promoted so not ranked this week.

A Cedar Rapids Kernels
Michael Davitt
Clay Fuller
Gabriel Jacobo—just promoted so not ranked this week.

Rookie Orem Owlz
Roberto Lopez
Jayson Miller

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

(Getty Images)

By David Saltzer - Columnist

When the pundits talk about what this trade means for the Halos, most likely they will talk about what effect it will have on the Angels heading into October and beyond. What they most likely won’t talk about is how this is a smart and bold organizational move.

By making this trade, Reagins sent multiple messages both inside and outside of the organization. Inside the organization, the message was twofold. First it sent the message that this team is committed to winning it all this year. Second, it sent the message that the Angels are willing to make moves to clear logjams within the system.

Winning it all this year is a strong and different signal from management than in previous years. It means that unlike previous years, management recognizes the talent this team has and is willing to gamble on it. No longer are we going to hear about how a certain trade proposal was “too high”, we’re going to hear how much Teixeira will help us reach the ultimate prize. So far, the players interviewed about the trade understand this and have been more than receptive of the message==the’ve been enthused by the message.

Additionally, with this move, Reagins sent the message that we will clear organization logjams as talent emerges below it. In the worst case scenario for this trade, one in which Teixeira only stays for 2 months, trading Kotchman relieves pressure inside the organization and nets us 2 more draft picks. Since our draft philosophy is to draft the best talent available, regardless of position, we have built up several logjams within our system. While not as gifted defensively, both Kendry Morales and Mark Trumbo may have higher offensive ceilings.

With our tendency to draft younger players, it makes it easier for us to continue to sign them to reasonable contracts by opening pathways for those who perform well. A talented prospect may be reluctant to sign with us if he foresees his upward path blocked and a management that is unwilling to clear it. He can use that logjam to negotiate a higher signing bonus or may be more tempted to reenter the draft by going to college.

By extending Teixeira, we can ensure that we will have the heart of a lineup that will allow us to promote players like Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez to insert into our lineup without relying entirely on them. Thus, we can have a steady mix of young an inexpensively talent to fill around a an offense that does not solely rely on Vlad. This will maximize our return on our investment in our prospects and maximize our investment in our veterans.

While the some fans may miss seeing a home-grown talent like Kotchman play, in order to maintain a perennial championship team, we will need to continue to develop players within the organization. And, as we develop the players, we cannot let our talent languish in the minors beyond its peak and risk potentially losing it when the player runs out of options or becomes a minor league free agent. It doesn’t do us any good to develop players only to see them succeed for other teams.

Outside of the organization, the messages are even more loud and clear. When Reagins was first announced as the new GM, many openly questioned whether or not he would clearly be pulling the strings. While we may never truly know the inner workings of the Angels management, on the surface this trade says that this is Reagins’ team and that he is running the show. As it stands, it appears that he convinced Arte Moreno to go against his policy of trading for potentially rental players to win it all this yar.

More importantly, this trade said that unlike some of his predecessors, Reagins is willing to move players that he has developed and he, or the organization, may have grown attached to in order to win it all. Reagins appears to understand that it is worthwhile to become attached to the players that we have developed. However, management’s ultimate loyalty needs to be to the fans who want to see a world champion team.

Additionally, it says that the Angels are once again willing to battle it out for supremacy of the LA baseball market. With the Dodgers struggling to hold onto a 500 record in a weak division, the Angels, with the best record in baseball, are in a position to gain fans and market share. Getting Teixeira and the attendant press associated with him will generate free publicity and buzz both locally and nationally.

Winning another World Series will make the Angels the top team to cover on the West Coast, will result in more nationally televised games, and more lead stories on newscasts. With the team nearly sold out in terms of potential season tickets, the best way for the Angels to increase revenue is to increase its market share. Through increased advertising dollars, fans will be able to still enjoy a day at the ballpark at a reasonable price while management can afford the payroll of an upper echelon team.

Finally, with this trade, Reagins is able to fulfill Arte Moreno’s statements about wanting to have a perennial championship team. Since his purchase of the team, Angels fans have languished at every trade deadline while watching other teams make deals. For a decade, the passage of the trade deadline without a major upgrade was a fait accompli. This deal sends the message that we aren’t willing to just “roll the dice” in the post season. Instead, we’re willing to take matters into our own hands to improve the odds.

As constituted, this team has the pitching and defense to more or less guarantee the post season. What it lacked was the hitting—especially the hitting to compete with the other AL contenders. The window for keeping all of this pitching together is dwindling, as we may lose K-Rod and Garland as free agents at the end of the season and the window on Vlad’s hitting may be closing as well. As any poker player knows, sometimes you have to go all in and risk it for the big payoff. With this trade, the Angels are making a bold organizational move for both now and the future by going for the big payoff.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

By Eric Denton - Senior Writer

On a day Southern California was rocked by a magnitude 5.8 Earthquake, little did Angel fans know that just a few hours later the ground would be shaking again.

This time the epicenter was based in Atlanta where the Braves agreed to send All Star first-baseman Mark Teixeira to the Angels for 1B Casey Kotchman and Double A pitcher Stephen Marek.

With Atlanta this season, Teixeira was batting .283 with 20 homers, while driving in 78 runs. The switch hitting, two time Gold Glover now moves on to the Angels, making the best team in baseball even stronger.

For many seasons Angel fans were routinely disappointed that the Halos didn’t acquire a middle of the order bat at the trade deadline. But this season, they got the best player available without having to give up the entire farm.

This off-season the Angels wisely backed out of a deal for Miguel Cabrera that would have cost them at least four players including Howie Kendrick, & Ervin Santana. Waiting until the end of July Tony Reagins was able to acquire a player just as productive in Teixeira. Finally the price was right.

There is some risk involved for the Angels, as Teixeira will be headed for free agency after the 2008 season is completed. To further complicate the issue, his agent is the dreaded Scott Boras.

However, this was a risk the Angels had to take. Clearly this is the best overall team Mike Scioscia has had since 2002 and it would have been travesty if the organization didn’t go the extra mile to trying to win a second World Series championship.

Casey Kotchman will be missed if the Angels are unable to re-sign Teixeira. But with Kendry Morales having a very solid year at Triple-A Salt Lake City the organization had the depth at first-base to be able to deal a major contributor from the 25 man roster in order to add some more thump to the lineup.

Teixeira and Vladimir Guerrero are now the West coast version of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. With additional help in the lineup from Torii Hunter, Howie Kendrick and the surging Garret Anderson and Juan Rivera, the Angels could now be the team to beat for the AL Championship if not the World Series.

Now it’s up to the players to execute and deliver. The front office and ownership has given them the tools they need to reach the ultimate goal.

Hopefully come October there will be a whole lot more shakin’ going on in Southern California.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

(AP Photo)

Darren O'Day is in the midst of his rookie season pitching in the Major Leagues with the Angels. The 25-year-old submarine-throwing reliever has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the big leagues, making his MLB debut in only his third professional season.

O'Day went undrafted despite a solid college career as a reliever at the University of Florida, but the Angels wisely signed him as a free agent. And 21 months later he was in the Angels bullpen.

Today O'Day begins an occasional column sharing his thoughts along the way of his first season with the Angels.

Hey, Angels fans. Chuck has asked me to share some the excitement I've been through the last six months with you. Hopefully, if he is persistent enough to remind me over and over to write these, we can make this a regular thing. I am writing from above the Grand Canyon, flying comfortably on the team plane, headed for a ten day East Coast swing against Baltimore, Boston and New York. The wild ride that has led me to this cushy seat, my own row, and excellent food started in February, on a plane with markedly less comfortable accommodations (middle seat and peanuts), heading the other way from Jacksonville, Fla., to Phoenix for my first big league spring training.

As a minor leaguer, an invite to big league camp is about the most exciting news you can receive in the off season. Spots are very limited in camp, and to be one of the few selected means the front office and coaching staff thinks very highly of you and your skills. It is not only a reward for what you did the year before, but an opportunity. It is a chance to test your mettle with the best players in the world, and show these coaches and players what you can do. I found out in mid-December that I would be attending and immediately started training harder than I had ever before. Our organization is so flush with talent that I knew my only chance to hang with these guys was to take it to another level. So, I packed up my belongings, said goodbye to the hometown crowd and moved an hour and half south to live with my brother, Kyle, in Gainesville, Fla., where I played four years of college baseball for the University of Florida.

Kyle is three years older than me, and as most little brothers do, I idolized him when I was little. He started playing teeball when he was 5, and of course I couldn't wait for my chance to get started. If my counting skills at the time weren't limited to how many fingers and toes I had, I probably would have started a countdown of days until my first game. I give Kyle (and my dad Ralph) the credit for getting me into baseball. As my flight accommodations came full circle above, so did Kyle's involvement in my baseball career.

Kyle trains Olympic caliber sprinters in Gainesville, and along with help from strength guru Rana Reider, he adapted their workout for my baseball needs. It was the most challenging regimen I have ever done, but far and away the most rewarding. Everyday I would leave the track, weight room and baseball field feeling defeated and weak, but knowing in the back of my mind that this is what I had to do to shine in spring training. I firmly believe that my hard work and Kyle's program is what put me into position to take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves in spring training, and ultimately got me to the big leagues. He is also a massage therapist, who specializes in soft tissue work, so not only did he spend many mornings putting me through his program, but many afternoons putting my body back together after he destroyed it! So he did all this and has still yet to receive compensation for any of it. What do you think says "thanks for getting me to the big leagues"???

When I started there, it was just me training alongside the sprinters, but as the winter wore on I had two training partners join me: Flint Wipke (playing at high-A Rancho) and Devin Thomas (a Tigers farmhand). It turned into a little training camp of sorts. Kyle and I agreed that we should try to do something formal in the coming years, so we can share the routine and up the intensity even more. So lookout for Camp O'Day, or baseball bootcamp, or maybe I'll let him pick the name.

This entry is getting long, so maybe in the next one I will talk about Big League camp itself. Hope you guys enjoy it, and thank you for reading.

- Darren O'Day

Friday, July 25, 2008

Casey Kotchman is a big part of the Angels success this season

By Bruce Nye - Contributor

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim keep on winning despite what many in the sports world believe is an unconventional path to the top record in Major League Baseball.

Along the way, Frankie Rodriguez is marching towards a record setting saves record. The Angels offense is among the lowest in runs scored, even though there are signs the season-long slump is coming to an end. Still they have the best record in baseball, yet continually the team is criticized or looked down upon. Why is this?

For starters, the Angels play on the West Coast and don’t get the coverage from the media-heavy groups in the East. Many don’t know what is happening with the Angels. The Angels play in the absurdly weak American League West, so there is not a lot of attention given to any of the teams. The Oakland A’s is the exception, but Billy Beane (A’s GM) has thrown in the towel preferring to re-build the perennially strong A’s.. Result: the AL West has all but given the division crown to the Angels for the 4th out of 5 years.

So what is the real story? Even though the Angels are beginning to score runs with frequency, the key to the ball club’s success is in pitching and defense. The pitching staff has racked up impressive numbers and placed three on the All Star team. The defense is solid as usual. Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia, who has long stressed fundamentals is seeing the fruits of his teachings. So how has this happened?

The team is built on a strong pitching requirement, pitching and more pitching. Drafts of the Stoneman/Scioscia years indicate this requirement. On the offensive side, Mike Scioscia stresses fundamentals from the second an Angel player is drafted. From the rookie leagues through AAA, the Angels stress the fundamentals that mean so much to Scioscia. First they draft players who fit the system. Scioscia demands speed and team players among the regular players. He is a strong believer in the 1st to 3rd base running opportunity. He demands they learn to bunt; he demand they execute the productive out; and, he demands they know how to squeeze. Scioscia wants any player activated from the minor leagues to be steeped in these fundamentals. If not, they do not get elevated to the major league squad.

The team is built on a 25-man roster and everyone is expected to contribute and at any time. In truth, the 25-man roster is expanded, because he reaches out to the AAA Salt Lake City Bees team to supplement his team anytime a player cannot contribute. So with use of the Disabled List, the Angels repeatedly are dipping into the Minor Leagues for a player or pitcher. The Angels must have millions of frequent flyer miles from Salt Lake City to wherever the team is playing.

Much has been written about Scioscia’s lineups. The conventional wisdom of stacking the team’s best hitters at the top of the lineup is not part of Scioscia’s plan. Continually, Scioscia fills out a lineup card with more emphasis on righty-lefty-righty; who can get a productive out (i.e. moving a runner the next base) than who is a better hitter. Taking a page from Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, who often bats the pitcher in the 8th spot, Scioscia believes in putting together a lineup that he thinks will give the team a better chance of winning.

This strategy, like moths to a flame has drawn criticism from sportswriters across the country as well as Angel fans alike. It’s an unconventional lineup, but one cannot argue with the results. As of this writing, the Angels still have the MLB’s best record in 2008. It remains to be seen how this unconventional strategy will work out come October, but so far devoted Angels’ fans need only say, “Scoreboard.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A small town team, looking as though they are beaten, suddenly become the '28 Yankees. The unlikely mashers; Kotchman with 5 hits, Kendrick with three doubles, 4 hits total, Matthews with 2 walks, a single and an RBI and light hitting catcher Jeff Mathis had 4 hits, a Grand Slam Home Run and 6 RBI's total. All taking place on the home field... of the Twilight Zone.

The Angels padded their AL West lead to 10 games over Oakland with a season-high 19-hit attack as they beat the Indians 14-11. The Angels' 10-game margin is their largest since Aug. 16, 1995, when they had a 10 1/2-game cushion.

It was the first time in Angels history that three players each had four or more hits in the same game. Mathis added a two-run double in the sixth and Kendrick capped the Angels' scoring binge with a two-run single in the seventh.

Next up..... The Baltimore Orioles on Friday at 4:05 PM

Sunday, July 20, 2008

By Victor Varadi - Columnist

This Week in Angels Baseball

Overall Record: 60-38
Games Ahead: 9
Week Record: 3-0

Week in Review: The week began by finishing off the first half of the season. The Angels sent Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana and Francisco Rodriguez to the All Star Game. The Red Sox sent half their squad to an All Star Game that has long since been nothing more than a popularity contest. The Angels got some of their best players off their feet and it showed as the break ended and John Lackey took the mound for the start of the 2nd half. Lackey wobbled early against the Red Sox, giving up 2 quick runs after the Angels staked him to a 1st inning 3-run lead. Then Manny Ramirez catapulted a home run over the big wall in right-center field. But big John bounced back and struck out the next 2 batters, getting his 1,000th career strikeout in the process, and cruised through 3 more innings. John’s final line: 7 innings, 6 k’s, 3 earned runs.

Joe Saunders came into the 2nd half after what must have been one of the craziest weeks of his life. First, Saunders became a father for the first time. Then he went to New York and was the 2nd pitcher called on for the American League All Star team. A few days later Slo-Joe showed why he was an All-star, stymieing the Red Sox through 6 and 2/3 innings. He didn’t get the win, but the team eventually did. Saunders allowed 2 runs on 6 hits in the no-decision. Jon Garland was not an All-Star but he sure pitched like one in game 3 against the Red Sox. He didn’t get the win either, but Jon Garland almost went 7 innings, allowing just 2 earned runs while striking out 6.

Honorable Mention: Francisco Rodriguez. As the fastest pitcher to 40 saves in baseball history, and likely the new record holder for most saves in a season, it is going to be a shame to watch this guy pitching for another team next year; but that is likely the case. Franky had 2 saves in the 3 game sweep. With each save that he notches the price tag on his new contract rises, and the likelihood of the Angels being a strong suitor becomes even more remote.

All the press talked about this weekend was how good the Angels would be if they could just hit. Well, how about 20 runs in 3 games? The best part about the Angels offense this weekend was how opportunistic it was. In Saturday’s game with the bases loaded and down a run in the 7th inning, Erick Aybar pinch hit for Jeff Mathis with one out and hit a bases clearing triple off of Josh Beckett to give the Angels a lead they would not relinquish. In Sunday’s game, Casey Kotchman came to the plate in the 8th inning of a tie game and runners on 1st and 2nd. With the prospect of hitting into a double play weighing heavily on his mind, Kotch went up there with the sole intent of not hitting “the top half of the baseball.” Kotchman instead cleared the bases with a double down the right field line.

The Bottom Line: The Angels might publicly say that beating the Red Sox in July doesn’t meant anything, but it is clear that there was a meaningfulness to the way the team played this past weekend. It was similar to the swagger the team carried into an early season series at Fenway where they took 2 of 3. Say what they want, but it was important to show the Sox they could be beaten by this team. And they weren’t just beaten this time, they were trashed.

The Week Ahead: The Angels ride a 5 game winning streak while welcoming the struggling, but still dangerous. Cleveland Indians. Then the team takes its major league best road record to Baltimore for 3 games. The tam will try not to look ahead to the following week where a 3 game series in Boston, with David Ortiz back in the lineup, will take on some serious meaning. The Sox will want to show that their early season struggles against the Angels were nothing more than an aberration.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sean Rodriguez is on fire in Triple-A for the Bees

Once a week (Every Monday) will cover the top 10 hottest prospects in the organization. We will list their current stats and feats with a little blurb on each player. This is a great way for you Halo fans to find out who's hot in the Angels organization. It is important as a fan to know who is up and coming in the organization because prospects not only strengthen our team in the future, but they also become trade fodder for teams looking to rebuild who might give up an established player in the big leagues.

Covering the minor leagues has been something we at enjoy doing for for the fans and parents of the Halos minor leaguers, giving recognition to top performers for the previous week . The top 10 hottest future Halos will be covered here, but if you have any questions on other prospects in other organizations or if want to send your comments on our weekly lists, send me an email at and I will respond in a timely manner.

Now, on to this weeks' Prospect Hotlist

By Jason Sinner - Columnist

1. Sean Rodriguez, 2b, Class AAA, Salt Lake Bees
Last 10 games: 16-42 (.381avg), 14runs, 4 doubles, 4 hrs, 15rbi, 2bb/8k
Season: .321avg. (168ab), 15 doubles, 15hr, 40rbi, 23bb/29k, 1.109ops

Sean has made the most progress of any player in the system from his previous season. He is hitting for power and average and is showing terrific plate discipline. There is no doubt that he has a future as a starter with the big club and unlike several others that are blocked at Salt Lake, the Angels will be making room for him. His defensive versatility could have just about anyone looking over their shoulder.

2. Jordan Walden, SP, Class A, Cedar Rapids
Last 6 starts: 1-1, 37.2ip, 25h, 12bb, 35k, 0.72era
Season: 4-6, 2.18era, 107.1ip, 80h, 32bb, 91k, .207baa

Jordan has absolutely dominated in his last six outings giving up a total of three earned runs. He has done everything he can to maintain his status as one of the Halos top prospects. With several of the farm’s upper level prospects faltering, Jordan is arguably the top hurler in the system.

3. PJ Phillips, SS, Class High A, Rancho Cucamonga
Last 10 games: 18-41 (.439avg), 5 doubles, 3hrs, 6rbi, 1bb/4k, 5sb/1cs
Season: .268avg, 17 doubles, 6 triples, 6 hrs, 40rbi, 14bb/85k, 26sb/5cs, .712ops

No doubt PJ deserves to be on the list this week. He’s stormed back from a horrible slump and now has very respectable numbers overall. The strikeouts are still a concern, but he has made some progress over last years numbers. Hopefully, this hot streak is a good sign that he is starting to turn the corner.

4. Freddy Sandoval, 3b, Class AAA, Salt Lake Bees
Last 10 games: 17-40 (.425avg), 5 doubles, 1hr, 3bb/0k
Season: .326avg, 29 doubles, 1 triple, 13hrs, 65rbi, 35bb/50k, .907ops

Poor Freddy. He is, once again, putting up excellent numbers while his teammates get all the pub. He may not turn out to be a super star, but this kid is going to be a starter for someone someday leaving Angel fans scratching their heads as to why we never gave him a legit shot. At the very least, it seems he could be an adequate replacement for Quinlan when the time comes.

5. Jason Bulger, RP, Class AAA, Salt Lake Bees
Last 10 games: 11.2ip, 0.00era, 6h, 5bb, 20k, 6 saves
Season: 2-0, 0.64era, 10sv, 28.1ip, 17h, 12bb, 48k, .172baa

I keep wondering when Jason is going to get the call. I think he’s proved that he deserves it with that ridiculous era and k/ip ratio. I imagine it’s only a matter of time. I truly hope he has figured it out and that his next recall is his last. If he can come anywhere close to being as good for the Halos as he’s been for SLC, then the team could always use him.

6. Jayson Miller, SP, Class Rookie Advanced, Orem Owlz
5 games (4 starts): 3-0, 0.34era, 26.1ip, 17h, 3bb, 24k, .185baa

One measly earned run and 3 walks in 26.1ip is pretty ridiculous. I think it’s clear that the Washington State product is a bit more advanced than the rest of the pioneer league. I am sure we will be seeing him in CR before long.

7. Trevor Reckling, SP, Class, A, Cedar Rapids
Last 5 starts: 3-0, 34.0ip, 27h, 10bb, 32k, 2.38era
Season: 7-2, 2.36era, 106.2ip, 80h, 47bb, 82k, .212baa

Trevor finally gave up some runs, but not very many. He continues to pitch very well with each and every start and in terms of overall numbers he is not far behind his teammate Jordan.

8. David Herndon, RP, Class High A, Rancho Cucamonga
Last 10 games: 9.0ip, 6sv, 6h, 0.00era, 3bb, 8k
Season: 3-6, 82.2ip, 5.01era, 99h, 15bb, 57k, .305baa

David’s conversion to a reliever is working out quite well so far as he is yet to give up an earned run as Rancho’s closer. He struggled mightily as a starter in the hitter’s haven that is the Cal League but it appears we may have another potentially solid pen arm at our disposal before long.

9. Ryan Aldridge, RP, Class AA, Arkansas Travelers
Last 12 games: 2.08era, 13.0ip, 12h, 1bb, 17k, .231baa

Ryan ruined his perfect era by giving up 3 whole runs in his first twelve games at Arkansas. With his stuff and control, it seriously wouldn’t have surprised me to see him go close to a whole season without letting the opposition score. In reality, he has continued to impress with just one walk and 17k in his first taste of AA.

10. Sean O’Sullivan, SP, Class High A, Rancho Cucamonga
Last 3 starts: 2-0, 19ip, 19h, 3bb, 9k, 2.84era
Season: 10-4, 5.63era, 92.2ip, 106h, 33bb, 67k, .283baa

Although not exactly dominant by Sean’s standards in his last three starts, the perennial era champion appears to have turned a corner from his early season struggles. The Cal league is a good test for any young pitcher and if Sean can prove that he is able to handle himself here, then he will be fine. It was never a question as to whether Sean would turn things around, but more a question of when.

11. Dee Brown, OF, Class AAA, Salt Lake Bees
Last 10 games: 14-34 (.412avg), 7 doubles, 8rbi, 2bb/2k
Season: .270avg, 21 doubles, 9hr, 52rbi, 49bb/47k, .791ops

Dee continues to do everything he can to find his way back to the majors. Just when you think he is going to tale off a bit, he finds a hot streak that makes you wonder if he’s on his way back up. His plate discipline has been excellent which bodes well although it’s a tough go being part of such a deep and talented organization.

12. Manuarys Correa, SP, Class Rookie, AZL
3-0, 1.50era, 24.0ip, 18h, 1bb, 29k, 0.79whip

The thin, hot air of Arizona has been no problem for Manuarys. After performing very well in the Dominican Summer League last year (2.16era, 87.2ip, 68k, 8-1), the 19yo right hander has kept it going strong in his next step.

13. Mark Trumbo, 1b, Class High A, Rancho Cucamonga
Last 10 games: 12-38 (.316avg), 3 doubles, 2hr, 8rbi, 3bb/7k
Season: .290avg, 28 doubles, 2 triples, 22hrs, 61rbi, 21bb/58k, .892ops

Mark leads the organization in hrs. Being relatively thin throughout the system in terms of raw power, the big 1bman’s development this year gives Halo fans hope that a true power hitter is marching his way thru the ranks.

14. Matt Brown, 3b, Class AAA, Salt Lake Bees
Last 10 games: 14-44 (.318avg), 4 doubles, 3hr, 10rbi, 1bb/7k, 3sb
Season: .326avg, 28 doubles, 4 triples, 20hr, 62rbi, 26bb/66k, .981ops

I think it’s pretty clear that Matt has figured out AAA and needs to start getting reps with the big club. He has the same problem though as there is just no room. Along with his fellow hot corner mate in Sandoval, Matt gives the organization tremendous depth at a highly sought after position.

15. Jordan Czarniecki, OF, Class AAA, Salt Lake Bees
Last 10 games: 12-35(.343avg), 2 doubles, 2 triples, 2 hrs, 9rbi, 4bb/4k,
Season: .300avg, 16 doubles, 5 triples, 9hrs, 33rbi, 39bb/43k, .890ops

As a new face in the organization, Jordan has certainly earned his keep. Although he’s not likely to see the majors any time soon, he is likely making it difficult on the power’s that be to write him off as a fill in. Hopefully, he gets at least a taste of what it’s like to play in the bigs someday.

Keep an eye on: Alexander Torres - The 5'10 southpaw out of Venezuela was brilliant in 4 starts with the Arizona Angels and has since been promoted to High-A Ball with the Quakes. He started last night for the Rancho Cucamonga club and pitched 6 scoreless innings, fanning 5. In 5 starts, Torres has a 1.23 ERA and has struck out 29 in 29.1 innings.

Worth Mentioning:

The Orem Owlz Offense

Say that ten times fast. Tom Kotchman has these guys raking. Just about the whole team could occupy the entire hot list so here are a few names to get to know:

Roberto Lopez
442avg, 12 doubles, 1hr, 16rbi, 16bb/8k, 1.115ops

Gabe Jacobo
320avg, 11 doubles, 2 triples, 4hr, 22rbi, 7bb/12k, .954ops

Luis Jiminez
.310avg, 8 doubles, 3 triples, 5hr, 25rbi, .899ops

Darwin Perez
.306avg, 6 doubles, 2 triples, 2hr, 11rbi, 16bb/21k, .916ops

Angel Castillo
.300avg, 5 doubles, 2 triples, 7hr, 20rbi, .947ops

Starting Pitchers, Dominican Summer League

Orangel Arena, DOB – 3/31/89
6-0, 0.88era, 51.1ip, 26h, 16bb, 43k, 0.82whip, .149baa

Ariel Pena, DOB – 5/20/89
4-3, 2.14era, 46.1ip, 39h, 13bb, 51k, 1.12whip, .223baa

Baudillo Lopez, DOB – 11/20/90
3-2, 2.53era, 46.1ip, 41h, 11bb, 64k, 1.12whip, .233baa

Fabio Martinez Mesa, DOB – 10/29/89
4-0, 1.64era, 44.0ip, 31h, 19bb, 54k, 1.14whip, .203baa

The numbers speak for themselves. I presume that there is no fence in any of the Dominican parks and they play with 12 defenders. That could be the only way to explain such gaudy stats. We make a big deal about our domestic prospects, but the Halos have a major presence in the Caribbean and it will be fun to see some of these guys come out of nowhere in a couple of years.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Trio of Pitchers Represent Halos in All-Star Game

By Adam Dodge - Senior Writer

The All-Star break is once again upon us and if 2008 is anything like recent years we can expect one thing – another American League victory.

Like in 2007, the Angels will be represented by three players. Joining Francisco Rodriguez, who earned the save in last year’s mid-summer classic, are two new faces to Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities.

Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders began the season as perhaps two Angels least likely to make it to New York. In fact, they were slated to battle it out for the fifth and final rotation spot when pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training in February, with the loser likely to begin the season in AAA in Salt Lake City. An injury to Kelvim Escobar put them both in the rotation to begin the season. 95 games later and the duo have combined to post a record of 23-8 with an ERA in the low 3.00s.

Both hurlers can expect to see action on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. Santana tossed seven scoreless innings on Saturday en route to his 11th victory, and should be able to take the mound for a few hitters on two days rest. Saunders, who was slated to start yesterday was left back in Anaheim to spend time with his wife and newborn daughter.

Saunders may be the most rested pitcher on the American League roster and might be counted upon to go multiple innings.

Don’t expect K-Rod to earn back to back All-Star game saves. Rodriguez is on a torrid pace with 38 saves already and barring injury should challenge, if not destroy the single season saves record. However, with the All-Star game taking place at Yankee Stadium, which closes its doors after the 2008 season, for the final time we can expect Mariano Rivera to take the hill in the top of the ninth of the American League has the lead.

However it turns out, the Angels will be well represented by three guys who are well deserving of the recognition they’ve received.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

By Jason Pritchett - Columnist

The Angels’ starting trio of “Smokin’ Aces” has garnered plenty of attention and accolades recently, as Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana were named to the 2008 All-Star team and John Lackey received the Pitcher of the Month award for June. Not to be outdone, the Angels’ bullpen is stocked full of its own aces, led by All-Star Francisco Rodriguez, and continues to play a vital role in the Halos’ success.

Due to the stalwart performance of the Angels’ starting rotation, which ranks 3rd in the American League in ERA and whose members frequently pitch into the 7th inning or later, their bullpen has actually thrown the fewest innings of any team in the A.L. as of July 8, 2008—but given the Angels’ offensive struggles this season, it becomes all the more important to have a consistent and reliable bullpen to finish off close games.

On the surface, the bullpen’s collective 3.97 ERA might not look all that impressive, ranking only 10th out of the 14 A.L. teams. However, the bullpen ERA is inflated by the weak performances by fill-in relievers Jason Bulger, Chris Bootcheck, Rich Thompson, and Dustin Moseley (who has made two relief appearances in addition to his five starts). Those four relievers have combined to allow 33 earned runs in only 27 2/3 innings pitched, accounting for 34% of the earned runs allowed by the Angels bullpen—even though they have pitched only 12% of the bullpen innings.

On the other hand, the Halos’ regular relief corps of Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields, Jose Arredondo, Darren Oliver, Darren O’Day, and Justin Speier has a combined 3.03 ERA over 194 1/3 innings pitched so far this season, a mark that would put them near the top of the A.L. if sustained over the course of a full season. The health and stability of this six-man bullpen over the remainder of the season will go a long way toward securing a return trip to the postseason for the Angels.

“K-Rod’s” record-setting pace for saves has been well-documented, and has perhaps overshadowed the solid work by the rest of the regular relievers. Justin Speier has struggled with left-handed batters, giving up six homeruns to lefties in only 72 plate appearances, but has limited right-handed batters to a .200 batting average. Rookie Darren O’Day has given up 11 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings so far this year, but 7 of those earned runs came in a mop-up role in two blowout losses to Oakland and Tampa Bay.

Set-up man Scot Shields has returned to form after a rough second half in 2007, which saw him register an uncharacteristically high 7.36 ERA while allowing close to two baserunners per inning. This season, Shields has rebounded to post a stellar 2.57 ERA and is allowing just over one baserunner per inning.

Lefty Darren Oliver has been another key contributor who goes largely unnoticed by fans and the media. After a rocky Angels’ debut in 2007 (13 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings in the first two months of the season), Oliver has been one of the most reliable Angels’ relievers, posting a 2.79 ERA over his last 87 innings pitched. Hardly overpowering (his average fastball is just under 88 MPH, according to, he relies on a mix of sliders and curves to keep hitters off-balance.

Oddly, although Oliver is currently the only left-handed pitcher in the Angels’ bullpen, he does not fill the role of “lefty specialist.” In fact, over the past two years, Oliver has been significantly more effective against right-handed batters, while left-handed hitters have given him a good deal of trouble. Since the beginning of 2007, Oliver has held righties to a .223 batting average and a .305 slugging percentage, while lefties have hit him at a .305 clip while slugging close to .500.

A new face, Jose Arredondo, has injected a jolt of energy to the Angels bullpen since his debut on May 14. Arredondo, who was converted to a full-time reliever last season after being a starter in the minors in 2005-2006, has put a somewhat troubled past behind him this season. Arredondo was demoted last season from AA to single A for “disciplinary reasons” stemming from an incident on the mound when he was pulled from a game, leaving some observers to wonder if he had the composure and makeup to be a successful reliever. His strong performance in spring training and at AAA Salt Lake earlier this season erased any doubts, and he has been virtually unhittable thus far in the majors. Mixing a mid-90s fastball with a developing change-up, Arredondo has shown remarkable control, walking only three batters in 20 innings while striking out 19 since his major league call-up.

Looking toward the future of the bullpen, Arredondo has emerged as a potential successor to Rodriguez in the closer role, should Rodriguez leave via free agency at the end of the season. Down on the farm, the next wave of Angel relievers is still developing. Bulger, Stephen Marek, and Kevin Jepsen are probably the closest to being ready to contribute on the major league level. Bulger, a former first round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is now 29, too old to truly be considered a “prospect.” Bulger has struggled in his 22 major league appearances spread out over four seasons, but reports out of Salt Lake tell of increased velocity on his fastball this season and he has thoroughly dominated the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, striking out more than a batter and a half per inning.

After mixed results as a starter at Rancho Cucamonga in 2007, the Angels have converted Marek to the bullpen this season, and so far the experiment has been a success, with Marek striking out well over a batter an inning at AA Arkansas while posting a 2.84 ERA. The Angels also converted Jepsen to relieving after he suffered setbacks as a starter in 2005. While Jepsen is still battling some control issues, he has increased his strikeout rate this season, while reducing his walk and hits-per-inning ratios. Jepsen was recently promoted to Salt Lake and either he or Bulger could provide relief help should the Angels need it later this season.

Photo by Randy Lawrence - Tim Mead speaks to members

By Eric Denton - Senior Writer Summer Fan-Fest 2008 is in the books, and a good time was had by all that participated. This was the first sponsored meet-up members have had since the Spring Training get together in Tempe in March.

The July 5th event started early over at El Camino Park in Orange, as Team Grit defeated Mota’s MOTO Wrecking Crew by the final score of “many” to “not enough”.

An AW member showed off their skills with the bat and in the field as the game was a back and forth battle during the early innings. You could say the participants were squaring the ball up well. The game even had a cameo from former Angel “Jose Guillen” who got into a dugout tussle with a teammate.

The game ended with no further incidents and the game ended around noon time giving the players opportunity to get cleaned up before the next part of the festivities at the Big A. Summer Fanfest Photos (Softball Game)

Tailgate time!

AW members started arriving around 1:30 pm and by 3:00 the air was filled with the smell of grilled burgers and hot dogs. This is where the party got kicked up a notch. There was plenty of delicious grub to choose from as AW contributed to a stellar feast.

It was also a chance for some community bonding as it was the first time that a lot of AW members were able to put a face to the screen name for the first time. Lots of laughs and stories were shared throughout the afternoon. The group was greeted with a surprise visit and impromptu Q&A from Angels VP of Communications Tim Mead, who spent some time answering questions from the fans.

As game time neared, AW members began filing into the stadium. A large group sat together and enjoyed the game; well “enjoyed” might be a strong word. Despite a late inning surge the Angels lost to the Blue Jays 7-5. Though the highlight at the game was a message that appeared on the scoreboard before the 6th inning that read “The Angels Welcome to Anaheim Stadium”. That was cool. Summer Fanfest Photos (Tailgate Party)

AW then had a chance to drown their sorrows over at “Throwbacks Sports Bar & Grill” for a night cap where owners Jason Brennan and Sohayl Saboori showed AW members some fine hospitality. More food and adult beverages were consumed and even more new friendships were formed.

The next few opportunities for official meet ups will be held at Throwbacks starting on July 23rd after the Angels take on the Cleveland Indians.

Followed by July 28-31 Angels watch parties hosted by Dave Smith of KLAA 830 for Angels/Boston and Angels/NY series. Tickets will be given away each night for NY series in early August. There are rumors that a few former Angel players throughout the week will show up as guest co-hosts. Be sure to get there at least 30 minutes before hand to get signed up for the ticket raffle to be held during the bottom of the 5th inning.

Finally, on August 6th, "Angels Talk" with Terry Smith will be live from Throwbacks directly following game with Baltimore.

After our ‘07 Summer Fanfest, Senior Writer - Adam Dodge tagged as “The Internet Hangout for Angels Fans”. Sounds about right to this fan, so make sure you get involved with this fine community at An Angels Web site of the fans, by the fans, for the fans.

Monday, July 7, 2008

(GETTY IMAGES) Garret Anderson

By David Saltzer - Columnist
July 6th, 2008

Driving home from Saturday night’s game (July 5, 2008) I heard Terry Smith comment in the post-game show that he believed the Angels would be compelled to make a trade to improve the offense if it doesn’t show signs of improvement by the end of the month. At first, I thought, sure, the offense is improving. After all, we’ve scored 5 or more runs for 4 consecutive games. But, as I thought about it, I realized that it’s a bit more complicated than that and in all likelihood, the offense is not improving as much as I had thought.

Take Saturday night’s game for example. We scored 5 runs for the whole game. But, 3 of those runs came in the 8th and 9th inning against the bullpen while only 2 came against Halladay, the starter. And Halladay is the caliber of pitcher that we are likely to face in the post season. By the time he left the game, we were down 7-2 with 2 innings left to play which essentially guaranteed the loss. So, that got me thinking about how good our offense has been against pitching we’re likely to face in the post season rather than looking at it overall.

From June 13th to July 5th, we played a total of 20 games. Our record for the stretch was 11-9. Overall, our offense scored 60 earned runs in 129.2 innings against the opposing starter pitchers. That’s an ERA for 9 innings of 4.16. Considering that 14 of those games were against sub-500 teams, that’s not an overly impressive record.

In 9 of our past 20 games, we faced one of an opponent’s top-3 starters. When narrowed down to our record in those games, we only scored 26 earned runs in 66 innings against our opposing top-3 starters. In other words, those starters held us to an ERA of 3.55—a full half run less than our overall record for the past 20 games! And, much of that ERA came on July 4th, when we scored 6 runs in 6 innings off of AJ Burnett. Subtracting his one game from our overall numbers results in an ERA for our opponents’ top-3 starters of 3.00 for 9 innings! Additionally, the average top-3 starter has thrown over 7 innings against us resulting in their teams’ bullpens pitching less than 2 innings. Considering that most teams going into the post season will have an above average closer, we will only have 1 inning to really try to score against our oppositions’ bullpens when facing a top-3 starter.

So what does this mean? Presently, our team’s ERA is 3.74. If we are only scoring 3.55 earned runs per 9 innings against our opponents’ top-3 pitchers, and the average top-3 starter throws just 7 innings against us, then on average, we will only score 2.76 runs by the time the starter leaves the game. By the time we bat in the 8th inning, our pitchers will give up on average 3.32 runs, meaning we will be down by over half a run per game with just 2 innings left to play! We would have to consistently score over 1.5 runs per game in the final 2 innings to win a series! That’s not likely to happen considering that one of those innings will be against our opponent’s closer.

Since June 13th, our offense has been together over the past 20 games, so we can use those games as a baseline to measure the offense. And, even though some of the guys have been banged up since then, we can’t use that as an excuse to discount the way it has played over the past 20 games. As many players have said, 162 games is a grind. So, discounting the offense since June 13th as an aberration due to injury is a fallacy as the offense in October will most likely be as banged up from the long season if not more so. That means what we are seeing now is what we are likely to see in October unless we catch lightning in a bottle.

So, is our offense good enough? That depends on what the goal is. If the goal is to win the A.L. West, then I would have to say that it is “good enough.” With a 5 game lead, and the solid pitching that we have, we should win the West. But, if the goal is to advance deep into the post season, then I’d have to say that our offense is not good enough because it will not score enough runs on average to win a series.

Sure, at first glance it appears that we are scoring more runs per game, but that is probably more as a result of facing sub-500 teams and the back end of rotations rather than facing the top-tiered talent that we are likely to face in October. We’re not likely to be facing pitchers like Morton, Eaten, Myers, Litsch, etc. in the post season.

At this point, it appears that we are compelled to make a trade to improve our offense because we do not have the type of bat that we need ready at AAA, and our offense is not generating the offense we need to win a post season series. While we can give the offense a little bit more time to try and gel, we can’t be lulled into a false belief about it by looking at the numbers overall. We need to look at the numbers in terms of how they would play out in the post season in order to determine if we need to make a trade. And, so far, the numbers in context do not bode well for the present team’s offense in the post season, so, we need to improve it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

By Brok Butcher - Arkansas Travelers starting pitcher
July 3rd, 2008

It's a hot and humid July night, I'm laying in one of the bunks on our sleeper bus that currently has no air conditioning. With around twenty five ball players on this bus, it is safe to say that the feeling is of a sauna on wheels. Half my team mates are shirtless with a glow of oil and sweat around their faces.

This sleeper bus is custom built with three sections consisting of thirty beds. As you enter the bus, the first section has four sets of triple bunk beds; the bottom bed is basically cushions on the floor that can fit no more than a two hundred pound person on an empty stomach. There is no room to turn over; the ceiling (where the middle bed begins) is about two inches from the face, basically a claustrophobics biggest nightmare. The middle bunk is a little bigger with more breathing room and the top bunk is basically the same square footage as the bottom bunk, the only difference is your about five feet above the floor of the bus. There are two flat screen TV's with almost every channel you could ask for.

There is a bathroom and a refrigerator dividing the first and second section with a sliding door. The second section is where the "suites" are located, all the bunks here are around the same size with built in cushions that gives you room to move around. Same layout as the first section, four sets of triple bunk beds, but have the luxury of more space, electrical outlets, and lights to read. The last section is where the coaches and trainers sleep, consisting of around six luxury "suites" with a TV in the middle of the room.

I am fortunate enough to get a "suite" in the second section, because I have more time in double A than the guys in the first section. That's how the beds are chosen, whoever has the most time in double A or higher gets the bunk of their choice. I barely made the cut and sneaked into the luxury section of the bus. It is unbelievably convenient to have a sleeper bus on a fourteen hour journey to Midland, Texas because you can actually get a decent sleep and can leave at eight o'clock at night instead of traveling all day on a normal bus while developing a bad back. There is a constant breeze on the bus with waves of flatulence that can power a diesel truck! Sometimes you feel as though you are bunking in an outhouse! But again, I can't stress how appreciative I am to have this bus.

Pitching has been rough, I would have to say it's the worst month of baseball I've had in my life. I'm thinking about mechanics, where my head is during delivery, staying over my back leg, finishing through the catchers mitt, having good tempo, staying closed................Basically I'm thinking too much! I have to remind myself that this is just a game and if anything, just have fun; the fun I had when I was twelve years old playing out of the pure enjoyment of the game. When times are rough, it tends to feel more like work which is the worst mind set one can have because the grind will get to you.

It is hard to be present to each moment when you have distracting thoughts, so I have learned to take the good with the bad, because the good isn't that good unless you've experienced the bad and vice versa. My next outing I have promised myself to be aware of the opportunity I have to pitch and to have fun. Hopefully my next blog will have better news, so until then, thanks for spending the time to read about my experiences through the minor leagues!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Angels’ Hopes Rest With ‘Big Three’

By Adam Dodge - Senior Writer

Beginning the 2008 season without co-aces John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar at the top of the rotation was cause for major concern within the Angels’ organization and its fan base. How could a team reliant on pitching to carry it to victory survive the early season without its two best? That question was answered immediately and emphatically.

Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders, expected in the off-season to wage a battle for the 5th and final spot in the rotation, have pitched more like number ones than number fives. In fact both may, if not, are expected to represent the Angels at Yankee Stadium in the All-Star game in two weeks.

Santana’s 9 wins are good for fifth place in the American League. His 3.28 ERA ranks eighth. And his 106 strikeouts are good for third. The 2008 version of the hard throwing right-hander is the antithesis of the pitcher that took the mound in 2007.

After a solid first two big league seasons, which saw him post 28 wins against 16 losses, Santana regressed in 2007 losing twice as many decisions (14) than he won (7). Most of his troubles occurred on the road where he posted a despicable 8.38 ERA.

Aside from the well documented mechanical issues, which plagued Santana a year ago, it has been his performance on the road in 2008, which has propelled him to consideration as one of the top right-handed pitchers in the American League. His 6-1 record away from Angel Stadium leads the Angels’ staff.

A crisper fastball, tighter slider, developing change-up and pin-point command have put Santana in the ace category, at least thus far in 2008.

Saunders, a former first round pick, had walked through the revolving door between Anaheim and Salt Lake the past two seasons. Prior to spring training and the injuries to Lackey and Escobar it appeared as though 2008 would once again see Saunders struggle to maintain a place in the Angels’ rotation, despite posting 15 wins against just 8 losses in his first two big league seasons.

Once thought to be a valuable insurance policy, Saunders takes the hill today against the Oakland Athletics looking to add to his League leading 11 victories. His 1.15 WHIP is good for ninth in the American League and his 3.06 ERA ranks seventh.

Saunders has taken above average stuff and kept away from the middle of the zone. He has pitched like a ten year veteran and has risen to the occasion in crucial situations.

The contributions of Saunders and Santana as well as the rest of the pitching staff, have allowed the Angels to absorb the early season losses of Lackey and Escobar. While Escobar is likely out for the remainder of 2008 and possibly beyond John Lackey is back.
Lackey has made nine starts since returning from the disabled list in May. He has pitched into the seventh inning or beyond in each of them. His 1.44 ERA would lead the Major Leagues if he were eligible (innings pitched). Amazingly, Lackey looks significantly more dominant than he did when he won the AL ERA title a season ago.

With a struggling offense, the Angels will once again count on the arms to carry them to an American League West title and beyond.

The emergence of Santana and Saunders as front line pitchers is huge but is trumped by the return of Lackey, who is pitching better than anyone in the game. Lackey can shutdown anyone and with the All-Star break just less than two weeks away Mike Scioscia can shuffle the rotation, placing Lackey in the top spot followed by a likely combination of Saunders and Santana in the two and three spots, allowing those guys to match up against other teams’ second and third starters.

This is a big advantage to the Angels, who are still searching for offensive continuity.

While the offense can be expected to be better, in fact, much better in the second half it will still lack the potency of the other contenders in the American League – notably the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. The Angels will once again rely on pitching to get past their playoff foes come October.

The good news is Lackey is pitching better this year than at any point last year and Santana is developing into a strikeout pitcher, which have traditionally been more successful in the post-season than their pitch-to-contact counterparts. And Saunders…well he just wins games.

On starting pitching alone the Angels will have a chance against anyone come the Fall.

Jose Arredondo has provided the same lift to the bullpen as Santana and Saunders have to the rotation.

All in all, the Angels appear to be a better pitching team than they were a season ago and they continue to get better.

Scary to think how good this team might be if three hitters can get as hot as their three aces.

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