Sunday, November 29, 2009

By David Saltzer—AngelsWin Columnist

Abe Flores is the Director of Player Development for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Abe to discuss many of the players and teams throughout the Angels’ organization. Over the next few days, we’ll present our interview with Abe in three segments. The first will be an overview of the various levels and the Winter Leagues. The second will be a discussion about many of the hitters in our organization. And, the third will be a discussion about many of the pitchers in the organization. How are things? What are you up to?

Abe Flores: Oh fine. Getting ready for the beginning of 6-year free agency. Seeing who wants to be over here and seeing if they see themselves as a fit. Obviously they are going to ask for a lot of caveats in their contract that we might not be able to expedite. They’ve got to be realistic. Can you give me an example of something that a minor-league player would try to negotiate into his contract as opposed to a major-leaguer?

Abe Flores: Out clauses (at some point in the season if we’re not on the big-league roster can you let us go?). Special agent language that a player gets a percentage or the agent gets a percentage of what they get sold for. Or maybe setting up a minimum of what they can get sold for. We haven’t had any type of agent language but I’m sure that there are a lot of variances of things that they would ask for. It’s just that we don’t. It’s a straight up contract. It’s a clean contract. It’s just their salary and usually an invitation to the big-league camp is the only other thing that we give them. We’re not into selling the players. That doesn’t do us any good. Some people do. If you want to turn a profit, and keep rolling and get new players in—that’s not what we want to do. We want to acquire them to help our ball club. Are there any specific needs in the organization that you are looking to fill?

Abe Flores: Yes. In the outfield. In the Triple-A outfield. And, an emergency pitcher that can go into the big-leagues at Triple-A. A Triple-A shortstop. Overall, how would you say that the Winter Leagues are going?

Abe Flores: They are going fine. The standouts have really been PJ Phillips and Alexi Amarista. I would also say Robert Mosebach. What are the reports you’re getting on Hank Conger?

Abe Flores: I think that the thing that has been most commented on by his coaches and his management is his consistent defense. Steady, good, solid—those are kind of the adjectives I was hearing. about his game-calling?

Abe Flores: Not an issue. What’s going on with P.J. Phillips? What’s changing with him?

Abe Flores: The transition from shortstop to the outfield around July ended up freeing his offense. He ended up being more comfortable at the plate. Being efficient on defense took a burden off of his offense. He just ended up getting better. He is still continuing to work on his recognition. He has definitely carried it through in Arizona Fall League where he has continued to be offensive at a higher level. How are Tobin, Walden and some of our other injured players doing?

Abe Flores: They are doing fine. They are currently in rehab-row which is basically a rehab facility in Arizona, our Spring Training home, and they are progressing. I can’t give you specific timelines and I can’t give you specific progress reports on each of those individuals but they should be fine. Most of them should be ready to go and start the spring training camp other than Mason Tobin who had some major work. We had a great draft this year. Who is generating the most buzz?

Abe Flores: Mike Trout. Randal Grichuk. Garrett Richards. Kehrer is another guy. It was quite a performance you had from the short season Arizona Angels team this year.

Abe Flores: Yes. It was a good mix of college, high school and junior college kids. Is there anyone you can see skipping a level next year?

Abe Flores: No because usually that’s not us. If I recall, Orem set a record this year for the most consecutive wins by the team in it’s history.

Abe Flores: You are correct. It was kind of a tale of two cities because at the beginning of the year they struggled. They were in games but they couldn’t quite finish them off. They had some trouble with their bullpen. But, once they got some of these guys who came in like Garrett Richards and Carlos Ramirez and, when some other guys stepped up when Segura got hurt, they started coming together and got on a roll. Unfortunately Rancho had a bit of a tough season.

Abe Flores: Yes. They came on late, though. If you want to call it the semi-finals of the Cal League, it’s the furthest we’ve been in the playoffs of the Cal League Playoffs probably in over I’d say 10 or 11 or 12 years. So it’s a group that kind of worked their way into getting a playoff spot. But once they were there they did some damage. And they took the eventual division winner to a Game-5, which was a club that was loaded, in High Desert. Arkansas as a team was a tale of two cities. You saw guys like Conger and Trumbo struggle in the first half (some of that may have been due to injuries) but in the second half there were some really great performances.

Abe Flores: I think the guy who really stood out and really took off and really blossomed in the second half was Trumbo. I can’t say enough about him. He continues to impress and continues to improve. He ends up being resilient even in times where he does struggle and he ends up coming through it. There were some times in that first half where you were biting your fingernails and just wondering if he’d come through it. It’s kind of like being a worried parent. But he ends up working his way through it and I can’t give enough credit to the staff there. Could you comment on the package that was put together for Kazmir? What does that say about our organization? What did the Rays get from us?

Abe Flores: They were getting 3 good players. To get a good player you have to give up good players. So it just shows that we had depth. Obviously a couple of A-ball players in a package ended up being sufficient to get a quality pitcher like Kazmir. It wasn’t an attempt to fleece anybody. I just look at it that if you want to get something good you have to give up something good. What can you tell us about Torres (one of the players traded for Kazmir)? He did put up some good performances at Rancho.

Abe Flores: Torres was a 3 plus pitch guy. He was a little smaller stature but has a power arm. He could throw you and show you 3 plus pitches on any given outing. With the Hot Stove starting up, I’d have to say that’s a big compliment to our overall organization especially at the lower levels.

Abe Flores: You are correct. Absolutely. It’s a compliment to our scouting staff and player development. A feather in our cap. What was the most interesting thing you had to deal with this last season?

Abe Flores: Well I wouldn’t call it interesting, but probably the most devastating was Nick Adenhart’s death. It’s one of those instances that you always worry about as a Farm Director—that you’re going to get a phone call and then having to help your minor league players who were with him and basically cope with it. You don’t get over it. You just cope with it. And helping them cope. That’s the first time that maybe that they have had to deal with someone their own age and death. And that can be devastating. That can be scary. There are a lot of emotions and a lot of strong emotions. So, I learned a lot from the people who worked with our players—the counselors—in terms of how to deal with it. It was phenomenal and I really respect what those people do. From the outside looking it, it was one of the more amazing things that the Angels did. How they drew together as a club and they honored him throughout the whole season—that he was there throughout the whole season and post season. I really have to tip my cap to the everyone in the Angels organization for how they handled that.

Abe Flores: You are right. It really was something to be proud of under some really unfortunate circumstances. Lastly, what are you looking forward to this offseason?

Abe Flores: Getting our 6-year free agents in our fold. Getting those guys under control. Getting some of our needs filled. Helping some of our rosters and shoring them up. I just can’t wait to get to camp and starting to get some guys going.

Abe Flores: Once again thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today.

You are welcome.

Editor’s Note: It’s difficult to believe how much of an integral role that Abe Flores has not only throughout the Minor League teams, but also the affect he has on the Major League club. Although Minor League Free Agents don’t generate the press or the money that the Major League Free Agents garner, they still play an important role in providing depth. Can anyone really imagine how our team would have fared in 2009 without someone like Palmer ready to go? Or how would we have fared without Bell and O’Sullivan ready to step into our rotation when we needed them? Winning teams and winning organizations owe a lot of people credit for their winning ways. In our case, Abe Flores and his staff are owed a lot of credit for having the depth in place when the parent club has needs or when Tony Reagins wants to make a trade. And for Abe Flores, the job is year-round with the moves he makes in November and December often panning out in August, September and October of the following year. Anticipating the parent club’s needs and developing the talent to fill those needs is an awesome challenge that Abe and his staff handle very well.

Look for part 2 of the Abe Flores interview on Tuesday.
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