Tuesday, April 13, 2010

5 Key Questions - Focus: Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 2010

By David Saltzer - Angelswin.com Senior Columnist

As both the Major League and Minor League seasons start, it’s time for Angels fans to get back into the rhythm of the game. Over the next few days, we’ll be taking a close look at each of our minor league affiliates to get to know the 5 key questions that each team needs to answer over the course of the season. In part two of our series, today we will focus on our other Single-A team, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (“high-A”) to see what key issues are affecting this team and to see what the fans should be most interested in watching.

Question #1: Who will the batting title: Amarista or Baird?
The 2010 Quakes feature two batting champions from last year: Alexi Amarista (who led the Midwest League with a .319 AVG) and Dillon Baird (who led the Pioneer League with a .372 AVG). AngelsWin.com ranked them as the Angels #7 and #25 prospects overall.

While Amarista is short in stature, his bat is huge. Abe Flores told AngelsWin.com that Amarista is a 5-tool player, giving a slightly loose definition to power (contending that Amarista’s gap power will generate plenty of doubles and triples). Abe Flores described him as a “real competitor” and someone “who can beat you in a lot of different ways.”

As a lefty 2B, Amarista projects to be a leadoff or #2 hitter in the lineup. Last year, Amarista nearly maintained a .400 OB% and nearly a 1:1 K:BB ratio. With the hitter-friendly nature of many of the Cal League’s ballparks, AngelsWin.com believes that Amarista should see a rise in his batting average and power numbers. At the same time, though, we’d like to see an improvement in his SB success rate. Last year, Amarista stole 38 bases, but was caught 20 times. Quakes fans should enjoy watching him torment the opposition.

Baird, on the other hand, is making quite a change this year. When we interviewed Abe Flores last December, he told us that Baird would see some time at 3B. Well, Abe gave us some good insights into the organization’s thinking because that defensive experiment is under way. What Abe didn’t tell us, though, is that Baird would be learning the new defensive position all while jumping over a level in development at Cedar Rapids! This should only help Baird long-term, as, if he can master the position defensively, he would become the best prospect at the hot corner.

As with Amarista, Baird’s power is more line-drive gap power. But, he should be able to generate more HR power, especially as he matures. At age 22, he’s a year older than Amarista, but has only had 1 season of professional baseball experience (he was drafted in the 11th round of the 2009 draft). Normally, the Angels require prospects to put in time at each level and earn their way up the ladder, but, the fact that they are challenging Baird by jumping him up to his age-appropriate league shows the faith that they have in his bat.

Question #2: Will Gabe Jacobo prove AngelsWin.com wrong?
When AngelsWin.com came out with our annual ranking of the Top-50 Angels Prospects, we ranked Gabe Jacobo as the #31 prospect in the organization for 2010. That was quite a drop from the year before when we had ranked him as our #13 prospect. One of our readers wrote in asking us about the drop between the years.

Last year was a tale of two seasons for Jacobo. He posted a .652 OPS prior to the All-Star Break and an .817 OPS afterwards. Abe Flores said that Jacobo was “pressing” too much at the plate which led to the lower results.

The good news is that Jacobo had a solid Instructional League this past winter and had some problems in his swing corrected by Todd Takayoshi (the Angels Minor League Field Coordinator and Hitting Instructor). The Angels still believe that Jacobo is still a run producer with power who will hit in the heart of the lineup. With an improved swing, we would like to see Jacobo prove us wrong and work his way back up into the higher echelons of our 2011 Top-50 Prospect List.

Question #3: Will Chatwood control it at home?
As the youngest player on the Quakes so far this year, Tyler Chatwood will have the experience of pitching in front of his friends and family quite a bit. That’s because our top pick in 2008 was drafted out of Redlands, California, a few miles down the freeway from where the Quakes play.

At 20 years old, Chatwood sports a power arm in a short package. He throws 92-95 with downward action, a power curve and a good changeup. Like most younger pitchers, Chatwood needs to learn to be more efficient with his pitches. He needs to learn how to put hitters away, especially when he jumps ahead in the count.

Chatwood’s first outing for the season demonstrated both his impressive skill and the needs that he has for development. In 5 IPs, Chatwood struck out 6, but walked 4 batters. He held his opposition to a .071 BA and his downward action generated a 3.0 ground out to air out ratio, which will help him maintain an effective ERA in the Cal League.

Overall, our #9 Top Prospect has all the makings of a future front-end of the rotation pitcher. At a young 20 years old, he is well ahead of the curve and should continue to dominate the Cal League.

Question #4: Will Smith show that he’s no legend?
Coming in at #13 on the AngelsWin.com 2010 Top Prospect list, Will Smith is the 2nd highest ranked LHP in the organization. Smith made quite a name for himself when you exploded onto the seen in 2008 when he amassed 76 strikeouts and allowing 6 walks.

Standing at 6’5”, Smith has a pitcher’s body, but is more of a command and control type of pitcher. Last year, Smith struck out 95 while walking only 24 in 115 IP, so his command was definitely there. Smith throws a 86-92 fastball, but should be able to add more velocity as he matures. Smith also throws a good changeup and curve.

At just 20 years old, Smith will be tested in the Cal League where hitters can punish pitchers who leave balls up in the zone. But, considering his age, he is a mature pitcher who competes in every game. When he’s on and has all 3 of his pitches working, watch out! He will be very tough.

Question #5: Can Scholl keep the streak alive?
At the end of 2009, Chris Scholl, the AngelsWin.com #24 prospect was on a tremendous run. He finished the year with a streak of 21 IP without allowing an earned run. Nice!

Scholl throws in the low 90s with good action and sink. Last year, Scholl improved his breaking ball to the point where it was a true swing-and-miss pitch. With an improved arm angle, Scholl did a much better job keeping hitters off-balanced last year, generating 90 Ks in 84.1 IPs.

So far, Scholl is off to a good start in 2010 and his streak is still alive. In 3.2 IP, Scholl has yet to allow an earned run. He’s struck out 4 and has yet to walk a batter. With continued results like this, AngelsWin.com believes that Scholl could be on the move this year and could rise very quickly through the organization.
Love to hear what you think!


Listen to "A Fish Like This" Tribute song to Mike Trout's Greatness

AngelsWin Media

We Recommend

 photo 8fbce79f-4964-43ef-a13d-ff1832b5e9a4_zpsd3c2ece7.jpg
Click on the picture above to pick up a copy of Rob Goldman's latest on Angels' great, Nolan Ryan. A Must Read for every fan of the Angels!

AngelsWin.com Website Store

 photo t_zps6af139fc.gif
Copyright © 2013 Los Angeles Angels Blog | AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com is the unofficial website of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Our comments and views do not express the views of the major league club or anyone affiliate with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  AngelsWin.com blog content, articles and opinions are provided "as is" and without warranties of any kind.  We disclaim warranties, express or implied, including warranties for a particular purpose, accuracy, completeness, availability, security, compatibility and non-infringement.  Blog material, articles and other information furnished or supplied by you to AngelsWin.com become the ownership of AngelsWin.com for use at our discretion.  Your use of AngelsWin content is at your own discretion and risk. We do not warrant that any content here be error free that access thereto will be uninterrupted or errors will be corrected. We do not warrant or make any representations regarding  the use of any content made available through AngelsWin.com  You hereby waive any claim against us with respect thereto. AngelsWin.com may contain the opinions and views of other members and users. We cannot endorse, guarantee, or be responsible for the accuracy, efficacy or veracity of any content generated by our members and other users. The content of AngelsWin.com is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only. Such content is not intended to, and does not, constitute legal, professional, medical or healthcare advice or diagnosis, and may not be used for such purposes. Reliance on any information appearing on AngelsWin.com is strictly at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in, or accessible through, the AngelsWin.com without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer or professional licensed in the recipient's state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.