Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Notes from Orem
By David Saltzer, Senior Writer

Just prior to the All-Star Game, I had the chance to head out to Orem, Utah to catch the Owlz, coached by Tom Kotchman (yes, father of Casey) to see how the youngsters are doing on the farm. If you’re an Angels fan, and haven’t been up to Salt Lake City to catch the Rookie-A team in Orem or the Triple-A team in Salt Lake, you really should take a drive up the I-15 or catch a flight out. It’s not a bad drive (I did it in 14 hours with my family including three children age 4 and under) and a short flight on a plane (less than 2 hours from Southern California).

Here are some notes on the game:

The Stadium:

Located on the campus of Utah Valley University, the stadium is very kid friendly. There is a fun-zone for kids where they have a bouncy-house, batting game (with wiffle-balls), pitching game, skee-ball game, and a very large jungle-gym playground. Ticket prices are very affordable: $10 for the Premium seats (which without advance ticket purchase still put me in the front row behind home plate), $7 Reserved for a few rows back and $4 general admission on the lawn ($2 for kids 12 and under). As for food, no food or drinks (including water bottles) are allowed inside, but the prices are 20-25% less than comparable items in Anaheim. No alcohol is served in the stadium. Avoid the hot dogs—they are not good. But, they were grilling up burgers that looked tasty. Parking is very easy ($4), and getting to the stadium is fairly easy off the I-15. Almost all of the workers were very friendly and eager to help. The view of the Wasatch Mountains was very nice.

The In-Game Entertainment:

Minor Leagues are minor league. But, they tried really hard. I was there for the game, but, there were plenty of people out on the lawn area who were looking for a good time. You have to hand it to the staff for working very hard to try and entertain the crowd and recognize it’s not going to be the same level of experience as it is in Anaheim. Still, there were lots of activities between the innings from frizzing hair contests, dance-offs, best (male) abdomen, etc.

The Players: General Comments

First off, I didn’t get a chance to see everyone on the team play. The Owlz were playing Casper’s team (Colorado). But, I did get a chance to talk to several of the players during and after the game (starters who aren’t playing sit in the stands to scout both their team and the opponents).

Most of the players with whom I spoke were very welcoming and appreciative. When I saw Caleb Graham and Carson Andrew after the game, both were very polite and cordial. Both said “Thanks for coming out to support us.” By their looks and their tone, you could tell that they meant it.

I also spoke with four scouts from different teams during the game to get their take on the current and past players for the Owlz. Consistently they all said “they are young”; “it’s too early to tell”; “we’re just looking to see the tools”. For those on the board who are upset by the performances of some recent draft picks to date, I asked them point-blank about that. They all said that “it takes time, but that [they] want to see the tools develop.” They all agreed that by age 20 (one said 21) and by the end of the season they want to see players dominating in the Pioneer League to gauge them a legitimate prospect, but, other than that, none would were concerned with how any one player started the season, especially at this point in the season.

When I saw the team, the defense was horrible. The starters I talked to said that their defense isn’t the greatest, but it isn’t that bad either. The umpiring was mediocre, which put some hitters and pitchers in bad counts and situations, so, again, take some of the stats with a grain of salt.

On the chances for the Owlz reaching the post-season, all the scouts agreed that this team isn’t as talented as last year’s team or even the year before, but that the overall league isn’t as talented. One scout called it “soft”. They all agreed that Kotchman is “the man” and that he can guide them to another post season.

The Players: Specific Comments on Current Players

Drew Heid (LF): Short for an outfielder (5’10” seems a bit generous). Not a powerful build or a projectable build. Average speed, but he got good jumps. Great plate discipline (he went 0 for 3 with 2 walks leading off), swinging only at hittable pitches. He had the look of Abreu from last year, taking borderline pitches and working the counts. The scouts agreed that Heid had a few things working against him: Lack of speed or power and his age (he’s 22—drafted as a senior). One scout had followed him all through college and said that even with those knocks “If his bat can play, [the Angels] will find a way for him to play. Look at Eckstein.” I asked them all about moving him to second in the lineup in the future (he’s a lefty with good plate discipline) and all thought that that might be a good idea.

Travis Witherspoon (CF): Projectable build with above average speed and slightly above average power (he hit an HR to dead center about 420 feet). Good jumps in the outfield. One scout said “he’s a player”. Another said to “keep an eye on him.” Both agreed that he has the speed to play CF defensively and could hit about 10-12 HRs on a regular basis and steal 10-15 bases yearly in the Majors.

Daniel Tillman (RP): Possibly the best player I saw in the game for either side. Good heat (94 consistently hitting 96 once). Good breaking ball which he threw for strikes (recorded on strikeout on a good slider). His pitches had movement. He worked the zone well. The scouts debated whether he was the best reliever in the league at the time. One scout immediately called him the best in the league. Then another scout mentioned another player (whose name I didn’t catch), and then they all agreed that Tillman was the second best in the Pioneer League to that other reliever.

Carson Andrew: Solid work holding down Casper in the middle innings. Had to battle shaky defense (at one point the scoreboard had it at 6 errors on the night before some official changes were made). But, he never lost his composure. Upper 80s heat with some low 90s. Mixed his speeds well. Good location and kept hitters off balance.

Bryant George: A little bit small for a prototypical pitcher’s body, but, almost the same scouting report as Andrew. Good mound presence, especially considering the poor defense behind him. Upper 80s to low 90s heat and mixed speeds well. Good location that kept hitters off balance.

Max Russell and Brian Diemer: I did not see either play but the scouts told me to keep an eye on both of these guys as they can pitch. Both were drafted this year by the Angels (Russell in the 4th round, Diemer in the 6th).

Comments on Specific Players: Former Players

Jean Segura: One scout said “I wanted him in a trade and was told flat out he was unavailable.” Another scout went so far as to bring his scouting director out to look at him to try and get him in a trade (instead of another player in our organization at a higher level that they were considering) and was also told that he was not available. The scouting director for that team agreed that Segura was a substantially better talent.

Fabio Martinez-Mesa: “He can pitch.” Another scout said “Wanted him in a trade and was told he was unavailable.” A third said “watch him.”

Mark Trumbo: “He hits ‘em big.” Another scout said “He’s getting better.”


It’s always great when can get scouting reports and updates from Eddie Bane and Abe Flores. We match those up with our own observations when making our Top-50 Prospect Lists. But, it’s even better when we can get scouting reports and comments from other team scouts to compare the notes.

The Angels have plenty of talent on the farm as noted by our interviews with Eddie Bane and Abe Flores and confirmed by the reports from scouts outside the Angels’ organization. It’s too early to tell how the 2010 draft will shape up, but, it appears that already in Orem there’s another wave of talent to watch.

Love to hear what you think!

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