By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
The All-Star Break has come and gone, and now it’s on to the July 31st trading deadline. That means, it’s time to start paying particular attention to what’s going on down on the farm. With the start of the short-season rookie leagues, it will be much tougher to make the Hot Prospect List as there are far more players vying for spots.
Here’s a quick recap of the season so far. At 40-55, the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees are 18.0 games out of first place. Congratulations, though, go out to the Double-A Arkansas Travelers who came back to win their division in the first half with a 36-31 record. As a result, they will host the first two games of the Texas League playoffs in September. At 13-9, they have a 3.0 lead over the league right now. With a 10-14 record, the IE 66ers have been unable to gel as a team, often as a result of injuries. They are in 4th place, 5.0 games out in the second half of the season. The Single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels finished the first half 13.0 games out of first place (4th place) with a 32-38 record. Presently, they have an 11-12 record, which places them in 3rd place, 3.0 games out. The short season Orem Owlz have been putting on an offensive display, and are off to a 15-12 record. That puts them comfortably in 2nd place, 3.0 games out. The AZL Angels are in 3rd place, 4.5 games out, with an 11-10 record. And, lastly, the DSL Angels have an astounding 10.5 game lead with a 32-9 record.
1. Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Single-A Orem Owlz
Overall: .375/.429/.500 with 2 HRs and 5 SBs
What’s Up: Recently ranked as the 47th best prospect in the Minors by Kevin Goldstein (Baseball Prospectus), Cowart is off to a hot start after getting limited play in 2010 (due to signing late). Offensively, Cowart is showing all the promise that made him a 1st round draft pick (#18 overall) last year. Currently, he is on a 14/38 jaunt with a double and 2 HRs. He’s showing patience at the plate with 5 walks versus 8 Ks in his last 10 games. Defensively, he’s struggling, but that’s to be expected for a 19-year old. We expect his defense to start to match his offense as he matures as a player.
2. Matt Shoemaker, RHP, AA Arkansas Travelers
Overall: 8-3, 0 Saves, 3.53 ERA, 114.2 IP, 104 H, 30 BB, 95 K, 1.17 WHIP, .241 BAA
What’s Up: Named the Texas League’s Pitcher of the Week for July 4-10 (his second time earning the award), Shoemaker keeps rolling on, having won his last 8 decisions in a row. In winning the Texas League Pitcher of the Week honor, Shoemaker threw his first ever 9.0 inning shutout. His 2.50 ERA in the Texas League places him in the league lead by a comfortable margin. It’s players like Shoemaker, who suddenly click and make it all happen that makes following the Minor Leagues so worthwhile.
3. Taylor Lindsey, 2B, Single-A Orem Owlz
Overall: .379/.407/.598 with 3 HRs and 5 SBs
What’s Up: Like Cowart, Lindsey was another 1st round high school draft pick in 2010. Like Cowart, Lindsey is putting on an offensive show, going 19/45 (.422) with 4 doubles, 2 HRs and 2 SBs (.644 SLG%). Unlike Cowart, though, Lindsey is a bit more of a free swinger, having generated only 2 BBs in 19 games (1 in his last 10 games). Additionally, unlike Cowart, Lindsey has yet to make an error for Orem this year. At 19 years old, Lindsey has a ways to go in order to be successful as a Major Leaguer. But, like Cowart, he is one of the more advanced 1st round draft picks from 2010.
4. Ariel Pena, RHP, High-A Inland Empire 66ers
Overall: 7-3, 0 Saves, 4.02 ERA, 105.1 IP, 106 H, 56 BB, 116 K, 1.54 WHIP, .261 BAA
What’s Up: To understand how much of a high-octane league the Cal League is, consider this: Pena’s 4.02 ERA places him as the 11th best in the league. His 116 Ks are third best in the league. The 4 HRs he’s allowed are the lowest by a starter with a similar number of IPs. For the month of July, Pena has gone 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA. He’s struck out 26 in 18.2 IP, including 14 batters over six scoreless innings against the High Desert Mavericks. Overall, the walks are definitely a concern for Pena going forward. But, the Ks and the low number of HRs are definitely placing him on the depth charts.
5. Matt Long, OF, High-A Inland Empire 66ers
Overall: .306/.380/.528 with 13 HRs and 18 SBs
What’s Up: Matt Long has been putting on quite a show for the 66ers over his last 10 games. He’s gone 18/42 (.429) with 4 doubles and 4 HRs (.857 SLF%). He’s also had 6 walks vs. 6 Ks, giving him a .500 OB%. In the 24 games since the All-Star Break, Long has been on a torrid tear, posting a .371/.450/.722 line. With continued numbers like that, Long could see some time in Double-A Arkansas before the season is over.
6. Carlos Ramirez, C, High-A Inland Empire 66ers
Overall: .303/.390/.443 with 4 HRs and 3 SBs
What’s Up: Currently riding a 16/40 streak in his last 10 games (.400), with 6 doubles and 1 HR (.625 SLG%), Ramirez is really raking for the IE 66ers. For the year, Ramirez has posted a .369/.390/.443 line for the 66ers. He’s only thrown out 18% of opposing base runners while with the 66ers, but, that could be a function of the pitchers with which he is working. His career 32% of CS suggests that he should be able to do a better job of holding the runners.
7. Travis Witherspoon OF, Single-A CR Kernels
Overall: .241/.296/.378 with 8 HRs and 31 SBs
What’s Up: When Witherspoon is hot, he’s very hot. When he’s not, he’s not. That’s what happens to players with aggressive approaches at the plate. Right now, Witherspoon is riding a 15/39 tear (.385) with 4 HRs and 1 double (.718 SLG%) in his last 10 games. Unfortunately, he only has a 2:9 BB:K ratio during that time span ( .405 OB%). As a speedster, Witherspoon needs to be working at getting on base more and using the whole field to take full advantage of his primary tool. Granted, he does have power, having won the MWL HR Derby Title, but, he needs to show a bit more plate discipline at the plate.
8. Michael Wing, 2B, Single-A Inland Empire 66ers
Overall: .298/.344/.471 with 9 HRs and 1 SB
What’s Up: It’s been a while since Michael Wing has appeared on a Hot Prospect List. This is his first time this year. He’s been quietly putting together a solid season as he works on all the infield positions except catcher. So far he’s logged 46 games at 2B, 10 games at SS, and 6 at 3B. His best defensive position is 2B, but, as a jack-of-all trades he will be far more valuable, especially for Scioscia, who loves players with versatility. Over his last 10 games, Wing has hit .405 with three home runs and 13 RBI.
9. Frazier Hall, 1B, Single-A Orem Owlz
Overall: .354/.376/.549 with 3 HRs and 0 SBs
What’s Up: With C. J. Cron limited to the DH spot this year, Frazier Hall has been starting for the Orem Owlz at 1B. In 19 games, Hall has posted 9 extra base hits, including 3 HRs, 1 Triple, and 5 Doubles. Defensively, Hall is getting the job done, having only made 2 errors in 158 chances (.987 FLD%). At 6’4” and 220, this lefthander is going to form a powerful left and right combination at 1B, giving the Angels many options for that position down the road.
10. Gabe Jacobo, 1B, AA Arkansas Travelers
Overall: .281/.322/.449 with 8 HRs and 1 SB
What’s Up: Apparently Jacobo decided to turn on the power in his last 10 games, going 13/40 (.325) with 3 HRs and 12 RBIs. More importantly, he’s been more patient at the plate, posting a 5:4 BB:K rate. Those 5 walks represent half of the total amount that Jacobo’s earned this season. A gifted defender, Jacobo will need to continue to generate better offensive numbers to move up the organizational ladder.
Keep an eye on: Luis Jimenez has a shot to produce a 20/20 season as he currently has 13 home runs and 11 stolen bases. Furthermore, Jimenez has pushed his average in recent weeks over the .300 mark , is slugging over .500 (.514) and ranks 2nd in RBI's with 71 to the Rockies OF prospect Tim Wheeler who has 74 (and 26 home runs).