Saturday, May 26, 2012

By Scott Stedman - Minor League Reporter

Salt Lake Bees - The Bees went 3-3 this week, but they are now on a 3 game losing streak.  Third-baseman Luis Jimenez has been on a tear at the plate, hitting .370 in his last 6 games.  The only real knock on Jimenez has been his plate discipline - he has 4 walks the entire year.  If he can improve his eye at the plate, he could very well be a big league third-baseman.  Some fans often forget that Jimenez missed all of 2009 with a shoulder injury, so his bat has always been advanced for his age.  This is his age 24 season.  On the other side of the coin, Garrett Richards has really struggled lately.  His ERA has ballooned to 4.31 ERA, and his batting average against (BAA) is up to .281.  Richards has been leaving the ball up, which in the PCL is a disaster.  Longtime minor league veteran Cory Aldridge was signed out of a Mexican baseball league, and is hitting .333 for the Bees with 2 HRs in his 4 games.  On the bump tomorrow is Eric Hurley who owns a 6.15 ERA this season.

Arkansas Travelers - Arkansas went 2-3 this week, but like the Bees, they are now in a 3 game tailspin.  On Monday, Ariel Pena continued to absolutely dominate.  He tossed 6 innings of spotless ball - 0 runs, 0 walks, 8 Ks.  In my opinion, Pena is far superior to any other Angels pitching prospect, as of now.  For the stats guys, Pena has improved his K:BB ratio to 3:1, by far the best of his minor league career.  He also has maintained his 9K/9IP ratio, and opponents are hitting just .216 off Pena.  For the 'eyes guys', Pena can pump it up to the high 90's with his fastball, buckles hitters with his slider, and has shown a much improved hard change up.  My prediction: If the Angels have an injury to a starter, Pena would be the first guy on his way to Anaheim.  At the dish Jean Segura has struggled like crazy, hitting .167 in his last 10 games, lowering his average to .260 overall.  However one thing Segura has going is his speed.  In just 46 games, Jean has 19 stolen bases.  Out of the 'pen, Steven Geltz has continued to pretend like it's little league.  He has dropped his ERA to 0.42 and has 31 Ks in 22 innings of work.  Why does the Angels organization insist on keeping Geltz in the dungeon that is Double-A?

Inland Empire 66ers - The 66ers had a good week, going 3-2.  Center fielder Travis Witherspoon led the way.  Witherspoon, a 23-year-old out of Spartanburg Methodist, SC has been on fire this week, hitting nearly .500.  On Thursday, Travis hit for the cycle, which shows his full spectrum of tools.  More than once I have heard the term "oozes tools" regarding the outfielder, and this year he seems to have put it all together, as his OPS has soared past .800.  Also, his 17 stolen bases are good for 3rd overall in the Cal League.  Lefty starter Max Russell has been lights out in his last 3 starts for the 66ers.  On Friday, he went 7 innings, surrendering just 1 run and striking out 5.  Although he could be described as a 'soft-tossing lefty', Russell gets outs and could move up the ladder quickly.  Tomorrow, Manny Correa will go for Inland Empire at 7 PM.

Cedar Rapids Kernels -
The Kernels are heating up after a slow start.  This week, they went 3-2.  19-year-old Kaleb Cowart has started to heat up as well, after falling into a deep slump.  On Friday, Cowart went 4-5 with a double and a walk.  This pushed his average up to .270, and his OPS to .784 - something not easy to do in the pitcher haven Midwest League.  The bullpen has been the shining point for the Kernels this season.  Stephen Tromblee, a 23-year-old lefty out of Lamar, has pitched to the tune of a 1.54 ERA with just 6 walks in 23 innings of work.  Mostly, Tromblee has been setting up for another 23-year-old, Ty Kelley.  Kelley, a 6'4" 220 un-drafted righty, has a 1.09 ERA as Cedar Rapids' closer.  He has now strung 10 scoreless outings together.  Tomorrow, Eswarlin Jimenez will go for the Kernels.  This is the lefties' first year in the States, and he has struggled thus far.

Prospects of the week:  CF Travis Witherspoon/SP Ariel Pena
Love to hear what you think!

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