Wednesday, June 27, 2012

By Scott Stedman - Minor League Reporter

Salt Lake Bees - The Bees have turned their recent cold spell around, winning their last 3 games.  The offense has been driven by third baseman Luis Jimenez and outfielder Kole Calhoun.  Since being sent down by the Angels, Calhoun has put up a .356 batting average, and 1.048 OPS for the Bees.  Calhoun, who is playing all three outfield positions, turns in highlight reel plays seemingly every day.  Luis "Lucho" Jimenez, the 24-year-old third baseman out of the Dominican Republic, has been catching fire lately, hitting .407 in his last 8 games.  However even though he has walked 4 times in this span, his BB% still sits at an abysmal 4.5%.  Not much to report from the pitching side of things, other than the fact that Brad Mills has come off the DL, and will likely go into the rotation.

Arkansas Travelers - The Texas League All-Star break is upon us, and the Travs' enter the festivities with a 30-46 record.  However, it never gets old talking about Ariel Pena, so let's do it again!  On Saturday, Pena tossed 6 shutout innings, surrendering just 1 run and striking out 7.  This performance lowered his ERA to 2.94, good for 3rd in the league.  His 86 strikeouts are good for 2nd.  Any way you shake it, Pena is having a terrific year.  Mike Scioscia raved about him in Spring Training, so if the Angels were to need a starter, the 23-year-old Pena might be the first to get the call.  Another starter doing work for the Travs' is Mike Piazza, who has no relation to the long-time catcher Mike Piazza.  The 25-year-old non-drafted free agent from 2009 has a 2.50 ERA and a .194 BAA.  He projects as more of a fringe guy/long-man in the bullpen, but nonetheless could be valuable.  In the 10 games leading up to the break, 22-year-old shortstop Jean Segura put up an .844 OPS with 4 stolen bases.  Most importantly though, is the 300 at-bats that Segura has amassed.  Last year Segura struggled to stay healthy so a 550-600 at-bat season would be a huge success.

Inland Empire 66ers - In the young 2nd half, the 66ers have gone 2-4.  The pitching has really let Inland Empire down, as the starters have yet to record a quality start since the break.  Offensively, third baseman Kaleb Cowart has put on a show since being called up from Cedar Rapids on June 21st.  In 18 at-bats with the club, Cowart is hitting .389 with 5 walks and a 1.187 OPS.  The 20-year-old switch hitter has all the tools to become the Angels' top prospect, and if he continues to hit like this, there is little doubt that he will reach that spot.  On Saturday, Fabio Martinez made his first start of the season, coming off the DL from foot surgery.  He went 2.2 innings and struck out 4, while his fastball touched 98.  If he can stay healthy, it would be a big boost to the depth of the Angels pitching.  Of note:  Nick Maronde will return on July 4th from a strained Lat muscle. 

Cedar Rapids Kernels -
The Kernels have gone 2-3 since the all-star break, but the pitching has been dominant.  Eswarlin Jimenez, a 20-year-old lefty out of the Dominican Republic, has been extremely effective lately.  Since his terrible start to the season, Jimenez has been keeping the ball down and getting many more ground outs.  In his last 5 starts, Jimenez has posted a 2.07 ERA.  So while his peripherals still look bad, Jimenez has been continually improving.  Catcher Abel Baker, a 21-year-old lefty hitter, has also kick started his season after a rough start.  In his last 10 games, Baker has a .333 average and reports indicate that his defense has improved.  He is now throwing out 31% of runners and only has 3 passed balls this season.  Finally, the Angels first selection in the draft this year, pitcher R.J. Alvarez is off to a crazy good start.  In 6 innings out of the bullpen Alvarez has only given up just 2 hits while striking out 9.  Look for him to climb the ladder quickly.

Orem Owlz - The Owlz are off to a very poor start, going 1-8 in their first 9 ballgames.  The pitching has struggled to put up good numbers in the tough environment, but the offense has had some bright spots.  Wade Hinkle, a 22-year-old first baseman out of Kansas State has put up a .344 average and a 1.132 OPS which includes 3 home runs.  He has also shown great patience at the plate, drawing 7 walks.  Outfielder Jonathan Walsh, the Angels 11th round selection in the 2012 draft has posted a 1.036 OPS.  The 21-year-old is a switch hitter with big power potential.  Finally, 20-year-old third baseman Michael Bolaski has put up a .914 OPS while hitting .294.  The 6'3" righty struggled in the AZL the past 2 seasons.

AZL Angels - The Arizona League Angels have started the season 3-3.  Offensively, 18-year-old Dominican shortstop Jose Rondon has led the way.  Rondon, who is in his first year in the States, is hitting .370 (10-27) and has a .932 OPS.  He has great ability to make contact, and the power will come, as he is still physically growing.  I have also heard that his makeup is off the charts and he has good baseball instincts.  His DSL teammate from 2011, Samir Mendez has also been hitting well.  His .333 average is 2nd on the team.  The 20-year-old first baseman is the definition of a free-swinger.  Dominican righties Arjenis Fernandez (18) and Daniel Hurtado (19) have made 1 start each, much too early to delve into stats.

DSL Angels notes

- Speedy outfielder Ayendy Perez (18) is hitting .300 with 8 walks and 4 SBs. 

- Alfonso AlcantaRa (19), a 6 figure bonus player, has posted a 3.78 ERA with 19 Ks in 17 innings.

- Ivan Melo (17), another big 6 figure signee, is a lefty with a 1.80 ERA and 14 Ks/14 BBs.  His best asset is his huge 12-6 curve ball.  He will likely be in the States next year.

- Reliever Eduardo Paredes out of Venezuela has a 1.26 ERA in 14 innings with 17 Ks and just 2 BBs.

Prospect of the week:  SS Jose Rondon
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