Monday, May 12, 2014

Second Baseman Sherman Johnson tops this week's Angels Prospect Hotlist

By: Adrian Noche, Columnist - 

1.) Sherman Johnson, 2B, Inland Empire 66ers
Past 10 games: .390 AVG  16 H  4 Doubles  0 Triples  1 HR  6 SB
Overall: .294/.394/.440

Sherman Johnson is continuing to make his case as a future lead-off hitter for the Angels. Johnson has demonstrated above-average plate discipline and also versatility in the field (has played OF, 3B, 2B and SS) since being drafted in 2012 out of Florida State. His skill-set is garnering him comparisons to former Angels table-setter Chone Figgins. The one question about Johnson so far has been his ability to hit for a solid average. He has answered that question this year with the 66ers by hitting for an average of .294. Johnson has done it all in his last 10 games, slashing a line of .390/.438/.661. Johnson scored 7 runs, while also driving in 10 as a leadoff hitter. As a matter of fact, his 25 runs and 25 RBIs lead the team. He finally saw his 9-game hitting streak end on Sunday. 

2.) Jose Rondon, SS, Inland Empire 66ers
Past 10 games: .429 AVG  18 H  6 Doubles  1 Triple  0 HR  0 SB
Overall: .330/.360/.408  

Johnson’s double play partner comes in at #2 of this prospect hotlist. Jose Rondon brought his average all the way up to .331 with a memorable week highlighted by three straight games in which he had at least 3 hits. In his past 10 games, Rondon hit for a .428 batting average and began to show solid pop with 6 doubles and a triple. Take into account the fact that Rondon just turned 20 in March makes his play even more impressive. If I were to nitpick, Rondon has been striking out more and walking less, but that is understandable considering the level of competition he is facing at his age. Rondon has been unfazed by the aggressive approach the Angels have taken in moving him through the organization so far.

3.) Elliot Morris, SP, Burlington Bees
Last two starts: 0-0  11.2 IP  0.77 ERA  9 H  4 BB  11 SO  1.11 WHIP  .209 BAA
Overall: 2-1  2.43 ERA  29.2 IP  19 H  11 BB  32 SO  1.01 WHIP  .181 BAA

Elliot Morris, the Angels 4th round pick in 2013, continued to prove to everyone this week that he is the best pitcher on this Bees staff. Morris only allowed 1 earned run in 11.2 innings pitched this week while striking out a respectable 22% of the batters he faced. Hitters failed to get solid contact off of Morris in his last two starts, as only a minuscule 3% of balls put in play were line drives. Unfortunately, Morris ended up with no-decisions in both of his starts this week. 

4.) Kyle McGowin, SP, Inland Empire 66ers
Last two starts: 0-1  14.1 IP   3.13 ERA  11 H  3 BB  13 SO  0.976 WHIP .211 BAA
Overall: 1-3  2.09 ERA  47.2 IP  38 H  38 H  12 BB  39 SO  1.05 WHIP  .220 BAA

Kyle McGowin came into this season as a sleeper on many Angels top prospect lists. It is safe to say this sleeper has woken up from his slumber. After a huge workload at Savannah State, the Angels decided to take it easy on McGowin once they drafted him in the 5th round of the 2013 amateur draft. This year, they decided to unleash the beast. He pitched the best game of his professional career this Saturday. He hurled 8.0 innings of 1-run ball while only allowing 2 hits and a walk. McGowin struck out a season-high 9 batters and retired 11 batters in a row on TWO separate occasions. He could very well be the organization’s top pitching prospect at the end of this year.

5.) Nate Smith, SP, Inland Empire 66ers
Last two starts: 1-1 13.1 IP  9 H  2 BB  11 SO  2.02 ERA  0.825 WHIP  .195 BAA
Overall: 5-3  2.95 ERA  42.2 IP  31 H  11 BB  36 SO  0.98 WHIP  .200 BAA

Taken in the 8th round of the 2013 draft, Nate Smith signed quickly and was able to pitch well in 35 innings in Orem. Skipping Low-A ball along with McGowin, Smith is showing no signs of struggles. Over his last two starts, hitters are hitting a measly .195 against him and has allowed only two walks in 13.1 innings pitched. Without the blessing of a mid-90s fastball, the southpaw from Furman University relies mainly off his solid command and off-speed pitches. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Smith move quickly through the organization. One thing is for sure, much needed starting pitching depth is on its way.

6.) Harrison Cooney, SP, Burlington Bees
Last two starts: 0-1  11.2 IP  2.31 ERA  9 H  2 BB  5 SO  0.94 WHIP  .209 AVG
Overall: 2-2  1 SV  28.2 IP  1.57 ERA  14 BB  17 SO  1.11 WHIP  .173 AVG

After primarily being used as a reliever in college, the Angels have used Cooney as both a starter and a reliever. After 2 appearances from the pen to start the year, the Angels moved Cooney into the rotation. They must be pleased with the results as Cooney boasts a 1.57 ERA and has not given up a single home run this year. Cooney’s outing on May 3rd was the first time he has given up more than 1 earned run, giving up 3 in 5.2 innings pitched. Cooney is yet another member of the 2013 draft class.

7.) Mark Shannon, OF, Inland Empire 66ers
Past 10 games: .406 AVG  13 H  2 Doubles  0 Triple  1 HR  4 SB
Overall: .320/.351/.504

Called up to High-A on May 3rd, Mark Shannon continued to do more of the same with the 66ers. He is currently on an 8-game hitting streak where he is batting .406 with 2 doubles and a home run. He is also a perfect 4-4 in stolen base attempts. Shannon has the look of a solid fourth outfielder. A two-way player in college, Shannon has the speed to roam centerfield and the arm strength to man the corner outfield positions as well.

8.) Michael Clevinger, SP, Inland Empire 66ers
Last two starts: 1-0  10.1 IP  7 H  3 BB  12 SO  3.48 ERA  0.967 WHIP  .189 AVG
Overall: 3-0  29.0 IP  2.48 ERA  19 H  8 BB  33 SO  0.931 WHIP  .184 AVG

Proving that his injuries are no longer bothering him, Michael Clevinger was promoted to High-A Inland Empire after 5 stellar starts at Low-A Burmington. Clevinger put up a quality start in his first appearance in High-A, pitching 5.0 innings and striking out 6 batters while giving up 3 earned runs. Clevinger will need to prove that he can have a full healthy season under his belt and if he does, he could shoot up top prospect lists behind an arsenal that features a solid fastball and three quality off-speed pitches.

9.) Kody Eaves, 2B, Burlington Bees
Past 10 Games: .326 AVG  14 H  6 Doubles  1 Triple  1 HR  2 SB
Overall: .293/.357/.450

Kody was chosen in the 16th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Pasadena Memorial High School. He was drafted for his raw power potential and began to display it this week by ripping 6 doubles, 1 triple and his first homer of the year to the tune of a .581 slugging percentage. What makes Kody so interesting is the fact that he is the Bee's leadoff hitter as well, displaying above-average speed with 13 stolen bases while only being caught twice. Kody joins Lindsey, Yarbrough and Johnson in the group of talented second baseman prospects in the Angels organization.

10.) Alex Yarbrough, 2B, Arkansas Travelers
Past 10 games: .302 AVG  13 H  4 Doubles  0 Triples  0 HR  0 SB
Overall: .301/.313/.371 

Alex Yarbrough has done nothing but hit since being drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 amateur draft. This year is no different as Yarbrough finds himself among the league leaders in batting average, hits and doubles. In his last 10 games, Yarbrough hit for average (.302) with solid gap power (6 doubles) while drawing the base-on-balls sparingly (1).  With a surplus of second baseman prospects, it will be interesting to see the approach the Angels take heading into the trade deadline.

Minor League Affiliates Report:

Triple-A Salt Lake Bees
The Angels’ AAA affiliate had one horrible week, going 0-7 and sitting in last place in the PCL. Losing their top hitters in Green, Navarro and Cron have caused the Bees offense to struggle. Fan-favorite J.B. Shuck has been trying his best to earn a ticket back to Anaheim hitting .400 since his demotion (Nice try J.B.). Top prospect Taylor Lindsey has yet to break out and put on the PCL hitting performance we all expected him to have. To his credit, he continues to show improved plate discipline with 17 walks to 20 strikeouts. Starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker put up his best line of the year pitching 7.0 innings of 2-run ball while striking out 11. Rehabbing Dane De La Rosa appeared in 4 games, pitching 4.2 innings with 3 strikeouts, 3 walks and 2 earned runs.

Double-A Arkansas Travelers
Arkansas split 6 games this week with a record of 3 wins and 3 losses. Overall, they are 1 game behind first place with a record of 17-19. So far this season, Kaleb Cowart has either been red hot or ice cold at the plate. He has cooled off some since hitting .406 last week with just an average of .157, dropping his season average to .254. Catcher Jett Bandy and outfielder Zach Borenstein have been heating up as of late while Brian Hernandez continues to be the most consistent offensive player for the Travs not named Alex Yarbrough. Shortstop prospect Eric Stamets is currently on the 7-Day DL. Michael Roth has been sharp in his two starts this week, only giving up 2 earned runs in 12.2 innings pitched. Mark Sappington continued to struggle with control this week, allowing 6 walks in 5.0 innings pitched. Former Indipendent-Ball pitcher Drew Rucinski pitched a gem in his lone start of the week, going 6.0 innings of shutout baseball while striking out 7 and continues to be the lone bright spot in a shaky pitching staff. Both R.J. Alvarez and Cam Bedrosian have been dominant (as usual) in limited appearances this week, only having one appearance each. Alvarez pitched a perfect inning while striking out two and Bedrosian sent the deuces wild with 2.0 hitless innings with 2 strikeouts and 2 walks.

High-A Inland Empire 66ers
The 66ers played everyday this week and had a record of 3-4, putting them last in the Cal League. 1st baseman Wade Hinkle returned to the lineup this week after a DL stint and should add some production to an offense that is led by the likes of the aforementioned Rondon and Johnson. Outfielder Riley Good has been hitting the ball well since a brief stint with the Salt Lake Bees. He is hitting .417 in three games with the 66ers. The 66er’s pitching staff is a good one; led by Kyle McGowin, Nate Smith, Michael Clevinger and Tyler DeLoach. Deloach allowed more than 3 earned runs for the first time this season in a 5.0 inning start that saw him give up 4 earned runs with 7 strikeouts. There are plenty of interesting bullpen arms in Chris O’Grady, Austin Adams, Kurt Spomer and Dan Reynolds. In a combined 14.1 innings pitched this week, they have only allowed 1 earned run.

Low-A Burlington Bees
The Bees struggled this week (1-5) and are currently on a 4-game losing streak. The Bees are 9 games out of 1st place with an overall record of 16-18. On offense, outfielders Chad Hinshaw and Mike Fish have been hitting the ball well. Starting pitcher Garrett Nuss allowed more than 3 earned runs (5) for the first time this season. The Bees bullpen has struggled without Joey Krehbiel (7-Day DL) while Alan Busenitz got the save for their lone win this week. Overall, Alan Busenitz has been sharp this season with a 2.50 ERA in 18.0 innings pitched this season.
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