Friday, January 13, 2017

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer - 

Author’s Note: If you missed the previous installments you can find Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here, Part V here, Part VI here, Part VII here, Part VIII here, Part IX here, Part X here, Part XI here, and Part XII here.

Let me pose a question to you the fans: Did the disaster of the 2016 season give you digestive problems such as nausea, loss of appetite, motion sickness, or even pain?

If you said yes, please let me recommend, for you and the Angels, a healthy dose of ginger in the 2017 season.

Our favorite redheaded right fielder will return for another season of Gold Glove-caliber defense and an incrementally improved offensive profile to hit in the middle of Mike Scioscia’s lineup.

Kole, in 2017, will be entering his fourth year of team control and his second year of arbitration control as a Super Two player (meaning instead of three years of arbitration he receives four years). Calhoun, per, projects to receive $6.3M for the 2017 season.

This year’s salary will not be a problem for Billy Eppler to incorporate into team payroll but the Angels, after this season, will need to seriously consider reaching a decision regarding both Kole and Garrett Richards escalating salaries.

If Calhoun and Richards play for the entire season without injury both could receive raises for 2018 that would bring their salaries up to the $10M-12M range, which would decrease flexibility next year. Eppler can accommodate it, particularly if he cuts payroll in other areas, but it may be best to consider either extending Kole or consider trading him.

Based on long-term payroll and the window of contention we are in with Trout, buying out Calhoun’s remaining arbitration years with perhaps at least one option year would allow the Angels to stabilize their payroll while retaining the veteran Kole through his age 31 (or even 32 or 33 if we buy out one or two free agency years) season.

Once the 2017 season concludes it would not be surprising to see the Angels offer Calhoun a 2-year/$25M-30M, 3-year/$45M-50M, or even 4-year/$65M-70M extension contract. It would give Kole his first really big payday and provide his family with long-term financial security, while for the team it would solidify their outfield situation for the next handful of years while providing team payroll constancy over the same period.

If the Angels choose to go the trade route after 2017, Calhoun could certainly bring in one or more prospects or MLB players but we would then have to fill the hole and the production that he provided which is not insignificant, making continuing arbitration payments or an extension more palatable for Billy Eppler if he cannot acquire an adequate replacement outfielder.

Speaking of production, Kole, in 2016, had a tidy .271/.348/.438 slash line with the aforementioned high quality defense manning right field. Although he hit less home runs than he did in 2015, he created more runs with a wRC+ of 118 versus the 104 from the previous season. Part of those home runs were actually converted to doubles (23 in 2015 vs. 35 in 2016) which increased his slugging percentage slightly last season.

Also in 2015, per FanGraphs Jeff Zimmerman in a spreadsheet found here, Kole Calhoun had a corrected average exit velocity of 83.1 miles per hour. However in 2016 that number rose 3.7 mph to 86.8. Additionally the average launch angle off of his bat crept up slightly from 11 degrees in 2015 to 14.1 degrees in 2016.

FanGraphs batted ball data concurs with the exit velocity assessment showing that in 2015 Kole had a 28% Hard hit percentage and in 2016 it jumped up to 35.5% which is a marked improvement. Also you see an increase in Calhoun’s fly ball percentage as it jumped from 35.4% in 2015 to 39.9% in 2016.

If that increase in exit velocity holds for 2017 you would expect to see Kole’s BABIP remain steady around his 2016 number of .309 because he his hitting the ball harder which makes it more difficult for any defenders to not only reach it but handle it if they do manage to glove it. Exit velocity is a good indicator of extra base hit potential.

Another more important item is Calhoun’s strikeout rate coming in nearly 3% lower than his career rate in 2016 (17.6% vs. 20.3%). Not only did he lower it he also posted his highest walk rate in his Major League career coming in at a tidy 10%.

It feels like Kole, in his third full season of plate appearances in the Majors, is taking a small but important step forward in the evolution of his offensive profile.

Considering that he will probably move to the middle of the order in 2017 it will be important for Calhoun to provide a balanced approach at the plate because he will be asked to put on many hats as a run creator and producer next year. His ability to provide a quality at-bat and to spray singles and doubles all over the field will be a critical component for the team’s success.

Look for Kole to be a stabilizing influence on both sides of the ball and to take a larger role as a team leader in 2017. He has earned not only the fans respect but his teammates as well and he is a vital component to our success in winning a championship.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer - 

I will preface this article by stating that, in the past, I have not been a fan of signing the Orioles former rising star, he just seemed to be missing key components, such as pitch framing ability, good career offensive numbers against RHP, and the previous Tommy John Surgery on his throwing arm gave me concerns about his durability.

However if you look deeper at his numbers and his performances in 2015 and 2016, you see the possible makings of a trend that may be enticing to Billy Eppler and the 2017 Angels squad.

First let us examine Matt’s defensive numbers as seen in the table below:

 photo Weiters1_zpsm0lrem1i.png

There are a couple of interesting items to talk about here.

Matt’s pitch framing was actually good earlier in his career (2010-2012) but fell off in recent years. It is possible that he could work on this part of his game and improve but he will likely never be an elite pitch framer. He probably will not hurt a team too dramatically in this department.

Obviously the 2014 CS% of 8% is an outlier. That was the year he tore his UCL and ultimately required TJS so his career CS% of 33% is probably a much more reliable number in regard to his ability to control the running game.

It is not fully shown here but from 2010-2012, the Fielding Bible loved his Defensive Runs Saved numbers, averaging over 13 runs saved over that 3-year period. It is not a total stretch to believe that Wieters can reclaim some of that former glory as he is further removed from his injury. FanGraphs consistently gave him positive DEF scores over the years with some large variance year to year.

On the offensive side there are some really interesting details that may be a trend or could simply be an outlier.

First let us look at his 2015, 2016, and career batted ball numbers:

 photo Weiters1_zpsm0lrem1i.png

The first thing that leaps off the page is the dramatically high line drive percentages over the last two years. They are significantly higher than his career numbers which indicates a clear improvement, similar to Cameron Maybin, in hitting mechanics and/or his approach at the plate. This is definitely a plus for any acquiring team.

Additionally Matt has made improvements in his all-fields approach and ability to hit line drives up the middle of the field. More importantly he does this from both sides of the plate which is another added plus to his offensive profile.

Wieters hard contact percentage has also improved against right-handed pitchers over the last two seasons. Combined with his exit velocity increase of approximately 1.5 mph in 2016 over the previous year, you begin to see the signs of a player who is recovering and improving after a serious injury in 2014.

Beyond the batted ball data, Matt had mixed actual results from 2015-2016 that may have concealed the improvements in his batted ball profile:

 photo Weiters3_zpstbvucqph.png

If you stare at the chart too long you may begin to feel like you are in choppy sea waters. There are spurts of leaps and stutters over the last two years but the general trend seems to be heading in a positive direction.

In 2015 you can see the impact of his high line drive percentages in his BABIP. He did better against RHP that year but his overall contact rate both in (Z-Cont %) and out (O-Cont %) of the zone was lower than his career average which is reflected in his higher strikeout rates.

The following year, in 2016, he significantly lowered his strikeout rates and saw a corresponding increase in contact percentage but unfortunately more of that contact was outside the zone (i.e. chasing pitches he should not chase). This led to some of his BABIP issues and poor contact from the right side of the plate which resulted in more outs.

So it appears that Wieters is fundamentally sound and, other than the arm issue, durable behind the plate. He will be a slight negative in terms of pitch framing with possible room for improvement but the most value he will bring is with his bat which is above average against LHP and appears to be improving to league average versus RHP, which, for a catcher, is quite good.

In terms of a fit with the Angels, Eppler and Scioscia could roll out Matt against RHP’s and have Maldonado hit against his more dominant side versus LHP’s. On the days Martin catches they could slide Wieters over to 1B to platoon with C.J. Cron who is dominant against RHP but has faltered versus LHP so far in his career.

The platoon at catcher would move from a Perez/Maldonado combination (approximately a 76/95 wRC+ split for RHP/LHP) to a Wieters/Maldonado tandem (approximately a 90/95 wRC+ split for RHP/LHP). Also the full-time C.J. Cron 1B scenario (approximate 119/91 wRC+ RHP/LHP split) would move to a Cron/Wieters platoon (approximate 119/114 wRC+ RHP/LHP split).

This would be an upgrade over Perez against RHP without a doubt. The overall impact to offense is slight but noticeable providing better balance to the lineup. estimated in early December that Matt would receive a 3-year, $39M deal this offseason. In the current market that may be a touch high but it is probably in the ballpark.

Castro signed at $8M per year ($24M total) while the injured Ramos signed for about $6M per season so someone like Wieters might get more, particularly if he accepts a shorter contract. However with the market in a seemingly depressed state it does not seem like Matt will get more than $10M per season.

There is a potential fit with the Angels but it is not a great one. The recent 2-year trend in Wieters line drive percentage is particularly exciting from an offensive point-of-view and there seems to be room for Matt to recover more on the defensive side as well.

In the end if the Angels plan to spend this much money it might be more worthwhile to trade for Miguel Montero, if he is available, who has superior pitch framing skills and would probably not cost us a significant amount in prospect currency. He hits RHP well which would complement Maldonado and in turn allow the Angels to roll out Jefry Marte in a platoon role with Cron if they do not trust C.J. against LHP.

Of course Matt Wieters would be a cash only deal for the Halos which would relieve Billy Eppler from not having to dip down into the barren farm system to execute another trade this offseason.

The recent rumor that the Angels are interested in Wieters may just be Jon Heyman generating clickbait, Scott Boras drumming up the value of his client, or actual interest in the former Orioles star by the Angels.

In regard to the latter there is a positional fit and Matt would improve the team, perhaps significantly if his trends continue, so it is not a stretch that he could be in an Angels uniform by the end of Spring Training.

Monday, January 9, 2017

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer -

First of all let me start off by saying that the odds of the Angels interest level in Jose Bautista, much less signing him, are pretty low. This is simply a test case to identify any possible advantages and disadvantages his signing would bring to the Halos.

To start the conversation Billy Eppler would have to find a positional home for Bautista. The Angels are almost certainly not going to move a premier defender like Kole Calhoun out of right field and, based on Eppler’s early offseason strike in the trade market, Maybin seems set in left field and is likely to become our leadoff hitter.

Jose has not played third base in a long time and frankly Escobar’s bat is also valuable at the top of the lineup (likely the 2-hole) so the Angels probably do not want to downgrade even more defensively at third base despite the value of Bautista’s bat in the middle of the order.

This really only leaves first base and designated hitter and we know one of those spots is permanently (at least it seems like it) held for Albert Pujols. Of course this means that if the Angels really think Jose Bautista is a good idea, C.J. Cron would have to be moved in trade or relegated to a bench role.

Frankly taking Cron’s bat and moving it to the bench seems like a waste of a roster spot. He would only play on a part-time basis or as an injury reserve and would only see plate appearances late in a ballgame. Certainly he could bring a big bang against RHP and is still inexpensive enough that team payroll would not notice but this is a less than ideal scenario for the Angels.

What this means is that the Halos would have to trade C.J. in order to accommodate Jose Bautista at first base.

So for the sake of this hypothetical argument let us say that the Angels trade C.J. Cron to the Rockies for a relief pitcher and prospects, say LHR Jake McGee and one or two mid-tier prospects. This now opens the door for the Angels to sign Jose.

As we all know Bautista rejected the Qualifying Offer, which means the Angels will have to sacrifice their 2nd round pick in this year’s draft (their 1st round, #10 pick, is protected).

A 2nd round pick is of course a lot less valuable than a 1st round pick. Realistically speaking, this 2nd round pick is, in the author’s opinion, worth about $8M-$12M in 2017. For the purposes of this article we will assume the current value is $10M for simplicity’s sake.

Of course that pick could, in 2-5 years, turn out to be worth a lot more if the player selected in that slot pans out and becomes a star. However a lot of Minor League players never make it to the Majors particularly ones taken outside of the 1st round.

Basically Billy Eppler needs to decide if that 2nd round pick plus the money spent is worth the upgrade from Cron to Bautista and does it raise the floor of the team enough on the win curve to make a difference to the teams odds of competing and winning in 2017.

So how much money would the Angels have to spend to sign Jose to a 1-year contract?

Currently it has been rumored that Bautista wants a one year deal greater than the Qualifying Offer amount of $17.2M he rejected from the Blue Jays. FanGraphs Dave Cameron suggested that Jose could wind up signing a one year deal in the $20M-$25M range.

Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projection system pegs Bautista at a 3.1 zWAR while Steamer thinks he will produce 2.7 WAR. FanGraphs Depth Charts essentially combines those two projection systems with inputs from their staff and shows him at 2.8 WAR, which is what we will use for the remainder of this discussion.

Assuming a $/WAR value, in the 2017 free agency year, of $8.5M/WAR combined with Jose’s 2.8 WAR projection yields a free agency price of $23.8M. This price is approximately what Bautista should sign for if you believe in the projection systems and the $/WAR number above.

So if Eppler has to fork out $23.8M for a one year contract, exceed the Competitive Balance Tax threshold and incur a probable $500,000 in taxes at the end of the season (this is a fairly negligible issue in this scenario though), and lose an estimated $10M, 2nd round draft pick, despite what Cron brings back it does not seem worth it right? Maybe.

The final thing you have to consider in these scenarios are the opportunity costs on the back-end of a signing as well.

If the Angels sign Bautista, trade Cron, and then make it to the playoffs how many people would even remember the fact that we lost a 2nd round draft pick in 2017? My suspicion is not many.

In fact you could make a sound case that spending the money now, preseason, is infinitely better than trying to buy a bat at the trade deadline where you will undoubtedly have to pay more in prospect currency (something the Angels do not have).

Your next question might be what happens if the Angels are not competitive and have to sell at the trade deadline?

The answer here is that Eppler would almost certainly have plenty of suitors for Jose’s services in a deadline market. Bautista’s ability to play corner outfield, first base or DH would fit with a lot of clubs and his bat would likely be highly sought after as well.

If the Angels found themselves in this spot they could eat as much money as they need to in order to increase the return of players and prospects that a big bat like Jose would probably command on a pure rental contract.

Here is where the Angels would probably get equal or greater value back for what they had to sacrifice to sign him. As an example we will use the recent Carlos Beltran trade the Yankees executed near the trade deadline in 2016 as a comparable for Bautista’s relative value. It should be noted that Jose is 3 years younger than Beltran and would be 2 years younger relative to Carlos’ age if he were traded mid-year in 2017.

In that trade the Yankees acquired three Minor League pitchers including RHP Dillon Tate, who was the 4th overall pick (1st round) in the 2015 draft, RHP Erik Swanson, and RHP Nick Green. All three are young and playing in the lower Minors (Swanson had 1 inning in both AA and AAA in 2015). The Yankees went after young, unestablished, upside relying on their excellent scouting department to identify value.

The Angels, if they did sign Jose and had to trade him at the deadline, would likely be able to ask for a 1st round draft pick from the 2016 draft as the centerpiece of any trade. The value of that pick is probably at least double the value of our 2nd round 2017 draft pick (i.e. about $20M in value), not to mention that those prospects are already climbing their way closer to the Majors and that is time saved to help win in the Trout window of contention.

This also does not account for the value of any other pieces the Angels could potentially acquire as complimentary value in a trade which would likely add about $8M-$12M. Of course this assumes the Angels eat some of Bautista’s remaining 2017 salary. Notably the Angels, instead of asking for three lower level prospects, could ask for one or two mid-level or higher prospects instead or even a MLB player.

So the opportunity cost here involves a lot of factors. Perhaps the most important one is the ability to trade Cron successfully and for at least fair value (for the record about a $20M-$30 surplus). Others include Jose’s actual contract price, the delta upgrade from Cron’s performance to Jose’s, the loss of our 2nd round draft pick, and the potential recompense of making the playoffs or receiving players and prospects back in a mid-year trade.

There is a compelling case to be made that the Angels should sign Bautista if Eppler can move Cron and convince Arte that exceeding the Luxury Tax by a small amount of money is acceptable (which frankly should not be hard to do in theory). The downside risk in this is actually fairly small.

Basically you are losing approximately $35M in current 2017 value to sign Jose (again assuming you get fair trade value for Cron) in order to gain the opportunity of 1) potentially reaching the playoffs, 2) selling Bautista off at the trade deadline for a probable maximum upside of $30M-50M in 2017 value, or 3) getting nothing because Jose has been injured or has massively underperformed in the first half of 2017.

The overall risk in this scenario appears manageable. Bautista has proven himself to be pretty durable over the last several seasons so the odds of injury is not as high as it might be with other players. Additionally the projection systems do not see a sharp decline for 2017 reducing that risk a bit. Risk is further reduced because it appears Jose is heading for a one year deal in free agency which avoids long term entanglement with an aging veteran.

Again this is a hypothetical long shot of an idea in the first place simply based on our current team payroll concerns and positional availability.

However there does come a time where the opportunity cost makes enough sense that it could encourage a team like the Angels to seriously consider it as an option. There is a reason they call Bautista “Joey Bats” and eventually there could be enough reasons the Angels would want to capitalize on signing him if his market remains depressed and they can make room for him.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Prospect: Troy Montgomery - Rank: 18

2015/16: UR                         Position(s): Outfielder
Level: Class A Ball              Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017.
Height: 5'10”                       Weight: 185 lb.

Present -  Future 

Hitting Ability: 40 - 50
Power: 45 - 50
Base Running: 65 - 65
Patience: 55 - 60
Fielding: 60 - 60
Range: 60 - 60
Arm: 60 - 60
Overall: 45 - 60

Floor: AAA Depth. 
Ceiling: Starting outfielder and leadoff hitter in the major leagues.  
Likely Outcome: Dynamic 4th outfielder 

Summary: Montgomery is one of my favorite types of players to get drafted.  The type that don't have any hype, and don't come with the over-used "5-tool" moniker.  Just really good ball players, that do just about everything average or better on a baseball diamond.  The type that perform well at a big-time college, but fall to the 8th round of a draft because they're only 5'10" tall.  The type that play a game with such intensity, that others can't help but look up to this player.  Just good old fashioned, blue-collar hard work and the will to win.  

If you haven't caught on, I just described Kole Calhoun.  In fact, Troy even looks a bit like Kole Calhoun out there, minus the fiery red hair, and slightly less muscular.  Same left-handedness, similar skill-set, athleticism, same passion and competitive spirit. 

That's what we'll see if everything breaks right for Troy Montgomery, a Kole Calhoun type of regular.  It's no wonder the Reds asked for Montgomery in return when they were discussing trading Brandon Phillips to the Angels.  At Ohio State, Montgomery logged more BB than K, stole 56 bases between his junior and senior season, owned an OBP well north of .400, played in competitive scouting leagues during the offseason and performed spectacularly, and to top it off, was an elite defender. 

It still makes me shake my head that guys like this last until the middle rounds of the draft when at bare minimum, you have yourself a useful depth piece between AAA and the majors.  Once drafted by the Angels, Montgomery torched Orem and the Pioneer League in general, and was promoted to Burlington, where he was quite solid, if not "pretty good".

From the scouting side of things, Troy is a left handed hitter with more pop than the numbers show. Sure, he's a speedy leadoff hitter that reaches base and can hit for average, but Troy swings hard, yet under control.  There's "plus" bat speed and an advanced feel at the plate.  Every once in a while he'll swing out of his shoes, but not too often.  Defensively, Montgomery can cover a ton of ground in CF and has a rocket for an arm, though the Angels have been using him in the corner outfield to start.

What to expect next season: Montgomery should head to Advanced A Ball at Inland Empire next season, and I'm guessing he'll put up the gaudy HR/SB numbers (at least on the road) that will really open the eyes of more casual fans, and thus his ranking as a prospect will climb.  Personally, I'll be watching to see how much contact Troy makes, if he's using the whole field, and continues to show patience as many patient hitters don't do in the Cal League environment.  With Troy, there is the off-chance the Cal League is too easy and he'll be bumped up to AA for the season, but I wouldn't count on it. Even Kole Calhoun was kept at Inland Empire for a full year. 

Estimated Time of Arrival: Mid 2019, Troy's age 24 season.

Grade as a prospect: C+: Projects to be a borderline MLB starter.

Friday, January 6, 2017

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer - 

Author’s Note: If you missed the previous installments you can find Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here, Part V here, Part VI here, Part VII here, Part VIII here, Part IX here, Part X here, and Part XI here.

If you have come here today to read about who will play center field for the Angels in 2017 I’ll save you the suspense: MIKE TROUT! (To be frank you should know this already by the way)

Also, rather than bore you with a 10,000 word essay on how freaking awesome our Hall of Fame center fielder is I’d like to borrow the words of Fred R. Barnard who once said, “A picture is worth ten thousand words.”


Mike’s First Career Hit

Trout’s First Career Home Run

Mike’s First Career Grand Slam Off Of Detroit’s Rick Porcello

Trout’s 2nd Career Grand Slam Off Of A Wicked Chris Sale Changeup

Mike’s 3rd Career Grand Slam Off Of The Rangers Spencer Patton

Trout’s 4th Career Grand Slam Off Of The Twins A.J. Achter

Perhaps You Prefer Mike Trout Taking Someone Else’s Grand Slam Away From Them?

Maybe You Like To Drive Home Safely To Get Away From Those Scumbag Red Sox Fans?

Perchance You Favor Walk Offs?

Remember When Mike Trout Played Left Field?

Mike Trout Setting the Mike Trout Standard Of Defense

Not Only Can Mike Glide, He Can Slide

Trout, King Of Center Field, Robs A Prince

Mike Can Even Steal A Home Run From Jesus

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Prospect: Eduardo Paredes           Rank: 19

2015/16: 18                        Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher  

Level: AA                          Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2017.

Height: 6’1”                       Weight: 190 lb.

   Present - Future
Fastball         65  65   
Curve            50  60   
Change         50  50  
Mechanics    60  60   
Command    55  60
Control         70  70
Overall         55  65

Floor: Middle Reliever in the Major Leagues  
Ceiling: A closer in the Major Leagues.    
Likely Outcome: A 7th-8th-9th inning option, doesn't matter.

Summary: It's a shame we don't rank relievers as high on prospect lists, otherwise Paredes would be getting a lot more notoriety among fans.  Everywhere Eduardo has gone, he's succeeded, and he's still very young.  When the Angels signed Eduardo as a 17 year old, he was completely and utterly dominant in the Dominican Summer League.  For reasons unknown, the Angels decided it would be a good idea to have Paredes repeat the DSL as an 18 year old, which he did and was again dominant. The Angels then brought him stateside as a 19 year old and put him in the hitter paradise that is Orem in the Pioneer League.  No matter, Paredes dispatched them with no problem at all. In fact, he finished with a 1.33 ERA and 31 K's in one 20 innings.  That's how easy Orem was for Eduardo.  

You'd really think by now the Angels would start aggressively promoting Paredes, but still they're going a level a year, and so for most of the next season, Eduardo Paredes fools hitters in A Ball to the tune of a 1.77 ERA with a 12.6 K/9 and an even more impressive 1.7 BB/9.  The Angels decide it might be a good idea to promote Paredes after he's completely fatigued from an unusually large workload in A Ball and he gets to the Cal League and is simply "OK" for the first time in his career.  

The Angels send him back to Inland Empire to start 2016 and Paredes, armed with a fresh arm sits batters down with no issues, so he is promoted to AA, as a 21 year old, which is pretty remarkable. While in Arkansas, we see a strange thing happen.  Parades' ERA remains a very solid 3.35, but for the first time in his career, he isn't striking out as many batters, which suggests that after five years of the Angels playing it conservative, they seem to have finally found a level in which Eduardo can grow by facing competition that challenges him.  It's about time. 

From the scouting side of things, Paredes attacked hitters with a low three-quarters, borderline sidearm release.  He still uses his legs to generate plenty of momentum going forward, and there doesn't appear to be too much stress put on his shoulders or elbow.  Eduardo uses two different fastballs.  The first is a 4-seam fastball that sits 95-97 with cut action, the second is a 2-seam fastball that sits 92-94 with sinking action.  Both are regarded as "plus" pitches.  Parades also throws a curve that he keeps low in the zone.  It isn't a "plus" pitch, but it does serve as a consistent change of pace pitch.  Finally, Eduardo has been experimenting with a change up the past couple seasons that has improved to the point where he can use it. 

Paredes is a guy that has a few different ways to get a hitter out.  The heat will generate lots of swings and misses, but the curve and change up have created quite the uncomfortable at bat for both lefties and righties. 

What to expect next season: Eduardo should head to AAA after being protected on the Angels 40-man roster this offseason.  But, with the way the Angels have handled Paredes so far in his career, it wouldn't be surprising to see him back in AA again, even after showing that he should be promoted.  If the Angels bullpen doesn't round into form, and if they find themselves contending for a playoff spot, we should see Paredes in Anaheim this season.  If things go south quickly, it's likely the Angels will delay Paredes' arrival until 2018 so as to gain an additional year of control. 

Estimated Time of Arrival: Middle of 2017, Paredes' age 22 season. 

Grade as a prospect: C+ 

Grades are given from the 20-80 scouting scale.  20-being non-existent ability, 80-being the best I’ve ever seen.  MLB average is 50.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Prospect: Hutton Moyer - Rank: 20

2015/16: UR                        Position(s): Utility Infielder
Level: Advanced A Ball      Age: Entering Age 24 season in 2017.
Height: 6'1”                         Weight: 185 lb.

Present -  Future 

Hitting Ability: 45 - 50
Power: 45 - 50
Base Running: 50 - 50
Patience: 40 - 40
Fielding: 50 - 50
Range: 50 - 59
Arm: 50 - 50
Overall: 45 - 50

Floor: AAA Depth. 
Ceiling: Starting second baseman in the major leagues.  
Likely Outcome: Offensive-minded utility infielder. 

Summary: Moyer had a pretty good year.  That's me putting it in the simplest terms possible.  To elaborate, Moyer proved a lot of doubters wrong/  He still has a way to go, but the foundation is set for justified future promotions.  When Moyer was selected in the 7th round by the Angels out of Pepperdine, I was immediately intrigued, but surprised. For starters, Moyer wasn't that great at Pepperdine.  It took until his final year there before we saw any sort of  promising tools, that being his power, begin to manifest. So yeah, there was a degree of suspicion that perhaps Moyer was selected as a bit of a hat tip to his father, Jamie Moyer, who spent 23 years pitching in the big leagues.  
This notion was only further supported by Moyer's poor showing at Orem last year after being drafted. But a guy I talked to kept saying Moyer has some power, that I'll be surprised.  And he was right.

Hutton hit 33 doubles 17 home runs and stole 13 bases between two levels of A Ball this year.  As a middle infielder, that's pretty awesome.  His .276/.341 batting line isn't too shabby either.   What's even more impressive is Moyer's performance in the Cal League.  Most of the extra base hits came at home, at Inland Empire, the only pitcher friendly venue in the California League.  This only serves as more proof that the power Moyer displayed is real.  More accurately, Moyer's pull power is real. When his timing is down and he turns on a pitch, it can fly a very long way. 

But speaking of timing, here's where my skepticism creeps right back into the picture.  It's Moyer's approach at the plate.  There are a ton of moving parts.  Pre-pitch, his hands are all over the place. While the pitcher is mid-delivery, we see Hutton's hands drop down to his waste before returning to shoulder height.  While this is happening, we see a very high leg kick and then a swing.  I'm certainly not opposed to leg kicks, but when you see Moyer's you realize his timing mechanism is about as complicated as the come.  In fact, it's likely a big reason why Moyer struck out 143 times in only 124 games!  This is something the Angels will need to iron out before Moyer reaches AA and AAA next season, because more advanced pitchers will be better prepared to exploit these timing and contact issues.  The trick here will be to keep his timing, while eliminating the movement and still maintaining the power he had before.  Not an easy thing to do.

Defensively, Moyer can be seen at second, third and shortstop. At second base, he's a plus fielder, showing the range, arm, footwork and instincts of a truly impressive defensive asset.  When he moves over to third base, we see a lot more of an unsteady approach.  It seems like Hutton isn't sure of the path the ball is taking or how much time he has to throw it to first base, or what to do with his feet.  At shortstop, Moyer is certainly better than he is at third base, but so much of this seems based purely off of Hutton's athleticism and not his actual familiarity with the position.  Undoubtedly, Moyer will need to improve at third base if he wants to be a utility infielder in the major leagues, but if his bat continues to produce the way it did last year, then Hutton may not have to worry about it so much.  Most of his playing time should come at second base, where he is clearly comfortable.       

What to expect next season: Moyer will be on the move to AA Mobile.  This is where we separate the prospects you dream on versus the prospects you can actually count on.  Success at the AA level is much more transferrable to the major leagues than anything in  A ball or Advanced A.  It's the biggest jump in the minors.  I also expect Hutton to be able to settle in second base, seeing as he'll have more gifted defenders around him to play shortstop and third base.  If Moyer cuts down on the stirekoputs and continues to hit for power, I'd be looking at a possible starting second baseman in the majors.  

Estimated Time of Arrival: Late 2019, Moyer's age 26 season.

Grade as a prospect: C+: Projects to be a reserve infielder.

Check out our interview with Hutton Moyer conducted over the summer of 2016.

Hutton Moyer Interview August 29 2016 from on Vimeo.

Listen to "A Fish Like This" Tribute song to Mike Trout's Greatness

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