Results tagged ‘ Giants ’

ST Game 27: Angels 11, Giants 4 …

Josh Hamilton, Hector SanchezMost important thing: Josh Hamilton hit two doubles, running really well on each of them, and scored a run. He’s clearly healthy, his timing looks to be back, and he’s batting .391. He looks ready.

Second-most important thing: Tyler Skaggs pitched around seven hits and three walks to give up only two runs (one earned) in 5 1/3 innings. His stuff looked much better than it did five days ago, when he gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings against the White Sox.

Third-most important thing: The Angels have won six games in a row. I know Spring Training records mean next to nothing, but every starter looks on track, their key relievers have pitched well and the offense looks very good. Let’s see how it translates into the regular season.

Fourth-most important thing: One guy who hasn’t been clicking much is Raul Ibanez, but he got an RBI single and hit two balls hard on Monday. A good sign for someone who entered with only eight hits in 42 at-bats.

Fifth-most important thing: It’s getting close to decision time, and Grant Green (2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs, putting his batting average at .349) and J.B. Shuck (2-for-2 with a double and two RBIs, now batting at a .283 clip) had strong games.

Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Two good plays, actually — one to Skaggs for avoiding a broken bat that was flying at his face in the first, one for Howie Kendrick for diving up the middle to get a force out on a Michael Morse grounder.

Best quote: Mike Scioscia on the Angels’ winning streak: “We’re doing a lot of things that we’re going to need to do to win ballgames during the season. We’re playing defense, our pitching has been really, really strong all spring, and on the offensive side you can see the potential depth of our lineup when you have a guy like Howie hitting sixth or seventh. There’s some good things that we’ve been doing the last couple weeks and we just need to keep going these last few days; keep pushing and get ready for Opening Day.”

Angels’ record: 15-10-2

Alden

Hamilton ready to make debut on Monday …

Josh HamiltonJosh Hamilton (strained left calf) felt good running the bases for the first time on Saturday, plans to make his Cactus League debut on Monday and is confident that two weeks of Spring Training will be enough time to be ready by Opening Day on March 31.

Asked Sunday morning about the possibility of starting the season on the disabled list in order to get more at-bats, Hamilton said: “That’s not even on the table right now.”

Hamilton previously said that he typically likes to get somewhere between 45 and 55 at-bats to get ready for the regular season, but he can also double up in Minor League games to do so.

Hamilton expects to run the bases again on Sunday and will approach shagging fly balls in the outfield during batting practice as he would a game. The Angels’ outfielder has hit in live batting practice for thee straight days and said he “felt totally different” on Saturday, with his timing and at-bats being a lot better.

The Angels play their third and final split squad of the spring on Monday, with Hamilton expected to start at home against the Giants.

“Every Spring Training is different as a player,” Hamilton said. “You come in, might feel good after the first week and you might feel good after the third week. Mentally, I feel like I’m where I need to be, because I just made the decision when I got hurt that it wasn’t going to slow me down in that aspect, because I was feeling good when I got hurt. So, I’ve just kept that positive mental mind frame.”

Alden

ST Game 6: Giants 3, Angels 2 …

Albert PujolsMost important thing: Albert Pujols played in back-to-back games for the first time this spring, and started at first base for the fourth time in six games, and made two very nice diving stops. He also singled in his third at-bat, snapping an 0-for-9 skid.

Second-most important thing: Jered Weaver pitched four complete innings in his second start, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits while giving up four hits, walking two and striking out two. Weaver said he “probably left a couple pitches up, a little excited, but other than that, I felt pretty good out there.”

Third-most important thing: Grant Green started at shortstop for the first time, playing six innings and handling the only two routine grounders hit to him — a slow roller that he changed and a charity hop he fielded slightly to his left. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said “at times he got a little too deep, but his throws across were good.” Green is expected to get a start at third base by the end of the week.

Fourth-most important thing: The Angels had two defensive blunders — on a fly ball Brennan Boesch lost in the sun and a slow roller that sneaked under Weaver’s legs before he recovered — but overall played a very strong defensive game, with nice plays by Luis Jimenez, Matt Long and Pujols.

Fifth-most important thing: Kevin Jepsen had a scoreless outing for the second straight time, giving up one hit and striking out one in the sixth.

Best defensive play (that I actually saw): With one out in the first, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford smoked a liner to right field, but Pujols dove full-extension to his right, fielded it cleanly and made the flip to Weaver.

Best quote: Weaver, on the difference between Pujols this spring compared to last spring: “It’s night and day. Just the way he’s running around, the way he’s moving at first — just walking in general he looks more healthy.”

Angels’ record: 3-3

Alden

Division-by-division: NL West …

Yasiel PuigLeading up to Spring Training, I’ll take a look at each of the six divisions in hopes of providing an overview for what to expect this coming season. Next up, the NL West.

Diamondbacks
Last year’s record: 81-81, 2nd place
Key additions: LF Mark Trumbo, CL Addison Reed, C Henry Blanco, OF/1B Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B/1B Andy Marte, SP Alex Sanabia
Key subtractions: SP Tyler Skaggs, CF Adam Eaton, C Wil Nieves, 1B/OF Willie Bloomquist, 3B Matt Davidson, SP Daniel Hudson
Biggest strength: The bullpen. Kevin Towers has always had a reputation for building strong bullpens, and this year’s group should be much better with Reed added to the back end, J.J. Putz expected to be healthy, and the likes of Brad Ziegler, Josh Collmenter, David Hernandez, etc. coming back.
Biggest question: The rotation, though acquiring Bronson Arroyo would surely help. At 24, Patrick Corbin will be counted on to be the team’s ace, after entering last spring fighting for the No. 5 spot, while Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill need to bounce back from up-and-down seasons.
Most important player: Trumbo. The D-backs gave up two talented prospects in Skaggs and Eaton to get him. They need him to adequately adjust to left field and protect Paul Goldschmidt.
In 25 words or less: The D-backs look like a solid group all-around, but are at least a high-impact starting pitcher away from challenging the Dodgers.

Dodgers
Last year’s record: 92-70, 1st place (lost to Cardinals in NLCS)
Key additions: 2B Alexander Guerrero, SP Dan Haren, RP Chris Perez, RP Jamey Wright, OF Mike Baxter, C Miguel Olivo, INF Justin Turner, UT Chone Figgins
Key subtractions: SP Ricky Nolasco, 2B Mark Ellis, SP Chris Capuano, 2B/OF Skip Schumaker, INF Michael Young, INF Nick Punto, UT Jerry Hairston Jr., SP Edinson Volquez, RP Carlos Marmol
Biggest strength: Pitching. The rotation trio of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu is as good as anyone. In the bullpen, they have five experienced closers — Perez, Brian Wilson, Brandon League, J.P. Howell and their actual closer, Kenley Jansen.
Biggest question: Second base. The Dodgers signed Guerrero out of Cuba with a four-year, $28 million contract, but he’s only 26 and has not been exposed to this brand of baseball yet.
Most important player: Matt Kemp. He’s signed to big money through 2019 and needs to get healthy after being limited to 73 games and undergoing left ankle surgery. If he can return to his elite level, the Dodgers’ offense will be a force.
In 25 words or less: Their funds are unlimited, they have stars up and down the roster and they know how to win together. World Series or bust in Hollywood.

Giants
Last year’s record: 76-86, 3rd place
Key additions: LF Michael Morse, SP Tim Hudson, INF Brandon Hicks, SP/RP David Huff, RP Kameron Loe
Key subtractions: OF Andres Torres, SP Barry Zito, SP/RP Chad Gaudin
Biggest strength: The back end of the bullpen. Sergio Romo is coming off a 38-save season and has posted a 2.03 ERA since the start of 2010. Right-hander Santiago Casilla (2.16 ERA) and left-hander Javier Lopez (1.83) were lights out in 2013.
Biggest question: It appears to be the same every year — power. They’ll rely on Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval and Morse — each of whom carry varying levels of concern — to take some of the burden off superstar catcher Buster Posey.
Most important player: Matt Cain. The Giants’ ace needs to get back to being the Cy Young contender of 2009-12, not the guy who went a pedestrian 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 2013, to take some pressure off Tim Lincecum and make San Francisco’s rotation the strength it was a short time ago.
In 25 words or less: There are a lot of questions, from Cain and Lincecum to Morse and Sandoval, but also the ability to contend. It’ll rest on their pitching.

Padres
Last year’s record: 76-86, 3rd place
Key additions: SP Josh Johnson, OF Seth Smith, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Alex Torres, RP Patrick Schuster, IB/OF Xavier Nady, RP Tony Sipp
Key subtractions: RP Luke Gregerson, INF Ronny Cedeno, SP Jason Marquis, INF Logan Forsythe, SP/RP Anthony Bass
Biggest strength: The bullpen, even with Gregerson going to the A’s in exchange for Smith. Benoit and Torres help make up a solid group with closer Huston Street and middle relievers Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer and Tim Stauffer.
Biggest question: Health. The Padres have had 43 DL moves over the last two years. Each of their infielders were on the shelf at least once last year. Four pitchers — Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland, Jason Marquis and Casey Kelly — have undergone Tommy John surgery, with news coming out recently that Luebke will require a second such procedure in 20 months. And two of their outfielders, Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin, are coming off their own surgeries.
Most important player: Johnson. The Padres appeared to get a steal by signing the 30-year-old right-hander to a buy-low, $8 million contract in mid-November. If he can recapture the form he had in Miami, the Padres’ rotation suddenly looks a lot better.
In 25 words or less: There’s a nice young core in place in San Diego — if only it can stay healthy.

Rockies
Last year’s record: 74-88, 5th place
Key additions: 1B Justin Morneau, SP Brett Anderson, SP Franklin Morales, RP LaTroy Hawkins, RP Boone Logan, OF Brandon Barnes, OF Drew Stubbs, INF Paul Janish, SP Jordan Lyles
Key subtractions: 1B Todd Helton, SP Jeff Francis, SP Roy Oswalt, RP Rafael Betancourt, C Yorvit Torrealba, INF Jonathan Herrera, RP Josh Outman, SP Drew Pomeranz, CF Dexter Fowler
Biggest strength: Offense. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are two of the best players in the league, Michael Cuddyer quietly had a great 2013 season (.331/.389/.530), Morneau was a steal at $12.5 million over two years and Wilin Rosario (24 years old) and Nolan Arenado (22).
Biggest question: Pitching. The Rockies were active in addressing a pitching staff that ranked 28th in ERA last year, but I’m not sure how much Logan, Hawkins, Anderson, Morales and Lyles actually improve matters.
Most important player: Juan Nicasio. The 27-year-old struggled in his first full season, with a 5.14 ERA in 31 starts. But the Rockies expect big things, and if he improves, the rotation — with Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa at the top — may actually match the offense.
In 25 words or less: The Rockies made a variety of solid moves over the offseason, but spent little money and need a lot of help in the pitching staff.

Predicted order of finish …

  • Dodgers
  • Diamondbacks
  • Giants
  • Rockies
  • Padres

Previous entries: NL East | AL East | NL Central | AL Central

Alden

Angels 8, Giants 8 …

Mike Trout

This was the second straight tie for the Angels (0-4-2), and the third straight for the Giants (1-1-3).

Welcome to Spring Training.

Another thing about Spring Training: The lack of star power. Especially this year, especially in this camp. The early start has prompted Angels manager Mike Scioscia to wait until March 1 before using any of his Major League starters or relievers. Of the 47 times a new pitcher has taken the mound so far this spring, only four times — Jerome Williams, Garrett Richards and Michael Kohn (twice) — has that guy had a realistic chance of being on the Opening Day roster. And no everyday position player has received more than eight plate appearances.

In other words: Take zero wins and a 7.57 ERA with a grain of salt.

“We feel very strongly with our guys that if they start to fire it up early, by March 18 they’re going to be stir-crazy,” Scioscia said. “There’s only a certain amount of at-bats they need. We’re going to have plenty of time for that.”

Here’s more from Wednesday’s game …

The good

Mike Trout, playing center field, went 1-for-2, with a single and a walk — just like he did in Monday’s debut. He ripped a base hit to right field in the first inning, then drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth.

Kaleb Cowart looks like he’s starting to come along from the left side of the plate, notching a single and an RBI double and getting robbed of extra bases in three plate appearances there — all against quality right-handed pitchers.

Brandon Sisk, the lefty reliever acquired from the Royals for Ervin Santana, pitched a clean inning in his spring debut.

The bad

Nick Maronde, who will be stretched out this spring despite having an outside chance at a bullpen spot, had a rough first couple innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on three hits and one walk while only getting four outs.

He wasn’t helped by catcher Hank Conger, whose first-inning throw to third base on an attempted steal sailed wide of Bill Hall, allowing a run to score. Scioscia said pregame that Conger’s throwing is “getting much better,” but added that it’s “always a work in progress.

Hall, trying to make the Angels’ Opening Day roster as a utility player, left in the third inning with a tight right quad. He  initially hurt it while running up the first-base line in his first at-bat in the second inning, then aggravated it while charging a slow roller the next half-inning. “Nothing serious,” he said. “Hopefully only a couple days.”

Best play (that I saw)

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Giants center fielder Juan Perez ran a long way towards the gap in deep left-center field and stole a sure double away from Cowart just before crashing into the wall, drawing a standing ovation from the Giants fans seated on the third-base side.

Best quote

Chad Cordero, on being promoted to Major League camp: “It threw me back a little bit. I was surprised, but at the same time, I was excited, to be able to come up here and go through big league camp and just get used to the whole thing again. I’m looking forward to that. It’s a great opportunity for me, and I’m very thankful that it’s happened.”

Alden

How Angels’ ‘Big 3′ stacks up in 2013 …

Josh Hamilton

I wrote recently about the Angels’ own prestigious “Big Three” of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — how they could potentially hold up historically and in this era.

But how do they hold up in 2013? There’s little debate that the Angels now have the most talented and celebrated lineup trio in baseball, giving them arguably the game’s most potent offense. But I was a little stunned that their 2012 stats didn’t show it.

In fact, when combining each of their OPS from 2012, the Angels’ trio ranked third, behind those of the Tigers and Reds. Below is the top 15, based on combined OPS of the top three current players in each lineup (minimum is 400 plate appearances) …

  • Tigers (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson): 2.795
  • Reds (Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce): 2.759
  • Angels (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton): 2.752
  • Brewers (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart): 2.729
  • Red Sox (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli*): 2.635
  • Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera): 2.627
  • Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina): 2.627
  • Rangers (Adrian Beltre, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski): 2.607
  • Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin): 2.602
  • Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez): 2.569
  • D-backs (Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel): 2.565
  • Yankees (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira): 2.547
  • Twins (Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit): 2.532
  • Giants (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt): 2.527
  • Dodgers (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez): 2.524

* Napoli’s deal still hasn’t been finalized. 

** A special thanks to all of you for making this blog the 10th-most popular among MLB.com beat writers in 2012. You’re the whipped cream on my sundae. 

Alden 

Parting ways with Vernon Wells …

In honor of Paul Simon, who told you about the 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, below are Five Ways To Leave Vernon Wells. Not as catchy, I know. And it’s not as easy as slipping out the back (Jack), or making a new plan (Stan), or hopping off the bus (Gus) — OK, I’ll stop.

The best way to get it done may be a little bad-contract swapping.

Look, it’s no secret the Angels would prefer to part ways with Wells, who’s owed $42 million through the 2014 season. At this point, they can’t expect much salary relief (if any) in the process, but what they can do is create some breathing room in a clogged-up outfield and perhaps get a player back who can help them in an area of need. At the same time, they’d probably be helping Wells, sending him to a place where he can play more regularly. The best way to do it, perhaps, is to try and find a match with a team that has a similarly unfriendly contract. The Cubs did it in 2009, sending the volatile Milton Bradley to the Mariners in exchange for Carlos Silva. The Angels themselves tried to do it last offseason, with Bobby Abreu slated to return to the Yankees before A.J. Burnett evoked his limited no-trade clause.

Is there a similar partner for Wells this offseason? Below are some possibilities. Two things to keep in mind: 1. This is merely speculative — nothing more than my own opinion; 2. The Angels may consider the next two years of Wells’ contract a wash, so perhaps they’ll have little issue with paying the difference in a trade. The benefit for them is creating flexibility in the outfield — perhaps easing a return for Torii Hunter — while getting a player who may help them. If they can save a couple million dollars, too, even better.

BOS SP John Lackey ($30.5M thru ’14)

After winning 102 games, posting a 3.81 ERA and having a few memorable postseason moments in eight seasons with the Angels, Lackey put up a 4.40 ERA in his first year with the Red Sox, followed by a 6.41 ERA in 2011, followed by Tommy John surgery in October that knocked him out for all of this past season. But the soon-to-be 34-year-old progressed towards the end of the year, should have a normal offseason and is expected to be ready to go by the start of Spring Training. Would Boston go for it? They have Jacoby Ellsbury in center and there appears to be strong mutual interest in Cody Ross returning. Other than that, though, they have several uncertainties in Daniel Nava, Ryan Sweeney and Ryan Kalish. Wells, meanwhile, may be a nice fit for the Green Monster, and to them, Lackey may represent part of that toxic clubhouse they’re still trying to fumigate.

NYY 3B Alex Rodriguez ($114M thru ’17)

It’s an easy place to go these days, since A-Rod is getting benched in the playoffs while being booed mercifully by the home crowd and the Angels could use an upgrade at third base. But A-Rod’s deal extends three years longer than Wells’, at $61 million. I’m thinking one $200 million deal (Albert Pujols) is enough in Anaheim.

CWS DH Adam Dunn ($30M thru ’14)

Bringing him on board as a lefty middle-of-the-order hitter could free up a trade for Kendrys Morales, who’s heading into his final year before free agency. But Dunn turned it around in 2012, raising his OPS from .569 to .800, and may claim AL Comeback Player of the Year honors for it (Morales is also in the running). This no longer looks like a salary dump for the White Sox.

SEA UT Chone Figgins ($8M in ’13, $9M vesting option in ’14)

This is one that seems to make sense for both sides. Figgins has said he wants out of Seattle, and he’d probably embrace a return to the place he thrived from 2002-09. The Angels could use a utility man with Maicer Izturis expected to depart via free agency (though Figgins doesn’t help them at shortstop). The Mariners, meanwhile, are in desperate need of power and Wells may be a nice fit now that they’re moving the  fences in at Safeco Field. One problem: The money. In case you hadn’t noticed, Figgins’ deal is a lot friendlier than Wells’. But, hey, if the Angels see Wells’ contract as a wash, that may not be an issue. By the way, Figgins’ 2014 option automatically vests with 600 plate appearances in 2013 — meaning it probably won’t automatically vest.

SFG SP Barry Zito ($20M in ’13, $18M club option — and $7M buyout — in ’14)

Another one that may fill needs on both sides. Zito would move into the Angels’ rotation — a rotation that could lose up to three-fifths of the 2012 makeup — and Wells would go to a team that, like the Mariners, is perpetually looking for offense. Plus, Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan will hit free agency this offseason. But do the Giants really benefit from this? Though obviously no longer the same pitcher, Zito had a descent year with a 4.15 ERA in 184 1/3 innings. And in their desire to upgrade the offense, the Giants, three wins away from the World Series, may have higher aspirations than Wells. Zito, by the way, has a full no-trade clause — but he is a SoCal product.

Not mentioned: CHC LF Alfonso Soriano ($36M thru ’14); NYM LF Jason Bay ($16M in ’13, $17M club option in ’14); NYM SP Johan Santana ($25.5M in ’13, $25M club option in ’14); LAD SP Josh Beckett and 3B Hanley Ramirez ($31.5M thru ’14 each); LAD LF Carl Crawford ($102.5M thru ’17); MIA RP Heath Bell ($18M thru ’14).

Alden 

Angels in the Arizona Fall League …

The 20th Arizona Fall League season starts Tuesday, with the Angels — along with the Giants, Nationals, Phillies and Red Sox — sending prospects to make up the Scottsdale Scorpions. The Rising Stars Game is Nov. 3 (Salt River Fields at Talking Stick) and the championship game for the six-team league will be Nov. 17 (Scottsdale Stadium).

Last year, Mike Trout played in this event. This year, Randal Grichuk — who’s known mostly for being drafted a spot before Trout but has quietly put together a nice season — is going. Nick Maronde was going to go, but since he missed the early part of the year with a strained lat muscle and he pitched through September, the Angels decided that he hold off. Veteran-ish reliever Bobby Cassevah is taking his place.

The one to watch here, though, will be 20-year-old third baseman Kaleb Cowart, who became the Angels’ top-ranked prospect after a solid A ball season. Below is the full slate of Angels representatives. Carlos Ramirez is on the taxi squad, which means he’ll only be activated Wednesdays and Saturdays. Brandon Emanuel, pitching coach for Class A Inland Empire, is part of the Scorpions’ coaching staff.

LHRP Buddy Boshers

Draft: 4th round, 2008
Age: 24
2012 (A+,AA): 2.98 ERA, 45 G (11 GF), 63 1/3 IP, 10.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.25 WHIP
Career (5 seasons): 3.81 ERA, 150 G (34 GS, 26 GF), 324 IP, 8.5 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 2.56 WHIP
MLB.com prospect rank: Unranked

RHRP Bobby Cassevah

Draft: 34th round, 2004
Age: 27
2012 (A+, AAA): 5.79 ERA, 49 G (18 GF), 51 1/3 IP, 5.6 SO/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.66 WHIP
Career (8 seasons): 4.53 ERA, 268 G (14 GS, 96 GF), 401 2/3 IP, 6.1 SO/9, 4.5 BB/9, 1.59 WHIP
MLB.com prospect rank: Unranked
Cassevah isn’t what you would call a prospect, by any stretch, combining to make 46 appearances in the Majors from 2010-11 (posting a 2.87 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP). But he began the season on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation and never quite got right throughout the year — making four appearances in the Majors and struggling mightily in the PCL — which is probably why he wants to get more work in this fall.

RHRP Ryan Chaffee

Drafted: 3rd round, 2008
Age: 24
2012 (A+, AA): 2.60 ERA, 55 G (21 GF), 65 2/3 IP, 11.5 SO/9, 4.9 BB/9, 1.17 WHIP
Career (4 seasons): 5.36 ERA, 132 G (58 GS, 27 GF), 393 IP, 8.8 SO/9, 4.6 BB/9, 1.47 WHIP
MLB.com prospect rank: Unranked

RHRP Kevin Johnson

Drafted: 20th round, 2010
Age: 24
2012 (AA, AAA): 3.69 ERA, 56 G (41 GF), 18 SV, 63 1/3 IP, 4.4 SO/9, 2.3 BB/9, 1.39 WHIP
Career (3 seasons): 4.34 ERA, 121 IP (10 GS, 72 GF), 193 IP, 6 SO/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.48 WHIP
MLB.com prospect rank: Unranked

C Carlos Ramirez

Drafted: 8th round, 2009
Age: 24
Bats: Right
2012 (AA): .204/.312/.276, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 85 G
Career (4 seasons): .269/.371/.416, 25 HR, 134 RBI, 291 G
MLB.com prospect rank: 19th on Angels
Prospect reportRamirez still has some things to work out offensively, as his numbers haven’t shown much consistency from league to league. Though he’s notched a very respectable average across four levels, the disparity between his performance in the hitter-friendly California League and each of his other stops leaves some room for concern. Ramirez is a strong defensive backstop, knows how to handle a pitching staff and has the makeup that should allow him to be an everyday catcher. If the bat doesn’t come around, his glove could land him a job as a backup at the highest level.

3B Kaleb Cowart

Drafted: 1st round (18th overall), 2010
Age: 20
Bats: Switch
2012 (A, A+): .276/.358/.452, 16 HR, 103 RBI, 14 SB, 135 G
Career (3 seasons): .275/.349/.437, 24 HR, 150 RBI, 25 SB, 214 G
MLB.com prospect rank: 1st on the Angels, 46th overall
Prospect reportCowart is a switch-hitter with a lot of bat speed that generates plus raw power from both sides of the plate. He started tapping into that power more consistently as he’s started to mature and learn the strike zone better. He’s athletic and has decent speed, which should help him stay at third long term. So will the plus arm that made him a legitimate pitching prospect in high school. He handled full-season ball well, earning a promotion from Class A to the Class A Advanced California League in June.

OF Randal Grichuk

Drafted: 1st round (24th overall), 2009
Age: 21
Bats: Right
2012 (A+): .298/.335/.488, 18 HR, 71 RBI, 16 SB, 135 G
Career (4 seasons): .296/.331/.507, 39 HR, 195 RBI, 26 SB, 305 G
MLB.com prospect rank: 12th on the Angels
Prospect reportGrichuk may forever be paired witih the other high school outfielder taken by the Angels in the first round of the 2009 Draft. What that outfielder, Mike Trout, has done, speaks for itself, but Grichuk has had a harder time moving up the ladder, largely because of injury issues. Grichuk was actually taken one slot above Trout, but 2012 was his first season with more than 300 at-bats. When he’s healthy, he’s shown glimpses of the pop that made him a first rounder along with some base-stealing acumen. He needs more time to work on the holes in his swing, but he’s still young enough to tap into that raw power and be a run-producing corner outfielder, taking a positive step forward in 2012.

CF Travis Witherspoon

Drafted: 12th round, 2009
Age: 23
Bats: Right
2012 (A+,AA): .268/.350/.418, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 34 SB (11 CS), 121 G
Career (4 seasons): .264/.332/.417, 42 HR, 171 RBI, 110 SB, 373 G
MLB.com prospect rank: 7th on the Angels
Prospect reportWitherspoon has lots of tools and the potential to be an above-average everyday player when everything comes together. He has a solid arm and plus speed, and he knows how to run a route, making him an excellent defender in the outfield. On the other side of the ball, he has the strength and bat speed to hit for power but still has work left to do in taming his aggressive approach. He’s also a plus runner with good instincts and can do some damage on the basepaths, especially if he continues to develop patience and makes more contact at the plate. Witherspoon was promoted to Double-A Arkansas on June 20. He was placed on the disabled list on July 3, with a left quad strain.

Alden

Is it too late to upgrade the bullpen? …

Here’s all you need to know about the pitching staff lately: During a just-completed 10-game road trip, the Angels’ offense averaged seven runs per game, notched double-digit hits seven times and totaled 23 homers … and still lost six of those games. That’s because, of course, the pitching was that bad. Angels pitchers combined to post a 6.78 ERA, giving up 72 runs (66 earned) and 21 homers in 87 2/3 innings during that trip.

The rotation posted a 5.07 mark, getting only four quality starts (two by Jered Weaver, one each by Dan Haren and Ervin Santana) and watching as C.J. Wilson and Zack Greinke combined to give up 24 runs (21 earned) in 22 1/3 innings. The bullpen was even worse, combining to post a 10.54 mark (or, 32 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings), losing five games and blowing five save chances.

Now, through the second half, the Angels rank ninth in the American League in ERA from their starters (4.78) and dead last — by a wide margin — in ERA from their relievers (6.65).

Houston, we have a problem.

Now, how do you fix it?

We’ll get the easy one out of the way first. You don’t do anything to fix the rotation. You simply expect proven commodities like Wilson and Greinke to figure it out, continue to lean on Weaver (15-1, 2.13 ERA, Cy Young favorite), get encouragement out of the recent outings of Haren (2.00 ERA last three starts) and Santana (five earned runs last 11 innings), and rest easy with Garrett Richards as a fall-back option.

There’s no reason why this rotation shouldn’t turn it around. (If it doesn’t, then I would hate to be pitching coach Mike Butcher.)

The bullpen situation is a lot more dire. It looked set, as it rolled through May and June with a collective  3.02 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. But that was with Ernesto Frieri going on a ridiculous (unrealistic?) run and, most importantly, with Scott Downs healthy. You really notice just how thin this relief corps is when Downs isn’t there. Suddenly, you’re relying on two 39-year-olds (LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen), one guy who was in Triple-A a little over a month ago (Kevin Jepsen), two guys who would be in Triple-A if not for injuries (David Carpenter and Hisanori Takahashi) and one guy very few had heard of before May (Frieri) to hold leads.

The optimists’ view: Downs and Jordan Walden are slated to start rehab assignments soon and should be back shortly thereafter, and this latest rough stretch is only an anomaly for a bullpen that put together eight really solid weeks.

The cynics’ view: Downs is rehabbing a shoulder strain, was hit around right before landing on the DL and there’s no telling how effective he’ll be upon returning; Walden hasn’t looked right all year; and general manager Jerry Dipoto has to do something to address this ‘pen.

The Angels’ first-year GM didn’t find the reliever market very appealing in July, however. Granted, this was before the road-trip meltdown, but nontheless, here’s what Dipoto told me just after the non-waiver Trade Deadline when asked whether Downs’ injury made addressing the bullpen an even greater priority in August: “Not at all. You’re always open to any way that you can get better. Scotty’s been terrific for us all year, we don’t anticipate this being a long, drawn-out process, but like I said, you never know. And as a result, like I said all along, you remain as flexible as you can be. We’ll keep turning over the stones.”

Will gold show up under any of them?

Keep in mind: Now that the non-waiver Deadline has passed, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings — with his own league first — and if he is claimed by someone, he cannot be traded. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player.

I was personally shocked that ex-Royals lefty Jose Mijares slipped through 13 AL teams and landed with the Giants on Aug. 6, given his success and salary. Other names to keep in mind this month (and this is just a rough assumption): Darren Oliver (Blue Jays), Matt Reynolds (Rockies), Joe Thatcher (Padres, but out until mid-to-late August with knee tendinitis) and Wesley Wright (Astros) for lefties; Matt Belisle (Rockies), Rafael Betancourt (Rockies), Shawn Camp (Cubs) and Casey Janssen (Blue Jays) for righties.

Thing is, the Angels don’t have much flexibility on the payroll (especially not after taking on the pro-rated portion of Greinke’s expiring deal) or on the roster. Takahashi and Carpenter can be optioned, but that would be for when Walden and Downs are activated; adding someone extra before rosters expand would probably mean one of their out-of-options guys (Hawkins? Isringhausen? Jerome Williams?) are placed on waivers, since there’s no chance they option Frieri or Jepsen.

Perhaps that’s why the Angels’ front office is hesitant to add someone unless he’s a clear upgrade.

Question is: Is it too late to find that clear upgrade?

Alden 

Trumbo’s favorite Derby homer? It’s a tie for first …

KANSAS CITY — Mark Trumbo impressed a lot of people with his Home Run Derby showing on Monday night, even though he was eliminated in a tiebreaker swing-off by Jose Bautista. Asked for his favorite of the 13 through the first two rounds, Trumbo narrowed it down to two — the one that landed on the roof of the Hall of Fame building beyond the left-field bleachers (measured at a conservative 428 feet); and the smoking line drive out to straightaway center (420).

“I’d say the one on top of the roof,” Trumbo said, before backtracking — “but the one to center was impressive. I think a lot of the guys really liked the line drive.”

Trumbo’s average distance per home run — 434 feet — was the longest among the competitors, including champion Prince Fielder. He started off slow each round, then got into a little bit of a rhythm towards the middle, but felt he could’ve done better.

“I felt like I never really got into a great rhythm,” Trumbo said. “It seemed like I’d hit one, make an out, and then have to take a few pitches. Ideally, the goal is to get into an extended rhythm, kind of like Prince did, and then rattle off a better total. My biggest thing was just to have fun with it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. I wanted to get one. That was the advice — don’t get a goose egg.”

Trumbo’s favorite moment?

“[David Ortiz] pulled me aside before I left yesterday and that was really cool,” he said. “He was telling me it took him three or four times of doing it to really feel like he — not had it down, but had a chance. Things move very, very quickly when you’re out there. You can’t really simulate that.”

But C.J. Wilson, at least, can capture it.

As usual, Wilson was out there with his camera and estimated taking roughly 800 photos of the Derby participants. He’ll look over them when he has time in the next few days and print them out for Trumbo to keep.

“I had my brand-new camera out there, taking some cool images that I’ll process while we’re on the road in the next couple days and see if I can come up with some winners,” Wilson said. “It’s just fun. Jered [Weaver] and Mike [Trout] and I were out there just trying to hype him up and keep him motivated and have a good time. It’s a lot of pressure out there, when you’re the only guy batting for a couple minutes at a time in front of the fans.”

Trumbo’s roommate also TiVo’d it. But many of those in attendance won’t need reminders of the show Trumbo put on. Many were impressed.

“I know my Twitter following went way up,” Trumbo said with a smile.

“Any time I’m in something, I want to win. But I’m going to take away some really cool memories from it.”

Some other pre-All Star Game notes

  • Asked about their friendship in a pregame presser, Trout joked of Bryce Harper: “We don’t like each other.” Bryce: “It’s like Bird and Magic. He’s Magic, I’m Bird.”
  • Maybe more LeBron and Wade? “I hope I play with [Trout] one day,” Harper said. “I think him playing center field, me playing right field, as a one-two punch, I think that’d be fun.”
  • Trout was asked who wins in a footrace between him and Peter Bourjos. His response: “I think Peter’s got me around the bases in an inside-the-parker, but home to first, we were talking about it the other day, I think I have him by a couple of steps.”
  • Weaver was told he’ll pitch the fifth inning tonight. As for how it affects him for the second half? It’s just like a normal bullpen session.
  • Trout and Trumbo are not really sure when they’ll get in. “I have all my gloves, as usual,” Trumbo said. C.J., of course, is sitting out due to a blister he doesn’t expect to impact his second half.
  • Weaver on not being named the starter for the All-Star Game a second straight year, despite leading the Majors with a 1.96 ERA: “I told you guys, whatever happens, I’m just excited to be here, be a part of it. Obviously it would’ve been cool to start back-to-back years, but I’m just excited to be able to get out there and throw an inning and just be part of this whole experience. It’s fun. It’s great to hang out with all these guys and just see who they are as a person instead of just battling against him.”
  • One guy Weaver was really excited to get to know a little better here: Adam Dunn. “He’s a funny character, man.”

Some Angels All-Star Game links …

Some intriguing All-Star Game stories …

The lineups …

NL

Carlos Gonzalez, DH (COL)
Melky Cabrera, CF (SFG)
Ryan Braun, LF (MIL)
Joey Votto, 1B (CIN)
Carlos Beltran, RF (StL)
Buster Posey, C (SFG)
Pablo Sandoval, 3B (SFG)
Dan Uggla, 2B (ATL)
Rafael Furcal, SS (StL)

SP: RH Matt Cain (SFG)

AL

Derek Jeter, SS (NYY)
Cano, 2B (NYY)
Josh Hamilton, LF (TEX)
Bautista, RF (TOR)
Fielder, 1B (DET)
Adrian Beltre, 3B (TEX)
MikOrtiz, DH (BOS)
Mike Napoli, C (TEX)
Curtis Granderson, CF (NYY)

SP: RH Justin Verlander (DET)

Alden

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