Chris Pettit was promoted to Rancho Cucamonga after the Midwest League All-Star break.
I mentioned earlier that I’ve been working on a series of articles for the Play Ball magazine distributed at Rancho Cucamonga Quakes games.
The below article was in the issue distributed July 1-3 during the Lancaster series.
The next article, about the history of the Quakes/Lake Elsinore Storm rivalry, will appear in the issue distributed July 7-9 during the Storm series. I’ll post it next week when I return from Orem.
And now I have to go write an article about the Arkansas Travelers …
The 2007 Cedar Rapids Kernels
If you ask the seismologists at Cal Tech, they’ll tell you that quakes come from the shifting of tectonic faults deep beneath the Earth’s surface.
But Angels fans know that Rancho Cucamonga Quakes usually come from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels are the Angels’ affiliate in the Midwest League. They’re one level below Rancho Cucamonga in the Angels farm system.
Players are promoted to Rancho Cucamonga after showing they can play at the Midwest League level. Many of the most successful Quakes players in recent years played for Cedar Rapids the year before — Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick, Casey Kotchman, Dallas McPherson, Jeff Mathis, Sean Rodriguez, Ervin Santana, Nick Adenhart and many more.
The 2007 Kernels finished 38-31 in the first half, good enough for third place in the eight-team Western Division. Two of them — outfielder Chris Pettit and pitcher Doug Brandt — have already arrived in Rancho Cucamonga. You might see more Kernels before the season ends, and most of the rest will take the field at The Epicenter in April 2008.
Pettit, who turns 23 on August 15, hit .346 in the first half with 9 HR and 41 RBI. His .429 on-base percentage led the league. He also led the league with 24 doubles and was second with a .679 slugging percentage. Oh, he also stole 17 bases in 21 attempts. And he started for the Western Division in the Midwest League All-Star Game. Pettit grew up in San Dimas, and attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles before the Angels sign.
Two Orange County natives are among the Kernels’ top prospects.
Catcher Hank Conger, 19, was the Angels’ first round pick in the June 2006 draft. The Huntington Beach resident hit .282 in the first half with 8 HR and 33 RBI. His OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) improved from .732 in April to .820 in May and .872 in the first half of June. The switch-hitter had more success against right-handed pitchers (.840 OPS) than lefties (.703 OPS).
The other local is first baseman Mark Trumbo, 21, who’s from Orange. Although he’d committed to attend USC, the Angels gave him a huge bonus to sign in August 2004. Trumbo had a disappointing 2006 with the Kernels, batting only .220 with 13 HR, and started 2007 back in Cedar Rapids. After a slow start, Mark had a .319 AVG in June before the break, a .351 on-base percentage and .507 slugging percentage.
Let’s not overlook the Inland Empire!
Southpaw pitcher Brandt made a name for himself in Iowa after being drafted out of Cal State San Bernardino. Doug was selected in the 43rd round of the June 2006 draft, and began 2007 in the Kernels’ bullpen where he posted a perfect 0.00 ERA. But after a couple starters were injured, Brandt made the most of his opportunity. In nine starts at the break, Doug has a 2.76 ERA and given up only one homer. His overall numbers for the first half: a 2.18 ERA with 60 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 57 2/3 innings.
Ryan Mount, from Chino Hills, turns 21 in August. "Mountie" hit .272 in the first half, stealing 13 bases. In June before the break, his average was a sizzling .417 with a .481 on-base percentage. Originally drafted as a shortstop, Ryan has played second base for the Kernels.
Another top prospect from the L.A. area is right-hander Trevor Bell, who the Angels chose in the first round of the June 2005 draft. Trevor, who’s from the San Fernando Valley, made a name for himself acting in commercials while growing up. His professional baseball career has been set back by injuries, but when healthy he’s been another solid starter for the Kernels. In eight starts before the All-Star break, Bell was 2-2 with a 3.46 ERA, striking out 30 and walking only four in 41.2 innings.
Let’s be honest — not all the Kernels’ talent comes from California. (It only seems that way!)
On the mound, the Kernels’ ace the first half was right-hander Tim Schoeninger. The Denver native wasn’t on anyone’s prospect radar, but his season to date has changed that. Tim was 9-2 in 12 starts with a 2.67 ERA. In 81 innings, he struck out 64 and walked only six! Schoeninger was named to the Western Division All-Star roster.
In the bullpen, watch out for Aaron Cook, a 23-year old Floridian with a funky submarine delivery. In 19 relief appearances, he had a stingy 1.04 ERA with 17 strikeouts and only one walk in 26 innings.
Cook had four saves, but lefty Barret Browning leads the staff with five. Browning, 22, was scouted and signed out of Florida State University by Tom Kotchman, Casey’s dad. Opponents were batting only .205 against Barret, who had 42 strikeouts in 35.1 innings.
A couple years ago, Angels fans expected one day to see Warner Madrigal hitting home runs at The Epicenter. But a series of hand injuries slowed his career to the point where the Angels converted him to the mound last summer. Now 23, Warner had a 3.64 ERA in 27 relief appearances, striking out 31 and walking 17 in 29.2 innings. Warner’s fastball is in the mid-90s, and he’s working on a slider and changeup.
In the next issue of Play Ball, we’ll look at the Double-A Arkansas Travelers, where many of last year’s Quakes now play.