Warner Madrigal was ranked by Baseball America as the Angels’ #16 prospect after his 2003 season in the Provo outfield.
Someone in the Angels family did, because a little over a year after he was converted from power-hitting outfielder to power-throwing closer, Warner Madrigal may be on the fast track to the big leagues.
Madrigal was signed by the Angels out of the Dominican Republic after former scouting director Donny Rowland and international scout Clay Daniel watched him throw and take batting practice. The 2004 Baseball America Prospect Handbook quotes Rowland as saying that Madrigal’s approach at the plate was “full attack mode with bad intentions.” BA compared Warner to Albert Belle, in size and power.
After posting monster numbers at Provo in 2003 — an AVG/OBP/SLG of .369/.394/.581 — at age 19 he was considered a legitimate power-hitting outfield prospect. BA noted that Warner was “a below-average runner who doesn’t have great instincts on defense, but he has the best outfield arm in the system.”
In his first game of 2004 with Cedar Rapids, Madrigal broke the hamate bone in his left hand and missed most of the season. He returned to the Kernels for 2005, but posted a mediocre line of .247/.288/.420. 2006 was actually worse, and he played his last game in the outfield on May 25. His offensive line was .235/.273/.348.
Warner returned to the Angels’ minor league complex and began training to become a reliever. He made his professional pitching debut on July 20, 2006, on the road against the Maryvale Brewers. He set down the side in order, and even struck out a batter.
In 12 relief appearances, Madrigal posted a 3.75 ERA in 12 innings, striking out 13 and walking three. He finished 11 of those 12 games, earning five saves.
Warner Madrigal returned to Cedar Rapids for a fourth year in 2007, but this time it was as a hard-throwing reliever.
Warner returned for a fourth year in Cedar Rapids to start the 2007 season — but this time it was as a reliever.
He wasn’t the closer right away, but after Aaron Cook moved up to Rancho Cucamonga the job was his.
In the first half, Madrigal posted a 3.64 ERA in 29.2 IP with 31 strikeouts and 17 walks. After the All-Star Game, Warner earned 17 of his 21 saves, posting a ridiculous 0.61 ERA in 29.1 IP with a SO:BB ratio of 42:5. Opponents in the second half are batting just .126 against him.
When I saw Warner in spring training, his velocity was consistently in the mid-90s, and he had a decent slider and developing changeup.
Madrigal turns 24 next March, when he’ll be in spring training. The likely destination to start 2008 is Rancho Cucamonga, but if he picks up where he left off, you’ve gotta think he’ll be on the fast track to Anaheim. The Angels love hard-throwing relievers — Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields, Justin Speier, and Chris Bootcheck all throw in the mid-90s or higher — so Warner seems like he’ll fit right in.
Rodriguez is a free agent after the 2008 season, so the Angels will have plenty of candidates should Frankie depart. Jason Bulger and Chris Resop are hard-throwing righties at Salt Lake. Jose Arredondo was also in line until he was suspended at Double-A Arkansas and demoted to Rancho Cucamonga. Madrigal is further down the line, but he seems poised to leapfrog Arredondo in the pecking order.
Even with all his pitching success, I still see Warner toying with a bat once in a while. I suspect he misses hitting, but if he keeps throwing successfully at 98 MPH he’ll make enough money to get over the separation anxiety.