2010 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects Revisited

Mike Trout remains one of the top prospects in all of minor league baseball.

Last November I published the 2010 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report. These are published at the end of every season as a review of the year just concluded.

We’re two months into the 2011 season, so let’s take a look at how those prospects are doing so far this year.

1. Mike Trout OF — Considered one of the top prospects in all the minor leagues, Trout remains on course. His AVG/OBP/SLG as of May 31 were .305/.413/.512 (164 AB) with 13 stolen bases in 18 attempts. With Double-A Arkansas players, it’s always important to look at their home/away splits because Dickey-Stephens Park is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the Texas League. Trout’s splits (AVG/OBP/SLG):

Overall: .305/.413/.512 (164 AB)
Home: .268/.360/.423 (97 AB)
Away: .358/.482/.642 (67 AB)

That split suggests the 19-year old wunderkind is having a much better year than the overall numbers tell us.

I won’t be surprised if Trout moves up to Triple-A Salt Lake after the Texas League All-Star Game (which is June 29 at San Antonio).

2. Hank Conger C — Last November I wrote:

Hank has Jeff Mathis, Mike Napoli and Bobby Wilson ahead of him, but it’s expected that the Angels may move at least one of them this winter. Conger most likely will get more Triple-A seasoning in 2011 as he needs more catching experience and to clean up his throwing mechanics. Absent a setback, it’s reasonable to assume Hank will be the Angels’ starting catcher by the end of 2011.

That was pretty much on target. Mike Napoli was traded to the Blue Jays along with Juan Rivera for Vernon Wells. (The Blue Jays then flipped Napoli to the Rangers.) I didn’t think the Angels would carry three catchers, but they have, with Bobby Wilson having the least playing time.

The Angels have played 57 games to date, and Conger has appeared in 31 of them, 26 as the starting catcher. He’s thrown out only 7 of 31 runners (22.6%), but that’s often a misleading stat as it doesn’t reflect how well his pitchers have held on runners. He’s been charged with only one passed ball in 200 total chances; last November I noted he had allowed no passed balls in 2010.

Hank’s offense has been what you’d expect from a 23-year old rookie going through his first 100 at-bats. His overall AVG/OBP/SLG are .233/.288/.369 (103 AB), but Hank’s a switch-hitter. Mike Scioscia has given Conger only eight at-bats against left-handed pitchers (he’s 2 for 8, both singles), so most of his at-bats have been left-handed.

For now it looks like Conger will continue to split time with Mathis, although he may be on track to fulfill my predication that he’ll be the starting catcher by the end of 2011.

3. Jean Segura 2B — I wrote last November that the Angels had tested Segura at shortstop during fall instructional league and might move him to that position with Inland Empire in 2011. That turned out to be accurate, but he’s in the middle of his second stint on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. The injury began in mid-April when he was hitting .412 twelve games into the season; since then, his AVG has dropped to .276. Even with the injury, he’s managed to swipe 18 bases in 23 attempts over 37 games. We’ll have to wait until the injury fully heals and Jean is back to his aggressive self to get a handle on his progress; the California League All-Star Game may be out of the picture.

It should also be noted that Arrowhead Credit Union Park is one of the few pitcher-friendly parks in the league. Let’s look at his home/away splits:

Overall: .276/.343/.428 (152 AB)
Home: .205/.284/.329 (73 AB)
Away: .342/.398/.519 (79 AB)

Hmmm … As with Trout, it looks like Jean’s home park is masking an overall better performance.

4. Garrett Richards RHP — Here’s what I wrote in conclusion about Richards:

It’s likely that Garrett will start 2011 with Double-A Arkansas, where he’ll find pitcher-friendly Dickey-Stephens Park to his liking. The key will be to look at his Texas League road numbers to get a more accurate gauge of his progress.

Okay, so let’s go to the splits:

Overall: 5-1, 3.90 ERA, 9 Games Started (57.2 IP), 40:23 SO:BB Ratio, .232 AVG.
Home: 3-0, 1.86 ERA, 4 Games Started (29.0 IP), 18:7 SO:BB Ratio, .198 AVG
Road: 2-1, 5.97 ERA, 5 Games Started (28.2 IP), 22:16 SO:BB Ratio, .264 AVG

So it looks like the home field is masking some overall mediocre starts by Garrett. A particularly stark contrast can be found in GO/AO, which is Ground Outs to All Other Outs. At home it’s an outstanding 2.12. On the road it’s 1.21.

The Texas League a decade ago had a reputation as a hitter’s league, but most of the franchises have new ballparks so it’s now considered fairly neutral.

Garrett just turned 23 on May 27, so plenty of time to adjust to Double-A.

5. Randal Grichuk OF — Randal is becoming a real-life incarnation of Joe Btfsplk, the Li’l Abner character described as “the world’s worst jinx.” In 2010 he broke first his left thumb and then his right thumb. He was recovering from the latter injury in extended spring training when he fractured his knee cap on a foul ball. It’s expected that he’ll report to Cedar Rapids once he’s healthy.

Mark Trumbo has taken over the Angels’ first base job and leads all major league rookie with ten home runs.

6. Mark Trumbo 1B-OF — The common expectation over the winter was that Kendrys Morales would be ready for Opening Day, so Mark Trumbo would probably head for Triple-A Salt Lake. Morales failed to heal as expected and eventually underwent a second surgery that shelved him for 2011, so Trumbo has started at first base for most of the Angels’ games.

In 180 at-bats, Trumbo’s line is .256/.306/.472. Recent media reports note that Trumbo has changed his hitting mechanics, adding a higher leg kick with his front foot. Compare that to this April 6, 2008 video of a Trumbo home run for Rancho Cucamonga, where he barely lifts his front foot.

In their spring 2007 Prospect Handbook, Baseball America wrote of Mark’s hitting mechanics, “He doesn’t have much of a load and his hands are slow.” That was a common criticism in his early years, that he was largely immobile below the waist on his swings. But he’s worked to correct that and cites the leg kick for a recent increase in home run production.

With Trumbo’s 2010 Salt Lake numbers, I noted that five parks in the PCL are super-hitter friendly, including the Bees’ Spring Mobile Ballpark. At neutral and pitcher-friendly fields, his line was .236/.300/.505. That’s not too far off from his .256/.306/.472 with the Angels in 2011. He’s trending in the right direction so hopefully he’ll continue to improve. His defense has been better than many critics claimed in the past.

7. Fabio Martinez RHP — Last November I wrote about Fabio:

Martinez was shut down after a July 30 start due to shoulder stiffness, probably due to his bad mechanics, and missed the Kernels’ post-season run. He spent the rest of the season on rehab assignment at the Angels’ minor league complex in Tempe. He pitched again in fall instructional league; I was there for his October 15 start, and he was back to his old bad habits.

Well, Fabio is still at the minor league complex, technically on rehab assignment. The official word is that he’s suffering from shoulder weakness. It’s hoped that he’ll be assigned to an affiliate by July. My guess is it’s either Cedar Rapids or Inland Empire.

8. Alexi Amarista 2B — With Brandon Wood waived to Pittsburgh and various injuries to other players, Alexi found himself in Anaheim after just 55 at-bats with Salt Lake in 2011 (.455/.483/.673). At only 22, he’s overmatched in the majors for now (.136/.170/.227 in 44 AB) and should return to the Bees once Vernon Wells comes off the disabled list, assuming no one else gets hurt. Mike Scioscia showed enough faith in his versatility to give him four starts in left field; he’s not a total stranger to the outfield, appearing there in 34 games with Rookie-A Tempe in 2008, but he’s best-suited for second base.

9. Trevor Reckling LHP — Trevor was the Angels’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2009, but derailed in 2010 when he struggled at the Triple-A level. The Angels sent him back to Double-A for the second half of 2010, and that’s where he began 2011. In nine starts, he’s 1-6 with a 3.78 ERA, and a 38:18 SO:BB ratio in 52.1 IP. Looking at his home/away splits, it’s interesting to note that he’s been more successful away from Dickey-Stephens Park — a 4.28 ERA at home (27.1 IP), a 3.24 ERA on the road (25.0 IP). A recent MLB.com article suggests Trevor is pitching better than his record suggests. He just turned 22 on May 22, still quite young for Double-A.

10. Jeremy Moore OF — J-Mo ended May with an AVG/OBP/SLG of .269/.299/.451. As mentioned upstream, a more accurate analysis of PCL numbers would filter out the super-hitter friendly parks, but that sample size so far is too small, so let’s look at Moore’s home/away splits:

Overall: .269/.299/.451 (193 AB)
Home: .280/.314/.500 (100 AB)
Away: .258/.283/.398 (93 AB)

His AVG from April to May dropped from .321 to .236, although on May 28 he had a 5-for-5 game at Tucson (one of those hitter-friendly parks).

Moore will turn 24 on June 29. He’s always been a raw toolsy project. Patience is a virtue when it comes to J-Mo, so let’s see where the rest of the year takes him.

Tyler Chatwood has a 3.64 ERA in the major leagues after 11 starts.

In closing … I didn’t include RHP Tyler Chatwood in the 2010 list for a couple reasons. One was the way I weigh who ranks on the annual list. I give consideration to the parent club’s needs, and coming into 2011 the Angels seemed to need left-handed pitching prospects (such as Reckling) and power-hitting outfielders (such as Moore) more than another right-handed pitching prospect (such as Chatwood). I was well aware that internally the Angels were very high on how Chatwood ended 2010, but I was concerned about his drop in strikeout rate when he was promoted to Double-A last year as well as his high walk rate.

That concern didn’t bother the Angels, who sent him to Triple-A to start 2011. After Joel Piniero and Scott Kazmir were injured and Matt Palmer faltered, Chatwood found himself called up to Anaheim at age 22. He’s managed to survive, posting a 3.64 ERA in 11 starts (64.1 IP) despite a SO:BB ratio of 29:34. How does he survive despite his poor SO:BB ratio? Double play ground balls. He has 13 so far.

With Palmer inconsistent at Triple-A and Kazmir’s career in free fall, it looks like Chatwood may spend the rest of 2011 in the majors. Tonight he pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings at Kansas City, giving up five hits while striking out two and walking two.

I knew when I wrote the article last November that I was taking a risk by leaving Chat off the list. If he proves me wrong, it’s all the better for the Angels.

Coast to Coast: Missing in Action

No, it’s not me in the suit. But I do lead tours in the Rocket Garden behind him.


If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know (1) my wife and I moved to Florida almost two years ago, and (2) I’ve posted less and less in recent months.

I’ve posted occasional updates about our Florida adventure, which was motivated mainly by our desire to live in the “Space Coast” which is the local nickname for Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island and nearby locales.

One major objective was to be hired as a Communicator at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. And after nearly two years of waiting for a position to open, I was hired last month.

A Communicator is a tour guide, but also much more.

We’ve been described as “NASA experts” and “NASA ambassadors.” Technically we don’t work for NASA. We work for Delaware North Parks & Resorts, which has the contract to run KSCVC for NASA. But the public doesn’t know any different, and of all the NASA contractors we’re the only ones allowed to wear the NASA logo.

I suspect that not all the Communicators are passionate about space exploration, but it helps.

Two positions were open, so when called for an interview I figured I had to do something to stand out. We were told to prepare a brief presentation about the next Space Shuttle launch, so I brought from my collection a Shuttle model to use as a reference.

When I walked into the interview, four people sat on the panel. One was a former astronaut — in uniform — who’s now an executive at the park. I’m sure that was to see if we could be intimidated.

Having been around pro ball players and other celebrities for many years, I’m not easily intimidated. But when I saw the “blue suit” as they call astronauts around here, I thought, “If I screw up with any technical details in this presentation, I’m not bluffing my way out of it.”

Well, I got the job, so I must have done well enough.

I was told later by one interviewer that when I came through the door with the model, he thought, “This guy knows what he’s doing.”

Most of my days are filled by leading the Discover KSC tours, which take guests to visit historic locations, including within about a mile of the Shuttle pad.

We’re also assigned as “pathfinders,” meaning we wander the facilities encountering guests to answer their questions (the most common being, “Where is the bathroom?”) and interpret the exhibits. NASA likes the pathfinder roles so much that we’re being assigned more locations.

Obviously I have a lot to learn, so it’s eating up all my free time. I update FutureAngels.com in the morning, then it’s off to KSCVC for the day, and evenings are spent reading books or researching NASA technology on the Internet.

As much as I love the Angels and their minor leaguers, I feel like I’ve been given a higher calling. People from all over the world come to visit KSCVC, especially near launch time. We are ambassadors not just for NASA, but for the United States.

I gave serious thought to shelving FutureAngels.com this spring, but finally decided it was too important for those of you who follow the Angels’ minor leaguers to shut it down. For now, though, it’s in second place in my life. Hopefully you understand.

Tyler Chatwood Measures Up

Tyler Chatwood pitches for the Rookie-A Tempe Angels in July 2008.


I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic about Tyler Chatwood.

He has talent. No quarrel there.

But he’s never made a FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects list since he was selected in the second round of the June 2008 draft and signed shortly thereafter.

Baseball America ranked Chatwood among Angels top prospects at #11 in the spring of 2009, #14 in 2010, and #2 in 2011 behind Mike Trout.

I’ve always had two concerns with Chat.

One has to do with his height. Tyler is listed at 6’0″. There’s a perception among both baseball professionals and some sabermetricians that the best starting pitchers are tall and lanky.

Personally, that doesn’t concern me much, as I’ve always believed that if Chatwood pitched effectively then “size matters not,” to quote Yoda.

My main concern was with Tyler’s high walk rate.

Take for example the game depicted in the above photo. July 22, 2008. The Tempe Angels hosted the Peoria Padres. It was about a month after Chatwood signed. In four innings, he struck out five, walked four, and gave up four runs on three hits.

It’s foolish to judge a player by one game, but that performance has always stuck in my mind because it was somewhat typical of what happens when Tyler loses his control.

From behind home plate, I could see that killer 12-6 curve. The problem was he struggled to throw it accurately.

A high walk rate has plagued Chatwood throughout his career.

In his first three minor league seasons, he averaged 7.6 strikeouts and 4.8 walks per 9 innings. Promoted to Double-A Arkansas for the second half of 2010, in 12 starts he averaged only 3.6 walks per 9 IP but his strikeout rate also dropped to 4.7. I was told that he was being very efficient, getting a lot of groundball outs early in counts.

I knew that, internally, the Angels this last winter were very high on Chatwood, and there were whispers he was on the fast track to the big leagues even though he just turned 21 last December.

He began 2011 with Triple-A Salt Lake. With Joel Piniero injured and Scott Kazmir ineffective, Tyler found himself in the big leagues for his debut on April 11.

After six starts, he’s walked more than he’s struck out — 4.9 strikeouts and 5.6 walks per 9 IP. Yet he’s survived. His ERA is 4.08. He’s getting his groundouts, having thrown eight double-plays in 35 1/3 innings.

I keep wondering how long his luck will hold out, yet last night against the 21-9 Cleveland Indians he went eight innings, allowing one run on two hits, striking out five while walking five. He threw 111 pitches, about 13.9 per inning, and pitching coaches like to see a pitcher average 10-15 pitches per inning. He may be walking a lot, but he makes up for it elsewhere.

How long can his luck hold out before the walks catch up with him?

Or the more optimistic question would be, how long before the walk rate tails off and Chatwood establishes himself as a reliable major league pitcher?

The Angels sent Matt Palmer to Salt Lake in late May, so clearly management has decided that Chatwood is in the majors until further notice.

Even with the high walk rate, Tyler is really making me wish I’d included him on that Top 10 list last November.

Brandon Wood Memories

Brandon Wood turning a double play with Provo in 2003. That’s Howie Kendrick as his double-play partner.


(Windows Media Player and a broadband Internet connection required to watch the video clips in this article.)

I met Brandon Wood in July 2003.

I was in Provo to do a few days of photography and videography of the Provo Angels, the Rookie-A affiliate in the Pioneer League. (The franchise moved six miles west to Orem to start 2005.)

I was at the far end of the team dugout working on my equipment, when a reed-thin teenager sat down on the steps in front of me and said, “Hi, I’m Brandon Wood.”

Brandon was the Angels’ first round pick (#23 overall) in the June 2003 draft, taken out of Scottsdale High School in Phoenix. Everyone wants a piece of the #1 pick, so I try to give them their own space and don’t bother them until they’re used to my being around. But Woody took the initiative to come over, introduce himself, then sit down on the steps and ask about FutureAngels.com.

That was typical Woody. Polite, humble, unassuming.

Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood at Rancho Cucamonga in 2005.


Wood was shortstop to Howie Kendrick’s second base at Provo that year. The duo were promoted together to Cedar Rapids in 2004, and then to Rancho Cucamonga in 2005. The two were close on and off the field, and in those days observers speculated which pair of “Siamese twins” would be the Angels’ future middle infield — Wood and Kendrick, or Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo who were a year ahead of them.

(It turned out to be Aybar and Kendrick.)

2005 was a magical season for Wood. He hit 43 homers for the Quakes that year, breaking the Angels’ minor league single-season record of 42 set by Dick Simpson with San Jose in 1962.

Woody’s home run record chase became a running joke between the two of us. It seemed that almost every time I showed up to film him at Rancho Cucamonga, he homered. After returning to the dugout and receiving high-fives from his teammates, he’d looked towards me, I’d shrug, and he’d smile.

I sprained my foot at Orem in July, and was unable to work games for about a month. Sure enough, Woody went cold. Between July 25 and August 17, he hit only one homer. I finally limped into The Epicenter on August 18 — and he homered. Click here to watch.

The Quakes were due to play at High Desert on Sunday, August 21. I told Woody I would be there to fix his slump — and swore he’d hit three homers.

I was close. He hit two homers and a double. Click here to watch.

“Told ya,” I said as we left the ballpark.

I was there, of course, on September 1, 2005 when Wood hit home run #43 in his final at-bat of the season to break Dick Simpson’s record. Click here to watch.

Brandon worked his way up through the system, considered the top power-hitting prospect in the organization.

In spring training 2008, he was playing in a Triple-A game at the Tempe minor league complex. This was the year he was expected to challenge for the Angels’ third base job, so I gave him his space and didn’t say a word.

Around the fifth inning, playing third base, Woody dove to his left for a ground ball. He skinned the palm of his bare hand as the ball got by.

At the end of the inning, I made my way through the dugout to reach the field so I could shoot photos. In jogged Woody. He saw me, came over and said, “Hi Steve.” Then he raised his hand. “I’d shake your hand but …” and showed me his dirty, bloodied palm.

Typical Woody.

I scowled and said, “Don’t worry about me! Go play!” But, of course, it was meant with affection.

Brandon was never able in the majors to replicate his minor league success. He’s certainly not the first prospect to fail reaching for the top rung on that ladder, and he won’t be the last.

On April 20, he was designated for assignment, which means his Angels career is probably over.

I consider Woody to be one of the two most humble, polite and professional prospects I’ve known in my thirteen seasons covering Angels minor league baseball.

The other? Nick Adenhart.

My heart aches for his failure, as I’m sure do all those who knew him in the minors. But baseball has no tolerance for failure, so now Brandon will ply his trade elsewhere.

Whereever he might be, I will root for him.

Brandon Wood’s banner hanging at The Epicenter in August 2007.


Splitting the Spring

Mark Trumbo led the Angels with six homers in spring training.


Hope springs eternal, so in the spring hope is eternal for the fans of thirty major league baseball clubs.

Some tend to take spring training stats as an accurate barometer of what will happen during the regular season. There’s no relationship, of course, between the spring and the subsequent 162-game schedule. In the early weeks, veterans play only a couple innings and focus on shaking out the rust. The late innings of spring games are filled with minor leaguers, and the lineups in some road games feature mostly names that only a Baseball America reader might recognize. And the thin dry Arizona air causes fly balls to carry further.

If anything can be gleaned from spring training stats, it might be in the last two weeks, when veterans play more and major league pitchers throw the bulk of innings.

With that thought in mind, here’s a look at what certain Angels players and prospects did in spring training overall, and within the last two weeks.

Mark Trumbo — Mark was the camp sensation, leading the Angels with six homers. A groin pull on March 16 cost him a couple games, but he was back in the lineup on March 22. Mark’s AVG/OBP/SLG overall were .297/.316/.662. But if you look at his numbers starting with his March 15 game, he hit .226/.250/.548 in 31 at-bats. He had ten strikeouts and walked once. Kendrys Morales will open the season on the disabled list, so Mark will play first base most nights.

Brandon Wood — A one-time top prospect who, if he were a cat, would be on his ninth life, Brandon came into spring with little expectation that he’d be on the Angels’ roster come Opening Day. His overall spring numbers were .242/.286/.530. But March 15 and later, Woody was .333/.412/.800 in 30 at-bats. He had seven strikeouts and three walks. Brandon made the Opening Day roster.

Jeff Mathis — Jeff is another Angel whose career so far has failed to live up to expectations. As an example of how meaningless are spring stats, in 2009 he had a spring line of .340/.429/.717 (53 AB), but in the regular season hit .211/.288/.308. This spring, Matty hit .391/.429/.522 (46 AB); since March 15, it was .440/.481/.600 (25 AB).

Howie Kendrick — In his minor league days, some suggested that Howie might win a batting title some day. By that measure, his career so far has been a disappointment, with a line of .295/.327/.425. In spring 2011, his overall numbers were .364/.413/.439 (66 AB). On/after March 15, his numbers were .361/.390/.472 (36 AB).

Erick Aybar — Nagging injuries and a bad plate approach plummeted Aybar’s 2010 numbers to .253/.306/.330. This spring, overall he’s .317/.359/.417 (60 AB). On/after March 15, he was .333/.394/.467 (30 AB).

Peter Bourjos — The words “Gold Glove” seem to have attached themselves to Pete’s outfield defense, but the question is will he hit enough to justify an every-day spot in the linup? In 2010, he hit .204/.237/.381 (181 AB) in his rookie season. This spring, he hit .364/.471/.564 (55 AB). On/after March 15, Pete hit .400/.514/.700 (30 AB). The Angels will gladly take a high OBP out of Bourjos and put him in the leadoff spot.

Scot Shields Memories

Scot Shields with his mother Ida in the cornfield at the Field of Dreams in July 1998.


According to the movie Field of Dreams, the only ballplayers in its cornfield are ghosts, but I met a real live one there.

In July 1998, shortly after I started the FutureAngels.com web site, I made my first road trip to an Angels affiliate — the Cedar Rapids Kernels in Iowa.

While in Cedar Rapids, I planned to make the pilgrimage to Dyersville, where Field of Dreams was filmed on a farm just outside the town. The site welcomes visitors, honoring the adage, “If you build it, they will come.”

I issued an open invitation to the Kernels players to go with me, to bring their jerseys so I could take a photo of them in the cornfield. Reliever Jaymie Bane, the son of future Angels scouting director Eddie Bane, accepted so in the early morning we picked up his jersey and cap at the old Veterans Memorial Stadium and headed off for Dyersville, about a 90-minute drive.

When we arrived, we found Scot Shields and his mother Ida were already there. As a group, we headed out to the cornfield. I took photos of Jaymie in his uniform, then Scot borrowed Jaymie’s jersey and cap to pose as well.

At the time, Scot was considered a non-prospect. He was a rubber-armed reliever scout Tom Kotchman (Casey’s father) spotted pitching for tiny Lincoln Memorial University. The Angels selected him in the 38th round of the June 1997 draft, another in a long line of college seniors Kotch has drafted over the years to bolster the bullpen of his short-season teams. He appeared in 30 of the 76 games the Boise Hawks played that year, finishing with a 2.94 ERA in 52 innings, all in relief.

With the Kernels in 1998, Scot remained in that role, appearing in 58 of their 140 games, posting a 3.65 ERA in 74 innings.

Scot was promoted to Lake Elsinore in the High-A California League to begin the 1999 season, and there was every reason to think he’d remain in the bullpen perfecting his setup reliever specialty. But a rash of injuries to the Storm starting rotation during April forced Scot into the starting rotation by May.

And sent him on a fast track to the big leagues.

Scot Shields (left) being introduced at the 1999 California League – Carolina League All-Star game held in Lake Elsinore.


Scot pitched so well that he was named to the California League All-Star team. In nine starts, he had two complete games, including a shutout on July 7 at Stockton. His ERA in those nine starts was 2.08.

I’d just bought a camcorder, primitive by today’s standards, and decided to try it out filming Scot’s July 12 start against Rancho Cucamonga. Click here to watch. (Windows Media Player and a broadband Internet connection required). After that game, Scot was promoted to the Angels’ Double-A affiliate in Erie, Pennsylvania. In ten starts for the SeaWolves, he had a 2.89 ERA with 81 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings. At season’s end, he was named the Angels’ minor league pitcher of the year.

So confident were the Angels in Scot’s abilities that they moved him up to Triple-A Edmonton for 2000. He finished the year with a 5.41 ERA in 27 starts, but this was the Pacific Coast League where high-octane ERAs are the norm. In 163 innings, Scot struck out 156, which led the PCL and set an Edmonton franchise single-season record.

A trip to Edmonton was beyond my pocketbook, but my wife and I planned a drive up north to intercept the Trappers on a road trip to central California. We saw Scot pitch at Fresno on June 8, then followed the team north to Sacramento.

Scot Shields pitches for Edmonton at Fresno on June 8, 2000.


The Angels’ Triple-A affiliation changed to Salt Lake for 2001, so Scot opened the season with the Stingers. He had 24 starts, but got his first major league promotion on May 25 and made his major league debut the next day in his home state at Tampa Bay, with his family in attendance.

In 2002, he returned to Salt Lake and also to the bullpen, as the Angels groomed him for the role he would have during most of his major league career — a rubber-armed reliever who could also spot start. He returned to Anaheim on June 14 and never looked back, playing an important role in the Angels’ world championship season. Scot in 2002 had a 2.20 ERA in 49 innings.

In those early years, there was still some sentiment that the Angels were better off with Scot in the starting rotation, and in 2003 he started 13 games, although after that the Angels kept him exclusively in the bullpen.

Scot announced his retirement on March 18 at age 35. He was only the third Angel with more than ten years of major league service to spend his entire big-league career with the Angels; the other two were Tim Salmon and Gary DiSarcina (the latter appeared briefly in the Red Sox’ minor league system before he retired). Sports Illustrated named Scot the “setup man of the decade” for 2000-2009.

I’ll always remember Scot as an easy-going fan-friendly young man who was a bundle of superstitions and rituals. He had a thing for McDonald’s hamburgers, never with any lettuce or pickles or any other condiments. When Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released in May 1999, I remember sitting with him on the Lake Elsinore bench talking about the movie. Scot was excited because, “I’ve never seen Star Wars in the theatre before,” only on VHS, and I felt very old because I was part of a generation that never saw the films in first-run other than in a movie theatre. He swore he’d never give an interview until he reached the big leagues; but once he did, Scot was a regular chatterbox on Angels pre-game and post-game interviews.

Hopefully the Angels can find a place for Scot in the organization. He was a major part of Angels history in the 2000s and I can’t imagine him anywhere else other than with a halo on his cap.

Scot Shields pitching in Anaheim on March 30, 2002, the end of spring training.

Mark Trumbo Steps Up to the Plate

Mark Trumbo at fall instructional league in September 2008.


Mark Trumbo may be the Rodney Dangerfield of Angels prospects.

Mark has always been on the fringe of Baseball America‘s Top 10 Angels prospects. This year, he ranked #9. In the three years before, he ranked #29, #8 and #11.

In their 2011 review, BA analyst Matt Eddy wrote:

He doesn’t chase offspeed stuff away like he once did, but he swings and misses too much to hit for a high average. Detractors question whether he has the bat speed to hit the very best fastballs.

The more statistically inclined John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com wrote in 2010, “Trumbo looks like a guy who will get buried as a minor league slugger,” but this year says, “I still see him as a ‘surprise season’ candidate in the next couple of years, but keep in mind that it is easy to put up gaudy numbers in Salt Lake.”

Having been an occasional observer of Mark’s career since it began in Orem in 2005, I’ve been more enthusiastic about his potential than other analysts. On the FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects lists, Mark was #3 in 2008, #7 in 2009 and #6 in 2010.

Everyone learns at a different rate, in baseball as well as everywhere else in life, so many on fan boards over the years have dismissed him as a prospect because he didn’t instantly arrive in the major leagues and hit 40 homers. I think people tend to forget he was profiled more as a pitcher prospect out of high school than a hitter, although his high school hitting numbers were impressive. It was an audition by scouting director Eddie Bane in the spring of 2004 at Angel Stadium that convinced him to draft Trumbo as a hitter, after watching Mark hit some balls into the left-center field fountains. Mark was drafted in the 18th round of the June 2004 draft yet received a $1.425 million bonus, because he was already ticketed for a college education at USC.

Mark is 25 now, a bit old for a top prospect to emerge from the minors, but my observation has been that it’s taken him longer because he tends to want to test and experiment and think things through. In this March 8 MLB.com profile, reporter Lyle Spencer describes Mark as “soft-spoken and analytical,” and writes that Mark is “more focused on fundamental elements — pitch recognition, controlling his aggression, improving his glove and foot work at first base — to dwell on how far balls travel off his bat or how much fear his line drives create for pitchers.”

When I read that passage, I thought, “Yep, that’s Mark.”

I’ve flashed my own cautionary lights about Salt Lake numbers. In the FutureAngels.com Top 10 reports, when I analyze Salt Lake hitters I break out not just their home/away numbers but their numbers in the five Pacific Coast League super-hitter friendly parks (Salt Lake, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Las Vegas, Reno) versus the rest of the league, which shows a more accurate picture of the hitter’s performance.

Trumbo’s 2010 numbers:

OVERALL AVG/OBP/SLG: .301/.368/.577 (595 TPA)
HITTER-FRIENDLY AVG/OBP/SLG: .334/.403/.614 (395 TPA)

The batting average number dropped significantly in the neutral/pitcher-friendly parks, but the slugging percentage was still more than respectable.

Mark is the “hit,” so to speak, of spring training. His AVG/OBP/SLG in 27 at-bats are .370/.393/.815 with three homers and three doubles. Spring training numbers are meaningless, especially early in the month when pitchers have yet to round into shape, and many of the pitchers are actually minor leaguers filling the back-end of a nine-inning game.

Yet he’s in the spotlight now because it appears that Kendry Morales probably won’t be fit enough to open the season at first base from the Angels. Kendry is still recovering from his broken leg and has yet to run on the field. A March 5 Orange County Register article quoted manager Mike Scioscia as saying it’s possible for Morales to open with the Angels, but the article notes that Kendry still runs in harness on a treadmill to carry some of his weight while running. That’s not a good sign less than a month before Opening Day on March 31.

So the door appears wide open for Trumbo to fulfill a lifelong dream and play first base for the Angels to start 2011. If and when Morales is ready, Mark probably returns to Salt Lake. The Angels have exposed him to right field the last two seasons, and it seems logical to play him in the corner outfield positions as much as possible to groom him as a backup for Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter. Along with Morales, those are three very large road blocks for Mark’s career, but one never knows when an opportunity will present itself — such as Kendry breaking his leg celebrating on home plate after a grand-slam.