Tagged: Arkansas Travelers

Big Bats

Brandon Wood’s batting stance in April 2007. Angels coaches have lowered the position of his hands to improve his plate coverage.

Several “big bats” are enjoying notable seasons in the Angels farm system. At one time or another, they’ve all been dismissed by those who think a line of stats is all you need to know about a player’s potential.

Brandon Wood, who was the #1 prospect on last November’s FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report, has labored all year to change his mechanics. The Angels coaches have lowered his hands in his batting stance to help his bat cover more of the plate. Brandon has also worked on his pitch selection, and not trying to hit home runs.

Wood started showing results in July. For the month, his AVG/OBP/SLG were .355/.439/.738. He hit 11 homers, six doubles and a triple in 29 games. His SO:AB ratio is still somewhat horrific — in July, he struck out once every 4.3 at-bats in July — but he took 16 walks, compared to 12 in the first three months.

I’ve preached many times that PCL numbers need to be evaluated in context. Salt Lake, Las Vegas, Tucson, Albuquerque and Colorado Springs are all super-hitter friendly. In that context, three of Wood’s July homers were in Las Vegas, the rest were at home in Salt Lake.

Maicer Izturis may go on the disabled list, so if he does then either Brandon or Sean Rodriguez are the likely candidates for a callup to replace him.

Speaking of which … Sean hit his 20th homer last night. His overall AVG/OBP/SLG are .307/.402/.654, but away from hitter-friendly Franklin Covey Field his numbers are .250/.364/.516.

Mark Trumbo has been in Double-A for a week and has shown no signs so far of struggling. He’s 11 for 25 with three homers and two doubles. Only seven of his ABs were strikeouts, but he’s yet to walk.

Trumbo is another hitter who’s tinkering with his mechanics. I interviewed Mark on July 13, and we talked about how he’d adjusted his mechanics to improve his swing. Click Here to lisen to the interview. (Windows Media Player required.) One overlooked positive is that several homers have been to the opposite field. Once the season is over and I write the next Top 10 list, I’ll go through the game logs to figure out his homer spray chart, but anecdotally it’s a positive I’ve noticed and so has Mark.

For the season, Trumbo has 29 homers — 26 with Rancho Cucamonga, and three in the last week for the Travelers. He projects to finish with about 35 dingers for the year, which I believe would be the most for an Angels minor leaguer since Wood hit 43 for the Quakes in 2005.

Dallas McPherson hit 40 in 2003 between Rancho Cucamonga and Arkansas, but his back injuries derailed his career. Dallas took his free agency last winter and signed with the Florida Marlins, who assigned him to Triple-A Albuquerque. McPherson has 39 homers for the Isotopes, but as warned above you need to consider the context of playing in a ballpark at an altitude of about 5,300 feet. At home, his AVG/OBP/SLG are .332/.421/.804, while on the road they’re .256/.395/.538. Two-thirds of his homers have been at home. Overall, he strikes out once every 2.75 ABs. I wish Dallas all the good luck in the world after what he’s suffered, but his road numbers and his strikeout rate are a bit sobering.

Hank Conger is back behind the plate after missing two months due to a slight labrum tear in his throwing shoulder. Some predicted on fan boards that Conger would never catch again, but that turned out to be wrong. He caught on June 13 but bruised a thumb warming up a pitcher in the bullpen so he was unable to catch until about a week ago. In the last week, Hank has caught three games, none consecutive, DH’ing the rest of the time.

Hank’s AVG/OBP/SLG are .294/.325/.506. In 180 AB, he’s hit 8 HR. Five came in a two-game spurt July 16-17 at home against High Desert. Rancho used to be considered one of the more neutral parks in the league, but now the sentiment seems to be that for whatever reason it’s a bit more hitter-friendly. His home numbers are .355/.393/.697, on the road they’re .250/.273/.365.

This is the time of year to start thinking about Arizona Fall League, the MLB-operated six-week circuit in Phoenix originally intended to give top prospects a bit more seasoning before attempting to make a big-league roster next spring. It doesn’t quite work that way any more. Some teams will send players who missed a good part of the year with an injury, a good utility player, or a catcher who can handle a pitching staff although he can’t hit very well.

AFL rules state the players must be on Triple-A or Double-A rosters, although organizations may send one Advanced-A player. If a parent club asks a player to go, they can refuse, although it’s certainly a showcase and can get a player some endorsement contracts as well as a higher profile within the industry.

Just my guessing, but I suspect Mark Trumbo will be asked to go. Chris Pettit would be another likely candidate; 2007’s organization player of the year missed the first half with a broken foot and needs ABs. Hank Conger could be the Advanced-A player to go, although he could protect his shoulder by playing in the fall instructional league at Tempe Diablo, a more controlled environment where games are played to teach and not necessarily to win.

Brad Coon, out since June 8 with a broken hand, is currently playing in rehab games with Tempe and could be another AFL candidate. Coon fits into the Angels’ “Contactball” style of play — low strikeout rate, speed, an emphasis on putting the ball in play rather than taking walks. His AVG/OBP/SLG with Salt Lake were .306/.403/.370.

Which pitchers to send is always a delicate matter, since it’s risky to send very young arms that have already racked up a lot of innings. I’d like to see Bees right-hander Giancarlo Alvarado get to go. The Angels signed him last spring after a recommendation by former first baseman Eduardo Perez. Alvarado is 30 years old but he’s averaging a strikeout an inning with the Bees, mostly as a starter. Away from hitter-friendly Salt Lake, his ERA is 3.17 with an average against of .216. He could be a sleeper candidate for the Angels’ 2009 bullpen.

Anyway, off to do other things …


Mark Trumbo the Angels’ Future at First Base?

Newly acquired Mark Teixeira will stay at the Newport Beach home of his agent Scott Boras for the rest of the season, the Orange County Register reports.

Casey Kotchman, meanwhile, is saying all the right things with the Atlanta Braves.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Casey seemed quite happy — I’d say “Chipper” but the Braves already have one of those — to be closer to home.

Some local news reports have suggested that Casey didn’t get along with manager Mike Scioscia, that Casey didn’t like sitting once in a while so Robb Quinlan could get some at-bats. I don’t know any player who’s happy to sit.

I’ve no idea whether it’s true or not. My beef with this deal is that Teixeira is a free agent in three months. Whether or not he re-signs is irrelevant, as they could have signed him anyway in the off-season. It’s an all too expensive rental.

Should Teixeira move on, Kendry Morales is the leading candidate for the first base job in 2009, but Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sportswriter Todd Traub suggests Mark Trumbo will be on deck pretty soon.

Entering Tuesday, Trumbo was tied with Class AAA Charlotte’s Brad Eldred for fourth in the minor league home runs race with 28. Former Traveler Dallas McPherson (2003-2004) led the minors with 38.

“It’s progressed,” Trumbo said of his power stroke. “That’s probably one of the main reasons why I got drafted. They like the power, and it’s come a long way.”

I interviewed Mark on July 13. We talked quite a bit about how he’s altered his mechanics and his approach at the plate — stuff you don’t learn from a calculator, which is why the statheads wrote him off last winter. Mark hit another homer last night, so he’s up to 29.

In closing, the Provo Daily Herald has a nice article today about Tom Kotchman, who will be honored by the Orem Owlz tonight for winning his 1,500th game. Some people have asked me over the years why Kotch isn’t managing or coaching in the big leagues. Read this article. Casey will tell you why.

Arkansas Travelers Photos Now On-Line

It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally finished processing the photos I shot last June when i visited the Arkansas Travelers. Click Here to visit the FutureAngels.com Digital Photo Gallery. Look up your favorite players by last name.

When you go to the above link, also take a look at some of the categories under MISCELLANEOUS. Arkansas Travelers photos are miscellaneous photos, group shots or stadium photos or other nifty stuff. Baseball Gear photos are my favorite; you’ll find artistic depictions of gear and equipment exactly as I found them, nothing is staged. Also look at the Youth Baseball photos; kids always look interesting at a ball game, but not at other sports. Why, I’ve no idea, but they make interesting photographic subjects.

Next assignment is to process the photos I shot last April of the three-games series between the Salt Lake Bees and the Las Vegas 51s in Nevada. For those of you in SoCal, you’ll see plenty photos not just Angels prospects but also future Dodgers like James Loney, Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu.

After that, I have plenty Rancho Cucamonga Quakes photos still awaiting processing, and finally the photos I shot last month at fall instructional league.

I have no life.

Anyway, below are a few samples of the Arkansas photos.

Nick Adenhart

Miguel Gonzalez

Nick Green

Bobby Wilson

Greg Porter

Sean Rodriguez

Ryan Leahy keeps the hitting chart

Deep inside Bobby Wilson’s gear bag

Freddy Sandoval signs autographs for Little Leaguers

A rare shot from right-center field

Put a Dent in the Ball!

A closeup view apparently shows the bat indenting the ball.

Sean Danielson homers for Springfield at Arkansas on June 11, 2007.

I’ve been working on editing and processing the photos I shot at Arkansas last June, when the Travelers hosted first the Wichita Wranglers and then the Springfield Cardinals.

I’m currently working on the last game, June 11, so they’ll be done soon. Tonight I came across the photo to the right and wanted to share it with you.

The photo was taken for Springfield outfielder Sean Danielson hitting a home run. Luckily the camera caught the ball striking the bat.

When we crop the photo and zoom in on the ball striking the bat, it appears that the bat is indenting the ball.

Is it an optical illusion?

I can see a bit of blue where the bat strikes the ball. That might be the Minor League Baseball logo (which looks a lot like the Major League Baseball logo). The blue might be blurring with the black of the bat, creating the illusion. But the curve of the ball along the bat’s surface, even with some blue mixed in, certainly seems evident.

Your thoughts?

In Memory of Mike Coolbaugh

Tulsa Drillers hitting coach Mike Coolbaugh was killed last night by a line drive foul while coaching first base against the Arkansas Travelers at Dickey-Stephens Park.

The Drillers have created a memorial fund for Coolbaugh’s family. Click Here to learn how you can contribute.

Tonight’s Travs home game against Springfield has been postponed, as has Tulsa’s game against Wichita.

At the Half – Arkansas

Nick Adenhart’s 3.44 ERA is fifth in the Texas League.

The Arkansas Travelers of North Little Rock (yes, that’s their name) began 2007 with only two top prospects, and an outfielder in the twilight of his career. As you might suspect, the team lived up to expectations, if the expectation was mediocrity.

The Travs were 31-39 in the first half, although they heated up in the last two weeks after reliever Jose Arredondo was first disciplined and then demoted for insubordination towards manager Bobby Magallanes and an altercation with veteran outfielder Curtis Pride. Since then, the team is 10-6, and have won seven of their last nine games.

Right-handed pitcher Nick Adenhart, 20, was listed the Angels’ #2 prospect this year by Baseball America. Although his numbers weren’t as dominant as last season, nonetheless Nick was one of the best pitchers in the Texas League. His 3.44 ERA was fifth best in the league, fifth in innings pitched (83.2 IP), and sixth in strikeouts (61). But he was more generous with walks; his 37 passes were second highest in the league. Nonetheless, he gave up only four homers, and his ratio of groundouts to all other outs (GO/AO) was an impressive 1.73. It’s important to remember he’s a 20-year old in a league where most legit prospects are three or four years older than him.

RHP Nick Green, who turns 23 in August, is considered a sleeper prospect by many. He has a “plus” changeup and perhaps room to grow his velocity consistently into the low 90s. Green actually worked more innings than Adenhart; his 89.0 IP was second-best in the league. Nick posted a 4.15 ERA in 14 starts. His SO:BB ratio was 58:14 and his GO/AO was 0.79, which along with the 8 HR he surrenders suggest he’ll be more of a fly-ball pitcher. Lefties have a better AVG/OBP/SLG line against him than righties — .272/.307/.414 vs. .223/.253/.358. If Nick can expand his repertoire, he might project as a major league starter, otherwise his changeup will get him a big-league relief role one day.

In the bullpen, RHP Jose Arredondo was moved to the bullpen to start the year and projected as another possible Francisco Rodriguez. But Arredondo, 23, had “issues” as detailed above and finds himself wedged quite firmly in the Angels doghouse. Before his demise, Jose had a 2.52 ERA in 23 relief appearances, notching 10 saves. In 25.0 IP, his SO:BB ratio was 28:12 and his GO/AO was 0.85. Opponents hit only .184 against him.

Aussie RHP Rich Thompson, 23 on July 1, has the potential to step into the Travs’ “hammer” role. Known as “Chopper” or just “Chop” for his biting curveball, Rich has a 2.27 ERA with a 43:10 SO:BB ratio in 39.2 IP. His OBA is .193 and his GO/AO is 0.63.

Sean Rodriguez has a .552 slugging percentage on the road but only .312 in pitcher-friendly Dickey-Stephens Park.

Among the position players, only infielder Sean Rodriguez appears on the Baseball America Top 10 list for Angels prospects, listed at #8. Projected as a major league utility player, Sean has played mostly at shortstop although he’s had a couple games in center field. His first-half AVG/OBP/SLG were .256/.352/.425. Last year at age 21, Sean hit 29 HR between Rancho Cucamonga (24) and Arkansas (5), but this year he had only 8 HR in the first half. The compensating factor is that all but one dinger was on the road, not surprising since the new Dickey-Stephens Park is quickly developing a reputation as a pitcher’s paradise. In fact, his SLG at home is .312, but .552 on the road. Talk about context.

Catcher Bobby Wilson, 24, was ranked #19 on the Angels’ prospect list by Baseball America. He finished the half with a respectable line of .284/.366/468. But a lower back injury kept Bobby out from May 5 through May 26.

Veteran outfielder Curtis Pride, 38, was sent to Arkansas to start 2007 because the Angels had young outfield talent at Triple-A Salt Lake they wanted to play every day. The thinking was that by sending Pride to Arkansas he could play every day too and keep his bat fresh. Pride had a miserable first half, with his AVG dropping to .202 on May 13. He finished the half at .239/.335/.358, and was sent to Salt Lake when Terry Evans was promoted to Anaheim and Tommy Murphy became ill.

Next time … we look at Salt Lake’s first half.