Tagged: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Worst of the Worst

2000 Erie SeaWolves manager Don Wakamatsu
2000 Erie SeaWolves manager Don Wakamatsu (right) with Reading Phillies manager Gary Varsho, April 21, 2000. Wakamatsu is now the manager of the Seattle Mariners. Varsho is the bench coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Back on March 27 I posted an article about the best teams in Angels minor league history, and promised you a look at the all-time worst teams.

Well, here we go.

The top ten — bottom ten?! — teams with the worst winning percentage are:

  1. 2004 Mesa Angels 12-44 .214
  2. 1973 Idaho Falls Angels 23-48 .324
  3. 2000 Erie SeaWolves 47-94 .333
  4. 1987 Quad Cities Angels 47-91 .341
  5. 1998 Butte Copper Kings 26-50 .342
  6. 1990 Mesa Angels 19-36 .345
  7. 2002 Arkansas Travelers 51-89 .364
  8. 1980 El Paso Diablos 50-86 .368
  9. 2006 Arkansas Travelers 51-87 .370
  10. 1998 Vancouver Canadians 53-90 .371

As we saw with the best of the best, many of these are short-season teams, which tend towards more extreme results in a shorter period. If we look at full-season teams (i.e. more than 100 games), the worst ten are:

  1. 2000 Erie SeaWolves 47-94 .333
  2. 1987 Quad Cities Angels 47-91 .341
  3. 2002 Arkansas Travelers 51-89 .364
  4. 1980 El Paso Diablos 50-86 .368
  5. 2006 Arkansas Travelers 51-87 .370
  6. 1998 Vancouver Canadians 53-90 .371
  7. 2002 Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 52-88 .371
  8. 1965 El Paso Sun Kings 53-87 .379
  9. 1972 Stockton Ports 52-85 .380
  10. 1964 Hawaii Islanders 60-98 .380

Mesa was the Angels’ Rookie-A “camp” team in the Arizona League through 2005, when the minor league complex was moved to Tempe at the renovated spring training site. These are usually the youngest and most inexperienced players in the organization.

Even though you might think the 2004 Mesa team had no talent, there were a couple players who went on to big-league success.

Alexi Casilla was the second baseman. He had an AVG/OBP/SLG of .258/.332/.313 as a 20-year old. He was traded on December 9, 2005 to the Minnesota Twins for reliever J.C. Romero. He made his major league debut less than one year later, on September 1, 2006. He played 95 games at 2B for the Twins in 2008.

Angels reliever Jose Arredondo was on the 2004 Mesa Angels — as a shortstop. It was during this season that the Angels decided to give Jose an audition on the mound. They discovered his mid-90s velocity and the rest is history.

Arredondo wasn’t the only infielder-pitcher convert. Josh Davies, an 18-year old Aussie, was released by the Angels in 2007 and signed by the San Diego Padres, who tried to convert him into a pitcher. Josh had a 6.45 ERA in 18 relief appearances in 2008 for the Peoria Padres, and was released.

Brian Harper was the Mesa manager. Selected by the Angels in the 4th round of the June 1977 draft, Harper was traded to the Pirates for Tim Foli and is probably best known as the catcher for the world champion Minnesota Twins in 1991. He’s now the roving catching instructor for the San Francisco Giants.

Click Here to listen to a 2004 interview with Brian Harper. Windows Media Player required.

The 2000 Erie SeaWolves didn’t have inexperience as an excuse. It was simply lack of talent, although there were a few key injuries.

Angels infielder Justin Baughman resumed his career at Double-A Erie after missing all of 1999 due to a horrific broken leg suffered playing winter ball in Mexico. Justin was really never the same; after he retired, he coached briefly in the Angels system before taking the head coaching job at his alma mater, Louis & Clark University.

Nathan Haynes was a top-prospect center fielder, but a series of injuries were to derail his career. Nathan was actually out of baseball in 2004-2005, starting playing independent ball in 2006, was re-signed by the Angels and reached the majors with Anaheim in 2007. He’s currently in the Texas Rangers system.

Catcher Shawn Wooten would go on to the 2002 World Series. But he wasn’t the SeaWolves’ #1 catcher. That job was shared with Bret Hemphill and Woot’s West Covina buddy Kevin Lidle.

John Lackey joined Erie for eight starts at the end of the season, after a promotion from High-A Lake Elsinore. Lack was 6-1 with a 3.37 ERA and 43:9 SO:BB ratio in 57.1 innings.

Lackey would return to Double-A in 2001, but not in Erie. The SeaWolves terminated their two-year relationship with the Angels, choosing to affiliate with the nearby Detroit Tigers. The Angels wound up in Little Rock, with the Arkansas Travelers, and won the 2001 Texas League pennant.

Don Wakamatsu, Erie’s manager in 2000, was promoted to Minor League Field Coordinator, meaning he coordinated all minor league operations in the field and answered to Darrell Miller, the Director of Player Development. In 2003, he moved on to become the Texas Rangers’ bench coach under Buck Showalter. Wak was named the Seattle Mariners’ manager on November 18, 2008, and selected several former and current Angels minor league instructors for his coaching staff.

Click Here to listen to a 2000 interview with Don Wakamatsu. Windows Media Player required.


Minor League Releases

The Angels have a policy of not announcing minor league releases, so about all you can do is wait for Baseball America and other outlets to ferret out the information.

In their April 1 Minor League Transactions article, BA reported these releases:

RHP Rafael Flores, RHP Jon Plefka, RHP Brian Rogers, LHP Kevin Ferguson, 3B Ludwig Glaser, OF Jeremiah Luster

This is the time of year they start handing out pink slips, so if I see releases posted anywhere else I’ll let you know.

Elsewhere, I saw that the Pirates reassigned former Angels property Chris Bootcheck to their minor league camp, and that the Royals released Joel Peralta. Looking at the Minor League Transactions page, other former Angels include RHP Steve Green released by the Red Sox, LHP Kelly Shearer released by the Marlins, OF Chris Walker released by the Phillies, and RHP Ben Grezlovski released by the Nationals.

Baseball America Downgrades Angels

Luis Jimenez
Baseball America’s presumption that draft picks mirror organizational depth ignores international amateurs such as 20-year old Luis Jimenez, who led the Pioneer League in homers last year with 15.


Once upon a time, in the last year of the Bill Bavasi/Terry Collins regime, Baseball America ranked the Angels as having the worst farm system in baseball.

From the March 29, 1999 issue:

30. Anaheim Angels
1998 Rank: 26. Strengths: Identifying singular big league talents. Weaknesses: Depth, high-ceiling pitching prospects.

The Angels get their due for identifying premium players and plugging them into their lineup, with Troy Glaus as their latest example. They’ve drafted more players (45) who played in the big leagues in 1998 than anyone. Their inability to bring in pitching or develop depth, however, has created an organization on a fine and expensive line. There are no surefire big league starters left in the system.

At year’s end, Bavasi and Collins left, along with farm director Jeff Parker, scouting director Bob Fontaine, and several longtime members of the scouting staff.

Three years later, the Angels won the World Series, led in part by youngsters John Lackey and Francisco Rodriguez — both signed by the Bavasi regime.

Slowly, and perhaps begrudgingly, BA raised the Angels’ organizational talent ranking given each March. The rankings through 2008:

  • 1999: 30
  • 2000: 29
  • 2001: 25
  • 2002: 17
  • 2003: 5
  • 2004: 3
  • 2005: 1
  • 2006: 4
  • 2007: 4
  • 2008: 10

Interesting how the Angels jumped from #17 to #5 after winning the World Series, perhaps a belated acknowledgement that BA underrated the quality of the farm system.

Now BA has made that mistake again.

In their latest issue (April 6), BA ranks the Angels #25.


No real reason is given for ranking the Angels so low, other than this one sentence: “The current farm system has suffered from picks lost to free-agent signings and several unsigned single-digit picks.”

Oh, really?!

Let’s test the assertion that the system “suffered” last year.

If you count Rancho Cucamonga — which lost a sudden-death playoff game to determine which California League South Division team qualified for the post-season — all seven Angels minor league operations were in the playoffs. So far as I know, they’re the only organization in baseball that can make that claim.

Double-A Arkansas, Rookie-A Orem and Rookie-A Tempe all went to the championship round in their leagues. Arkansas won the Texas League pennant.

Back on March 27, I published an article about the best teams in Angels minor league history, based on winning percentage.

Over that 48-year span, out of 253 teams, the 2008 Tempe Angels rank #4 with a .696 winning percentage. The 2008 Orem Owlz rank #5 at .693.

(The Dominican academy teams are not included in the 253.)

The two Rookie-A teams reflect young talent largely from the 2007 and 2008 drafts, as well as players not subject to the draft who are from countries outside of North America.

Tempe had young pitchers such as Manaurys Correa from the Dominican Republic and Alexander Torres from Venezuela. Correa reported to Orem for the playoffs, and Torres quickly moved up to help out Rancho Cucamonga in the second-half stretch drive, striking out 62 in 53 innings while posting a 3.91 ERA.

At Orem, Venezuelan third baseman Luis Jimenez led the Pioneer League in homers with 15, and Dominican teammate Angel Castillo was tied for second with 14.

Although we really shouldn’t read much into Dominican Summer League teams, I’ll note that the DSL Angels were 47-22.

So where are the Angels “suffering”?

Certainly not at the Triple-A level. Salt Lake began 2008 with a 21-1 streak, finishing 84-60 overall, and probably would have done better if they hadn’t lost key players to the big league club for extended periods to cover for injuries.

Although final cuts have yet to be announced, it appears that Brandon Wood, Matt Brown, Sean Rodriguez, and Reggie Willits will be heading for Salt Lake in a few days. All of them would make the major league roster on most clubs. Nick Adenhart would be Salt Lake bound too, if not for the current injuries in the starting rotation.

Are they “suffering” at Double-A? Doesn’t seem likely either. Top prospects Hank Conger, Mark Trumbo, Ryan Mount, Jordan Walden and Sean O’Sullivan should all see significant playing time this year at Arkansas.

So BA, where’s the “suffering”?

BA also cites the failure to sign “single-digit picks.”

Well, first off, BA needs to revisit its May 26, 2003 article that reviewed the 1990-1997 drafts. Looking at each of the first ten rounds, it identified percentages for how many players in each round made it to the majors, and ranked them in six categories, from flops-coffee-fringe to regular-good-star.

Over those eight years, here are the percentages of drafted players in each round who ranked “regular” or higher:

  • 1st round 26.6%
  • 2nd round 9.4%
  • 3rd round 6.2%
  • 4th round 3.9%
  • 5th round 5.4%
  • 6th round 5.0%
  • 7th round 4.0%
  • 8th round 4.6%
  • 9th round 2.1%
  • 10th round 3.2%

With such slim odds after the first round, are we really supposed to wring our hands over not signing some fourth or fifth round draft pick?!

The poster child, I suppose, is Matt Harvey, who was selected by the Angels in the third round of the June 2007 draft. Harvey was considered first-round material coming out of high school but other organizations passed because his bonus demands were so high. (Yes, his “advisor” was Scott Boras.) The Angels took a risk by selecting him in the third round, but reportedly he wouldn’t sign for $1.5 million, which is mid-first round bonus money.

BA fails to give the Angels credit for being creative when it comes to selecting “high-risk, high-reward” players in lower rounds.

Harvey might be the example of when high-risk, high-reward went wrong. But the example of when it went right is Nick Adenhart.

Nick was ranked the top high school pitching prospect in the nation until he blew out his elbow just before the June 2004 draft. Other teams passed on the risk. But the Angels selected him in the 14th round, offered him $750,000 (which is a lot more than any other 14th rounder would get), and signed him. The Angels supervised his rehab, were patient and now have one of the best young pitching prospects in the minors.

The Angels selected Mark Trumbo in the 18th round of the same draft. Trumbo was already committed to USC, but the Angels gave him first-round bonus money to sign. Mark hit 32 homers in 2008 between Rancho and Arkansas.

In 2005, the Angels drafted outfielder Peter Bourjos in the 10th round. Pete appears on most Top 10 Angels prospect lists.

In 2006, the Angels selected pitcher Jordan Walden in the 12th round, another example of “high risk, high reward.” Selected as a “draft-and-follow” out of Grayson Community College, Walden signed in May 2007. Either Walden or Adenhart rank as the Angels’ top pitching prospect on most lists.

An Angels scout found left-hander Trevor Reckling at a small prep school in Newark, New Jersey. The Angels selected him in the eighth round of the June 2007 draft. Reckling ranks near the top of most Angels prospects lists.

And as I wrote in last November’s annual Top 10 Prospects report, I think a lot of people are seriously underestimating the bounty from the Angels’ 2008 draft. The Angels selected Ryan Chaffee in the third round, even though he was pitching injured all year with a broken foot. Chaffee underwent surgery last fall and should be ready to go in 2009. Will Smith, selected in the seventh round, had an insanely successful debut in 2008, posting a 76:6 (that’s no typo) strikeout-to-walk ratio in 73 innings to go along with his 3.08 ERA in a hitter-friendly league.

If you need further evidence that draft round isn’t all that important, look at the parent club’s roster. Mike Napoli was selected in the 17th round of the June 2000 draft; no one (including me) saw him as more than an organizational player, but he worked hard and overcame a labrum injury to become a power-hitting major league catcher. Tom Kotchman found Howie Kendrick in a small Florida junior college; the Angels selected him in the 10th round of the June 2002 draft. Kotchman also found Scot Shields at tiny Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee; selected in the 38th round of the June 1997 draft, Scot has become one of the best setup relievers in the game.

Ervin Santana, Kendry Morales and Erick Aybar, all of whom should play key roles in 2009, were foreign undrafted free agents.

It seems to me that BA has once again slighted the Angels when it comes to ranking their organizational talent. But then, the last time that happened, the Angels won the World Series, so maybe it’s a good thing.

Rule 5’ers Update

Miguel Gonzalez
Miguel Gonzalez is lost to the Red Sox for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.


Last December, the Angels lost three minor league pitchers in the Rule 5 draft. Miguel Gonzalez was selected by the Red Sox, Robert Mosebach by the Phillies, and Darren O’Day by the Mets.

Rule 5 requires that the drafting team keep the player on the major league roster for a year, or offer him back to his old club for $25,000. The only exception is if the player is on the disabled list.

It looks like Miggie Gonzalez will be a Red Sox (Sock?) thanks to the latter loophole, although it’s not a good thing. Miggie underwent Tommy John surgery last month and is out for the year.

Bobby Mosebach may get his halo back. The Phillies have offered him back to the Angels for $25,000, half the original purchase price, per Rule 5 rules.

Darren O’Day is still in the mix to make the Mets bullpen, having recovered from last year’s labrum tear. O’Day is yet another Tom Kotchman find to make the big leagues.

“Odd Man Out”: One Player’s Opinion

Chris Rosenbaum
Angels minor leaguer Chris Rosenbaum comments on “Odd Man Out” in his latest blog entry.


Angels minor league catcher Chris Rosenbaum kept a blog journal last year during his season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. It was widely acknowledged by fans of the Angels’ minor league system as a humble yet honest insight into the life of a minor leaguer.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that Chris would comment on Odd Man Out, the book published by former Angels minor leaguer Matt McCarthy. Click Here to read Chris’s comments on the book.

This paragraph pretty much sums up his sentiment:

I have not read the book, and have no intentions of reading it. However, I have read excerpts and spoken to individuals surrounding the stories told within the covers, and have formed my opinion that this work was an attempt to hurt people for personal gain. Many things discussed in this book, whether true or not (and much evidence is piling up suggesting the latter), occurred in the inner sanctum of a clubhouse or related team functions.

Strictly my opinion, those on the Internet defending this book want to see athletes knocked off their pedestal. Never mind the athletes never asked to be placed on that pedestal. But there will always be those who are jealous of people who are successful in life. A “tell-all” book, accurate or not, that claims to reveal the foibles of athletes might give comfort to those who feel inferior and insecure about their own lives.

Unfortunately, that goes with the territory on the Internet. People can hide behind the anonymity of their modem and attack others with behavior that would get a punch in the nose if they tried it in public.

Come to think of it, McCarthy may have thought he could embellish his book without consequences, because he’d never run across the people whose integrity he attacked in the book. It remains to be seen if any of the people named in the book will take legal action.

L.A. Baseball 101

Steve Bilko in 1957
Los Angeles Angel Steve Bilko in 1957, their last year before the Dodgers arrived from Brooklyn.


For those unfamiliar with the history of Los Angeles professional baseball before the Dodgers arrived, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Harvey has this article about the old L.A. Angels and Hollywood Stars.

Here’s an idea for Arte Moreno’s marketing people:

The Angels even had a greeter, the late columnist Matt Weinstock wrote:

“A jovial fellow in a baseball uniform rode a horse slowly through the downtown streets, Main, Spring, Broadway, waving at friends and occasionally blowing a bugle call by way of announcing the baseball game at 2 p.m.”

Sports Hollywood has this excellent article on the old L.A. Angels with plenty of photos.

The above photo is of Angels slugger Steve Bilko in 1957, the last year the Angels operated before the Dodgers arrived from Brooklyn. I’ve always got a kick out of the uniform, with the racing stripes around the shoulders. They remind me of Roller Derby uniforms.

Not covered in Harvey’s article is what happened to the PCL Angels once the Dodgers arrived. The Angels franchise was owned by Philip K. Wrigley, who also owned the Chicago Cubs. To move to L.A., Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley had to acquire the territorial rights. As part of the deal, the Dodgers acquired the PCL Angels franchise, while the Cubs got the Dodgers’ affiliation with the Ft. Worth Cats in the Texas League.

When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles for the 1958 season, the PCL franchise moved to Spokane, Washington as the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. The franchise is now the Las Vegas 51s, which just ended a long affiliation with the Dodgers.

We’re quite happy with our Salt Lake affiliation, but if that ever changes I’d like to see the Angels affiliate with Las Vegas, just to bring the whole “L.A. Angels” connection full-circle.

The Best of the Best

Back on March 16 I posted an article about the best managers in the history of the Angels minor leagues. The numbers in the article were based on data I’ve entered in the FutureAngels.com Database, currently under construction on the FutureAngels.com web site.

Now let’s take a look at the best teams in the history of the Angels minor leagues.

Using the same data, I looked up the top ten teams by winning percentage. They are:

  1. 2003 Provo Angels 54-22 .711
  2. 1990 Boise Hawks 53-23 .697
  3. 2001 Provo Angels 53-23 .697
  4. 2008 Tempe Angels 39-17 .696
  5. 2008 Orem Owlz 52-23 .693
  6. 1970 Hawaii Islanders 98-48 .671
  7. 1997 Boise Hawks 51-25 .671
  8. 1992 Quad Cities River Bandits 91-46 .664
  9. 1991 Boise Hawks 50-26 .658
  10. 1984 Redwood Pioneers 91-48 .655

It should come as no surprise that seven of those ten teams were managed by Tom Kotchman, who as noted in the March 16 article is the winningest manager in Angels minor league history.

But we’re mixing short-season and full-season teams here. Over the course of a longer season, winning percentages should drift to the less extreme.

So let’s see what happens when we query for only teams that played over 100 games:

  1. 1970 Hawaii Islanders 98-48 .671
  2. 1992 Quad Cities River Bandits 91-46 .664
  3. 1984 Redwood Pioneers 91-48 .655
  4. 1976 Salinas Angels 91-49 .650
  5. 1976 Salt Lake City Gulls 90-54 .625
  6. 1975 Quad Cities Angels 78-47 .624
  7. 1967 San Jose Bees 86-52 .623
  8. 1961 Statesville Owls 63-39 .618
  9. 1986 Palm Springs Angels 87-55 .613
  10. 1977 El Paso Diablos 78-52 .600 & 1978 Salinas Angels 84-56 .600

The 1970 Hawaii Islanders were the Angels’ affiliate in the Pacific Coast League (the same league as today’s Salt Lake Bees).

The Islanders’ Winston Llenas was second in the PCL in batting average at .339. Doug Griffin was #6 at .326. (Future Dodger and Angel Bobby Valentine led the PCL with a .340 average.) Hawaii was second in the league in homers with 136; Llenas hit 20, Chuck Vinson hit 22, a Richard Barry hit 18, Wayne Redmond hit 17, James Hicks and John Werhas added 12 each.

Most of those guys saw little to no major league time.

Llenas was a 26-year old middle infielder who saw brief time in Anaheim during the 1968 and 1969 seasons. He returned for 1972-1975, where he did mostly pinch-hit duty. His major league career AVG/OBP/SLG were .230/.277/.279.

Griffin reached Anaheim at the end of the 1970 season. He was part of a big trade that October with the Red Sox. Griffin, Jarvis Tatum and Ken Tatum went to Boston for Tony Conigliaro, Jerry Moses and Ray Jarvis. Conigliaro would retire mid-season in 1971 as his eyesight worsened. Griffin stuck with the Red Sox through 1977, mostly as a light-hitting second-baseman. His major league numbers were .245/.299/.299.

Vinson played with the Angels for 13 games in 1966, but never reached the majors again. He was 26 during that 1970 season.

No Islander was among the top ten in PCL ERA. Left-hander Dennis Bennett was 18-8 with a 4.50 ERA. In 200 innings, he struck out 145 and walked 44. Right-hander Tom Bradley was 11-1 with a 2.53 ERA in 114 innings. Righty Archie Reynolds was 7-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 103 IP. Washburn — Greg, not Jarrod — was 8-8 with a 4.63 ERA in 140 IP.

Hawaii had one reliever who went on to some success in the majors. Southpaw Dave LaRoche had a 1.24 ERA in 58 innings, striking out 67 while walking 19. The Islanders also had legendary submariner Roy Face at the end of his career; he posted a 4.50 ERA in only 10 innings of work.

When we next visit the database … The all-time worst teams.