A bit belated … This article and video was forwarded to me of a Fox Atlanta news story about the Kotchman family uniting for Mother’s Day. You may recall that Susan Kotchman suffered a brain injury last August. Tom left Orem and Casey left the Braves to return to Florida. Susan survived an injury that kills most of its victims.
|On the left, Martin Maldonado catching for the Orem Owlz in August 2005 at age 19. On the right, Martin catching today for the Brevard County Manatees in the Florida State League.|
I worked my first photo shoot today for the Brevard County Manatees (Brewers affiliate). They were playing the Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins affiliate). Both teams are in the Advanced-A Florida State League, the same level as the California League where Rancho Cucamonga plays.
“Fear the Sea Cow” is the Manatees’ slogan for 2009. Manatees are sometimes known as a sea cow. They are the most docile creatures you’ll meet, so I’m not sure what there is to fear, but I digress …
One aspect of minor league baseball I love is running across old friends.
The stats sheet for Jupiter showed Alfredo Amezaga, who was in the Angels system from 1999 through 2004. He’s now with the Marlins; he did a rehab stint in April with the Hammerheads, so he wasn’t here, but that would have been neat to see him again after all these years.
The Manatees catcher looked familiar. When his name was announced, “Martin Maldonado,” I realized he’d been in the Angels system from 2004 through 2006, then released. I didn’t have a chance to talk to him today but I’m sure we’ll sit down before the season is over and renew our acquaintance.
The starting pitcher for the Manatees was staff ace Evan Anundsen, who entered the game with a 1.85 ERA and a team-leading 87 1/3 innings. Selected in the fourth round of the June 2006 draft by the Brewers, his career ERA entering the season was an unremarkable 4.46. But this year, the 21-year old leads the league in ERA and is among its strikeout leaders.
Jupiter third baseman Matt Dominguez got ejected at the plate for arguing balls and strikes after striking out to end the first inning. For a 19-year old, that was a veteran move to get a day off when the weather is hot and it’s a day game after a night game. 🙂
The Hammerheads took the field and began to warm up for the bottom of the first but, before Logan Schafer led off, Manatees manager Mike Guerrero and Jupiter manager Tim Leiper began jawing at each other. The two umpires finally had to separate them after Guerrero left the third base coach’s box and confronted Leiper at the visitor dugout railing.
Now there’s something you don’t see every day.
The Manatees eventually won, 7-4, helped by five Jupiter errors. Anundsen gave up two runs in six innings, striking out nine and watching one. I need to bring my camcorder next time he pitches to tape him.
In addition to Maldonado’s photo above, here are some more photos from today’s game.
Manatees starting pitcher Evan Anundsen is one of the top starting pitchers in the Florida State League.
Manatees manager Mike Guerrero jaws with Hammerheads skipper Tim Leiper in the middle of the first inning. Apparently Leiper said something about one of the Manatees players and Guerrero took exception.
Manatees center fielder Logan Schafer doubles to lead off the bottom of the first.
Manatees left fielder Lee Haydel entangles with Jupiter shortstop Osvaldo Martinez after he doubled. An errant throw allowed Haydel to advance to third.
After a couple months on the inactive list due to the Florida move, I’m starting to get in the groove again. I’m going to Orem for the July 24-26 games.
I’ve received inquiries asking if I’m going to Tempe for Randal Grichuk, Michael Trout and crew. I’d like to go, but my concern is that if I go in mid-August they may have been promoted to Orem by then. I’m hoping to go to fall instructional league in late September, and I’m fairly confident they’ll be part of that, so I may wait until then.
I may also go to Cedar Rapids for their playoff series in September, but we’ll see.
If you were one of the players at extended spring training April 27-29 when I was there for photography, I’m finally starting to post those photos online. Check the FutureAngels.com Digital Photo Gallery for your photos. I’m about halfway through, so give it a couple weeks if you don’t see anything.
As for reprint sales, I’m still not quite at that point. I’m looking for a vendor who will do a volume rate discount as did my photo lab in California. I have a candidate and if all goes well I’ll start accepting orders again in a week or two.
While on the subject of monetary compensation, let me remind everyone once again that FutureAngels.com survives on your donations. I don’t run ads, I don’t charge for any of my services. I lose a couple thousand dollars a year, mostly due to travel costs, preserving memories for players and their loved ones. I do accept donations, so if you enjoy FutureAngels.com and want to help it continue then please consider either a voluntary subscription ($5.00/month) or a one-time donation. Click Here for more information about how to donate.
Here in Florida, I’m making contacts to start up a similar operation. It’ll be called SpaceCoastBaseball.com but don’t bother checking the web site, there’s nothing there yet. The idea is to follow the FutureAngels.com format but apply it to professional and amateur baseball here in the Space Coast.
Here’s the web site for the Space Coast Office of Tourism, if you want to learn more about the region.
Today’s local paper had an article about a startup winter league here called, appropriately enough, the Florida Winter Baseball League. The idea is to have an American version of the winter leagues in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Venezuela.
I think it’s a great idea, especially given how increasingly dangerous it’s become for both locals and foreigners in Venezuela. And considering how many Floridians play pro ball, this would be a great opportunity for them to play during the winter to make a little money. It would also give scouts a chance to see some players they may not otherwise see.
The main problem, in my opinion, will be attendance. Ten years ago, four California League teams staged a post-season circuit called the California Fall League. (FutureAngels.com was its official web site.) The CFL was a financial disaster, in part because Major League Baseball failed to subsidize it but also because attendance was abysmal. Sports fans were distracted by the World Series, football and basketball.
I fear the FWBL will have the same problem. Baseball seems to be third in these parts anyway behind football and basketball, and maybe behind water sports. So getting people to watch unknowns in November-January will be tough. I hope the league has deep pockets so they can give it time to establish itself.
If they could get a little seed money from MLB (fat chance of that), it would be a lot easier. I think the league would be of help to MLB teams. Using the Angels as an example, they could suggest their Floridian minor leaguers play in the FWBL, knowing Tom Kotchman is down here to keep an eye on them. It could be an extension of the four-week fall instructional league, providing lots more time for minor leaguers to work on skills.
It’s one of those ideas that makes so much sense, it’ll probably never happen.
Mark Trumbo may be emerging from a season-long funk. He’s batting .385 in his last thirteen games.
I went over to Space Coast Stadium last night to watch the Brevard County Manatees host the Dunedin Blue Jays. The Manatees won the Florida State League’s North Division first half title with a 40-24 record, but got blown out last night 12-1.
I couldn’t help but think of Orem Owlz manager Tom Kotchman after a play in the top of the first. Dunedin leadoff batter Sean Shoffit tripled. The next batter, Raul Barron, grounded to third. No way Shoffit should have scored, but Manatees third baseman Zelous Wheeler fielded the ball and threw to first without first checking Shoffit. This is the time of year that Kotch is teaching his new recruits in Orem the proper way to play pro ball, and a mental mistake like that would have Kotch coming out of his cleats.
Brevard is a much more modest operation than their Angels counterpart in Rancho Cucamonga. I walked up with my ticket to the gate, and handed it to the ticket taker. I’d called last week to establish diplomatic relations with the GM, and said I’d find him when I got to the game. So I asked the young man, “Where can I find Kyle?”
“I’m Kyle,” he replied
Meanwhile, in the Angels world …
Trevor Reckling was named today to the U.S. roster for the Futures Game July 12 in St. Louis, but as I wrote on June 19 he’s been suffering lately from wildness. In his last four starts, he’s walked 21 batters in 23 1/3 innings (19 strikeouts). Hopefully it’s just a mechanical issue, but it bears watching.
In my June 22 article looking at the 2008 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects, I mentioned signs of Mark Trumbo coming out of his slump. That trend has continued. In his last 13 games, he’s 20 for 52 with seven doubles and a triple. His AVG/OBP/SLG are .385/.396/.558. Keep going, Mark.
Ryan Chaffee was ranked #6 last November on the FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects list. He’ll represent the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Midwest League All-Star Game.
The 2008 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report was published last November. We’re now about halfway through the 2009 season, so let’s take a quick look at how they’re proceeding.
A disclaimer … Prospect rankings are always shifting, whether it’s a professional analysis by Baseball America, or semi-pro reporting by those such as Baseball Prospectus, John Sickels and myself. They’re simply a snapshot in time. Some may claim their expertise is infallible (those would be the amateur/fan sites), but the truth is we’re all guessing based on the facts as we have them at the time, and what’s most important to us for the future. I have the advantage of following the Angels full-time, while those others scatter their resources across thirty organizations.
Presented in reverse order, just as they were last November:
10. Luis Jimenez 3B — I wrote last November that “Lucho” had been relegated to DH duty since August 8 after injuring his throwing shoulder in a game. He wound up undergoing labrum surgery and is currently on rehab at the Angels’ minor league complex in Tempe. When I visited during extended spring training, the scuttlebutt was that he might DH the rest of the year, but so far he’s still disabled. How well he recovers may determine if he remains at the Hot Corner or moves to a corner outfield position.
9. Matt Brown 3B-1B — Brownie turned heads in spring training when he posted an AVG/OBP/SLG of .468/.527/.787 (47 AB), but he’s just another example of how much caution should be used when analyzing spring numbers. Matt hit just .189 in April with only one homer. He’s picked it up a bit since then, but overall his numbers are still just .223/.324/.429. Originally a third baseman, he’s played mostly first base to give him another position on the résumé. He turns 27 in August and can be a six-year minor league free agent this winter if the Angels don’t protect him on the 40-man roster.
8. Kevin Jepsen RHP — Jepsen injured his lower back early in the season and went on the disabled list April 21 with tightness and spasms. The Angels sent him to Salt Lake first as a rehab assignment and then outright when he came off the DL, but his 9.00 ERA and 2.56 WHIP (Hits + Walks)/(Innings Pitched) in 18 innings showed little to suggest progress. The Angels recalled him anyway on June 10 when they demoted Jose Arredondo; in five innings, he’s allowed four runs on eight hits, struck out four and walked none.
7. Peter Bourjos CF — Bourjos has fulfilled expectations with Double-A Arkansas, earning a spot on the Texas League North Division All-Star team. Due to a sprained left wrist suffered during batting practice on June 4, he won’t be able to participate, but up to that point his numbers were excellent for a 22-year old in Double-A. His AVG/OBP/SLG were .316/.366/.454; because his home park is so pitcher-friendly, it’s important to note that his home/away splits are very similar so there’s no reason for “adjustment” to his overall numbers. Pete could improve his OBP by taking more walks, and he could work at reducing his strikeout rate (once every 5.2 AB), but those are common nitpicks for young hitters at upper levels. In the stolen base department, he was 14 for 20, a bit of a slowdown in his usual theft rate. His defense in center field has been excellent, having not committed a single error and among the league leaders in outfield putouts when injured.
6. Ryan Chaffee RHP — I took a lot of grief from the amateur/fan sites for this one, but so far Chaffee has shown he deserved the recognition. Drafted in the third round of the June 2008 draft, Chaffee was unable to pitch professionally last year due to a broken foot that eventually required corrective surgery. His winter workouts in Tempe drew rave reviews. Although he was projected to report to Rookie-A Orem in June, he was assigned out of extended spring training to Class A Cedar Rapids in April 25 as pitching promotions cascaded throughout the organization in the wake of injuries at the parent club level. Chaffee didn’t disappoint. Despite his late arrival, he was voted by league managers onto the Midwest League West Division All-Star team. His overall numbers to date are a 2.83 ERA in 11 starts (60.1 IP) with a 66:29 SO:BB ratio. His groundouts to all other outs (GO/AO) ratio is an outstanding 3.38, and his AVG against is .176. Ryan turned 21 on May 18; I won’t be surprised if he gets a promotion to Rancho Cucamonga after the All-Star break, certainly before season’s end.
5. Nick Adenhart RHP — Despite a poor 2008, Nick made the parent club roster out of spring training after the Angels lost John Lackey and Ervin Santana. He made his first start on April 8 in Anaheim against Oakland, and pitched six shutout innings. Later that night, he was killed by an alleged drunk driver. The loss to baseball is insignificant compared to that suffered by his family, loved ones, and the many people whose lives he touched.
4. Hank Conger C — The first question to be answered was, “Will Hank Conger ever catch again?” The answer is yes. He’s caught in 40 of the 58 games in which he’s appeared this year, having twice caught in seven straight games when he was in the lineup, so no questions are left about his shoulder holding up. His defense has been acceptable too — a .980 fielding average, only six errors so far, and he’s thrown out 14 of 39 runners (35.9%), which ranks third among Texas League regular catchers, although the caught-runners stat is dependent upon the ability of a pitcher to hold a runner on base. So let’s talk about his offense. That aspect of his game has been disappointing, although it’s important to remember he’s a 21-year old only two steps from the majors; there will be guys younger than him starting their pro careers this week at Orem and Tempe. His overall AVG/OBP/SLG are .265/.318/.352. I’ve written many times that the Travelers play in perhaps the most pitcher-friendly park in the league, yet surprisingly his offense numbers are much better at home (.296/.346/.417) than on the road (.234/.282/.287). One good sign is that his strikeout rate is excellent for a power hitter, once every 5.8 AB. He may wind up repeating the Texas League in 2010 if the power numbers don’t pick up, but that was the one aspect of his game no one worried about until now. Everything else is looking good.
3. Mark Trumbo 1B — There was every reason to think Trumbo would have a good 2009 with the Travelers. In 132 AB at the end of 2008, Mark posted an AVG/OBP/SLG of .276/.311/.496; on the road, those numbers were .357/.410/.661 (61 AB). But so far, he’s failed to repeat that performance in his first full Double-A season. His overall numbers are .238/.288/.383 (240 AB), with his road numbers .242/.278/.371 (124 AB). He’s shown some life in his last ten games, batting .333/.350/.513 with five doubles and a triple. Defense is always hard to measure statistically, but if you compare his numbers to the league leaders they’re very competitive. Hopefully he builds on his recent streak into the second half.
2. Jordan Walden RHP — Walden missed a month (April 21 to May 19) due to an inflamed right elbow muscle, so it’s hard to get a read on how much that’s been affecting him. His overall numbers are a bit lackluster — 4.12 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, .298 AVG — but in June they’re much better — 1.90 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, .258 AVG. In his four June starts, he’s struck out 27 in 23.2 IP, suggesting the elbow problem may have passed. I like that he’s given up only three homers (one in June), which is a good sign as when he’s going well he rarely gives up dingers.
1. Will Smith LHP — Another controversial ranking for which I caught grief, but overall I’m still confident about his top ranking. (I will note, though, that last November I predicted Chaffee could be #1 for 2009.) Will’s numbers are a bit deceiving, because he got hurt early when he strained his left hamstring in his second start on April 18. Smith returned three weeks later on May 7 and got bombed, which I dismiss because he hadn’t pitched in a while. If you look at his numbers since then, he’s had eight starts, 54.1 IP, a 2.98 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 48 strikeouts and 10 walks. Not quite the insane 76:6 SO:BB ratio in 73 IP last year at Orem, but still very impressive for a 19-year old in the Midwest League. (He turns 20 on July 10.) The injury probably cost him a nomination to the All-Star Game. A defensive note — six of nine runners against him have been caught stealing, but that could be credited to his catcher as well as Will. In any case, this 6’5″ southpaw (with room to grow) continues to look as if he may evolve into a dominant pitcher, with a late-season promotion to Advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga not out of the question.
UPDATE June 23, 2009 10:30 AM PDT — This morning’s Cedar Rapids Gazette had a lengthy article about Ryan Chaffee and the other Kernels chosen for tonight’s Midwest League All-Star Game. Kernels manager Bill Mosiello had this to say about Chaffee:
“He needs to make a lot of changes,” Kernels Manager Bill Mosiello said. “He needs to not try and trick every hitter and pitch around everybody. Like the other day, he gives up one run but throws 98 pitches in five innings. If he continues to do that, he’s not going to be able to pitch very long.
“But he’s been good since day one. Sometimes in their minds, they are developing. Maybe they’re not physically showing it, but I think he’s learning … He’s going through the process, still learning. It’s like I told him, it’s pretty neat to learn like that giving up only one run. Hopefully he’ll make the adjustments in his next start and as he gets older.”
Kernels second baseman Alexi Amarista will play in Tuesday’s Midwest League All-Star Game. He’s batting .310 and has 22 stolen bases.
The first half for most full-season minor leagues ends this weekend. I’ll wait until then to take a mid-season look at the players listed last November in my 2008 Top 10 Prospects report.
Let’s take a look at guys who might have made my list had I possessed a working crystal ball:
RHP Matt Palmer was a journeyman pitcher signed by the Angels over the winter as a six-year minor league free agent from the Giants’ system. Palmer found himself in the big leagues only because of a rash of injuries to the Angels’ starting rotation. The Angels lost John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escobar, Dustin Moseley and Shane Loux, and worst of all the death of Nick Adenhart. At age 30, Palmer is no one’s idea of a future Hall of Famer, but he provided quality innings at the back of the rotation when it was desperately needed. As of this writing, he has a 6-0 record and a 4.13 ERA in 56.2 innings.
LHP Trevor Reckling appeared on many Top 10 lists. He almost made mine — if there’d been a #11, it would have been him — but I wanted to see how his mechanics held up over another full season before I gave him Top 10 status. Trevor began 2009 at age 19 with High-A Rancho Cucamonga. He made only three starts before Nick Adenhart’s death rippled through the organization. Sean O’Sullivan moved up from Double-A Arkansas to Triple-A Salt Lake, and Reck moved up to fill Sully’s spot. He’s responded beyond all expectations, becoming one of six Travelers named to the Texas League All-Star Game. He turned 20 on May 22, one of the youngest pitchers in the league. Reckling has been shaky in his last three starts, walking 15 in 17.1 innings, which could be mechanical issues, fatigue or just the league catching up with him. It’s also important to note that Dickey-Stephens Park is very pitcher-friendly; it you look at his home/road splits, his home ERA is 1.72 (36.2 IP) but his road ERA is 4.57 (21.2 IP). The second half will be key, to see if fatigue catches up to him and if the extreme home/road split continues.
RHP Trevor Bell, a supplemental draft pick after the first round in June 2005, was generally considered to be a disappointment coming into 2009. Last season found him demoted from Rancho Cucamonga to Cedar Rapids as a disciplinary action, and when he returned to the Quakes he was in the bullpen. There was little reason to think he’d step it up in 2009, join Double-A Arkansas in the starting rotation, be named to the Texas League All-Star Game and be promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake before mid-season. Bell posted a 2.23 ERA in 11 starts (68.2 IP) with 51 strikeouts and 20 walks. But how’s about that home/away split we talked about? Good news. His home ERA was 2.25 (44.0 IP), his road ERA was 2.19 (24.2 IP). He gave up only one homer in the first half, and that was at home. In his first Triple-A start on June 16, Bell went the distance at home against Colorado Springs, pitching a two-hit shutout in hitter-friendly Spring Mobile Ballpark.
2B Alexi Amarista is charitably listed at 5’8″ 150 lbs., but the 20-year old Venezuelan has hit his way into the Midwest League All-Star Game for the Kernels. His glove got him named the Angels’ defensive player of the month for April, committing no errors in 77 chances (although he’s committed nine since then). Amarista has fallen back to earth in June, batting .261 to date. A left-handed batter, he generally lacks power with no homers and a .424 SLG, but he makes up for it with speed, notching 22 stolen bases to date in 32 attempts. His SO:BB ratio is nearly 1:1 (33:27 in 245 AB) and fits well into the Angels’ “Contactball” style of play, striking out once every 7.4 at-bats.
OF Chris Pettit roared out of the gate with an AVG/OBP/SLG of .424/.451/.636 in April for the Salt Lake Bees. The 24-year old outfielder was an unknown when he was selected as a college senior in the 19th round of the 2006 draft, but he’s hit well at each level and was well on his way to establishing himself as a legit prospect when he broke the hamate bone in his left hand on June 4 and may be out for the year. Although he’s seen action at all three outfield positions in his career, he’s best suited for the corners and played mostly LF for the Bees. I’ve written many times here about the importance of splitting out the PCL’s five hitter-friendly parks (Salt Lake, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, Las Vegas and Reno) from the rest to get an accurate picture of a hitter’s performance; when we do that with Chris, his AVG/OBP/SLG in hitter-friendly parks were .393/.442/.580 (150 AB) and in the rest were .283/.306/.478 (46 AB). Those numbers suggest his offense was largely due to the parks, but we’ll have to wait and see after he returns from the injury if he can retain his prospect status.
OF Jeremy Moore is the quintessential “project,” a potential five-tool player if he can ever harness his raw talents. Last year at Cedar Rapids, his AVG/OBP/SLG were .240/.284/.478, the latter number reflecting an explosion of power (11 doubles, 12 triples, 17 homers). He stole 28 bases in 38 attempts, but his frightening 125:21 SO:BB (5.9:1) ratio suggested problems at higher levels. This year at Rancho Cucamonga, Moore has improved his AVG and OBP; his numbers are now .309/.352/.458. His SO:BB ratio of 70:14 (5.0:1) is better than 2008, but his strikeouts have increased with his walks. The Cal League is a notorious hitter’s league, so that should also be taken into consideration. His stolen bases are down too, with only seven in 18 attempts. The left-handed hitting Moore is batting .384 against southpaw pitchers (73 AB), .276 against righties (163 AB). He turns 22 on June 29 (Happy Birthday, J-Mo).
The Cedar Rapids Kernels bullpen deserves a lot of credit for the team qualifying for the post-season by finishing first or second in the first half (that’ll be decided this weekend). ERA isn’t always the best number to measure a relief pitcher’s success, so let’s go with WHIP (Walks + Hits)/(Innings Pitched). LHP Drew Taylor has a WHIP of 0.93 and AVG against of .132, RHP Michael Kohn has 0.89 and .165, RHP Jeremy Thorne has 1.12 and .226, and RHP Vladimir Veras has 0.96 and .163. Kohn and Veras close most of the time; Kohn has 11 saves and Veras has 10. Taylor is averaging 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings, Kohn 14.2 and Veras 10.5. Taylor, a 34th round pick, might move up fastest due to his age (23 in August) and the fact that he’s left-handed, but he struggled with Rancho in April when he had a 2.82 WHIP in five relief appearances before returning to C.R. Orem manager Tom Kotchman told me last year that Taylor was a great scouting job by Chris McAlpin, and may project as a situation lefty with 87-91 MPH velocity and a slider.
It’s no surprise that an organization that values pitching so highly should be so deep in pitching. Yes, there’s a lack of power hitters, but if the parent club ever sees the need to make a trade they certainly have a lot of pitching to offer in return, and baseball professionals will tell you that pitching is the coin of the realm.
UPDATE 2:30 PM PDT — I wanted to add a comment about Salt Lake outfielder Terry Evans. Terry made the 2007 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects list after making his major league debut that year, but he missed most of 2008 after suffering a torn right labrum in a slide at home plate on May 6. Evans fell off the prospect radar but is trying to play his way back into the Angels’ plans. His overall AVG/OBP/SLG are .284/.330/.521, but as with Pettit we need to split his numbers into hitter-friendly and other parks. His hitter-friendly numbers are .292/.344/.536 (192 AB), and in other parks .261/.288/.478 (69 AB). This mirrored what I saw in 2007; Terry was never one to take many walks, but almost all of them were in hitter-friendly parks. Why he takes almost no walks in neutral/pitcher-friendly parks, I can’t explain. In any case, the “neutral” numbers along with his high strikeout rate (once every 3.4 AB) suggest he’s not quite ready for prime time prospect status just yet, and at age 27 he may be about out of time.
Gelf Magazine has a lengthy interview with Odd Man Out author Matt McCarthy. Click Here to read the interview.
McCarthy continues to peddle the line that any inaccuracies are simply mistaken dates. But as I documented on March 6, it’s a lot more than the wrong date on the calendar. Key events in the book simply couldn’t have happened.