Tagged: Salt Lake Bees

Milwaukee on Nick Green

Nick Green
Nick Green


The Milwaukee Brewers claimed Nick Green on waivers last week, after the Angels needed a slot on the 40-man roster for Bobby Abreu.

Whenever another organization acquires one of our minor leaguers, I like to see what that team’s hometown newspaper has to say about our player, because it gives some insight into what that organization saw in him.

Sure enough, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story February 12 on Nick Green. Here’s what they had to say:

The Angels designated Green, 24, for assignment on Tuesday to make room for the signing of free-agent outfielder Bobby Abreu. Green, 24, pitched at Class AAA Salt Lake last season, going 8-8 with a 5.32 ERA in 28 starts.

In 159 innings, he allowed 186 hits and 44 walks and logged 112 strikeouts. Opponents batted .292 against him. He has two minor-league options left.

The 6-foot-4 Green is not a hard thrower – his fastball is in the 89- to 91-mph range – but has an excellent changeup and decent curve. He pounds the strike zone, one of the reasons he surrendered 31 homers in 2008.

“He’s a tall, lanky guy who throws strikes,” Melvin said. “He does give up some home runs but he knows how to pitch. He’s not overpowering.”

Green was #8 on the 2007 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report. Here’s what I wrote in November 2007:

Nick Green became known as “the 9:30 Guarantee” because he once promised an umpire that a home game with a 7:10 PM start would be finished by 9:30 PM. Green had a reputation as one of the league’s fastest workers, but he was also one of the most durable. Green led the league in innings pitched (178.1 IP), averaging 6.4 IP per start, and was sixth in ERA at 3.68 ERA. Nick’s velocity is usually in the high 80s, so he has to get by on location and his secondary pitches. His “plus” pitch has always been his changeup that can have a screwball action to right-handed batters with late sink. He also has a curveball, and added a slider in 2007.

Green’s fastball tends to finish high in the zone, which results in a lot of fly balls — and home runs. As noted above, Dickey-Stephens Park is very pitcher-friendly. Green gave up 17 homers in 2007, the fourth highest in the league, with 12 of those on the road. His GO:AO ratio was 0.74 (lower than the team average 0.97), meaning that his strikeouts plus fly balls are greater than the number of groundouts he throws. On the bright side, he did a great job of holding baserunners — only 19 runners attempted to run on him all year, and of those only 10 were successful.

Nick’s away numbers were less impressive than at home, as you might expect. His home ERA was 3.28, but his road ERA was 4.01. He was a much better pitcher in the second half, though, and his final four starts were on the road. In those four starts, his ERA was 2.78, so it looks like his second-half progress was legitimate; his Post All-Star Game ERA was 2.88.

Green is pretty much a lock to start 2008 at high-altitude Triple-A Salt Lake, which means his home runs allowed can’t help but increase. He reminds me of Matt Wise, a right-hander in the Angels system in the late 1990s. Matt’s plus pitch was also a changeup. Wise and Green are of similar physical stature. During his 2001 tour with Salt Lake, Wise gave up 19 HR in 123.1 IP — 10 HR at home in Salt Lake in 56.1 IP — and posted a 5.04 ERA. So if you want to use Wise as a template, expect Green’s 2007 high ratio of fly balls and homers to worsen with the Bees.

I expect Nick will eventually wind up in a setup reliever role, similar to Wise who now pitches for Milwaukee. Hopefully Nick avoids the “Tommy John” surgery Matt suffered in 2003. Green could also evolve into a back-of-the-rotation starter if he can improve his secondary pitches.


The Time is Now for Brandon Wood

Brandon Wood
Brandon Wood hit 43 homers in 2005 with Rancho Cucamonga, an Angels minor league single-season record.


If you’ve followed the FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects reports I’ve written over the years, one unique analysis is the split of Salt Lake numbers. Franklin Covey field is hitter-friendly at 4,500 feet, but a simple home/road analysis won’t suffice. The Pacific Coast League has other hitter-friendly parks — Las Vegas, Tucson, Albuquerque and Colorado Springs. So what I do is calculate splits for those five versus the rest of the league.

Brandon Wood is no longer eligible for rookie status, having more than 130 at-bats in the majors, so he didn’t appear on the 2008 FutureAngels.com Top 10 list. But after reading yet again more claims by certain individuals on fan boards and blogs that Wood is a “bust” at age 23, I thought I’d perform this unique split analysis and see what we come up with.

Here are Wood’s splits in 2007 at age 22 (AVG/OBP/SLG):

High-Altitude AVG/OBP/SLG: .279/.352/.472
Pitcher-Friendly/Other AVG/OBP/SLG: .258/.305/.553

Here are the new calculations for his 2008 season at age 23:

High-Altitude AVG/OBP/SLG: .296/.382/.577
Pitcher-Friendly/Other AVG/OBP/SLG: .297/.364/.633

A couple of interesting trends emerge:

  • In 2007, Wood’s SLG in the neutral/pitcher-friendly parks was higher than in the hitter-friendly parks — .553 vs. .472. That trend continued in 2008, .633 vs. .577.
  • Wood showed a dramatic improvement in his neutral/pitcher-friendly numbers, from .258/.305/.553 to .297/.364/.633. Even if you opt to use these more conservative numbers as an accurate reflection of his progress, those are great numbers for a 23-year old in Triple-A.

Some people argue that Triple-A isn’t the big leagues. I agree.

But the only way a hitter is going to learn to adjust to major league pitching is to face major league pitching. That means showing the patience to let him struggle until he figures it out.

I’ve pointed out many times that Mike Schmidt went through a similar struggle. In 1973, his first full season with Philadelphia, his numbers were .196/.324/.373 in 132 games. At the end of that season, he had 401 major-league at-bats. Wood so far has 183 AB. Schmidt was about the same age as Wood is now.

The unique split analysis shows that Brandon Wood has nothing left to prove in Triple-A. It’s time to hand him a big league job, either at shortstop or third base, and let him play every day. It may take a good three months or so before it all clicks for him, but the AL West isn’t likely to pose much of a challenge for the Angels this year, so they can afford to let him have some regular playing time.

Nonetheless, he’ll have to come into spring training and show he deserves that job. My point is it’s time to give him that opportunity.

5 for 6 Ain’t Bad

Owlz outfielder Roberto Lopez has a shot at the Pioneer League triple crown.


The Angels system came within one run of placing all six minor league teams in the post-season.

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes lost a one-game sudden-death playoff Tuesday at Inland Empire, 7-6 in 13 innings. Flip that score and all six teams are playing capture the flag.

Still, five out of six is darn good. And although I don’t count them because they’re an academy operation, the Dominican Summer League Angels finished 47-24 in a virtual tie for first in their division. They won their first best-of-three series 2-0 over the DSL Rangers, but were eliminated in the second round 2-1 by the DSL Nationals.

With players called up from Salt Lake to Anaheim for September, the Angels have moved around some minor league chess pieces to compensate. Catcher Tim Duff and second baseman Adam Morrissey reported to the Bees from Arkansas, and Quakes second baseman Ryan Mount also reported to Salt Lake. None of them are in tonight’s starting lineup at Sacramento.

Arkansas got catcher Hank Conger from the Quakes to complement catcher C.J. Broussard who reported from Rancho Cucamonga a couple days ago. Hank will probably DH most of the time; he hasn’t caught since August 22 as the Angels continue to treat gently his shoulder recovering from a slight labrum tear in spring training.

Cedar Rapids got infielder-outfielder Alexi Amarista from the Tempe Angels. Charitably listed at 5’8″ 150 lbs., for some of we long-timers he evokes memories of popular diminutive infielder Joe Urso, who played for the Lake Elsinore Storm in the mid-1990s. 19-year old Amarista finished with an AVG/OBP/SLG of .332/.416/.431 in the Arizona League.

Orem won both halves of the Pioneer League South Division. They’ll face their I-15 rivals, the Ogden Raptors (Dodgers affiliate), in a best-of-three starting Saturday in Ogden. Games #2 and (if necessary) #3 will be in Orem. The winner of that matchup will face either Billings or Great Falls in the title series.

Should the Owlz get to the championship round, I’ll fly up for Games #2 and #3 at Orem scheduled for September 12 and 13. It looks like manager Tom Kotchman won’t return as he remains in Florida to tend to his ailing wife, so I’m going to videotape as much as I can to send him the highlights.

Owlz outfielder Roberto Lopez has a shot at the Triple Crown. He’s first in average at .402 (Great Falls’ Tyler Kuhn is second at .370), second in homers with 14 (trailing teammate Luis Jimenez and tied with teammate Angel Castillo), and first in RBI with 69 (teammate Jimenez has 63). Regarding the RBI record, Robb Quinlan had 77 RBI with Boise in 1999, which is probably the best short-season record in the Angels system in recent years, although I haven’t researched it. Lopez has three games including tonight to catch Quinlan.

Just in … Cedar Rapids shut out Clinton (Rangers affiliate) 3-0 tonight to take a 1-0 lead in their series. Arkansas’ game against Northwest Arkansas was postponed due to the remnants of Hurricane Gustav. They’ll try again on Thursday.

Brandon Wood Rolls On

Brandon Wood continues to show signs he’s just about ready for prime time.

In July, his AVG/OBP/SLG were .355/.439/.738. Seven games into his August, his numbers for this month are .346/.400/.731.

Woody has always had a high strikeout rate, so it’s important to note that his whiffs are down too. In 26 August at-bats, he’s struck out only three times.

With the Angels comfortably in first place, will they call up Wood and let him have a couple weeks at shortstop in August to see if they want him on the post-season roster?

Players need to be on the 25-man roster come September 1 to be eligible. It might be too much to ask, but if Brandon is ready to make the leap to the majors, adding his power bat to a lineup that already has Teixeira, Guerrero, Hunter and Anderson would be a significant offensive upgrade over Maicer Izturis or Erick Aybar.

Defensively, Wood and Howie Kendrick were a keystone combination for Provo, Cedar Rapids and Rancho Cucamonga, so they should handle the transition with no problem.

Spare time for me is quite rare these days, which is why you don’t see many blog posts. It’s going to be that way probably through season’s end. I’ve been able to process very few photos shot this year, and have plenty video to post as well on FutureAngels.com, so your patience and understanding are appreciated.

My wife and I will be in the Space Coast area of Florida the end of August, so I’ll have even less time for anything other than updating the FutureAngels.com home page. Hopefully I can find the time to go watch the Brevard County Manatees and/or the Daytona Cubs.

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 …

Bees and BeesGal Raise Money for Cedar Rapids

The Salt Lake Deseret News reports that “The Bees will donate 50 cents from each ticket sold to today’s game to aid Iowans affected by the recent floods. Minor league teams located in cities devastated by flooding include the Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Iowa Cubs and Quad City River Bandits.”

Not to be outdone, BeesGal of The Sporksball Journal sent out this announcement:

The Sporkball Journals pledges $25 for every run scored by the Salt Lake Bees in Sunday’s fundraiser game for the Iowa Flood Relief Fund. For example, should the Bees score 8 runs, the total donation will be $100. 20 runs (like Tuesday) puts $500 into the relief fund.

Furthermore, The Sporkball Journals challenges any and all citizens, orgs and corporations to match this pledge, dollar for dollar. As most of you know, I’m just a one-woman shop based out of my home. If this matching challenge could be announced at the ballpark and on the radio, perhaps my tiny seed money can be the catalyst for a larger wave of financial support from our community as a whole.

Lastly, all of you are aware of how our fellow Minor-League Angels fans, families and friends in the Midwest truly need our help. Nonetheless, it is certainly worth repeating that in Cedar Rapids alone — home of the Angels Single-A Affiliate Cedar Rapids Kernels — damages caused by the floods is estimated at over $1.3 billion dollars, and rising.

Meanwhile, still no indication of any announcement from the Angels that they’ll help Cedar Rapids …

The PCL’s a Hit

I’ve written many times about how Salt Lake Bees stats have to be viewed in context because five PCL parks — Salt Lake, Colorado Springs, Las Vegas, Tucson and Albuquerque — distort offensive numbers.

The annual FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects reports in recent years have split Salt Lake numbers not using home vs. road but those five parks versus “normal” parks. Of all the prospects reports I’ve read, written by professionals or amateurs, mine is the only one that drills down to get a more accurate representation of Salt Lake statistics.

A new article on Baseball America proves what I’ve been saying all along. (The article requires a BA subscription to read.)

Entitled “Examining PCL Production: Perceptions of League Skewed by High Offense West,” author Matt Eddy calculates a statistic called Park Factor (PF) based on the league’s 2005-2007 seasons. To quote Eddy:

Using home/road data from the years 2005 to 2007, we arrive at the basic runs per game park factors (PF) for the 16 teams, with 100 being average. So, for example, Albuquerque’s 140 park factor indicates that for the three seasons inclusive, the Isotopes scored and allowed 40 percent more runs in home games than road games.

The PFs for the five parks I’ve pulled out in my analyses are:

Albuquerque 140
Colorado Springs 125
Las Vegas 124
Salt Lake 120
Tucson 111

No other PCL park is over 100.

In addition to their 70 home games in Salt Lake, this year the Bees will play a total of 24 road games in hitter-friendly parks. That’s 94 games that will distort numbers.

Anyway, it was nice to see validation of my methodology from a credible source.