Sixth in the series. The Arkansas Travelers were the only team to win their league championship, thanks in large part to an offensive boost by Hank Conger, who joined the team for its playoff run.
AA Texas League is a lot like the California League, except harder, and not as hitter friendly. By the time you hit Double-A, if you're going places most fans will know your name. Rarely you can get called up straight to the majors from here, ala Ervin Santana. I said before that this team didn't have a whole lot of talent, and it didn't, but they managed to do a lot anyway. Things to keep in mind:
- Hitting-suppressive. Arkansas got a new stadium last year, and early returns seem to indicate that it does not like hitters, in much the same way as Cedar Rapids. That said, Double-A can be a weird sort of place, where some guys who struggled earlier suddenly figure it out.
- Age Range. 22-23 is okay, lower than that is young, 24 is up there, and 25 is pushing it. You start to get some elder journeymen at this level though, guys who are late-twenties and into their thirties.
- Double-A. Starting to close in on the majors, guys here are typically 1-2 years away.
- I am not a professional scout, though I have occasionally seen some of these guys in person.
Mark Trumbo- 1B Born 1/16/1986 (22) - .276/.311/.496/.807, 32 G, 123 AB, 7 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 9 BB, 29 K, 1 SB, 2 CS
Trumbo beat up on Rancho Cucamonga much like one might have expected him to, then did quite well in his first 4 games or so for Arkansas before falling off. It's a small sample size, but he did well enough that he might conceivably move up to Triple-A next year depending on what happens to Kendry Morales.
Trumbo is an interesting story. Grew up an Angels fan, and was a power pitching/hitting prospect ion high school, with a 94 MPH heater. He's been developed as a hitter since joining the Angels organization, and while it has been slow going at times, Trumbo has done pretty well for himself. His strikeouts aren't all that high for a power-hitter, and he compares pretty well with Mike Napoli hitting-wise (just look at his picture on milb.com and tell me that doesn't look like Napoli in a Traveler's uni). Doesn't have Napoli's patience, but doesn't have his problems with strikeouts either.
Anthony Ortega- RHSP Born 8/24/1985 (23) - 3.73 ERA, 135 IP, 1.28 WHIP, 49 BB, 83 K
Ortega sort of sprang out of nowhere to become our best pitcher at the AA level, much like Nick Green and Miguel Gonzales materialized in Arkansas last year. Guys will do that, sort of drift through Rancho, not looking like anything special, and then put up decent numbers here.
Unlike Green, Ortega consistently gets groundballs, which may have helped him achieve a degree of success at SLC when he got promoted there late in the year. He also put up a better BB-rate at SLC than in ARK. His BAA jumped though, and if he can't bring it down expect him to struggle next year.
Rafael Rodriguez- RHRP Born 9/24/1984 (24) - 1.86 ERA, 53.1 IP, 1.07 WHIP, 11 BB, 48 K
Rodriguez converted into a reliever last year, and this year managed to put up much better numbers- in many ways, better numbers than the ones Jose Arredondo put up at Arkansas last year, especially that BB-rate. He also improved his ability to get grounders significantly.
However, Rafael got lit up when he tried to make the jump to AAA early on, while teammate Kevin Jepsen made a smooth transition and ended up going to the Olympics. Rodriguez is still fairly young, and we'll probably see him next season if he continues to do well as a reliever in SLC.
Also worth a mention...
Chris Pettit- RF Born 8/15/1984 (24)
Amalio Diaz- RHSP Born 9/10/1986 (22)
Hainley Statia- SS Born 1/19/1986 (22)
Pettit did not, unfortunately, live up to my hype of him. He's got another shot to impress in the upcoming Arizona Fall League though, and hopefully he'll do better there. Diaz is the top nominee for the next Green/Ortega type to appear in Arkansas next season, as he pitched pretty well in High-A, but not much better in Double-A. Hainley is worth mentioning just because his defense is rumored to surpass even Aybar's--now if only he could hit...
Sorry for the long wait on this, I'll try to get the Bees out faster. As I said earlier, not a ton of prospect talent on this team, they won the League Crown mostly by effective use of numerous minor league journeymen, as well as a decent portion of luck. But caveats aside, congrats to the 2008 Texas League Champions. See you next time.