Future batting champion or Glee cast member? Taylor's got options...
The Angels' five top position prospects have gone 34 for 81 this spring, combining for a .420/.461/.704 slash line. Everyone has destroyed Cactus League fastballs.
And that's without contributions from the number one guy on the list, Mike Trout.
The pitching hasn't been nearly as consistent, though Garrett Richards has looked strong, and is perhaps one more contest away from cementing his hold over the last rotation spot.
Here are some thoughts on the scrubs we've seen:
Taylor "Teenie Bopper" Lindsey; .800/.800/1.200 with 2 doubles and a triple
The Halos shipped Lindsey down to minor league camp a week ago, ending his run of regular televised playing time. He sure looked good in High Def, going eight for ten and hitting everything hard. Three of the knocks, including two doubles, went to the opposite field. He had no trouble with lefties, going a perfect two for two.
Lindsey showed off a quick swing and stellar hand-eye coordination, making effortless contact with fastballs. He's no slap hitter, incorporating his body into his swing with a sharp turn, similar to Pete Bourjos. It's unclear how much distance power he'll develop - again, Bourjos may be a good comp for his best case scenario given their similar frames - but he should rack up the doubles.
While he had no trouble squaring up heat, Lindsey swung over just about every offspeed strike he saw the last three weeks (although gameday says he fouled off a slider last Friday against the Padres). Interestingly, pitchers keep coming back at him with fastballs, so he hasn't had to adjust. That's not going to be the case in full season league, so contrary to what our unbounded March enthusiasm might tell us, he still has his work cut out for him in the minors.
And did anyone notice Lindsey emerging from nowhere to brazenly slap Pujols on the butt following the latter's sac fly a week ago? ‘Kid's got cahones.
I definitely short-changed Lindsey over the winter, as it looks like he's on his way to becoming a consensus top 100 prospect by next offseason.
Ariel "Don't-call-him-Princess" Pena; 5 IP, 0.00 ERA with 5 K's to 4 BB's
I was really impressed by Pena's outing last Tuesday. The guy just looked like a major league arm, keeping Arizona hitters off balance with his tough fastball and slider while working with deliberate, controlled mechanics.
The Diamondback stadium gun was working on the broadcast - a first for us this spring - and had Pena sitting at 91 to 93 mph with his heater, touching 94 a handful of times.
We didn't see any of the mid to high 90's heat that he flashed on occasion last year, but that's not unusual in March. Pena's fastball command wasn't the sharpest, and at one point he threw six consecutive balls, but he was around the strikezone enough to get the job done.
His slider really stole the show. It was much tighter than the pitch I saw last year in his Triple A debut, coming in at 81 to 84 mph and flashing late two-plane tilt. He only drew one swing and miss with the pitch over three innings of work, but put it over a number times for called strikes. In general, he showed better command with the breaker than his fastball.
Pena mixed in a couple of mid-80's change-ups, but didn't locate them well enough to be a factor. When I talked to 66'ers announcer Sam Farber a couple of months ago, he reported that the pitch had come on strong for Pena late in the 2011 season, and was a big contributor to his thirteen-strikeout gem in the Cal League playoffs. Further development of that pitch will be huge for Pena, he saw lefties hit .291 off of him last year.
Pena's stock is on the rise. I usually shy away from pitchers who have been as hittable as Pena's been early in his career, but he's made a lot of progress and is lining up as the Trav's opening day starter on April 5th.
Johnny "Wild Thing" Hellweg; 4 IP, 11.25 ERA
Hellweg's made two appearances this spring, neither of which impressed. Five walks, five hits and five runs through a mere four innings point to serious command issues that the big man will have to iron out in minor league camp, as we probably won't see him again this spring.
Hellweg's first outing was the better of the two, but was by no means smooth. He went two full innings against most of the Padres' regular squad, yielding a run on one hit, three walks, and zero K's. He had a difficult time finding his groove: of his first 28 pitches, Hellweg threw eleven (39%) for strikes while hitting Ianneta's target just once. He fell behind in the count to every batter. Only one fastball drew a swing and miss and two were hit hard in the air, so he wasn't fooling anyone even when he got the ball over the plate. Blah.
But there was a point, late in his second inning, when Hellweg seemed to flip the switch and become that pitcher we hope he can be. He faced two good hitters in Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso, and threw five quick strikes while hitting his target on the nose three times. Alonso grounded a 1-2 fastball through the right side for an RBI knock - a disappointing outcome, sure, but sometimes that's the game. Quentin was next, and fouled away a tough fastball on the outer half, then tapped another fastball in on the hands weakly to third base for the inning ending groundout.
There was nothing obvious about Hellweg's mechanics that changed; he suddenly just found his rhythm. If he can learn to find that consistency sooner, watch out.
It wasn't the outing that we hoped to see from big Johnny-H, but we caught a glimpse of what he could be. Hellweg will continue his roller coaster career in Arkansas this spring. I remain optimistic.