Midseason Minor League Highlights: Hitters

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 07: Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim acknowledges teammate Torii Hunter (not pictured) after he was driven home on a double by Hunter in the seventh inning against the the Baltimore Orioles at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 7, 2012 in Anaheim, California. The Angels defeated the Orioles 3-0. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Halos' farm products came up big in 2012, with T'n'T providing the lion's share of offense and a couple of miscellaneous pieces yielding Ernesto Frieri early in the season.

Times on the farm are leaner. The affiliates have combined for a .443 winning percentage, and only the DSL Angels have put up a winning record. However, there are some bright spots. Here are the systems top hitting performances at the all-star break:

1) Travis Witherspoon (23), CF, High A & AA ~ 3.5 WAR

.312/.387/.479 with 8 HR and 28 SB(7 CS), 35 BB/61 K

Looks like tooled-up Witherspoon has finally learned how to hit. He's been on the DL for a week due to a quad strain, which is unfortunate because everyone's eager to see what he can do against Double A pitching. Check out high-quality video of him here. Remember that he's an outstanding defensive centerfielder who, before "the catch," was widely regarded as Trout's equal with the glove. The WAR total above values him as a +10 defender over a whole season, and that may be underestimating his prowess.

2) Kaleb Cowart (20), 3B, A and High A ~ 3.3 WAR

.292/.368/.494 with 12 HR and 10 SB (4 CS), 39 BB/60 K (17/16 in High A)

Cowart's cut his K's and boosted his walk rate this year, mitigating fears that he won't hit enough to make it (in recent organizational history, only Sean Rodriguez was able to reduce his K's to a similar degree transitioning from rookie ball to full season league.). His swing is simpler now than when I saw him last July - he's toned down the big leg kick - and his numbers from the left side provide oodles of hope in the righty-heavy Angels' organization. Check out video of him here. He still has some work to do to become a more complete hitter, but scouting reports (check out a recent one here) are increasingly positive and he's now edging into the games top 100 prospects. I think he's the Angels' most valuable minor league commodity at present, so the FO will have to do some fancy footwork to both trade for an impact guy and keep him.

3) Kole Calhoun (24), OF, AAA ~ 2.0 WAR

.298/.359/.522 with 10 HR and 10 SB (3 CS), 24 BB/57 K

The guy's a good hitter who contributes in the field and on the bases by getting the most out of fringy size and athleticism. Already a fan favorite, he likely can hit major league pitching now, so should carve out a role over the next couple of years when the Angels' outfield jam thins out. As a lefty onbase threat with some pop, he is the perfect fourth outfielder for the Halos, but might play his way into more given the opportunity.

4) Mike Trout (20), CF, AAA & MLB ~ 1.9 WAR

.403/.467/.623 with 1 HR and 6 SB (1 CS), 11 BB/16 K

WAR is a counting stat, and Trout did all this damage in just 20 games. What more is there to say?

5) Gary Mitchell (23), OF/1B, A ~1.8 WAR

.264/.366/.495 with 11 HR and 5 SB (0 CS), 28 BB/60 K

A twenty-first round pick back in 2010, Mitchell is slowly moving up the ranks. He's a classic college masher, combining a decent approach with some pop from the left side. He probably doesn't have the contact ability or bat speed to keep this up in the upper minors, but we'll see. After Cowart, he was the Kernels' best hitter through the first half.

6) Jean Segura (22), SS, AA ~1.6 WAR

.287/.332/.402 with 7 HR and 30 SB (11 CS), 18 BB/56 K

I'm not sure what to think. His BB/ K ratio is crappy, but the Travs had him hitting third for much of the first half; I think he was selling out, trying to hit for more power than he presently has, perhaps at the behest of the organization. Not a great idea in his home park, one of the toughest on hitters in the minors. His K-rate spiked, while his slash line remained so-so. However, the strikeouts regressed to his career norm in June, and there's plenty of baseball left to play, so his numbers could jump big-time through the dog days of summer.

If I were a potential Angels' trading partner, I'd be looking at Segura more as a throw-in than as the centerpiece to a deal. While his floor remains a passable MLB second baseman, there's currently not much evidence that he'll become that proverbial "impact player. "

7) Luis Jimenez (24), 3B, AAA ~ 1.5 WAR

.307/.333/.477 with 7 HR and 8 SB (3CS), 37 K/12 BB

The OPS shakes out as just a hair over average for the PCL and he's not hitting dingers (though the 23 doubles are nice). In addition to the lack of distance pop, he's walking in only 4% of his plate appearances. So, little progress to report. However, he remains a good defender, hits for average, and his plate coverage makes him dangerous in RBI situations, so here is, on track for his third straight above-average season.

8) Ryan Jones (24), OF, A & High A ~ 1.4 WAR

.287/.360/.437 with 4 HR and 3 SB (4 CS), 28 BB/54 K

See Mitchell, Gary. Virtually the same type of player, though he has the added underdog sexiness for not having been drafted. You have to root for these guys.

9) Rolando Gomez (23), Middle Infielder, High A ~ 1.3 WAR

.295/.369/.428 with 2 HR and 6 SB (4 CS) ,18 BB/39 K

The Halos drafted Gomez back in 2008 out of high school. I spoke to a scout about him last year, and he said, so-so bat in need of polish, good defender, but just fringy-average speed, and "that's a tough guy to project." This year's plate discipline spike helps his cause. He's hit so well relative to his 66er peers that he's now seeing regular time as the club's DH. Weird.

10) Ryan Langerhans, OF, AAA & MLB ~ 1.3 WAR

.278/.413/.461 with 5 HR and 4 SB (3 CS), 41 BB/59 K

Dude gets on base. He's now way down on the depth chart due to Trout and Trumbo's emergence, but he's a very handy guy to have in the system as depth.

Honorable Mentions:

  • An 18 year old named Ayende Perez has established himself as the DSL Angels' best hitter (~1.2 WAR in games), leading off for the team with a .326/.445/.393 line. He's a touch old for the league and is only 5'9" or something, but the guy can hit.
  • Matt Long was by far the Arkansas Travs' best hitter back in April, but that lasted just over a month before the Halos' brass moved him up to AAA. He hasn't hit nearly as well in Salt Lake, but he's worked out for the first time in games at second base (45 games) and even shortstop (1 game), so we can cut him some slack.
  • 2012 28th round pick Joel Capote has racked up 1.2 WAR in just 15 games for the AZL Angels and Orem Owlz. Wouldn't surprise me to see him replace Chevy Clarke in the Midwest League lineup within a couple of weeks. Clarke would benefit mightily from the easier hitting environment.
  • 2012 draft picks Eric Stamets (SS, 6th round), Alex Yarbrough (2B, 4th round), and Zach Wright (C, 12th round) have combined for 2.7 WAR in less than a month of play for Cedar Rapids. Jumping from amateur level competition to the Midwest League is no joke, but they've made it look pretty easy. Stamets gets a little bit of extra credit for his bases-clearing, walk-off double Monday night.

And finally,

Taylor Lindsey, CJ Cron, and Randal Grichuk have all played below average baseball for the Inland Empire 66er's. It's the Cal League, so the bar for offense is high, and none of them have really excelled.

Disappointing.

Pitchers will come soon (probably...)

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