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Angels Minor Leagues on Empty

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If you like what you see at the major league level in Los Angeles of Anaheim, enjoy it, because at the lower levels, hey... we stink!

We once had one of the best minor league systems out there, but after the promotions of Kotchman, Kendrick, Santana, Saunders and Aybar, well, paging old Mother Hubbard... the cupboard is bare! The dominance of Salt Lake was an early hot streak fomented by the fact that the average Salt Lake Bee is 2 years older than the average AAA player. It is called a head start, it is not called anything to bet the future on.

Our top 2 prospects (according to all of the “stud analyst” columns populating the internet like Ohio Players albums stacked two-dozen deep in the back of a thrift store) are Nick Adenhart and Brandon Wood. Both are young for AAA (Ad-Rock is 21, Wood is 23, AAA stats are best measured in 24/25-year-olds), but both are struggling...

At Salt Lake so far this season, Nick has allowed 74 hits in 67+ Innings Pitched. They have translated into 35 Earned Runs. 47 Ks Vs. 35 BB is not the thing a top shelf ace is made of. This kid is not going to be helping the big club this season or next.

Wood’s AAA batting average is almost double that of his Major League average this year. Problem is he batted below his weight in the bigs and stands at .250 in the offense-amped Pacific Coast League so far this season. If the Angels stay healthy, they sure won’t need nor miss this Bee. Did I mention an .816 OPS? Nice, but the 47 K in 36 game is pretty bad...

So after that the prospect gurus, none of whom have a degree in the field, they just wake up one morning and –HEY– they are prospect gurus... well after that the top rankings maintain consistency for the 3 and 4 positions: Catcher Hank Conger and pitcher Jordan Walden. Oh dear, the armchair analysts appear to have gotten things right!

After surgery to remove the hamate bone in his hand, Conger has played 17 games at High-A Rancho and delivered an OPS of .848. That he is younger than level-average is the big indicator of Conger’s prowess. Only 3 other players in our entire minor league system have put up comparable OPS AND been level-average age or below:
Kendry Morales (turns 25 tomorrow) - .870 OPS in AAA
Sean Rodriguez (23) - .935 OPS in AAA
Mark Trumbo (22) - .899 OPS in High-A Rancho
Okay, so that is the good news. The bad news is that Hank has yet to catch a game behind the dish. These numbers have been at DH. The kid is 20 and while a big bat is great, if he comes to have no defensive utility whatsoever, A DHing Conger as our 3/4 prospect would be an indicator that our minor league system is stewed, screwed and tattooed when it comes to making complete big league players out of toolsy rubes.

At least we have ONE ass-kicker in the bunch! 60 K over 22 BB in 75+ IP. The 1.06 WHIP is pretty Bitchen’ too, dude. 23 ER looks a little high, but Homeboy Jordy is only 20. The other caveat: his Cedar Rapids Kernels are in the pitching-intense Midwest League.

At the moment, the only Angel minor leaguers of use to us in 2008:
AAA reliever Jason Bulger replacing Justin Speier would be a likely improvement, but consider that Jose Arredondo has already done exactly that!
Catcher Bobby Wilson filling in at Catcher if Mike or Jeff get stiff or go down would not be the end of the world.
Maybe Matt Brown or Brandon Wood would be an improvement over Robb Quinlan, but at the cost of developmental at-bats.
Kendry Morales would be an improvement over anyone excpet the one guy who blocks him at the Major League level – Casey Kotchman. Oh and Kendry is NOT NOT NOT and outfielder - he sucks there and would take away from our pitching staff anything he delivered offensively as an addition there.

That is it! AAA Outfielder Terry Evans is hurt, so scratch him from the depth chart of 8th OF. The only glaring bright star to mention in an add to this discussion is Cedar Rapids pitcher Tevor Reckling, pitching almost as lights out as Walden at age 19. See you in LA of Anaheim in 2013, Trev!

Bottom Line here folks: Enjoy the 2008 Angels. Considering Oakland’s magic bag of AAA tricks, this winning thing may not soon come around as being so easy...