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Angels Minor League Report: AAA Bats Steal The Headline

AAA Salt Lake Bees: 4 win, 7 losses

Michael Ryan, OF -  (25 AB's) .360/.360/.600 with 1 dbl, 1 trpl and 1 HR

He wasn't the Bees hottest hitter this week, but let's give him his due for coming through in the clutch: his 3-run HR Sunday night completed a stunning, ninth inning comeback for the Bees, who have struggled to win games despite a lineup featuring plenty of firepower.  

Rich Thompson, rhrp - AAA - 7.2 IP, 2 hits, 0 ER, 8 K's/5 BB's

Thompson was the unsung hero of Sunday's victory. He relieved a scuffling Trevor Reckling with no outs in the fourth inning and his team down by four runs, but he shut down the hot-hitting Rainers. He tacked four zeros onto the scoreboard and fanned five batters to keep the Bees within reach, but all he got for his efforts was a no decision. Thompson is tossing a lot of innings for the Bees - hopefully his health holds up and he gets another shot at the bigs.

Pete Bourjos - (24 AB's) .417/.417/.708 with 1 dbl, 3 trpls and 6 runs scored.

Cory Aldridge - (26 AB's)  .423/.423/.846 with 2 dbls, 3 HR's and 9 RBI's

Mark Trumbo - (21 AB's)  .320/.346/.720 with 1 dbl and 3 HR's

Hank Conger - (19 AB's)  .316/.316/.684 with 1 dbl and 2 HR's

Terry Evans - (6 AB's)  .333/.500/.833 with 1 HR

Hard to pick just one of these guys to profile, huh? Hopefully you've all heard about Bourjos' three triple night on Friday, which tied an 80 year old PCL record and set a new mark for the Bees. He still has yet to take a walk this season, but he's on one of his unstoppable streaks right now, so who am I to complain?  Aldridge remains a stud - there's little to add beyond the great press he received in his remarkable, but ultimately futile, push to usurp Quinlan's roster spot. Trumbo is also on a hot streak, and he and Evans are even leading the team in patience indicators.  King Conger... Well, nevermind what he does at the plate; he has nabbed 30% of basestealers over the past two weeks with no passed balls, so he's holding his own behind the dish. Evans handled what must have been a disappointing week with impressive focus, flashing power and patience in his old PCL haunts. I think that speaks volumes about his character. With our geriatric outfield, he'll get another shot.  

Sean O'Sullivan, rhsp - 1 W, 6.2 IP, 7 hits, 3 ER, 9 K/2 BB

Hey, it's the PCL. You saw how our guys are hitting above, and it's little different on the other clubs, meaning what looks like a mediocre line deserves some credit. So here's your props, O'Sully.  Glad to see the K's, and the groundballs in his last start also deserve mention.

AA Arkansas: 4 wins, 6 losses

Mike Kohn, rhrp - 2 IP, 0 hits, 0 ER's, 5 K's/0 BB

Jordan Walden, rhrp - 2 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER's, 5 K's/1 BB

Amalio Diaz, rhrp - 2.2 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER's, 4 K's/0 BB

Ryan Aldridge, rhrp - 1.1 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER's, 3 K's/0 BB

The Angels may not have sent Arkansas a competitive team in years, but the Travs' have seen some very good bullpens... Ok, that's not going to ease any frustration for fans of the "Nationals of the Texas League," but the quartet of arms above is worth watching any day of the week. Kohn and Walden are obviously the big names, and you can see why in their K and hit totals, but Diaz and Aldridge have sleeper potential as well. Both have been in the system for years, pitching at multiple levels with increasing success. Any scouting reports would be welcome.  

Brian Walker, C, DH - (11 AB's) .364/.364/1.000 with 1 dbl, 2 HR's, and 5 RBI's

He's a lefty-hitting catcher who's been in the system since the Halos nabbed him in the 29th round of the 2007 draft.  He's pretty mobile around the plate, allowing a fewer than average number of passed balls, but has caught only 26% of runners over 169 chances in his minor league career. He's more impressive with the stick, however, and could hit his way into an everyday role with the pop-starved Travs.

Ryan Brasier, rhsp - (2 starts) 1 W, 11.2 IP, 10 hits, 4 ER, 6 K/4 BB

I picked Brasier over fellow righty Jeremy Thorne, despite the latter guy tossing 6+ shutout innings, because (1) Brasier's thrown his fair share of scoreless innings this week, and (2) I wanted to plug his stuff. His fastball sits in the mid 90's and he also throws a big-breaking curveball that looks like it should compliment the heater well.  Nevertheless, he got hit hard last year. Better command would help his cause significantly, and he could take a huge, Jepsen-like step forward if he added a good third pitch. A cutter or slider is the obvious choice in the Halos organization, but a splitter might do the trick nicely as well. He's still in his age-22 season, and I think he might break-out Trevor Bell style this year. 

High A Rancho Cucamonga: 6 wins, 6 losses

Gabe Jacobo, 1B - (26 AB's) .385/.407/.692 with 2 dbls, 2 HR's, and 7 RBI's

Even when his bat fell off in a full season of the pitching-friendly Midwest League, Jacobo impressed the Halos brass with his glovework at first base. As for his offensive projection, an interesting comp here is Mark Trumbo: the two have similar hit tools, doing a good job of making contact, avoiding obscene numbers of K's, yet all the while not walking a heck of a lot. The main question revolves around the power tool: Trumbo is worlds stronger, but Jacobo shows signs of closing that gap somewhat thanks to his athleticism and strong hands. Both have consistently struggled in tougher hitting environments, so have a lot to prove no matter what success they enjoy in 2010.  All of this is a roundabout way of suggesting that Jacobo stands a good chance of replaying Trumbo's 2008 California League breakout, but that a healthy dose of skepticism remains in order (though the defensive chops will certainly help Jacobo, and the cool baseball name can't hurt).

Will Smith, lhsp - (1 start)  1 W, 7 IP, 4 hits, 0 ER, 5 K/0 BB

The numbers look great so far, pointing towards a possible breakout season. Smith had stretches of dominance last year, interspersed with injury-correlated shellackings, all of which added up to a meh final stat line that suggested his best-case ceiling was that of a finesse innings eater.  Could the moments of dominance be more indicative than his general 2009 stat regression?  Stephen Smith thought so, which means his contacts inside the Angels organization likely think so, too. I'll get to see the big lefty tonight and get a first hand look at his stuff (and some footage!).

Andrew Taylor, lhrp - (2 appearances)  5 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 6 K/4 BB

Taylor was roughed up in spring training, largely failing to hit his spots and even the strike zone much. I started to worry when he still couldn't throw strikes opening weekend, but he caught just enough of the plate this week to earn the "effectively wild" tag. Keep an eye on his BB rates moving forward.  

Tyler Chatwood, rhsp - (1 start) 1 L, 5 IP, 6 hits, 1 ER, 4 K/4 BB

Speaking of effectively wild...  Chatwood was much more hittable this week than last, and his control issues continue to hinder his ability to go deep into games. Still, he kept the ball on the ground, racking up nine outs on bouncers, and continues to show a knack for slipping out of jams. I'd love to know how his changeup is progressing.

A Cedar Rapids: 6 wins, 6 losses

Mike Trout, CF - (28 AB's) .464/.531/.607 with 2 trpls, 5 runs, 4 SB's,  and 1 K/4 BB's

I was skeptical of the hype all winter, ranking Trout beneath the more known quantities currently banging around in Salt Lake, but seeing him in person has made me a believer. He is really, really good, and is easily going to break into top 50 (and maybe even top 25) prospect lists next offseason.  Now, I don't think Trout will collect his first major league knock in the next 12 months, claim rookie of the year as a teenager, cure cancer, or any of that nonsense, but the 18 year old is capable of being the best player on the field on an exceptionally talented team.  He's also bulked up and maybe even grown an inch since the '09 draft, while clearly maintaining his plus plus speed, so he could get even more toolsey (if that's possible). I was also impressed with the way he worked pitchers, going to a full count in seemingly every at-bat and generally showing outstanding instincts in the batters box.

Pat Corbin, lhsp - (1 start) 1 W, 7 IP, 3 hits, 1 ER, 5 K/0 BB

I missed his Friday evening gem, but did watch his bullpen session on Sunday, and thought he looked great. He has a fluid, easy delivery, looks like he's well on his way to attaining above average command, and a scout I chatted with spoke favorably about his change-up, which Baseball America and Alex Esienberg projected as a potentially plus pitch back in February.  Unlike Garrett Richards and Tyler Kehrer, he's entering just his age 20 season, so he still he still has a long ways to go on the age/development curve.

Garrett Richards, rhsp - (2 starts) 11.1 IP, 9 hits, 2 ER, 13 K/8 BB

The stuff is there to succeed, no doubt. He lived off of his fastball Sunday afternoon, throwing some impressive sliders and curves in his warm-up tosses, but basically stuck with the 91-94 mph heater to overpower the A-Ball opposition. The radar gun worked only intermittently, so he may have peaked higher than that.  It looked like he mixed in some two seamers, and even a few cut fastballs, as well. He did mix in a couple of timely changeups, with impressive results.

Eric Oliver - (16 AB's) .438//.550/.750 with 2 dbls, 1 HR, 6 RBI's, and 4 BB's/1 SO

He was the last man standing in what must have been an instructional-league long cage fight for Cedar Rapids' first base/DH slot. He looks good so far, cranking the Kernels' first (and only) 2010 homerun and knocking in plenty of runs. Note the strong K/BB total as well - he should be a very good influence on the Kernels' younger hitters.

Luis Jimenez -(27 AB's) .370/.393/.519 with 4 dbls, 1 SO/2 BB

Lucho was the hero in the final Kernels game I saw, though his tenth inning, rally-capping, bases-clearing triple missed the weekly cutoff for this report.  Unsurprisingly for a two-time homerun king, he takes a full cut that incorporates some uppercut and what looks like lots of length (I'll know more when I can break down his video), which makes his low strikeout totals all the more impressive. He can obviously sting a baseball, and I really, really thought he looked good at third, with plus range and a strong arm.         

Video of the Kernels are pending.  Also, don't worry too much about Martinez-Mesa's terrible two thirds of an inning yesterday. I don't think the guy had had solid food yet after food poisoning. He was able to dial it up to 95, but was clearly not on his game, even forgetting about a baserunner at one point. The home plate ump didn't help by squeezing the strike zone.