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Travis Witherspoon is Raking: Angels Rookie Ball Report

Advanced Rookie Ball Orem: 6 wins, 4 losses

This is an interesting group of players, combining former prep picks who have been around for awhile - Rolando Gomez, Nick Farnsworth, and Josh Blanco - with highly polished college players from the 2010 draft, many of them seniors. Travis Witherspoon stands out for bucking the categories - he's a junior college pick from 2009 - and for his serious tools. 

Travis Witherspoon, CF - (41 AB's) .366/.381/.780 with 3 dbls, 1 trpl, 4 HR's, 1 SB and 11 K/1 BB

Orem manager Tom Kotchman uses Mike Cameron as a comp to describe the power/speed potential of 6'2", 190 lbs Witherspoon, whom the Angels drafted last year in the twelfth round out of Spartanburg Methodist College.  He hit .243/.296/.432 with 7 HR's and 10 SB's in his first go at the Pioneer League, but was much better late in the season, hitting .270/.312/.504 with all seven of his HR's in August and September.  Abe Flores recently warned that "pitch recognition and ... the strikezone are things he needs to understand."  Witherspoon's current 11/1 K to BB ratio speaks to that point, but he's currently leading the league in total bases and his athleticism gives him the highest ceiling of any current Orem player.

Andrew Heid, CF, RF - (35 AB's) .371/.436/.571 with 1 dbl, 2 HR's, 3 SB's, and 6 K/3 BB

Heid is the anti-Witherspoon. At 5'9", 170 lbs he's not the most physical guy around, and in college hit only 12 homeruns and stole just 25 bases (at a 66% success rate) in three years at Gonzaga. However, he consistently makes solid contact with a compact left-handed stroke and has a very good idea of the strikezone, walking more than he struck out in two of three college seasons.  An inconsistent .355/.408/.479 junior campaign left him undrafted in 2009,  but the Halos snagged him in the ninth round this year following a much better .390/.467/.602 senior showing.  He was the third college senior picked by the Halos, who drafted 20 seniors overall.

Thomas Nichols, 3B - (37 AB's) .351/.366/.649 with 5 dbls, 2 HR's and 10 K/1 BB

Our 2010 16th round pick batted .321/.425/.529 in his career at Georgia Tech, but really picked it up with a .376/.506/.619 line his junior year. He's not especially toolsey, but consistently showed above average patience in college, even if it hasn't manifested yet in Orem, making him a good player to pair with the Halos' rawer young prospects. He has a great arm, but is not really known for being a good glove.

Max Russell, lhsp - (2 starts) 1 W, 7 IP, 3 hits, 0 ER, 8 K/1 BB

Carmine Giardina, lhsp - (2 starts) 7 IP, 7 hits, 1 ER, 9 K/0 BB

Aaron Meade, lhsp - (2 starts) 7 IP, 4 hits, 2 ER, 6 K/1 BB

In addition to some combination of Donn Roach, Pil Joon Jang, and Josh Blanco, these three lefties should form the core of the summer's Orem rotation. All posted encouraging debuts with plenty of strikeouts. They're each 22 or nearly 22, making them essentially seniors, even if Meade and Russell technically had junior status.  Russell was a fourth round pick out of Florida Southern College, where he put up a so-so 4.23 ERA despite K'ing 109 over 93.2 innings.  He has a decent breaking ball that he throws for strikes and relies on to get out of jams. He received little press heading into the draft, but it's likely that Tom Kotchman latched on to him while scouting second rounder Dan Tillman. Giardina sits in the low 90's with a decent curve, and made Pioneer League hitters look foolish over his two outings. Meade was a 28th round pick of the Yankees in 2009 as a draft eligible sophomore, but returned to Missouri State and... regressed.  His K-rate slipped and his walk rate jumped by a batter an inning, making it unclear why the Halos selected him in the tenth round. They must see something besides the numbers.

AZL Angels: 3 wins, 5 losses

As presently constructed, this is just a boring team to track.  Eighteen year old Wendell Soto (third round) is holding his own, but we've seen relatively little of Ryan Bolden and Lindsey Taylor (both supplemental round picks). Sign our first rounders already!

Jerod Yakubik, 1B - (25 AB's) .480/.567/.600 with 3 dbls and 1 K/ 4 BB

The Halos selected Yakubik with their 34th round pick as a senior out of Ohio University. At 6'2", 213 lbs, he's a big, physical guy, but never translated his strength into power at Ohio.  With lots of contacts skills and a hulking presence, he's terrorizing the 18 and 19 year old pitchers of the AZL.  

Heath Nichols, rhsp - (2 starts) 1 W, 13 IP, 12 hits, 4 ER, 11 K/1 BB

Nichols isn't 18 or 19, but the 2009, 29th round pick is instead converting to starting in Arizona after experiencing some success there as a reliever last year.  In addition to the K's, the 6'2" right hander is doing a good job of keeping the ball on the ground.

John Wiedenbauer, lhsp - (2 starts) 8.1 IP, 9 hits, 2 ER, 7 K/1 BB

At 6'3", 185, the lanky lefty out of the University of Tampa might have some projection left in him. The twenty-two year old was the Halos' 50th round pick.

Jean Carlos Rodriguez, C/DH - (17 AB's) .294/.400/.647 with 2 HR's and 5 K/ 3 BB

This is an interesting case. For undisclosed reasons (likely just performance related), 21 year old Rodriguez was released from the Phillies organization, which had selected him as a tenth rounder in 2008. The Halos scooped him up as a minor league free agent, and so far he's been Tempe's only legitimate source of pop.

Dominican Summer League Angels: 14 wins, 12 losses

Jean Santiago, lhsp - (5 starts) 2 W, 29.2 IP, 24 hits, 1.82 ERA, 35 K/4 BB

He's a slightly built 19 year old lefty who K'd nearly a batter an inning last year, and he's getting better.  The DSL Halos play in an extreme pitcher's environment, so don't look too closely at the ERA, but the K/BB ratio is great. 

Eswarlin Jimenez, lhsp - (5 starts) 1 W, 29.1 IP, 25 hits, 2.76 ERA, 29 K/6 BB

Jimnenez gets fewer K's then Santiago, bit generally does a better job of keeping the ball on the ground. He's still 18, and is setting himself up for a US debut next spring.

Luis Jolly, OF - (62 AB's) .210/.338/.403 with 4 dbls, 4 trpls, 5 SB's and 27 K/ 7 BB

Toolsey but raw.  That was the scouting report, and so goes the numbers. I'm very glad to see evidence of power, because even with the low BA, Jolly is outslugging his older teammates.  Many of those guys deserve to be ahead of Jolly on this list, but they're primarily 19 and 20 year olds, who are tough to value in the DSL.