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Randal Grichuk, Bona Fide First Rounder: Angels A-Ball Report

Back to school this week, so from this point forward the reports will be a little shorter. I'll try to hit the high points for each player, but will leave the bigger picture stat analysis for offseason rankings, interviews, and debates.  

Cedar Rapids: 76 wins, 54 losses

Interesting stat: since Mike Trout's promotion, the Kernels have essentially been a .500 club. Of course, 'boy wonder' wasn't the only guy to leave -- their entire rotation has turned over, with Pat Corbin, Garrett Richards, Orangel Arenas and Tyler Skaggs all moving on to greener pastures and Fabio Martinez Mesa losing a month to injury. While Cedar Rapids is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, and still has the pieces to compete, they've morphed into a dramatically different club than the one that took the field in April. 

Randal Grichuk, OF - (29 AB's) .448/.448/.655 with 3 dbl, 1 HR, 3 K/0 BB

I was finally able to catch a Kernels' game via online radio yesterday -- I could listen to announcer John Rodgers all day -- and loved what I heard of Grichuk's AB's. In the eighth inning, with his team in need of an insurance run or two, Grichuk came to bat with a man on. He took a first pitch strike, then swung through a high fastball to go 0 and 2. He fouled off a curveball to stay alive, then took two waste pitches off the plate. Finally, he got a fastball on the inside half, turned on it, and ripped a laser over the left field wall. I know he's showing no plate discipline right now, but his hitting instincts are very good and the K's are dropping every month.  Check out the goofy pic of him rounding the bases here

Ariel Pena, rhsp - (1 start) 6 IP, 3 hits, 0 ER, 8 K/2 BB

Max Russell, lhsp - (1 start) 6 IP, 6 hits, 2 ER, 3 K/1 BB

Pena and Russell have sometimes struggled to fill the shoes of the big-name prospects who've left Cedar Rapids, but both threw quality starts this week.  Pena will toss a stinker every now and then, but he's mainly been an asset since the allstar break, going 5 and 3 with a 3.10 ERA through 12 starts. Russell didn't have much time to adjust to pro ball, and consequently is in a little over his head with the Kernels, but I like his control and breaking ball. We'll see whether his fastball holds up against advanced hitters. 

High A Rancho Cucamonga: 73 wins, 59 losses

The Kernels' loss is the Quakes' gain, as they have played very impressive baseball over the second half and appear likely to land a playoff spot. Long suffering Arkansas fans take note: a competitive club is on the way!

Luis Jimenez, 3B - (23 AB's) .348/.375/.696 with 2 dbl, 2 HR, 3 SB, 1 K/1 BB

Dillon Baird, 3B - (27 AB's) .370/.414/.630 with 4 dbl, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 4 K/2 BB

At first glance, it would seem that these guys -- who were born just five days apart -- are locked in a High A cage fight, duking it out to become the Angels' third baseman of the future. However, both have the athleticism to shift to the outfield, so the competition isn't entirely a zero sum scenario. My sense is that Jimenez' all around game is a bit better right now, but Baird may eventually have the higher ceiling.  Both are still fairly raw and have a lot riding on how their power pans out, providing one of the more compelling narratives heading into 2011. 

Ryan Chaffee, rhsp - (2 starts) 2 W, 13 IP, 6 hits, 1.38 ERA, 12 K/2 BB

Chaffee is enjoying his best run in over a year, yielding just 25 hits and 3 HR in 30.1 August innings with a 29 K/11 BB ratio. He's had to ditch the whole array of arm angle tricks that garnered him attention as an amateur, and focus on improving the quality of his stuff out of a three quarters arm slot. That's not been easy. However, it could very well be that he's building the foundation for a surprise breakout in 2011 (he will be largely forgotten as a prospect this offseason). 

Eddie McKiernan, rhrp - (4 appearances) 4 Sv, 4 IP, 1 hit, 0 ER, 4 K/1 BB

I don't know what makes McKiernan effective -- his stuff looks just so-so whenever I've seen him -- and he has little to no projection, but the Halos keep giving him every opportunity to shine and more often than not he gets the job done. 

Orangel Arenas, rhsp - (1 start) 1 W, 7 IP, 2 hits, 1 ER, 7 K/2 BB, 12 GO/2 AO

After a rocky start, Arenas seems to have found his rhythm in High A.  Both his K rate and groundball percentage are up, so he has likely earned his promotion to AA next year. My guess is he eventually becomes an interesting bullpen guy.