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Midseason Minor League Highlights; Pitchers

1) Ariel Pena, 23, AA ~ 2.3 WAR

2.92 ERA, 101.2 IP, 98 K/37 BB

Pena ranks first among Angels' starters in full season ball with a K-rate of 8.7 per nine innings. If you judge young arms on that stat, then he's your guy. His control has also improved significantly over last year, dropping from 4.8 walks per nine innings down to 3.3 BB/9 IP in ‘12. He has those two plus pitches scouts love, a mid-90's FB and a hard slider that's tightened up since last year. Shaky command an inconsistent change-up might limit him to bullpen duty in the big leagues - true two-pitch big league starters are a rare breed - but he's young and still has development time left. He had his ass handed to him in the Futures game, so will likely fly under the radar headed into the offseason.

2) Manny Correa, 23, High A ~ 2.0 WAR

4.07 ERA, 104 IP, 72K/17 BB

Didn't see this one coming. Correa was a sleeper prospect two years ago on the strength of a good FB/slider combo, but then went on to post uninspiring results and worse peripherals. This year, he's done a phenomenal job of avoiding big innings in some of the worst pitching environments in the minors. His peripherals aren't great, and it's unclear if his stuff will play above A-ball, but it's fun to see longtime organizational guys put a good season together.

3) Lay Batista, 22, High A, ~ 1.9 WAR

3.54 ERA, 94 IP, 62 K/42 BB

Who?... To Baseball Reference!... The Halos signed Batista out of the DR back in 2009, when he was already 19 years old. His stuff is, well, ok, but he throws strikes and clearly knows how to pitch. While the peripherals are weak, he's kept runs off the board in extreme hitters' parks over a lot of innings. If I used a FIP-based WAR calculation, there's no way he shows up here. You can call it luck, but I generally like to talk about what happened, and not about what should have happened according to a simplistic algorithm.

4) Nick Maronde, 22, High A ~ 1.9 WAR

2.48 ERA, 40 IP, 36 K/9 BB

Maronde beat up on teenagers over three rehab appearances in Arizona while coming back from a muscle strain, and that slid him ahead of some other guys despite only 40 innings against age-appropriate competition. Like I said back in the fall, I think he's better than he gets credit for nationally, and he's probably our best starting pitching prospect now that Richards has graduated.

5) A.J. Schugel, 23, AA ~ 1.9 WAR

3.05 ERA, 106.1 IP, 81 K/43 BB

After hardly pitching in his amateur career, Schugel has made rapid progress on the mound in pro-ball. His peripherals aren't great, so he's going to need more development time, but it's impressive that after just two years he's already one of the Texas League's better arms. He has a squirrely fastball, a good slurve, and a developing change-up. Sort of a right-handed Pat Corbin... though admittedly, that's not as valuable as the left-handed Corbin. Once Schugel figures out how to better command those offerings, he could fit well at he back of a rotation.

6) Steven Geltz, 24, AA & AAA ~1.8 WAR

1.87 ERA, 43.1 IP, 49K /14 BB

Geltz received a lot of attention back in the spring, when he was carving up AA hitters and the Halos' bullpen was faltering, but things have changed over the past couple of months. The big league bullpen stabilized while Geltz stumbled in his first look at AAA competition. His command appeared to desert him. Could he be hurt? Or is this extreme fly-baller just experiencing a healthy dose of PCL growing pains?

7) Donn Roach, 22, High A ~1.8 WAR

2.16 ERA, 41.2 IP, 29 K/ 3 BB

The one that got away; he'd be far and away at the head of this list had he remained in the organization. By the numbers, he's been one of the most dominant starters in minor league baseball this season, largely on the back of a 70%+ GB rate and stinginess with the free passes. Does he have the stuff to do it at the higher levels? It will be interesting to see if his domination lasts in AA.

8) Mike Piazza, 25, AA ~ 1.6 WAR

2.87 ERA, 69 IP, 57 K / 27 BB

He's a cerebral, articulate grinder, who joined the Angels back in 2009 after having gone undrafted. His peripherals have taken a bit of a hit since joining the rotation, and he isn't as strong against lefties (.276 BAA) as he is against righties (.174 BAA), but overall he's been rock-solid for the Travs in whatever role they've asked him to perform. He has a shot at making it to the front of a big league bullpen down the road.

9) Greg Smith, 28, AA & AAA ~ 1.4 WAR

4.25 ERA, 110 IP, 72 K / 29 BB

I think I had this guy on my fantasy team once. He's an important piece of organizational depth for the Halos, and is probably the next guy in line to take the ball after Brad Mills (may we not have to find out...) .

10) Aaron Meade, 24, A ~1.3 WAR

2.43 ERA, 40.2 IP, 30 K / 15 BB

Meade had the rare assignment of doing back-to-back tours of duty in the offensively crazy Pioneer League, so his numbers were never great. However, the lefty has always missed a fair number of bats, and has found the strikezone more consistently as the Kernels' primary swingman. Crazy that he's the best performing pitcher on that club.

11) John Hellweg, 23, AA ~ 1.3 WAR

3.48 ERA, 103.1 IP, 76 K/ 56 BB

He just missed the top ten list, so I thought I'd tack him on. His 2011, second-half dominance hasn't carried over into 2012 and he's been surprisingly hittable, but overall his command is improving and he's throwing enough strikes to make it work. Since the Allstar break, his numbers are trending in the right direction, so he might be primed for another second-half surge.

Honorable Mentions:

Stephen Tromblee (23 years old, 1.29 WAR) and Ty Kelley (24 years old, ~1.27 WAR) have contributed a lot of quality innings to the Kernels as long relievers, putting out fires lit by the rotation.

Dan Reynolds (21 years old, ~1 WAR). Here's one guy who recently joined the Kernels' rotation and is lighting fewer fires than anyone else. He's a sixth round pick out of HS from that incredible 2009 draft. Funny story about him: last year, I was kicking it behind the off-day pitching contingents of both the Orem Owlz and the Great-Falls-something- or-others, reading their radar guns as they charted pitches. It was late in the game, and all of the day's arms had sat in the upper 80's, only touching the 90's now and then. Reynolds came in, and the first reading was 97 mph. A Great Falls pitcher rapped his gun harshly against the metal back of a seat, assuming that the thing was malfunctioning. Next pitch, 96 mph. After a moment, he leaned over to the Owlz guys, who laughed, and confirmed the velo. It's nice to see all of that arm strength finally translating into good numbers.

Ryan Chaffee (1.2 WAR) moved to the bullpen this year, performed well, and finally punched his ticket out of the Cal League purgatory he'd plugged away in for over two seasons. He's done well in AA so far.


Dan Tillman, Fabio Martinez Mesa, & Austin Wood. Seriously. These guys are better than this.