The most interesting thing to note here is who doesn't show up on the A-Ball Burlington roster: 2013 rookie ballers Jose Rondon, Cal Towey, Kyle McGowin and Nate Smith are nowhere to be found, indicating that they're making the jump to the California League. Back in the Stoneman days, a full year of Midwest League ball was a right-of-passage for all Angels' prospects, even the most polished college bats. In recent years, however, high fliers have skipped Iowa after productive offseasons. That led to a pretty miserable Burlington Bee's club last year, but more on that in second.
Rondon is the biggest name here. Apparently, he's been hitting the ball hard more this spring, and that, combined with a knack for contact and sure hands at short, earned him a spot in Cali. A good campaign could push Rondon to the top of Angels' prospect lists next year.
Offseason reviews of our latest Pioneer League masher Cal Towey all noted that his patient bat was advanced enough for High A, but that he might head to Iowa anyway because the organization is working him out at catcher. Well, whatever position he mans in 2014, he'll do it 56 miles up the freeway from where the big league club plays. He'll be a fascinating player to watch this year, both due to the position questions, and to see whether his superhuman Pioneer League campaign carries over to the higher level.
McGowin reportedly impressed in camp, though he never did throw a pitch on the big league side. He and Smith may be the strongest collegiate arms of the 2013 draft class, and it's possible that they not only headline the 66'ers rotation, but also change the conversation around Angels' pitching depth in the minor leagues generally. Spring is the time for heady optimism, right? Other candidates for that rotation include Ryan Crowley, Tyler DeLoach, Dan Reynolds Alex Keudell. Trevor Foss and/or Chris O'Grady.
Cam Bedrosian is not on the Travelers' roster like I expected him to be. He also pitched in a big league stadium just the other night. Does that hint at a promotion to Salt Lake? Or is he heading back to the Cal League, where he finished last year? He's had an incredibly productive 8 months, so who knows what the organization is thinking.
Ok, back to the rosters that we actually can see. There were few surprises on the Travelers roster: Mark Sappington and Mike Roth headline the rotation, while Kramer Sneed, Orangel Arenas, and minor league vet Drew Rucinski hold down the other spots. I'm glad that the Halos showed restraint with Roth: he didn't get much development time last year, and more time in AA could do him a world of good. The bullpen might be lights out, with RJ Alvarez, Mike Morin, and Ryan Chaffee holding down the back end. Morin looked shaky this spring - his FB was mostly 88-89 mph, only touching 90 in his clocked outing - but if he regains his velocity, we'll see him with the Angels soon.
Speaking of shaky velocity, both Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker have been parking their FB in the 80's far more than in the past, though it didn't really catch up with them. How worried should we be? Is it a common thing this time of year? I don't know the answers to those questions. Does anyone here?
Zach Borenstein, Kaleb Cowart, Alex Yarbrough, Eric Stammets, and Michael Snyder all head to the Travelers, as expected. Minor league veterans Drew Heid and FA Kyle Hudson round out the outfield, while Jett Bandy returns to catch. It should be a very good club, and will likely make a run at the title.
On the other hand, the Burlington Bees should have a tougher time in the Midwest League. They don't look as terrible as last year's club, but there are no proverbial "famous guys." Victor Alcantara, he of the elusive triple digits fastball and 7.47 Pioneer League ERA, is the most recognizable. Tommy John survivor Mike Clevinger also needs a good showing to revive his career, though like Alcantara, he's flashed exciting stuff in the past. Eswarlin Jimenez was a sleeper headed into 2013, but hemorrhaged velocity and promise in the Cal League, so he's another rebound candidate in the rotation. There's a common thread for Burlington's most promising arms: redemption.
A bunch of 2013 draft arms rounding out the club, of whom 2014 fourth rounder Elliot Morris is the most recognizable. I have no idea how roles will shake out, though I'll be watching closely.
Outfielder Mike Fish received some good press this offseason following his stellar pro debut, and faces the challenge of maintaining that momentum in the cold Midwest League spring. That's been a difficult task for his predecessors, so we can't take for granted his production. Surprisingly, Anthony Bemboom also returns to the Midwest League, though the Halos entrusted their Cal League pitching staff to him in the home stretch of last year's title run. He seemed to be a proficient defensive backstop, and has exciting bat speed, even if his approach and bat control are quite raw. He could hit for some power.
Mark Shannon, Chad Hinshaw, Kody Eaves, Angel Rosa, Ranyelmy Mendoza and Eric Aguilera all have an interesting tool or two, and no doubt one or two will prove pleasant surprises. Slap-hitting organizational favorite Erick Salcedo and utility man Kirby Pellant will also get their PA's. There's certainly upside on the club, but a lot will have to go right for them to be truly competitive.