So, the Angels have had seven games in Spring Training, and to the surprise of the entire world, they have won all of them thus far to be the only team still undefeated in preseason play. For what it’s worth, all seven of their margins of victory have been within two runs or less. Mike Trout’s 1.000 OPS was finally put to rest, but not before he got on base in every at-bat for his first six games. The team’s pitching has the lowest ERA of any team in the Cactus League, and in all the madness newcomer Brooks Pounders somehow managed to rack up two wins in the process.
Aside from boosting that almighty Spring Training win total and dominating the Cactus League, here are a few tangible takeaways from all the action.
1) This team is fast!
Talking about the speed influx is one thing, but seeing it is another. Not only can regulars run the bases well now, but also all those reserves now have the speed and versatility to succeed. In potential reserves such as Ben Revere (hard to believe a player of his caliber is even a reserve), Eric Young Jr., Nolan Fontana, Ryan LaMarre, and Matt Williams, the Angels have baserunning threats where they didn’t before.
2) Fifth starter competition still going strong
The quest for the fifth starter position has not revealed itself yet, although many of the candidates have made multi-inning appearances. Jesse Chavez and Yusmeiro Petit have impressed so far, while Bud Norris came down with a blister on the finger earlier today. Alex Meyer has a new delivery (more on that later) and Nate Smith looked good in two innings of work. Vicente Campos had a rough first go-round as he could not find a strike zone, but it was his first appearance since returning from his broken arm.
3) Younger players are as advertised
Matt Thaiss was the top Angels prospect invited to big-league camp, and he has stayed true to himself, flashing his patience-first, contact-oriented approach at the plate. David Fletcher has gotten on-base and wreaked havoc with his smart, fast baserunning (the Angels would love for him to be a speedy, versatile infielder who can get on-base and pinch-run if necessary). Keynan Middleton has had mixed outings, but when the command is there he induces strikeouts and weak contact. But you can’t fault him for not having a unique delivery.
Michael Hermosillo has also hit a home run and Taylor Ward has made a few appearances...
4) These catchers sure can throw
The Angels carried a lot of catchers, and they have all impressed with their arms. Martin Maldonado, Carlos Perez, and Jose Briceno have notably thrown out runners with an extremely quick transfer and release time. All three utilize the backpick well, as there have been multiple runners thrown out at first. In my view, Briceno’s defensive skills are a sight to be seen: he has some work to do in terms of framing, but in a small sample size his arm is up there with that of the league’s better catchers.
5) Alex Meyer has a new-and-improved delivery
Meyer’s delivery from last season was often difficult to repeat, which led to mechanical inconsistencies and deteriorating arm health over time. The Angels helped him revamp his pitching motion and the results speak for themselves.
Game speed doesn’t do it justice, but Meyer’s new delivery prevents his front shoulder from opening up before the rest of his body, which results in less stress and easier repetition. Though the game umpire didn’t help Meyer by not calling any corner strikes, Meyer was more able to put the ball where he wanted to, which is something to keep an eye out for. The ball certainly explodes out of his hand and the movement makes it difficult to track for hitters, which is why his raw stuff is very special.
He’ll start the season out in triple-A in order to get more repetitions with his new mechanics, and with this new delivery he *might* just stick as a starting pitcher. Keep your eyes peeled.