Zach Gibbons: OF, 23, A+ & AA. 1.2 WAR
2017 Stats: .264/.328/.380 with 3 HR & 9 SB´s
Key Number: Gibbons knocked 43% of balls in play to the opposite field.
Acquired: Drafted as a senior in the 17th round of the 2016 draft by Eppler
Gibbons began 2017 by slashing .339/.398/.470 in a torrid Cal League April. That earned him a quick promotion to the Double A Bay Bears, further jumping him ahead of other 2016 draftees. At his best, there´s some Howie Kendrick to him: he has a knack for ambushing a pitcher early in the count and peppering the right side with line drives.
So far, he´s found the going a bit tougher with the Bay Bears mostly because those opp field skills aren´t translating. Too many liners have turned into pop outs or rolled over groundballs. There´s no shame in struggling in Double A a year into pro-ball, and Gibbons is a good bet to regain his inside-out stroke and right the ship in the coming months.
Still, there aren´t many major leaguers with his profile--he´s an aggressive right-handed hitter with no interest in working counts and little ability to put the ball in the seats--but he makes plenty of contact, plays good defense in an outfield corner and can swipe a bag. That should make him a fixture in the system for years, and he´ll probably earn a cup of coffee at some point as a fifth/sixth outfielder.
Eric Karch. RHP, 23, AA & A. 1.2 WAR.
2017 Stats: 3 wins, 2 losses with a 3.50 ERA through 43 IP. 25% k-rate, 4% BB-rate
Key Number: 51% groundball rate.
Acquired: Minor league free agent, signed by Eppler in 2016
He´s a 25 year old groundball machine. After seeing him hold the opposition to a 2.06 ERA in Double A, it appears the Halos decided to stretch him out to be a starter--or at least, to absorb innings as a piggyback starter--in High A. The Cal League has given him a bashing welcome, but he´s a good bet to soak up plenty of quality innings in the coming months.
Grayson Long. RHP, 23, A+ & AA. 1.2 WAR.
2017 Stats: 4 W & 5 L with a 2.97 ERA through 78.2 innings. 23% K rate v 7% BB rate
Key Number: 28% k-rate and a 16% popup rate versus lefties
Acquired: The 2015 draft under Jerry Dipoto, 3rd Round.
On the surface, Long’s season has been an unqualified success. The peripherals are strong, and against lefty hitters the numbers approach dominant. But he´s also pitched in an extreme, run suppressing context. The old Angels’ Double A stadium, Dickey-Stephens Park in Arkansas, was notorious for making Angels’ arms appear far more dominant than they actually were. As it turns out, the entire Southern League does much the same thing: while teams of the Texas League average 4.4 runs a game, those of the Southern League average just 3.9 runs per game. In the majors, teams are presently scoring nearly 4.7 runs per game. Keep those perception-warping numbers in mind when you look at Long’s performance this year and feel tempted to project his ERA into the 2018 rotation.
Presently, Long looks like a back end starter/swingman capable of going 4 to 5 innings while giving up a run every other frame. On average, he burns through 4.2 pitches per Double A hitter, which is tops among starters on the Halos farm, while his 9.5% swinging strike rate is middling. He’s nibbled at the edges of the strike zone, dancing around hitters, and it remains to be seen how effective that approach will be against more advanced competition. In the short term, he has absolutely earned the opportunity to find out.
Shane Robinson. OF, 32, AAA. 1.4 WAR
2017 Stats: .333/.397/.435 with 1 HR and 12 SB’s
Key Number: .361 BABIP in the minors this year, .263 BABIP through 691 MLB AB´s.
Acquired: Minor League free agent signing, 2016, Billy Eppler. Re-signed in November of 2016 for the 2017 season.
Robinson is a versatile, athletic outfielder. In the minors, he´s shown good plate discipline while spraying groundballs to all corners of the field. In that way he’s similar to Gibbons, though unlike my new scrappy favorite, Robinson has a reputation for playing a quality centerfield. All that makes for a strong AAA player, and a decent 6th outfielder on the depth chart. However, the BABIP-heavy success hasn´t translated to the majors in multiple opportunities with the Cardinals, Twins or Angels, and Robinson is now well on the wrong side of 30 (not that there’s any shame in that!).
David MacKinnon. 1B, 22, Pioneer League (Rk). 1.4 WAR
2017 Stats: .468/.561/.645 w/ 1 HR and 1 SB.
Key Number: 4.5% swinging strike rate
Acquired: 2017 draft under Billy Eppler in the 32nd round, senior signing.
All four of the top players with the lowest swinging strike rate in the Pioneer League play for Orem, the Angels' affiliate. If Brandon Marsh still had eligibility in the league, he’d push MacKinnon to fourth, and then they’d have the top five slots. At any rate, MacKinnon’s ability to avoid the swing and miss is key to his his minuscule 6% k-rate and 17% bb-rate. The .475 BABIP is nonsense, of course, but he’s hitting line drives at a 30% rate, so it’s not all seeing-eye grounders. While foolish to dream on 22 year olds bashing teenage pitching in the Pioneer League, well... Kole Calhoun. If he can impact the ball at all in full season league, the Halos may have an interesting player on their hands.
Eduardo Paredes. RHP, 22, Double A, Triple A, & the Majors. 1.5 WAR
2017 Minors Stats: 1 Win with a 1.73 ERA through 41.2 IP. 49 K’s versus 17 BB’s.
Key Number: 48% Fastball usage in MLB (52% secondary offerings!)
Acquired: Signed as a Minor League Agent out of Venezuela in 2012 by Jerry Dipoto
I became a bit obsessed with Paredes when he closed games for the DSL Angels as a seventeen year old way back in 2012. At the time, and for a number of years after, it was his 50%+ groundball rates plus the strong k-rates that made him and his funky delivery so interesting. I assumed that his primary weapon was a dominant sinking fastball.
We now know that's not the case, at least at this point. In the majors, we’ve seen his four seam range from 93 mph to 96 mph, but those have produced mostly flyballs, and very few swings-and-misses. The slider and the change-up --especially that change!--have flashed most promising. Success with those two pitches will determine whether he keeps his roster spot over the next few years.
More to come…