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Get Stung: 2019 Salt Lake Bees (AAA) Preview

The Bees had the best offense in the PCL last year, what can they do for an encore?

Photo: Minda Haas Kuhlmann. Twitter: @minda33. Instagram: minda.haas

2018 in Review

Despite having one of the best offenses in all of minor league baseball last season, the Bees ended up just 71-68 in second place in the PCL Southern Division. You could probably surmise that their strong stats and lackluster finish was due to the Angels constantly pilfering their club for talent (and managers) last season as the Angels had a record number of minor league call-ups in 2018 ( Full list here). For two years in a row now, the Bees have put up winning seasons - a testament perhaps to better talent coming up through the system. Since 2009, the Bees have only made the playoffs once when they lost to Las Vegas in the 2013 finals.

Toward the end of the season, The Angels poached Bees skipper Keith Johnson for a coaching job with the big league club and Eric Chavez took over for the remainder of the year. Keith Johnson is now the Angels roving infield coordinator and Eric Chavez is a special assistant to Billy Eppler.

In August, it was announced that the Bees and Angels extended their Player Development Contract Through the 2022 season.

In February, the Bees brought back former hitting coach and big league catcher Lou Marson to manager the team in 2019.

Notable Departures

Jose Miguel Fernandez led the team with a .333 AVG, ranking 2nd in the PCL. He signed with the Korean Baseball League this past off-season. Jabari Blash went off to Japan after smashing 29 home runs in 83 games for the Bees. Gone as well are Juan Graterol, Eric Young Jr., Ben Revere, Sherman Johnson, John Lamb, Connor Lillis-White, and Parker Bridwell.

Notable Arrivals

Peter Bourjos returned to the Angels organization in November. Jarrett Parker and Cesar Puello were also brought in for more outfield depth. Alex Meyer returned after become a free agent briefly. Luke Bard was signed in late February and ended up making the big league roster out of Spring Training.

Brennon Lund will be moving up from Mobile for his AAA debut.

Projected Lineup & Names to Watch

When it comes to the infield, Salt Lake is stacked with guys who could see big league action this year. Matt Thaiss (1B), Jared Walsh (1B/OF/P), Wilfred Tovar (2B/SS), Luis Rengifo (2B), Taylor Ward (3B), and Kaleb Cowart (3B/P). Of course, Ward and Cowart have already seen big league action. Thaiss, Walsh, and Rengifo may be the next round to get a call up, so keep an eye on them. Also, maybe we see Walsh and/or Cowart (our newest two-way players) make a big league mound appearance this year? It’s certainly possible.

Jose Briceno and Dustin Garneau will take on primary backstop duties.

The Outfield has many familiar names as well in Peter Bourjos (currently in Anaheim), Jarrett Parker, Cesar Puello, Bo Way (another two-way player), and as mentioned - Jared Walsh. Aside from Way and Walsh, all these guys have seen at least some big league action. Newcomer Brennon Lund will be there as well. No word on Jo Adell but due to his injury, it’s likely he may play at least a few games in AA this year.

Projected Pitchers & Names to Watch

Griffin Canning and Jose Suarez headline the pitching staff in Salt Lake, and given the Angels ability to drop pitchers throughout the season, it’s just a matter of time before they arrive in Anaheim. Also in the rotation mix is Nate Smith (maybe?) who’s been plagued with injury issues and is poised to maybe finally hit the big leagues later this year? Other rotation pieces include Alex Myer (when he’s healthy), Dillon Peters, and Jaime Barria (for now).

The bullpen includes familiar names like Jake Jewell, as well as Jeremey Rhoades, Matt Ramsey, Greg Mahle, and Forrest Snow.