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Sunday, April 03, 2005

THE WATCH LIST
So, I'm going to add a few new features this season. Over to your right, at the top of the sidebar, you'll notice a few of them. Two of them will monitor the Angels' success on the inane Contact Play, wherein whoever is on third runs home when the batter makes contact, regardless of whether the infield is in or where the ball is hit. This whole thing is, I assume, part of the Angels' desire to pressurize the defense, but what it certainly seemed to do last year was curtail a lot of scoring opportunities. I say "seemed' because no one was keeping track; I'm gonna change that.

Another feature is the Darin Erstad "4-3" Count, which will also count 4-6 plays and the 4-6-3. Ersty hit over 50 groundballs to second last year, I learned on a BTF thread, so we'll go ahead and make 50 the over/under, if you're the wagering type. I'll take the over.

Another thing I want to start doing is the Watch List, which will focus on the Halos' minor league prospects. Now, I don't talk about prospects very much during the season, for the simple reason that I don't see any minor league games. Also, a big corner of the Halosphere is taken by Future Angels and its coverage of the Angels' minor leagues. What I want to do is complement that coverage with updates on how prospects are doing.

You see, it occurs to me that others, just like me, want to follow some of these guys, but don't always have the time to do so. So I want to make it a little bit easier, both for me and for others.

So here's the prospect watch list for 2005:

Position Players
Erick Aybar: Aybar's 21 this season, and after putting up a 330/370/485 performance in the California League last year will move up to AA Arkansas. The Cal League is easy on hitters, so Aybar's first taste of AA will be important. His power amped up last year, as Erick hit 14 home runs after a previous career high of 6. One problem is that his stolen base success rate deteriorated, as he was successful on only 51 of his 87 attempts. If he keeps that up, stealing bases will not be part of his skill set if he makes it to the majors. Aybar has hit well at every level, never registering a batting average below .308 or an OBP below .346. He's young enough to afford a false start on AA, but maintaining numbers akin to his career 321/366/467 in the low minors would be a wonderful thing.

Albert Callaspo: Aybar, a shorstop, will be reunited with double play combo mate Callaspo in AA. Callaspo, who turns 22 in a few weeks, hit AA last year and was moved to shortstop; it didn't work out wo well for him, offensively or defensively. His offense dropped off from a 327/377/428 in the Cal League at age 20 (not as good as Aybar did in the same league at the same age) to 284/338/376. His power has dropped as he has moved up the levels, and his stolen base rate has taken a hit similar to Aybar's (he was 15 of 29 last season). Hitting a road bump at age 21 in AA is no crisis, so his repeating the level doesn't bother me. But he does have to perform at some point to move up in the crowded middle infield situation of the Angel system.

Nick Gorneault: Gorneault, a free-swining corner outfielder with some pop, will be at AAA this year. He stalled a little bit at AA last year, at age 25, hitting only 281/341/481, which was fairly low by his standards. Given the Angels depth at the position at the major league level, it doesn't seem too likely that he'll see time in Los Angeles of Anaheim, though with the injury curses the team sometimes suffers, you never know. Given his age, he's not a big prospect, but he might be the type of guy who could get included in a late-season trade.

Howie Kendrick: Second baseman Kendrick has smacked the ball around in his young career, hitting .367 in 549 at bats between Rookie and Low A ball. He'll be in the Cal League this year, so it will be interesting if he can maintain that. He doesn't walk a lot, but he finds his fair share of gaps with that average, hitting 44 doubles at those two levels. Kendrick turns 22 in July, so is somewhat behind Callaspo on the organizational depth chart, but hitting .360 has a way of changing that.

Jeff Mathis: As I'm sure you know, Mathis came into last season trailing only Joe Mauer amongst catching prospects, and left it with a horrible 223/308/391 line in his first exposure to AA. Sure, he was only 21, so if he bounces back this year, no big deal, but that's a frightening line to read from a guy who was supposed to make the Molinas redundant in 2006. FWIW, his walk rate did go up last year, and his isolated power was right around his career norms. So the question is, where did the singles go? If he can find them, he should be on the fast track.

Baltazar Lopez: I know nothing about this man; he's a lefty first baseman listed at 6'1''-180, and he hit 314/368/513 at Cedar Rapids last year at the age of 20, his first real exposure to professional ball. That's good enough for me to check his line this year, which I would guess to be in the Cal League, but I don't know (not all of the rosters have been announced as I type this).

Warner Madrigal: This free-swinging outfielder blew apart the Midwest League (369/394/581) at age 19 in 2003, but got hurt and only managed 26 games at Cedar Rapids last year. So he's kind of a blank slate.

Mike Napoli: The guy angling for Jeff Mathis' rearview miror, the 22-year-old came out of nowhere with a 282/393/539 last year in the Cal League. Now, he was both a bit old for the league and repeating it, and being pretty big for a catcher may see more time at first base. But he's always had a patient eye, and it's certainly possible that last year was a corner turned. His perf in AA will be key.

Sean Rodriguez: Where a lot of people see the Callaspo/Aybar combo as the DP keepers of the future, you have to wonder if Kendrick and S-Rod shouldn't have the inside track. It's awfully early to say that, despite Rodriguez's utter dismantling of Rookie ball last year, hitting 338/486/569 at age 19. He'll probably go to Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League this year, where he spent about 200 at bats last season.

Andrew Toussaint: The 383rd pick in the draft last year, this 3B/OF out of Southern University hit 289/409/557 in 149 at bats at Rookie League Provo in 2004. This is right off of a 392/478/811 line in college, which, as I noted after the draft, was good for ranking 119th in the country by Craig Burley's college hitter rankings. I would guess he'd be off to Cedar Rapids this year, but sometimes the Angels go slow with guys, so maybe he'll be at Provo again.

Brandon Wood: Wood is two months older than Rodriguez, and as the Angels' first-round pick in 2003, got to spend the whole season at Cedar Rapids. He held his own, hitting 251/322/404 in 478 at bats. This is the same level where Rodriguez hit 250/333/393 in limited action. I don't really see the argument for Wood being a better prospect based on their performance to this point, despite their order on the organizational depth chart. Wood is likely find himself next to Howie Kendrick again, this time at Rancho Cucamonga, and he'll have to kick the offense up a notch to stay ahead of Rodriguez. That doesn't even regard the fact that as a pretty big buy (6'2'' or 6'3'', depending on your source), Wood may find himself moved off of the shortstop position at some point.

I'll get to the pitchers later, but those are the hitters I'll be following up on every few weeks throughout the season.

Comments:
Nice. The existance of Aybar, Wood and Rodriguez are three reasons why the contract for OC was such a bad idea. There are about 32 million other reasons why it was a bad idea, but the prospects are a more compelling reason.

There's a part of me that thinks Stoneman will send OC and cash for prospects at some point in the next two years.
 
Couldn't agree more David. OC was a complete waste of money - especially since Izturis could probably produce on the same scale as OC for the next two years at 1/30th the cost.
 
FYI, Baltazar Lopez, along with Ryan Leahy and Will Collazo, were part of the 37 minor leaguers suspended today for testing positive for steroids. I am very curious to see how Lopez performs for the rest of the year — though if he stinks, it doesn't really prove conclusively that his big year was juice-driven.

(If all 37 of them stink, then you've got my attention...)
 
youth baseball can be found here.
 
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