This ‘N That


Baseball America named Jordan Walden the top pitching prospect in the Pioneer League.

Back from Arizona, trying to return life to normal …

My wife is in the South Seas for two weeks. Her high school friends go off somewhere on Planet Earth for a few days each year. This time, they started in Samoa, then on to Hobbiton — er, New Zealand — and now they’re in Sydney. I asked her to look up P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Lane, but she says the closest she’ll get is the Sydney Opera House.

(And if you don’t get those references, you must have missed Lord of the Rings and Finding Nemo.)

I keep thinking about how fortunate Angels fans are to have such smart management, from top to bottom. Hall of Fame sportswriter Ross Newhan gets it, publishing an article in today’s Los Angeles Times about the Angels’ success under Bill Stoneman and Mike Scioscia.

Of course, should the Angels fall in the playoffs, the loonies will be spamming the boards with demands that Stoneman and Scioscia be fired, if not shot.

Newhan’s article reminds us that, before the Stoneman/Scioscia era, nobody expected the Angels to be perennial contenders. In fact, he writes that Stoneman and Scioscia were shocked when the Marketing people asked during their first meeting with management which individual players to promote since they assumed the team wouldn’t be competitive.

Continuity is one important factor in the Angels’ success. I grew up in an era when the Dodgers were the perennial contenders in town. Walter Alston always returned as manager, until he retired and then it was Tommy Lasorda. The coaches were usually the same, the farm and scouting directors were the same, and the minor league instructors didn’t turn over much. There used to be a saying, "Once a Dodger, always a Dodger," and Dodgers management rarely traded away prospects, choosing to take the long view and build for the future with young talent like Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey, Fernando Valenzuela, Bob Welch … and some kid named Mike Scioscia.

Today’s Angels are built on the model of the old Dodgers, and I’m surprised more people can’t see that, especially with Scioscia at the helm and ex-Dodgers Mickey Hatcher, Alfredo Griffin and Ron Roenicke on the coaching staff.

In the minors, the Angels have several managers and coaches who’ve been around for years — managers Tom Kotchman and Ty Boykin, pitching coaches Zeke Zimmerman and Kernan Ronan, and part-time instructor Bill Lachemann. Let’s not overlook former Dodger Bobby Mitchell, who managed this year at Rancho Cucamonga.

We’re also starting to see former Angels minor leaguers now become coaches and managers. Ty Boykin is one. Salt Lake manager Brian Harper, likely to depart this winter, is another. Todd Takayoshi is now the roving hitting instructor, and Tom Gregorio succeeded him as the catching rover. Brandon Emanuel, who just retired as a pitcher last winter, was the pitching coach this summer at Tempe. Infielder Keith Johnson, who came out of the Dodgers’ farm system years ago, was the hitting coach this year at Double-A Arkansas. 1980s Angels shortstop **** Schofield was the hitting coach this summer at Tempe. You can also point to former Angels major leaguers Craig Grebeck and Eric Owens, who were the hitting coaches this year at Rancho Cucamonga and Cedar Rapids.

Watching the instruction last weekend at fall instructional league, it became increasingly obvious that an entire generation of Angels prospects are being taught a system that one day they might pass along to the next generation. How refreshingly different — and intelligent — from the Gene Autry era when the "Win one for the Cowboy!" mentality destroyed player development in the name of instant gratification.

Elsewhere …

Baseball America is posting its post-season Top 20 Prospects for each league. Those of interest to Angels fans are the Arizona League and Pioneer League.

Jordan Walden was named the top pitching prospect in the Pioneer League. Click Here to listen to an interview I recorded on Friday with Jordan. I also interviewed Trevor Reckling; Click Here to listen to Trevor’s interview. If you read the on-line chat with John Manuel, the analyst who wrote the Arizona League report, he seems to regret leaving Reckling off the list.

He literally was No. 21; if you listen to today’s podcast you’ll hear my buyer’s remorse on Reckling. He’s young, he’s got a good curveball, an upper-80s fastball, some projection . . . I probably should have ranked him. At some point you just have to go ahead and pick 20, and when I did it, I left him out; it sounds like [Mariners pitching prospect Jacob] Wild has upside for his age and could move quickly. But on a true prospect-meter, I should have ranked Reckling ahead of him for being younger & lefthanded and possessing less stuff but more projection.

My personal impression of Reckling — who’s been given the nickname "Reck" — is that he’s hungry to soak up as much knowledge as possible. He seems hungry for the game, and for success. Sometimes you see a player with that kind of personality and you fall in love with him because you know he wants it so badly that he’d throw himself on a grenade to succeed.

Anyway, with life somewhat back in order and the bills paid, I’ll get back to editing video from the fall ball trip. I filmed a lot of the pitchers, but all three games were played on fields with chain-link backstops which usually makes for crummy video since you can’t shoot very well through the metal. I’d like you to see Walden, Reckling, and the others, but if it’s not worth watching, I won’t post them on-line. Just keep watching the FutureAngels.com home page for updates.

I’m also starting to work on my annual Top 10 Prospects report, which should see the light of day sometime near the end of November.

Finally, a reminder that nobody pays me to go out to Tempe and film this stuff. It comes out of my personal savings. If you enjoy watching the videos, please consider a donation or voluntary subscription to support FutureAngels.com. As happens from time to time, I was approached in Tempe by a fan who asked how I pay for all this. I told him that it comes from savings, and that I lose a couple thousand dollars a year. He complimented me for how much better my site was than those who charge you a fee to see their content (which is often just lifted from somewhere else). I’ll never go to a mandatory subscription, but keep in mind that if the debts get too high, the web site goes on the shelf. That’s what happened in 2006, and it can happen again in 2008 if you don’t do your part.

6 Comments

The Midwest League top 20 prospects came out on Baseball America today. Three third baseman were on the list, and none of them were named Matt Sweeney.

You might remember from an earlier comment that I’m something of a Sweeney fan. I found myself scratching my head over this. Sweeney is younger (by a year at least) than all three of the 3rd Basemen who made the top 20, and he put up comparable numbers to all three of them (in fact his K-rate was easily the best of the group, usually considered a good sign for young power hitters).

The question then is do you have some idea as to why this is? Does Sweeney have sketchy defense or a weird swing, or possibly some other “toolsy” thing that wouldn’t show up when just looking at stats? It just seems contrary to BA’s usual theory of prospect ranking.

Additionally, further examination of BA’s own statistical analysis finds Sweeney #1 among Midwest League 3Bs in extra base hit percentage. So we have younger, more power, better contact rate… again, am I missing something here?

Here’s what Jim Callis said in the on-line chat:

*****

Jim Callis: Sweeney was very close to making the list. What worked against him is that I only had 20 spots for players on 15 teams, and scouts don’t give him any chance to play third base in the majors. He’s a first baseman, and that hurt him in comparison to guys like Josh Bell, Johnny Whittleman and Juan Francisco. Conger would play first base and could have enough bat to play there–his bat is that good.

Scouts were dubious about Brandon Wood’s ability to play SS too. Then it turned out he was pretty good at it. -_-;

Oh well. Thanks for the info. Guess it’s up to Sweeney to prove them wrong. ;)

You clearly never watched Sweeney attempt to play third base. He was brutal.

The only way he even came close to Top 20 status was his bat, which tailed off somewhere around mid-July…

Nope, I didn’t watch him at 3rd base, that’s why I asked Stephen about it. His bat didn’t really tail off, he drifted between .260 and .280 all season, hanging around .780 OPS pretty much the whole time.

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