January 2008

Meet Anel de los Santos

Anel de los Santos catching for Orem in July 2007.

The 2008 Baseball America Top 10 Angels Prospects Report released today has apparently perplexed some people. Across fan boards, I see posts along the general line of:

“Anel who?!”

Anel de los Santos, ranked #10, may be a stranger to them but he’s no stranger to FutureAngels.com readers.

I wrote about Anel here in the FutureAngels.com Blog last July when I visited the Orem Owlz. Two weeks later, I was at rookie league camp in Tempe and interviewed Tom Gregorio, the Angels’ roving catching instructor. We talked about the catching prospects in the system, including Anel. Click Here to listen to the interview. (Windows Media Player required.) We talk about Anel at the ten-minute point of the interview.

In late September, I returned to Tempe for fall instructional league. As luck had it, my camcorder was set up behind home plate and recorded Anel blocking the plate on an attempted double steal. Click Here to watch the video clip. (Windows Media Player and a broadband Internet connection required.) If you watch the video clip, the lady complaining the runner was safe was a Brewers fan. I played back the tape frame-by-frame; Anel blocked the plate with his ankle guard so the runner’s leg bounced off and never reached the plate. One of the Angels coaches asked me to play back the tape and commented afterwards that I should post it on FutureAngels.com as it was a "textbook" example of how to handle that play.

So I had to laugh today when “Anel who?!” showed up all over the fan sites. Anel is no secret to those who are FutureAngels.com regulars.

Baseball America Top 10 Angels Prospects

The Baseball America Top 10 Angels Prospects report was posted today.  Click Here to read the Top 10 scouting report (subscription required).

The chat begins at 11 AM PST.  Click Here to join the chat.

The Top 10 list is:

1. Brandon Wood 3B
2. Nick Adenhart RHP
3. Jordan Walden RHP
4. Hank Conger C
5. Sean O’Sullivan RHP
6. Stephen Marek RHP
7. Sean Rodriguez SS
8. Nick Green RHP
9. Peter Bourjos OF
10. Anel de los Santos C

The list is pretty close to the FutureAngels.com list, especially #1-#5.

Brandon Wood is #1

Brandon Wood is the Angels’ top prospect according to most lists.

In his latest "Ask BA," Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis ranked the #1 prospects for all thirty organizations. The AL West teams’ rankings haven’t been released yet, so Jim gave away that Brandon Wood will be ranked the Angels’ #1 prospect. Callis ranked him #12 among the thirty #1 players.

Wood was ranked #1 by me last November in the 2007 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report. He was also ranked #1 last December by John Sickels in his forthcoming 2008 Baseball Prospect Book.

Baseball America announces their Top 10 Angels prospects tomorrow. There’s usually an on-line chat with the author, so be sure to check the BA web site at www.baseballamerica.com for the time and instructions.

When the BA 2008 Prospect Handbook hits the streets in a few days, it’ll have the top thirty prospects for each team. I think even Jim Callis will admit that any ranking beyond 15-20 is a crapshoot.

Here are two basic stats I often mention as a reminder of just how few players really are "prospects."

Stat #1: Overall in the minors, only one out of every ten players will ever set foot in a major league dugout. They may last no more than one game.

Stat #2: Of those who get to the majors, only one in four will log five years in the majors.

Combine the two stats, and it means that only one in forty minor leaguers will have a significant major league career. In any one year, a major league organization will have roughly 200 minor leaguers under contract. Apply the 1 in 40 rule, and that means that only five of those 200 will turn out to be major league regulars.

If that’s true, it means that a respectable Top 10 list has those five guys on it. The other five won’t make it, or will be those who have less than five years in the majors.

So what’s the point of going beyond a Top 10 list? Stat #1 tells us that 20 out of 200 should set foot someday in a big-league dugout. If you try to go beyond 20, it starts to become fairly meaningless. It’s an opportunity to talk about some dark-horse, high-risk candidates, and it’s always nice for organization players to get some love from the industry’s trade paper.

When I do my Top 10 lists, inevitably I’m asked who’s in the 11-20 range, and so on. In my mind, I know the guys who would be next on the list, but I just don’t feel like it’s worth the intellectual exercise because as you go further down the list they’re less likely to become major league regulars — which is the point of defining who is a "prospect."

The Minor League Game of the Week

P.J. Phillips hit two doubles in the Kernels’ July 2 game against Kane County.

July 2, 2007 — It’s Future Angels vs. Future A’s as the Cedar Rapids Kernels host the Kane County Cougars in a Midwest League contest.

One of my guilty pleasures during the off-season is to listen to Kernels broadcaster John Rodgers on a cold January weekend morning. Listening in January to John calling a July game reminds me of what’s to come in another six months.

John is now the dean of Midwest League broadcasters. He’s been with the Kernels for twelve years, but he’s respected throughout the league for his hard work and effervescent personality. John’s broadcasting style is definitely old-school, peppering his prose with phrases like "worm-burner" or "Uncle Charlie." A student of history, he revels in the history of the franchise, the league and the game in general.

Because the Kernels are community-owned, the community is part of the broadcast. Members of the community will be interviewed on-air during the game, from teachers to retirees to children.

For those of us who live in Southern California, Kernels broadcasts might seem a bit "corny" (hey, they’re called the Kernels for a reason) but I wouldn’t change a single word. I always enjoy visiting Cedar Rapids, where on the whole people are far more genuine and humble than they are here in SoCal.

Jeremy Haynes pitches seven shutout innings for the Kernels. At age 21, he doesn’t get the attention that "name" prospects do, such as Sean O’Sullivan, Trevor Bell and Jordan Walden. Jeremy was a 37th round draft-and-follow pick in the June 2005 draft. He signed in May 2006, just as he was about to go back into the draft pool. We shouldn’t be surprised that he was a Tom Kotchman find. Jeremy finished 2007 with a 3.06 ERA in 19 starts, a 75:41 SO:BB ratio in 94.0 IP, and most telling was that he gave up only three homers. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does this year with Rancho Cucamonga in the high-octane California League. I’ve yet to see him pitch, so I’m looking forward to his stint with the Quakes.

Left fielder Stantrel Smith homers, a fairly rare event for Stan, and shortstop P.J. Phillips hits two doubles. Submariner Aaron Cook closes it out with two shutout relief innings.

Click Here to listen. You need Windows Media Player.

Meanwhile, in the Bobby Jenks Universe …

At the bottom of a Chicago Tribune article it reports that "Closer Bobby Jenks’ wife, Adele, gave birth Jan. 4 to the couple’s third child, a boy named Rylan Scott."

Bobby and Adele were married early in his Angels career and had their first two children right after the marriage, so good for them that they’re still together and raising a family. Hopefully he’s outgrown his well-documented childhood demons, for which Adele deserved a lot of credit.

This ‘N That

A reminder about Hot Stove events coming up …

The Quakes’ Hot Stove is this Sunday at 5 PM. It’s at a new location, Etiwanda Gardens. Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher is the featured speaker, and Jered Weaver will be there to sign autographs.

The Kernels’ Hot Stove is Thursday January 21 at the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel. The featured speaker is Roland Hemond, the Angels’ first farm and scouting director (and friend of the FutureAngels.com web site). Former Cedar Rapids Reds outfielder Eric Davis, and Kernels’ 2008 manager Keith Johnson, will also be there.

The Travs’ Hot Stove is Tuesday February 5 at the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. Travs manager Bobby Magallanes and Angels farm director Abe Flores will be there. The Travs event is free.

Speaking of Hot Stoves … What is a "Hot Stove"? Not everyone knows what it means. Think back to decades ago when people didn’t have central heating. Baseball fans would spend the winter sitting around a hot stove warming themselves while they talked about the game. That’s the origin of the term. You used to hear off-season baseball gossip referred to as the "Hot Stove League," although I haven’t heard that phrase in a while.

I’ve been working on the FutureAngels.com Database. What’s there now is just a toe in the water. Once I have five seasons of statistics in the database, I’ll start building search features for you to try.

The ongoing Statesville research project has picked up steam. I located another one of the players, but he’s very ill so I won’t mention his name to protect his privacy. I have leads for a couple more.

As I find them, inevitably I hear another round of crazy baseball stories. Again, not naming names, but I was told that one of the Statesville players was a bootlegger!

(Alcohol seems to be a running theme in these stories, a sign of the times …)

I’m starting to think that not only would the 1961 Statesville season make a great book, but it might make a great movie too. Bull Durham meets The Dukes of Hazzard.

Baseball America announces the Angels’ Top 10 Prospects list on Monday. They’ll also have an on-line chat. You can participate through their web site at BaseballAmerica.com.

Minor League Baseball Alumni Association

Surfing the Minor League Baseball web site, I came across a site for the Minor League Baseball Alumni Association. If you click on that link, you’ll know as much about them as I do.

If you’re a former minor league player, you can sign up for a $25 annual membership fee. If you’re a current player or have another connection to the game, e.g. a current or former coach, umpire, front office staff, etc. you can sign up for an affiliate membership which is $35 per year.

The Association was founded in 2001 and seems to have an historical bent. To quote from the brochure: "Preserve History. Celebrate the Game. Share the Dream."

I know a lot of players and front office staff come through this site, so feel free to Click Here and check it out for yourself. I’m going to sign up for an affiliate membership and see what I can do to help; if you’ve read this site, you know I’m doing a lot of research into the history of the Angels minor leagues, so this would seem to be a good cause to support.

Here We Go Again

(Left to right) Jordan Renz, Hank Conger, Ryan Mount, Chris Pettit, and Mark Trumbo were the instructors at Saturday’s Quakes youth baseball clinic.

For the sixth straight year, the Quakes hosted a youth baseball clinic at The Epicenter as a kickoff for the minor league season to come.

For those of us who are part of the Quakes’ extended family, it’s an opportunity to see familiar faces and start planning for the upcoming season. Sure, it’s a youth baseball clinic, but the Quakes staff is there, many of the boosters and host parents show up, and it helps to get your mind geared up for the next season. My mantra at these events is, "Here we go again."

This year’s event was a little different, in that several Angels top prospects who happen to live nearby were brought in to help teach the clinic. Most of the players will be on the Quakes roster this year.

For Hank Conger, Mark Trumbo, and Ryan Mount, it was their first time on The Epicenter field. Although they were focused on teaching the youngsters, they couldn’t help but look around and check out their new workplace. Jordan Renz, who played for the Quakes in 2007, spent the winter in SoCal rather than return to his home in Oklahoma. And Chris Pettit returned for the first, and most likely last, time since winning the Angels’ 2007 minor league player of the year award.

I’d guess there were something like 300 kids in attendance, so the players get a lot of help running this show. The Quakes’ front office coordinates, of course, but the Angels’ new farm director Abe Flores was on the field too. Abe told me he worked many youth clinics over the years when he was trying to make a living as an amateur coach and scout, so he knew what had to be done to keep the event on schedule. Kevin Vann volunteers his time with the Angels’ community relations department to lead many youth baseball clinics in Orange County and the Inland Empire.

Tony Reagins, recently promoted to general manager, showed up and found out what it was like to be Bill Stoneman the last eight seasons. I overheard some kids asking Tony why he traded Orlando Cabrera, and if there would be any more trades. It must be dangerous to go out in public when you’re a GM.

The one man who truly impressed me was Bo Hughes. Bo is a longtime Angels scout. He’s currently their Western Supervisor. Abe told me that Bo has served as technical advisor on many baseball films. Watching him work with these kids, it was evident he’s had a lot of experience as a baseball instructor and he’s good at it.

I filmed the event and edited it into a video that runs a little over eleven minutes. Click Here to watch the video. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch. You’ll see the five players and Kevin Vann, but most of the instructional footage is Bo Hughes. Enjoy.

The Minor League Game of the Week

Garret Anderson (pictured) and Maicer Izturis were in the lineup on rehab assignment July 1 when the Quakes hosted Lancaster.

July 1, 2007 — The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes slug it out with the Lancaster Jethawks at The Epicenter.

Lancaster was the California League’s top offense in 2007. They scored 1,081 runs in 140 games — that’s 7.7 runs per game, and 206 more than the second highest, Lake Elsinore. That number was helped, naturally, by playing in their high-octane high-desert ballpark, Clear Channel Stadium (formerly known as The Hangar). But those numbers are just so far beyond anyone else that you have to give their offense some credit, and they certainly brought their bats this day to The Epicenter.

The Quakes brought their own bats too, led by catcher Ben Johnson, who hits two homers and a double. Outfielder Chris Pettit, recently promoted from Cedar Rapids and in the middle of a standout season that will earn him the Angels minor league player of the year award, also homers.

On the mound for Rancho Cucamonga is Tim Schoeninger, making his Cal League debut after an outstanding first half with Cedar Rapids. Also in the lineup for the Quakes are Angels players Garret Anderson and Maicer Izturis, making rehab appearances.

Click Here to listen to the game. You need Windows Media Player to listen.

This ‘N That

Chone Figgins had 66 triples in the minors, but only 35 were with the Angels.

Just to reassure you that I’m still among the living …

With what little spare time I’ve had this week, I’ve entered records into the FutureAngels.com Database. I want to enter the first five seasons of batting stats to use for developing various queries and reports.

One big problem is that the Sixties were a different era for minor league baseball. An "affiliate" wasn’t like today’s affiliate, which gets all its players from a major league organization. In that era, many teams were independent. They had a loose affiliation with a parent club, but they could sign their own players, and sometimes they had players from many different teams. For a few years, the Angels also had a working agreement with Reynosa in the Double-A Mexican League. How many were playing under an Angels contract? I’ve no idea. So about all I can do is enter the stats and hope I can figure it out later.

This project has already attracted interest from a few folk who’ve e-mailed. One identified himself as Darrell Darrow, an infielder in the Angels system in the 1970s. He said he hit 48 triples during his Angels minor league career and wanted to know if that’s a record.

That’s why I’m building the database, to answer that question!

I’m nowhere close to having a definitive answer, but for the time being I went off memory and looked up a few players I thought might have a lot of triples. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Norm Hutchins 48
  • Gary Pettis 44
  • Mickey Rivers 44
  • Devon White 37
  • Chone Figgins 35

Figgins has 66 triples in his minor league career, but only 35 of those were with the Angels. The rest were with Colorado before he was acquired.

As mentioned on Sunday, I spoke recently with **** Simpson, former Angels outfielder and mega-prospect early in his career. At age 19 in 1962, he had a season for the ages with the San Jose Bees in the California League (the same league as our Rancho Cucamonga Quakes). Simpson hit 42 homers, collected 113 RBI, hit .315 and had a .626 slugging percentage. 1963 found Simpson with Triple-A Hawaii, which may have been too much too soon — a .232 average and a .360 slugging percentage. I think he may have been injured that year; we’ll find out when I record the interview with him.

Simpson’s first season in 1961 was with the Class D Statesville Owls, which if you’ve read this column you know is a growing interest of mine. I may have found two more Owls. Glade Cookus was an infielder the Angels signed out of Torrance (south of L.A.) and sent to Statesville. I can’t find any evidence he played for the Angels after 1961, but his name was unique enough that I was able to do some searching and found a Glade Cookus in Visalia, California. I’ve sent him a letter to find out if he’s the same guy. I also may have found Vito Porta, the Owls’ third baseman. Porta was an independent player, not an Angels employee, but he posted an AVG/OBP/SLG in 1961 of .289/.377/.468, which ain’t bad. I’m going to write him too; even though he wasn’t Angels property, he spent at least a couple seasons in the Western Carolina League so it would be interesting to get a perspective from someone who wasn’t working for the Angels.

The more I think about it, the more I want to do a book about those first-year Angels minor leaguers. It’s a fascinating tale. I still want to write a book about the history of the Angels’ minor leagues, but this would be a more modest project and would give me a track record for the big project.

If you’re in Southern California, a reminder that the Quakes’ annual youth baseball clinic is this Saturday from 9 AM until noon at The Epicenter. Not only can children ages 6 to 13 get instruction from Angels prospects and coaches, but it’s also a good way to get back into the baseball groove for the season about to dawn. I plan to be out there shooting photos and video.