Mark Trumbo is a favorite to win the Angels’ 2008 minor league player of the year award.
Chances are pretty good that all six Angels affiliates could play in the post-season this year.
The parent club, of course, has the best record in baseball at 75-44. The self-declared experts had the Seattle Mariners winning the A.L. West, and the sabermetric crowd backed Oakland yet again. Well, here we are with 43 games left in the season, and the Angels are 29½ games ahead of the Mariners, and 20½ games ahead of the A’s. The Rangers are in second place, 15½ games behind the Angels.
If the Angels play .500 ball the rest of the way, they should come in around 97 wins.
Personally, I think the ALCS will be the Angels and Tampa Bay, which worries me because Rays manager Joe Maddon knows our system. Sometimes youthful teams play beyond their talent. Of course I want to see the Angels win, but if it’s meant to be the Rays I won’t mind too much because it will boost interest in a franchise pretty much neglected by its local citizenry — and their manager came out of our organization.
Let’s look at where our Angels’ minor league teams stand:
Salt Lake — The PCL plays a full season, not two half-seasons, so the Bees need to maintain their lead over the next 15 games to reach the playoffs. They have a five-game lead over Tacoma (Mariners affiliate) with 19 games to play. The two teams don’t face each other for the rest of the season. The Bees started the season with an incredible 24-2 record, but since then are 48-51.
Arkansas — The Travelers went on a 23-12 run between May 9 and June 17 to clinch the Texas League’s South Division first-half title. In the second half, they’re 19-33, but they’re already in the post-season. The Travs received Mark Trumbo (my choice for Angels minor league player of the year) on July 28; his AVG/OBP/SLG in 16 games are .318/.338/.652, with 32 HR between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Arkansas. But it’s their pitching that will determine how far they go in the post-season, and their pitching has failed them. In July, they had a 5.36 team ERA and it’s 4.97 in August.
Rancho Cucamonga — The Quakes never fielded the team projected last winter. 3B Matt Sweeney has missed all year with an ankle injury. C Hank Conger missed two months with a slight labrum tear in his right shoulder, and just as he was ready to catch again, he bruised his left thumb. But Anthony Norman emerged as a pleasant surprise; his AVG/OBP/SLG are .270/.398/.496. Anthony has 15 HR — production no one anticipated — and 36 SB out of 41 attempts. Rancho took a ½ game lead in the California League South Division last night with a win over Lancaster, which won the first half. The Jethawks are are locked into the post-season, so the Quakes are fighting Inland Empire and Lake Elsinore for the two remaining playoff slots; both teams trail the Quakes by three. Rancho has 17 games left, so it’s a magic number of 15 — really too soon to talk about.
Cedar Rapids — The Kernels’ season was put into perspective by the historic flood that struck the City of Five Seasons in mid-June. (By the way, KCRG TV has posted online excerpts from their flood coverage; Click Here to see a list of clips.) After a 32-36 first half, the Kernels are 29-24 in the Midwest League Western Division second half, 2½ behind first-place Burlington and one game ahead of third-place Beloit and Quad Cities. My understanding is that the top two teams in the second half go to the playoffs.
Orem — The Owlz are managed by Tom Kotchman, which all but guarantees a post-season appearance. Sure enough, they’ve already qualified for the playoffs with a 25-13 first half. In the second half, they’ve won eleven straight. It’s amazing, although no longer surprising, how Kotch molds these kids into an unstoppable machine every year. Roberto Lopez is back above .400 with a 4-for-5 night Thursday at Helena that included two homers, a double and a single. Lopez started the season playing mostly LF, but in recent weeks he’s been the 1B. He’s also played two games at 3B.
Tempe — The Arizona League team took the first half with a 21-7 record. They’ve let down in the second half, currently at 6-8, 5½ behind the Scottsdale Giants with 14 to play. If the Angels rally to win the second half, there’s no championship game, but it’s starting to look like that won’t happen. I fly back from Florida on August 29, and hope to fly to Phoenix to cover the title game the evening of August 31.
The Dominican Summer League Angels are 40-23, 3½ games behind one of two Rangers camp teams. Personally, I don’t pay much attention to the DSL because it’s an academy operation, although the stats are officially kept. Check out the league standings and you’ll see what I mean. The season ends August 24; the Baseball America 2008 Directory describes the DSL playoff format but it’s too convulted for me to fathom through my cold-addled brain.