February 2009

Don’t Try This at Home

Ryan Mount
Ryan Mount at Rancho Cucamonga’s youth clinic last January

 

It was brought to my attention that a fan site reports Ryan Mount “has been preliminarily placed on Salt Lake City’s roster, which seems a tad aggressive given his limited exposure at lower levels.”

Sigh.

Apparently someone is reading way too much into the minor league roster assignments that occur over the winter prior to the Rule 5 Draft.

Rule 5 has lesser known minor league phases to go along with the major league phase. Click Here to see the 2008 Rule 5 Draft with minor league phases. I don’t pretend to know all the intricacies of the minor league phase rules, but suffice to say minor league players have to be assigned to a certain roster to be protected, just as are those exposed to the major league phase.

Mountie was assigned to the Salt Lake roster for draft purposes, but other than that it’s meaningless. One winter a few years ago, when Darrell Miller was the farm director, I was in his office which had a big magnetic board with a name plate for each player in the system. They were assigned to Salt Lake, Arkansas, etc. The assignments seemed rather bizarre; Darrell explained it had to do with the Rule 5 minor league phases.

Actual assignments won’t be made until minor league camp breaks in early April. Click Here to see the minor league spring training schedule on the FutureAngels.com web site; camp breaks on April 5. Current farm director Abe Flores told Arkansas Travelers fans at their Hot Stove banquet on February 3 that Hank Conger would probably start the year in Rancho Cucamonga to work on his catching, then move up to Arkansas later in the season. He also said Mark Trumbo would return to North Little Rock. But such blanket commitments are pretty much the exception to the rule.

Mountie tweaked a knee last March when an opposing runner slid into him while he covered second base in a major league spring training game. He missed nearly a half-season before reporting to Rancho Cucamonga. Ryan spent some time over the winter in the Angels’ Dominican academy to help make up for lost time; I would say it’s 50/50 whether he returns to Rancho for more work or moves up to Arkansas.

But he’s not starting 2009 in Salt Lake.

Women in Baseball Lecture

Author Jean Ardell alerted me to a lecture she’ll be giving at the Fullerton Museum on Saturday March 7, from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM.

Jean is the author of Breaking Into Baseball: Women and the National Pastime, which I believe is one of the best baseball books I’ve ever read. It is literally the history of women in baseball — not just professional women ball players but women owners, women umpires, “Baseball Annies,” and so much more.

Jean will be lecturing along with two women who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. made famous by the movie A League of Their Own. Their appearance is part of the current exhibit, Line Drives and Lipstick: The Untold Story of Women’s Baseball which runs through March 15.

Jean is also the wife of Dan Ardell, an original “future Angel” who played in the Angels minor leagues from 1961 tthrough 1964 and made his major league debut in September 1961.

Milwaukee on Nick Green

Nick Green
Nick Green

 

The Milwaukee Brewers claimed Nick Green on waivers last week, after the Angels needed a slot on the 40-man roster for Bobby Abreu.

Whenever another organization acquires one of our minor leaguers, I like to see what that team’s hometown newspaper has to say about our player, because it gives some insight into what that organization saw in him.

Sure enough, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a story February 12 on Nick Green. Here’s what they had to say:


The Angels designated Green, 24, for assignment on Tuesday to make room for the signing of free-agent outfielder Bobby Abreu. Green, 24, pitched at Class AAA Salt Lake last season, going 8-8 with a 5.32 ERA in 28 starts.

In 159 innings, he allowed 186 hits and 44 walks and logged 112 strikeouts. Opponents batted .292 against him. He has two minor-league options left.

The 6-foot-4 Green is not a hard thrower – his fastball is in the 89- to 91-mph range – but has an excellent changeup and decent curve. He pounds the strike zone, one of the reasons he surrendered 31 homers in 2008.

“He’s a tall, lanky guy who throws strikes,” Melvin said. “He does give up some home runs but he knows how to pitch. He’s not overpowering.”


Green was #8 on the 2007 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report. Here’s what I wrote in November 2007:


Nick Green became known as “the 9:30 Guarantee” because he once promised an umpire that a home game with a 7:10 PM start would be finished by 9:30 PM. Green had a reputation as one of the league’s fastest workers, but he was also one of the most durable. Green led the league in innings pitched (178.1 IP), averaging 6.4 IP per start, and was sixth in ERA at 3.68 ERA. Nick’s velocity is usually in the high 80s, so he has to get by on location and his secondary pitches. His “plus” pitch has always been his changeup that can have a screwball action to right-handed batters with late sink. He also has a curveball, and added a slider in 2007.

Green’s fastball tends to finish high in the zone, which results in a lot of fly balls — and home runs. As noted above, Dickey-Stephens Park is very pitcher-friendly. Green gave up 17 homers in 2007, the fourth highest in the league, with 12 of those on the road. His GO:AO ratio was 0.74 (lower than the team average 0.97), meaning that his strikeouts plus fly balls are greater than the number of groundouts he throws. On the bright side, he did a great job of holding baserunners — only 19 runners attempted to run on him all year, and of those only 10 were successful.

Nick’s away numbers were less impressive than at home, as you might expect. His home ERA was 3.28, but his road ERA was 4.01. He was a much better pitcher in the second half, though, and his final four starts were on the road. In those four starts, his ERA was 2.78, so it looks like his second-half progress was legitimate; his Post All-Star Game ERA was 2.88.

Green is pretty much a lock to start 2008 at high-altitude Triple-A Salt Lake, which means his home runs allowed can’t help but increase. He reminds me of Matt Wise, a right-hander in the Angels system in the late 1990s. Matt’s plus pitch was also a changeup. Wise and Green are of similar physical stature. During his 2001 tour with Salt Lake, Wise gave up 19 HR in 123.1 IP — 10 HR at home in Salt Lake in 56.1 IP — and posted a 5.04 ERA. So if you want to use Wise as a template, expect Green’s 2007 high ratio of fly balls and homers to worsen with the Bees.

I expect Nick will eventually wind up in a setup reliever role, similar to Wise who now pitches for Milwaukee. Hopefully Nick avoids the “Tommy John” surgery Matt suffered in 2003. Green could also evolve into a back-of-the-rotation starter if he can improve his secondary pitches.


“Odd Man Out”: Jenks Denies Meeting McCarthy

Bobby Jenks
Matt McCarthy claimed that he met Bobby Jenks during the summer of 2002 at the Angels’ minor league complex in Mesa, Arizona.

 

Bobby Jenks told the Chicago Tribune that he never met Matt McCarthy, the author of Odd Man Out. According to the Tribune:


Closer Bobby Jenks dismissed comments about him during his stint in the Los Angeles Angels’ organization in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated.

“It’s just someone trying to make some money,” Jenks said.

In an excerpt of “Odd Man Out,” a book to be published later this year, minor league pitcher Matt McCarthy wrote of one instance where Jenks arrived 15 minutes late to practice and was sarcastically greeted by Angels minor league field coordinator Bruce Fields.

“Just trying to help the Angels win a World Series,” Jenks was quoted as saying.

Jenks said he never met McCarthy and that he was alerted of the book and the unflattering comments by Angels scout Tom Kotchman and his son Casey Kotchman, who now plays for the Atlanta Braves.

In the story, McCarthy alleged that Jenks told him that faking a back injury would get him out of weight lifting. The story adds that Jenks alleged that former teammate Derrick Turnbow was on steroids and that he was a bargain for the Angels after signing a $175,000 bonus.


Click Here to read my review, which was posted on January 30.


UPDATE February 16, 2009The Chicago Sun-Times weighs in with a more lengthy article about Jenks in the book.

“I got a chance to read most of it, even all the way through it, and without my name in there, you can tell this guy is making a lot of crap up,” Jenks said. “When I got the opportunity to come (to the Sox), it was a wake-up call. And the situation of how I was released (by the Angels), I’ve grown up a lot since I’ve had issues in the minor leagues. And I’ve become a better person, a better man, a better husband and father. That’s why it was kind of surprising at this time in my life, when everything is good, that something like this would happen.”

Catch As Catch Can

Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli
Jeff Mathis
Jeff Mathis
Ryan Budde
Ryan Budde
Bobby Wilson
Bobby Wilson

 

Today’s Los Angeles Times reports that Mike Napoli felt an “impingement” in his throwing shoulder after surgery and will be held back in spring training from “rigorous” throwing exercises for several weeks.

If Napoli can’t catch, this pretty much hands the starting catcher job full-time to Jeff Mathis. The article says the shoulder doesn’t hurt Napoli when he bats, so he’ll make the roster as a DH and backup first baseman.

The question becomes who gets the backup catcher job, Ryan Budde or Bobby Wilson. Both have a little big-league experience and are superb defensive catchers.

But we also have to wonder where Napoli’s bat fits into the lineup, with the recent acquisition of Bobby Abreu. It was assumed that Abreu would handle much of the DH assignment, taking the field occasionally to spell Juan Rivera in LF and Vlad Guerrero in RF. Keeping all three bats in the lineup sends Napoli to the bench.

But Opening Night is nearly two months away, and these things tend to resolve themselves. Heaven forbid someone else get injured, or Napoli have to undergo corrective surgery. Either way, it looks like Wilson or Budde have a good chance of making the parent club roster come Opening Night.


UPDATE February 16, 2009 — Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times updates his original story, reporting that Napoli may have to vie for the DH role if he can’t catch.

Baseball Lessons — Teach or Learn

I was given a brochure for Baseball Coast to Coast, which is a web site designed to match instructors with students. The web site is www.baseballcoasttocoast.com.

I can’t vouch for it, but a lot of minor league players look to make a few extra bucks in the off-season doing instruction, so if you’re one of them you might want to register with the site. If you’re interested in learning more about the game, give these players consideration to help them make ends meet. Who knows, you might learn a baseball skill from a future major leaguer.

“Odd Man Out” in Sports Illustrated

UPDATE February 13, 2009Sports Illustrated has posted their excerpt online. Click Here to read the article. The links below show the article as printed in SI.

Click Here to read my review of the book, which was posted on January 30.


Odd Man Out, the book by 2002 Provo Angels pitcher Matt McCarthy, is excerpted in the current issue of Sports Illustrated. It’s the one with Alex Rodriguez on the cover (I suspect you know why).

The article doesn’t appear to be on SI.com but I found a blog on Forbes.com with scanned copies of the pages. Click these links to read each page:

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the pages. Click Here to download Adobe Acrobat Reader if you don’t have it on your computer.

The Time is Now for Brandon Wood

Brandon Wood
Brandon Wood hit 43 homers in 2005 with Rancho Cucamonga, an Angels minor league single-season record.

 

If you’ve followed the FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects reports I’ve written over the years, one unique analysis is the split of Salt Lake numbers. Franklin Covey field is hitter-friendly at 4,500 feet, but a simple home/road analysis won’t suffice. The Pacific Coast League has other hitter-friendly parks — Las Vegas, Tucson, Albuquerque and Colorado Springs. So what I do is calculate splits for those five versus the rest of the league.

Brandon Wood is no longer eligible for rookie status, having more than 130 at-bats in the majors, so he didn’t appear on the 2008 FutureAngels.com Top 10 list. But after reading yet again more claims by certain individuals on fan boards and blogs that Wood is a “bust” at age 23, I thought I’d perform this unique split analysis and see what we come up with.

Here are Wood’s splits in 2007 at age 22 (AVG/OBP/SLG):

High-Altitude AVG/OBP/SLG: .279/.352/.472
Pitcher-Friendly/Other AVG/OBP/SLG: .258/.305/.553

Here are the new calculations for his 2008 season at age 23:

High-Altitude AVG/OBP/SLG: .296/.382/.577
Pitcher-Friendly/Other AVG/OBP/SLG: .297/.364/.633

A couple of interesting trends emerge:

  • In 2007, Wood’s SLG in the neutral/pitcher-friendly parks was higher than in the hitter-friendly parks — .553 vs. .472. That trend continued in 2008, .633 vs. .577.
  • Wood showed a dramatic improvement in his neutral/pitcher-friendly numbers, from .258/.305/.553 to .297/.364/.633. Even if you opt to use these more conservative numbers as an accurate reflection of his progress, those are great numbers for a 23-year old in Triple-A.

Some people argue that Triple-A isn’t the big leagues. I agree.

But the only way a hitter is going to learn to adjust to major league pitching is to face major league pitching. That means showing the patience to let him struggle until he figures it out.

I’ve pointed out many times that Mike Schmidt went through a similar struggle. In 1973, his first full season with Philadelphia, his numbers were .196/.324/.373 in 132 games. At the end of that season, he had 401 major-league at-bats. Wood so far has 183 AB. Schmidt was about the same age as Wood is now.

The unique split analysis shows that Brandon Wood has nothing left to prove in Triple-A. It’s time to hand him a big league job, either at shortstop or third base, and let him play every day. It may take a good three months or so before it all clicks for him, but the AL West isn’t likely to pose much of a challenge for the Angels this year, so they can afford to let him have some regular playing time.

Nonetheless, he’ll have to come into spring training and show he deserves that job. My point is it’s time to give him that opportunity.

2009 APBPA Banquet

The Association of Professional Ball Players of America held its 84th annual banquet on February 7th in Long Beach. The APBPA is a benevolent organization that assists indigent former ballplayers, major and minor leagues. To quote from their web site:


Since 1924, we have provided financial assistance for those professional baseball players, coaches, umpires, scouts and clubhouse men who are in need. No distinction is made between the major league player and the minor leaguer. Membership in what is a unique fraternity is the defining factor.

The Association had its origin when twelve former players met in Los Angeles and determined that there was a need to take care of the less fortunate members of their profession. From these beginnings the Association has grown to 11,000 current members. It has helped over one thousand ballplayers, players who are members of the Hall of Fame and those who enjoyed only a brief career. Total assistance rendered through 2006 is in excess of $4,300,000.

Major League Baseball and the National Association of the Minor Leagues have endorsed the Association as their benevolent organization.

Membership dues, donations, legacies and personal contributions finance the Association. Since we are a non-profit 501 C-3 organization, all such contributions are tax deductible.

The reasons for our help are many. Naturally, many of our assistance cases are older, retired players who have been ravaged by illness and the infirmities of old age. But sudden and tragic accidents and financial emergencies beyond the individual’s control create an urgent need. Our assistance has reached outside the Continental United States.


I filmed the speakers, which to my knowledge is the first time the event has been preserved on tape. Click Here to watch, it runs about 70 minutes. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection.

Former major league pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant is the first speaker, and well worth watching for his tale about an incident involving a certain umpire. He also promoted his book The Black Aces, about the only African-American 20-game winners in the major leagues. Click Here to visit the book’s web site.

This is the second year I’ve shot photos for them.

Former major league manager and Angels broadcaster Sparky Anderson spoke, but it was before the dinner began, so I didn’t get that on video. But you’ll see Sparky in the background from time to time.

You will see Roland Hemond. Roland is best known as the former general manager of the White Sox and Orioles, but in these parts he’s revered as the first minor league and scouting director for the Los Angeles Angels back in 1961.

Awards were given to two prospects, Yankees catcher Austin Romine and Cubs third baseman Josh Vitters. Austin is the younger brother of Angels minor league shortstop Andrew Romine, who should be at Rancho Cucamonga this year. They’re the son of former major league infielder Kevin Romine. Austin couldn’t attend due to a schedule conflict, so he was represented by his parents.

You’ll also see in the video former Angels pitcher Dave Frost, John Young of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), and San Diego radio personality Bill Werndl, among others.

The master of ceremonies was Dick Beverage, who is the APBPA secretary/treasurer. He also runs the Pacific Coast League Historical Society. Longtime Angels fans might remember Dick as a frequent guest on Angels radio pre-game shows in the 1970s-1980s. He wrote a book on the history of the old PCL Angels, which is out of print but he’s working on an update.

Below are some photos from the event.

 

Sparky Anderson with Kevin and June Romine
Sparky Anderson congratulates Kevin and June Romine

 

Sparky Anderson with Mudcat Grant
Sparky Anderson with Jim “Mudcat” Grant

 

Dick Beverage and Josh Vitters
Dick Beverage gives Josh Vitters the Chuck Stevens Award

 

Mudcat Grant
Jim “Mudcat” Grant promotes his book, “The Black Aces”

 

Roland Hemond
Original Angels farm and scouting director Roland Hemond

 

RBI Creator John Young
John Young, the creator of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI)

 

Dave Frost
Former Angels pitcher Dave Frost

 

Bill Werndl
San Diego radio sports personality Bill Werndl

 

This ‘N That

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported on February 4 that Angels farm director Abe Flores revealed at the Travelers’ Hot Stove banquet the assignments for a number of prospects.

The article states that Peter Bourjos, P.J. Phillips and David Herndon are likely to be assigned to Arkansas. Chris Pettit, who missed half of 2008 with a broken foot, will return along with Mark Trumbo.

Flores also said that Hank Conger “will start the season at Rancho Cucamonga to work on his catching.” The article said that Conger “should receive his second promotion to Arkansas sometime in 2009.”

Can’t find the original source, but I read somewhere that the Travs voted at season’s end to donate their fine money to Cedar Rapids for flood disaster relief.

For those of you going to spring training, the minor league camp schedule is now online at the FutureAngels.com web site. The minor league fields are west of Tempe Diablo Stadium, across the parking lot. Minor league camp is very informal. You’ll see over 100 ballplayers running around on four fields, in the bullpen and in the batting cages. Everything is accessible, and you can usually get an autograph so long as you don’t bother a player while he’s working. In the afternoon, you can watch two games for free on adjacent fields. Major league players often participate in the games to get some extra work.

The FutureAngels.com web site underwent a redesign recently. I’ve received a couple e-mails from AOL users who reported problems viewing the site. Refreshing their browser solved the problem, so if you’re experiencing a similar problem click the Refresh or Reload button on your browser and see what happens.

It’s very unlikely that I’ll go to spring training, since I’m unemployed. But this is also a reminder that FutureAngels.com survives only on the donations of its readers. You can make a one-time donation, or sign up for a voluntary $5/month subscription. FutureAngels.com has no ads, nor do you have to pay to access exclusive content such as the video clips and audio interviews. Click Here to learn more about how you can donate and support the web site in 2009.

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