January 2010

Camping Out


The pitchers-catchers camp is the brain child of Angels’ pitching coach Mike
Butcher.

 

On Monday, I recorded the Annual State of the Farm interview with Abe Flores, the Angels’ Director of Player Development. Click here to listen to the interview. (Windows Media Player required.)

One subject we discussed is a new pitchers-catchers mini-camp underway at the Angels’ minor league complex in Tempe, Arizona. The idea, developed by Angels’ pitching coach Mike Butcher, is to bring in young pitchers and catchers to teach them how to perform as major leaguers in a pressure environment. Abe said their nickname for it is “marriage counseling.”

Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register followed up today with an article about the camp. Click here to read the article.

In response to an inquiry from a fan, below are the attendees at the camp.

PITCHERS
Bachanov, Jon
Brasier, Ryan
Carmona, Ysmael
Carpenter, David
Chaffee, Ryan
Chatwood, Tyler
Corbin, Pat
Fish, Robert
Hellweg, John
Kehrer, Tyler
Kohn, Mike
Nabors, Kevin
Reckling, Trevor
Richards, Garrett
Skaggs, Tyler
Smith, Will
Taylor, Andrew
Walden, Jordan

CATCHERS
Brooks, Beau
Conger, Hank
Lopez, Roberto
Ramirez, Carlos
Walker, Brian
Wipke, Flint

State of the Farm Report

Each year since 2000, I’ve recorded an interview with the Angels’ director of player development. They’ve come to be known as the State of the Farm report.

Today I interviewed Abe Flores, the current farm director. Click here to listen to the interview. You need Windows Media Player to listen. It runs about 24 minutes.

If you go to the home page at www.futureangels.com, you’ll see the links to all the interviews going back to 2000, when Darrell Miller had just taken over as farm director. Darrell was just hired by Bill Stoneman, who himself had recently become general manager. If you listen to them all, it’s a documentation of the legacy of the Stoneman era.

Mike Marshall’s Quest


1974 Cy Young Award winner Mike Marshall, who now resides near Tampa, researches the physics of pitching mechanics.

 

Is he right?

I’ve no idea.

Mike Marshall certainly believes he’s right, though, and he’s amassed a large body of evidence on his web site, DrMikeMarshall.com.

I drove over to Dr. Marshall’s home in Zephyrhills, near Tampa, where we recorded a 70-minute interview. Click here to watch the interview. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection required.

Marshall first became known to the baseball world thanks to Ball Four by Jim Bouton. Marshall was a cerebral pitcher knowledgeable about players’ union issues, and Bouton’s chess-playing buddy. They were two members of the Seattle Pilots, a 1969 American League expansion team that moved next spring to Milwaukee and became today’s Brewers.

For Marshall, baseball was just a way to pay for his graduate school studies at Michigan State. He earned a Masters of Science in 1967 in physical education, and a Doctorate in 1978 in Exercise Physiology. He used baseball as his research tool, to test how his body performed and apply that to his growing knowledge of biomechanics. According to his web site, his doctorate dissertation was, “A Comparison of an Estimate of Skeletal Age With Chronological Age When Classifying Adolescent Males for Motor Proficiency Norms.”

Mike applied what he was learning to his pitching mechanics. He began his minor league career as a shortstop in 1961 — he hit .304 with 14 HR for Magic Valley in the Pioneer League in 1963 — but switched to the mound in 1965. His career was unremarkable until 1972, when at age 29 he posted a 1.78 ERA in 56 relief appearances (116.0 IP) for the Montreal Expos. In 1973, he posted a 2.66 ERA in 92 games (179.0 IP).

The Expos traded Marshall that winter to the Dodgers for veteran outfielder Willie Davis. Mike appeared in 106 games (208.1 IP), all in relief, helped the Dodgers to the World Series, and was named the National League’s Cy Young Award winner.

Marshall credits a total overhaul of his pitching mechanics, applying what he’d learned at Michigan State. During this time, as he blossomed into perhaps the league’s best reliever, he was an adjunct professor at MSU.

Much has been written over the years about Mike’s theories. The baseball establishment seems to have rejected his proposal to totally change pitching mechanics. Major League Baseball is hidebound on its best days, so it’s unrealistic to expect them to abandon the way pitchers currently throw for a radically different approach.

Mike is fiercely passionate, but also fiercely logical, about the subject. He approaches the issue as a researcher, as a scientist. He argues quite rightly that a lot of money is wasted on creating a major league pitcher only to have him break down. We’ve all seen plenty of free-agent pitchers hit the jackpot only to break down before their contract ends.

The Nationals signed #1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg to a four-year $15.1 million contract. I showed Marshall a clip I filmed last October of Strasburg’s pro debut in fall instructional league. Strasburg hadn’t pitched in game competition for four months, so this wasn’t Stephen at his best, and I told Mike that. In the interview, Mike comments briefly on what he saw, although he acknowledged off-camera he would like to observe Strasburg from multiple angles with a super-slow motion camera to make a more informed judgment.

In any case, Strasburg is an example of a massive investment by a major league organization, which carries with it a massive risk. But I can’t imagine the Nationals sending Strasburg to Zephyrhills to have Marshall overhaul his mechanics. How would GM Mike Rizzo explain to the press that he’d invested $15 million in a guy whose mechanics were so bad he had to be rebuilt from scratch? The end result, of course, is unforeseen. And there are hundreds of pitching coaches and scouts around organized baseball who, trained to teach the traditional mechanics, would strenuously disagree with Marshall’s theories — not because he’s wrong, but it’s all they know.

I’m certainly no expert when it comes to pitching mechanics, much less kinesiology and biomechanics. Marshall is right when he says baseball needs to find a way to reduce pitcher injuries, given the millions and millions of dollars invested in their development. Are Mike’s theories the answer? I can’t tell you. More knowledgeable people than me have tried. But it’s certainly a debate worth having, and if MLB was more visionary they would finance research towards reducing pitcher injuries.

It’s just a lot easier to shovel millions of dollars to an ace pitcher and leave the egghead stuff for someone else.

This article also appears on Space Coast Baseball, our affiliated blog.

When Two Rookies Got the Call


Left to right: Dan Ardell and Tom Satriano watch as Angels farm director Roland Hemond adds their names to the Angels’ roster in late 1961.

 

Dan Ardell, a USC alum signed in 1961 by the Angels, loaned me the above photo of him and Tom Satriano when they were called up at the end of that year. Roland Hemond, who was the farm and scouting director, is on the right.

Listen to a 2005 interview with Dan Ardell.

Listen to a 2007 interview with Roland Hemond.

Windows Media Player required to listen to the interviews.

FutureAngels.com Blog 2009 Ranking

MLB Advanced Media has published the final rankings of the top blogs here on MLBlogs.com. Click here to see the rankings.

In the Fan blog category, FutureAngels.com finished #9 for 2009.

According to their 2008 rankings, FutureAngels.com was #4 in the same category.

I recently asked an MLBAM official how many fan blogs are on MLBlogs.com. He didn’t give me an exact number but said that overall they have about 10,000 blogs registered on their service.

I’m not one to make a big deal about rankings — I’m more interested in quality of content — but the next time you see one of those posts that show up occasionally on fan sites falsely claiming “nobody reads FutureAngels.com” you can respond with a link to the MLB list and tell the truth.

Paul Mosley’s Memories


Paul Mosley with the Double-A El Paso Sun Kings in 1965 or 1966. Note the El Paso cap had a halo atop the crown as did the Angels’ cap of that era.

 

Paul Mosley was a pitcher in the Angels’ minor leagues from 1961 through 1966. He played at nearly every level in the system, starting with Class D Statesville in the Angels’ inaugural 1961 season. He passed through Quad Cities, San Jose, Tri-City, and El Paso, as well as attending the minor league spring training camps.

When my wife and I drove cross-country last May to move from California to Florida, Paul and his wife Betty Jo were gracious enough to let us stay overnight at their home near Houston. Paul loaned me the scrapbook he kept during his career; it’s helped to unearth much of the buried early history of the Angels’ minor leagues.

In 1963, minor league baseball restructured its classifications. Class B, Class C and Class D disappeared. The Angels had affiliates that year in Tri-City (Kennewick, Pasco and Richland in Washington state), San Jose and Quad Cities (Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline and Rock Island, Illinois). All three were reclassified as Class A. Mosley’s career took him through Quad Cities in 1962, San Jose in 1963 and Tri-City in 1964, which tells us how the three were prioritized within the organization. Before 1963, Quad Cities was Class D, San Jose was Class C and Tri-City was Class B. So now it makes sense.


Paul Mosley (right) at San Jose in 1963. Manager Red Marion (center) took the Bees to the California League title in 1962, the first time any Angels team won a pennant.

 

Paul’s scrapbook also helped me figure out a lot about where minor league spring training was based. It’s commonly known that the parent club’s camp was in Palm Springs. That site, the former Palm Springs Polo Grounds, was too small to host 100+ minor leaguers, so the Angels had to find other sites for the future Angels.

It was still common in the early 1960s for Triple-A affiliates to hold their camps separate from their parent clubs. An affiliation was far looser than today’s meaning. Triple-A teams were free to sign, trade and release their own players. “Affiliation” simply meant they got some players from a major league operation, otherwise they were as independent as today’s indy leagues.

In 1961, the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate was the Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers. I wrote in November 2008 about the Rangers’ camp in Riverside at Evans Park near what is today Riverside Community College. The Rangers had both Angels and Phillies players. In 1962, the Rangers held camp at Amerige Park in Fullerton. DFW had players from the Angels, Phillies, Twins and a few from other organizations.

The Angels expanded from two minor league teams in 1961 to five in 1962, so they needed more than Amerige Park. They established a second Triple-A affiliation with the Hawaii Islanders, who were in San Bernardino at Fiscalini Field. Everyone else went to La Palma Park in Anaheim. Click here to watch a video of the 1962 minor league camp at La Palma Park.

The Rangers dumped the Angels for the Twins in 1963, so they left California and held camp in Florida. The Islanders, now the only Angels’ Triple-A team, camped at Amerige for 1963 while again everyone else went to La Palma Park.

Mosley’s scrapbook picks up the story in 1964.

A poor condition pocket schedule for the 1964 Hawaii Islanders spring training schedule at South Jackson Park in Indio. The back shows games scheduled against the various Angels minor league squads as well as the parent club and local colleges.

 

The Islanders held their 1964 camp at South Jackson Park in Indio. The above pocket schedule was in Paul’s scrapbook. It was once glued to a page, but I found it torn and loose. The front shows where they played. The back shows a schedule that included the Angels’ other minor league affiliates, the parent club, and games against college teams from Cal Poly Pomona and USC.

I also found a photo of Paul in an Islanders uniform. He was posing with two others.

>
Paul Mosley (left) with actor Henry Kulky and minor league infielder Charlie Strange.

 

In the above photo, Paul is on the left, and minor league infielder Charlie Strange is on the right. The man in the middle is actor Henry Kulky, perhaps best known for a role on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Kulky brought the oversized props; no idea where he got them. The photo shows you what the Islanders’ uniforms looked like.

Most fans recall the Angels had a presence in Holtville for many years. That began in 1966, but before the complex was complete they spent an interim spring in 1965 split between El Centro and Brawley.

The Angels bought the Triple-A Seattle Rainiers franchise in the Pacific Coast League and renamed it the Seattle Angels. (Hawaii switched their affiliation to the Washington Senators.) This photo from the El Centro newspaper shows the Seattle team at Stark Field in El Centro sometime around early March 1965:


The 1965 Seattle Angels at El Centro’s Stark Field.

 

An article in the El Centro paper noted that Seattle manager Bob Lemon arrived late in El Centro, “upon his return from a 14-game tour of Mexico with half of the split Angel squad.” Yikes! That would never happen today.

The scrapbook also had a copy of a 1965 Angels minor league spring training program, a rather unique item:


Click on the image to view an Adobe Acrobat version of the program. Acrobat Reader required.

 

One side of this folded program is still glued to the scrapbook, so I couldn’t remove it, but I scanned the rest and used Adobe PhotoShop to reassemble it into a digital document. Click on the above image to download the file. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the document.

Games and workouts were split between Stark Field in El Centro and Lions Field in Brawley. At the bottom of the program’s front page it states in small print, “Other clubs will have extensive workouts daily, and games before or after various instructional drills. Fans are welcome.” The schedule shows that the parent club came down from Palm Springs to play the Triple-A Seattle squad in two games at Brawley and two games at El Centro.

Mosley spent his last two seasons with the Double-A El Paso Sun Kings in the Double-A Texas League. Many of his contemporaries went on to the big leagues. One was Clyde Wright. I found a clipping he saved of a report in the El Paso paper about Wright’s first major league win:

 

Other names you might recognize include Tom Burgmeier, Jay Johnstone, Winston Llenas, Rudy May, Marty Pattin, and Jim Spencer. Another was John Olerud, the father of the future Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners first baseman by the same name.

I also found this clip reporting on a 1965 game between the Sun Kings and the Tulsa Oilers:

 

It appears that the 1965 El Paso caps had an “EP” on them, but when I look at the team photos for 1965 and 1966 it’s just an “E” as in the photo of Paul at the top of this column. It’s neat, though, to see the halo on the crown of the cap. I wish the Angels would bring that back, even if just for an alternate jersey.

The El Paso manager was Chuck Tanner, who later went on to fame as the manager of the world champion 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. The Angels had some serious managing talent in the system. Triple-A manager Bob Lemon managed the New York Yankees to a World Series, and is now in the Hall of Fame. So is Joe Gordon, who was a minor league hitting instructor, manager and scout for the Angels in the 1960s.

Mosley was sold after the 1966 season to the Kansas City Athletics. He received this letter from the A’s assistant general manager:


Click on the image to view an Adober Acrobat version of the letter.

 

Paul told me that he decided to retire rather than move on to another organization.

In April 2007, a colleague of Paul’s found articles I’d written about the Statesville Owls and contacted me to let me know his buddy was one of the players. I recorded an interview with Paul; click here to listen to the interview. (Windows Media Player required.). He was the first Owls player I found. Since then, we’ve tracked down about ten more, and held a reunion last September. More reunions of the 1960s Angels minor leaguers are being planned.

Thanks to Paul, and his colleague, we found the first one. But he won’t be the last.

Prospect Retrospect: 2003


Dallas McPherson hit 23 homers in 2003, including one off of a rehabbing Randy Johnson.

 

In recent weeks we’ve looked back at the FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospect reports for 2001 and 2002 Now it’s time to look at 2003.

I began that article by referring to the top five on the list as “The Untouchables” — prospects with so much talent it was unlikely the Angels would trade them unless they received an overwhelming offer. They were Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, Ervin Santana, Dallas McPherson and Bobby Jenks.

That turned out to be true, although Fate would intervene in the careers of McPherson and Jenks.

2003 was predicted to be a big year for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. They would have Kotchman, Mathis and McPherson in the starting lineup, with Santana, Joe Torres and Jake Woods in the starting rotation. The team made it to the playoffs, although Kotchman and Torres was hurt much of the year, and Mathis, McPherson and Santana were promoted to Double-A Arkansas before season’s end. The Quakes took the California League’s South Division in the first half with a 40-30 record, but fell to 34-36 in the second half and lost three games to one to Inland Empire in the division playoffs.

A reminder that my lists were written at the end of each year, usually in November after the season and any post-season work such as fall instructional league and the Arizona Fall League. The Baseball America reports were published a couple months later, usually around January, so we’ll compare my November 2003 report to BA‘s early 2004 rankings.

My Top 10 list that year was:

  1. Casey Kotchman 1B
  2. Jeff Mathis C
  3. Ervin Santana RHP
  4. Dallas McPherson 3B
  5. Bobby Jenks RHP
  6. Alberto Callaspo 2B
  7. Chris Bootcheck RHP
  8. Brandon Wood SS
  9. Rich Fischer RHP
  10. Steve Andrade RHP

The BA list was:

  1. Casey Kotchman 1B
  2. Jeff Mathis C
  3. Dallas McPherson 3B
  4. Ervin Santana RHP
  5. Bobby Jenks RHP
  6. Alberto Callaspo 2B
  7. Brandon Wood SS
  8. Erick Aybar SS
  9. Rafael Rodriguez RHP
  10. Steven Shell RHP

Here’s how each of mine did in retrospect.

1. Casey Kotchman 1B — It was another injury-plagued year for Casey. He pulled a hamstring on May 1, took two weeks off, played although it was still sore and tore it three games later. After a rehab assignment to minor league camp in Mesa, Kotchman returned on August 1 and played every day, finishing with an AVG/OBP/SLG at Rancho of .350/.441/.524 in 206 AB. He was hit on the right wrist by a pitch in the last game of the playoffs and removed; click here to watch video of the injury. As you probably know, Casey is now on his fourth team, having been traded last week from the Red Sox to the Mariners where he’ll be reunited with former Angels minor league hitting instructor Ty Van Burkleo, now Seattle’s bench coach.

2. Jeff Mathis C — Mathis caught for the California League in their All-Star Game contest against the Carolina League, hosted at Rancho Cucamonga. His AVG/OBP/SLG in 378 AB were .323/.384/.500 as a 20-year old in the Cal League, still no sign of the hitting woes that have plagued him in the majors. He moved up to Double-A Arkansas in August where he hit .284/.364/.463 in 95 AB. BA analyst Jim Callis noted that Jeff threw out only 25% of baserunners, but that’s a misleading number that also relies on how well pitchers hold on runners. Callis wrote, “Only [Twins prospect Joe] Mauer rates ahead of Mathis among the game’s catching prospects.” Callis had Mathis taking over the Angels’ catching job in 2005, I had him taking over in 2006; he was actually handed the job in spring 2007, although he went back to the minors for more seasoning.

3. Ervin Santana RHP — “Johan” became “Ervin” Santana before the 2003 season once it was discovered he’d used a younger brother’s birth certificate to sign with the Angels, but the discrepancy was only ten months. Ervin joined Mathis on the California League All-Star roster, and finished the year with six starts at Double-A Arkansas. I wrote at the time, “Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he still demonstrates the poise to work out of jams and keep his team in the game.” Poise has been a bit of a problem now and then during his major league career, although his worst performances have been when he falls out of his mechanics. I expressed a concern about elbow tenderness he experienced in August, and that problem resurrected itself in 2009. Ervin turned 27 this month, which should be the prime of his career.

4. Dallas McPherson 3B — Dallas made the FutureAngels.com Top 10 list for the first time. He missed April when he suffered a lower back problem in spring training, the first of what would become a series of increasingly severe back injuries. Dallas didn’t show any after-effects at the time; he hit .308/.404/.606 with the Quakes in 292 AB and .314/.426/.569 with the Travelers in 102 AB. One career highlight happened on July 15, when he homered off a rehabbing Randy Johnson who was pitching for Lancaster at Rancho Cucamonga. Click here to watch the McPherson/Johnson matchup. I noted that McPherson’s defense had improved, and dismissed rumors that he might be moved to first base. Despite all the subsequent injuries, Dallas is still a third baseman. He missed all of 2009 due to his bad back, but recently signed a minor league contract with the Oakland A’s.

5. Bobby Jenks RHP — Bobby’s bad habits began to catch up with him when he suffered a “stress reaction” in his right arm, missing May and June. He posted a 2.17 ERA in 16 starts, striking out 103 and 83 innings, but I warned he’d have to conduct himself like a professional and defeat his personal demons for his career to advance, but in 2004 he would stumble and nearly destroy his career. We’ll tell that story in the 2004 Retrospect. He’s now one of the better closers in the A.L., pitching for the White Sox.

6. Alberto Callaspo 2B — Just as noteworthy as Alberto appearing on this list is the absence of his “Siamese Twin” pal, Erick Aybar. The two were the middle infield combination for Cedar Rapids. Erick’s numbers that year were good enough — .308/.346/.446 with 32 SB — but I was concerned about his reckless style of play that led to several minor injuries. Callaspo, a year older, hit .327/.377/.428. The Angels separated the two in 2004, with Alberto going to Double-A Arkansas while Aybar went to High-A Rancho Cucamonga. I noted that Callaspo didn’t strike out much and, although he didn’t walk much either, managed to find his way on base. Alberto was traded on February 28, 2006 to the Diamondbacks for relief pitcher Jason Bulger. He’s been in trouble with the law since then, arrested for a domestic violence charge in May 2007 and popped for drunk driving in June 2008. Arizona traded him to Kansas City in December 2007 for pitcher Billy Buckner. Playing full-time in 2009 at second base for the Royals, he hit .300/.356/.457 in 155 games. He’ll be 27 in 2010; hopefully, he’s conquered his demons as Jenks appears to have conquered his.

7. Chris Bootcheck RHP — One of two first-round draft picks in 2000, Chris struggled in the first half with Triple-A Salt Lake due to a forearm injury but in his last eleven starts posted a 2.66 ERA, quite impressive in the high-octane Pacific Coast League. I noted he had trouble pitching in the first inning, posting a 5.88 ERA in that frame. In future years, he never found his potential and took his minor league free agency in December 2008, signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bootcheck spent most of 2009 at Triple-A Indianapolis, posting a 3.38 ERA in 40 relief appearances with 20 saves, then took his free agency at season’s end. He fell on the FutureAngels.com Top 10 lists from #1 in 2001 to #4 in 2002 to #7 in 2003 to off the list in 2004.

8. Brandon Wood SS — Brandon was the Angels’ first-round draft pick in June 2003. He began his career with 19 games at Rookie-A Mesa (.308/.349/.462), then reported to Provo for 42 games (.278/.348/.475). I wrote, ” Evocative of a very young Cal Ripken, Jr., Wood is tall and lean, and brings a power bat to the plate.” Through his career, Ripken moved between SS and 3B, and that’s been the path so far for Wood. “Depending on how his body fills out over the next few years, he could wind up in the big leagues at another position.” It appears he’ll be the Angels’ starting third baseman in 2010. The power bat has yet to materialize at the big-league level, but he hasn’t been given the chance to play regularly either. We should find out this year.

9. Rich Fischer RHP — A high school shortstop who pitched briefly in junior college, Rich was selected by the Angels in the 21st round of the June 2000 draft. Early in his career, it looked like this might be a great scouting job by Tim Corcoran. BA named Fischer #8 on their early 2003 list, after he’d posted a 3.50 ERA in 19 starts for Rancho Cucamonga and 4.23 in seven starts for Arkansas. He fell to #20 on the 2004 BA list after posting a 4.61 ERA in 26 starts during the 2003 season for the Travelers. I wrote in October 2003 that Fischer had been a project of Mike Butcher, who was his pitching coach in rookie ball. I noted that a mechanical flaw in Rich’s delivery had resulted in a drop of velocity; this might have been portent of the 2004 elbow injury that eventually derail his career. Rich returned to pitching briefly in 2007 for the independent Long Beach Armada, posting a 3.89 ERA in 44 innings, but appears to have left pro ball after that.

10. Steve Andrade RHP — Steve was an unlikely Top 10 candidate, a 23-year old reliever out of Cal State Stanislaus selected in the 32nd round of the June 2001 draft. But as sometimes happens with older relievers, they have a skill that’s enough to get them to the big leagues, and that’s what happened with Andrade. His funky, fluky delivery (Click here to watch a 2003 video of Andrade) of curves and a low 90s fastball was enough to get him to the big leagues for four relief apperances with Kansas City in 2006. The Blue Jays claimed him on waivers from the Angels in December 2004, the Devil Rays claimed him in the Rule 5 draft in December 2005, the Rays then sold him to the Padres, and three months later the Royals claimed him on waivers. K.C. released him in June 2006, and he was signed again by the Padres. He took his minor league free agency in October 2006, and signed again with the Rays. Clear as mud? It appears his last pro year was 2008, splitting the year between Tampa’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. In eight minor league seasons, Steve averaged 11.1 strikeouts and 3.7 walks per nine innings, posting a minor league career 3.01 ERA. No one seemed to believe enough in his game to give him an extended chance in the majors.

Prospect Retrospect: 2002


Jeff Mathis was #1 on the 2002 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects report after spending the year at Low-A Cedar Rapids.

 

Back on December 21 I promised to look back at the FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospect reports I wrote from 2001 through 2005. December 21 was the 2001 report. Here’s a look at 2002.

The 2002 report was published in November, as I prefer to write mine after the season ends, including post-season fare such as fall instructional league and the Arizona Fall League. It also gives me an opportunity to see who the Angels might have let go at season’s end or chosen to protect on the 40-man roster.

Baseball America, the gold standard when it comes to baseball prospecting, typically publishes its Angels list early in the next year, just before spring training. So we’ll compare my 2002 list to their 2003 list, even though they’re separated by a couple months.

My 2002 list was:

  1. Jeff Mathis C
  2. Casey Kotchman 1B
  3. Francisco Rodriguez RHP
  4. Chris Bootcheck RHP
  5. Bobby Jenks RHP
  6. Joe Saunders LHP
  7. Jake Woods LHP
  8. Nathan Haynes OF
  9. Ervin Santana RHP
  10. Brian Specht SS

The Baseball America list was:

  1. Francisco Rodriguez RHP
  2. Casey Kotchman 1B
  3. Bobby Jenks RHP
  4. Jeff Mathis C
  5. Ervin Santana RHP
  6. Dallas McPherson 3B
  7. Joe Saunders LHP
  8. Rich Fischer RHP
  9. Joe Torres LHP
  10. Chris Bootcheck RHP

The BA report was written by analyst Josh Boyd, who’s currently the Director of Professional Scouting for the Texas Rangers.

In looking at Josh’s list, my first reaction is, “Why didn’t I have Dallas McPherson on my list?!”

He was certainly deserving at that point. Kotchman, Mathis and McPherson were the core of a talented group that came out of the June 2001 draft. The three played together at Rookie-A Provo in 2001, then moved up to Low-A Cedar Rapids in 2002. Kotchman and Mathis made my list, but why not Dallas? He posted an AVG/OBP/SLG of .277/.381/.427 with 15 HR. He struck out 128 times but also walked 78 times. He was a bit older than the other two, turning 22 in July, which put him on the outer edge of the top prospect curve.

So I really have no explanation. McPherson’s career was derailed, of course, by a chronic bad back but that didn’t manifest itself until the spring of 2003. About all I can think of is that it might have been a combination of the age issue, the strikeouts, and the 31 errors he committed at third base. Hindsight is 20/20, but in November 2002 Dallas was definitely deserving of Top 10 consideration.

Rich Fischer showed up on my Top 10 list a year later in November 2003, but an elbow injury eventually ended his career. Joe Torres fell off my list because of a combination of physical issues and mediocre results. In 2003, he’d undergo “Tommy John” surgery and his career was never the same.

Let’s look at each of my picks in retrospect.

1. Jeff Mathis C — Jeff’s season ended a bit early when he was hit in the face by a pitch on August 25 and shattered a cheekbone. The 19-year old still had quite a nice year, posting an AVG/OBP/SLG of .287/.346/.444 in 491 AB. Mathis was in the lineup nearly every day, catching in 80 games, and his second-half offense numbers tailed off, which is very typical for teenagers in that league. He committed only four errors and allowed only six passed balls. His current offense deficiencies didn’t manifest until Double-A Arkansas in 2004.

2. Casey Kotchman 1B — Casey was at or near the top of most analysts’ lists. I wrote at the time, “It’s believed that one day in the majors he might be capable of 40-50 HR.” That prediction obviously turned out to be wrong, although he certainly showed signs of power potential at higher levels. Josh Boyd wrote, “He has plenty of gap power now and projects to hit for above-average home run power as he matures,” so I wasn’t alone. Casey started in 2002 to suffer from a series of fluke injuries. In April, a runner spiked his foot at first base, and in July he missed seven weeks after he struck his left wrist on a bat lying across home plate as he slid in. Kotchman currently languishes on the Red Sox bench, having never manifested his potential.

3. Francisco Rodriguez RHP — Frankie didn’t make my 2001 list because I was worried about both his mechanical problems and mental attitude. The Angels in spring training decided to end his career as a starter, dumping him in the back of the Double-A Arkansas bullpen. In mid-May, I visited Little Rock and interviewed Travelers manager Doug Sisson. He said he was told to use Rodriguez two or three times a week, 30-40 pitches, when and how he wanted. Click here to listen to the interview. Charlie Thames began the year as the Travs’ closer, but when his elbow failed Frankie became the closer. The rest is history. Rodriguez was promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake in July, Anaheim in September and became a World Series star. It was a scenario no one anticipated, but it worked.

4. Chris Bootcheck RHP — One of two first-round draft picks in 2000, Chris was still on the fast track to Anaheim despite a 4.81 ERA in 19 starts at Double-A Arkansas. Promoted in mid-July to Triple-A Salt Lake, he posted a 3.81 ERA in nine starts, including a 2.86 ERA in five road starts away from high-octane Franklin Covey Field. Bootcheck would reach Anaheim in 2003, but never established himself as the starter he was projected to be .

5. Bobby Jenks RHP — Everyone knows Bobby’s story by now — if you don’t, go read my 2002 analysis — so no need to rehash that here. 2002 was typical of his minor league career — a suspension, a demotion, and then a brilliant audition in the Arizona Fall League. I see I wrote at the time that Jenks had just dumped his agent for Scott Boras, who I’d hoped might keep Bobby on the straight and narrow. It didn’t work, at least for a couple years.

6. Joe Saunders LHP — Selected by the Angels in the first round of the June 2002 draft, Joe signed the next day, made his pro debut June 28 at Provo, and finished the regular season with five starts for Cedar Rapids. He reported to spring training in 2003 with a torn labrum. Rather than undergoing surgery, Saunders spent the year doing rehab and picked up where he left off by reporting to High-A Rancho Cucamonga for 2004. He’s currently a fine established starter for the Angels.

7. Jake Woods LHP — I had Jake ranked higher than some other lists — BA had him at #15 — but he did eventually find his way to the major leagues with the Mariners. Seattle claimed him on waivers in December 2005 when the Angels tried to move him off the 40-man roster. He spent all of 2006 in the majors, posting a 4.20 ERA in 105 innings that included eight starts. Woods went back to the minors after that; he spent 2009 with the Phillies’ Triple-A team at Lehigh Valley, posting a 3.46 ERA in 80 2/3 innings, mostly as a reliever. He was a minor league free agent at season’s end, don’t know if anyone has picked him up.

8. Nathan Haynes OF — As I wrote in the 2001 review, a series of injuries would eventually rob this first-rounder of his major league potential. Nathan tore a thumb when he fell down rounding first in a spring training game and missed half of 2002, although he ended the year with two months at Triple-A Salt Lake. Nathan tried to make up some time in the Arizona Fall League. I wrote, “He could be the next Juan Pierre,” although he didn’t even achieve that mark.

9. Ervin Santana RHP — Ervin was still “Johan” at this point. His bogus birth certificate was discovered shortly after I wrote the review; he turned out to be eleven months older than first believed, which really wasn’t that big a deal. I wrote that he had mental maturity issues, not unusual for a young Dominican, which were responsible for some truly horrid outings that year at Low-A Cedar Rapids. Ervin still has his lapses in the big leagues, but when he’s right — which is most of the time — he’s tough to beat.

10. Brian Specht SS — Injuries began to take a toll on Brian’s career. After the 2002 season, he was diagnosed with a minor labrum tear that required surgery. During the season, he DH’d quite a bit in an attempt to rest the shoulder, but Brian tried to soldier through it. At age 22 in Double-A, Specht posted an AVG/OBP/SLG of .248/.321/.397 and committed errors at a rate of one every 2.7 games, although some of that could probably be blamed on the injury, and some more of it on the poor infield at Ray Winder Field. Brian would have one last hurrah in 2004 when he was named the outstanding rookie in the Angels’ major league spring training camp, but never got the call to the big leagues.

FutureAngels.com 2010 Home Page Banner

 

Above is the 2010 banner for the FutureAngels.com web site home page.

It represents the Angels’ probable 2010 infield, all home grown.

Left to right, it’s 3B Brandon Wood when he was at Rancho Cucamonga in 2005, SS Erick Aybar when he was at Cedar Rapids in 2003, 2B Howie Kendrick when he was at Provo (now Orem) in 2003, and 1B Kendry Morales when he was at Salt Lake in 2007.

As always, all photos were shot by me.

The banner says “twelfth season,” which is and isn’t true.

I started my web site for the 1998 season, but it only covered the Angels and the Lake Elsinore Storm, which was then the Angels’ affiliate in the California League. (The web site was called HaloStorm.com.) During that year, I visited several affiliates and found there was a lot of interest in what was happening at the other affiliates, so in 1999 I expanded to covering the entire system, and changed the name to FutureAngels.com.

So I’ve been around for thirteen seasons, twelve of them as FutureAngels.com.

You’ll find photos starting in 1998 in the FutureAngels.com Photo Galleries.

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