Results tagged ‘ Rancho Cucamonga Quakes ’

We Are The World

Juan Rivera
Los Angeles Times sports blogger Steve Bisheff wrote Monday that he underestimated Juan Rivera’s talents — in part because Rivera doesn’t speak English in interviews.

 

Los Angeles Times blogger and former Orange County Register sportswriter Steve Bisheff posted Monday night an admission that he had misjudged Juan Rivera’s talents. His justification:

I thought he was a decent enough player, who, in the best of circumstances, would hit maybe .280, finish with 22 or 23 home runs and perhaps 80 RBIs. Not bad, mind you.

Just nothing to get excited about. Kind of like Rivera’s demeanor. He is about as personable as a foul pole, a quiet, introverted type who rarely says anything in the clubhouse and claims not to speak English, though there are those who think that’s just a ploy to avoid reporters.

In other words, he is everything Torii Hunter is not.

Goodness.

By no means am I about to tar all sportswriters with this metaphorical brush, but Bisheff’s admission reveals something that’s troubled me about far too many scribes — the journalist’s reporting about a player is tainted by how big a quote machine he is.

This isn’t limited to sports journalism. I’ve mentioned before that I dabble in political consulting as a sideline. I learned a long time ago that reporters will be far more sympathetic to your cause if you regularly feed them information. It makes their job easier. I’ve seen many articles published over the years — some sympathetic to my causes, others critical — that were largely reprints of information handed to the reporter by a source, without adequate fact checking.

Bisheff’s bias is that Rivera doesn’t speak English and, in particular, the suspicion that Juan might know more English than he lets on.

Well, here’s a revelation for you — lots of Latin ballplayers know more English than they let on.

I remember during the 2002 playoffs that Francisco Rodriguez used an interpreter during post-game press conferences. I was laughing on the sofa because Frankie’s English was quite good. I’d known Frankie in the minors, spoken to him frequently, interviewed him at Salt Lake in July 2002, and happened to see him at Anaheim on September 15 when he was called up. We spoke in English — and his was quite good — about his overnight flight from Salt Lake City.

Most Latin players are anxious to practice their English — with people they trust.

Many of them come from countries where the media are controlled by the authoritarian government. Juan Rivera is from Venezuela, which is run by Hugo Chavez. The Dominican Republic isn’t exactly a bastion of free speech either. So these players are naturally distrustful of the media.

But it seems to me that Bisheff and his colleagues could achieve a lot more access if they simply learned some Spanish.

Bisheff’s comment reminded me of the May 21, 2005 press conference at Rancho Cucamonga where Kendry Morales was introduced to the baseball world. I was there to videotape it; no television media showed up, only newspaper reporters, so I have the only video of this historic event.

Click Here to watch the press conference. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection are required.

A reporter from the Los Angeles Times monopolized the first fifteen minutes of questioning. (The Angels’ Media Relations should have cut him off, but that’s their problem.) Charlie Romero, the manager of the Angels’ Dominican academy, was there to translate for Kendry. When the Times reporter finally relented, a female reporter from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin asked Kendry a question — in Spanish. The Times reporter meekly asked for a translation.

I was laughing to myself, thinking “Good for you!” that the Daily Bulletin reporter stuck it to the Times scribe.

But it was symptomatic of the same attitude Bisheff has — you owe it to us to speak our language, or else we might not write nicely about you.

I look forward to many more interviews with Rivera, Morales and other Latin players — in Spanish.

The 20/20 Hindsight Top 10 Prospects

Alexi Amarista
Kernels second baseman Alexi Amarista will play in Tuesday’s Midwest League All-Star Game. He’s batting .310 and has 22 stolen bases.

 

The first half for most full-season minor leagues ends this weekend. I’ll wait until then to take a mid-season look at the players listed last November in my 2008 Top 10 Prospects report.

Let’s take a look at guys who might have made my list had I possessed a working crystal ball:

RHP Matt Palmer was a journeyman pitcher signed by the Angels over the winter as a six-year minor league free agent from the Giants’ system. Palmer found himself in the big leagues only because of a rash of injuries to the Angels’ starting rotation. The Angels lost John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escobar, Dustin Moseley and Shane Loux, and worst of all the death of Nick Adenhart. At age 30, Palmer is no one’s idea of a future Hall of Famer, but he provided quality innings at the back of the rotation when it was desperately needed. As of this writing, he has a 6-0 record and a 4.13 ERA in 56.2 innings.

LHP Trevor Reckling appeared on many Top 10 lists. He almost made mine — if there’d been a #11, it would have been him — but I wanted to see how his mechanics held up over another full season before I gave him Top 10 status. Trevor began 2009 at age 19 with High-A Rancho Cucamonga. He made only three starts before Nick Adenhart’s death rippled through the organization. Sean O’Sullivan moved up from Double-A Arkansas to Triple-A Salt Lake, and Reck moved up to fill Sully’s spot. He’s responded beyond all expectations, becoming one of six Travelers named to the Texas League All-Star Game. He turned 20 on May 22, one of the youngest pitchers in the league. Reckling has been shaky in his last three starts, walking 15 in 17.1 innings, which could be mechanical issues, fatigue or just the league catching up with him. It’s also important to note that Dickey-Stephens Park is very pitcher-friendly; it you look at his home/road splits, his home ERA is 1.72 (36.2 IP) but his road ERA is 4.57 (21.2 IP). The second half will be key, to see if fatigue catches up to him and if the extreme home/road split continues.

RHP Trevor Bell, a supplemental draft pick after the first round in June 2005, was generally considered to be a disappointment coming into 2009. Last season found him demoted from Rancho Cucamonga to Cedar Rapids as a disciplinary action, and when he returned to the Quakes he was in the bullpen. There was little reason to think he’d step it up in 2009, join Double-A Arkansas in the starting rotation, be named to the Texas League All-Star Game and be promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake before mid-season. Bell posted a 2.23 ERA in 11 starts (68.2 IP) with 51 strikeouts and 20 walks. But how’s about that home/away split we talked about? Good news. His home ERA was 2.25 (44.0 IP), his road ERA was 2.19 (24.2 IP). He gave up only one homer in the first half, and that was at home. In his first Triple-A start on June 16, Bell went the distance at home against Colorado Springs, pitching a two-hit shutout in hitter-friendly Spring Mobile Ballpark.

2B Alexi Amarista is charitably listed at 5’8″ 150 lbs., but the 20-year old Venezuelan has hit his way into the Midwest League All-Star Game for the Kernels. His glove got him named the Angels’ defensive player of the month for April, committing no errors in 77 chances (although he’s committed nine since then). Amarista has fallen back to earth in June, batting .261 to date. A left-handed batter, he generally lacks power with no homers and a .424 SLG, but he makes up for it with speed, notching 22 stolen bases to date in 32 attempts. His SO:BB ratio is nearly 1:1 (33:27 in 245 AB) and fits well into the Angels’ “Contactball” style of play, striking out once every 7.4 at-bats.

OF Chris Pettit roared out of the gate with an AVG/OBP/SLG of .424/.451/.636 in April for the Salt Lake Bees. The 24-year old outfielder was an unknown when he was selected as a college senior in the 19th round of the 2006 draft, but he’s hit well at each level and was well on his way to establishing himself as a legit prospect when he broke the hamate bone in his left hand on June 4 and may be out for the year. Although he’s seen action at all three outfield positions in his career, he’s best suited for the corners and played mostly LF for the Bees. I’ve written many times here about the importance of splitting out the PCL’s five hitter-friendly parks (Salt Lake, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, Las Vegas and Reno) from the rest to get an accurate picture of a hitter’s performance; when we do that with Chris, his AVG/OBP/SLG in hitter-friendly parks were .393/.442/.580 (150 AB) and in the rest were .283/.306/.478 (46 AB). Those numbers suggest his offense was largely due to the parks, but we’ll have to wait and see after he returns from the injury if he can retain his prospect status.

OF Jeremy Moore is the quintessential “project,” a potential five-tool player if he can ever harness his raw talents. Last year at Cedar Rapids, his AVG/OBP/SLG were .240/.284/.478, the latter number reflecting an explosion of power (11 doubles, 12 triples, 17 homers). He stole 28 bases in 38 attempts, but his frightening 125:21 SO:BB (5.9:1) ratio suggested problems at higher levels. This year at Rancho Cucamonga, Moore has improved his AVG and OBP; his numbers are now .309/.352/.458. His SO:BB ratio of 70:14 (5.0:1) is better than 2008, but his strikeouts have increased with his walks. The Cal League is a notorious hitter’s league, so that should also be taken into consideration. His stolen bases are down too, with only seven in 18 attempts. The left-handed hitting Moore is batting .384 against southpaw pitchers (73 AB), .276 against righties (163 AB). He turns 22 on June 29 (Happy Birthday, J-Mo).

The Cedar Rapids Kernels bullpen deserves a lot of credit for the team qualifying for the post-season by finishing first or second in the first half (that’ll be decided this weekend). ERA isn’t always the best number to measure a relief pitcher’s success, so let’s go with WHIP (Walks + Hits)/(Innings Pitched). LHP Drew Taylor has a WHIP of 0.93 and AVG against of .132, RHP Michael Kohn has 0.89 and .165, RHP Jeremy Thorne has 1.12 and .226, and RHP Vladimir Veras has 0.96 and .163. Kohn and Veras close most of the time; Kohn has 11 saves and Veras has 10. Taylor is averaging 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings, Kohn 14.2 and Veras 10.5. Taylor, a 34th round pick, might move up fastest due to his age (23 in August) and the fact that he’s left-handed, but he struggled with Rancho in April when he had a 2.82 WHIP in five relief appearances before returning to C.R. Orem manager Tom Kotchman told me last year that Taylor was a great scouting job by Chris McAlpin, and may project as a situation lefty with 87-91 MPH velocity and a slider.

It’s no surprise that an organization that values pitching so highly should be so deep in pitching. Yes, there’s a lack of power hitters, but if the parent club ever sees the need to make a trade they certainly have a lot of pitching to offer in return, and baseball professionals will tell you that pitching is the coin of the realm.


UPDATE 2:30 PM PDT — I wanted to add a comment about Salt Lake outfielder Terry Evans. Terry made the 2007 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects list after making his major league debut that year, but he missed most of 2008 after suffering a torn right labrum in a slide at home plate on May 6. Evans fell off the prospect radar but is trying to play his way back into the Angels’ plans. His overall AVG/OBP/SLG are .284/.330/.521, but as with Pettit we need to split his numbers into hitter-friendly and other parks. His hitter-friendly numbers are .292/.344/.536 (192 AB), and in other parks .261/.288/.478 (69 AB). This mirrored what I saw in 2007; Terry was never one to take many walks, but almost all of them were in hitter-friendly parks. Why he takes almost no walks in neutral/pitcher-friendly parks, I can’t explain. In any case, the “neutral” numbers along with his high strikeout rate (once every 3.4 AB) suggest he’s not quite ready for prime time prospect status just yet, and at age 27 he may be about out of time.

This ‘N That

Jeremy Moore
Jeremy Moore’s hustle won the game Monday night, as the Quakes rallied to win 7-6 over the High Desert Mavericks.

 

As previously mentioned, we’re in the process of selling our Irvine home to move to Space Coast (Cape Canaveral, Merritt Island, Cocoa Beach, etc.). If escrow remains on schedule, we’ll be out of here by May 27 and on a flight to Florida shortly thereafter.

That means I’ll have less and less time for online activites in the next few weeks.

This happened so quickly, we don’t even have a home yet in Space Coast. We’re going to rent a condo in Cape Canaveral on the ocean for two months. Just to give you the disparity between SoCal and Florida, a fully furnished 1,600 square foot condo in a beach complex goes for $1,450/month. A similar unit in Newport Beach would probably cost you $3,000/month if not more.

We rented online a P.O. box at the Cape Canaveral post office. This won’t be our future mailing address, but the post office’s street address is 8700 Astronaut Blvd., Cape Canaveral, Florida. If you’re a geek, that’s seriously cool.

For two weeks, I’ve been making the last rounds in my baseball haunts.

Last week I was at the Tempe Diablo minor league complex, and had the opportunity to see two of my “kids” from years ago, Ervin Santana and John Lackey, in rehab assignments. When Ervin pitched on April 29, Lackey stood watching with roving catching coordinator Tom Gregorio, which brought back memories of the two playing for Tom Kotchman with Boise in 1999.

Santana’s next start was May 4 at Rancho Cucamonga, so I went out for my farewells in the Inland Empire. The Quakes generously offered to let me throw out the first pitch. The players gave me a great sendoff, with a thrilling come-from-behind 7-6 win over High Desert (Mariners affiliate).

I’m still working on video from that game, but two clips are already online.

Outfielder Jeremy Moore collided at home plate with Mavericks catcher Travis Scott, to reduce the lead to 6-5. This was in the Pete Rose/Ray Fosse category, and it certainly lit a fire under the team. J-Mo has always been one of my favorites, because he has so much raw potential and he’s such a great kid. It’s early, but so far he has an AVG/OBP/SLG of .319/.367/.473. He has the talent to become a five-tool player, but I’d never seen the toughness in him that I saw Monday. J-Mo was bleeding from the nose, but after the trainer shoved a tissue up his nose he went back to left field. In the bottom of the 8th with the game tied at 6-6, Moore led off with a single that he hustled into a double, advanced to third on a grounder, and scored on a passed ball. Quakes won 7-6.

Click Here to watch the collision at home plate. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection are required.

Ervin Santana, of course, was the headline. I’ll have video of his in-game performance as soon as time permits. His post-game press conference (two reporters) is already online. Click Here to watch the press conference.

I’ve been posting plenty video from Tempe too, and still have more to go. Check out the FutureAngels.com home page for all the Tempe video clips.

So now it’s on to planning the move, and trying to find a home. If you want to see some of the candidates, Click Here to go to this realtor web site and in the MLS Number field enter these numbers separated by commas, then click the Search button:

499182, 536943, 537030, 520852, 521537, 528224, 535241, 526595, 533567

(Hint: use your mouse to copy the line of numbers, then paste them into the field.)

Sales are starting to pick up in Space Coast, so anything that’s a “bargain” goes pretty quickly. Some of these are short sales, which complicates matters, but we’ll be paying cash which should make things easier.

In closing … I received an e-mail the other day from a New York public relations firm asking if I wanted to interview retired Angels outfielder Tim Salmon on Thursday for ten minutes. The catch? I had to let Tim promote “one of the coolest and most eye-catching vehicles to hit the open road, the Can-Am Spyder roadster.”

I declined, because I’m not a shill, but there are a couple fan sites for whom integrity isn’t a priority, so I’ll be watching to see if anyone sells out tomorrow.

The Return of “Call My Name”

Back in 2005, when different people were running the Quakes front office, we developed for their new video board a musical montage of Quakes highlights. The idea was to use it as a pre-game introduction, similar to Calling All Angels was used at Angel Stadium.

After searching for the “right” theme, I came up with an obscure piece recorded in 1974 by rocker Sammy Hagar. It was titled Call My Name, and was a demo piece for his first album label. It was never released publicly until 2004 on The Essential Red Collection CD.

The bonus is that Hagar originates from Fontana, next to Rancho Cucamonga, which gave it a local flavor. More importantly, no one had heard of it (unless they played the album), so it wasn’t an immediately recognizable theme such as Let’s Get It Started by The Black Eyed Peas.

The idea was to update it about once a month, using new video footage I shot. Some parts with historic moments, such as Dallas McPherson’s homer off Randy Johnson, would always remain while other parts would rotate in and out to include new players.

That administration departed and Call My Name was no longer used, but last winter the current folks asked me to propose some ideas for the video board. I reminded them about Call My Name, and directed them to the versions in the FutureAngels.com Video Gallery. They agreed to resurrect Call My Name, incorporating new footage.

So the newest version premiered during last week’s homestand. It’s not played every night, because sometimes extended pre-game festivities eat up available time.

Click Here to watch the new version of Call My Name. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

Part of the fun is looking for how many current major leaguers are in the video. There are also “inside jokes,” e.g. Tom Kotchman is in there in a crowd shot watching Casey hit a homer. The players notice it right away, because most of them played for Kotch.

Because I’m probably moving to Florida in June, it won’t be updated any more except perhaps with one more version I’ll try to do before I go with this year’s players.

Photos from Rancho Cucamonga

The below photos are from today’s Rancho Cucamonga Quakes game against the Inland Empire 66ers.

Mark Gubicza throws out the first pitch.
Angels broadcaster and former major league pitcher Mark Gubicza throws out the first pitch.

 

Tremor and umpire.
Tremor, the Quakes mascot, confers with one of the umpires before the game.

 

Trevor Reckling
Trevor Reckling was the starting pitcher for the Quakes.

 

Abel Nieves turns a double play.
Quakes shortstop Abel Nieves turns a double play.

 

Andrew Taylor
Andrew Taylor made his Quakes debut in relief of Trevor Reckling.

 

Cephas Howard.
Cephas Howard also made his Quakes debut, relieving Andrew Taylor to finish the game.

 

Foreshock in Rancho Cucamonga

Monday was the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes Media Day, meaning it was the first opportunity for the local media to meet the players assigned to the team.

The players themselves had arrived only a few hours earlier. Catcher Chris Rosenbaum blogged from Tempe just before his departure for California. They’d barely had a chance to get their lockers and uniforms, to explore the ballpark before they had to pose for the team photo.

You only see the photo, never what goes on before. Here are some photos as the professional photographer prepared to take the team photo.


Positioning the players for the photo. Notice there are two rows of folding chairs but three rows of players. The front row sits, the middle row stands, and the third row stands on the folding chairs.

Joking around as the players are being positioned for the photo.

The team photo as shot from an observer’s perspective.

 

After the photo shoot, most of the players passed by and I shot individual photos of them, which will start showing up in the FutureAngels.com Digital Photo Gallery in the next day or so.

Then I recorded video interviews with manager Keith Johnson and pitching coach Dan Ricabal. The two played together for the 1995 San Bernardino Spirit, then a Dodgers affiliate, that won the California League pennant. That was the team’s last year at old Fiscalini Field; the next year, they moved into the new ballpark now known as Arrowhead Credit Union Park. Although they attended the groundbreaking ceremony in 1995, Thursday’s opener will be the first time that Johnson has been in the ballpark. Ricabal was with the Quakes last year.

In the evening, I went over to the Best Western for the players’ welcoming dinner hosted by the Quakes Booster Club. This is the first opportunity for the players to meet potential host parents who will provide them with temporary housing, and to work out local transportation to the ballpark each day. I filmed most of that too, because it’s an aspect of minor league life few people see unless they’re a booster or host parent.

You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch. Here are the links:

I’ll be at San Bernardino tonight to cover the season opener. Trevor Reckling is scheduled to start for the Quakes. Kelvim Escobar has been scratched from his rehab start due to minor soreness.

Quakes Announce Opening Day Roster

Press release from the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes:


Rancho Cucamonga Quakes Announce 2009 Roster

Fresh Faces to Join Some Familiar Ones at the Epicenter

 

Rancho Cucamonga, CA- The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes will open up 2009 with 13 players that have never worn a quakes uniform. 12 pitchers and 13 position players will join first-year Quakes’ Manager Keith Johnson, Hitting Coach Damon Mashore, and Pitching Coach Dan Ricabal as announced by Director of Player Development with the Los Angeles Angels, Abe Flores.

 

The Quakes will feature seven players that are rated in Baseball America’s “Top 30 Prospects” list headlined by pitchers Trevor Reckling (4), Mason Tobin (10), Robert Fish (20) and Alex Torres (24), infielders Matt Sweeney (18) and Andrew Romine (22), and outfielder Clay Fuller (16). They will also feature a former Division III National Champion Tim Kiely (Trinity College, Connecticut) in their starting rotation

 

Rancho Cucamonga will bring back a few familiar faces from the 2008 campaign. With pitchers Ryan Braiser, Jeremy Haynes, Sammy Leon, and Jordon Towns, catchers Alberto Rosario, Chris Rosenbaum and Brian Walker, infielders Efren Navarro, P.J. Phillips and Abel Nieves, and outfielder Anthony Norman, this version of the Quakes will have a good mix of young talent and strong veteran leadership. Also new to the squad are three other members of the Cedar Rapids playoff team from 2008, infielder Jay Brossman and outfielders Jeremy Moore and Julio Perez 

 

To see the newest Quakes in action, they will host Azusa Pacific University Tuesday, April 7 at 6:05pm at the Epicenter, with the season opener scheduled for Thursday, April 9 at Inland Empire against the 66ers. The Quakes Home Opener is Monday, April 13 at 7:05pm against the Visalia Rawhide.

 

The Quakes are the High Class-A Affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. For more information about purchasing tickets, please call the Quakes Ticket Office at (909) 481-5252 or order online at www.rcquakes.com.

“Odd Man Out”: One Player’s Opinion

Chris Rosenbaum
Angels minor leaguer Chris Rosenbaum comments on “Odd Man Out” in his latest blog entry.

 

Angels minor league catcher Chris Rosenbaum kept a blog journal last year during his season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. It was widely acknowledged by fans of the Angels’ minor league system as a humble yet honest insight into the life of a minor leaguer.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that Chris would comment on Odd Man Out, the book published by former Angels minor leaguer Matt McCarthy. Click Here to read Chris’s comments on the book.

This paragraph pretty much sums up his sentiment:

I have not read the book, and have no intentions of reading it. However, I have read excerpts and spoken to individuals surrounding the stories told within the covers, and have formed my opinion that this work was an attempt to hurt people for personal gain. Many things discussed in this book, whether true or not (and much evidence is piling up suggesting the latter), occurred in the inner sanctum of a clubhouse or related team functions.

Strictly my opinion, those on the Internet defending this book want to see athletes knocked off their pedestal. Never mind the athletes never asked to be placed on that pedestal. But there will always be those who are jealous of people who are successful in life. A “tell-all” book, accurate or not, that claims to reveal the foibles of athletes might give comfort to those who feel inferior and insecure about their own lives.

Unfortunately, that goes with the territory on the Internet. People can hide behind the anonymity of their modem and attack others with behavior that would get a punch in the nose if they tried it in public.

Come to think of it, McCarthy may have thought he could embellish his book without consequences, because he’d never run across the people whose integrity he attacked in the book. It remains to be seen if any of the people named in the book will take legal action.

Best Rotation in the Cal League

John Lackey
John Lackey pitched on rehab assignment a year ago with Rancho Cucamonga. He might do it again this year.

 

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that John Lackey is likely to open the season on the disabled list after suffering elbow inflammation.

Assuming it’s nothing worse — MLB.com reports that team orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum will be in camp tomorrow to discuss the MRI results — Lackey will probably wind up making a rehab start or two in Rancho Cucamonga sometime in April.

With Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar also likely to be making rehab starts next month with the Quakes, Rancho Cucamonga will have the best rotation in the California League. For as long as it lasts.

Minor League Camp Update (Courtesy of Baseball America)

Kary Booher of Baseball America has an excellent summary of events at the Angels’ minor league spring training camp. Among the notes of interest:

• Third baseman Luis Jimenez suffered a torn labrum and is out for the year. Jimenez was one of the big bats for Orem in 2008; he was ranked #10 on the 2008 FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects list.

• The last report on Hank Conger was that he’d start 2009 at Rancho Cucamonga, but now farm director Abe Flores says that Conger will go to Arkansas if he’s healthy.

• Mason Tobin has been converted to the bullpen and will open 2009 as the Quakes’ closer.

• 3B Matt Sweeney, who missed all of 2008 with an ankle injury, should start 2009 with Rancho Cucamonga.

• Jon Bachanov, the Angels’ 2007 1st round pick who underwent Tommy John surgery, should start pitching next month in extended spring training.

• Young-Il Jung, the other Tommy John patient, is a bit further out, projected to pitch in June.

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