Monthly Archives: June 2009

Angels Enjoying Interleague Success

aybar lackey abreuWith only 3 games left to go in Interleague play, the Angels are wishing it didn’t have to end so soon.

The Halos hold the MLB’s top Interleague mark at 11-4 against the National League, and are a game below .500 at 27-28 against all other American League teams.

Interleague play started off with the Los Angeles Dodgers in a Freeway Series at Chavez Ravine back in late May. The Halos would take 2 of 3 from the Blue Crew before playing 9 of their next 15 games on the road against American League teams.

Over that 15 game stretch, the Halos would sputter by going 6-9. They would take 2 of 3 at Toronto, their only series win over this 15-game span, but drop 2 of 3 to both the White Sox and Mariners at home as well as 2 of 3 to the Tigers and Rays, each on the road.

Then Interleague play came back, just in the knick of time for Mike Scioscia’s club who now sat at an even .500 with a record of 29-29.

Scioscia would give his players a tongue-lashing following their enormous 11-1 loss in the final game of a 3-game set in Tampa Bay.

Pitching had been awful (John Lackey had 9 ER in that 11-1 in loss), and all pitchers, starters and relievers alike, were just in a funk of walking batters with ease.

Hitting had been sporadic at times, but was just poor altogether to be brutally honest.

The Angels headed back to the friendly confines of the Big A, hoping that some home cooking would do the trick to get them out of the funk that they had been mired in for about half a month.

That would be just the case.

Or maybe it was just because the Padres are just plain bad.

Either way, the Halos would sweep the Padres in a 3-game set which the Angels outscored San Diego 26-7.

Game 1 featured home runs from Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales, while also pushing Matt Palmer’s season record to a surprising 6-0.

Torii Hunter would record his 1st career 3 home run game in game 2 which the Angels would win 9-1 backed by a solid effort from starter Joe Saunders. Saunders would throw 8 1/3 dazzling innings of 1-run ball, while striking out 5 Padres hitters.

Game 3 would be all Jered Weaver, who would throw his first career shutout in a 6-0 win for the Halos, moving his record to 7-2, and lowering his ERA to an incredible 2.08.

The Angels would then travel up to the Bay Area for a 3-game series with the San Francisco Giants. The Halos were coming in hot, hitting an uncharacteristic 9 home runs in their series with San Diego.

The Angels would pick up where they left off, blasting 6 home runs in the first 2 games, winning both contests 9-7 and 8-1 respectively.

The Giants would throw out 2008 NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum for the final game of the series, and he was tough as nails on the hot Halo offense through the first 7 innings. But the Angels, entering the 8th inning trailing 3-1, would tax Lincecum for 3 runs in the half-inning, and would end up closing out the game by a score of 4-3, securing themselves of their 2nd consecutive sweep of an NL West opponent.

The Angels would come back to Anaheim riding a 6-game winning streak thanks to their all-of-a-sudden hot offense, and were set to take on the Dodgers at home.

The Halos would win game 1 5-4, a game that I was fortunate enough to be at. Over the years, this Angels/Dodgers rivalry has begun to grow more intense, and on that night of game 1 of the Freeway Series in Anaheim, the Big A was electric with fan energy.

Before the first pitch was even thrown, all you could hear were fans chanting, “Let’s go Angels!” and “Let’s go Dodgers!” The crowd was into it from the first pitch, all the way until the final out in the 9th recorded by Brian Fuentes. The general dislike between the two teams was tangible, and that made the atmosphere of this game one of the best that I’ve ever been a part of (and that includes Adam Kennedy’s 3-homer game against Minnesota in the 2002 ALCS as well as World Series Game 1).

The cross-town Dodgers would break the Angels’ season-long 7-game winning streak and nail down the final 2 games against the Angels including the incredibly hyped-up “Battle of the Brothers” featuring Jeff Weaver of the Dodgers and Jered Weaver of the Angels. Jeff would get the better of his younger brother en route to a 6-4 win, and Clayton Kershaw would throw 7 spectacular innings of shutout ball in game 3, resulting in a 5-3 Dodger victory.

The Angels took 2 of 3 from the visiting red-hot Colorado Rockies (who had entered the series winning a remarkable 16 of their past 17 games). The Rockies killed the Angels 11-1 game 1, but the Angels rallied to win 4-3 in game 2, and would whoop the Rockies in the finale by an 11-3 final.

The Angels have now gone 9-3 in their last 12 games, all against NL competition.

The Halos travel to the Valley of the Sun next to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks for a 3-game series (hopefully they’ll close the roof at Chase Field considering temperatures are forecasted to be 100+ for all 3 days), hoping to build on their overall Interleague success.

The Angels are now in a tie for 1st place for the first time since the early goings of the season. Go Halos!

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Sending Out an SO’S

o'sullivanIt seems to me that the word of the year for the Angels is “setback.”

I’m pretty sure over the course of this early season, I think I’ve heard the word setback more than I’ve heard the word win.

Kelvim Escobar recently had a minor setback, so the Halos threw him back on the DL.

And just announced today, Ervin Santana felt some discomfort in his forearm, and said, “I don’t want to pitch until I’m not feeling any pain.” Who knows how long that could be.

So who do we turn to now?

Why, none other than 21-year-old right hander Sean O’Sullivan, who made his first major league start back on June 17th in San Francisco. O’Sullivan would throw 7 marvelous innings of 1-run ball, while allowing 5 hits and striking out 5 Giants.

The El Cajon native was a 3rd round draft choice of the Angels back in 2005 out of Valhalla High School and has since been climbing his way up through the minors, and up to the major leagues.

This year for AAA Salt Lake, O’Sullivan’s numbers don’t really stick out at you. He’s compiled an ERA of 6.06 in 10 starts for the Bees this year, while garnering a respectable record of 5-2 in those starts. Over the course of his minor league career, O’Sullivan has put together an overall record of 36-19 (his best year was 16-8 last year with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes), with an ERA of 3.62, but the ERA has risen as he has moved up in the ranks.

Mike Scioscia put it best, “One thing about Sean, if you look at his Minor League career, is he wins games. He’s not going to light up a radar gun, do anything that makes you say, ‘Wow.'”

O’Sullivan left all his minor league stats behind him when he made his first career start against the Giants, and threw some promising spot-start innings. Heck, he even got his first career base hit in only his second career at-bat!

“It was everything I thought it would be,” was all O’Sullivan had to say after his first career start.

He’s on tap to be the starter for the Halos on Tuesday when they play host to the Rockies for game 2 of a 3-game set. Sean will try to remind Scioscia that sending out an “SO’S” is no longer a worst-case scenario.

Go Halos!


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Juan Fire!

Dodgers Angels BaseballThe Angels are on fire.

Now 7 wins in a row for the Halos, 7th Heaven if you will.

And there unarguably has not been one hotter Halo hitter than Juan Rivera during this stretch.

Over the Angels’ current 7-game winning streak, Juan has gone 11-29 (.380) with 4 home runs, 2 doubles, and 9 RBI.

Juan has been instant offense over the past 18 games, hitting at that same .380 mark (27-71 overall) with 6 homers, 8 doubles, and 20 RBI. Rivera has an RBI in 15 of his last 18 games he’s appeared in and also has recorded 9 games of 2 or more hits during those 18 contests.

Today’s game against the Dodgers where he blasted a tie-busting solo home run marked the 2nd straight contest where a ball off his bat helped score the go-ahead and eventual game-deciding run.

Juan’s the type of home run hitter who will hit home runs in bunches of games, which is frequently followed by a long power outage of sorts until his next blast. But no doubt, his power is surging at this point of the season.

His average is now up to .316 on the season, the 3rd best mark on the team behind leadoff man Chone Figgins (.324) and the Halos’ Superman of the 1st half in Torii Hunter (.321). He’s also tied with Kendry Morales for 2nd on the Halos for home runs with 10.

Juan has been thriving in his starting role this season, but things have not always been so sweet during his season-by-season rollercoaster tenure in Anaheim.

Juan Rivera came over to the Angels along with current 2nd baseman Maicer Izturis in a deal that sent outfielder Jose Guillen from the Angels to the then-Montreal Expos back in November of 2004.

He would appear in 106 games in his first year as an Angel in 2005, hitting .271 with 15 home runs and 59 RBI on the season.

’06 would be a career year for Juan, where in 124 games, he would post career highs in batting average (.310), hits (139), runs scored (65), doubles (27), home runs (23), and runs batted in (85). Rivera would be an impressive mainstay in Scioscia’s lineup that year, and made the Angels look like geniuses for trading away Jose Guillen after his most impressive offensive year in 2004.

However, toward the end of 2006, his fortunes would change.

While playing Winter League ball in Venezuela, he would need a rod and screws inserted into his tibia bone after he broke his leg in a game.

His prolonged absence prompted the Angels to bring in a new outfielder, lassoing in center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. from the Texas Rangers, who made the All-Star team the year before.

He would only appear in 14 games that year, mustering up 12 hits in 43 at-bats with 2 long-balls and 8 RBI.

His return to an everyday role in the outfield and lineup would take another turn for the worst (for him at least), as the Angels shocked the baseball world by bringing in another center fielder in Torii Hunter, who had spent his whole career in Minnesota prior to the signing.

2008 marked a year where the Angels had an absolute logjam in the outfield with guys like Hunter, Matthews, Vladimir Guerrero, left field mainstay Garret Anderson, and even Reggie Willits who was coming off of a great 2007 rookie year. That put Juan as outfielder #5/maybe even #6 on the depth chart, meaning that in a matter of just about 12 months, he had gone from being an everyday player to even lesser of a situational player. And trust me, it’s not easy for a productive player like him to swallow a situation like that.

But he took it all in stride during the ’08 campaign, getting situational starts in the outfield or DH duty from time to time, appearing in 89 games altogether, his lowest total in the past 4 full years he was able to play. He’d hit at a disappointing career-low .246 mark on the season, while tallying 12 home runs and driving in 45 runs.

I give Juan a lot of credit because he could have gone off and been a baby like Jose Guillen and thrown a tantrum about his playing time, but he didn’t. He stayed within himself and knew that Mike Scioscia and the Angels would give him his chance to be back as an everyday player for the ball club. He took it all in stride like a true professional while trying to make the most out of each opportunity that he was given, knowing that if he continued to work at the level that he had been working at, all while keeping a level head, a bigger and better opportunity would come his way.

2009 would be that opportunity.

Gary Matthews Jr. struggled mightily with the bat in 2008 which carried into Spring Training.

Garret Anderson, who had spent his whole 15-year MLB career in Anaheim with the Angels (he was a member of the Angels when they were referred to as the California Angels, Anaheim Angels and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, so you know he’d been a Halo for quite some time), was not picked up and ended up signing with the Atlanta Braves.

The door opened up for him, and he made sure he seized the opportunity.

Juan landed the Opening Day role for the Halos in 2009, and has been a productive and consistent hitter for the Angels all year long.

It’s been a long time coming since that career year of 2006, but he’s on pace to surpass those numbers as he tries to guide the Halos back in to 1st place in the American League West division and hopefully capture 1 of the 4 available playoff spots in the American League.

After Friday night’s game-deciding solo blast, the fans were in a frenzy, begging Juan to take the curtain call for his late-game heroics.

But I can imagine that at that moment, it was much more than one home run in one brief moment to him. It was years of hard work and sacrifice, mixed in with his fair share of flourishing moments and hardships; going from a nearly indispensable player one year to an almost forgotten player the next.

And as he went to make his way up those steps, I sure hope he felt that he earned the right to bask in that brief moment of glory.

Take your curtain call, Juan, you’ve earned it.

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Future Angels Stepping Up Big in College World Series

razorbackssparky

Do not be alarmed at the irony, but make no mistake about it; in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Angels fell in love with the Devils.

The Sun Devils, that is.

So much as a matter of fact, that they spent 3 draft picks on Arizona State players.

With the final pick of the 3rd round, the Angels picked Sun Devil left-hander Josh Spence, who had gone 9-1 before the start of the College World Series.

In the World Series, the Australia native has put forth valiant efforts in both of Arizona State’s victories, coming against a talented University of North Carolina team which features two top-15 picks, and plenty of bats that feature .300+ batting averages.

In his first outing against UNC, Spence matched Alex White, the 15th overall pick for UNC pitch-for-pitch, throwing 8 innings of 1-run ball. The Devils would need extra innings and some Tar Heel blunders to win the game, but had it not been for Spence’s magnificent effort, the Devils would have stood no chance.

And today, in an elimination game against that same North Carolina squad, Spence threw a total of 126 pitches in 7 innings of work, allowing 4 runs, 3 of them earned. He would allow 7 hits, while striking out 8 and walking only 2 Tar Heel batters. Against the Tar Heels’ 2 best offensive players in 2nd overall pick Dustin Ackley (.417 avg.) and 2nd round pick Kyle Seager (.393 avg.), Spence would allow them to go a combined 1-for-8 with a single, a strikeout, and one successfully turned double play.

Spence would earn his 10th win of the season, pushing his season record to 10-1, while upping his ERA to an incredibly respectable mark of 2.37. Spence picked up the slack after 8th overall pick and staff ace Mike Leake let the club down in a loss to Texas the game before. Spence has had great composure on the mound and has been able to prove to me and all who watched ASU play ball during his starts, that he can indeed be a very serviceable lefty in the future for the Halos.

With their 8th round pick, the Halos picked up Sun Devil catcher Carlos Ramirez. Ramirez may not have the prototypical body that scouts look for in a catching prospect, but he is no doubt an above-average athlete and a great hitter who manufactures runs and hits at a very high average. Ramirez had the go-ahead RBI single in the 10th inning of ASU’s first game of the College World Series against UNC, and today had his 75th RBI of the season. Ramirez reached base in 4 of 5 plate appearances in today’s elimination game against UNC, going 1-for-2 with 3 walks and 1 RBI. Ramirez is the type of catcher that I pray makes the big league squad as soon as possible (although it will be a matter of years most likely) since Mathis and Napoli have not been all that consistent at the bat over the past season and a half. He’s a serviceable catcher defensively and above average with the bat, and I love the scouting that the Angels did on Ramirez. I truly feel he could be one of the biggest impact players the Angels drafted in ’09 and I’m excited to see what the future has in store for this Devil/soon-to-be Angel.

It’s great to see these future Angels shining on the biggest stage of their college careers, and I just can’t wait for them to one day put on that Halo red and make positive contributions to the big league squad.

In the mean time, all you Angel fans out there have to be rooting on the Sun Devils of Arizona State, while keeping a look out for the aforementioned Josh Spence and Carlos Ramirez, as well as team co-captain Raoul Torrez, whom the Angels selected in the 32nd round.

In addition to ASU, you also have to root on the rallying Razorbacks of the University of Arkansas, as they also have a future Halo on their roster in senior catcher Ryan Cisterna, their 34th round selection.

After Wednesday’s epic comeback win against the University of Virginia, the Arkansas Razorbacks look to take down SEC foe LSU, the same team that issued Arkansas its only loss of NCAA play. And with a victory today, the Sun Devils are set for a rematch with the #1 overall seed University of Texas Longhorns.

Both games are set for Friday June 19th, with Arkansas/LSU scheduled for the early game at 11 a.m. Pacific time, and ASU/Texas scheduled for 4 p.m. Pacific.

Cross your fingers and keep an eye out for these future Angels as they aim to move on to the Championship Series in Omaha!

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Angels Find Power Surge

hunter 3 homersFor years, Southern California residents have seen those “Flex Your Power” commercials on TV.

Over their current 4 game winning streak, the Angels finally got that memo.

Season after season, the Angels have always been one of the best teams in team batting average, but at the same time have been one of the worst home run hitting teams in the major leagues, and entering their 3-game series with San Diego, the Halos dead last in the American League in total team home runs.

When the Padres came in to town, the light went on. They flexed their power, and it’s now spilled into a series by the bay.

In Friday’s game against San Diego, the Angels hit 2 home runs. Torii Hunter blasted his 13th homer of the season and Kendry Morales jacked his 10th in an 11-6 whooping of the Padres.

Then on Saturday, Torii Hunter and the Halos erupted to blast 5 homers off the Padres’ pitching staff. Torii had his 1st career 3 home run game, pushing his season home run total to 16. Kendry Morales hit his 10th, and Jeff Mathis hit his elusive 1st home run of the year in a game the Angels ended up winning by a comfortable 9-1 margin.

In the final game against the Padres on Sunday, the Angels didn’t slow up, or should I say Juan Rivera didn’t slow up. Juanito hit 2 home runs, giving him a total of 8 on the year. The Angels would shutout the Pads 6-0 in a game that featured Jered Weaver earn his first career shutout, allowing only 5 hits.

The Angels totaled 9 home runs in the 3-game set, after hitting only 42 in the previous 58 games (0.72 home runs per game).

Then they traveled up for a series in San Francisco with the Giants, and they carried their newfound power with them.

In Monday’s contest, when it was all said and done, the Angels tallied 4 more home runs against Barry Zito and company. Juan Rivera hit his 8th, Erick Aybar hit his 2nd, Bobby Abreu hit his 3rd in a back-to-back homer effort with Aybar, and in his 1st start of the season, Sean Rodriguez laced his 1st home run of the season. The Angels would win it (although the bullpen found a way to make it interesting yet again) by a score of 9-7, taking the 1st of a 3-game set.

What could be the reason for this power surge of home runs and offensive production? I can’t be too certain to tell you the truth.

However, prior to that 3-game set with the lowly Padres, Mike Scioscia had given the Angels an absolute tongue lashing, telling his pitching to step up, and more importantly, he told his hitters to start producing, or else (he already demoted Howie Kendrick to AAA to find his swing). Entering the 3-game set against San Diego the Angels had also dropped 4 of their last 5 games.

So far, it’s safe to say that the starting pitchers have taken Scioscia’s words to heart, given the fact that the last 3 starters (Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver and John Lackey respectively) have each gone at least 7 innings and given up less than 3 runs.

And the hitters have no doubt made noise with the bats. It’s as if someone corked all of the Halos’ bats recently, blasting 13 home runs during their current 4-game winning streak. As a matter of fact, the Angels have hit nearly 1/4 of their home runs on the season in the past 4 games alone!

So who says Southern California needs to conserve their power?

The Angels are powering the southland with no signs of slowing up.

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Kendrick’s Demotion Means It’s Maicer’s Time to Shine

kendrick izturisWhen you try to think of one word that can describe Howie Kendrick‘s offensive production for the Angels this year, what words come to mind?

Poor? Dismal? Nonexistent?

No matter how you slice it up, Howie Kendrick needed to be sent down to Triple-A ball. In my opinion, this move was made a month too late.

Howie on the year is hitting a depressing .231 for being regarded as one of the best pure hitters to come out of the minor leagues in recent memory. Heck, he hit over .360 in his 4 minor league seasons altogether.

Kendrick hit an even lower mark of .193 during the month of May. And the fact that he’s drawn only 10 walks in the 51 games he’s played in, it’s not like his on-base percentage of .281 is going to give Scioscia a reason to keep him in the bigs.

In his first 3 seasons in the MLB, Howie hit .285, .322, and .306 respectively, so it’s not like the kid can’t hit. But if there is one thing that gets to him, it’s the pressure.

Take the postseason for example, a time of the year where all the lights are on him to produce, and he shuts down. In 2 postseason appearances, Kendrick has amassed 4 hits in a total of 27 at-bats, good enough for a .148 batting average. In last year’s postseason series against the Red Sox, Howie compiled 2 hits in 17 at-bats, while striking out 7 times and drawing no walks.

To put it lightly, he just hasn’t been able to find his swing so far this year.

Thankfully, there is a “replacement” who I’m excited to see get regular starts in the field as well as at-bats.

That somebody is 28-year-old Maicer Izturis.

Maicer was acquired by the Halos back on November 19th, 2004 along with Juan Rivera from the Expos/Nationals (whatever they were at that time) in exchange for the talented but ticking time bomb named Jose Guillen.

Although Izturis is listed as a shortstop, he has also filled in time valiantly at both the 3rd base and 2nd base positions. Mike Scioscia is confident to put Maicer anywhere in the infield because he is as sound as they come with the glove.

Standing in at 5’8″, Maicer isn’t the prototypical shortstop people think of. He doesn’t have that incredible range, doesn’t necessarily have the strongest arm, that kind of thing. However, although he may not be great at one thing in particular, he is good at everything else.

He has made countless plays in the field this year that have gone straight to ESPN’s Top 10 Plays or Baseball Tonight’s Web Gems. He reads the ball great off the bat, always puts himself in great position to make a play, and always seems to deliver a great throw to finish the play, whether it be from 3rd, short or 2nd base.

And at the plate, while Maicer may not be the guy who hits over .325 in the lineup (.273 career hitter), or club countless home runs (career high in HR’s is 6), he does virtually everything else.

He’s a contact hitter, and rarely strikes out (career high in strikeouts was 39 in 336 at-bats in 2007).

Although he’s a career .273 hitter, his batting average seems to skyrocket any time there are runners in scoring position or if it’s a late-in-game or pressure situation (pretty much the polar opposite of Kendrick).

He puts pressure on the defense because he can run well, and does a great job of spraying the ball to all fields from both sides of the plate.

Ever since Mighty Maicer’s come to Anaheim, he hasn’t ever been able to really call himself an everyday player for Mike Scioscia’s ballclub.

In 2006 after centerfielder Darin Erstad hit the Disabled List, super utility man Chone Figgins was moved into center for the time being, opening up 3rd base for Maicer Izturis where he established himself as an incredibly capable defender worthy of more playing time (he ended up starting 78 games at 3rd in ’06).

In 2007, the Angels (much to my and many Angel fans’ current dislike) forked out $50 million dollars for centerfielder Gary Matthews Jr., fresh off an All-Star 2006 season. This forced Figgy back to 3rd, and Maicer back to being the odd man out. He once again became the space-filler for whenever any infielder would go down with an injury (mainly the oft-injured Howie Kendrick at 2nd).

Maicer suffered an injury-plagued 2008 campaign, but in his 52 games at shortstop throughout the season, he only committed 2 errors, good enough for a fielding percentage of .991 (translation = pretty damn good).

Now, he finds himself being the space-filler until Howie can find his swing, and the way we’ve seen Howie swing the stick this year, that could be quite a time-consuming search.

In his 1st start replacing Kendrick at 2nd base on Friday, all he did was go 4-for-4 with 2 singles, a double and a triple, as well as an RBI and 2 runs scored. He followed that up with a 1-for-3 showing Saturday night with a double and a run scored, all while playing spectacular defense at 2nd base.

And if I may add, man do Maicer and Erick Aybar make a pretty double-play tandem! Maicer and Erick compliment each other perfectly in my opinion. Aybar has arguably the most range of any shortstop in the major leagues and can make some incredible acrobatic plays (he’ll get to balls that Maicer has no chance of getting), let alone the fact that he’s got a cannon for an arm. However, all these incredible plays mean that he’s more susceptible to errors. Maicer makes every play look routine and is very consistent in the field.

I’m excited to see what this new lineup will do on a regular basis. It’s been pretty damn good so far, they’ve posted 20 runs in the first 2 games with this Kendrick-less lineup.

The lineup and overall defense can only improve from this move.

So Howie… take your time, buddy. No rush.

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Halos Draft Young Power & Pitching Early, Noteworthy Names Later

grichukThe past few days have been consumed by the MLB First-Year Player Draft, where all 30 teams look to re-tool for the future, picking the best high school and college talents from coast-to-coast in a 50-round bonanza.

2009 marked the first year that the Halos had a 1st round pick since 2006 when they selected the talented switch-hitting Hank Conger 25th overall straight out of high school.

The Angels had two 1st rounders this year, the 24th and 25th overall picks, both coming as compensation for the Yankees’ signing of 1st baseman Mark Teixeira and the Mets’ signing of closer Francisco Rodriguez.

With that, the Angels went on to select outfielder Randal Grichuk with the 24th pick, a promising power hitter from Lamar Consolidated High School in Rosenburg, Texas. This marks the first time since the 1995 draft that the Angels selected an outfielder in the 1st round, with that man being Darin Erstad.

He’s got a beautiful swing and great mechanics, let alone a strong arm in the outfield. Here’s a little highlight tape of the kid and his power-hitting prowess. (Just fastforward to about the 1:50 mark to get it started, and for an absolute bomb of a home run, please check out the blast starting at the 4:08 mark… 475 feet!).

He got 2nd place, finishing only behind Bryce Harper, a 16-year-old phenom who people are considering the most exciting sports prospect since LeBron James. Either way, I already like the Angels’ pick here.

With their 2nd of the back-to-back picks, the Angels drafted another high school outfielder in Michael Trout. Trout was also a safety on the Varsity football team for Millville Senior High School in New Jersey, and has speed that the Angels coveted. He had been a right-handed hitter his entire life until recently starting to switch hit, helping him shoot his way up the draft boards into the 1st round. He has one of the shorter, more compact swings I’ve ever seen, but scouts say that although he’s still very raw with the bat, his power has been improving and they see a lot of upside in his bat. The resounding theme in Trout is that  the Angels love the potential in him. Where he may not have the power that Grichuk possesses, he’s got great speed and is considered a good outfielder with great range as well as an arm that can throw in the 90s.

In the sandwich round following the 1st round, the Angels took another high schooler, this time a pitcher by the name of Tyler Skaggs with the 40th pick. Skaggs attended Santa Monica High School in Southern California this year, and is a lefty who, after I read about him, seems to draw connections to a Barry Zito-esque hurler. He’s 6’4″ and lean, with a good  fastball that topped out around 92, and a great slow curveball around 70-73 mph that had knee-buckling break to it. Scouts say if his command improves (he’s got time, he’s coming straight out of high school), he could become a good, dependable lefty for the Halos when he reaches the big leagues. His fastball and curveball are considered “plus pitches”, meaning that they are above average compared to a normal pitcher’s standards. His changeup is a work in progress, but scouts are high on Skaggs.

Skaggs would be the first of 5 straight pitchers that the Angels would draft from the sandwich round all the way to the final pick of the 3rd round.

A couple noteworthy pitchers here, the Angels drafted Oklahoma Sooners’ junior fireballer Garrett Richards in the 2nd round with the 42nd overall pick. The righty’s fastball can go mid-to-high 90s and has a nice slider to compliment his heater. He got roughed up in his final start this season against the Arkansas Razorbacks in Regional play, mainly in part to finding too much of the plate. He struck out his fair share of batters, but gave up plenty of runs as well. Either way, he seems to be a strikeout pitcher in the making, but if he lays one out over the plate, those balls could be going a long, long way.

They would then draft Tyler Kehrer, a junior lefty from Eastern Illinois with the 48th pick. He led the Ohio Valley Conference in strikeouts and batting average against, while also posting the 2nd highest single-season strikeout total by a pitcher in EIU history. With the 80th pick, the Halos would pick up Patrick Corbin, another junior left-hander from Chipola Junior College in Mariana, Florida. Both have good size as they are listed at 6’3″ apiece with good fastballs in their arsenals.

With the final pick in the 3rd round, the Angels took someone I’m familiar with, with that person being left-handed pitcher Josh Spence, a solid pitcher from my school, Arizona State University. Being from Australia, this was Spence’s first year playing for a Division I program. After throwing for Central Arizona College, in his first year for the Sun Devils, he went 9-1 with a 2.33 ERA and recorded 109 strikeouts, even with missing a month of the season due to injury. His complete game against Clemson got the Devils into the College World Series, and just today, he was named the Pac-10’s Newcomer of the Year. I think Spence could make a lot of noise, and look out for him in the College World Series, he’s got the type of stuff that can freeze both lefties and righties at the plate.

The Angels (thankfully) drafted a catcher in Carlos Ramirez in the 8th round. Ramirez is also a junior for Arizona State’s squad and is a solid hitter for a catcher. Although he is only 5’11”, he has good power (hit 18 home runs entering CWS regional play) and hits for an incredibly high average (.378 freshman year, .380 sophomore year, .350 currently this year). The Halos actually drafted Ramirez in 2007 in the 34th round. The way Napoli and Mathis have been hitting lately, Ramirez may need to make a stop in the big leagues once his Devils are done in the CWS.

In the 10th round, the Angels drafted Jake Locker, a junior centerfielder from the University of Washington. When I first saw this, I thought to myself… “wait a minute… Jake Locker as in the UDub quarterback?”

And yep, it’s that Jake Locker. A blindingly fast 6’3″ 225-pound quarterback… uhh I mean centerfielder. Locker actually hasn’t played baseball regularly since 2006, his senior year in high school. Locker was projected as a potential 1st or 2nd round pick in 2006 after he hit .403, but opted to play football as he was a top-5 quarterback nationwide coming out of high school. I’m not sure what to expect out of this, but my gut tells me Locker’s going to play quarterback for the Huskies this year.

And later, way later as a matter of fact, the Angels took Asaad Ali in the 40th round. You know the last name sounds familiar… but how about the fact that this is the adopted son of the great Muhammad Ali. He’s a stocky catcher at 5’10” and 224 pounds, but hit .367 en route to leading his team to a division title up in Michigan.

Overall, I think the Angels did a good job of scouting and drafting talent, and I’m excited to see what the future has in store for all these youngsters.

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