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Future Angels Stepping Up Big in College World Series

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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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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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