The process of picking delegates for the Arizona Fall League has to be fun for the Los Angeles Angels. Mike Trout, their prospect turned MVP candidate, may be the most talented five-tool player the MLB has seen since Barry Bonds. Angels’ scouts are chomping at the bit to catch the next big fish, and the AFL provides a great opportunity for discovery.
Eight minor leaguers were delegated by Los Angeles to the Scottsdale Scorpions to play some late season baseball. Let’s take a look at these eight to see if the Angels have found their next Mike Trout:
LHP – Buddy Boshers (24) – Angels 2008 4th Round Pick
2012 – Inland Empire: 2.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 30 H, 16 BB, 48 SO in 39.1 IP
2012 – Arkansas: 3.75 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 28 H, 5 BB, 27 SO in 24.0 IP
One of two lefty-hurlers representing the Angels in Arizona this fall will be Buddy Boshers, current staff member of the AA Arkansas Travelers. Boshers has done a bit of everything for the Angels organization over his four year minor league career. He has played in 150 games, made 34 starts, and even saved two games for the Inland Empire 66ers. Though Boshers does have significant starting experience, his trend towards the bullpen as he has advanced through the minors suggests he will find himself there full-time going forward.
Boshers has done an excellent job maintaining his strikeout rates at every level while keep the ball in the ballpark—something with which young power pitchers tend to struggle. He set a career best 10.7 SO/9 in 2012, while only allowing one homer per nine. Control problems have come and gone and come again with Boshers, though compared to many young strikeout pitchers, a career 3.3 BB/9 is very manageable.
Overall, Boshers is a decent prospect that needs to do something special quickly to get the attention of the Angels brass. At 24 years old, with four full minor league seasons under his belt, the window is closing for Boshers to make his move to the bigs.
RHP – Ryan Chaffee (24) – Signed by the Angels in 2009 as an Undrafted Free Agent
2012 – Inland Empire: 2.38 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 17 H, 9 BB, 28 SO in 22.2 IP
2012 – Arkansas: 2.72 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 24 H, 27 BB, 56 SO in 43.0 IP
Another pitcher to come into his own upon moving from rotation to relief is Angels righty Ryan Chaffee. A teammate of Boshers in 2012, he will join the Scottsdale Scorpions bullpen this fall.
Chaffee joined the Angels organization in 2009 out of Chipola College in Florida. He immediately stepped into a starting role with Angels Class-A affiliate Cedar Rapids, and struggled from the get-go. Among the biggest flaws in Chaffee’s game is his propensity for putting runners on base. He owns a career WHIP of nearly 1.5, and his walk rate in 2012 was among the worst of his career. What keeps scouts coming back for more in Chaffee’s case are his strikeout numbers, and his eccentric pitching style. The young right-hander had a career best 11.5 SO/9 in 2012, pitching out of his atypical array of different arm slots. Against right-handed batters, Chaffee drops his arm angle to make the pitch tougher to pick-up. Versus lefties, he comes more over the top, providing increased velocity on his fastball, and a better angle for his 12 to 6 curve to drop off the table quickly.
If anything will carry Chaffee into the majors, it is his unique approach on the mound. Hopefully his time with the Scorpions will allow him to work on finding the strike zone with more regularity.
RHP – Kevin Johnson (24) – Angels 2010 20th Round Pick
2012 – Salt Lake: 5.68 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 37 H, 5 BB, 13 SO in 25.1 IP
2012 – Arkansas: 2.37, 1.21 WHIP, 35 H, 11 BB, 18 SO in 38.0 IP
The Halos delegated Kevin Johnson, another right-handed reliever, to play extra baseball in Arizona this fall. Unlike Boshers and Chaffee, Johnson is more prone to pitching to contact than striking batters out.
Taken as the 624th overall pick by the Angels in the 2010, Johnson is the highest drafted graduate out of the University of West Florida in history. However, he has not posted the greatest stat line since going pro. He has a career ERA in the mid-fours, and puts a batter and a half on base every inning. His walk rate really isn’t the problem (career 3.2 BB/9)—Johnson simply allows a boatload of base hits (10.1 H/9). Relying on his defense served Johnson well in his collegiate days, earning a record seven Gulf South Conference Pitcher of the Week awards and two All-Conference team selections in his career. However, the big-bodied righty will have to find a way to miss more bats on his own if he is to be promoted any further in the Angels organization. Los Angeles is giving him every chance to prove himself by sending him to the AFL this fall.
LHP – Nick Maronde (23) – Angels 2011 3rdRound Pick
2012 – AZL Angels: 1.13 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, 3 H, 2 BB, 9 SO in 8.0 IP
2012 – Inland Empire: 1.82 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 40 H, 14 BB, 60 SO in 59.1 IP
2012 – Arkansas: 3.34 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 39 H, 3 BB, 21 SO in 32.1 IP
The final pitcher the Angels send to Scottsdale this fall is University of Florida product Nick Maronde. The southpaw has enjoyed a quick ascent through the Angels system, jumping from the Arizona Rookie League all the way up to big leagues, a promotion he earned only five days ago. He will be with the Halos for their stretch run, hoping to make a playoff impact coming out of the Los Angeles bullpen.
Though Maronde currently finds himself in a relief role with the Angels, he has been a starter throughout his short minor league career, and likely projects as a middle of the rotation guy. He features two great pitches in his low-90s fastball and slider, and he seems to be making strides with his change-up, throwing it more confidently and consistently for strikes. Maronde also has ideal size for a starting pitcher, standing tall at 6’3”.
The Angels like this lefty quite a bit, as demonstrated when they recalled him from Arkansas to face major league hitting. All he’s done in the minors is post a 2.22 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, and nearly a strikeout per inning. Los Angeles will give Maronde one final test run in the AFL this fall, and you can expect to see his name as a mainstay on the big league roster in 2013.
C – Carlos Ramirez (24) – Angels 2009 8th Round Pick
2012 – Arkansas: 0.204/.312/.276, 12 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 4 SB, 33 BB, and 55 SO in 323 PA
With four Angels pitchers headed to Scottsdale this year, it only makes sense to pair them up with a catcher they are familiar with. Los Angeles felt the same way, and thus are sending 24 year old catcher Carlos Ramirez to play backstop for the Scorpions.
Ramirez is in his third year with the Angels organization, and has earned accolades for being an excellent defensive catcher. He has thrown out 33% of base runners since 2010, and maintained a .990 fielding percentage. The questions on Ramirez are centered on his offensive production, which has been notably lacking since he was drafted in 2009. This year he batted a dismal .204 and slugged a meager .276 in AA, both career worsts. Though it is not unheard of for a catcher to make a major league club solely on his defense, the Angels would like to see more from Ramirez’s bat before making the call to bring him up. His delegation to the AFL will give him some much needed work at the plate.
3B – Kaleb Cowart (20) – Angels 2010 1st Round Pick
2012 – Cedar Rapids: 0.293/.348/.479, 16 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 9 SB, 22 BB, and 44 SO in 290 PA
2012 – Inland Empire: 0.259/.366/.426, 15 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 5 SB, 45 BB, and 67 SO in 316 PA
Switch-hitting prospect Kaleb Cowart will be manning the hot corner for Scottsdale this fall, joining Carlos Ramirez as the only Angels infielders on the Scorpion roster. Cowart is the young pup among the Angels delegates at 20 years old, yet by no means does he lag behind in promise.
Cowart was taken in the first round by the Angels in 2010 at the ripe young age of 18, and took a little while to get his feet under him. In 28 plate appearances in his short 2010 season, Cowart batted only .192 and struck out in more than 25% of his at-bats. He somewhat righted the ship in 2011 by bringing the batting average up to .283, stroking 22 XBH, and driving in 40 runs for the Orem Owlz of the Pioneer League, yet his strikeout rate remained over 25%.
Despite the problems with the whiff, Cowart is still a gifted hitter with plus pop and good speed. In his best season to date in 2012, he belted 16 long balls, 54 XBH, and drove in 103 runs between Cedar Rapids and Inland Empire. At 20 years old, Cowart is playing at a higher level than most players three and four years older than him. The Angels can take their time with this young talent, give him his reps, and look forward to adding another weapon to a team already featuring phenom Mike Trout.
OF – Randal Grichuk (21) – Angels 2009 1st Round Pick
2012 – Inland Empire: 0.298/.335/.488, 30 2B, 9 3B, 18 HR, 16 SB, 23 BB, and 92 SO in 575 PA
Patrolling the outfield for the Scorpions will be former Angels 1st round pick Randal Grichuk. Famously known as the player the Angels drafted a pick before Mike Trout in 2009, some have unfairly classified Grichuk as a bust due to Trout’s insane rise to stardom. The bust label just doesn’t fit a prospect currently ranked 12th in the Angels organization at 21 years old.
Grichuk has a career batting average of .296, a whopping 148 XBH, and 195 RBI over 1313 plate appearances. He’s been a power threat at every level in the minors, despite an injury setback that took away a good portion of his 2011 season. Criticisms of Grichuk’s game include his high number of strikeouts, his ability to hit to the opposite field, and his fielding. The Angels will have him working on these problems in his time with Scottsdale. Still only 21 years old, Grichuk should turn out to be an offensive force, silencing his doubters.
OF – Travis Witherspoon (23) – Angels 2009 12th Round Pick
2012 – Inland Empire: 0.319/.399/.470, 10 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 25 SB, 33 BB, and 52 SO in 306 PA
2012 – Arkansas: 0.202/.286/.351, 9 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 9 SB, 24 BB, and 54 SO in 235 PA
The final Angels delegate is outfielder Travis Witherspoon. The 12th rounder split his time in 2012 between Inland Empire and Arkansas, and saw an unfortunate drop in production after his move to the Ozark State.
Witherspoon earned California League all-star honors for Inland Empire for his personal best start to a season in his young career. He showed an impressive balance of power and speed, racking up 22 XBH and 25 stolen bases. On a tear through 306 plate appearances, Witherspoon got his promotion to Arkansas, and then started to slump. His career long strikeout problems started to rear their ugly head, and his speed numbers took a hit as Witherspoon reached base less and less. In addition to his high strike out rates, he has also had his struggles in the field. Witherspoon committed six errors in 2012, compared to four the previous season.
Still a really good looking prospect, Witherspoon’s areas for development are definitely fixable. The 2012 fall league will give the 23 year old an opportunity to rebound from his second half slump.
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