Thursday, July 24, 2014

By David Saltzer and Rick Dykhuizen

For many fans, the road to the Major Leagues seems pretty straight forward. Players play in high school, maybe college, get drafted and work their way up the organization. Although that sounds good on paper, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Jeremy Rhoades is a prime example of how the path might take a few twists and turns. Drafted in the 4th round out of Illinois State, Rhoades saw time in both the rotation and the bullpen. So the first question for this big righty (he’s 6’4” and 225 lbs) is what will be his future role as a pitcher.

Right now, the Angels are having him work both as a starter and as a reliever. There’s a good chance, though, that he will move to the pen long-term. He has a low 90s fastball that he can crank up to the mid-90s in short bursts. He has a true wipeout slider that shows good tilt. In 117.2 college innings, he did not give up a single homerun and sported a 139:35 K:BB ratio. So far at Orem, he’s continuing to put hitters away, generating a 12.27 K/9.0 IP ratio. If he can master his changeup, he may stay in the rotation. If not, he has a solid future in the pen.

In our interview, Rhoades talks about making the transition from college ball to professional ball. He tells us how the Owlz have come together as a team (which has helped them become the 1st half league champions), and how being a Business Administration major helps him on the mound.

Please click here to watch our interview with Jeremy Rhoades.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

By David Saltzer and Rick Dykhuizen

Fans always hear about the top-drafted prospects every year. But, often, it’s in the middle rounds where drafts can be made into something special. The 2013 draft is turning into quite a good haul for the Angels, and one of the absolute steals of the draft for the Angels was left-hander Jonah Wesely. Taken in the 11th round out of high school in Tracy, CA, Wesely was signed away from a commitment to UCLA.

Wesely throws a low-90s fastball, a wicked slider, and a developing changeup. He is all business on the mound, and pitches with passion. Presently, Wesely is in the pen, where he is dominating, but the potential to revert back to the rotation is there, especially if he refines the changeup. That wouldn’t be unprecedented, as one of his favorite players, C.J. Wilson, made the same transition.

Already a fan of, our interview with Wesely was one of the best we’ve had in a while. From his yoga stretches to his hasty candy consumption, Wesely shared some great insights into his life as a professional pitcher. This is a great interview that all Angels fans should enjoy. Jonah has the stuff and the makeup to be pitching in Anaheim, and hopefully in a few years, he will be.

Please click here to watch our interview with Jonah Wesely.

Monday, July 21, 2014

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer

Before you all start worrying, no, I didn’t just forget basic math. And, unlike some of my students, I can solve that problem without using a calculator (the answer is 3988, not 2014). But that’s not the point of this title and article. Sometimes things don’t just add up to the numbers. That’s especially true in baseball. As Yogi Berra once said “90% of the game is half mental.”

In the history of the Angels organization, two teams have really stood out more than the rest (aside from the original Angels): the 1986 team and the 2002 team. Both had different qualities that made them great. Both are cemented in Angels’ history.

The 1986 team will forever be known as the “Comeback Kids”. Throughout the summer, they seemed to be able to overcome any deficit. Nothing seemed out of their ability. Baseball history will forever record the Angels comeback against Detroit, down 12-5 going into the 9th inning on August 29th. With maybe 500 fans left in the stadium, Dick Shofield—a lifetime .230 batter with all of 56 career HRs—hit a grand slam, on an 0-2 count, to win the game. That was an incredible moment—one of the greatest that I have ever witnessed in baseball. The 1986 team could overcome any obstacle, and had the special character of grit and passion to make it to the post season.

The 2002 team had a different style of play. They weren’t expected to win it all. They weren’t supposed to be that good. And yet, on any given night, someone on the team stepped up to win the game and propel the team forward. They had the unlikeliest of heroes, like David Eckstein, and the power hitters, like Salmon, Glaus, and Anderson, who all gelled together to make a special team. When Oakland went on a massive win-streak, taking 20 games in a row, the Angels mostly kept pace by going 17-3. We all know how the 2002 season finished, and that’s something we’d all like to see happen again in Anaheim.

So, here are two quick questions for you to help you understand this article’s title. First, what’s so special about the number “30” to the Angels? Second, what do Hank Conger, Chris Iannetta, Mike Trout, Collin Cowgill, Howie Kendrick, Efren Navarro and Grant Green all have in common?

Now if you said number 30 means Nolan Ryan, well, I won’t be upset. Give yourself a gold star for being an Angels fan. But, that wasn’t the answer I was going for with my question.

In 2014, as of the time of this writing, the number 30 represents how many comeback victories the Angels have had this season. They are tops in the Majors in comeback victories. Over half their victories have been come-from-behind. They’ve had dramatic ones too, such as Mike Trout’s grand slam off Chris Sale, or yesterday’s arrow-pointing win off of Fernando Rodney. The 2014 Angels are playing with all the best qualities of the 1986 team.

As for the second question, what all those players have in common is that in 2014, they have all had at least one walk-off at-bat to win a game for the team. Of the 8 walk-off at-bats, 7 of them have come from different players (Mike Trout has 2 walk-offs). Nearly a third of the 2014 Angels comeback victories have come in their last AB and almost all of them have come from a different player. That’s just like the best of the 2002 team where on any given night anyone could be a hero. Everyone on the 2014 is stepping up: veterans, rookies, utility players—they are all playing to the best of their abilities to get each and every win.

I love watching the 2014 Angels team play. They are playing with heart, passion and grit. I love their little routines after victories, such as showering a teammate with Gatorade and tearing a special player’s jersey after a dramatic win. They are having fun on the field and have gelled as a team. Nothing is more fun than to see this team win and enjoy it the way we all wish we could. It brings back the best in baseball—that connection to our youth and belief that anything is possible.

The 2014 team has power, average, starting pitching and a bullpen. They have all the pieces to make it to the post season and beyond. They are combining the best of my two favorite Angels teams, and are quickly becoming a third favorite. I believe that we have yet to see all that this Angels team can accomplish, and I’m excited for the rest of the summer.

By David Saltzer and Rick Dykhuizen

Let’s say you’ve just been drafted by the Angels. You may be a bit nervous. You may not know what you’re really getting yourself into with professional baseball. You may not be sure how your “stuff” stacks up with other kids who just turned pro.

There is one thing that is certain: One of the first people in the organization who will help shape your future is Dave Stapleton, the manager for the Orem Owlz. Working with many of the newly drafted players, Stapleton’s job is to take them from wherever they were and turn them into professional baseball players. It’s his job to teach them Angels baseball and get them ready for a career in the Major Leagues.

Stapleton joined the Owlz this year after pitching for the Brewers organization and coaching at Grand Canyon College, his alma mater (the same college as Tim Salmon—although they were not teammates). The field at Grand Canyon College is partially named in his honor (Stapleton-Pierson Stadium).

In speaking with Stapleton, we got a strong sense that he has the skills to turn these players into professional athletes. He spoke with us about his main goals for the players, how he works with them, and those people who influenced his managerial style. 

The biggest proof of Stapleton’s success so far can be found on the field. The Owlz are playing great baseball. Whenever the Angels aren’t playing, fans should tune into to the Owlz ( game to learn about the future of the organization. 

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing interviews that we did with many of the Owlz players. Please click below for our interview with the Owlz Manager, Dave Stapleton. 

By Adrian Noche, Staff Reporter - 

1. Bo Way, Outfielder, Orem Owlz
Past 10 games: .432 AVG  19 H  5 Doubles  1 Triple  2 HR  1 SB
Overall: .357/.396/.551

Bo Way refused to cool down as he was able to maintain his batting average at a high .348 on the season. Way has collected a 3-hit game in 4 of his last 10 games, bringing his season average to .357. Way also hit 2 home runs, 5 doubles and one triple for a slugging percentage of .727 in his past 10 games and a season slugging percentage of .551. Bo also chipped in 2 stolen bases (2 attempts) and drove in 10 RBI’s for the Owlz while patrolling an error-free center field.

2. Michael Strentz, Catcher, Orem Owlz
Past 10 games: .409 AVG  18 H  5 Doubles  0 Triple  2 HR  0 SB
Overall: .348/.377/.545

Michael Strentz appeared out of nowhere and bursted onto the scene after being signed as an undrafted free agent from Louisiana-Lafayette on June 21st. Strentz now joins Austin Robichaux and Caleb Adams as Ragin’ Cajun representatives on the Orem Owlz. Strentz has been a hitting machine since being signed. Now a staple in the Owlz’s heart of the lineup, Strentz has been batting a slash line of .418/.456/.674 in his last 10 games to go along with 5 doubles, 2 home runs and 11 RBIs. After failing to sign 2014 catching draft picks John Bormann (19th round) and Khloeton Sanchez (32nd round), Strentz’s emergence could be huge for an Angels’ farm system that is greatly lacking in catching prospects.

3. Zachary Houchins, Third Baseman, Orem Owlz
Past 10 games: .342 AVG  13 H  3 Doubles  0 Triple  1 HR  0 SB
Overall: .370/.426/.614

Houchins has been one of the Pioneer League’s finest this season, being among the league leaders in numerous offensive categories: Runs - 33 (1st), Hits - 47 (2nd), Doubles - 11 (1st), Home Runs - 6 (T-5th), RBIs - 34 (1st), Total Bases - 78 (2nd), SLG - .614 (3rd), AVG - .370 (5th), OPS - 1.040 (3rd). Houchins capped off the week with a 4-hit day on Sunday with 2 doubles, a home run, 3 RBIs and 3 runs scored to lead the Owlz to a Pioneer League leading 22 wins.

4. Andrew Daniel, Second Baseman, Orem Owlz
Past 10 games: .381 AVG  16 H  3 Doubles  1 Triple  1 HR  2 SB
Overall: .359/.442/.563

Daniel has succeeded this season as the Owlz’s leadoff hitter due to an advance approach at the plate. The second baseman has walked (13) more times than he has struck out (11). Daniel has been a catalyst in his last 10 games, batting .381 with 3 doubles, 1 triple and a home run while scoring 9 runs, along with a strikeout-walk ratio of 6:6. Daniel has also found a nice power stroke since returning to the lineup on July 5th after missing a week. Slugging .607 so far this month after a .500 SLG with 4 doubles, 2 triples and 2 home runs in June.

5. Jonah Wesely, Pitcher, Orem Owlz
Overall (7 appearances): 0-0  1.80 ERA  15.0 IP  8 H  3 BB  16 SO  0.73 WHIP  .154 BAA

Wesely was arguable the steal of the draft for the Angels’ in 2013, being picked 11th round out of Tracy High School in Calfornia. Scouting director, Ric Wilson, described Wesely as a pitcher who pitches like his "hair is on fire" and he has done just that so far this season. Wesely has made 7 appearances this season and has allowed at least 1 run to score in just one of those appearances. The southpaw has shown excellent rates, striking out batters at 28% while only walking batters at 3% and getting them to ground out at 52%. Wesely’s stock as a prospect would likely be higher if they eventually decide to try him as a starter but will be a fast riser through the system in the pen.

Minor League Afiiliate Report

Triple-A Salt Lake Bees

The Bees’ All-Star Break was this week and sent two players to the All-Star Game, Brennan Boesch and Shawn O’Malley. O’Malley was hitless in one at-bat as a pinch-hitter while Brennan Boesch did not receive an at-bat. The Bees went 2-2 this week, bringing them 16.0 games behind first place with an overall record of 42-60. Luis Jimenez launched his 16th home run on the season while Brennan Boesch hit home runs in back-to-back games on the 18th-19th. Tony Compana led the Bees with 7 hits this week. Caleb Clay pitched a complete game shutout on Sunday, allowing 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 6.

Double-A Arkansas Travelers

The Travelers had themselves a nice week, going 5-2 and bringing their overall 2nd-half record to 16-14 (1st place in Texas League North). 1st baseman, Brian Hernandez, continues to be the model of consistency as he batted .320 this week as his average floats around the .290’s - .300’s all season. Alex Yarbrough batted .296 with 2 doubles and 1 home run, bringing his season average to .290. Michael Roth hasn’t missed a beat in the rotation despite his short stint the Majors, pitching 7.0 complete on July 16th while only allowing 1 earned run on 4 hits and 2 walks.  Danny Reynolds pitched his 5th consecutive game without allowing a run, lowering his ERA to 2.81 ERA this season. Cam Bedrosian saved 2 games for the Travs this week, striking out 8 in a combined 3.0 innings pitched.

High-A Inland Empire 66ers

The 66ers were perfect this week, winning all 6 of their games but still find themselves in the cellar of the California League South division with a 13-17 overall record (5.0 games back). 1st baseman Dennis Raben has been red-hot, batting .372 in his past 10 games to go along with 3 home runs and 2 doubles. Starting pitching was the difference for the 66ers this week. Recently traded Elliot Morris started things off on Monday and pitched 5.0 shutout innings with 5 strikeouts, 2 hits and 2 walks. On Wednesday, Dan Tobik hurled 7.0 innings of one-run ball in a pitchers duel that resulted in a 2-1 66ers victory. Tyler DeLoach followed Tobik’s effort and pitched 5.0 shutout innings of baseball on the 17th, allowing 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6. Raymond Hanson then pitched 6.0 innings Friday and only surrendered 1 run on 3 hits, 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. Michael Clevinger nearly got a quality start on Saturday but ended his line at 4.2 innings pitched (2 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 4 K). To end the week, Trevor Foss pitched 5.0 shutout innings while only allowing 2 hits, 1 walk and 4 strikeouts.

Low-A Burlington Bees 

Burlington won 4 of their 6 games this week and now sit in 3rd place (3.0 GB) with a second half record of 16-13. 1st baseman, Eric Aguilera, cranked his 12th home run of the year to go along with a .280 average this week. 2nd baseman, Kody Eaves, hit .285 this week and raised his average to .273 for the season. Futures Game participant, Victor Alcantatra, pitched 7.0 innings on Sunday and struck out 7 batters, while allowing just 4 hits and 3 walks. Daniel Hurtado has done a fine job bouncing in and out of the rotation for the Bees this year. He pitched a combined 6.0 innings (2 appearances) while not allowing an earned run with 6 strikeouts to 1 walk.

Class-A Short Season Orem Owlz

The Owlz kept on rolling this week, going 4-2 to lead the Pioneer League with an overall record of 22-11. Other than the aforementioned standouts, Natanael Delgado has been impressive in the Pioneer league, batting .347 for the week (.309/.340/.526 for the season). 

AZL Angels

The AZL Angels went 4-1 this week (14-10; 1.0 GB). Alex Abbott struggled this week and was just 2-14 in 4 games played. Austin Wood made his return from injury on the 17th, pitching 2.0 shutout innings while allowing 0 hits, 1 walk and 2 strikeouts. 2nd round draft pick Joe Gatto followed Wood with 2 more innings of shutout baseball, allowing 3 hits, no walks and 3 strikeouts. 5th round draft pick, Jake Jewell, pitched 3.0 innings without allowing an earned run with 2 strikeouts, hits and no walks (0.82 season ERA). Ricardo Sanchez only allowed 1 earned run on Sunday, striking out 4 in 4.0 innings pitched with just 3 hits and 1 walk allowed.

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