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The Real Value of the League’s “Worst” Prospects

July 29th, 2014


For two years running now, the Angels’ farm system has been classified as the worst in the game by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus in their annual organizational rankings. Some writers and fans have taken this ranking to mean that the club has no MLB talent in the pipeline, and have made a point of questioning the system’s reputation when players like C.J. Cron and Mike Morin make a positive impact in Anaheim. The standard thinking goes: “If their prospects are so bad, how come so many of them are in the Show?”

The issue with that line of thought is that it attempts to make the organizational rankings into something they are not. The purpose of those lists has never been to determine how many prospects will make a contribution to the MLB club in any given season. Rather, they are simply a measure of the volume of high-ceiling talent within an organization that has yet to reach the big leagues. It doesn’t matter if prospects are five months away or five years away, if they have an All-Star or top-of-the-rotation ceiling, they move the club up the list. A place at the bottom of the rankings, then, doesn’t preclude an organization from having productive rookies, it just means that the overall system has a dearth of potential impact players.

Let’s put this to a quick test. If the organizational rankings were really designed to determine which clubs would reap the most benefit from their farm system in a given season, there should be some correlation between a team’s ranking and the production they receive at the MLB level from their prospects.

Angels Tame Tigers, Take 3 Out Of 4

July 28th, 2014

Game 1: Tigers 6, Angels 4 | Game 2: Angels 2, Tigers 1
Game 3: Angels 4, Tigers 0 | Game 4: Angels 2, Tigers 1

Runs Scored: 12
Runs Allowed: 8

YTD Record: 63-41 | 2nd in AL West


Maybe the Halos’ rotation, as it stands, could survive the postseason after all. The back-end trio of Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, and Hector Santiago made a strong case over the weekend for keeping the rotation static, holding the league’s third-best offense to just two runs on 11 hits in 18 innings of work. Part of the reason for their success certainly lies in Mike Scioscia’s newfound ability to call on his lights-out bullpen at the first sign of trouble (i.e. when the lineup rolls around for a third time), but that shouldn’t take away from what the trio was able to accomplish against Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and co.–heading into the weekend, the fewest runs Detroit had scored in any three-game span this year was five.

The Angels offense continues to be mired in a post-ASB haze, but it’s at least starting to show signs of waking up. The club tallied 30 hits in the series and had as many extra-base knocks (4) against Justin Verlander on Saturday as they did in the entire three-game set vs. the Orioles earlier in the week. Their power game remains inconsistent — only Efren Navarro, David Freese, Kole Calhoun, and Mike Trout have homered in the second half — but it’s only a matter of time before Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and C.J. Cron get in on the action. We hope.

The Pros and Cons of the Street Acquisition

July 19th, 2014
"Wait, so I take the 5 Freeway *that* way?"

“Wait, so I take the 5 Freeway *that* way?”

The Halos front office went for broke Friday night, sending four prospects to the San Diego Padres to acquire closer Huston Street and minor-league reliever Trevor Gott. The price for Street was a steep one, as the Padres’ return includes three of the Halos’ top 10 prospects—second baseman Taylor Lindsey, shortstop Jose Rondon, and reliever R.J. Alvarez—and a fourth player—righty starter Elliot Morris—who has turned a lot of heads this season and may have creeped into the top 10 come September.

As a Proven Closer™, Huston Street will immediately usurp Joe Smith as top dog in the Angels bullpen and push everyone down a rung on the reliever hierarchy ladder. Just who exactly will be pushed off the ladder remains to be seen1 and is unlikely to be resolved until C.J. Wilson returns from the disabled list in the next couple weeks.

If one ever wondered the kind of ultimatum Jerry Dipoto got about what was required to keep his job at the end of the year, this trade provides a very clear answer: Either the Angels win big in 2014/2015, or he takes his ball and goes home. There’s really no other way to explain the jettisoning of five (!) top prospects in a three-week span from an already barren farm system for the purpose of netting roughly 100 combined innings from two relief pitchers. Dipoto has gone all-in on the present at the expense of the future, and either you really like that course of action or you don’t.

Let’s look at it from both sides:

Halos Reach Deal With Top Pick Sean Newcomb

July 18th, 2014

The Angels finally reached an agreement with 15th overall pick Sean Newcomb early Friday morning, less than 24 hours until the signing deadline. Newcomb will receive a $2.5184 million signing bonus, per Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times, which is just $43,000 over the allotted vale for the No. 15 slot and, not coincidentally, exactly the amount of money the Halos had remaining in their team bonus pool for the first 10 rounds.

That the final figure matches up perfectly with the club’s remaining funds makes one wonder just what took so long for the two sides to strike a deal. The penultimate holdout among the team’s first 10 picks was third-rounder Chris Ellis, but he signed way back on June 29, meaning that the bonus pool has been sitting at $2.5184 million for almost three weeks. It’s difficult to fathom that it took Newcomb’s advisor that long to get the Halos to cough up an additional 40 grand, a paltry sum in the big scheme of things.

We here at HD have no inside window into the proceedings, so everything on our end about what the holdup might have been is guesswork, but we have at least a couple ideas about what went on. The first, and seemingly most plausible, is that Newcomb’s advisor, Legacy CEO Greg Genske, actually wanted the Halos to exceed their bonus pool by a good amount — say, about $288,000 — but had to settle for taking the club to the limit instead.

The second, and more nefarious, idea is that Genske wanted the Halos to sweat it out to the last minute because of the way things have gone between the club and his clients in the recent past. The Legacy Agency represents dozens of big-league players, and among those just happen to be the quartet of Scott Kazmir, Vernon Wells, Tommy Hanson, and Bobby Abreu. You might recall that none of their tenures in Anaheim ended on a positive note: i.e. Kazmir and Hanson were released while still under contract, Wells and Abreu were traded after losing their starting jobs. Again, this is all wild speculation, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Genske gave the Angels the cold shoulder purposefully as a sort of slap on the wrist for those past transgressions.

Whatever the reason for the delay, the most important thing is that Newcomb has signed. He’ll now likely report to one of the club’s Rookie Ball affiliates, where he’s expected to throw about 30 innings over the next month before shutting it down for the season. That innings amount would have been the same whether he signed last month or Friday because of his heavy workload during the college season, so the holdup in signing shouldn’t have any effect whatsoever on his development.

Counting Newcomb, the Halos have signed 35 of their 40 June draftees. That figure is a smidgen lower than last year’s take, but still a pretty good haul. All five guys who didn’t sign were late-round picks that decided to have another go at the college ranks.

Angels Sweep the Leg, Finish First Half Strong

July 15th, 2014

Game 1: Angels 15, Rangers 6 | Game 2: Angels 3, Rangers 0
Game 3: Angels 5, Rangers 2 | Game 4: Angels 10, Rangers 7

Runs Scored: 33
Runs Allowed: 15

YTD Record: 57-37 | 2nd in AL West

Up Next: Friday vs. SEA


How’s that for a solid end to the proverbial first half? The Halos drummed out 33 runs and a whopping 51 hits in their (first ever) four-game sweep of Rangers over the weekend, tacking several exclamation points onto the end what’s been an exhilarating three weeks for the club. With 20 wins in their last 25 contests, the Angels enter the All-Star break at 20 games over .500 for the first time in franchise history, and now sit just 1½ games back of the A’s for the division lead.

Speaking of the division… when we last checked on the Angels’ record in early June, the club was a disappointing 11-17 against the AL West and 23-11 versus everyone else. Since then, though, the Halos have won 11 straight and 13 of 14 over their division foes, bringing them within a stone’s throw of not only first place, but also the best record in baseball. Granted, all but two of those wins have come against the Astros and Rangers, who are in a heated battle for the “Worst Run Differential” crown, but that in itself is a big deal: The Halos are actually beating the teams they’re supposed to beat!

The big test (for now) will be to see if the club can keep things going when the Mariners come back into town on Friday. Seattle has trounced the Angels thus far this season, and actually appear to be a much better team now than they were at the start of the year. If the squad can survive the gauntlet of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and… uhh… Chris Young, then maybe setting our sights beyond just a Wild Card spot won’t be quite as unreasonable as we initially thought. Lord knows the Angels would love to escape another scenario where they’d have to face a Mariners ace in a one-off game to decide who advances to the Division Series…

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