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Arbitrator Rules in Favor of Josh Hamilton: No Suspension Coming

April 3rd, 2015

 

Major League Baseball announced that Josh Hamilton will not be suspended for his offseason drug use after an arbitrator ruled Hamilton did not violate his treatment program.

Earlier this offseason, Hamilton self-reported his cocaine use to MLB, after which a four-person board consisting of two members from MLB and two from the player’s association met to decide whether new commissioner Rob Manfred would have the right to suspend Hamilton. The two sides split the vote 2-2, with the players’ union as expected ruling in favor of a non-suspension for Hamilton, forcing an arbitrator to make the decision and ultimately rule that Major League Baseball could not suspend Hamilton for this infraction.

Normally I would say “good job MLB,” but well, they’re PISSED about the result. In addition to appointing two people whose job was almost certainly to rule against Hamilton,  here’s their statement:

Angels Deal Top Prospect For 3B Depth

January 9th, 2015

 

I guess the Angels aren’t so worried about hoarding all their starting pitching anymore. The club dealt top pitching prospect Ricardo Sanchez to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday in exchange for two other minor leaguers: third baseman Kyle Kubitza and righty reliever Nate Hyatt.

The 17-year-old Sanchez was either the second- or third-best pitcher in the Angels farm system, depending on how one feels about his ceiling in relation to Sean Newcomb’s. Being a top-three arm in the organization was a bit of a dubious honor at the beginning of 2014, when the top end consisted of guys with utility but limited upside. Now, though, after a wave of additions through the draft and trades in the last year to restock the franchise’s pitching depth, it means the Halos have bid farewell to a young left-hander with serious potential.

Signed out of Venezuela in July 2013, Sanchez made his organizational debut in the Arizona Rookie League this past summer and was quick to make an impact despite being the second youngest pitcher in the league. The diminutive southpaw posted a 3.49 ERA and struck out 10 batters per nine in 38 ⅔ innings, never going more than four frames in any of his 12 appearances. His control (5.1 BB/9) left a bit to be desired, but that’s the case with just about every teenage arm ever. The most important thing—the thing that probably caught Atlanta’s attention—is that Sanchez more than held his own against guys three and four years his senior, and did so with a three-pitch arsenal that belies his age. The Braves potentially have a special pitcher on their hands, and I’m sure they’re excited to add him to their growing list of young, promising arms.

Why, you may be asking, did the Angels give up Sanchez when he represents something the farm system has been without since maybe the Dan Haren trade? Well, there are (at least) two reasons:

1) Even with his inaugural success, Sanchez is still several years and many developmental hurdles away from contributing at the big-league level. The Angels could afford to part ways with him simply because his future is still so volatile. If everything goes well and Sanchez is able to avoid major injury in the next few seasons, he could break into the Braves rotation by 2018. But there’s a reason an acronymic axiom like TINSTAAPP exists: even a single stumble in his race to the show could send him careening off track for years. Considering the Angels are going into 2015 expecting to repeat as AL West champs, it makes more sense to invest in potential contributors for next season and beyond than guys who, in the best-case scenario, are still four seasons away.

2) The Angels are pretty set so far as pitching depth goes, even with Sanchez gone. The additions of Tyler Skaggs, Hector Santiago, Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano, Jose Alvarez, Cesar Ramos, and Sean Newcomb, among others, have given the club the leeway to add depth elsewhere on the diamond via starting pitching. It’s a bit strange to write sincerely that the Halos have rotation depth to spare, but it’s true. Jerry Dipoto has worked some serious magic over the last year-plus to turn the weakest point in the organization into a strength, and now he’s using it to shore up other potential holes.

 

Speaking of which, the hole that existed behind David Freese at third was a massive one before Kyle Kubitza joined the fold. Before Thursday, the Angels’ only line of defense between Freese and having to bring John McDonald out of retirement was a quartet of infielders with a combined 10 games of MLB experience at third base. And seeing as how three—Grant Green, Josh Rutledge, and Johnny Giavotella—of those four are widely regarded as below-average defenders at second base, I can’t imagine how bad things might have gotten at the hot corner should they have needed to spell Freese for a chunk of time. Kubitza, unlike his roster competition, is a third baseman by trade and a pretty good defensive one at that. When rating him as the Braves’ No. 8 prospect in November, Baseball Prospectus noted that Kubitza has a “plus arm,” “quick feet,” and “soft hands,” which sounds like a pretty solid combination.

The 24-year-old will likely begin 2015 with some seasoning at Triple-A, but he shouldn’t be long for Salt Lake. He hit .295/.405/.470 with eight homers, 11 triples, and 31 doubles in 529 plate appearances at Double-A this past season, and seems primed to put up even bigger numbers in the PCL. Kubitza’s biggest strength at the plate is easily his patience: He walked in 14.5% of his plate appearances in 2014 and has averaged nearly 80 free passes in each of his three full seasons thus far. On the flip side, his biggest weakness is the swing-and-miss: His strikeout percentage hovers right around 25% at every level. That’s a slightly better than Brandon Wood managed at Double-A, but not much.

If Kubitza had (quite a bit) more pop to go with his two true-outcome tendencies, one might squint into a mirror and see a slightly smaller Troy Glaus. As it is, though, Kubitza’s power is much more of the gap variety—his current high for home runs is 12. With his 6’3 frame, there’s always a chance he’ll start clearing the fence more often, but failing to develop that kind of pop shouldn’t make or break his chances. So long as the extra-base hits are coming regularly, it doesn’t matter if they go off the wall or over it. It’s impossible to say whether Kubitza is the “Third Baseman of the Future” just yet, but he’s certainly a helluva lot better than anyone else the club had roaming around.

Nate Hyatt, 24, spent the last two seasons pitching well in High-A, where he posted a 3.20 ERA, struck out 10.5 per nine, and allowed just four home runs in 109 ⅔ innings. What held him back from a promotion to the high minors were control issues. The right-hander not only walked 4.7 batters per nine in his 100+ innings in the Carolina League, he also managed to throw 15 wild pitches. The Angels have shown no hesitation in recent years promoting relievers with questionable control–see: Michael Kohn, Jairo Diaz, Nick Maronde, etc.–so there’s no reason to believe Hyatt can’t make his way from Double-A to a September appearance in Anaheim next season. Well, except for the fact that the club still has about 15 righty relievers ahead of him on the depth chart…

Of note: Kubitza was on the Braves’ 40-man roster, so the Halos were forced to DFA recent waiver claim Marc Krauss in order to make room on theirs. Krauss will probably clear waivers and remain with the club, but it shouldn’t be catastrophic if he doesn’t. He was likely no more than an emergency DH option when the Angels picked him up. Now that Matt Joyce is on the scene, Krauss’ role has been relegated to organizational depth.

On the Ballot: Darin Erstad and Troy Percival

January 5th, 2015
Erstad congratulating Percival on his 300th save.

Erstad congratulating Percival on his 300th save.

In 2012, former Angel great Tim Salmon received five official votes for the Baseball Hall of Fame. But with the current ballot crowded with so many Hall-worthy candidates, it seems unlikely that Angel greats Darin Erstad and Troy Percival will receive even that small token of recognition in this year’s vote for the Hall of Fame. (Update: Percival got four votes, Erstad got one!)

Ersty and Percy are both on the Hall of Fame ballot for a reason though, and that is because both players achieved things on the baseball field that few major leaguers have the ability to achieve.

Darin Erstad was an incredible fielder who played Gold Glove caliber defense throughout his career.  He won the award three times while an Angel, as an outfielder in 2000 and 2002, and as a first baseman in 2004. He led the American League in hits in 2000, a season in which he hit .355 and became the first and only player to drive in 100 RBI from the leadoff spot.

Darin was a two time All-Star who finished his 14-year career with a slash line of .282/.336/.407 and 179 stolen bases.  During the playoffs, Erstad was somehow able to turn up his game, slashing .339/.368/.492 in 29 postseason contests. He hit a leadoff home run in the eighth inning of Game Six of the 2002 World Series to bring the Angels within one run of the Giants, even though he had a fracture in one of the bones in his wrist that would require surgery in the offseason.

And of course, the image of Darin drifting to his left for the final play of Game Seven, calling off right-fielder Alex Ochoa, and then catching the ball with two hands will be forever etched into the memory of Angel fans.

It’s fitting that the man who threw the pitch that got Kenny Lofton to hit that fly ball, Troy Percival, is on the same ballot as his long-time teammate. Troy was a four time All-Star with the Angels.  He came in fourth in Rookie of the Year voting with a 1.95 ERA as the set-up man for closer Lee Smith in 1995.  He took over the closer role the next year and flew with it.  Year after year for the Angels, he would lean in for the sign, squinting to pick up his catcher’s fingers, and then with the help of his high leg kick and powerful drive off of the rubber, pound the strike zone with upper nineties heat.

Percival finished his career with a 3.14 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and 358 saves, which is the ninth most in Major League history.  Like Erstad, Percival also came through for the Angels in the postseason, throwing ten strikeouts against just one walk in nine games, converting all of the seven save opportunities he faced.

Both men are currently enjoying their positions as manager of their alma mater’s baseball teams: Erstad with the University of Nebraska and Percival with the University of California, Riverside.

Looking Towards Next Year:  Four former Angels will be eligible for the 2016 Hall of Fame ballot — Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds, Troy Glaus, and Jose Guillen.

 

Angels in Winter League Action

December 23rd, 2014

 

There are as many as 20 Angels farm hands currently playing baseball in one of the four offseason Caribbean Leagues, but only a handful are really worth checking in on. Here, in no particular order, are brief summaries on five Halos of note who decided not to take the winter off:

 

Jose Alvarez – LHP

1.74 ERA with 39 K, 15 BB in 51.2 IP

Alvarez has become something of a fixture in the Venezuelan Winter League. The southpaw has made at least one offseason appearance in the league each of the last nine years, all with Caribes de Anzoátegui. He’s had success in the VWL in the past — a 3.37 ERA in 139 IP from ’07-’13 — but never quite to this extent.

While 50+ innings of work during the winter might be cause for alarm with some young arms, for Alvarez it’s a welcome sight. An elbow strain limited him to all of 31.2 innings during the regular season, so his offseason time at home is acting more as an extended rehab assignment than the usual inning here and there to keep things loose.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Alvarez’s numbers are predictive of anything going forward, but it is at least nice to see that his elbow woes are behind him. If he can stay healthy, he should serve as part of the crucial barrier between the Opening Day rotation and folks of the Randy Wolf/Kevin Correia ilk.

 

Carlos Perez – C

.338/.373/.523 with 4 HR, 10 2B in 144 PA

If Perez’s hope this winter was to give the Halos a good first impression, he’s certainly succeeded. The Venezuelan backstop hit just .271/.286/.373 over 59 plate appearances in the VWL last year, but is near the top of the league in just about every offensive category this time around.

It’s tough to know whether his offseason numbers will afford him an advantage in the back-up catcher race when spring rolls around, but at least they won’t hurt his chances. Perez definitely has the most upside of the Angels’ second-string options and has little left to prove at Triple-A, so the position should be his to earn. Whether Scioscia will feel the same… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

Jett Bandy – C

.213/.254/.295 with 0 HR, 5 2B in 67 PA

While everything’s looking up for Perez in Venezuela this winter, things haven’t been going so great for Jett Bandy in the Dominican. The UofA alum has struggled in his first full month on the 40-man roster, racking up just 18 total bases in 20 games so far. Bandy spent a career-high 91 games behind the dish during the regular season, so it’s reasonable to wonder if he’s simply run out of gas at this point in the year.

Whether or not he turns things around this winter, a single down month shouldn’t have much of an impact on Bandy’s standing with the Angels. His strong season in the Texas League (.762 OPS; 13 homers) should carry far more weight than anything he does or doesn’t do in the next month.

 

Atahualpa Severino – LHP

4.50 ERA with 17 K, 2 BB in 12 IP

A nine-year veteran of the minor-league circuit, Severino spent time with the Nats, Pirates, Royals and Braves before signing his minors pact with the Halos earlier this month. The 30-year-old doesn’t have the clearest path to Anaheim, but he could end up making a cameo or two — especially if he continues to demonstrate improved control of his fastball/slider combo.

The left-hander struggled to get his walk rate below 6.0 per nine in his first three seasons at Triple-A, but has limited batters to just 3.5 free passes per nine the last two years. And as his walks have gone down, his strikeouts have climbed, peaking at 10.9 per nine this past season. If Severino’s 17 K/2 BB ratio this winter is an indication of where he’s headed in 2015, the Angels might have a viable LOOGY on their hands.

 

Johnny Giavotella – 2B

.178/.260/.222 with 0 HR, 2 2B in 50 PA

Whatever it is the Angels saw in Giavotella that prompted last week’s trade, they didn’t see it in his play this winter. The newest Halo is having a rather miserable go of things in Venezuela, managing just two extra-base hits in 50 turns at the plate thus far.

Like with Bandy, Giavotella’s bummer of a winter shouldn’t affect his chances of making squad out of camp come spring. The second baseman’s track record of success at Triple-A — .835 OPS in 1,840 plate appearances — should speak much louder than a measly 50+ trips to the dish in La Guaira. As we noted on Monday, Giavotella’s strong reverse platoon split is the thing to keep an eye on.

 

Halos Add Giavotella To Keystone Mix

December 19th, 2014
Dipoto is adding one new middle infielder for every tie he'll get this Christmas.

Dipoto is adding one new middle infielder for every tie he’ll get this Christmas.

 

The Angels made yet another trade early Friday afternoon, acquiring recently DFA’d second baseman Johnny Giavotella from the Royals for minor-league reliever Brian Broderick. The addition of Giavotella runs the total of Halos right-handed hitters jockeying for work at second base to four, which should make things interesting come Spring Training.

Giavotella, 27, was a top prospect in KC’s system a few years back, but never found a way to stick on the big-league roster. He put up solid numbers at Triple-A each of the last four seasons — good for a combined .315/.384/.451 slash line — but had trouble translating that success to the big-league level. In 465 MLB plate appearances over those same four seasons, Giavotella hit just .238/.277/.334. Plate discipline is his biggest asset in the batter’s box in the minors — his career K/BB ratio is nearly 1-to-1 – but it mysteriously disappears every time he arrives in Kansas City. The New Orleans native never got more than 120 big-league plate appearances at any one time after his inaugural cup of coffee back in 2011, so it could be that he just needs a little more time to adapt to MLB pitching. It’s hard to adjust to something fully when opportunities come in small spurts over large swaths of time. Can you imagine being a successful anything if you were given only a month every year to ply your trade against the best in the business?

On the offensive side of things, there really isn’t much to separate “Gio” <sic> from his trio of keystone competitors in Anaheim. If one could combine the best assets of each player, the Halos would have a great, young-ish second baseman on their hands. Apart, though, each has his limitations: Josh Rutledge has the most power potential, but he lacks Giavotella’s eye; Grant Green probably has the best bat-to-ball skills, but he doesn’t have Taylor Featherston’s speed out of the box. Given the similar offensive profiles, the deciding factors in the campaign for the starting second-base gig will likely be some combination of defense/versatility and Spring Training numbers, which are functionally useless but somehow still alluring to teams.

I presume that Giavotella’s signing finally closes the door on bringing Gordon Beckham back into the fold. With four right-handed hitting second basemen already on the roster, there’s no reason in paying seven figures for another, especially when his upside is equal to that of the existing quartet. However, I would be surprised if this latest acquisition ends the team’s pursuit of middle infielders entirely. For instance, switch-hitting grit machine Nick Punto just landed on the open market, and could be a nice fit for the Angels. He doesn’t really hit worth a darn anymore, but he does play the entire infield with aplomb and it’d be nice to have at least one left-handed hitting option on the infield. I wrote a 1,200+ word article Thursday on how Dipoto doesn’t seem to like switch-hitters all that much, so now would seem the most obvious time for him to sign someone like Punto. Just because.

Oh right, the other part of the trade…

Brian Broderick, 28, spent all of 2014 playing independent ball and only joined the Halos earlier this month after lighting up the radar gun in the Mexican League, so his absence should have close to no impact on the team going forward. He could become another live-arm guy in KC’s bullpen when all is said and done, I suppose, but he was never a big part of the Angels’ plans.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Giavotella, the Angels released fellow infielder Shawn O’Malley.

Halos Daily

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