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Halos Acquire INF Taylor Featherston in Rule 5 Draft

December 11th, 2014

 

Heading into the 2013 offseason, the Angels hadn’t selected a player in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft since the start of George W. Bush’s first term in office. Now they’ve made an acquisition two years in a row: Last winter it was LHP Brian Moran from the Mariners, and this morning it was 2B/SS Taylor Featherston from the Rockies.

Like last year, the Halos didn’t actually draft the guy they ended up getting, but rather worked out a trade, for cash, with the team who selected him earlier in the process. Which teams those were doesn’t really matter, but for the sake of thoroughness, they were the Blue Jays (Moran) and Cubs (Featherston).

Featherston, 25, spent all three of his years at TCU as the club’s starting shortstop, but has received a majority of his playing time in the minors at the keystone. He’s never been young for his level, but he hasn’t been considerably older either, so it’s probably safe to read into his strong offensive numbers.

In 2014, Featherston batted .260/.322/.439 with 16 home runs in 550 plate appearances in the Texas League, leading the league in extra-base hits in his first foray into the high minors. While his .760 OPS doesn’t exactly pop off the page, it’s worth keeping in mind that the league-average OPS was .695 and that top Angels prospect Alex Yarbrough, also a second baseman, posted a .718 OPS in the same circuit. Oh yeah, and Featherston followed up his Double-A debut with a solid performance in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .294/.355/.456.

I think it’s safe to say his bat can play, so though Featherston’s yet to appear above Double-A, he will likely compete with Grant Green and new acquisition Josh Rutledge next spring for the openings at second base and utility infielder. Each of the trio carries some pop and strong bat-to-ball skills from the right side of the plate, so it’s tough to discern at this point who’ll end up where.

Since there isn’t much separation in the three players’ offensive profiles, a spot on the roster could come down to what they can do on defense. There’s not much information out there on Featherston’s glove, but the little we know seems to indicate that he is a much better fielder than either Green or Rutledge. According to Baseball Prospectus, Featherston has been worth 13.3 fielding runs above average in his four minor-league seasons, while Green and Rutledge are way, way in the red. Advantage, new guy.

As Featherston is a Rule 5 player, the Angels are required to keep him on the 25-man roster for the entire 2015 season if they want him to remain in the organization. If they decide to go with Green and Rutledge instead, the club must either return Featherston to the Rockies (along with $25,000), or work out a trade with Colorado so they can stash him in Triple-A. If I had to hazard a guess right now, I’d say that he’s the most likely candidate for the utility infielder gig, at least to start the year.

Featherston wasn’t the only Rule 5 acquisition by the Angels this morning. In the minor-league phases of the draft, the club selected infielder Chris Curley from the White Sox, Pedro Ruiz from the D’Backs, and outfielder Kentrail Davis from the Brewers. While Davis has first-round pedigree, none of that three are are likely to serve as more than organizational depth for the farm system.

 

Angels Acquire Josh Rutledge from Rockies for Jairo Diaz

December 11th, 2014
Josh-Rutledge-Daniel-Shirley

While not nearly as good as Howie Kendrick, Rutledge is under club control for the next four years.

 

In the immediate wake of Howie Kendrick’s shocking trade to the Dodgers, the Angels have made a minor move to address their middle infield depth, acquiring infielder Josh Rutledge from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for right-handed reliever Jairo Diaz, the club announced.

The 25-year-old Rutledge is somewhat of an intriguing addition, though the move shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the Halos have been tied to him in recent days. Rutledge gives the Angels an option capable of playing both second base and shortstop, though he grades out sub-par defensively at both positions. He has hit a decent .259/.308/.403 in 947 plate appearances with the Rockies over the past three years, though the role of Coors Field places his career OPS+ at just 83. Thus far, he has produced a -1.1 career WAR. However, he still offers potential everyday player upside, and has a strong track record of performance in the minors, with a .328/.386/.506 career slash line.

As the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher notes, the Halos likely don’t view Rutledge as an immediate everyday fill-in for Kendrick, as he is rather young, has options remaining, and hasn’t quite played up to his skill level yet. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, the plan is for Rutledge to compete with Grant Green for the starting second base job, though an outside candidate – such as Gordon Beckham – could be considered as well.

Having yet to reach arbitration eligibility, Rutledge has four more years of club control remaining, which isn’t insignificant considering Kendrick was scheduled to reach free agency next winter.

The 23-year-old Diaz has electric raw stuff, with a heater that routinely reaches triple-digits, and a plus breaking ball. Many have anointed him as having closer potential, but he likely wasn’t slated for a major role in the Angels’ 2015 bullpen. In 64.2 minor league innings last season, Diaz notched a 3.48 ERA, 11.8 K/9, and 2.8 BB/9. He reached the big leagues for a five-game trial in September, allowing two runs with eight strikeouts in 5.2 innings.

Overall, the Angels had a rather eventful day. They essentially traded Howie Kendrick and Jairo Diaz for Andrew Heaney and Josh Rutledge, which represents a significant improvement in terms of both youth and cost control.

 

Diamonds in the Non-Tender

December 3rd, 2014

 

As expected, the Angels did not tender contracts to Gordon Beckham and Wade LeBlanc on Tuesday. To add a little intrigue to the proceedings, they also non-tendered Yoslan Herrera, who wasn’t anywhere close to being expensive but probably won’t come back on more than a minor-league deal. (UPDATE: He got exactly that.)

Word on the street is the Angels are going to try re-signing the trio to lesser deals, which is likely the case for every team and their non-tenders. Not everyone is going to be happy returning to the organization that just spurned them, though, so it’s possible that one or more of new free agents will make their way to Anaheim.

The Halos are reportedly still on the prowl for lefty bullpen help, a utility infielder, and possibly a lefty bench bat, so for today let’s focus in on the non-tenders from across the league who fit that bill.

Disclaimer: If it seems like I’m saying the Angels should bring in way too many of these guys, that’s because I am. I’d probably sign each and every one of the bullpen arms to a minor-league deal if I could. Just in case.

 

 

Lefty Relievers

 

Wesley Wright – Age: 30

2014 Stats: 3.17 ERA, 3.5 BB/9 and 6.9 K/9 in 48.1 IP

Wright was solid for the Cubs in 2014, so his place on this list comes as a bit of a surprise. Epstein and company do have a half dozen southpaws on their 40-man roster, so I guess they decided Wright wasn’t worth the $2 million he’s projected to make in his final year of arbitration.

Wright’s held lefties to a .292 wOBA in his seven big-league seasons and owns a solid 3.54 FIP over the last four. The guy is a mess against right-handed batters (.358 wOBA), but those can be avoided for the most part. Wright is liable to get a big-league money from somebody, so if the Angels are looking for a minor-league deal with a Spring Training invite, he’s probably not their guy. If they are OK with giving him an MLB contract, he’s definitely the best of the non-tender bunch.

 

Francisely Bueno – Age: 34

4.18 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 5.6 K/9 in 32.1 IP

Bueno earned the most big-league playing time of his career in 2014, but was pushed out of a crowded Royals bullpen by Brandon Finnegan at the end of the year. The lefty has amassed a pretty extreme platoon split in parts of four MLB seasons–.237 wOBA vs. LHB, .336 wOBA vs RHB–but he’s done so in just 60.1 innings overall, so it’s impossible to determine if that’s just small sample noise.

Bueno’s strikeout rate leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s not untenable when paired with his control numbers. If he could get even a little closer to the 8.3 K/9 rate he posted in the PCL the last three seasons, he could end being a great bargain for somebody. No reason to not take a flyer on him, at least.

Towey, Stamets Shine In Arizona Fall League

November 14th, 2014
Stamets

Eric “Mitts McGee” Stamets

The Arizona Fall League has come and gone already, meaning the Japan Series is now the only thing standing between us and the complete absence of baseball until March. To keep the (off)seasonal melancholy at bay for at least a few hours more, let’s take a quick look back at how the Angels prospects fared in AFL action.

The Halos had eight players suit up this year, and I’ve (sort of) ranked their performances here from best to worst. Whether you decide their numbers are really indicative of anything or not is up to you. Just keep in mind that in 2011, Mike Trout, on the cusp of setting the world afire, batted .245/.279/.321 in 106 AFL at-bats.

 

1. Cal Towey – 3B/OF

.279/.375/.426 with 2 HR, 4 2B, 9 BB in 68 AB

Towey performed incredibly well in his first real taste of pro ball against players his age, putting up a slash line nearly identical to his High-A numbers (.279/.364/.417) this past season. If the corner utility man can maintain that consistency at the plate in his first taste of Double-A next season, he could be in Anaheim by the end of the year. Lord knows the Angels can always use another lefty bat with some pop, especially one who can play third base.

From Jeff Moore of Baseball Prospectus: “If [Towey] can show that his left-handed pop will translate against better pitching and in a more neutral hitting environment, he could end up being a useful piece.”

 

2. Eric Stamets – SS

.279/.302/.377 with 1 HR, 1 3B, 1 2B, 1 BB in 61 AB

Widely regarded as a defense-first guy, Stamets surprised by holding his own at the plate against some of the minors’ top pitching talent. The low OBP is not great, but, with his glove, you’ve gotta think the Angels would be elated if he could put up that kind of offensive production at the MLB level.

Stamets OPS-ed only .601 in his first foray at Double-A, so a repeat appearance in Arkansas seems likely, but it’s fun to ponder if a promotion to Salt Lake City might be better for his confidence in the batter’s box. PCL-inflated or not, solid offensive numbers probably do wonders for a player’s self-esteem.

Scioscia Beats Yost At His Own Game; Loses

October 3rd, 2014
/groan

/groan

 

Oh, right. THAT’S what a postseason game feels like.

After four years on the October sidelines, I’d almost forgotten the agony and exhilaration that hang on every pitch for both players and fans. I know I let the moment get the best of me a number of times Thursday night — sorry, dog, for startling you with all the yelling and the kvetching and the gesticulating  — so it makes sense that it might affect the decision-making of a manager as well, even a seasoned one.

That’s the best explanation I have for the baffling offensive strategy employed by Mike Scioscia for Game 1, in which the Angels fell to the Royals 3-2 in 11 innings. After laying down just 26 sacrifice bunts all year — nine of which were put in play by either John McDonald, Luis Jimenez, or a pitcher – Scioscia decided that his offense needed to put down *three* on Thursday, or more than 10 percent of their season total. You may have noticed that neither McDonald, Jimenez, nor a pitcher were in the lineup. No, instead those three attempts came courtesy of Erick Aybar, who inexplicably laid down two with Josh Hamilton on deck and a lefty on the mound, and leadoff man Kole Calhoun, who’s not only the third-best hitter in a stacked lineup but who also looked about as comfortable squaring around to bunt as I do juggling chainsaws on one leg over a shark tank. (NB: I’m a terrible juggler.)

Halos Daily

Dedicated to bringing you top notch Angels analysis!