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Meet the New Angels: Matt Joyce

December 30th, 2014

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Matt Joyce

Age: 30 | Height: 6’2″ | Weight: 200
Bats: L | Throws: R
Pos: OF/DH

 

Birthplace: Tampa, Florida

Joyce stayed in Florida for his learnin’ career, attending Armwood High School in Seffner and Florida Southern College in Lakeland. At Florida Southern, you can major in Citrus. That’s not a joke.

 

Drafted: 12th round by the Tigers in the 2005 amateur draft

In his three years at Florida Southern, Joyce slashed .306/392/.490. But what of his citrus studies?!

 

Traded Before?: Yup

Detroit shipped Joyce to Tampa Bay for Edwin Jackson in December 2008. I’d say that trade worked out pretty well for the Tigers. Jackson had a nice 2009 season for Detroit (worth 3.7 fWAR), then was a key piece in the December 2009 blockbuster three-team trade with the Yankees and Diamondbacks that netted Austin Jackson and Max Scherzer.

 

Prospect Status

Joyce was a fringe top-30 prospect in the Tigers’ system for his first two seasons after being drafted, per Baseball America. After the 2007 season, Joyce shot up to a personal-best #7 ranking in the system before being called up for good in 2008.

 

What’s his role?

Nathan wrote about Joyce’s impact in greater detail here. Presumably, Joyce will platoon with C.J. Cron at DH, fortifying one of the Angels’ few 2014 weaknesses. Joyce figures to play every day against right-handed starting pitchers, whether that be as the designated hitter or in left field to spell Josh Hamilton. For his career, Joyce owns a 128 wRC+ when he has the platoon advantage — that’s better than the overall 2014 outputs of Alex Gordon and Adam Jones, just to handpick a couple star players. It’s important that Mike Scioscsia limits Joyce’s at-bats against left-handed pitchers, though. Joyce turns into a pumpkin when facing southpaws, evident in his career 61 wRC+.

 

Injury History

Joyce has hit the 15-day DL twice in his career, most recently in 2012 for an oblique strain that cost him 23 games. In 2013 and 2014 combined, he only missed one game due to injury. In 2010 an elbow strain cost him 51 games, but it doesn’t appear as though that injury has bothered him again.

 

Does he Twitter?

He does. You can follow him @sweetswingin20. “Sunday fun day” grates on me almost as much as “a case of the Mondays.”

 

Miscellany

To receive your Citrus degree, you are required to complete 63 hours in the major. That’s sooooooo many Cuties.

 

Meet The New Angels: Johnny Giavotella

December 26th, 2014

Johnny Arthur Giavotella

Age: 27 | Height: 5’8 | Weight: 185
Bats: R | Throws: R
Pos: 2B/3B

 

Birthplace: Metairie, Louisiana

Giavotella was born and raised in the NOLA metro area and remained in the Big Easy through college, attending the University of New Orleans.

 

Drafted: 2nd round, 2008 – Kansas City Royals

After excelling as a two-way player in high school, Giavotella moved to the keystone exclusively at UNO and helped guide the Privateers to berths in two consecutive NCAA tournaments (’07 & ’08). Giavotella hit .354/.470/.591 in his junior year, earning him third-team All-American honors and the good fortune of being selected as the 49th overall pick in the 2008 draft.

 

Nickname: Goes by “Gio,” even though his name is spelled G-I-A.

As a short-statured guy from La Nouvelle-Orléans, I feel like “Napoleon” should also be on the table… ooh or maybe “Nap Gio”? Yep, I’m going Nap Gio.

 

Prospect Status:

Giavotella was a Top 15 prospect in Kansas City’s historically deep farm system a few years back, but he graduated out of their ranks in 2011. He peaked at #11 in 2008 per Baseball America, at #9 in 2011 per Baseball Prospectus, and at #12 for Minor League Ball in 2011.

 

Scouting Report Key Phrases: excellent feel for the strike zonefew weaknesses at the plate; has plenty of popdefense still needs some workpatient approach and a very short, quick swing

Pretty positive, right? Well, here’s the catch: All of those reports are from 2011 or earlier. Giavotella has had several opportunities to make his skill set work at the big-league level, but it just hasn’t happened. The 2014 BP Annual summed up his adaptation struggles in a single sentence: “The bat speed that works in Omaha is exploited in Kansas City.” In other words, Gio has had trouble dealing with big-league heaters, and attempts to cheat on said fastballs have left him vulnerable to off-speed stuff.

But with just 89 MLB plate appearances for Giavotella in the last two years, and only 465 total spread over four partial seasons, it’s too early to write him off completely. He’s dominated Triple-A pitching so thoroughly — .835 OPS in 1,800 PA — that one can’t reasonably believe that his .612 OPS in the bigs represents his true talent level. He probably won’t ever come close to mimicking his PCL numbers in the pros, but he should at least be able to make his way into the .700 club.

Probably the biggest thing working in Giavotella’s favor is his reverse platoon split. While most right-handed batters fare better when facing southpaws, Gio is one of the select few who excels against same-sided pitching. Across all levels in his seven seasons of pro ball, he owns an .803 OPS vs RHPs and a .755 OPS vs LHPs. A difference of 48 points might not seem like much, but that gap has widened significantly in the high minors. Since reaching Triple-A in 2011, his handedness split has increased to nearly 100 points — .813 vs .721. If Giavotella can find a way to get things going against MLB pitching, the Angels might not have to find a lefty batter to work a platoon at the keystone.

 

Injury History:

Other than an operation to repair a slightly torn labrum in his right hip during the 2011 offseason, Giavotella has been of remarkably good health. So far as I can tell, he hasn’t spent a single day on the disabled list in seven years. Not sure I’d say that the ability to stay healthy is a skill, but it’s certainly an asset.

 

Quotes:

MLB.com – September 12, 2011

“I think based on my size, a lot of people have doubts about me, and knowing that motivates me to practice harder and prove them wrong.”

 

NOLA.com – April 24, 2014 

“On the business side of things, it enters my mind, thinking about my future, where I’ll be next year,” he said… “Hopefully a team will have confidence in me, pick me up and keep me in the big leagues the entire season.”

 

Does He Twitter?: Yep! Though he may need to change his handle now.

I bet @Gio2bOC isn’t taken.

Hoyt Wilhelm, the First Angel Hall of Famer

December 24th, 2014
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“Old Sarge” poses for the camera in 1969.

 

“Don’t let anyone tell you they’ve seen a better knuckle ball than Hoyt Wilhelm’s.”    Ted Williams

 

Before Bruce Sutter. Before Dennis Eckersley. Before Rollie Fingers. The first relief pitcher ever to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame was a one-time Angel named Hoyt Wilhelm.

Wilhelm pitched for 21 seasons, from 1952 to 1972, becoming the first pitcher in Major League history to appear in 1,000 games, which, in part, led to him being the first reliever to reach 200 saves — most recorded in the old-school, multi-inning variety.  During all of these appearances, he won a record 124 games in relief, and in one of his ten spot-starts in 1958, he threw a no-hitter against the mighty New York Yankees.  And as far as fielding his position goes, when he retired, he held the record for the most consecutive games by a pitcher without an error at 319.

He was also a five-time All-Star, a World Series champion with the 1954 New York Giants, and a two-time ERA champion in 1952 and 1959, the only two years when he pitched enough innings to qualify.  And then a few seasons later, he went through a dominating five-year stretch (from 1964-1968) where he posted a sub-2.00 ERA in each season.

The key to all of this success was what was probably the best knuckleball the major leagues has ever seen.  He threw it as a kid and stuck with it his entire pitching career.  He threw every pitch right down the middle of the strike zone, yet no one knew where it would end up, not even Hoyt.  One time, Yogi Berra had to be taken out of an All-Star game because he couldn’t catch Hoyt’s knuckler.  Former Angel center fielder Albie Pearson said that once he offered at a Wilhelm pitch, missed the ball entirely, and the pitch wound up hitting him in the stomach.

Wilhelm finished his career with 2,254.1 innings pitched, and with those innings he fashioned a 2.52 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, 1610 strikeouts against just 778 walks, and a 0.6 HR/9 innings pitched rate.

And for one brilliant season, in 1969, Hoyt Wilhelm was an Angel.

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.

 

Meet The New Angels: Taylor Featherston

December 22nd, 2014

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Taylor Joseph Featherston

Age: 25 | Height: 6’1 | Weight: 185
Bats: R | Throws: R
Pos: 2B/SS/3B

 

Acquired

The Halos gave the Chicago Cubs cash for Featherston, just after Chicago plucked him away from the Colorado Rockies in the 2014 Rule V Draft.

 

Professional History

The right-handed-hitting Featherston has played second, shortstop, and third since the Rockies selected him in the 5th round of the 2011 draft out of TCU. He’s posted solid offensive numbers in climbing the minor league ladder through Double-A, where he triple-slashed .260/.322/.439 in 2014.

According to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the 25-year-old’s ability to “play both middle infield positions is not in question.” This, along with Featherston’s moderate offensive upside, prompted Colorado to send the infielder to the Arizona Fall League this year. In the AFL, Featherston asserted himself against left-handed pitching, but struggled mightily against righties.

 

Mechanical Breakdown*

Featherston loads by extending his front arm backwards, drawing his hands high and wrapping them behind his head. Stance is relatively wide, with knee lift and push toward pitcher starting the swing. Separation is inconsistent, but there is enough strength in the core to maintain balance. Bat path is generally long; will struggle to hit inside pitches with backspin and keep them fair; able to create sharp downhill angles and backspin on pitches thrown on the outer half. Major issue is the early extension, which leads to some rigidness as he unloads, and also forces him out of the hitting zone quickly.

Likely to always struggle to hit righties but mash lefties, as he can time pitches more easily and get the meat of the barrel on balls on the outer half.

*Breakdown based on videos from various points in his pro career, including his Arizona Fall League stint this year. 

 

2015 Role

The Houston native makes a lot more sense in a platoon than he does as an everyday player, but he will go to Spring Training looking to iron out some of his issues against right-handers and prove himself to be a suitable defensive option. Ultimately, Featherston could team up with recently-acquired Johnny Giavotella to form a solid platoon for the Halos at second base.

Giavotella, who we’ll cover more thoroughly in another post, has enjoyed a sizable reverse split throughout his career, and despite his own right-handedness, could present a formidable threat against right-handed pitching.

 

Halos Daily

Dedicated to bringing you top notch Angels analysis!