In the brave new world of MLB-owned-and-operated minor league ball, every Monday is a travel day for most clubs. Two teams play each other for six games straight over the course of a week, and then take Monday off to fly and bus to the next locale, or idle and wait for the next opponent. This cycle repeats itself twenty times over a 120 game season. Here at Crashing the Pearly Gates, we’ll aim to get you an Angels farm report each Monday afternoon, so you can raise an eyebrow or two at the young cherubs, and contemplate possible futures of the Angelic franchise.
Week 1 Standings
Salt Lake Bees: 0 Wins 4 Losses
Rocket City Trash Pandas: 2 Wins 4 Losses
Tri-City Dust Devils: 3 Wins 3 Losses
Inland Empire 66ers: 2 Wins 4 Losses
As will be immediately apparent, week 1 for the ‘adulting’ Angels pretty much mirrored the dubious past week for the MLB team. Only the new High-A franchise team in Pasco, Washington managed a .500 record. Otherwise, the gappy, top-heavy lineups and fringy pitching staffs were very much in evidence up and down the system, with more intrigue at lower levels, and desolation and depletion at AA and AAA.
But there were some highlights nonetheless.
Prospect of the Week
Paris was the talk of the alt-site last season, and carried the buzz into the spring. He was one of the youngest guys in the 2017 draft, so even after a 2020 season lost to the plague, he’s still a mere 19 on the Inland Empire club, but he’s carrying himself like a team captain already, with coaches raving about his ambition, makeup and leadership.
He did a bit of everything this week. He stole 6 bases over six games, hit two triples, made some flashy plays with the glove, and had a walkoff RBI in extra innings last night to win the final game of the series for the 66ers. He now leads the Low-A West in steals and three-baggers, and is third in runs scored. He also showed his raw youthfulness with nine strikeouts, but he walked just enough to deliver a more-than-respectable .300/.417/.500 playing at shortstop and the keystone, while batting second in the ‘Sixers lineup.
Performances of the Week
I’ll highlight three here, and each spotlights a prospect you should definitely be keeping an eye on. At least two are likely MLB contributors between this year and next.
The lefty Cuban all-purpose outfielder, currently assigned to the AA Trash Pandas, has long been tabbed as a high-probability fourth OF type at the MLB level. He’s a guy with no particular standout weapon, but no weaknesses either, projecting to at least a 50 grade across all five tools, with perhaps a 55 mark on his hit and glove tools. He plays all three OF positions reliably, tends to maintain his health and stays on the field.
While known as a hit-first guy (he actually won the under-18 batting title in Cuba before being drafted by the Angels), his game power does occasionally show up in bright clusters. May 7th was such a night, when Martinez hit THREE home runs and a double in a single contest. His 6 RBI night would drive the Alabama raccoons to one of their two victories of the series – and they needed them all, as the final game score was 12-10 Trash Pandas.
The Angels farm is often thought of as reducible to the outfield trio of Adell, Marsh and Adams, but really, that group should arguably be a quartet that includes Martinez. He’s not as flashy as the others, but there’s a very probable future where he reaches the MLB club before Marsh or Adams does, and he has the profile to stick as a durable reserve who can deliver 400 PAs a season with something like a .275/.340/.450 slash. In other words: a fine and valuable contributor.
Adams came with all the helium in the world into the season, and proved why by his second game with the High-A Dust Devils. On May 5th, he hit a HR and a triple against Toronto fourth-rounder Sean Wymer, and showed legs and glove in the field. In Game three, he promptly followed that up by smacking a double in his first AB, but then came up gingerly after achieving second base, and has not been seen in a game since. He has not been placed on the 7-day IL to date, and was available off the bench, so this appears to be another (in the Angels system, read: terrifying) “day-to-day” affair.
(Note: a recent update from Tri-City’s manager suggests Adams is probably 7-10 aways from return to action, which may make an official IL listing more likely this week.)
The Angels haven’t netted all that much from the Cincinnati Reds trade that brought Raisel Iglesias to Anaheim in the season’s early going, and in fact, Leo Rivas, who was sent to Cinci in that trade, looks all the world like David Fletcher 2.0 as a super-ute who can play six positions and pester pitchers with speed and contact at the top or bottom of a lineup. We saw a lot of Leo this week on the AA Lookouts, and the Trash Pitchers couldn’t get him out (.600/.667/.900 in three games). On the other hand, the 2020 trade with the Reds that sent out Brian Goodwin for two prospects may yet bear fruit.
One of those two prospects was Packy Naughton, who struggled with command and had a rough debut in Rocket City this week. The other kid in that trade though was an unheralded LHP with an above-average FB-curve combo who showed an ability to miss bats in the DSL and at two levels of short-season ball in the MiLB. Jose Salvador showcased that ability in spades when he debuted on May 5th, striking out 12 batters in 4.1 innings, including ten in a row at one point, setting a record for Inland Empire. He only gave up one hit and one walk in that span.
And then, true to Cherub form, he promptly went on the 7-day IL, and we await news of his fate. (Deep sigh.)
Key Themes: “Aches and Ks”
Much like the MLB Angels, and Major League Baseball at large, the dominant themes of the week were cascading injuries and record-breaking strikeout totals all over the place.
In addition to Salvador and Adams, Brandon Marsh is still in a holding pattern at AAA, on the “developmental” list. He’s been nursing a labrum issue since the alt-site days of 2020, and was seen little in spring as a result. I truly believe Brandon Marsh has the talent and ceiling of a Grady Sizemore or Jacoby Ellsbury, but if he can’t focus on conditioning and self-preservation in the field, he’s going to meet the fate of those others sooner than he wants to, and may miss out on an MLB career altogether as a result. The kid just can’t stay healthy. In fact, these ‘high-ceiling ‘toolsy’ kids increasingly feel like performance vehicles that are spec-sheet monsters, but inevitably spend half their lifespans in the shop for expensive repairs. They are tantalizing and visibly cool, but are often frustratingly more potential than real in what they can deliver.
Other key players on the IL: D’Shawn Knowles, Jose Bonilla, Sadrac Franco, Stiward Aquino.
While the 18-month layoff in minor league ball may be a big contributor on the injury front, it’s even more likely a contributor to the number of strikeouts we’re seeing across the leagues. (The fact that short-season rookie ball was eliminated and younger players may be getting earlier looks in Low-A is also a factor.) To concretize this phenomenon, one need only look at the six-game series this past week between the Dodgers’ and Angels’ Low-A West affiliates. Across those 54 innings of play, the two teams saw 151 strikeouts combined. 81 Ks from hitters on the Quakes, 70 Ks from hitters on the 66ers. Join the fan chorus and let’s all say it in tandem: that’s insane.
Here are some examples of new Angels prospects who added to the Special-K experience this week:
Jose Salvador (LHP, 66ers): 12 Ks (leads league)
Brent Killam (LHP, 66ers): 10 Ks (over 3.2 IP)
Cristopher Molina (RHP, Dust Devils): 10 Ks (over 5.1 IP)
Andrew Blake (RHP, 66ers): 8 Ks (no runs, no walks)
Erik Rivera (LHP, 66ers): 6 Ks (3.1 IP, no walks, one hit)
Each of these guys are worth monitoring, but I find the Puerto Rican P/OF Rivera, a 2019 fourth-rounder and two-way player, to be the most intriguing. Let’s see who can keep it up.
Inland Empire leads the Low-A West division with those 81 team punchouts. (They unfortunately can’t pair it with a similarly impressive offense. They are second-to-last with a .216 team batting average.)
Jo Adell hit his first long-ball of the season at AAA Salt Lake this week. Otherwise it was a meh first week for the former #1 Angels prospect. He’s hitting .235/.316/.529 in a batter-friendly context, and has struck out in 7 of 19 plate appearances.
Reid Detmers was challenged in his first start with Rocket City, and couldn’t close out the second inning. It wasn’t a disastrous appearance (he struck out two and only surrendered three hits, including a no-doubt piece-of-cheese HR), but he didn’t feature the polish and command he’s known for. Part of this may have been that he was working with a four-seam fastball that was clocking in at 92-94 mph, occasionally hitting 95. This is a positive – 2-3mph better than what we typically saw in college – but he has to show he can command it at that velocity if it’s going to be an asset. Otherwise, Detmers was too reliant on his curve, which was just missing the zone. I’m sure it was a formidable weapon against college competition, but AA is another place altogether – where most teams stock their best prospects. It’s a really tough assignment for one’s first taste of pro ball.
Hector Yan, Davis Daniel, and Packy Naughton all had rough initial debuts – the first two at High-A, and Naughton at AA. All three are credible pitching prospects who just had bad days. Yan and Daniel struggled conspicuously with control. Aaron Hernandez, on the other hand, had a good (if pitch-inefficient) first-go, scattering two hits across 3.1 scoreless innings for Tri-City.
That’s all for this Week One summary! AAA play continues tonight after a delayed start to the season. Otherwise, all four clubs resume action Tuesday. See you next Monday for the Week Two report. (Hugs, Turk)
Great write-up Turk! Always cool to hear what’s happening on the farm.
We have a lot of OF that can be traded for pitching…
This is a great summary of the first week of MiLB, Great job Turk.
Great to catch up with minor league ball. Great to have minor league ball again.
Martinez does fly way under the radar. And that strikeout rate is insane.
I’m looking to catch Jack K out in the IE soon.
The mirror of that strikeout rate can be seen on the hitter side as well. Just look to the Angels’ other JJ:
Jeremiah Jackson, 22 PAs, 12 Ks (currently #2 among strikeouts in the Low-A West division)
He was an all-or-nothing player in the Pioneer League: 23 HRs, 34% K rate. But in week one in Low-A, he was no all and all nothing.
Yes. Seeing live pitching for the first time since 2019 is going to take some getting used to.
I know some guys were at the alt site and there’s been some training, but let’s face it guys pick up on tendencies pretty quickly. There’s a huge difference between facing somebody new and facing a guy in camp for the 12th time.
I’m really looking forward to June or so, once guys have faced live arms for a month and gotten their footing back. Let’s see how pitchers and hitters look then.