While the past week saw the Angels sputtering in two losing series against Houston and Boston, the Cherubs in the lower ranks largely saw solid improvement over first-week outcomes. Three of four affiliates logged winning weeks, and the AA Trash Pandas and Low-A 66ers nudged themselves into above-.500 records overall. Some of this was due to contributions from non-prospects and organizational soldiers in the system, and some from better run prevention from the pitching staffs, but the improved outcomes from the AAA Bees was also in part due to the return of one notable top prospect who may be rather close to debuting in the Big Show.
Week 1 Standings
Salt Lake Bees: Last week: 4-2 / Season record: 4-6
Rocket City Trash Pandas: Last week: 5-1 / Season record: 7-5
Tri-City Dust Devils: Last week: 0-6 / Season record: 3-9
Inland Empire 66ers: Last week: 4-1 / Season record: 6-5
All good news except for one punishing exception. The High-A Dust Devils had a disastrous week, eating their own dust against a markedly superior Everett AquaSox club, which outscored them 65-16 in the series (Seattle’s affiliate is now 10-2 on the season, and features one of the best collections of talent at any level of minor league play.) With Jordyn Adams still on the mend (and probably out for another week or two), the Dust Devils have almost nothing to look at offensively, beyond Livan Soto, a light-hitting future utility guy on the Maicer Izturis model. Their league-worst team ERA of 6.97 is largely representative of club talent, though the worst damage has come more from the bullpen ranks than the starters, given the team saw decent outings from Davis Daniel and Zac Linginfelter, relative to some of the other blowouts on the week.
Prospect of the Week
Brandon Marsh: .308/.526/.692
Look, it’s only four games and 19 total plate appearances, but from almost the moment Marsh arrived and was installed at the top of the Bees lineup, the team turned a corner. They’ve now strung three wins together in a row against Seattle’s AAA Tacoma club (even as their A+ team was destroying Tri-City). Marsh’s OBP says everything – he’s walking as much as he’s striking out, with 6 BBs across those four games, and 6 runs scored to match. Last week, he had a home run, a triple and a stolen base in that stretch, and is seeing 4.6 pitches per plate appearance, well outpacing career averages. He’s doing everything a leadoff guy should do.
I’ve felt for 2+ years that if Brandon Marsh can only stay healthy, he’s the most promising offensive weapon in the Angels’ system. And the best fit for what the Angels MLB club actually needs. Even as the hype was big on Adell, I saw Marsh as the inevitable answer to the Angels’ long-term uncertainty at the top of the order – a hulking 6’4″ left-handed speed-power threat with a sophisticated notion of the strike zone who can take a lot of pitches, but also punish the ones he can get ahold of:
Adell is an Upton replacement, with all the irregular light-tower power, inconsistency in his hit tool and glove, and infuriating streakiness and strikeouts to match. His current .214/.298/.571 slash line and 40% K-rate tells the story: big bat, too much swing-and-miss. But Marsh is something the Angels haven’t seen in forever – a homegrown Grady Sizemore or Jacoby Ellsbury, with all the delectable promise and worrisome injury tendencies of both. He’s already displaced Jo Adell to left field, and is showing his typical verve and range in CF. But he’s also showing the reckless abandon on the basepaths that has put him on the shelf for weeks and months in the past:
Go in hope, go in fear, Angel fans. Let’s hope Marsh can keep off the IL and keep this up for another month, so he’s called up to assume permanent right field duties while becoming heir apparent to the top of the order – as Trout, Ohtani, Rendon and Walsh assemble behind him. Then we can wait to see who between Adell and Upton under-delivers least in left-field, determining the Angels’ outfield composition for the next year or so.
Performances of the Week
The Salt Lake Bees “taxi squad”
They aren’t homegrown prospects, and they aren’t the long-term future. But recent minor league free agents of the “AAAA” variety had themselves some good games this past week.
Scott Schebler had a three HR and five RBI day for Salt Lake on Sunday, and is now sporting a ludicrous .815 SLG across 35 PAs (thanks PCL!).
31 year-old third catcher Anthony Bemboom decided to put the stress on the second syllable of his surname, and joined Schebler for three home runs (and add a triple as a grace note) across a four game stretch. Across 16 plate appearances, he’s in game mode with a numbing 1.571 OPS.
Kean Wong, playing 2B and hitting third for the Bees, has a nine-game hitting streak, at least one for every game he’s appeared in this season. With a .395 batting average and .990 OPS, David Fletcher had better watch out for Kolten’s little brother. If Fletch – 0-for-his-last-17, nursing a groin injury, and recently demoted to the nine-spot in the lineup as of this week – continues to struggle, he might find himself on the bench for an experiment with the Hawaiian infielder. Wong is actually a year younger than David, and as a previous fourth rounder in the Tampa Bay Rays’ excellent farm system, is not far removed from prospect status himself.
It’s a little hard to know what to make of Stefanic, who is an undrafted middle infielder from a small school, acquired in the wake of the 2018 draft. He’s recently turned 25 and is in AA, which would typically make him “long in the tooth”, but given the 18 month layoff of the pandemic, the whole 2021 class is older than typical. From day one, he’s hit everywhere, with a .297/.373/.380 slash – clearly not a power threat, but a reliable on-base guy at five different levels of play. He would have reached AAA at a young age 24 if it were not for the plague year.
At AA, he’s hitting a very fine .375/.444/.479 batting line, and is the most consistent piece of a so-so Trash Pandas lineup. He’s on a nine game hitting tear, and across two nights last week (May 11-12), he was on base six times out of nine. He’s big on contact, with a low 12% K-rate both this season and across his career, but walks enough so that he’s not a batting-average only contributor. With an unsettled infield picture in the near-term, this under-the-radar comer might force himself into the picture like Walsh and Rojas before him.
There were a number of three-to-five inning surprises at Low-A Inland Empire this weekend that led to their five game 4-1 bull run. Late-rounders, quiet Latin signs and recent free agents have been delivering big Ks and low-run outings. Names you’ve never heard of like Ryan Smith, Jack Dashwood, Julio Goff, Justin Courtney. Is there anything sustainable here? I don’t know – that’s why the games are played. But one name intrigues for me, and that’s Brent Killam.
An 11th rounder from the recent 2019 draft, LHP Killam comes from Georgetown, where he set the school record for SO/9 with a 12.20 mark. A late-season lat injury caused him to slide out of the top ten rounds, and also kept the Angels from debuting him in 2019, so we’re just seeing him now. He put up his second sharp outing in a row this week on May 13th, when he limited Lake Elsinore to one hit over five scoreless innings, striking out six in the process. That brings him up to 16 Ks over 8.2 IP on the season, with a fine 1.04 ERA and 0.69 WHIP (only two hits surrendered to the first 31 batters he’s faced). He’s undersized and has some wild moving parts, so we’ll see how sustainable this is, but here’s a first look:
Reid Detmers had a much-improved second outing with Rocket City last week. Already showing a notable velocity increase in his first start, he dialed it up another notch for take two, hitting 97 at one point. He was consistently ahead in the count over 4.2 IP, his command was sharp, and his curve was locating in the zone. Much more dominant: 9 Ks, 8 swinging. He made two mistakes for solo HRs, but was fooling hitters on high-zone heat and the breaker both. We’ll see if the solo homers he’s surrendered in both starts are a trend, or whether he’s learning that you can’t challenge hitters with low-90s fastballs middle-of-the-zone at this level on the principle that sequencing and deception will win the day.
Jeremiah Jackson is still striking out a ton, but saw some improvement last week. He has hits in six of his last seven games, including four doubles, two home runs, and two stolen bases. He boosted his batting average 50 points over the six-game Lake Elsinore series, and only struck out 30% of the time (not great! but baby steps…).
The ones that got away: Baltimore is reaping rewards from recent Angel drafts. It’s tough to see, but Eppler and Minasian traded a lot of collegiate pitching from the Angels’ system to rent guys like Iglesias and Bundy. Six arms sent out for the two of them. A number of them we haven’t had much time to see because they were recently drafted and COVID delayed their debuts. Kyle Bradish has pitched 9.2 scoreless innings out of the AA rotation with 16 strikeouts, earning a callout in Baseball America. Kyle Brnovich has a 0.84 ERA and 11 Ks over two starts, 10.2 IP at High-A Aberdeen. Garrett Stallings put up 1 ER over his first two starts, 8 Ks vs 1 BB in 10 IP (though had a short tough outing against the Yankees’ A+ affiliate over the weekend). Each of these guys is a year or two from their first cups of coffee, while the guys they were traded for wrap up their contracts this year. Such are the trade-offs to optimize toward a .500 record in the AL West (or “contend”, as Moreno would have it). YMMV.
That wraps up this week’s Angels farm report. Please set out some vegan sacrificial offerings for the baseball sprites, and ask for the continued health of Brandon Marsh, the return of Jordyn Adams, and any and all upside pitching from the uncertain, anonymous horde. (Hugs, Turk.)