This week in Angels farm baseball had its peaks and troughs, much like the MLB team, which was swept by its Oakland foes on the road, after sweeping Arizona themselves, and concluding the trip with a near-sweep of the Tigers in Detroit.
Some Halos prospects that had promising outings in Week 6 saw significant regressions this week (including pitchers Aaron Hernandez, Davis Daniel, John Swanda, Hector Yan, Jack Kochanowicz), while in positive news, the week was bookended by two majestic 14 strikeout outings from Cooper Criswell and Reid Detmers with the Trash Pandas. In fact, outside of Hernandez’s mighty meltdown in his home debut in Rocket City, there was a lot to like in the Trash Pandas rotation this week.
But more on that in a minute…
Week 7 Standings
Salt Lake Bees: Last week: 3-3 / Season record: 17-22
Rocket City Trash Pandas: Last week: 4-2 / Season record: 22-19
Tri-City Dust Devils: Last week: 2-4 / Season record: 14-27
Inland Empire 66ers: Last week: 3-3 / Season record: 19-22
That’s two weeks in a row that the Angels AA South club has put together a winning record, chiefly driven by solid pitching. The Trash Pandas are now only one game behind Birmingham and Chattanooga in a tight division. Meanwhile, the other affiliates have largely tread water a notch under .500, while the Tri-City Dust Devils remain objectively bad in most aspects of the game.
Tri-City did get a bit of good news this past week when Jordyn Adams finally came off the Injured List, which he’d been on since the first week of the season, rejoining the Dust Devils lineup in the top third of the order. Unfortunately, he’s struggled out of the gate, going 1-for-14 with two walks and a 25% K rate in his first four games back. It’s early, but I suspect Jordyn is not quite 100%, and his timing is a bit off. Most outs have been infield groundouts, not the barrels or loft we were seeing coming into the season.
On the 66ers, Jeremiah Jackson carried a 13-game on-base streak from the first of June until Sunday, when he went 0-for-3 with an RBI on a sac fly. Outside of a handful of DH appearances, he’s played shortstop exclusively, and is slashing .327/.390/.712. He’s looking especially strong against left-handed pitching. His play in the field is still a work in progress, but he’s only made official errors in one contest this June (two on 6/9 in Visalia), and it’s otherwise good to see the Angels airing him out at short in this season.
An equivalent offensive weapon on the AA Trash Pandas is probably Izzy Wilson, who at a young 23 is still very much a prospect. He’s slashing a mean .404/.481/.808 over 14 games, with 6 HRs and 16 RBIs, looking very much like a AA South Player of the Month candidate to me.
The Trash Pandas in general are AA mashers, leading the league in HRs and second in SLG. But this needs to be put in context with the sobering reality that much of the lineup are long-in-the-tooth minor league free agents between the ages of 26 and 28. The team overall all has an average age of 25.5, just a month shy of Birmingham for the oldest team in the league. It’s the reason I focus mostly on their pitching when I track the team, with some eye to the 23 year olds Wilson and Orlando Martinez in the middle of the lineup. Both remain plausible MLB bench bats down the line.
Now let’s look at that pitching!
Prospect(s) of the Week
The heroic trio of the Rocket City rotation!
Cooper Criswell, 6/16: 6.2 IP, 98 pitches, 14 Ks, 0 BB, 3 hits, 0 ER
Reid Detmers, 6/20: 6 IP, 94 pitches, 14 Ks, 2 BB, 3 hits, 2 ER
Kyle Tyler, 6/20: 7 IP, 92 pitches, 8 Ks, 0 BB, 2 hits, 1 ER
Last week in this section we celebrated six of the crew in the Trash Pandas relief corps, and this week we turn our attention to outstanding efforts from three arms in the rotation.
As you can see from the above, it’s hard to select one of the bunch. While Criswell and Detmers dazzled in the strikeout department, Tyler pitched a complete game with no walks and only gave up a single homerun in the seventh, as he was visibly tiring a bit in the hot late Alabama afternoon. All three earned much-deserved wins in efforts that were each very fun to watch.
Cooper Criswell – a towering, lanky right-hander – has become quite the control artist this season, allowing only 1 HR in his past five outings, and only 4 walks against 52 strikeouts over seven starts this year. That’s a 13 K:BB ratio, which is insane!
More insane is that he’s doing it with his 6’6″ frame. In Wednesday’s outing he was getting a lot of first pitch strikes, and good command of the slider and curve was in evidence. Criswell isn’t a big velocity guy. I saw 88-90 mph through most of the MiLB.TV broadcast, though the play-by-play guy dropped a 92 mention once, though I don’t know where he’s getting that reading. Criswell succeeds with a diverse offspeed repertoire and command, with a FB low in the zone to induce groundballs. When pitching up, he’s more hittable, less efficient.
It’s a little hard for me to see Criswell projecting as a depth starter given somewhat average stuff, but I could see a potential middle relief or bulk innings role here on the Aaron Slegers model. We’ll see if he can continue with length and command as the summer wears on.
Reid Detmers turned the page on one of his weaker efforts against Tennessee in Week 6 (a one-run outing marred by pitch inefficiency that only lasted four innings), showing us why he was a top-ten draft selection in 2020. Starting his Sunday outing with a 9-pitch immaculate inning, all three Ks swinging, Reid came loaded for bear, working fast, with a long, mean stare. It was a hot, humid day, and you could see Reid tiring a bit in the 6th, but he still was hitting 94 mph on his final pitch of the outing, an elevated fastball on his 14th K, getting Luis Castro (previously 9-for-19 in the series coming into the day) to whiff decisively.
Baseball America took notice:
Through the first four innings, Detmers was quite efficient, with 9 Ks, 8 swinging on a modest 50 pitches. (Unfortunately, his lone hit surrendered was a HR after his lone walk.) He’d use almost as many to get through the next two innings, falling an inning short of a complete game in rain-rescheduled 7-inning double header. Oliver Ortega, who has been volatile to say the leaast, was allowed to close out a one run contest, and pitched a clean 7th on 7 pitches, 6 strikes. Pandas won 3-2.
We’ve noted Detmers’ velocity increase this season, and he was at 91-94 most of the day, but the impressive aspect of his performance was the progress he’s made on his offspeed stuff. His slider was sharp and tight to the lower corners, really tying hitters up, and he got multiple whiffs on a 85-86 mph changeup, which was very good to see.
When he was missing, he was missing high with his 93-94 mph FB, which suggests that, while he’s maintaining a velo increase of +2-3 mph over his college self, he’s still learning to control it, and there’s some wildness at the top of the zone to monitor. This is why I’m a bit skeptical of rushing Reid to AAA, as that high fastball may get punished in high elevation parks in a way that it won’t be in AL West marine layer environments, and the last thing you want to teach this very talented 21 year old is to avoid the high strike. His emerging strengths include a blended portfolio and constantly shifting eye levels.
Here’s that first (immaculate) inning again:
Following up Detmers in the Sunday double header was an equally effective performance from Kyle Tyler, the most consistently performant pitcher thusfar in the Trash Pandas rotation. He’s lowered his season ERA to 1.96 with a measly WHIP of 0.91, 46 Ks over 46 IP. Unlike Detmers, Tyler actually found himself getting behind hitters quite a bit in the early going, but exploited a generally weak Biloxi offense prone to bad reads, ugly swings – and because Tyler is less K-dependent, used his defense behind him to get outs and deliver an impressive complete game outcome.
Tyler is not someone who prospect analysts generally consider a prospect currently. In his recent June survey of the Angels system, Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs put Tyler at the tail end of a list of “Depth Arms” he listed as a footnote to his 32 core Angels prospects of note. This isn’t necessarily neglect, however. Part of this assessment is that he’s a 20th rounder from the ’18 draft, is a bit undersized at 6′ and his fastball generally operates at 90-93, including in Sunday’s victory.
More than anyone else, when I watch Kyle Tyler’s starts, he reminds me of Joel Pineiro, a starter of similar stature and stuff who, only ten years removed from his career, feels like a bit of an anachronism in this velocity-focused game. Tyler has consistently performed across two levels of A-ball and now again in the more challenging AA, so you hate to doubt him, but the profile continues to look like an up-and-down starter with an edge possibility of some backend stickiness. He’s smart, confident, and sequences well with a four-pitch mix, but all those pitches are pretty average. There’s no question he can pitch, and he has moxie, which makes his appearances enjoyable from a farmhound’s perspective, but the underlying components suggest it all shouldn’t work.
And just a reminder that this is been going on for awhile. Tweet from June 1st:
Shorter story: I’m rooting for the guy.
Performances of the Week
Robinson Pina, Low-A 66ers (7 IP, 86 pitches, 9 Ks, 0 BBs, 2 hits 0 ER)
Pina has always been a strikeout artist, moving between the bullpen and rotation at lower levels of A-ball. He struggled badly with his control at High-A Tri-City earlier this year, however, walking 24 batters over 15 IP – despite striking out more than a batter an inning. Thus he finds himself repeating Low-A at the moment after a solid season in Burlingame in 2019.
Inland Empire certainly appears more to his liking.
His start at the beginning of the week was clean as a whistle, with no walks, and 7 scoreless on 86 pitches. He pitched again Sunday night, and while he walked two, he again struck out eight over 4 IP, for a better than 6 K:BB ratio since returning to the Low-A West.
It’s hard to get consistent radar readings out of the league, but I’d like to know, as diminished velo was an issue in his last pro season. He’s otherwise been up to 95 in previous years. As Longenhagen wrote: “He has a prototypical 6-foot-4 frame and generates nearly seven and a half feet of extension down the mound, which helps that fastball get in hitters’ kitchens.” So, if he can’t figure the starter’s game out, there’s still a role in the bullpen for a guy like this if he can clean his walks up.
Hector Yan, High-A Dust Devils (6 IP, 10 Ks, 2 hits, 2 BBs, 0 ER)
Yan, generally considered a top-20 prospect by most evaluators, is another guy who is vacillating between the rotation and the bullpen, and at age 22 is in show-me mode at Tri-City, with uncertain results. On the same night that Pina put up his 9 K performance in San Bernardino, Yan went one better up the coast, striking out 10 in a two-hit scoreless outing over six. And that’s certainly what you want to see!
Unfortunately, Yan followed up that strong performance with a messy Sunday night, walking three and giving up 7 hits and 5 ERs before getting pulled in the fourth inning in a contest against Spokane. Tri-City is the one Angels affiliate that lacks video coverage from MiLB.TV, so I can’t get a great read on what mechanical issues might be plaguing Yan, but the difference in outcomes against the same lineup five days apart is stark.
Izzy Wilson, AA Trash Pandas, .400/.500/.667, 4 runs, 6 RBIs
I addressed Wilson upstream in this article, but he kept hitting over this week’s six game series against Biloxi, and walked as much as he struck out, while only striking out three times over the stretch. He picked up another stolen bag and HR along the way.
Keep watching this kid – he wasn’t in the system last year.
A recent Fangraphs link list noted that the Angels have 23 fewer scouts than they did at this point in 2019, pre-pandemic. There’s been an 8% reduction in scouts overall in the league, with an average now of 58 scouts per team across the MLB. We’ve already heard that the Angels laid off their area scouts (important for geographic diversity in the MLB draft) in 2020 – it appears they haven’t built that force back. While the Angels and Mariners lead in the reduction in scouting with -23 apiece, the Pirates have added 17 scouts since 2018.
Keith Law and Bennett Ross of The Athletic analyzed whether drafted prospects are making it to the Majors more quickly than in previous years. The short answer is no, prep players are taking roughly the same time as they always have, and college players a touch longer. But the analysis produced an answer to a question I’ve had a rough answer for, but never an exact one: how long does the typical player take to make the MLB after drafting? Answer: “The median time for a college player taken in the top 20 picks from 2000 to 2018 to reach the majors was 810 days; for high school players, it was 1,458 days, so about two years difference.”
So 2 years 3 months for college guys, and 4 years for prep. Jo Adell and Trevor Rogers are currently the only prepsters from the 2017 draft to have reached the MLB at this point.
Meanwhile, Eno Sarris at the same publication gives an equivocal judgment on prospect projection systems. They’re great! They suck! Depending on the angle, both can be a little true.
Quick note on two recently promoted pitchers we’ve been tracking in High-A ball: Ryan Smith and Brent Killam. Smith was generally solid in this week’s appearance (2 ERs, 7 Ks over 6 IP), but a bit more hittable, with some iffy defense, both from him and behind him, leading to 4 runs overall. Killam saw improvement over his Week 6 outing with a one-hit (solo homer) performance over 5.2 IP, but he also walked 6 (and K’d 6), so was battling control issues (ie, “effectively wild”).
Still #1 and #3 on the farm Angels K leaderboard:
I didn’t want to tarry too long on the pitching meltdowns of the past week, beyond the mentions in the intro. But for the record:
Aaron Hernandez was absolutely destroyed (10 runs, 7 hits, 4 BBs over 2.1 IP).
John Swanda also had a miserable night on the West Coast, serving up 8 hits and 6 ERs over 4 innings.
Daniel Davis exited strangely after two innings (2 hits, 2 BBs, 1 ER), but has not been reported on the IL to date.
Jack Kochanowicz walked 6 and only struck out 2 over an inefficient 4.1 innings – 2 ERs on only one hit, but he struggled to find the zone in a short outing.
Hector Yan followed up a performance of the week with one of the real boners of the week (8 runs, 5 earned, getting pulled in the fifth.
Ai chihuahua, and thank the baseball fairies for the Pandas.
The “Pandancers” on the other hand:
Three wishes for Week 8: Jordyn Adams starts to hit again. Brandon Marsh reappears (and starts to hit again). Kyren Paris reappears (and starts to hit again). That wraps up Week 7. – Hugs, Turk.