The youth movement has arrived. It’s all anyone can write about at the moment, because in the absence of the heart of the MLB lineup, in the absence of postseason contention, it’s the one theme that has stepped into view to give fans any sense of novelty or future promise.
Week 13 in farm baseball was marked by aggressive promotions, to both higher levels of minor league competition and the MLB, as well as the integration of much of the big wave of Non-Drafted Free Agents brought in last month in the wake of the 2021 MLB Draft.
Week 13 Standings
Salt Lake Bees: Last week: 2-6 / Season record: 36-42
Rocket City Trash Pandas: Last week: 3-4 / Season record: 37-39
Tri-City Dust Devils: Last week: 3-5 / Season record: 31-48
Inland Empire 66ers: Last week: 1-6 / Season record: 39-39
Arizona Complex League Angels: Last week: 5-3 / Season record: 15-10
Dominican Summer League Angels: Last week: 3-4 / Season record: 6-10
It was a lackluster week for the primary levels of the system last week, with a tremendous amount of roster churn, as key players were called up to the MLB club, some struggling players were cut, and the new NDFAs trickled into Inland Empire, Tri-City, and in a couple cases, Rocket City in the east.
More new players were introduced via machinations at the trade deadline. The AA Trash Pandas saw the arrival of three new pitchers, products of trades of Andrew Heaney to the New York Yankees, and Tony Watson to the San Francisco Giants. These prospects included right-handed starting pitcher Janson Junk (and testament to that kid’s willpower and mental makeup that he could make it to AA carrying that name!), RHRP Jose Marte, and RHRP Elvis Peguero.
Peguero had a tough entry into the AA South, struggling in a 36 pitch three run third inning where he gave up three singles, a HR, a HBP, a walk, and allowed a steal. New team jitters? Well, Marte had a softer landing, putting up two scoreless outings with one hit between them.
Like the Pandas, the Tri-City Dust Devils were the beneficiaries of the Tony Watson trade to SF, receiving young RHRP Ivan Armstrong in return. Armstrong, a hulking figure at 6’5″ and 250 lbs, delivered 1.2 IP of scoreless relief in his first appearance in the High-A West.
Last week also saw the pop-up returns of two notable middle infield prospects, one from the shadowy Eppler-era past, and another a recent draftee who was setting the Low-A West ablaze before an ill-timed fibula fracture slowed his roll. The latter, Kyren Paris, joined the ACL Angels for a rehab assignment, and has resumed where he left off, hitting .357/.400/.571 across five outings, with two stolen bases and a HR to his credit. The greater surprise is the re-emergence of Kevin Maitan, now in High-A ball, but with a less inspiring .250/.250/.300 slash in the early going there.
Promotions (and Releases) of the Week
- Reid Detmers, LHP: AAA –> MLB
- Chris Rodriguez, RHP: AAA –> MLB
- Packy Naughton, LHP: AAA –> MLB
- Austin Warren, RHRP: AAA –> MLB
- Jaime Barria, RHP: AAA –> MLB
- Jo Adell, OF: AAA –> MLB
- Kean Wong, IF: AAA –> MLB
That’s almost a full rotation there between Detmers, Rodriguez, Naughton and Barria. Add Suarez and Sandoval, and you have a six pack of arms all 25 or younger. In fact, Naughton, the greenest of them all, is the only pitcher aged 25 in the bunch.
All six were in the system pre-Minasian (two Dipoto acquisitions, four Eppler acquisitions), all six cost the league-minimum, and voila, that’s the benefit of homebrew drafting, development and trading into the farm pipeline.
- Cooper Criswell, RHP: AA –> AAA
- Dalton Pompey, OF: AA –> AAA
- Olivier Ortega, RHRP: AA –> AAA
All of these are a bit surprising. Ortega, while having blistering velocity and closer stuff, has struggled badly with both control and command at Rocket City, so this is a very aggressive promotion.
Pompey, a 28 year-old MiLB journeyman, may follow the model of Gavin Cecchini, a minor league free agent who was fairly mediocre at the AA level, but who has picked it up since promotion to AAA (and is fairly carrying the Bees’ offense at this point).
Criswell will be the most interesting to follow here. A AA performer this season, featured in several of these reports, Criswell is getting a bit of a sink-or-swim promotion here, testing his control-oriented approach in the thin atmospheres of the AAA West. Criswell is less of a groundballer than one might expect from a low-velo 6’6″ righty who has made it this far, so it’ll be a challenge to keep the ball in the park for him in this league. Seems like a final trial before they test him in middle relief scenarios at the MLB level.
- Ryan Smith, LHP: A+ –> AA
- Jack Dashwood, LHRP: A+ –> AA
- Matthias Dietz , RHRP: A+ –> AA
Ryan Smith gets a new challenge, and contributes to a new-look Trash Pandas rotation, which includes the recently promoted Cristopher Molina, and recently-converted Jhonathan Diaz (more below!).
- Kevin Maitan, MI: ACL Angels –> A+
- Dakota Donovan, RHRP: A –> A+
Amazing to think that Maitan is still only 21 years old, and will be throughout the duration of the season.
- Zac Ryan, RHRP, Salt Lake (Drafted 2017)
- Ibandel Isabel, 1b, Rocket City (MiLB free agent)
- Ryan Clark, RHRP, Rocket City (MiLB free agent)
- Spencer Griffin, OF, Tri-City (Drafted 2017)
- Drevian Williams-Nelson, OF, Tri-City (Drafted 2018)
- Ty Greene, C, Tri-City (MiLB free agent, signed 2020)
- Caleb Scires, OF, Inland Empire (Drafted 2017)
- Spencer Brown, 1b, Inland Empire (Drafted 2019)
Given roster caps, with additions come subtractions. And the Angels collectively had more subtractions than any other clubs in the past two weeks per the MiLB transaction logs. Fair number of late-rounders from the 2017-2019 draft classes above (and there have been quite a few releases prior to this in the past year). Most of these guys were struggling.
The only release I have some misgivings about here is Caleb Scires, a 22-year-old lefty outfielder who has show some decent power and speed in his short professional career.
Across 443 PAs, he has 15 HRs, 20 doubles, 13 steals, and a .771 OPS. A JuCo draftee, it seems there’s still some juice and runway in the kid – I wouldn’t be surprised to see him catch on elsewhere, unless this was a personal decision to leave the sport.
Prospect of the Week
Jhonathan Diaz, LHP, AA Trash Pandas: 9 IP, 7 Ks, 0 BBs, 6 hits, 2 ERs, 93 pitches
Jhonathan Diaz, former reliever, former swingman, current starter, took on the league leading Birmingham Barons (CWS affiliate) and shoved them singlehandedly into the loss column. Diaz has been a strikeout artist of late, with 27 over his past three outings (18 IP), but this week he pitched more to contact, was highly pitch-efficient, and tackled nine innings in 93 pitches flat.
It’s notable that Diaz is part of the crop of minor league free agents the Angels have been stockpiling over the past couple of seasons:
He’s also representative of the trend in the Angels system of smaller-statured lefty pitchers ascending rapidly through the system. Ryan Smith is an example of this, having laddered up three levels in 13 short weeks, and joining Diaz in the Trash Pandas rotation. We’ll see if both Diaz and Smith can continue their success through the final two months of the season.
Jhonathan Diaz definitely has the swagger for it:
With Anthony Rendon on the shelf for the rest of the season (and who knows how much longer), there’s not a deep third base depth chart to replace him at the upper levels of the farm. One exception might be Brendon Davis, the Rule 5 Draft acquisition whom we took note of in last week’s farm report.
Davis just keeps hitting, with 19 HRs through 75 games this season, and a fine .295/.380/.659 at the AA level. He’s played every position but catcher and CF over the past two seasons, and while his defense at the hot corner is more serviceable than good, he’s played the most at third base. Given the lack of depth there, Brendon Davis is playing himself into the picture, and may be someone worthy of a 40-man spot come this offseason.
Another non-draftee in the Angels system who continues to rake is Michael Stefanic.
Like Davis, the 25 year-old Stefanic comes with the super-ute positional flexibility the Angels covet in their players. Stefanic hit .374/.436/.516 in July, very good even for the AAA West, and looks good for a September call-up when the rosters expand, at minimum.
We’ll cover the progress of the NDFAs (non-drafted free agents) in next week’s farm report, but two early names to mentally dog-ear both arrive from the same university program, the Oregon Ducks (and coincidentally near where your author is hanging for summer vacation this week): Kenyon Yovan and Gabe Matthews.
Yovan was assigned to the Tri-City Dust Devils, where he’s hitting .300/.440/.600 across his first six games.
Matthews was placed in Inland Empire with the 66ers, and if his .471/.591/1.059 line is any indication, he may be reassigned to join his fellow duckling in the High-A West soon enough.
The conversation continues around the squalid conditions of minor league players in the era of MLB consolidation and owner factory-farmism. The Athletic has a long-form piece on the subject well worth your time this afternoon.
That’s a wrap for week 13. Sorry for the delay in getting this one out this week! I’m relaxing with the family on the Willamette River at my mother’s new floating abode, where the wifi comes and goes. – Hugs, Turk