Since January 1st, 2015, we've been taking your questions through Twitter, Facebook, emails, forums, etc... Now, we're here to answer your questions with our Angels fan mailbox. Due to privacy manners, we won't give out any information from those that asked on Facebook or through email. InsideTheHalos.com Senior Publisher, Taylor Blake Ward, took control of this project and will be answering all of your questions. We'll stop boring you and just get on with the questions, but not without saying, "thanks" to all who sent in their questions.
"Last Angels player to hit a home run in the first at bat of the season, then win MVP, other than Mike Trout?" - @escobedo49
I love statistical questions and notes, so had to add this question to the list. Mike Trout was the first player to sport an Angels uniform to hit a home run in his first at bat of the season, and then go on to win the MVP that year. In 2011, Ryan Braun did the same thing, but had a pair of walks prior to actually attaining his first at bat. In 2009, Joe Mauer won the American League MVP, and hit a home run off Sidney Ponson on an 0-2 count in his first plate appearance of the season.
"What can the Athletics expect from R.J. Alvarez?" - (text from member of Oakland media)
Alvarez is a pretty rock solid reliever, but one that seems to be replaceable. He has a high 90's cutting fastball, that he throws with regularity, and has pretty good off-speed offerings as well. Alvarez has a little bit of elbow stress concerns due to his mechanics, but it shouldn't ale him too much. You can probably expect the Athletics to turn him into a wonder boy in the bullpen, like they do with so many others, and he could be a pretty nice tool in the seventh inning this next season.
"Do you think the Angels will target pitchers heavy again in this upcoming draft?" - @aldwinning
The draft is just so far away, this is hard to answer. They've moved up four slots in the draft, and the names just get better and better with each slot. If he's on the board, I saw the Angels taking D.J. Stewart, a first baseman from Florida State, who won ACC Player of the Year last season. With all the talent though, there isn't really a bad name to take in that first round, and become one of the top three prospects in the Angels farm system. My personal favorite prospect in this upcoming draft is Kolby Allard, but he'll more than likely go in the first five picks or so.
"Would you be up for another 16-inning game this year?" - @IrishCarBomb21
All writers will be set on Twitter making jokes beyond the 11th inning. For me personally, and probably more members of the media than they lead on, enjoy extra-inning games. In all honesty, if it goes beyond the 11th or 12th inning, I want something record breaking, like a 26-inning game. It's nearly a bonding experience for all of us media folk, until they stop serving coffee, and we all begin typing our stories with our noses because we fell asleep on them (joke). I saw the Mariners hat in your Twitter picture, and know which game you were referring to, and I remember enjoying driving home at around 2am that morning. My answer in short will be, "sure, why not?"
"Where will the Angels biggest weakness be at? Second, Third, or DH?" - @haloak5
First, we have to break down each position. At third base, David Freese will see most of the time. At worst, he's league average, which isn't all that rough. At second base, it'll be a battle between Grant Green, Josh Rutledge, Taylor Featherston and Johnny Giavotella. All four of them can backup Erick Aybar and Freese at their infield positions. Rutledge hasn't really shown that he can hit away from Coors Field, Featherston has yet to see Major League time, Grant Green is a run of the mill bench player, and Johnny Giavotella seems to be similar to Green. Matt Joyce and C.J. Cron can split time at DH, so I guess second base comes with the most questions and biggest question marks.
"Do you think the Angels will get one of Yoan Moncada, Yadier Ibanez, or Hector Olivera?" - @helloduwag28
I don't believe so. Moncada should be signing in the next few days and seems to be out of the price range for the Angels despite the upside he comes with. As for Olivera, the Angels haven't really expressed that much interest, and same goes for Ibanez. If the Angels want to go after a Cuban-born prospect right now, I'd say "settling" for Roberto Baldoquin isn't all too shabby.
"What kind of season do you think Kaleb Cowart will need in AA for him to continue as a third baseman? Something like a .250/.325/.400 slash?" - @gizmosol
Cowart is on a make-or-break year, and if he's sent to the Texas League, statistics take a fall for environmental reasons. The slash you mentioned is actually pretty decent in the Texas League, and would be a big mark for Cowart. Scouts will have more say on whether he should stay a third baseman, or move to the mound, but numbers don't hurt. When it comes to statistics for a 23-year-old in a pitcher friendly, Double-A League, I would say a .250 average and .750 OPS would be something you can't shake off, and keep him as a third baseman.
"Will the Angels make a late push to get James Shields? If not where do you think he ends up?" - @TwoMuchTuna
I kept this question for a few reasons. James Shields went to the Padres, so no, the Angels won't make a late push. However, I never heard from my sources that the Angels were making strong pushes for Shields over the off-season. Obviously, they called, kept tabs, and were interested, but it just didn't seem to be enough to spend the money needed and go over that luxury tax. For me personally, I thought James Shield would land with the Dodgers, instead of just down the I-5 in beautiful San Diego.
"Do the Angels have concerns with Josh Hamilton's wife starring in Real Housewives of Orange County?" - @aldo_nova_fan
I've never watched the show, so I have no idea what takes place, or if the husbands make appearances, or really anything about it. Also, it's not my place to say anything about a player's wife or family in general. As for the Angels concerns, all I can say is that Front Office members don't like social media or things like reality TV, so I'm sure they're not "stoked" about it, but I doubt they care all too much.
"Favorite and least favorite moves of the off-season?" - @Kolesfavfan
When it comes to my favorite, I'd have to say the Hank Conger to Houston for Nick Tropeano and Carlos Perez is the standout. You pick up a near MLB ready backup catcher and back end rotation guy, when it seemed Hank Conger's time with the Angels was up. Always have to wish Conger well because he was such a great guy, but the trade just made all sorts of sense in my opinion. The Roberto Baldoqiin signing goes up there in my book as well. Adding international talent, and prepping for 2017 at shortstop when Erick Aybar is on his way out is a big transaction for the Angels.
As for least favorite, I didn't really like the Tampa trades. Mark Sappington was a guy I saw really excelling at the back end of the bullpen, and possibly taking over a closer role. Nothing against Cesar Ramos, but a loogy for a future closer just isn't golden in my book. Also, the Matt Joyce for Kevin Jepsen trade was kind of an odd one for me. Jepsen was coming off the best year in his career, and Joyce is just an average fill DH from the left-side of the plate. Both trades definitely made sense, and I wouldn't say the Angels came out losers in either, but I personally wasn't a big fan of either trade. Right behind these were the Drew Butera trade for Matt Long and Josh Rutledge from Colorado for Jairo "103" Diaz.
"Do you expect to see Mike Trout produce MVP stats again this year?" - @JSantange
Is water wet? Sorry. Mike Trout never ceases to amaze me, and he's honestly only going to get better for awhile. MVP is hard to predict since there is so much talent in the Majors right now, but for the moment, he's the best player in baseball, and my current pick for MVP this upcoming season. If he cuts down the strikeouts and knocks a few of those missed balls, you can see the home run count raise at least five or so. Simply, yes, I do see Mike Trout putting up MVP like statistics.
"Which version of Josh Hamilton are we getting? - About four to five separate parties
It all depends on how healthy he really is. The surgery he just had that made his Opening Day return a question mark brings up concerns. However, he says he's capable of batting .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI, and I don't see any problem with him taking that mentality into this season. He's confident, and he should be healthy, which hasn't happened in awhile. Personally, I expect Hamilton to be in the .270-.280 average range with a nearly .800 OPS, helped by around 25 home runs. If he's batting cleanup this season, why not see 100 RBI from him, bringing Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols home constantly. Statistics bring him down, and the whole sabermetric thing makes it worse, but I think Hamilton is still very valuable in the early to middle part of the lineup. His season relies on his health, which seems to be on the uphill climb, which should result in a grand season.
"Now that Jered Weaver is buff, what can we expect?" - @escobedo49
Well, with Weaver's velocity down last year, a lot questioned if age had finally caught up with him. It has, but not to the extent you assume. Late last year, he said he felt better than he had in four to five years. It showed on the field, as he put together "ace" like performances again. If added muscle means added velocity, and he's back in the 89-91 MPH range again, it can only be a good thing for him.
"Have we found C.J. Wilson's replacement?" - @JeffMembreno
I think there is a small overreaction to Wilson's struggles at the end of last season. The struggles really jumped off the page because of the scenario he was in, and how he pitched with an injury. You have to remember, he was the best starter for the Angels for nearly a year, posting a 3.09 ERA, .232 opposing average and .645 opposing OPS between June 1st, 2013 to June 1st, 2014. He also pitched 220.2 innings over 33 games over the span, an average of 6.2 per game. I think Wilson is still an adequate man in the rotation, but not necessarily the ace or #2 man that he was. As for a replacement, the Angels have pretty nice depth at starting pitcher right now, so he is replaceable, if he struggles the way he did last year.
"Why is Jose Suarez a top prospect if he won't play in the Majors this decade?" - @CalderonEder
Great question that we have to take a gander at. Suarez is a 16-year-old, left-handed pitcher that the Angels signed this last season, who comes equipped with a high 80's fastball, hard breaking curve, and well developed changeup. The ceiling is the standout when it comes to him, and really brings the higher prospect rankings. We understand the concern of him probably not pitching until 2020, but you have to look at the tools and projection he has, and not be astonished enough to say he's a top prospects in the Angels system, which is relatively weak.
"Surpise breakout prospects for 2015 season?" - Facebook
There are roughly 350 prospects in the Angels farm system, so finding just a few to be standouts are rough. I'll give you five to take a long gander at; Miguel Hermosillo, Jake Yacinish, Greg Mahle, Angel Rosa, and Austin Adams. Last year was the first year in Hermosillo's career that baseball was the only focus, and his natural athleticism is just too much to not take notice. Yacinich was drafted high and may be one of the better shortstop prospects the Angels have. His season ended early last year with a foot injury, and once he's fully healthy, everyone will see what he's capable of. Greg Mahle is a loogy in the making, and could help the big club next year in the bullpen. Angel Rosa is just so quietly good, from his strong glove, to nice power from the middle infield, and is just a guy I like to watch. Austin Adams has the best slider in minor league baseball. He needs to get some control and command taken care of, but he's on the verge of becoming a top 20 prospect and will be in a nice, pitcher friendly league next year.
"Opinions on Kyle Kubitza/Ricardo Sanchez trade?" - Facebook
I like it. Ricardo Sanchez was definitely living large as a teenager who was throwing 97 from the left-side of the mound. However, the depth added with Kubitza is too large to not be happy about. He can take over David Freese's spot at the end of next season, and become an every day third baseman for the Angels soon. Also, don't forget about Nate Hyatt. The kid has an upside, throwing in the high 90's with a nice off-speed pitch. If he even sees Major League time, and can help the Angels for a hand full of outings, I consider it a win for the Angels.
"Any update on Hunter Green?" - @FreeThinkingFan
Yes. He had a back injury that took this entire past season from him. According to sources, he's healed up and should be 100% healthy coming into this next season. More than likely, he'll be in Rookie Ball for 2015. Really awesome kid, with an even better family, and loads of promise.
"Are there any current MLB player comparisons to Roberto Baldoquin" - @helloduwag26
I think Brandon Crawford of the San Francisco Giants is a nice comparison. You could also put Jed Lowrie up there in the comparable names. He has All-Star potential, but not Hall of Fame kind of guy by any means. I think he'll have a lengthy career of playing more than solid defense, have a bat that keeps us media folk away from his locker saying "slump," and will get on base a nice amount. I don't like comparing players because each one is his own player, but if I have to, Brandon Crawford is the guy that comes to mind.
"Three questions. Does Nick Tropeano have a chance to break camp with the Halos? Do you think he can stay in the rotation and not the bullpen? Can you elaborate on his one pitch strikeout? - @gizmosol
I actually answered your Cowart question above, so make that four questions, you cheater! Just kidding, Steve. First off, I thought Tropeano had a shot at the #5 rotation role before Garrett Richards' progress picked up and the Angels acquired Andrew Heaney. Right now, I'm going to say no, but he's close. He's definitely a starter and not a reliever. Also, on the one pitch strikeout, it came against Vinnie Catricala. Catricala actually hit a home run off Tropeano earlier in the game, but in his third at bat, took a first pitch strike he didn't agree with. He stepped out of the box, the umpire pointed back at the box, Catricala didn't step in for over four seconds and had a strike given to his count. He didn't step in after another five seconds, and he was rung up on strike three. Under MLB Rule 6.02 : "If the batter refuses to take his position in the batter’s box during his time at bat, the umpire shall call a strike on the batter. The ball is dead, and no runners may advance. After the penalty, the batter may take his proper position and the regular ball and strike count shall continue. If the batter does not take his proper position before three strikes have been called, the batter shall be declared out... Comment: The umpire shall give the batter a reasonable opportunity to take his proper position in the batter’s box after the umpire has called a strike pursuant to Rule 6.02(c) and before the umpire calls a successive strike pursuant to Rule 6.02." Thus, Catricala was called out by way of the "K" and Tropeano earned the strikeout.
For more updates on the Los Angeles Angels, their prospects, and our Top 100 Prospects Countdown, follow us on Twitter, @AngelsOnScout.
Taylor Blake Ward is a Senior Publisher for InsideTheHalos.com, and can be found on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.