The Burlington Bees held their annual "Meet the Bees" dinner at the Pzazz complex in Burlington Monday night. The get-together allowed fans to get their initial look at their 2015 club, as well as an opportunity for the players to meet their host families for the first time.
Burlington is beginning their third year as an Angels affiliate, and from all indications this could be the best talent they've had in that span. First-year manager Chad Tracy introduced the players and provided a little insight as to what to expect from them.
The pitching staff appears to be the strength of the team, particularly the starting rotation. Sean Newcomb, the Angels' first-round pick in 2014 and #2 overall prospect according to Baseball America, is scheduled to get the ball on Opening Night. Newcomb pitched well in his playoff start for the Bees last September and the big left-hander will anchor the starting staff in the first half of the season. Tracy indicated the #2 spot in the rotation will be a "piggyback" set-up for now, with Michael Bolaski (a converted infielder who played for Burlington in 2013) and Justin Anderson sharing duties. Jeremy Rhoades, the Angels' 4th-round pick in 2014, will be the number 3 starter. Keynan Middleton (3rd round- 2013, Angels' #30 prospect in BA) and Austin Robichaux (18th round- 2014) round out the rotation.
The bullpen will consist of right-handers Jake Jewell (5th round- 2014, Angels' #19 prospect in BA), Tyler Carpenter, Alex Klonowski, Ronnie Muck, Eduardo Paredes, and Jordan Piche (who pitched two seasons at Indian Hills Community College just 90 miles west of Burlington). The only lefty in the pen for now will be Jonah Wesely (11th round- 2013).
Erick Salcedo returns to Burlington for his second season. Tracy said Salcedo will play shortstop, second base, and third base at various times, and can also provide some speed and defense off the bench. The rest of the infield spent time together at Orem last year, with former Iowa Hawkeye Jake Yacinich playing SS, Andrew Daniel at 2B, Zach Houchins at 3B, and Fran Whitten and Ryan Seiz splitting the 1B/DH duties. Brandon Gildea and Wade Wass will handle the catching.
As for the outfield, Tracy noted that he has four versatile outfielders who can play multiple positions. Caleb Adams (Round 10- 2014), and Exicardo Cayones can play the corners, as does Natanael Delgado (Angels' #27 prospect in BA). Miguel Hermosillo is slated for the bulk of the center field action.
Tracy summed up his 2015 team as one that will pitch well and will depend on a lot of gap-to-gap power to score runs. He said his pitching staff "has a lot of high-profile arms who are hard-throwers and also have a lot of good movement on their pitches". But his biggest surprise is how well the team "played as a cohesive unit in spring training", something he attributes to 20 of the 24 guys on the roster playing together at short-season Orem last season.
The Bees will play Southeastern Community College (Burlington) in a scrimmage at Community Field Tuesday night. SCC is currently ranked in the top ten in the Division II Juco rankings and made the Junior College World Series last year, so they should provide them decent competition and a chance to get acclimated to their home surroundings for the upcoming season.
Dave Bohnenkamp is an affiliate correspondent for Scout.com, and can be found on Twitter, @PenaltyBoxBones. For extensive coverage of the Angels 2015 season, you can follow Dave, as well as @AngelsOnScout.