Pre All-Star Break Angels Fan Mailbag

Angels Fans! Taylor Blake Ward is here to answer your questions regarding prospects, current strategy, trade pieces and other items. Follow along as he takes your questions from Twitter, and gives you answers excess of 140 characters.

"Any word on Brandon Marsh?" - @gizmosol; "Do you think Anthony Molina will sign?" - @kmacnd_1

This has been the hot button question since he was drafted, which is funny, because hardly any Angels fan knew who Brandon Marsh was prior to being drafted. Reports came out just a week after the draft, with a friend of Marsh saying he wouldn't sign. Somehow, the world started to fall apart according to the fans who knew nothing of the kid, and they began to explore. They continued to laugh at his commitment to Kennesaw State, which has a fine baseball program, yet fans took the social media to express their opinions of a smaller field and stands. They gawked at the thought of playing football instead of baseball. They pretty much jumped at everything to get Marsh to sign, but all with negative comments. Why would a player want to come and play for a fan base like that?

With all that, I still do expect Marsh to sign. Reports say there was a deal in place, which somehow fell through. Whether it was a problem with medical records, or a player and agent seeing others get bigger bonuses, or whatever other reason, the deal didn't happen as originated. On the other hand, you're talking about investing over a million dollars into an 18-year-old, and an 18-year-old gaining over a million dollars in his bank account. No teenager would deny that, especially when you're talking upwards of $1.1-1.2 million as a bonus.

The biggest problem for the Angels in signing Marsh is staying under their bonus pool. If Marsh doesn't sign, they lose $1.0733 million from their pool, which is already $9,100 over what they currently have to spend. They'll have to stay within $306 thousand to stay within 5% tax and not lose a pick next season. That would mean they have a total of $1.37 million to work with when it comes to Marsh and Molina. Any amount over $100 thousand with Molina would go towards that $1.37 million. Assumption is that it will take $250 thousand to get Molina, which would leave Marsh with $1.12 million, $46,700 over slot for Marsh. They should be able to get both.

"Hi Taylor, what's the scouting report on second base prospect, Jordan Zimmerman?" - @hallofan

Hi hallofan, I'll start with the bad first. He doesn't have a set position. They're testing him at second base, and so far, the results have been fine as he hasn't had an error in eight games. It's a small sample but for a guy who doesn't have a position, it's a start. Now, the good stuff. Zimmerman has an outstanding bat. He has a quick stroke, and has enough power potential to push him through the system as a hitter with ease. The power has shown, the contact has shown and some patience has shown. It's too soon to really assess him, but the reports are true so far in his short amount of time in Rookie Ball. I'd expect him to be playing in Burlington before the season ends.

"Any news on Grayson Long?" - @dochalo

There wasn't a prospect that had a rise to the top quite like Grayson Long to begin the year. In eight starts, Long held a 1.58 ERA and 1.075 WHIP, while striking out over 10 per nine innings. His arsenal is very similar to that of Chris Ellis, who was shipped over in the Andrelton Simmons trade, and is becoming a more familiar name among prospect hounds. Long pitched last on May 20th, and was put on the DL without any answer as to why. I had to do quite a bit of exploring, but did find out Long was placed on the DL with a minor shoulder strain. He is currently throwing but for a minor shoulder injury, he's been on the DL for quite awhile. Here's to hoping it's only that, and not something more serious.

"What's your thought on Cody Ramer?" - @brett_taranova

Before the draft, I knew Cody Ramer as a senior infielder at Arizona. Not much more. After watching him in the College World Series, I realized how valuable and important he was to the Wildcats. He hit leadoff, which was perfect, because he was an on-base machine. Getting him where they did in the draft (19th round) was ideal, and he'll be a guy that hits well in the low minors. How he adjusts against talent in High-A and above will be a telling sign as to whether he has a shot at being a Major League bench piece, but that would be his ceiling.

"When do you think the fire sale begins?" - @chriswaltershey; Who are we selling at the deadline?" - @TroutPls

Eppler has been open about not having a fire sale, which would mean Kole Calhoun, Matt Shoemaker and other higher end trade pieces will stick around through the season. This does include Mike Scioscia, who Eppler confirmed is not in jeopardy of losing his job at any point.

As for selling, there's a strong chance that Yunel Escobar and Joe Smith are moved. Below, I mention what Escobar could bring in trades, but not what Smith could. It's likely it'd be a prospect from a team that needs bullpen help drastically would give up - which could be an overpay in terms of the team ridding the prospect for immediate help in aiming for a championship. Huston Street is also a candidate to be traded, but the likelihood is less-and-less with the Angels need for a closer next season.

"What's a realistic package for Mike Trout? Say from the Dodgers, Red Sox, or Cubs?" - @msewell27

I went over this with a friend, Adam McInturff of Baseball Prospectus, recently, and we both agreed. There's no way it would happen. You'd have to trade a soon-to-be star, along with group of high-end prospect, which would involve Mookie Betts, Xander Boegarts, Corey Seager, or Kris Bryant, and that just won't happen. When you involve the prospects, you would take a farm system and deplete it strictly for Trout, which is another thing that won't happen. Another situation is the money involved. Everyone can assess how it could happen, but it just won't until Trout is near the end of his contract, and likely won't even happen then with Anaheim hoping to keep him around for 15-20 years.

"Could the Angels nab a top 20 prospect from the Mets or Giants in exchange for Yunel Escobar?" - @AaronTheLess

This question intrigued me, because Front Offices don't rank prospects by number. That comes down to opinions from analyst usually, and "top 20" or anything in the likes is just an assessment and title from analyst. With that, Yunel Escobar could bring a certain type of prospect (or prospects), to the mold. It's likely the Angels will search for an every day position player prospect, back-end starting pitching prospect, or high-ceiling reliever prospect, and take a pair of those.

When it comes to the Giants, who have rumored interest in Escobar, the names I continually hear are Andrew Suarez, Kyle Crick, and Ty Blach, all pitching prospects - all three are ranked in the top 22 by Suarez has the highest ceiling of the three, Crick is likely a reliever and Blach is a back-end starter in the future. You could package Blach with one of the other two with ease.

When it comes to the Mets, I won't act like I know more about their prospects than I actually do, which is limited. I don't get to see them much, so top 20 by is where I would start to look. The Mets have a high load of shortstops prospects, which is where the Angels don't necessarily have a hole to plug. That leaves the outfield and pitching which would likely mean any of the following; Wuilmer Becerra, Marcos Molina, Desmond Lindsay, Rober Gsellman or others.

"Is there anything I can get excited about in regards to this horrid Angels franchise?" - @Angels_Fan_Kyle

Mike Trout.

"I know you're old school and still have CD's in your car. What is currently playing in your car? - @Blake_Blackwater

Thanks for throwing me in the "out of date" category. I've actually moved over from CD's to an auxilary chord and do still enjoy listening to sports talk radio as odd as they may seem. "Pass The Jar" by Zac Brown Band and "Mr. Understood" by Eric Church are rotating their way through the CD player at the moment, but I've moved a little further away from the country albums as of recent.

One of the greatest songs ever written is "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan, and I heard a new version that blew me away. The band is Blakwall, who I'd never heard before, and I heard it in the trailer for the upcoming movie, "Hell or Highwater" with Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine, who are actors who I find very talented at their work. The version is insanely haunting, and very different from Guns'N'Roses cover, as well as Bob Dylan who is one of the best writers of the past century and also one of the worst vocalist over the same span. Cheers to Blakwall for going off the page and doing their version in a scarily good way.

"Will this be the team that loses 100 games?" - @jasoncroom76

The Angels are currently on place to lose 96 games, which would be the second worst team in franchise history over the course of a 162 game season. It's a pretty ugly situation for the Halos and their hopefuls. The team has been accustomed not only to winning, but winning the division under the Scioscia era. This is all new to a lot of people in Southern California - the Angels losing. With all that, it's unlikely they'll lose triple digit games. The team will win more games than what the record currently shows. It won't get to a point of chasing the division or getting in the wildcard chase, but it won't be anywhere near 100 losses. I still project them to win upwards of 70 games, which would still mean over 90 losses. They'll have to go 38-45 for that to happen, which means a .458 record the rest of the way, which is far enough below .500 to stay realistic. They could also do much better, and play .500 baseball the rest of the season, which is what the team was expected to do before all the injuries.

"How's next year's draft looking right now?" - @theDarrendude; "With a protected top 10 pick, could the Angels try and spend on free agents next year?" - @parant80

This was a common question, and the answer is simple - "really good." The Angels are in a spot where it seems they'll fall into the category of a protected pick in the top 10, and at the moment, are in a spot to hold a top five selection. Regardless, they'll get an outstanding prospect from next year's draft if they don't go on a record stretch and somehow make a run at a playoff spot.

There's a high load of prep talent in Southern California, college talent in the ACC and SEC, but no draft prospect really stands out from the rest. There's a top 20 in place at the moment, with more that will jump around draft boards throughout the year. Even Mickey Moniak, first overall pick this year, wasn't considered a top 10 prospect coming into the season by most draft analysis outlets

As for a high-end free agent signing, things get tricky. Of course, you don't lose your protected pick if you land in the top 10, but would begin to lose picks outside of that when trying to sign a player with a denied qualifying offer. That's to say players won't sign for the big money (upwards of $16-17 million) in qualifying offer money. The Angels also won't gain excess picks because they won't be making offers to those coming off the salary - Jered Weaver or C.J. Wilson. It will be another big off-season test for Billy Eppler and crew.

"Question. Why did the Angels not re-sign Albert Suarez?" - @SpencerTrygg

Always nice to hear from a former prospect, hello, Spencer. When it comes to minor leaguers like Suarez, things can get tricky. Suarez was signed as a minor league free agent, and it seemed the contract was only for one year, where he held a 2.98 ERA with 11 wins for the Angels' Double-A affiliate, Arkansas Travelers. Things would lean towards him being a large part of the pitching depth in the system.

At season's end, Suarez was granted his release, which would lead towards him opting out of his contract with the Angels. They had every chance to re-sign him in the same likes as every other team. The Giants were able to pick him up, which is just as tricky as any free agent signing who has multiple options.

Now, Suarez has a 3.83 ERA in 42.1 innings with the Giants at the Major League level, something the Angels could direly use. Suarez would have likely been one of the primary options for the Angels when Richards, Wilson and Heaney went down to start the year. They could use his arm, but it's too little too late, he chose a different route for his baseball career.

"How much do you buy into Eppler's comments?" - @KevinCJimenez

Let me start with this. Billy Eppler has not lied to the media. However, he is still a Major League Front Office member, and that grouping does have a tendency to push the truth at times. His comments regarding not rebuilding, or trading away key pieces, and aiming to contend next season for a championship may come off a little crazy, but I do believe Eppler believes in his comments. He has to.

The Angels are in a tough spot, and it leads to the top. Eppler's decision making has put the Angels in a better spot than they were already in, as you see guys like Jefry Marte, Rafael Ortega and Gregorio Petit having their impact with the big club due to depth built. You can also point to him not trading a starting pitcher at the beginning of the year, or gaining a second baseman to move Johnny Giavotella out of the way, both bold and now smart moves.

In short, Billy has kept his word, and there have been no signs to him leaning in the opposite direction of what he says. I do buy into Eppler's comments, and believe he'll do his best to keep his word in every scenario.

"Who do the Halos have a shot at on the international market? How's their DR facility and prospects doing?" - @SHeathcoat; "Who are the Angels hitting prospects to watch in the DSL?" - @zbaseballz

First off, I'd be lying if I said I knew much about the international market outside of the top un-signed prospects. With that said, the Angels won't be able to sign any international prospect for more than $300 thousand, which is probably not going to nab them a "top signing." This doesn't mean they won't find talent, as they've been able to attain prospects like Hector Yan and Yefry Santana over the last year. Another note is that Carlos Gomez, the International Scouting Director, has built a strong scouting staff on the international front who know the difference between raw athleticism and guys who can actually play.

As for the facility, I'm told it's one of the best in the Dominican, but haven't been myself. As for the prospects themselves, they've done exactly what others before them have - hitters get on base, pitchers throw strikes. The top prospect down there currently is Hector Yan, a 17-year-old, left-handed starter. Yan has yet to yield an earned run in five starts, and is looking at 23 innings with 23 strikeouts, 10 walks and a .169 opposing average.

In the hitting department, it's hard to read because I've only seen the ones who come up for instructs. That leads me to seeing repeatable numbers from year-to-year, which is hard because there's a new young crop with the DSL affiliate. Leonardo Rivas is the standout, who went from a utility player to a sure-fire shortstop. Last season, he held a .401 OBP and .776 OPS. This year, he's slashing .368/.507/.421, who has reached base in all of his 19 games this year. Johan Sala, who was a bigger signing has shown drastic improvements, seeing a .678 OPS. Angel Molina hasn't been as consistent as he was the past few seasons but the power is showing up. Kevin Arias was an off-season signing I was excited about and he hasn't disappointed, showing a .649 OPS and wildly aggressive style at the plate.

"How many holes are left to plug in regards to the farm? What still needs to be done?" - @AaronTheLess

The Angels were able to gain some nifty pieces in this most recent draft. Primarily, they gained raw athleticism throughout the entire draft. There are still plenty of holes though. Starting pitching depth doesn't go very far, and in the lower minors, the arms just aren't putting it together just yet. The one place they do not have a hole is at shortstop, with the likes of David Fletcher, Jake Yacinich, Nonie Williams, and a few others coming into the mold.

Aside from that, catching depth isn't too weak with pieces all throughout the system making names for themselves and proving their worth at the plate as well. Other than those two positions, the system could use help everywhere. Jahmai Jones and Matt Thaiss seem to be the only true position player prospects who will have a larger impact at the upper levels, and both are playing in Rookie Ball, a few years distant from the big club. Eppler and Ric Wilson improved the system with the most recent draft, but there's still a high load of holes all throughout the system.

"What do you make of Kaleb Cowart at this point? A defense first Major Leaguer? If he doesn't make it up this year does he ever?" - @Cptflashman; "If Yunel Escobar is traded away, will Jefry Marte or Kaleb Cowart be the everyday third baseman?" - @zrey321

Cowart still has a high load of potential. He only recently regained his bat and is still finding comfort in going back to his old swing, which will need time to get full value out of. You can notice he is having some trouble catching up with high-velocity fastballs, and his pitch recognition hasn't been stellar at the Major League level. This comes with his youth, as he's only 24-years-old, and is still developing his bat. He won't be the five-tool prospect everyone thought he could become, but he still has plenty of potential to be an average or better Major League third baseman.

When you look at the contrast of Cowart and Marte, you can lean in multiple directions. Marte has the better bat at the moment, and is only a year older than Cowart. However, Marte is not anywhere close to the defender that Cowart is. Marte has a high load of athleticism, and has been moved around the field to find a true position for him. Cowart is a sure lock at third base and could even be tested at second base or shortstop if needed, he's that good. If Cowart develops the bat more, it's not even up for debate that he'd be the every day third baseman, but if not, Cowart will stick in Triple-A through the year to continue getting his bat up to par.

"Can Trout win the MVP on this team? Is the MVP the best player on the best team?" - @Daniel_Wheatley

The reality is, Trout is the best player in the league and is the most valuable. The other reality is that his team is not doing well, which is part of the voting process. Trout would have to hit near 50 home runs and have the highest WAR in the league by a giant margin to be considered as a front-runner for the Most Valuable Player Award. With the likes of Manny Machado, Xander Boegarts and others doing well on winning teams this season, Trout may not even fall into the final three in voting. It's not that he's not deserving, but it's just the way the process works with voters.

"Who is the odd man out in the Angels rotation?" - @TroutPls

First off, here is the six-man rotation in no specific order; Jered Weaver, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Tim Lincecum, Jhoulys Chacin, Nick Tropeano. Of all those, the one with the lowest ERA is currently sitting in Triple-A (Tropeano). He won't be in the minors for long with the struggles of others at the big league club.

Matt Shoemaker is currently on a Cy-Young-esque streak, though the season numbers wouldn't recommend he's having the best year. Jered Weaver leads the club in quality starts. Tim Linceum came to the Angels primarily due to the chance to stay in the rotation, they won't move in out. Hector Santiago is the pitcher with the best chance to do something in the latter part of the season in any terms of "ace" like pitching.

If you can eliminate by process, Chacin is the one left. His 5.77 and climbing ERA would recommend that he's struggling getting through the order multiple times. This would make him the odd man out statistically, and visually when you watch him. He could be a very valuable arm for any team, so gaining the most out of him, whether it be the rotation or bullpen will be important. I.E., Chacin moves to bullpen and is odd man out.

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