Angels Fan Mailbag, September

Angels Fan Mailbag, September. The pain is almost over.

Here it is Angels' fans. The final mailbag of the regular season. Obviously, things didn't go as expected for the 2016 campaign, and it will be a busy off-season with a high load of questions to be answered. Hopefully, one of your questions is answered below. Enjoy - TBW.

"Do you think Alex Meyer will get a chance as a starter, reliever, or both?" - Kyle (@Angels_Fan_Kyle)

- There is one thing you must do to be a starter at the Major League level, and that is be able to throw strikes consistently. The average strike percentage for a Major Leaguer is roughly 62%. In Meyer's small sample size with the Angels, he's at 58%, but in the minors threw right around 61-62%. The worrisome item here is that he throws his fastball for strikes at 56.7%.

Another item in being a starter is being able to throw your changeup for strikes, helping your fastball. Meyer throws his changeup for strikes 59.2% of the time, and the separation in velocity from his fastball is only an average of 5.5 MPH, per FanGraphs.

Those two things alone would suggest that Meyer would not be a starter, but the Angels are in dire need for him to be that. It's been a very small sample size, but Meyer has shown improvements in each game. Spring Training will be a big month for Meyer and the Angels, but he'll be a starter for the time being if not just for necessity.

"Can you explain how a player can be signed by an MLB club and still be playing college football?" - Kyle S. Parant (@parant80)

- This is in reference to Torii Hunter Jr., who the Angels drafted and signed this last June. He did sign with the Angels, but did not play in the minors at any point this summer, and instead went to camp and is playing with Notre Dame football where he is one of the primary receivers. From what I've been told my football analyst, Hunter does have a small chance, but a chance, to be drafted by an NFL team.

When drafted, Hunter was told he could play football for his senior season with the Fighting Irish. I did ask about if he'd have to forfeit his signing bonus, which was under $100 thousand if drafted by an NFL team, and no one could give me an answer. From the sounds of it, Hunter will join the Angels minor leaguers during Spring Training as an athletic outfielder, who will really be used for his speed. If he is offered the opportunity to join a professional football team, sources believe he'll opt for that route, but it'd have to be in the NFL with a guarantee out of camp. This is opposed to a chance in the Canadian Football League, European Football or Arena Football.

"Any news on Nick Tropeano? Last I heard he was going to undergo Tommy John surgery but never saw a report on him having it." - Baseball Life (@zbaseballs)

- Recently, NiTro has been roaming the Angels' clubhouse and has actually been given a locker with his jersey draped on a hanger. Some teammates made jest, asking if he could throw with his left arm. He's constantly wearing an elbow brace, but is in good spirits being in the company of his teammates.

He's been seeing one of the best elbow-expert oriented doctors in the country, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, for regular check ups. I asked him about his off-season, and he said he'll be hanging around the Los Angeles area with the team's Physical Therapist, Bernard Li. Sounds like he'll have a pretty standard rehab process, and will be around from time-to-time. And hey, being in Southern California for winter as opposed to New York seems pretty decent.

"Who's your American League MVP?" - Kevin Jimenez (@KevinCJimenez)

- I've been doing my best to avoid this question for quite awhile. Suppose now is as good a time as any. Regardless of where you stand when it comes to analytics or traditional statistics, Mike Trout has been the best in baseball. When you look at the overall slash line, Mike Trout is the one of three players in the top 10 across all of baseball in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. The others are Daniel Murphy, who's in the National League, and David Ortiz. When you look at WAR from the two primary outlets - Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs - Trout leads all of AL players in each by over one-win. Based on stats alone, he's the best player in the American League.

The real controversy is whether Trout has been the most valuable to him team, since the Angels have been so poor in the standings. This isn't really news to anyone. There will be 30 MVP voters, all of which that have a different opinion from the other on what "value" actually is. The question however is portayed to my very own opinion. If someone such as Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson or Jose Altuve were having a season even remotely close to what Trout is having, it would be more challenging, but it's really not based on my opinion.

Mike Trout would be my Most Valuable Player in the American League.

Just as a bonus, Kris Bryant would be my NL MVP; Cy Young's would be Chris Sale and Kyle Hendricks; Tyler Naquin and Corey Seager would be my Rookies of the Year.

"With Johnny Giavotella being sent home instead of being called up, what are the chances he is traded in the off-season?" - Sean Cronkite (@CronkiteSean); "What do you think the chances are that Johnny Giavotella is playing in the Majors next year, for any team?" - D (@aldo_nova_fan)

- To start things off, the value of Giavotella is pretty minimal. Yes, he is a spark plug that we all enjoy watching. There's a lot of excitement, and that's fun, and that's why fans seem to love him. As for him being a player, he's only around average at best. He is pretty limited in his abilities outside of playing second base and he doesn't possess much power or on-base abilities. He still can become more versatile and can still produce as a hitter, so I do expect him to play in the Majors for someone next season (answer to second question).

As for if he'll be traded, it's unlikely. As I stated above, he's only an average at-best player, and by analytical standard, he's only right above replacement level status. Think back to the player the Angels acquired him for. Brian Broderick, a reliever who got 12 innings in the Majors. He was signed because he was hitting triple digits in winter ball, and then was traded. He hasn't pitched in a year. That is likely the kind of return the Angels would get for Giavotella - an odd project. The Angels would likely rather keep him and try and make him more versatile in the long run.

"We haven't seen much of him, but do you think Andrew Bailey makes the team next year?" - TommyJohnAngels (@CANTHITWRISP)

- Bailey came out of the gate firing with the Angels. He retired 15 of the first 17 hitters he faced, pretty good. You have to remember though, this is after having a 6.40 ERA with the Reds and was released just weeks prior to signing.

The former Rookie of the Year will be a free agent at season's end, so if the Angels do want him, they'll have to re-sign him. He held a 5.42 ERA over the last four years, missing one entirely due to injuries. There must be some form of interest though as Bailey was a part of the Yankees in 2015, Billy Eppler's former employer. He seems to be giving him a shot, and if there's interest, the Angels may be one of very few teams to actually offer Bailey an opportunity for 2017.

"With the Angels stockpiling cast-off starters for next year, if Jered Weaver doesn't retire, do the Angels bring him back for less?" - Sean Cronkite (@CronkiteSean); "Is there a chance Jered Weaver wears an Angels uniform next year?" - Raiders (1-1) (@OvOAdamm); Any chance Angels sign Jered Weaver for 2017?" - Scott Mueller (@mueller_stmm)

- Obviously this is a common thread among Angels' fans, as shows with the three questions added to this mailbag. I've actually answered this question twice in mailbags prior, but the answer has changed over the course of the season. So with that, I'll revert back to the key points of what I said in the last mailbag.

- He has the third lowest ERA among qualified pitchers in baseball.

- His average fastball velocity is lowest in the league, and at one point, was the lowest average fastball velo since 2012.

- He's one of the greatest competitors I have ever seen.

- He's noted that he's considered retirement if he feels he's hurting the team's chance of winning.

With that, it would recommend that he would not be returning, and would likely not be getting a job from anyone next season. However, this is Jered Weaver. It's not even an argument that he is one of the best pitchers in Angels' franchise history. The longevity of his career with one franchise would suggest that he's "owed" the opportunity to return. The argument then becomes if the new Front Office agrees, and what he'd be worth when it comes to spending. Based on suggestions from WAR values and items such as this, Weaver is right around replacement level which would suggest slightly above Major League minimum, which wouldn't really be enough to lure Weaver away from being finished. He has the desire to pitch, there's no denying that, but with him starting a family with his wife, the money would have to come in for him to leave them on a regular basis during the eight month season.

I don't believe anyone will be given an actual answer to this until it happens, or doesn't happen. The off-season may be a long one for Weaver's camp, and he'll likely have to show he's stlil valuable. He's noted that his goal is to be more flexible to increase his stamina and arm strength. He's going to take better care of his body, and most importantly - he's doing everything the ANGELS want him to do this off-season.

That last sentence had something capitalized, if you didn't notice. If you didn't, I'll repeat - HE'S DOING EVERYTHING THE *ANGELS* WANT HIM TO DO THIS OFF-SEASON. That would suggest there is at least some sort of plan between Weaver and the Angels moving forward as to what the future may have in store. There's things against him coming back and there's things suggesting he will be back. Again, it seems no one will know what is to happen for Weaver and the Angels until it actually happens.

"Do you see Erik Manoah as a bullpen piece or back end starter?" - Joshua Zoepfel (@jzoepfel)

- For starters, I have not seen Manoah first-hand, and only have scouting reports based off of colleagues who have. From what they've told me, they like his fastball and curve combination, but no one even spoke of his changeup which is very necessary to remain a starter in the long haul. That would suggest a bullpen role, but he's done nothing but start in the minors, so he'll at least he tested out through that route. He's still young, 20, and has a lot of development left before a decision is made on his actual future role.

"Do you think the Angels make any significant moves in free agency?" - Adam (@TroutPls); "Who should the Angels target in free agency and what are some trade candidates to pursue?" - Zack Niners (@FeeLTHeByRNe714); "Will the Angels spend to improve this off-season?" - Rick Anderson (@rickandrsonoc)

- Let's start out with what the Angels will be able to spend. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are both coming off the books and open the most amount of available cash flow to spend. The trades of Fernando Salas, Daniel Nava and Joe Smith opened up around $2-3 million. All-in-all, the Angels will have around $40+ mllion coming off the books, and after additional salaries through arbitration and other manners, they will have roughly $25-30 million in allowance before going over the luxury tax.

I've listed below options, without going into too much detail because that would take up an entire article. Once again, all players listed below are *options* and not *expectations,* so don't look into too much detail about what's written.

LEFT FIELD - What seems to be the common tendency for the Angels new acquisitions is players who have speed, defense and a low strikeout rate. They've openly expressed that Austin Jackson was one of their targets last season, and there was an attempt to acquire Michael Saunders from Toronto. Two of the most challenging outfielders to strike out are on the market in Angel Pagan and Carlos Beltran, who Eppler has ties to from New York. You could implore the speed and defense of former Angels' outfielder, Peter Bourjos, or Rajai Davis. The common thread among these players is that they won't cost an arm and a leg to sign, but they will desire a nice paycheck near the end of the season, upwards of $10 million a year.

STARTING PITCHER - As for starting pitching, it's a weak class, so even mediocre starters will be looking for more than regular. Ivan Nova would be ideal, and does have ties to Eppler from New York. Another intriguing name is Doug Fister, but he may be out of the price range. It's more likely the Angels will go for a back of rotation arm to eat innings, while hoping that Alex Meyer and Nate Smith pan out sometime during the season. Possibly a pitcher like Bud Norris, Colby Lewis or Jeremy Guthrie.

"Do you think the Angels could try and make, at least, a minor upgrade at catcher? Or heck, maybe Wilson Ramos?" - Chase Kimura (@NukkaChez)

- As stated above, the Angels won't have a lot of money to work with without going over the luxury tax. That gives them limited space to improve in positions, and catching is not the primary spot for a fixation. The organization has always believed in defense first catchers, and seemed to have found a fine balance of offense and defense in Jett Bandy. Carlos Perez makes for a fine backup catcher, so what is really being asked is if you can improve from him.

The only serious improvements on offense would be Wilson Ramos and Jonathan Lucroy, who would be far out of their spending limit (answer to the second part of the question). That leaves you with these options; Matt Wieters, Jason Castro, Dioner Navarro, Nick Hundley, Geovany Soto, Alex Avila, David Ross, Jeff Mathis, Drew Butera, Rene Rivera, Josh Thole, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. It's really at the discretion of the Angels Front Office as to whether any of those guys would be improvements and valuable enough to store a backup catcher, with the answer likely being - no.

"Guess the Angels' 2017 starting rotation." - Darren (@theDarrendude)

- Kershaw, Sale, Archer, Kluber, Scherzer. Well hey, you said guess... Okay, sorry.

There are only two actual guarantees for the Angels 2017 rotation - Tyler Skaggs and Ricky Nolasco. Matt Shoemaker is expected to make a full recovery from his skull fracture by Spring Training, but when someone is struck in the head with a hard object traveling at 105 miles-per-hour, you have to give them as much time as necessary. Alex Meyer seems to be healthy, and will compete for a spot in the rotation during Spring Training (see questions above about his future).

As for the rest. Garrett Richards is still not out of the woods yet from his ulnar collateral tear and stem-cell therapy. There should be an answer to if he'll pitch in 2017 within a month or two. Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano will be recovering from Tommy John surgery.

What's left in the Angels starting pitcher depth is Brett Oberholtzer, Daniel Wright, and top pitching prospect, Nate Smith. If you really want to dig, you can look at prospect Kyle McGowin, but it seems he's still in a strong need of development.

There's a chance that Jered Weaver or Jhoulys Chacin are brought back. C.J. Wilson and Tim Lincecum are both very unlikely to return to Anaheim. Long story short, there's still a few holes. I expect the Angels to pick up at least one back end starting pitcher from free agency, along with some arms to fill the depth chart.

Best guess: Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, Ricky Nolasco, and some form of Alex Meyer, Nate Smith, or a free agent.

"Is flexibility something that Billy Eppler is imputing into the organization?" - Erik Alejandro (@DJERA)

- When covering the 66ers earlier this season, I noticed something. The weight room is between the coaches office and clubhouse, and you have to pass by to get to either. I rarely ever look over to the weight room other than to nod, or say hello to Sergio Rojas, because honestly, who ever actually watches someone workout? One time, I did notice something peculiar though. A few of the players were doing yoga.

Now, I doubt that yoga is something being brought into the system, but it's very obvious that flexibility is something being imputed. Recently, I wrote about Alex Meyer trying to become more flexible, and Jered Weaver has noted that his key focus this off-season is to be more flexible. It's something that may not be at the forefront of attention, but it's definitely going to be something brought into the system to a higher extent.

"Any sign of Mike Scioscia getting fired?" - Deplorable Industry! (@_RightW1ng902I0); In your opinion from what you have seen this season, does Scioscia have the players on board with his vision? - John H (@JohnHollands65)

- The Angels are on the verge of having the worst season in the Mike Scioscia era. Just two losses over the final nine games would put them in a tie with 75 wins total. The difference in this year and that year, 2001, is that the Angels won the World Series the following year with a group of grinding players who fit the style of Scioscia's managing style. The group currently is showing signs of that mold, but it's not enough talent to make the Angels look like a playoff team this next season. However, Billy Eppler has said that Scioscia's job is safe for the next season, and through his first year, he has yet to say something distrusting to the media.

As for the players themselves, they seem to support their manager. Though no player will openly speak poorly against their management, the Angels' players have given praise to their manager and there is no muttering or negativity pointed towards Sosh in any way. The clubhouse as a whole is still pretty upbeat and the players contribute that to Scioscia keeping things easy and light. He defends his players as well as anyone else and seems to still be leading this group to agree with his decisions. There are no eminent signs that Scioscia will be fired or is losing the faith of his players, other than the team's record.

"What's the word on Ranyelmy Alberto as a pitcher?" - Darren (@theDarrendude)

- So far, there is no word. Ranyelmy was an outfielder, with immense power potential in the lower minors for the past five summers. Though there was desire, his violent swing had too many moving parts, and it was obvious the future would be grim for young Mr. Alberto. In his five years as an outfielder, he hit just .223 with a .632 OPS, 26.8 strikeout percentage, and collected one extra-base hit every 14 at bats - not ideal.

As for him being a pitcher, there isn't an actual scouting report. But here is what I do know. He's six-foot-two, weighs 210 pounds, has an excellent pitcher's frame, and had not just a cannon, but a rifle from the outfield. In his 307 minor league games, he threw out 35 runners from the field, or in lamen terms, one every eight-to-nine games. He's only 22-years-old, and will be throwing from the mound for the first time in Instructional League.

From my recent knowledge, the last time the Angels experimented with a position player moving to the mound was Jairo Diaz, who I saw throw a pitch 103 miles-per-hour. Yes, 103, it read the same on three different radar guns. No clue if Ranyelmy can hurl it up into triple digits, but hey, with no report, sling it kid.

"What pick do we currently hold with this current record, and what's the lowest possible draft pick the Angels could get at this point?" - Mario Benitez (@Mar_e_o17)

- At the moment of this being written (11:27pm PT, September 22nd, 2016), the Angels would hold the eighth pick in next year's amateur draft. They're half-a-game up on the seventh pick (Oakland), one-and-a-half games up on the sixth pick (Tampa), two-and-a-half games up of the fifth pick (Arizona), and three-games-up on the fourth (San Diego).

As for the lowest possible pick going, if they lose the remaining nine games and events play out in their favor (or lack of), they could hold the second overall pick. That's unlikely, so the most likely best-case scenario would be if they could fall to the fourth overall pick. As for the scenario of them winning all their games, they could fall to the 12th overall pick excluding all alternative outcomes. It's reasonable to believe they'll hold a pick somewhere between six and 10.

"What ever happened to Hunter Green?" - JonathanDarioRomo (@jonathandarromo)

- Just to clear the air, this question is in reference to former Angels' second-round draft pick. Not the upcoming draft prospect, Hunter Greene of Notre Dame High School in Los Angeles, who I answered a question about earlier.

Hunter Green was a high-ceiling lefty who threw in the low to mid 90's with a pretty decent curveball, but battled a multitude of injuries and only saw 16.2 innings of professional baseball. Before this season started, Hunter decided to retire from baseball. I still keep in touch with the family, primarily his parents, Greg and Judy, and when I last checked, he's doing well. The retirement was pretty hush-hush, and was exposed when fellow teammates did not see him around at Spring Training.

"Who do you like at the top of the draft for the Angels next year?" - Aaron The Less (@AaronTheLess); "When it comes to the draft, if Angels get a top seven pick, do they go college or prep, or is it too early to tell?" - Andrew Chantha (@AndrewChantha)

- Andrew's question first. So much can change in the next nine months, it is far too early to tell any direction the Angels should go, and who they should target. For example, Alec Hansen was a consensus top three draft prospect before the college season started, and the flame throwing starter ended up going 49th overall.

There is however, a nice route the Angels can go. The system is in need of just about everything, so position of player doesn't really matter. Eppler told me before the draft that their strategy is to take the best available player, and whether that's a pitcher, prep player or whatever, they can go in that direction. Another option is that being so high in the draft can allow you to take both risks or capitalize on a player who can help quickly. Say the team is going in the right direction next June, and the 2018 season has promise but is missing one item. If they feel one draft prospect could be up with the big club within a year and will have a large impact, that player could be their guy.

The top draft prospects will constantly change, but here are some names to pay attention to; Alex Faedo, Tanner Houck, Jeren Kendall, Hunter Greene, J.B. Bukauskas, J.J. Schwarz and Jordan Adell.

"What are your thoughts as to how Garrett Richards' arm will hold up next year? I'm kind of scared." - Jesse James (@ja_aquino)

- There seems to be a lot of optimism about Richards and his recovery from stem-cell therapy, but there's definitely cause for concern. With this question, you're looking forward to him being able to pitch in Instructional League, show he can work up to 60 pitches and be back to actually pitch next season. I totally understand your fear, Jesse.

I'm obviously not a doctor. Personally, I struggle even going to see mine for check ups because I don't always trust doctors. However, when you're talking about someone who's worth $6.4 million and climbing, you have zero room to make a mistake. With that said, I doubt any doctor would even fathom allowing Richards to pitch without believing to the fullest extent that he'd be able to throw and regain health for an extensive amount of time. The Angels themselves also wouldn't allow it if they felt it would cause further damage to their ability to win - a.k.a. they think he'll hold up. Once again, I'm not doctor, but with so much on the line, you kind of have to trust them in Richards' future as a pitcher.

"Why did Yunel Escobar change his number to #0?" - SoCalWill (@wilchan0313)

- I have engaged Yunel in conversation, both in English and broken Spanish, but he isn't very open to answering questions. He's only spoken to the media as a whole once this season while I was covering the team. I doubt anyone will get a real answer out of him, but PR staff has told us it's something he's wanted to do since Spring Training. Even when he traded to the Angels, he was listed with the uniform number, #0, until just prior to Spring Training starting.

I'm really uncertain why fans were so curious as to the change, unless they're purchasing his jersey, but I've seen very in the stands or concourse over the season. As for the player, it's another uncertainty as to why the change was made, but it's happened and doesn't impact my life and probably shouldn't impact yours aside from future purchases. If Yunel is open to the question, I'll ask, but I wouldn't hold your breath for a direct answer from him.

This article was written and published by Taylor Blake Ward, Senior Publisher for Scout.com. For more updates on the Angels, follow Taylor on Twitter, @taylorblakeward.

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