Angels Fan Mailbag: April

Angels Fan Mailbag: April

"Do you think the Angels will be sellers or buyers at the trade deadline?" - @Munker_

It's really too early to tell. Teams won't make these decisions until the deadline nears, and the Angels are one of those teams that are kind of found in the middle of potentially fighting for a playoff spot or potentially being far from it. I will say this though. The Angels have very minimal trade chips, and their top one - C.J. Cron - has been injured for parts of each of the last three seasons, while never showing more than a few months success. The team could always part with the 11 players that have contracts concluding at season's end, but the value diminishes with that statement, and those 11 players wouldn't bring much value at all.

Prospects tend to be the other trade chips, but it's usually near-MLB ready prospects that bring starting players. It's also players with what the scouting community would call, "50-grade potential" or better. The Angels have arguably five-to-seven of those types of prospects, and only three of those would be within two years of reaching the Majors.



"Obviously J.C. Ramirez is starting for the first time in his MLB career, but what is his upside as a starter?" - @nmbaseball52

Upside is an odd thing to project for a pitcher in his prime years, while never causing concerns about his stamina. Ramirez is currently throwing one of the hardest fastballs in the Majors, while adding to his arsenal and learning to mix his pitches. All of this is happening while his strikeout rates are rising and walk rates are lowering.

In the first three years of Ramirez's MLB career, he used his fastball over 60% of the time. This year, it's down to 40.3%, while mixing breaks of his four-seam with cut and two-seam with severe run. He's nearly doubled the amount of usage in his slider, and added a power 12-6 curve, while scraping his changeup. Though he's learning, you're seeing a pitcher change in front of your eyes and finding true success while doing so.



"Do you think J.C. Ramirez and Kelvim Escobar can have similar careers?" - @Crudemeisters

I would say that J.C. Ramirez and Kelvim Escobar are very different pitchers. Though Ramirez has the big fastball in the way Escobar did, it's a very differing arsenal, body type and attack pattern. Escobar was a prospect for Toronto prior to his Angels days, and was kind of always considered a swing-man. I'm not a fan of player comps, and this one just isn't very sensible in my eyes. Sorry.



"Where do you think Matt Thaiss will hit in the lineup at the big league level?" - @KyleShowalter

This is a really interesting question. Matt Thaiss is the Angels top hitting prospect, primarily based on his ability to reach base, not chase pitches, and make a fair amount of contact. He does have average power, but not enough to assume he'd be hitting cleanup, or even third in order as the team's "best hitter."

With his ability to reach base, you can assume he'll be near the front of the lineup card. He is a smart baserunner but really doesn't have any speed to talk about. That would make me assume he could bat second in the lineup at the Major League level, but that won't be anytime this season and possibly not even next.



"How worried should MLB be about the amount of young pitchers with serious injuries?" - @FreeThinkingFan

Use this illustration. When you drive and tap the brakes, the brake pad grinds down over time. When you step harder on the brake, the brake pads will grind even more, and more. Now think of this... Every time a pitcher throws, the ligaments in his elbow and shoulder begin to grind down. It's something you probably already know, and something else you probably already know is that pitchers are throwing harder than they ever have before, meaning the grinding is worse than ever.

Pitchers have always thrown hard, but most of the fireballers of the 70's, 80's, and 90's either played multiple sports at one point and had some extra athleticism, or, they had help of enhancements which allowed them health. Another big mark is that teenagers are pitching year-round in some areas of the world, and putting stress on their arms that they don't need to. This kind of question and answer could be turned into an entire book... oh wait, it has. Long story short, yes, MLB should be concerned, and go read "The Arm" by Jeff Passan.



"With the pitching injuries, do you think the Halos could call up Jordan Kipper? He is in Double-A doing well and going six to seven innings per start." - @A_Rhodes77

This question was asked prior to Jordan Kipper being traded to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for hard-hurling reliever, Damien Magnifico. I will touch on it though, because there were many questions similar of, "Should the Angels call up (insert pitcher)?"

The Angels depth chart is intriguing, because the ones near the bottom of it have strong numbers on their side, while the ones near the top do not. Kipper would have been at the end of this list, but the current starting pitching depth chart (non-obvious) would look very similar to this; Alex Meyer, Daniel Wright, Yusmeiro Petit, Nate Smith, Vicente Campos, Manny Banuelos, Luis Diaz, Troy Scribner, Alex Blackford, Parker Bridwell... and then, Jordan Kipper. It would have been a long shot.



"Do you see a possibility of Bud Norris going to the rotation once Bedrosian/Street/Bailey come back?" - @Colin_Massey

I don't. It's not that Bud Norris isn't capable of starting, but he hasn't thrown more than 41 pitches in an outing this year, and has only gone over 20 pitches in five of his 16 outings. He'd have to be stretched out, which would take a few weeks. Another note is that Norris - along with any other pitcher being used in short stints - has seen a nice increase across the board in velocity, which has seemingly made his stuff a bit better.



"With Danny Espinosa not hitting, is there a chance Kaleb Cowart or Sherman Johnson get a shot? Or will Luis Valbuena get some shots at second?" - @DirtheadHALO

Danny Espinosa is doing what he's done in each of his eight seasons. Grip-it and rip-it. That tends to lead to plenty of misses, but this year, it's the most monumental point of his career. Espinosa is striking out at a 35.5% rate, far above his 28.1% career mark. I remember reading something about him working on his launch angle, but don't remember where, and the results aren't showing such a matter. Espinosa has just six extra-base hits in 100 at bats. A big concern, that's been around in Espinosa's entire career, is that he just can't hit anything above his elbows, making him easy pray for pitchers.

Meanwhile, Kaleb Cowart has lowered his strikeout rate from 21.9% in 2016, to 17.4% this year, while drawing the same amount of walks as he has strikeouts. There was an exploration of Cowart at second base last year, where he was a fair fielder. Problem was, he just couldn't hit at the Major League level. It may be worth testing the waters again though, as he's on a tear in Triple-A again, slashing .306/.424/.435.

Sherman Johnson is nearing Major League time, but something that's always been said of Johnson is that he'll be a fantastic bench piece. He's always been able to reach base and play suitable defense - now playing every infield position - but his contact has never really been enough to make him an every day regular, which is why you haven't seen him to this point. It's likely Sherman could be up this year, which wouldn't surprise me, but I'd expect Cliff Pennington to get more time roaming the infield.



"Who can the Angels pick up to replace Tyler Skaggs, since their top pitching prospect Nate Smith has not even pitched this season? Trade or farm?" - @hanratty_jacob

Nate Smith is dealing with a forearm strain but is throwing in extended spring, so it's not very concerning that he hasn't pitched yet. As for replacements, there aren't many on the market. According to Chris Cotillo, the Angels did see Doug Fister pitch, but he's nothing more than a fifth man at best, which the Angels have in the system in Vicente Campos, Alex Meyer, Nate Smith and others. The other free agents on the market consists of Tim Lincecum and recently retired, C.J. Wilson... so, think to yourselves about that option. I brought up any remarks to a trade earlier in this mailbag, so scroll up to see that.



"Do you think the Angels could be interested or eligible to sign Cuban outfielder, Luis Robert?" - @lafan0332

Interested? Yes! Eligible? Meh, probably not. Luis Robert is arguably the top international prospect, and considered to be a five-tool star in the making. It'd be a huge boost for the Angels farm system, but it's unlikely they'll be able to attain him. They're limited to spending $300,000 on international prospects until July 2nd, and it sounds like Robert will sign by the end of May or early June. If he somehow holds out until July, the Angels would likely expend a large amount towards getting Robert, but the odds are against them. He's looking for millions upon millions (can't blame him, I'd love a quarter million myself), and that's just out of their spending range for the time he'd likely sign.



"Does Adam Haseley have the upside to be a top-10 pick?" - @Colin_Massey

Adam Haseley was an under-the-radar draft prospect, who was probably not a first-day draft option at the beginning of Spring. His performance at Virginia this year is nothing short of stellar, making him one of the top bats in this draft, in a weak class for that item. That would be the biggest reason Haseley could jump into the top 10, since he doesn't have many standout tools. He'll hit, maybe have average power and speed, and play pretty decent defense in the corner outfield. If he lands in the top 10 in June, it would be because of the lack of college bats in this class. He likely won't fall out of the teen selections though, barring something drastic.



"I've seen both Alex Faedo and Jeren Kendall around 8-12 in mock drafts. If both are available at 10, who would you rather have? Does Seth Romero fall to the second round?" - @AaronTheLess

Tricky question Aaron, and a trio of questions in a sense. As for mock drafts, most right now are more projection than they are actualities, so don't buy too much into them until mid-May or so (yes, that goes for mine as well). When it comes to my personal preference, I take Alex Faedo regardless of which pick. He'd be fourth on my big board. Jeren Kendall would be sixth or seventh roughly. Since the Angels pick at 10, if either was available, it'd be tough to say. They're going to target athletic players, and Kendall is one of the top athletes in this draft. Faedo has battled surgery woes, and his velocity has dropped, but the Angels do like SEC pitchers. I'd take Faedo, and the Angels would likely take Kendall, but I have neither going to them in my next mock in mid-May.

As for Seth Romero, the reports aren't good. His on-field performance and arsenal are wicked, and are very likely to keep him in the first round. However, the Houston Chronicle figured why he was suspended, and it was for pictures of him holding a bong in his uniform, though he denied smoking anything at any point (has failed drug tests before). We saw what happened with Delvin Perez last year after failed drug test, being a potential top-five pick and falling to the 20's. It really takes one team to ignore off-field items for him to be a first-rounder, and I fully expect him to be a top-30 pick, with whatever team selecting him jumping out of their shoes in glee.




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