Los Angeles Angels: Minor League Observations
Austin Wood (#30 on the MWAH Top Prospect Rankings) looks like he’s going to be jumping up the prospect lists pretty soon. On a cold opening night, his fastball was sitting 97-98 with a smooth and effortless delivery. Contradicting what I’ve previously been told, his slider was a definite strikeout pitch. He loses his release point often though, and when that happens he’s dangerously erratic. His fastball tends to miss high more often than not. Still, 5 IP 1 ER 1 BB and 10 K’s is nothing to sneeze at. His development reminds me a bit of current Angel prospect Garrett Richards. Both went to big time college programs (Oklahoma and USC), both were relievers in college that put up awful numbers. Both are big-bodied pitchers with very good fastballs and both tend to miss up. Wood’s fastball and slider are better than Richards but Richards has a very good curve and change. There’s no doubt Wood has “front of the rotation” type of stuff.
Speaking of Garrett Richards (#3 on the MWAH Top Prospect Rankings), he turned in a strong performance (7IP 2ER 7K) in his AAA debut. His fastball showed good enough movement despite the cold air and he had no problem throwing his slider and curve for a strike either, which is generally a problem when it’s cold out because you can’t feel your fingers. His fastball reportedly sat 95-96 on the Tacoma radar gun, which is good news because Richards generally sits 94-95 on a normal night. His mechanics looked better than they ever have, they were smooth, repeatable and he kept the ball down which is important in the Pacific Coast League. I really think Kevin Goldstein completely under-estimated this guy. He has #2/#3 starter written all over him. Plus fastball, plus slider, plus curve and a quality change.
Kaleb Cowart (#8 on the MWAH Top Prospect Rankings) is definitely zeroed in. His swing looks more fluid than it did at the end of last year. His load step isn’t as high anymore (an unnecessary timing mechanism) and his hands are positioned lower, but it looks like he has just as much power if not more than last season. Really a good athlete all-around, Cowart looked fantastic at 3B and there’s no doubt he’ll remain there. He definitely has the body and tools of a future middle of the order hitter, which is what he’s serving as in Cedar Rapids. Hopefully his production mirrors that potential.
Chevy Clarke (unranked) is fast, like really-really fast. He stole second base standing up. He had a good jump, but not one so good that you’d expect him not to have to slide. Even if the throw was perfect he quite literally would have come to stop standing on the base before the ball got there. He also beat out a slow ground ball to the second baseman. Fast players are normally able to make this a close play, but Clarke beat the throw by a couple steps. So much has been said about whether or not Clarke will ever live up to the 1st round pick the Angels spent on him, and generally, spending two years in rookie ball and failing to crack a .250 batting average is not a good sign. However, Clarke is a superior athlete, and his development may be that of a player that simply figures it out overnight rather than it being a slow arduous process.
Now it’s time for the obligatory Mike Trout (#1 prospect in the MWAH Top Prospect Rankings) rant. He collected three hits in his AAA debut and reasonably should have collected four were it not for a fantastic play by the Tacoma third baseman. One has to wonder how long exactly Vernon Wells will be able to hold off Mike Trout in 2012. My guess is mid-June.
Scott Allen is somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades. He’s a former Marine, current grad student and collegiate scout and is the minor league writer for monkeywithahalo.com, senior writer at laangelsinsider.com and a correspondent for theoutsidecorner.com. Click the links for samples of Scott’s writing at all three websites.