Mailbag: 5/24/2021

I like keeping these pretty simple, so let’s just get the ball rolling with some questions about the Major League team.

  • “What is going on? Angels shouldn’t be THIS bad.” – @BStewart05
  • “Why are things the way they are Taylor?” – @MyHalosBurner

Since a lot of questions coincide with others, I’m going to group a handful of them, starting with this. First off, I agree with Brandon: The Angels should not be this bad. The bullpen looked to be a focal point of the off-season with the acquisitions of Raisel Iglesias, Alex Claudio, Aaron Slegers, and even days before the season started the signings of Steve Cishek and Tony Watson – all reliable relief arms. It was addressed by team executives early in the off-season that the number of blown leads from the bullpen was problematic and I feel that Perry Minasian did a solid job of trying to fix that problem. However, as of Sunday night the Angels had the second worst bullpen (by ERA) in the American League. Even their xFIP has dropped significantly over May placing them in the bottom five in the league. It could be based on too small a sample, but pitching remains the largest issue, as their team ERA is worst in the Majors.

Watching the games, the pitching isn’t indicative of the team performance and I think defense has been a big flounder. Joe Maddon believes the hole left by Anthony Rendon who has spent most of the season in the IL was the biggest key to the team’s defensive flaws, but as you saw over the last week, it didn’t improve, and you have guys who likely shouldn’t be playing specific positions in those spots out of necessity. Just a thought here, but I think things will improve and it is early, but as I’ve stated, there is some ugly baseball being played in Anaheim this year and it needs to be corrected somewhat quickly.

My other suggestion – and probably the one that will be taken the least favorably – is that baseball is an entertainment business. As much as we look to it as something other than that, it’s pretty simple. The Angels are an entertainment entity, and if you do not find entertainment in watching this team… well, why watch? I would never tell someone how to choose their entertainment but seems like a quick solution to getting over “the way things are.” Maybe take a week off from watching the Angels, or baseball for that matter? You know me. I’ll always say go support a minor league club and enjoy $10 tickets, cheap beer, and hot dogs. Easy way to get your baseball fix without really caring about the outcome of the game. Of course, some of you won’t like this tip, and may want to throw shoes at me (shoutout to those who have followed long enough to understand the reference). I’ll do my best to dodge the flying sneakers.

  • “Should the Angels do a full rebuild and if they do what could they get for trading Ohtani?” – @nicholasmcph
  • “Do the Angels rebuild this season with Trout out and aim for 2022?” – @calbears04
  • “Has there been any indication if the struggles continue and with Trout being out long term that the Angels will be sellers earlier than the deadline, so they increase the packages they get back?” – @Soundoffsports1

Plenty of questions about a rebuild. Let’s just start with that.

Arte Moreno is a bit handcuffed when it comes to a rebuild. You have the best player on the planet, and possibly of the last two decades or more, patrolling center field. In baseball, you play to the window of success you could potentially have. These next three-to-four years are what is expected to be the peak years of Trout’s career, and the best opportunity you may have to win a World Series for the next decade. You also have some key cornerstones to success in Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon with other key side pieces like David Fletcher and Jared Walsh who build a solid foundation to your roster. Any team should be taking full advantage of that window.

Of course, pitching is the flaw as noted, and that must be addressed to really get into that next tier of success. If I’m being honest, I really thought the trio of Griffin Canning, Andrew Heaney, and Dylan Bundy, along with the bullpen additions would be enough to keep the Angels healthy in the wildcard mix. Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb aren’t thrilling but giving them the ball every fifth or sixth day wouldn’t hurt the team over a full season. Whatever you got out of Ohtani on the mound would just be excess and you could at least compete. That would leave you with an opportunity at the trade deadline to bring in that necessary arm (not an “ace” but a solid arm you could rely on). That doesn’t seem to be the case, and the team may still need an extra rotation member (or two) and reliever (or two), which would be very costly on the open market.

As for trading anything to rebuild, you would probably have to part with assets that are too important to the window. The upcoming free agents (Bundy, Heaney, Iglesias, etc.) aren’t going to bring back a big enough package to believe in a quick rebuild and you would really have to just simply lose to get high picks and make a four-to-five-year plan to rebuild. You could trade Ohtani, or Fletcher, or Walsh, or Canning, but realistically, you need those guys. Especially Ohtani who is on pace to be an MVP candidate.

Recapping, ownership doesn’t seem to want to budge from their potential window for success and don’t really have the luxury of moving pieces without taking major hits to start a four-to-five-year gap. I don’t see a rebuild in the Angels future anytime soon.

  • “Is the status of impending pitching free agents for the Angels worrisome for next season?” – @buckybucky21

In short, yes. Pitchers under contract with the Angels beyond 2021 that could fit into their rotation go as such: Griffin Canning, Shohei Ohtani, Reid Detmers, end. I wrote about this back in January, and things haven’t really changed. The bullpen will once again have to be overhauled, and the in-house options outside of Chris Rodriguez aren’t exactly sexy. There are some intriguing free agents on the market this upcoming winter, but the Angels will once again have to address their pitching in a massive way. I think “worrisome” is a great word to be used when it comes to the Angels pitching staff for 2022.

  • “Why isn’t Taylor Ward trying to catch at the big-league level? He was drafted as a catcher and we need help.” – @JosephTKelly

More than anything, it’s out of necessity. Taylor Ward was drafted as an athletic catcher with a big arm, but there were a lot of questions about his other defensive traits. He has moved around the field, and it seems that the outfield is a great place to play him as he seems more than comfortable at all three outfield positions. The Angels did work on Ward being a catcher during Spring Training, and if memory serves right, he was going to get time at development affiliates behind the plate, but his bat and defense is now needed at the Major League level with the absence of Mike Trout. Ward is the third catching option for the Angels, and once Trout returns, I’m sure the team will dabble with Ward catching again, but they need him patrolling the outfield right now as he is the best option to maneuver with Juan Lagares in center and right field until Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh are ready to take over (more on this later). As raw as Ward may be behind the plate, I can’t imagine he would be any worse than Kurt Suzuki who seems to only have the old school traits working for him (blocking Ohtani’s splitter and calling games).

  • “What is Shohei’s weekly/daily routine? Seems like a topic for an article over a mailbag, but I’d love to know how he manages his time preparing for pitching, hitting, and fielding.” – @1MooreCoach

Hey coach. It’s a great question, that I don’t really have an answer on. Someone asked Joe Maddon about this last week and it kind of had a simple answer of Shohei not really doing any heavy reps over the week and more playing catch instead of throwing a lot. Maddon did say that Shohei is consistent in his personal program and worked hard over the off-season to carry him through a full season but not much detail was given in regard to what that exactly was. One thing I have to note though is despite how much we talk about Shohei and what he is doing as a two-way player – I think Chris Bassitt really hit the nail with his comment about even Major League players may not fully comprehending what he is doing and how near impossible it is do what he’s doing at the level he is. That must take a serious personal training schedule that I wouldn’t even want to try as my fingers hurt even typing this. What an absolute freak athlete!

Ok. Let’s move on to some prospect chatter.

  • “Is Jordyn Adams close to returning from his injury?” – @kmacnd_1

Hey K-Mac. Not much is known about what actually happened to Jordyn Adams during High-A Tri-City’s third game of the season. He hit a double in the first inning and then seemed to come out of the game gingerly. Andy Schatzley, the manager of Tri-City, noted just a few days later that they felt Adams would return to action within a few weeks, and we are nearing the three-week mark of his last game. Common belief is that he’ll be back playing soon, but with most of the pro scouting staff helping the amateur staff currently I can’t get much information about players on the pro side (side note: I doubt anyone would say much about Adams’ injury since he is one of the more valuable players in the system and any comment could become problematic pending the wording of any report).

  • “I don’t ask many questions, but I am curious to know from what you hear through scouts would you happen to know where Adell’s stock is now from say the end of last season?” – @rez2405
  • “Has Marsh caught to Adell in terms of what people/scouts view them to be?” – @ScottStuddert
  • “Realistic chances we see them in an Angels uniform this year – Adell, Marsh, Both (simultaneously)?” – @CarlCervantes15

A lot of questions about Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh, as expected. Let’s start with Marco’s question about Adell’s stock. Of course, what Jo did at the Major League level last season is probably best forgotten. He was overmatched and clearly not ready for the challenge of facing Major League pitchers at that stage of his career. It seemed forced. That said, most scouts haven’t changed their opinion on Adell’s future. He is still seen as a middle-of-the-order bat with loud power potential and a chance to hit with regularity. The one thing I think that has changed is most people see a decreased hit tool more based on consistency than anything else. Adell has always been a streaky hitter, but I’m not sure many people in the industry noticed until taking a deeper look. Also, the defense. It was known he would struggle a bit in the corners, but not sure anyone expected the kind of struggles he has had since moving to right field. Most evaluators believed he would move to a corner (more likely left field) because the arm would play better. Adell used to throw in the mid 90’s in high school but for some odd reason, the arm has regressed to the point of being a 40 or worse on the 20-to-80 grade scale. Teams that value defense highly definitely have moved Adell down a bit, but everyone still believes in the bat.

As for if evaluators have moved Marsh into the same category as Adell, I think it’s a person-by-person basis and 95% of scouts would still take Adell. Everyone believes Marsh is the better hitter right now and would serve better at the Major League level at this moment over Adell. However, that is why scouting is projection based and not right now based. Marsh is the better hitter now and will likely forever be the better fielder, but if you asked 10 scouts who they prefer in the long run, nine of them (maybe all 10) would say Adell. Marsh is definitely on everyone’s radar though as he is still seen as one of the more prized prospects in baseball with some believing he has All-Star potential and without giving any set ranking, a top-20 prospect across baseball.

Lastly, I think you will see Adell in the Majors this season. The team has expressed that they want both Adell and Marsh to develop further and time is their best friend, but necessity (as noted) can always alter things. Marsh’s injury in the Spring may have pushed his timetable back a month or two, but I wouldn’t be stunned if he came up in September or a tick earlier. I think if Marsh is up though, Adell will be too.

  • “Brent Killam have potential to be a good MLB starter? 11 K’s last night in 4.1 IP.” – @zrey321

Brent Killam is on a serious tear of the Low-A West League right now. He has struck out 27 of the 49 batters he has faced while permitting a base runner less than every inning pitched. It’s a small sample and he is a bit older than the average product of the Low-A West League, but for a guy just starting his pro career, the numbers are video game-esque. I’ve asked about him, along with a few other college arms from that 2019 Draft, and it hasn’t really indicated “prospect status.” I’ve personally seen three of the 66ers rotation arms so far this year, and Killam is not among them, so I have to go off some old notes and what others have given me. He’s an undersized southpaw who around the zone with a low 90’s fastball and swing-and-miss breaking ball that can be listed as a “slurve”. That would usually lean towards a future relief role, so I’m not so sure I would use the term “good” when assessing his potential as a starter or Major Leaguer, but we’ve seen guys like this have success before.

  • “Could Wantz or Warren get Major League time in the pen this year?” – @CantHitWRISP

This is in reference to Andrew Wantz and Austin Warren, who went back-to-back in the sixth and seventh rounds for the Angels in 2018 and are pitching for Triple-A Salt Lake. They both offer kind of similar arsenals, sitting in the low 90’s with a swing-and-miss breaker. I like Wantz a bit more because of his deception and ability to command his pitches in the zone, but both do offer some interest. As for if they could be in the bullpen this season, I think they fall behind some veteran arms who would get the call before they do and may be easier to maneuver through a 40-man roster. I wouldn’t rule out as the organization likes both of them, but I’d put the betting odds below what most people would bet on.

Let’s wrap up with some draft stuff, and a question about my hometown.

  • “Who would you prefer to draft if you were the Angels GM, Jackson Jobe or Chase Petty?” – @AFEL120
  • “Jackson Jobe, Chase Petty, Ty Madden, or Jordan Wicks at 9?” – @CyBindi
  • “Think the Angels/Bubba Chandler smoke is real? Reach? Thoughts on Jackson Jobe?” – @dvanhorn27

Jackson Jobe getting some serious run in the questions this week – and for good reason. In the questions, you’ll see five different names that could be selected around the Angels pick in the upcoming Draft, and if I’m remembering right, two have been linked to the Angels in recent mock drafts from reliable media outlets (always try and go to MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, FanGraphs, ESPN, or others who have longevity in garnering information from teams, you can add me too if you’d like as I’ll be covering my ninth draft this year and only use information teams offer to me personally).

As for my own personal preference between Jobe and Petty, I’ll lean Jobe. I like the athleticism and have a stronger belief he’ll throw strikes consistently which would lead to a starting role. Petty has the velocity, but I like strikes. Jobe also has some of the best arm speed in the class which should lead to better velocity or better perceived velocity, so I will absolutely lean in his direction. As for Madden and Wicks, I’ll lean Wicks based on the draft model. Wicks is a tick younger and he’s a lefty with a changeup so that’s all I really need to head that direction.

Regarding Bubba Chandler, the smoke is real. It seems the Angels really do like him both on the mound and at the plate. I think the industry sees Chandler as more of a teen pick, but that wouldn’t make it a stretch at nine, especially if you think he can hit and do both as a two-way player which is part of the Angels M.O.

  • “Hey Taylor, I’ve heard a lot be made about the Angels being a possible wild card with the 9th pick in the Draft. Does that mean that they may be looking to save some money with that pick, and spend more later?” – @AJStreet77

Hey A.J., good to hear from you. I think this is more loosely based on the fact that there is a big six at the top of this draft, and the fall off is a bit of a question mark. Kansas City seems to know what their plan is at seven at this point (obligatory “anything can change from now to then” comment), and Colorado is a bit up in the air, so essentially, anything beyond pick seven is a wild card. The Angels have done well in utilizing their first two picks instead of eyeballing just their first so they could have a plan for saving money in the second and beyond to capitalize on the entire draft, but I don’t think they’re doing that just yet. Bonus figures are being shared, but it’s a tick too early to be mapping out your first 10 picks and bonus pool with assurance. I do know they really like a specific kid who would have likely been available for their second pick about three weeks ago, but as of yesterday, I’m not sure that same kid would even make it out of the first.

  • “Industry consensus on Gage Jump and where do you see him slotting in the draft?” – @Bgreporting

Gage Jump of Jserra in South Orange County is an intriguing arm. He’s advanced and I’ve told people that he may be the most pro-ready prep arm I’ve seen in some time, with most people agreeing. He’s performed well in one of the most challenging prep leagues in the country, and his stuff has been consistent so there aren’t a lot of questions about what teams will be getting once he signs. The biggest questions lie in things out of his control. He’s listed at 5’11 and might be a bit shorter than that which doesn’t always bode well for draft models or future projection as a starter, and teams will take this into consideration. I don’t see him slipping out of the second round – without knowing his exact bonus demands – but don’t see him going in the first round. The industry likes him, but genetics will play its part and he will slip despite the talent. I would say his draft stock simmers around picks 40-60.

  • “How about mountain life… can we talk about that?” – @CollinTaylorInc

Hey Dave. For those that don’t know, I’ve known Dave and his family for a few years now and we tend to always chat about my hometown in the mountains of Southern California. I’ll give you a brief update.

People are flocking to the mountains in frenzies. Houses don’t last more than 72 hours on the market and people seem to think they can escape COVID-19 while here. We had a thousand-some cases, and most of them were from visitors and those with weekend homes. AirBNB or whatever the heck you call it has taken over certain places, and those homeowners or whatever you call it (I can them jerks) are trying to take over the community while the locals are pushing them out due to their poor demeanor. I suppose that’s the same most places, as people come in acting like they own the place and treat people poorly, but we don’t tolerate it. It’s a small town, and we tend to keep it that way. Once the snow comes, we’ll see how many of these new weekenders last, as this last winter kicked about 50% of them away. Hope all is well, Dave. Tell everyone hello.

That’ll put a wrap on it everyone. Thanks for your questions. We’ll do it again soon.

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