Mailbag: 7/2/2021

No need for a long and drawn-out introduction, so let’s just jump into it. Here are the questions you asked with the answers I give starting with the Major League club and leading into prospects and the draft.

(Note: some questions have been edited to establish a full name instead of a last name only for more clarification, as well as create a full sentence.)

“You are GM. Who do you trade to get a starting pitcher?” – @mikeyAngelfan

Hello, Mikey. This seems like a pretty loaded question that I’m not sure I can just give a simple answer to. Let me start by saying that unless the Angels go on a winning tangent over the next few weeks there is zero chance I pay for a rental to put you in the “maybe” column of “maybe” contending for a wildcard spot. With that, I’m not looking for rentals and want a pitcher who has at least an extra year of control. That led me a few names to key in on and I’m not totally sure it’s who you were expecting.

Of course, everyone wants an “ace” but if we’re being realistic, there are maybe a handful of aces at most across all of baseball (deGrom, Cole, Bieber) and no team will part ways with any of them. That leads me to getting value out of mid-rotation arms that will cost multiple limbs which kind of rules me out of German Marquez and Luis Castillo (despite his current flaws) and I’m not parting ways with Brandon Marsh or Jo Adell anytime soon. It would be costly, but I would attempt to acquire Spencer Turnbull from the Tigers, or maybe go a tick below and see what the cost of Kenta Maeda (Minnesota) or Kyle Gibson (Texas) would be. Assuming the market fluctuates heavily towards the teams with pitchers, I’m thinking it’s going to cost me a prospect of 50-grade future value which my organization is not stacked with. If I could get Detroit to bite on Jordyn Adams and maybe a tick more for Turnbull, I’d probably try and start there and work my way down.

“Would a trade for German Marquez be possible? If so, who do we give up and could we package Story with him?” – @Ciller_Goated

Yo, Goated. Marquez is definitely high on everyone’s list of potential trade targets for the Angels – and just about everyone else. I’m not sure what’s going on with the Rockies situation, but it would make sense for them to part ways with Marquez, but obviously at the highest possible cost they could attain. That being said, I think Colorado starts the offer with Jo Adell and I’m not sure the Angels bite on that. As for Story – as noted, unless the Angels are winning regularly for the next few weeks there is no need to acquire a rental at any position.

“Why don’t the Angels get pitching like the old days? Meaning: Jarrod Washburn, John Lackey, Ramon Ortiz, Brendan Donnelly, Ben Weber, Francisco Rodriguez, Jered Weaver, etc.?” – @travis28219300

Hi, Travis. If only it were as simple as doing that but let’s look at what had to happen to acquire those pitchers. Jarrod Washburn and John Lackey were both high second-round picks four years apart. Ben Weber and Brendan Donnelly didn’t make the Majors until they were 30 years old. Ramon Ortiz is one of the most unsung international signees in Angels history (I think he signed for $5,000?), and Francisco Rodriguez was one of the best kept secrets where the Angels were one of two teams to see his workout as an amateur. Jered Weaver was the 12th overall pick in the 2004 draft, five years after Lackey. It’s not like the Angels had a big plan to utilize these specific arms in any set fashion. They drafted well, but nine years apart. They got lucky on the international side of the things. They got lucky on the free agent relievers who blossomed very late in their careers.

I think it’s pretty common for teams to have these kind of stretches where some draftees workout well, and the lack of first round picks in the early 2010’s have plagued the Angels for the last half decade. The signing of Roberto Baldoquin set the Angels back on the international front – which is an even bigger crapshoot than the draft – and still managed to find something in Jaime Barria and Jose Suarez. It’s a cop out, but things sometimes just have to go right and over an extended period of time, and that just isn’t happening with the Angels right now. Not sure I can give a better answer than that but building the core of a pitching staff from scratch takes time as you noted with names you mentioned and the years it took to do so.

“Are the Angels a better team if Maddon lets the starters complete their last inning vs. bringing in a reliever with inherited runners?” – @buckybucky21

Howdy, Bucky. Hindsight is 20/20, as is track record. We can all look at specific moments of the season and say, “Joe probably should have let (insert pitcher) go a bit longer,” or, “Joe should have brought in (insert pitcher) instead of (insert pitcher)” for this moment. I think that’s the flaw to being a manager is your decisions will always be questioned, but now, we have some actual data to suggest a manager’s decision was right or wrong.

I think of one exact situation where this question merits that data. Griffin Canning had a two-run lead heading into the sixth against Oakland on June 16. Canning was lifted at 69 pitches because he was about to go through the heart of the order for a third time and track record says he struggles mightily in doing so, and Tony Watson came on in relief. To that point of the season, Watson had been the best reliever on the staff but suddenly went on to not record an out and allow six runs. Hindsight being 20/20, Joe should have let Canning challenge Oakland in that inning.

I don’t know if there is an answer to this question because we simply don’t know. I think the problem doesn’t really lend itself to the managers though, and this goes for all managers across baseball and not just Joe Maddon. We are in a digital age where data drives the decisions of baseball, and the numbers suggest something that will work part of the time but never all of the time. The other problem, and once again, this is all of baseball and not just the Angels, is pitchers are not being developed to work deeper into games in the minor leagues.

“Is Noah Syndergaard a realistic target for the Halos this off-season?” – @16RyanDecker

Bonjour, Ryan. Maybe the easiest cop-out answer I’ll have in this, but: yes. The Angels need rotation help next season, as the only pitchers under contract who show promise as being members of the 2022 rotation are Shohei Ohtani, Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, Jaime Barria, and Reid Detmers. That leaves a lot of questions, and some of those questions can be answered by acquiring starting pitching from the open market, and Syndergaard is on that market.

It’s all going to come down to money as the Angels are going to have to fill a handful of positions over the winter including the premier position of shortstop. They’ll need two or three arms to build their full rotation and include quite a few depth arms in the case of necessity if there is an injury. On the list with Syndergaard are going to be potential re-signs of Dylan Bundy and Andrew Heaney; as well as: Zach Davies, Anthony DeSclafini, Danny Duffy, Kevin Gausman, Jon Gray, Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodon, Aaron Sanchez, Drew Smyly, Marcus Stroman, Vince Velasquez, and Alex Wood, just to name a few. You could also take a gamble on someone who is nearing the end of their careers but still showing signs of success such as Zach Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, or Justin Verlander.

“How long will they keep Suzuki around?” – @DadofVlad

Salut, Dad of Vlad. Kurt Suzuki, by the metrics and eye test, has not been very good this year. Among catchers with 100 plate appearances, he trails only Sandy Leon in wins above replacement (-0.4) while his wRC+ (72) ranks in the bottom quarter (stats as of 7/1/2021). All that being said, he has been Ohtani’s personal catcher for the season and that likely merits a full season of sticking around. I think Suzuki has been suitable as a backup catcher, but I also believe Anthony Bemboom could be a better option. Just personal opinion here though. I don’t expect Suzuki to be released anytime soon as long as he remains Ohtani’s battery mate.

“Looks like Jordyn Adams is back from injury… any word on the status of Brandon Marsh? Kevin Maitan? Also, we got a steady dose of Phil Gosselin, Kean Wong, and Scott Schebler but Thaiss (despite strong statistics) has not been up this season despite the injuries… do they have plans for him?” – @Mulwin444

Hola, Paul. Let’s start with some injury reports that were asked about and will all just be edited out and added here in case you don’t see your injury question, so: I’ve asked and have yet to receive any injury report on Kyren Paris or Jeremiah Jackson and Jordyn Adams is indeed back from his lower half injury. Kevin Maitan hurt his hand at some point early in the Spring. As for Marsh, all I know is that he grabbed at his right shoulder after a swing on June 1, and then went to have it checked out in California a day or two later. No news since then.

Regarding Matt Thaiss, I just watched him and checked the numbers last week. There seems to be an adjustment in his swing based on the numbers, but I can’t identify it with the naked eye. He’s swinging for more power to all fields and is seeing his strikeout rates go up, but maintaining a consistent walk rate and chase rate, so it may be that he’s missing more in the zone this year? I have yet to find someone who has seen him catch believe he could do it at the Major League level, and with the team focusing on him as a catcher currently, that could be what’s holding him back. I can’t imagine it’s a case for anything else really outside of getting the needed reps, but that’s unconfirmed by the team. Always take Triple-A numbers with a grain of salt as the advanced data may suggest something else that could be holding him back that we don’t see.

“Andrew Wantz is putting up good numbers in Triple-A. Could he be someone we could see in the show and why does it seem like he’s on a pitch limit?” – @nzlaa_affiliate

Harry, my favorite Kiwi! Andrew Wantz is indeed performing remarkably well this season with Salt Lake. Any earned-run-average below 4.00 or even 5.00 is pretty astonishing for how offense oriented the league is (league average is 5.66). The key for Wantz this year has been limiting base runners, as his walk rate is incredibly low, and he is not allowing many hits with the majority of them are staying in the park. I haven’t seen Wantz personally since 2019 but when I did, I saw a guy with a low 90’s fastball and serviceable slider and placed him on my “org guys to watch” list. The scouting report wouldn’t suggest him being a Major Leaguer necessarily, but teams can’t ignore performance. I wouldn’t rule out seeing him in the Majors this year, but also wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t see time in Anaheim but landed a Spring invite next year.

“Seems like some of the Angels unheralded pitching draft picks have performed well this year (Davis Daniel, Kyle Tyler, Cooper Criswell). Is this a reflection of pitching environments or can they gain some real pedigree in prospect circles?” – @Colin_Massey

Konnichiwa, Colin. Count me in moving Davis Daniel from the suspect list to prospect list. It’s mostly a two-pitch mix from him but I think there’s a chance at getting a Major League product out of him either as a long-man or middle-reliever (he can go deep in games, but I think he needs a better third pitch). It does seem like the High-A West League (hate typing that) is more pitcher friendly, but Daniel led the league in ERA before his promotion, so the run prevention was still better than essentially anyone else in the league.

Cooper Criswell and Kyle Tyler kind of offer similar profiles. Criswell will work in the upper 80’s and Tyler will work in the low 90’s, and both have a strong changeup/splitter that have allowed them to have success in Double-A. Most scouts I’ve spoken to don’t see them as prospects or future Major League products, and I tend to agree. However, when you look at Tyler, he continues to go out every five days and limit runs. Definitely worth watching. The 14-strikeout game from Criswell definitely jumped out and I will be watching more closely. I’ve always said that when a guy gets to Double-A, he has a chance. As much as I don’t see – or scouts don’t see – how the report will blend with Major League talents, performance at upper levels means you’re doing something right.

“Hey TBW, I’d love to get your insight regarding the evaluation of Angels pitcher in Double-A compared to Triple-A. I feel like I’ve seen comments about keeping better pitching prospects in Double-A and promoting straight to the Majors from there. Thanks!” – @Boobopperbaseb1

Hey there. It’s not so much about the pitchers themselves but the environments. Salt Lake – along with quite a few other places in the Pacific Coast League (or Triple-A West, blah) – are heavily oriented towards a hitting environment and young pitchers can learn bad traits when trying to attain outs in these environments. Keep in mind, the Triple-A West league average ERA is over 5.5, and balls tend to fly so pitchers will do things unorthodox to their natural development in these environments. The talent level does differ some from Double-A to Triple-A, but for the most part from a raw talent perspective, about 75% of the players in Double-A have the talent level alone to be a Major League player whether as a star or as a role player. When a pitcher is going through nine different guys in a lineup in Double-A, he is going to see about four to five guys who will eventually play their way into the Major Leagues, so you can still pluck guys from that level and put them in the Majors promptly without worrying much about the talent difference. You would always like to see young pitchers face guys who have played in the Majors before, and you’ll get a fair share of that by going to Triple-A. Blend the confidence of either getting former Major Leaguers out, or not, and it can really effect a guy.

What pitcher, aside from Reid Detmers, appears to be the real deal to you?” – @Mattectomy

Guten Tag, Matt. “Real deal” is a bit of a broad term, as I see it as “future regular or better” and by my definition, I think Detmers might be the only one. Jack Kochanowicz by the size and stuff alone is very impressive but the performance hasn’t been there, and I happened to see him on probably his worst outing of the year so not helping myself with that case. I like William Holmes a lot but am waiting for him to pitch at higher levels before making a hard case for him being the “real deal.”

“I see some pitchers with some pretty solid numbers in the Angels farm system, especially at the Double-A level. Can you give a scouting report on the top 10 prospects in their farm system?” – @kmacnd_1

Privet, K-Mac! Yeah, the organization is definitely producing stronger pitching performances this season than in recent memory, and it’s nightly that someone has an incredible line in the box score. It’s fun to monitor, and I was excited to find the notes about Criswell and Detmers striking out 14 and seeing it matched the recent system record (couldn’t date back further than 2006), and then of course, Detmers has to be a big old jerk and strike out 16 and leave my research useless. Thanks, Reid!

The reports on the top 10, oy vey man. Not enough room but here’s the skivvy (no specific order). Brandon Marsh should be a premier defender in center field, as should Jordyn Adams. Marsh can hit and is showing more power. Adams is an 80-runner and absurd athlete who is still going from being a football player to a baseball player. Reid Detmers is a pitchability lefty who has strikeout stuff, and his fastball is up a few ticks making him more alluring. Kyren Paris impacts a game in multiple facets and added some strength that give him more of a daily regular than utility player. Jeremiah Jackson has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game but that comes with a lot of thud in the bat, and I think he can stick at short. Arol Vera is a natural hitter from both sides and is likely a third baseman with some witty baseball IQ. Alexander Ramirez swings like he’s trying to kill. William Holmes is likely a pitcher instead of a two-way but is a freak athlete with solid upside on the mound. Adrian Placencia is aesthetically pleasing to watch swing a bat and probably plays second. Jack Kochanowicz has the pitch data and size to be a starter in the long run but is still raw.

“Are Michael Stefanic and David MacKinnon ‘Jose Rojas 2.0 types’ and just 4A players or is there potential for them to carry their success into the Majors like David Fletcher and Jared Walsh did?” – @nmbaseball

Shalom, nmbaseball, a.k.a. Angels MiLB. I think leaning more Jose Rojas than Jared Walsh is fair. I was told by a manager in the Angels system that Perry Minasian is a big fan of Stefanic, and with his game and offensive output, it’s hard not to be. Undrafted kid putting up offensive numbers, with well above-average barrel control – sounds similar, doesn’t it? The organization liked Stefanic before Minasian stepped in as is, and kind of saw him as a 4A player who could fight his way to a handful of games at the Majors which is pretty incredible for how he entered the organization.

I might be the driving force on MacKinnon. He has a really simple swing that has shown some power, but probably not enough to say he’s a regular or bench first baseman. He was an outstanding soccer goalie in college, and it shows on defense, so there’s some chances he could sneak his way into the depth chart. Kind of a cool note: Jay Bell told me that MacKinnon wasn’t supposed to be on the Rocket City roster, but he fought for him to be there after a strong Spring. Seems to be a smart move, as MacKinnon is tearing apart Double-A South.

“I know it’s early… but any indication how the development pipeline, if any, is going under the new front office? Is there a pitching philosophy being established from what you can see/hear? – @jobalexang

Goddag, Job! Good to hear from you. I’ll be honest here; it’s been tough getting to know the new members of the Front Office with the Covid protocols. I’d usually bump into them at Angel Stadium or at the minor league parks and connect in person but without being granted access to the clubhouse, I can’t really gain those interactions. I’m not complaining at all, as I totally understand, but it does make for a more challenging coverage.

I’d be taking a purely educated guess on any new philosophies if there are any. From what I’ve seen, it looks like there’s a stronger emphasis on strike-throwing and working deeper into outings, but that’s purely a guess. For hitters, it does seem like trusting natural power and simplifying your approach to be a bit more aggressive is occurring, but once again, a guess.

“Who do you got the Angels drafting come draft night? I would like to see Madden or Rocker (if he falls to us)? Also, what did you think of last night’s game with a comeback win?” – @MattAdamBeningo

Ciao, Matt. Not giving away any highlights of my upcoming mock draft, so you’ll have to hold tight on that one (shameless future plug). Last night’s game was pretty exciting, but I’ll be honest, I cashed out for the night before the madness ensued. I was invested in the College World Series and after Shohei’s start went awry and it started raining I figured I’d just watch the highlights or wait for the game to resume the next day (whoops). My phone went off right as I was going to bed that Walsh hit the grand slam and I just couldn’t my eyes open. Perks and flaws of covering the team without an affiliate while also covering the draft and doing it from home. You catch about 75% of the games and it just so happened I missed the best one of the year (I was watering plants when Trout signed his extension, it happens).

“Most likely pitcher if we took one? Ty Madden, Jackson Jobe, Kumar Rocker, Sam Bachman?” – @joshuaharris20

Think Kumar drops to nine?” – @SteveGranado

If Rocker falls to nine, is it still a no-brainer pick? Also, if he doesn’t end up falling to us, who would you like to see us draft?” – @JoAdellszn

Sup, Josh, Steve, and Jo Adell Season? Alright, I knew it was coming. Kumar Rocker and the Angels. I’m going to do my best to explain this clearly because it can be simple, but with moving parts. Rocker is one of about seven or eight players at the very top of this draft class in terms of talent and is probably the seventh or eighth best of that group. The Angels pick at nine. That means one team will have to go underslot ahead of the Angels for one of those eight to be available for them to pick, and it could be Kumar Rocker. I’ve heard since March-ish that Rocker would never fall below the Royals at seven, and kind of laughed thinking he wouldn’t fall out of the top four. Now that we’re a week away from the draft, there is a chance Kansas City could get their guy, or even pass on him for someone they see as superior (Khalil Watson). Essentially, for Rocker to be available for the Angels, one team has to go underslot and the Royals have to pass.

Going into the Madden, Jobe, Rocker, Bachman note; Rocker and Jobe are both in the aforementioned top eight, and it’s sounding more-and-more like Jobe will not be available at nine. That leaves the potential outcome for Rocker, and the likelihood that Madden and Bachman are available (unless Madden goes at eight, and/or, Bachman goes at five or six which could also happen, leaving one of the other top eight free – looking at you, Brady House). Perry Minasian was pictured at a Sam Bachman start which suggest there’s deep interest if the GM is going, but that’s not the only place Perry has been this Spring (GM’s travel to see quite a few guys yearly). I think if Rocker is available, they’d take him. If not, I think they ponder Madden, Bachman, one of the college hitters, or one of the upside athletes.

“Seeing that the Angels have a new GM for this year’s Draft, but the same Director of Amateur Scouting, I was wondering, who do you think has the greater impact on the players a team drafts and the types of players a team drafts?” – @AJStreet77

A.J., great to hear from you again. It changes from team-to-team. Essentially, the GM has the ultimate say, and more GM’s are involved with the first two picks, but there are still plenty who trust their scouting staff and Scouting Director to make the picks. However, the decision isn’t made solely by just the two in some cases as teams will have a blend of scouts in the room disputing along with an analytics staff and Assistant GM’s as well. I’m not sure how Perry Minasian will run the draft with Matt Swanson, Paul Robinson, and staff, but if it’s similar to how Atlanta operated, it sounds like it could be an open floor conversation that has already been ongoing for weeks.

“Hey, long time listener, first time caller. Rank the Star Wars movies from best to worst.” – @Jared_Tims

New phone, who dis? Ok. I’m not a Star Wars guy. I neither like or dislike the franchise, but, I don’t know, never found real entertainment in them. I’ve seen the first one (you’re gonna make me specify, aren’t you? Okay, Episode IV) and feel it’s a classic and can probably watch it as background noise on a lazy Saturday afternoon or something. Empire was whatever. Return of the Jedi was okay. After that, I thought Episode I was junk, didn’t see Episode II, couldn’t tolerate the horrendous acting in Episode III, and have only seen the first two of the new ones (Force Awakens and Last Jedi?). Force Awakens was just a remake, and Last Jedi wasn’t awful unless you ask my brother-in-law who says it ruined the series. I doubt I’ll actually see the last one, but the trailer was cool.

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