Angels hope Canadian pitching prospect is hidden gem

His name is a headline writer’s delight, but that’s not why the Angels recently signed Mike Monster, a 6-foot-3 right-hander from Kelowna, Canada, who hasn’t pitched competitively in two years.

It was a monster fastball that sat in the 95-mph range and touched 97 mph during a late-November indoor workout in Seattle that persuaded the Angels to sign the 23-year-old to a free-agent contract.

“This is a heavy fastball with some sink to it — he throws 93 to 95 mph and has a chance to break some bats,” said Tim Schmidt, a special assignment scout who was among the Angels contingent who watched Monster.

“His curve has to be improved, but he can spin the ball. It’s going to take a while for him to figure out who he is and what he can do, but once he does, who knows? Guys like this do throw in major league bullpens.”

Monster was a 25th-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds out of high school in 2009 but opted not to sign. He pitched two years at Okanagan College in Kelowna before dropping out of school for family reasons.

But during an Okanagan alumni game in late-October, Monster began turning heads in the bullpen when his fastball hit 95 mph on a radar gun. Don Archer, an Angels scout based in Canada, got wind of the news and alerted national cross-checker Jeff Malinoff, who is based in the Seattle area.

The Angels arranged for Monster to travel to Seattle for a workout, and soon thereafter, Monster signed for what is believed to be a relatively modest bonus.

“I guess it’s kind of a shock,” Monster told the Kelowna Capital News. “It only took a month from when I threw at the alumni game. I was just throwing and having fun. It’s pretty crazy this happened, but I’m not the kind of guy to get caught up in those things. It will be a little more real in March. It’s going to be fun.”

Monster is expected to remain in extended spring training after the Angels break camp next March and start the 2014 season at Orem, Utah, the short-season Class-A club that most recently drafted college players are assigned. But with a good spring, Monster could break camp with a regular minor league affiliate.

“He needs innings, he needs instruction,” Schmidt said. “But if this guy was throwing in front of 30 organizations, given all the negatives — his age, lack of experience, being a cold-weather kid — there still would have been some competition to sign him. We got a fairly big arm.”

Okanagan Coach Geoff White, who contacted several scouts after the alumni game, believes Monster is mentally and physically ready for the challenge of professional baseball.

“For him to hit 97 … it’s not very often you see that from a guy who has stepped away from the game,” White told the Capital News. “Mike has always had the ability to throw hard. Now I think he’s gotten to a point where he is even stronger and he’s become a man. It’s great to see him get the opportunity, and it’s up to him to run with it.”