Dodgers, Angels prospects report to AFL
One year ago, Angels prospect Mike Trout was still just a minor-league phenom, a kid the team sent to the Arizona Fall League to get in some at-bats and work on his hitting and defense.
Twelve months later, Trout is basking in a season filled with highlights, one that’s sure to include American League Rookie of the Year and perhaps even MVP.
No one can be certain how much his time in Arizona helped Trout – he hit just .245 with one home run in 126 at-bats – but there are plenty of prospects hoping some of his good fortune will rub off on them.
The Angels and Dodgers each have eight players taking part in the AFL, which began last week and concludes Nov. 15. Dodgers outfield prospect Yasiel Puig, whom the team signed to a seven-year, $42-million deal, won’t be there because of a staph infection in his right elbow, but several others are worth watching.
“It’s really a collection of a lot of the best young players in one place,” said De Jon Watson, the Dodgers assistant general manager in charge of player development. “It’s almost like a daily all-star game.”
The Angels are keeping a close watch on third baseman Kaleb Cowart, who batted a combined .259 at Class A Cedar Rapids and advanced Class A Inland Empire this season and is the team’s top-ranked prospect and 2010 first-round draft pick.
Cowart, who is only 20, finished with 16 home runs and 103 RBIs in 135 games and is hitting .222 in five games with the Scottsdale Scorpions. He’s a switch hitter with power from both sides of the plate.
Reliever Bobby Cassevah, who pitched in four games for the Angels after starting the season on the disabled list because of shoulder inflammation, doesn’t fall into the prospect category. He’s taking the place of left-hander Nick Maronde, who finished the season with the Angels and impressed the coaching staff with his work in late-inning situations (1.50 ERA in 12 games). Cassevah, 27, has thrown three scoreless innings for the Scorpions and could use the work as a prelude to spring training next year.
Outfielder Randal Grichuk, notable because the Angels drafted him one spot ahead of Trout in 2009, has been slowed by injuries but hit .298 with 18 homers in 537 at-bats for Inland Empire this season. He’s batting .238 for Scottsdale with one home run in 21 at-bats.
For the Dodgers, left-handed pitching prospect Onelki Garcia is expected to report to his Mesa Solar Sox team next week after being slowed because of bicep tendinitis. But the Dodgers like his mid-90s fastball and breaking ball after watching pitch in only two minor league games this season, one for advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga and one playoff game for Double-A Chattanooga.
“You put him in an arena like this against better competition and it gives us a great opportunity to really assess where he is,” Watson said. “He pitched last winter in Puerto Rico and flashed three pitches. He features pretty good stuff. He’s anywhere from 92 to 96 with two different types of breaking balls that are solid-average right now, and he has the makings of a changeup. That’s in its infancy stages, but we do like the actual life and action on the pitch.”
In his two minor-league appearances, Garcia, who is from Cuba, faced 15 batters and struck out 11. Not surprisingly, the Dodgers are anxious to see how he fares against other teams’ top prospects.
“He’s definitely somebody that we like,” Watson said. “We think he has some upside to him, and I think his skill set will dictate the pace at which we push him.”
Also on the Dodgers’ watch list is center fielder Joc Pederson, who hit .313 at Rancho Cucamonga with 18 homers and 48 extra-base hits in 110 games this season. He’s hitless in 15 at-bats with Mesa but remains a valued prospect.
“Joc had a really good year for us last year,” Watson said. “He doesn’t have any results right now. He’s hitting the ball hard but right at people. He’s going to get adjusted to the league but he’ll be fine. I’m excited for him. It’s a chance for him to see where he needs to take his game.”
Several Dodgers pitchers have struggled in early games, but Watson offered good reports on right-hander Red Patterson and Andres Santiago and lefty Chris Reed, who is primarily a starter but has been used in relief.