This past weekend, I decided to attend a couple AAA games for the Angels, mostly due to the convenience of only having to travel two hours to see them play in Sacramento, but also to get a better idea as to what they have to offer in terms of pitching and hitting. I can’t say I was terribly surprised by the results, but they were considerably less optimistic than even I could have imagined. Let’s start with offense:
Catcher – Chris Snyder. So far, the newly acquired Snyder (and since dealt) has been the best offensive player for the Angels AAA affiliate. But one look at his swing and it is painfully obvious that Snyder had pre-tailored his swing to succeed in this environment. He was swinging for the fences and even when he didn’t great contact, the light air compensated and helped him accumulate extra base hits. Quite a bit more likely was a strikeout and infield pop-up.
Outfielder – Brad Hawpe. Hawpe used to have a quirky pre-pitch timing and loading mechanism that allowed him to hit the long ball in Colorado. But comparing his swing now to what it was then, it almost looks like he’s completely overdoing it. His hands are all over the place and the only pitch he can do anything with is the inside fastball. Granted, he can murder that pitch, but I don’t see any reason why pitchers would ever give that pitch to him.
Infielder – Bill Hall. I really liked what I saw from Hall this Spring, but after seeing him in Sacramento this weekend, it’s clear he’s either not 100% healthy or he isn’t playing at 100%. He made some fine defensive grabs at third base, but his quickness and range of motion made it all but impossible for him to play second base or shortstop as he did earlier in his career. He looked strong, but slow. At the plate, his timing isn’t back yet like it was in Spring Training, but it seems like he’ll get there. He’s doing a very good job at keeping his weight back on the pitch and isn’t fooled by much.
A.J. Schugel – Schugel was clearly battling himself the entire night I saw him. His fastball wasn’t sitting the usual 91-93 as I’ve seen in the past, he was sitting 88-90. He wasn’t hitting his spots, but he was generating a lot of weak contact as a result of movement on his pitches. He isn’t ready for a spot on the Angels yet, either as a starter or in relief, but it’s clear that Schugel isn’t overmatched in AAA. He should be fine in the long run.
Ryan Brasier – Brasier’s stuff is undeniably lively. He throws a 95+ mph fastball and a sharp breaking pitch with a somewhat deceptive delivery. The issue is, as with many Angels relievers, he can’t get his breaking pitch over for a strike and falls behind hitters almost immediately against every batter. This results in hitters keying on his fastball, which doesn’t move a whole lot. When this happens, hard contact ensues. He isn’t ready to challenge for a big league spot yet, and has a lot to work on, but at the very least, there’s something to build off of. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Following writing this article, the Angels promoted Ryan Brasier out of necessity.)
Matt Shoemaker – He seemed really comfortable on the mound and wasn’t frightened of the hitters or the environment. He consistently lived low and on the outer half and relied on ball movement to get by. He was successful on Sunday, and generally has been so far this year. Shoemaker lacks the upside to be a good major league pitcher, but with time I do think he can be an inexpensive long reliever.
Chad Cordero – As I mentioned with Shoemaker, Cordero seems to have that comfort factor a lot of the younger guys lack. His fastball wasn’t overly impressive, but he used two different versions that kept hitters from making consistent contact. One was a 90 mph type that didn’t move a lot but hitters were generally behind a lot on. The other was an 87 mph type that had sinking action to it. When he throws this for a strike, he can generate ground balls. But his offspeed pitches need some work. His curve/slider was loopy, not as tight as it needed to be and he hung it. This is a bad combo. There were a couple times that he managed to bury the pitch and hitters were badly fooled though, so there is promise. Still, later in the year, if Cordero tightens up his offspeed pitch and is able to command the zone with his two fastballs, I could see him being contributing to the big league club. For the time being I wouldn’t expect that anytime soon though.
There really wasn’t a ton to see. I could potentially like Cordero in a few months as he gets more sharp. I could also potentially like Shoemaker and Schugel in a couple years in the right situation, but as far as immediate help, there doesn’t appear to be any.