Cactus League Game 3, Dipoto’s Ex Pays a Visit
Wade Miley vs. Nate Smith, 12:10pm
Mike Scioscia and the Angels head to Peoria to face the M’s today, with Wade Miley making his debut for the M’s. After sorting out some work visa issues, 1B Dae Ho Lee figures to see his first action of the spring as well; sound like he’ll come off the bench today. The Angels are sending something of a B team today; there’s no Mike Trout, no Kole Calhoun, and the starting pitcher is coming off a disastrous half-year in the PCL.
Nate Smith is an Angels prospect, which is to say, he’s not thought of highly by the prospecting community. An 8th round save-some-money signability pick by Dipoto’s Angels after 4 so-so years for Furman,* Smith shot through the Angels system on the strength of a very good change-up. Without plus velocity, Smith didn’t rack up tons of strikeouts, but he showed a remarkable ability to miss the sweet spot, leading to extraordinarily low BABIPs and hits-allowed. Whether it was the elevation playing havoc with his change, the advanced bats or what, none of this “skill” followed him to Salt Lake, where he gave up 48 hits (7 homers) and 36 runs in 36 innings. Sure, the PCL is difficult, and 36 innings tell you almost nothing, but for a guy who scouts always doubted despite great AA numbers, it seemed to confirm a lot of that skepticism. With the Angels other top prospects shipped to Atlanta for today’s leadoff hitter, Andrelton Simmons, Smith is pretty much the only near-MLB arm the Angels have. He’s a top 10 prospect for the Angels, but ranking 9th in that system seems like damning with faint praise, particularly given his level (the other pitchers are generally in the low-minors). We’ll see if he’s legitimate depth or a Craig Anderson-style arm, built to confuse AA with a workable change-up, but unable to back it up with anything else to keep AAA/MLB hitters honest.
The M’s aren’t messing around, throwing out something like their first-choice 1-6 hitters and their big off-season addition to the starting rotation in Wade Miley. Miley’s an intriguing guy in that he throws quite a few four-seam fastballs along with a sinker, but gets grounders with both. The four-seamer’s been particularly effective against lefties, but that may be just a function of Miley’s normal platoon splits. In any event, it’ll be interesting to see if he throws more of the pitch this season after moving from Boston and the AL East to homer-suppressing Seattle and the AL West.
1: Marte, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Lind, 1B
6: Gutierrez, RF
7: Zunino, C
8: Powell, CF
9: Robertson, LF
Daniel Robertson is another ex-Angel whom Dipoto snagged this off-season, along with Efren Navarro, Chris Iannetta and Scott Servais. An extreme contact hitter, Robertson is an odd corner OF with essentially zero power but who balances it out by being nearly impossible to strike out. It’s worked for Nori Aoki, but it hasn’t quite worked yet for Robertson. Last year in half a season with Salt Lake, Robertson was nearly as bad as Nate Smith, and he managed to pair a .299 OBP with a solid .270 average in his cup of coffee with the Angels. As you can see, patience, like power, may just not be a part of Robertson’s game. Still, with strikeouts sky high across the league, and with a modicum of speed, you could see how he could add value to a team. Of course, he was DFA’d by the M’s after they picked him up and made it through waivers, so I guess teams didn’t think he’d add enough value. He figures to head back to the PCL and put together the kind of year he had in 2013 when he was a Padres farmhand. This is the kind of depth teams need, though it may be the kind of depth that most teams have already (you could argue the M’s did too, in the form of Ramon Flores, but he was shipped out in exchange for Luis Sardinas).
We may get to see Tony Zych today along with Blake Parker. Zych has plenty of potential, and I think has the inside track to a set-up role, while Parker is attempting a comeback of sorts after missing nearly all of 2015 due to injuries. Parker had a great 2013 out of the Cubs bullpen, racking up 55 strikeouts in 46 1/3 IP thanks to an over-the-top, rising fastball and a good curve. Despite only so-so velocity, the arrow-straight movement and a somewhat deceptive delivery made him tough to pick up. Lefties in particular were flummoxed by the right-handed Parker. He struggled mightily in 2014 though, bouncing back and forth between the PCL (where he was dominant) and the NL (where he was not). His velo was slightly lower in 2014, but nothing that screamed injury risk. But Parker tossed 3 bad games in April, and was unable to pitch after that due to an elbow problem. The Cubs DFA’d him in May, and Parker took the rest of the season off to get his elbow healthy. It’s not often you find a guy with a 10+ K/9 season in the majors on the minor league scrap heap, but then again, “I was unable to pitch last year due to elbow pain” really does do a number to one’s value.
* Smith apparently signed for $12,000.