This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
Young Angels Pitching
With the Angels' major league pitching staff hampered by injuries, they've been forced to look to alternative sources this year.
Here are some upper-level Angels pitching prospects, listed alphabetically. I'm only including players at the major league, Triple-A, and Double-A levels for now, since they are the ones most likely to see action soon.
Trevor Bell, RHP
Bell, a 22 year old right-hander, was a supplemental first round pick in '05 out of high school in La Crescenta, California. Despite his draft status, he has been under the radar the last two seasons, since he lost 5 MPH off his fastball in '06 and scouts have been downplaying his chances. He works in the 87-90 range now, rather than the 90+ readings he put up as a prep, but his curveball and changeup are solid and he throws strikes. He began '09 in Double-A, going 4-3, 2.23 with a 51:20 K:BB in 69 innings, with 54 hits allowed for Arkansas. Promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake two weeks ago, he's allowed just two unearned runs in his first 16 innings over two starts. If he keeps pitching like this, a major league trial should happen this summer. He won't be an ace, but he has a chance to be an effective strike-throwing inning-eater.
David Herndon, RHP
23 years old, Herndon was a fifth round pick in 2006 out of Gulf Coast Community College in Florida. Relying on an 88-92 MPH sinker and a decent slider, Herndon has a 3.18 ERA with a 14:5 K:BB in 28 innings for Double-A Arkansas, allowing 30 hits but picking up eight saves in the closer role. In the majors he projects as a middle reliever. He gets tons of grounders, posting a 3.00 GO:AO this season. He's not a spectacular talent, but he could provide useful bullpen reinforcement.
Tommy Mendoza, RHP
Mendoza is 21 years old, originally a fifth round pick in 2005 out of high school in Miami, Florida. He had a poor 2008 season in the California League, but has rebounded this year at a higher level, going 5-3, 2.83 with a 47:18 K:BB in 70 innings for Double-A Arkansas. Considering that he struck out just 50 guys in 110 innings last year, his improvement has been quite notable. Like Trevor Bell, Mendoza threw harder in high school (92-96 MPH) than he does now (88-93), but his pitch moves well and he's refined his command. He also has a curveball, cutter, and changeup. He's behind Bell on the development chart, and like him he projects as an inning-eater type, or possibly a reliever.
Sean O'Sullivan, RHP
Sullivan, currently 21 years old, was drafted in the third round in 2005 from Grossmont Junior College. He threw very hard in high school and college, but has lost much of his velocity and works at 87-92 MPH now. This seems a common theme with Angels pitching prospects. His numbers aren't great this year: 5.30 ERA with a 14:0 K:BB but 21 hits allowed in 19 innings for Arkansas; 6.02 ERA with a 35:15 K:BB and 61 hits in 49 innings for Salt Lake. He's made two major league starts and performed well, and was just promoted again. O'Sullivan has a decent curveball and changeup, and (like Bell and Mendoza) he could be a solid inning-eater if all goes well.
Matt Palmer, RHP
Palmer has been with the Angels most of the season and is no longer a rookie, but I think he's interesting and want to write about him, so here he is. 30 years old, Palmer was a long-time veteran of the Giants farm system, but despite a solid track record in the upper minors, he didn't get a chance until 2008 when he made three starts in the majors. Now with the Angels, Palmer is 6-1, 4.70 with a 40:27 K:BB in 61 innings in the majors, with 57 hits allowed. The ERA is higher than ideal and his components aren't great, but he's helped hold the staff together, and after toiling in Double-A and Triple-A since 2003, he deserves a full shot and is taking advantage of it. Palmer's fastball isn't hot at 86-89 MPH, but he mixes it with a slider, curveball, and changeup, and eats innings. He doesn't have a big margin for error, but players with worse skill profiles have had long careers.
Trevor Reckling, LHP
Just 20 years old, Reckling was an eighth round pick in 2007 out of high school in Newark, New Jersey. He had a fine season in the Midwest League in '08, and has maintained his momentum in '09, starting off with a 0.95 ERA and a 16:3 K:BB in 19 innings in the California League, then a 4-2, 2.52 mark with a 50:35 K:BB in 64 innings for Arkansas over 11 starts. Reckling needs to sharpen his command: his walk rate has been high in the Texas League, though it hasn't hurt him yet thanks to a .220 average against and just one homer allowed. His 87-90 MPH sinker is effective, and both his curveball and changeup could be plus major league pitches.
Rich Thompson, RHP
A 24-year old Australian signed back in 2002, Thompson has been very effective in Triple-A (2.95 ERA with a 27:7 K:BB in 18 innings this year) but hasn't been consistently good in the majors yet, though he does have 13 strikeouts in 11 innings this year. He has a 90-93 MPH fastball and a solid curveball, but his command within the strike zone can waiver, and he's a strong fly ball guy vulnerable to the home run. If he can sharpen his control, he could be an effective middle man.
Jordan Walden, RHP
The 21-year old Walden missed most of May with a sore elbow, but is back in action with Double-A Arkansas and pitching effectively in his last four outings. The tragic death earlier this year of Nick Adenhart makes Walden the Angels' best long-term pitching prospect. Currently 1-4, 4.12 with a 43:21 K:BB in 44 innings for Arkansas, Walden features a sinking fastball that's been clocked as high as 101 MPH, though 92-94 is more frequent. He has a good slider, but is still working to improve his changeup and his overall command. Originally a 12th round pick out of Grayson County CC in 2006, Walden flashed first round ability in high school but signability and injury concerns kept him out of the early rounds.
Article first appeared 6/25/09