By Tres Hefter, AngelsWin.com Columnist
In honor of the draft, the commencement of the Arizona League, and reaching the halfway point of the MLB season, we’re doubling up today – featuring ten hitters and ten pitchers who have performed well over the last two weeks. This is also in part to the hot hitting on the farm, as eight Angels farmhands posted an OPS over 1.000, with four prospects from the Arizona team opening their seasons with big production at the plate.
1) David MacKinnon – 1B, Rocket City, AA:
It’s probably time to start taking David MacKinnon seriously as a legitimate prospect. The first baseman, 26 years old and a 32nd round pick, continued to dominate at the plate over the last two weeks, hitting .381, which is basically what he’s hit now over his last 100 plate appearances (.389 since June 11th) to go along with his typically advanced plate discipline (6 BB to 8 K in that time). This is nothing new for MacKinnon though. What’s more encouraging however is the uptick in power. After hitting 9 extra-base hits in his first 24 games, MacKinnon has added 15 more in the 24 games since, giving him a .541 SLG on the year, a significant increase over his prior career full-season best of .392, and one in line with what you’d want to see from a player who is exclusively playing a power-first position in 1B. It’s difficult to see how MacKinnon’s career can progress with the Angels as he has Matt Thaiss, Jose Rojas, and Jared Walsh (of course, another late-round 1B who slugged his way to the majors) ahead of him on the depth chart. Thaiss and Rojas’ positional versatility clears this path slightly, but it’s still hard to see MacKinnon getting a chance with the Angels. Bearing a remarkable offensive similarity to Tampa’s Yandy Diaz, MacKinnon seems the type of player a low-payroll team thin at organizational depth at 1B could take a chance on and could be one of the names we see moved in a deal for a rental or lesser name – or as depth allowing the Angels to move Rojas or Thaiss in similar fashion. Detroit, Colorado, Texas, Pittsburgh, and Tampa all seem like teams that could have interest in this type of player and could have pieces that match up with Halo needs.
David MacKinnon with a solo HR to give the Rocket City Trash Pandas a 1-0 lead pic.twitter.com/9ogIbJWAbi— Angels MiLB (@AngelsMiLB) July 11, 2021
2021 (RCT AA): .335/.412/.541/.953 with 17 doubles, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 22 BB, 35 K in 48 G/211 PA
2) Brendon Davis – 2B/3B/SS/LF, Tri-City, A+:
Named the High-A West Player of the Week for the second time this season and leading the league in HRs, Davis is almost single-handedly holding up the offense for the Dust Devils, so you may need to excuse his subpar June, in which he posted a .698 OPS after opening the year with an .841 OPS in May. The former 5th round pick of the Dodgers in the 2015 draft returned to May form over the last two weeks – and then some – as he slashed .356/.404/.822/1.226 since June 28th, boosted by five doubles, two triples, four home runs, 16 hits, and two stolen bases in two attempts for good measure. Perhaps Davis’ struggles in June came because of his newfound versatility in the field. After playing the first 31 games of the season at the hot corner, Davis has started at SS eight times, 2B six times, LF twice, and 3B nine times. He’s still suffering from some swing and miss issues – 14 in his last 11 games – but the offensive potential the Dodgers once dreamed on, and that the Rangers dreamed on when they acquired him for Darvish, is showing itself now more than ever in Davis’ best pro season to date. 23 years old, Davis will likely finish the season at Rocket City and could be in the MLB bench mix as soon as 2022 if his performance continues to match his one-time prospect shine. Much like MacKinnon, Davis could be the type of lotto-ticket the Angels could use in deals for rentals.
The @TC_DustDevils take a 2-1 series lead over the @HillsboroHops with an 8-3 win in game 3 of the series.— Jamie Council (@JamieCouncilTV) July 9, 2021
INF Brendon Davis (@Brendon_BDavis) hit his 12th HR of the season -- Leading the @MiLB High-A West in the long ball pic.twitter.com/FT839p5jZ9
2021 (TRI A+): .256/.315/.507/.821 with 15 doubles, 3 triples, 12 HR, 31 RBI, 17 BB, 71 K, 6 for 8 SB in 57 G/251 PA
3) Luis Aviles – 2B/3B/SS/LF, Rocket City, AA:
Signed by Billy Eppler as a minor league free agent prior to the 2020 season, Aviles finally got onto the field for the Angels in late June after coronavirus eliminated the 2020 season and injuries robbed Aviles of playing time in almost all of May and June. Once a prospect in the Brewers system who drew occasional hype for strong defense and a minor league All-Star appearance in 2019, Aviles made this list mostly because of his play in one series against Tampa’s AA affiliate, the Montgomery Biscuits. Aviles homered six times in four games, also clubbed two doubles, and drove in 11. It’s far too soon to tell if this was a precursor to any sort of offensive breakout for Aviles or just a ridiculous series as he only has 17 games on the season, but nonetheless, it’s production the Angels will welcome from the 26-year old. Aviles’ strong play earned him the AA-South Player of the Week honors.
Luis Aviles Jr. has 5 home runs, 2 doubles, and 9 RBI over his last 15 plate appearances(3 games) for AA Rocket City. Here are all 5 of those homers including his walk off last night #Angels pic.twitter.com/GMyUg7my83— Jared Tims (@Jared_Tims) July 9, 2021
2021 (SLC AAA/RCT AA): .273/.358/.636/.995 with 2 doubles, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 6 BB, 17 K, 3 SB in 17 G/69 PA
4) Edwin Yon – DH/RF, Inland Empire, A:
One of the most interesting prospects in the Angels system is Edwin Yon, a towering outfielder (listed at 6’5”) plucked in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft from Cincinnati. Yon is about as raw as a prospect could be. Originally debuting with the Reds’ Dominican summer team at the age of 16, Yon owns 302 K in 800 career plate appearances – and despite his projectable power, only a career .363 SLG to show for it, never topping more than 4 HR in any short-season ball. That’s changed in the last two weeks though, as Yon homered four times in 10 games, hitting .303/.439/.788/1.227 in that time. Ten hits in ten games and seven walks against 14 strikeouts also provide some encouraging hints of improved contact and discipline. At 22 years old, Yon is at the age where raw, tenured power-first prospects can start to put things together, and if he does, look out. A Jabari Blash-like career as a free-swinging, HR mashing career minor leaguer/foreign league superstar is still probably the best case scenario for Yon, but nonetheless he’s another name worth watching as the summer continues on.
Edwin Yon with a solo HR for the Inland Empire 66ers pic.twitter.com/1g2IqmJiYK— Angels MiLB (@AngelsMiLB) July 9, 2021
2021 (IE A): .238/.342/.556/.898 with 3 doubles, one triple, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 9 BB, 36 K in 18 G/73 PA
5) Arol Vera – SS/2B, Arizona, Rk.:
Arol Vera, signed in the 2019 international period, has finally made his pro debut, and it’s been as good as advertised for a talent often mentioned as one of the Angels Top 10 prospects. Splitting time up the middle at SS and 2B, the Venezuelan switch-hitter has hit in every single game so far, slashing .421/.477/.632/1.109 in his first 9 games and 44 plate appearances, with four doubles and two triples peppered in.
2021 (ACL Rk.): .421/.477/.632/1.109 with 4 doubles, 2 triples, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 11 K in 9 G/44 PA
6) Edgar Quero – C/DH, Arizona, Rk.:
One of the more exciting signings of recent international period is that of 18-year-old switch-hitting Cuban catcher Edgar Quero, whose Arizona debut will only inflate that excitement. While Quero has only seven pro games to his career so far, he’s made an impression in them, whacking two doubles, two homers, and hitting .364/.440/.727/1.167. Quero is arguably a bat-first catcher but has enough skill behind the plate to be the Angels’ most complete catching prospect since Bengie Molina. He nabbed two of seven baserunners in his three games behind the plate so far and could find himself on Angels Top 30 prospect lists as soon as midseason 2021.
2021 (ACL Rk.): .364/.440/.727/1.167 with 2 doubles, 2 HR, 8 RBI, BB, 5 K, 1 SB in 7 G/25 PA
7) Michael Stefanic – 2B/3B, Salt Lake City, AAA:
Much like David MacKinnon or perhaps a better comp, David Fletcher, Michael Stefanic just continues to hit. Settling in at Salt Lake between 2B and 3B over the last two weeks, Stefanic’s June was fairly under the radar but still productive, and July has yielded strong numbers at the plate once again, as he slashed .316/.395/.579/.974 in ten games, adding 12 hits, a double, and three HR to his 2021 campaign, giving him a career high mark of 7 HR. Also like MacKinnon, Stefanic finds himself somewhat buried on a depth chart that includes Jack Mayfield, Kean Wong, and Luis Rengifo all ahead of him, and could similarly find himself mentioned in trade talks for lower-impact names or rentals. However, should Mayfield and Wong wind up lost to waivers over the course of the 2021 season, Stefanic figures to be first-in-line for their MLB roles come 2022.
The great @slbeesradio described this Michael Stefanic homer as a "Gwen Stefani" because there was No Doubt about it.— Salt Lake Bees (@SaltLakeBees) July 6, 2021
Like this tweet if you think Klauke should make more 90s ska music references during his broadcasts pic.twitter.com/C43Db6FzuV
2021 (SLC AAA/RCT AA): .313/.396/.460/.856 with 10 doubles, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 24 BB, 44 K in 54 G/240 PA
Braxton Martinez – 3B/1B, Inland Empire, A:
The numbers that Braxton Martinez, as a 27-year-old in Low-A, are starting to become comical. Over the last two weeks, Martinez has hit .447 (17 hits in 38 AB) with an OBP of .560 (11 walks to 4 strikeouts), which is almost becoming typical production now, as he owns a batting average of .370 and an OBP of .496 over his last month. Martinez also touts power, with 22 doubles and 8 HR on the season already, with 7 of those doubles coming in the last two weeks. After playing 1B/DH exclusively in his first 37 games, Martinez is now playing primarily 3B. What comes next is anyone’s guess.
Braxton Martinez with an RBI double for the Inland Empire 66ers pic.twitter.com/p3WzV8H0YE— Angels MiLB (@AngelsMiLB) July 11, 2021
2021 (IE A): .344/.460/.611/1.071 with 22 doubles, one triple, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 38 BB, 29 K in 51 G/224 PA
9) Adrian Placencia – 2B/SS, Arizona, Rk.:
One of three mid-infielders with Top 30 talent at Arizona, Adrian Placencia made his pro debut for the Angels in the last two weeks, and like Vera, has done nothing but impress in his first look. Often mirroring Vera in the field – playing primarily 2B to Vera’s SS and vice versa – Placencia has also produced at the plate. In 8 games Placencia has peppered a double, a triple, two homers, and four singles across 40 PA, but more importantly, drawn nine walks against five strikeouts. Should it continue, this advanced plate recognition could set Placencia apart from Vera and Blakely as the trio progress in their careers and give the Angels a trio of dynamic infielders with differing skill sets to work with.
2021 (ACL Rk.): .258/.425/.548/.973 with one double, one triple, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 9 BB, 5 K in 8 G/40 PA
10) Werner Blakely – 3B/2B/SS, Arizona, Rk.:
The 4th round selection of the 2020 draft made his pro debut in Arizona, and much like with Vera and Placencia, saw immediate success. While Blakely, who might have the most power out of the three, produced only a double and a HR in his first two weeks, he also drew 8 BB (though against 13 K) and roped 8 singles in 9 games, while stealing three bases in three attempts. Blakely has the most star potential of the trio, having a shot at being a real four-or-five tool player, especially if his defense manifests, while the power, speed, discipline, and contact skills are already on display in Arizona so far.
2021 (ACL Rk.): .303/.439/.424/.863 with one double, one HR, 8 BB, 13 K, 3 SB in 3 attempts in 9 G/41 PA
Honorable mentions, position players:
Alexander Ramirez (CF/DH, ACL Rk.): .256/.356/.462/.817 with 2B, 2 3B, HR, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 18 K in 9 G/45 PA – mixed start to the season for one of the Angels’ most interesting prospects
Francisco Del Valle (RF/LF, Tri A+): .318/.412/.477/.889 with 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 5 HBP in 12 G/51 PA – still has a shot at being a solid 4th/5th OF type
Elijah Greene (LF/CF, IE A/RCT AA): .571/.679/.762/1.440 with 4 2B, 7 BB, 2 K in 8 G/28 PA – unreal discipline earns a promotion past A+ straight to AA
Brandon Marsh (CF/DH, ACL Rk./SLC AAA): .429/.515/.857/1.372 with 2 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 5 BB, 8 K, 1 SB in 7 G/33 PA – small sample kept him from placing, but strong production in return from injury
Matt Thaiss (C/DH/1B, SLC AAA): .341/.473/.477/.950 with 3 2B, HR, 9 RBI, 8 BB, 9 K, 3 HBP in 12 G/55 PA – will he see the MLB again soon? Deadline could make it so.
Izzy Wilson (RF/LF, RCT AA): .243/.349/.541/.889 with 2 2B, 3 HR, 6 BB, 19 K, 4 SB in 11 G/43 PA – since June 1st, an OPS of exactly 1.000 over 121 PA
Carlos Herrera (3B/2B, TRI A+): .478/.520/.870/.1390 with 3 2B, 2 HR in 6 G/25 PA –BA of .324/OPS of .819 in last 109 PA
Spencer Griffin (OF, TRI A+): .391/.440/.522/.962 with HR, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 SB in 8 G/25 PA – athletic depth OF with a shot at 4thOF
Jose Reyes (LF/RF, IE A): .297/.350/.486/.836 with 2 2B, 3B, HR, 10 RBI, 3 BB, 11 K
Gavin Cecchini (SS/2B, RCT AA/SLC AAA): .324/.385/.441/.826 with 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 7 K – former 1st rounder promoted to AAA
D’Shawn Knowles (CF, IE A): .239/.321/.478/.799 with 4 2B, 2 3B, HR, 11 RBI, 6 BB, 12 K, 3 SB – now 16 for 16 in SB attempts