By Tres Hefter, AngelsWin.com Columnist
A slew of late-season promotions continue to shuffle the Angels' minor league deck, but strong performances remain!
1) Davis Daniel – RHP, Rocket City AA:
You can sort of Davis Daniel is becoming the Angels’ pitching equivalent of Michael Stefanic; both came into 2021 without much hype, both have performed not only extremely well, but extremely well consistently throughout the season, and both arguably are MLB-ready, even with Daniel yet to appear in AAA. Daniel’s strike-throwing tendencies were on full display over the last week, as the 24-year-old made two starts for Rocket City, striking out 18 in 11 innings while allowing just one walk, three earned runs (2.45 ERA), and seven hits (.175 BAA). Daniel has allowed two or fewer earned runs in 14 of his 18 appearances this year and with 9 starts in each A+ and AA, has essentially matched his production across two leagues – trading a few more walks from A+ for a few more hits in AA. If not for the surplus of R5 eligible arms that were added to the MLB team ahead of him these last few weeks, he’d likely already be in Anaheim.
Davis Daniel tonight for AA Rocket City: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB’s, 11 K’s. pic.twitter.com/kvTJjq4K47— Angels MiLB (@AngelsMiLB) September 4, 2021
2021 (TRI A+/RCT AA): 2.59 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, .193 BAA, with 28 BB, 130 K, 8 HR allowed across 93.2 IP in 18 GS
2) Ryan Smith – LHP, Rocket City AA:
Following a couple months in Tri-City, Smith, a 5’11” 23-year-old lefty out of Princeton, was moved up to AA Rocket City and has yet to really be slowed much by much of anything. While his stellar Inland Empire line has dulled a bit as he’s advanced, Smith has still delivered quality innings in all three of his stops this season, and the last two weeks have indeed put an exclamation point on that narrative, as Smith sparkled in two starts, allowing only one ER (0.69 ERA) in 13 innings, with one walk to sixteen strikeouts. Like Daniel, Smith won’t be R5 eligible until the winter following the 2022 season, but his performance might force the Angels to consider the lefty for their major league staff sometime in ’22.
Ryan Smith tonight for AA Rocket City: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB’s, 9 K’s. pic.twitter.com/NkaTHMomfX— Angels MiLB (@AngelsMiLB) September 3, 2021
2021 (IE A/TRI A+/RCT AA): 4.28 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .222 BAA, with 22 BB, 132 K, 14 HR allowed across 107 IP in 19 G/18 GS
3) John Swanda – RHP, Inland Empire, A:
Many have likely forgotten John Swanda, the Angels 4th round selection back in the 2017 draft. In his first three seasons, Swanda, now 22, rarely demonstrated any dominant stuff or positive results, but never really faltered either. At first glance, Swanda’s 2021 season looks pedestrian as well; no gaudy strikeout numbers, middling earned runs allowed, average HR and BB rates, but a closer look would reveal that Swanda’s season echoes perhaps what Cooper Criswell did in 2019; steady, consistent innings that were quietly dominant, punctuated by an occasional poor start. Swanda’s last two starts have been his best, as he limited opponents to just four hits (.089 BAA) and three walks in 13.1 scoreless innings while striking out 16. In his last four games now, he’s earned three wins, allowed a 1.48 ERA and .170 BAA in 24.1 IP with 25 K. Swanda will be Rule 5 eligible this winter, but lacking any high-octane stuff or shiny results should keep him safe from selection, which could work to the Angels’ benefit.
2021 (IE A): 4.14 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, .250 BAA, with 33 BB, 92 K, 13 HR allowed across 104.1 IP in 20 G/15 GS
4) Thomas Pannone – LHP, Salt Lake City AAA:
The Angels had probably hoped for a little more from lefty Thomas Pannone when they signed him to a minor league deal this past winter. Originally drafted by Cleveland in the 9th round and a decent prospect when acquired in trade by Toronto, Pannone had glimpses of promise in two MLB stints in the bigs but has yet to see that continue into his ’21 season with the Bees, a campaign which has been nothing short of a disaster. But Pannone might be showing signs of ending the year on a high note, as he has now strung together four straight decent appearances, including his three most recent starts, two of which were 7 IP efforts. Pannone posted a 2.95 ERA in that time, allowing two walks, 16 hits, and 2 HR while striking out 14. Likely ticketed for minor league free agency this winter, he won’t factor into the Angels future plans much, but could still see himself in the bigs this year should the Halos need a spot starter.
7 shutout innings from Thomas Pannone pic.twitter.com/9CpqAk5wD0— Salt Lake Bees (@SaltLakeBees) September 5, 2021
2021 (SLC AAA): 7.21 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, .196 BAA, with 32 BB, 67 K, 20 HR allowed across 97.1 IP in 20 G/17 GS
5) Fernando Guanare – RHP, Dominican Rk.:
Anytime a teenage arm can string up a couple of starts like Fernando Guanare has of late, it will catch some eyes. Posting 12 IP, 11 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 15 K in his last two starts, Guanare has continued to flash some strong strikeout stuff all season while, perhaps most impressively walking only one to date in his first pro season. Only 18 and listed at 6’1” 140 Guanare is still obviously a ways off, but strong performances tend to earn stateside rookie ball promotions no matter how young the arm. Could be an interesting one to watch in 2022.
2021 (Dominican Rk.): 2.31 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, .268 BAA, with 1 BB, 38 K, 0 HR allowed across 39 IP in 8 GS
Honorable mention, pitchers:
Adam Seminaris (LHP Tri-City A+): 1.74 ERA, .216 BAA with 4 BB, 11 K across 10.1 IP in 2 GS – now sporting a 3.33 ERA in last ten starts, 69 K in 51.1 IP
Mason Erla (RHP RCT AA): 0.00 ERA, .125 BAA with 0 BB, 9 K across 5 IP in 2 GS –nearly perfect start to pro career. 24 years old, could move fast.
Janson Junk (RHP RCT AA): 3.12 ERA, .071 BAA with 1 BB, 8 K across 8.2 IP in 1 GS – just missed a perfect game, but got an MLB debut instead
Luke Murphy (RHP TRI A+): 4.76 ERA, .227 BAA with 1 BB, 10 K across 5.2 IP in 4 G – virtually all damage against came in last appearance, nearly perfect before
Braden Olthoff (RHP Arizona Rk.): 1.29 ERA, .179 BAA with BB, 14 K across 7 IP in 2 GS – extremely strong start could garner promotion soon
Tyler Danish (RHP SLC AAA): 1.69 ERA, .220 BAA with 2 BB, 13 K across 10.2 IP in 4 G/1 GS – freshly baked success for @Angels1961 fav
Dylan King (RHP TRI A+): 4.50 ERA, .200 BAA with 0 BB, 14 K across 8 IP in 2 G – sleeper reliever prospect to watch, 67 K in 42.1 IP.
Hector Yan (LHP TRI A+): 1.35 ERA, .136 BAA with 8 BB, 14 K across 6.2 IP in 2 G – struck out 21 of 49 hitters since moving to relief – and walked 15.
Leonard Garcia (LHP Arizona Rk.): 1.04 ERA, .188 BAA with 6 BB, 15 K across 8.2 IP in 2 GS – only 17 and already stateside, arguably could have beat Guanare for #5 on this list
Brandon Dufault (RHP IE A): 0.00 ERA, .200 BAA with 3 BB, 7 K across 5 IP in 3 G – control issues, but all signs point to solid relief arm in the making
1) Michael Stefanic – 2B/DH, Salt Lake City AAA:
You can make an argument that with a .340 BA in 101 games, Michael Stefanic leads all minor league baseball in batting average – some lower-level players with fewer PA/G have higher BA are ahead – and he has maintained that .340 BA over the last two weeks, with 16 more hits in 47 AB. Not a true power threat, Stefanic’s SLG did drop slightly as he added only three extra-base hits (all doubles) in the last two weeks, but he maintained his excellent contact/discipline skills, posting 7 BB (one IBB) to 7 K in that time. While a call-up to Anaheim has yet to materialize (to the chagrin of many) it is probably safe to assume Stefanic will find himself placed on the 40-man this offseason given his R5 eligibility, and it could be Minasian is using the majors to determine which of the Mayfield, Rengifo, Wong contingent he wants to keep with Stefanic, and not in place of.
Michael Stefanic with an RBI double to tie the game at 4 for AAA Salt Lake pic.twitter.com/BaZJ6VmrHG— Angels MiLB (@AngelsMiLB) August 25, 2021
2021 (RCT AA/SLC AAA): .340/.410/.494/.904 with 18 doubles, 14 home runs, 56 RBI, and 40 BB, 64 K, 5/8 SB attempts in 101 G/441 PA
2) Orlando Martinez – OF/DH, Rocket City AA:
It’s been an uneven, but still encouraging, season for the 23-year-old Cuban outfielder, whose strong rebound in August from a brutal July (.606 OPS) continued over the last two weeks, slashing .355/.412/.548/.960 in 8 G/34 PA, adding a double, triple, and a homer to his ledger, drawing 3 BB to 5 K, and swiping three bags in three attempts. Had it not been for his July slide, Martinez would have a very solid .283/.340/.502/.842 slash. The lack of discipline remains Martinez’ biggest obstacle, but his sustained success with strong contact and at least average (if not slightly better) power still hints at an outfielder who has at least platoon-potential in the bigs as a ceiling. Martinez will be R5 eligible this winter, and while outfielders with his skill set typically are not protected as they are common across orgs, he’s also the type of player often selected in R5 to round out a rebuilding club’s bench. As such, there’s a strong chance he’s discussed in trades.
¡ADIOS BEISBOL!— Rocket City Trash Pandas (@trashpandas) September 4, 2021
ORLANDO MARTINEZ WITH A TWO-RUN MOONSHOT FOR THE LEAD! pic.twitter.com/sZEwoRlVQ1
2021 (RCT AA): .265/.318/.468/.785 with 23 doubles, 2 triples, 16 home runs, 51 RBI, 26 BB, 110, 5/7 SB attempts in 94 G/401 PA
3) Braxton Martinez – 1B/DH, Tri-City A+:
The Angels finally promoted the 27-year-old signee out of Indy ball on August 25th, and so far, so good, as Martinez has responded to the next level with little issue, continuing right where he left off by slashing .308/.367/.692/1.059 in his first 7 games at A+, clubbing three homers, a double, and drawing three walks to 10 strikeouts. It remains incredibly unlikely that Martinez ascends in a way that impacts the major league team, but he’s certainly filled a role for the organization’s lower levels this year by posting an MVP-quality season.
2021 (IE A/TRI A+): .331/.439/.588/1.027 with 28 doubles, 3 triples, 15 home runs, 64 RBI, 59 BB, 62 K in 86 G/378 PA
4) David MacKinnon – 1B/DH, Rocket City AA:
MacKinnon suffered a rare cold snap over his last month or so, mustering only a .211 BA from July 23rd to August 22nd, but the disciplined, high-contact first baseman has returned to form over the last two weeks, slashing .310/.382/.621/1.003 over 8 games, tallying three more doubles and two more HR, giving him a new career-high in doubles with 30 and adding to his career-high HR total of 13. Rule 5 eligible this winter, the Angels, like with Stefanic and Martinez, will have some interesting decisions to make, as MacKinnon has proven himself to be a consistent offensive presence across his career. While his power and position might limit his paths to the majors, his contact, discipline, and defense parallel someone like Yandy Diaz, and a team with similar first-base depth issues and budget concerns could have interest in MacKinnon either by way of draft or trade.
David MacKinnon with a 2-run HR to make it 8-0 AA Rocket City pic.twitter.com/T5cQpg9hBh— Angels MiLB (@AngelsMiLB) September 3, 2021
2021 (Rocket City AA): .292/.388/.497/.885 with 30 doubles, 13 home runs, 63 RBI, 48 BB, 75 K in 91 G/392 PA
5) Adrian Placencia – 2B/SS, Arizona Rk.:
With Vera advancing to Inland Empire, Adrian Placencia and Werner Blakely will now draw more attention in Arizona, and over the last two weeks, Placencia has done just that. While Placencia’s batting average has yet to shine in any way (he’s hitting only .193 on the season, though a .247 BAbip is partly to blame), he has demonstrated maybe the most balanced offensive approach of any of the Angels young mid-infield prospects, slashing .250/.357/.583/.940 over the last two weeks, adding all sorts of extra-base hits (one double, two triples, one homer) in that time, while also maintaining good plate discipline (4 BB to 8 K) and a bit of speed, with two stolen bases in two attempts.
2021 (Arizona RK.): .193/.356/.395/.751 with 3 doubles, 3 triples, 5 home runs, 18 RBI, 27 BB, 41 K in 35 G/149 PA
Honorable mentions, position players:
Adrian Rondon (2B/SS TRI A+): .321/.387/.464/.851 with 2B, HR, 3 BB, 10 K in 8 G/31 PA
Jose Rojas (1B/3B/LF SLC AAA): .239/.340/.457/.796 with 2 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 7 BB, 10 K in 13 G/53 PA
Mitch Nay (1B/3B RCT AA): .259/.394/.444/.838 with 2 2B, HR, 6 BB, 6 K in 8 G/33 PA
Kyle Kasser (LF/RF/1B TRI A+): .303/.395/.303/.698 with 4 BB, 8 K, 2 SB in 10 G/38 PA