Angels have more talent on the way
During Spring Training, Tempe Diablo Stadium is decked out in a sea of red on Angels game days. In fact, there is so much red in the stands the staff recently abandoned their traditional red polo shirts and converted to navy blue in order to be recognizable in the crowd.
Attending an Angels game is a happening. And from the looks of things, big things could happen with Los Angeles this season.
There is a renewed energy among Angels players, a new focus, if you will. That's what superstar Albert Pujols and All-Star pitcher C. J. Wilson have brought to the club -- Pujols in particular.
Pujols has provided exceptional leadership with his unyielding concentration and focused approach every day. He takes the ball to the opposite field in batting practice. He makes spring road trips. He studies pitchers. He is fundamentally so solid his mere presence is influential.
The results to date? An energized Howard Kendrick, a rejuvenated Vernon Wells, a hustling Erick Aybar, and on and on. Pujols shows others what is required to be a winner.
There are so many quality players on the Angels roster that management's task is like trying to put 15 pounds of potatoes into a 10-pound bag. They have outfielders to spare. They have infielders that other teams covet. They have star-studded pitching. Even with all that, there are more quality players on the horizon.
At times, Pena can bring his fastball in the very high 90s. He generally sits in the mid-90s until he lets loose. But it's the movement on his fastball that makes it a special pitch.
While velocity is important, movement is critical. Major League hitters can take straight fastballs over any wall. Add movement to the heater and life in the batter's box becomes much more complex. Once the fastball is established, moving the batter's eye level and changing his balance with a very sharp slider is the icing on the cake.
It may ultimately be good morning, good afternoon and good night for hitters when Pena pitches. Fastball, fastball, slider -- that's what Pena can do, especially if he finds consistent command and control of his two best pitches.
Still very young at 22, Pena pitched at high Class A and Triple A. He had a combined 10-6 record with a 4.39 ERA while striking out an average of 10.6 hitters per nine innings. And that's the key -- Pena can strike hitters out.
But to date, Pena has issued too many walks. He has to control and command his fastball to pitch effectively at the Major League level. But that will come. It takes time.
Pena reminds me of a right-handed Aroldis Chapman in many ways. They are both very high-velocity pitchers with command issues. Chapman has improved his secondary pitches. Pena has work to do to develop additional pitches beyond his fastball and slider. If he throws only two pitches, he could be a very effective pitcher out of the bullpen. But he has to be able to throw strikes and find a consistent release point to improve. He will be much better when he smoothes out his delivery. From my perspective, Pena has a very bright future.
I got to see quite a bit of middle infielder Jean Segura, who is ranked No. 2 on the Top 20 Angels Prospect list, in the Arizona Fall League. His 2011 season was virtually lost because of hamstring issues. For a player with Segura's speed and agility, his legs are crucial. His current challenge is to prove he can stay healthy and hit high-quality pitching to remain a top-shelf prospect.
Segura, 22, is an offense-first infielder, which is a very nice option for any ballclub. While he is certainly average or slightly above-average in the field, Segura has the bat speed and pitch recognition to hit for a high average.
If healthy, Segura's pure foot speed could take him to lofty steals numbers, a quality that fits very well with manager Mike Scioscia's in-game strategy. Segura makes good contact at the plate, establishing himself as a fine top-of-the-order table setter. In five Minor League seasons, he has a .316 batting average.
While I haven't seen the type of power many speak of regarding Segura, his slight 5-foot-11, 160- pound frame has plenty of room for increased muscle and development. His overall build and skill set is very similar to current Angels infielder Maicer Izturis -- a very versatile and important component of the Angels roster.
Segura will be blocked at second base for a while due to the presence of the very highly regarded Kendrick, who has shown he is among the core building blocks of the Angels. If he remains with the franchise long term, Segura's future seems to be at shortstop, a position currently held by effective and speedy Aybar.
Segura has the ability to play Major League quality shortstop, showing range and an accurate -- if not the strongest -- arm. While he isn't in the defensive company of Alcides Escobar or Alexei Ramriez, Segura plays the position efficiently.
During Spring Training, many people have asked about the defensive ability of Mark Trumbo at third base. From observing him over several games, there is little for Angels fans to fear. He can make all the routine plays and he should be far from a liability at the hot corner.
Trumbo is an athlete. He has the ability to go to both sides well with good instincts and agility. If there is any room for concern, it may be regarding softly hit dribblers down the third-base line. He may not have the skill yet to one-hand soft grounders and throw on the run as well as more experienced third basemen. However, with the Angels' offense capable of scoring runs, an adequate Trumbo at third base is acceptable. His loud bat is worth the potential down-tick in overall defense.
Trumbo is a big, strong right-handed hitter capable of breaking a game open with one swing of the bat. Trumbo may have his share of strikeouts, but as an offensive weapon, the overall depth he provides will be worth playing him at third base. If need be, he can be replaced in late innings by a better defensive option in close games or when a lead must be protected.
He will be surrounded in the batting order by hitters like Kendrick, Pujols, Wells, Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and perhaps even Kendry Morales. If Morales proves he can run after missing a season and a half following his leg injury, he will be the primary designated hitter. Add the thought of facing the speedy Aybar and Peter Bourjos to the mix and opponents will have their hands full.
The Angels have an excellent core of impact players, with more high-quality talent on the way. Tempe Diablo Stadium should be a sea of red during Spring Training for quite a long time.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.