- The Angels announced that second-rounder Jeremiah Jackson has agreed to terms with the club. Figures weren’t released; the 57th overall pick carries a slot value of $1,196,500. Jackson ranked no lower than 57th (MLB.com) in the pre-draft listings, and he drew particularly strong praise from Keith Law, who ranked Jackson as the 23rd-best prospect and described him as “most promising [high school shortstop] in the class.” Law believes Jackson is athletic enough to remain at shortstop, though others feel a move to second or third base is necessary down the road. Jackson gained more notice for his bat, with a well-rounded hitting approach that will add some more power as he gets older.
- The Angels haven’t capitalized on center fielder Mike Trout’s presence, evidenced by their zero playoff wins since he burst on the scene in 2012, leading Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times to wonder if he’d consider signing an extension with the team if it doesn’t become a major contender soon. Trout, who’s under control through 2020 on the six-year, $144.5MM deal he signed in 2014, isn’t sure about his future at this point. “I don’t know the answer,” he told Shaikin. “I want to get to the playoffs. That’s my mindset. I can’t predict the future. So I just take it one game at a time now and see what happens.” The Trout-led Angels (37-28) are firmly in the playoff hunt this year, but in spite of their impressive record, they’re still 3.5 games out in both the AL West and the wild-card race. While Shaikin opines that the Angels could use some outside help around the trade deadline to help snap their three-year playoff drought, general manager Billy Eppler offered: “It’s tough to get that starting pitcher. It’s tough to get that everyday bat, or impact bat. Those are harder to acquire.” On the other hand, Eppler noted that the trade market’s typically “flush with relievers whose contracts are expiring at the end of the year.”
The Angels have selected the contract of infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Fernandez will take the active roster spot vacated by Shohei Ohtani, who’s heading to the disabled list with a UCL sprain.
The organization also announced another roster tweak. Infielder Nolan Fontana was recalled to join the active roster. He’ll take the place of Kaleb Cowart, who’s headed to the DL with an ankle sprain.
Fernandez, a former Cuban star who’s now thirty years of age, will come up to the majors for the first time in his career. He spent most of last year playing at Double-A with the Dodgers organization and landed with the Halos on a minor-league pact after being released.
Long known for his plate discipline — in his last full season in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, way back in 2013-14, he drew 65 walks and struck out only ten times — Fernandez has been a force at the plate in the upper minors. This year, he’s slashing .345/.412/.562 with ten home runs and a 19:20 K/BB ratio over 226 plate appearances at the Triple-A level.
Fernandez will get the start at first base tonight in his debut. He has split his time evenly between first, second, and third at Salt Lake, so he’ll be another option around the diamond. Fontana is an even more versatile infielder, as he can also play shortstop. He’s carrying a .282/.436/.493 batting line with twenty walks against 18 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances this year at the Halos’ top affiliate.
3:40pm: Angels GM Billy Eppler provided further details on the situation, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports (Twitter links). Ohtani reported elbow stiffness after being removed from his most recent start for a blister, prompting the medical review. When asked whether Ohtani can avoid Tommy John surgery, Eppler responded: “We’re hopeful that he can, that it is completely treatable with the biologic prescription the doctors recommended.”
2:03pm: In an alarming announcement, the Angels revealed today that right-hander Shohei Ohtani has been placed on the 10-day DL with a Grade 2 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He’s already received platelet-rich plasma and stem-cell injections, per the Angels, and will be re-evaluated in three weeks.
The move comes as a brutal blow to an Angels staff that is without Matt Shoemaker indefinitely and without J.C. Ramirez for the balance of the season. It was reported shortly after Ohtani signed with the Angels that the young phenom had a Grade 1 sprain of his UCL when teams were courting him this offseason. Every organization was made aware of that information, and it obviously did little to dissuade clubs from embarking on an elaborate and high-profile courtship of the former NPB sensation. He also received a PRP injection for that injury at the time.
The preexisting elbow damage was either minimal enough or had healed to the point that Ohtani was able to pitch throughout Spring Training and quickly enter super-stardom in his first two months with the Halos. Not only has the 23-year-old pitched to a pristine 3.10 ERA with 11.1 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 in 49 1/3 innings, he’s also been one of the Angels’ best hitters. In 129 plate appearances, Ohtani has raked at a .289/.372/.535 pace with six homers, eight doubles and a triple. He’s walked at an 11.6 percent clip against a 25.6 percent strikeout rate, and he’s even stolen a base in his lone attempt.
With Ohtani out of commission for at least the foreseeable future, the Angels will have Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano, Jaime Barria and Parker Bridwell as rotation options. But any more significant absence for Ohtani, coupled with significant recent injury histories for a number of the currently-healthy members of the Angels’ rotation mix, could push the Angels out into the market for rotation upgrades later this summer. Despite their excellent 35-28 record, the Angels find themselves 4.5 games back of the surprising Mariners in the American League West, and they’re 3.5 games out of an AL Wild Card spot at present.
Mike Trout is somehow having the best season of his already illustrious career, but otherwise the Angels’ top two players have been shortstop Andrelton Simmons and starter/DH Shohei Ohtani. For a Halos club that’s engaged in a tough division battle, then, it’s certainly worrisome to see both show up on the injury sheet.
Fortunately, there’s no reason at present to believe that either Simmons or Ohtani are dealing with serious maladies, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. But Simmons, the club’s magnificent shortstop, has been placed on the DL with a grade 2 ankle sprain. And Ohtani, who was pulled after four frames, will need to allow a blister to heal up before he takes his next start.
In the case of Simmons, the injury grade indicates that there is at least a slight tear to a ligament. Online sources, at least, suggest a potential recovery time in the range of two to six weeks, though the club has not yet offered a timeline specific to the player.
Any absence is most unwelcome, given that Simmons is both fielding and hitting at top-of-the-line levels thus far. Fortunately, Zack Cozart is also an outstanding defender at short, though obviously the loss of Simmons will mean plugging in less-polished options on the left side of the infield. Fletcher says the club expects to utilize Luis Valbuena, Jefry Marte, and Kaleb Cowart (who was recalled after just being optioned) in some combination at the hot corner.
As for Ohtani, skipper Mike Scioscia says that the blister does not seem to be as serious as one he experienced earlier in the season, when he was able to make his next scheduled start. However, his status will surely depend upon how this particular injury heals up.
Even if Ohtani does need some time away from the mound, it seems reasonable to anticipate that he’ll still be able to appear as a hitter. And despite some notable injuries to starters, the team still has five other worthwhile options to go to in the rotation. Youngster Jaime Barria has pitched well in seven starts this year and is waiting in the wings at Triple-A if he’s needed.
Angels first-round pick Jordyn Adams revealed today that he’s agreed to terms with the team, though he’s yet to officially sign his new contract, as Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets. Adams, a prep outfielder out of North Carolina’s Green Hope High School, was selected by the Halos with the No. 17 overall pick. Financial terms have not been reported, though that slot came with a slot value of $3,472,900.
Opinions on Adams varied, to an extent, headed into this week’s draft, though most every outlet agreed that he was one of the 50 best talents in the draft. Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs joined ESPN’s Keith Law in ranking him 19th among draft prospects, while Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com had him 37th, and Baseball America pegged Adams 45th.
Adams, by all counts, possesses tremendous athleticism, as he was also committed to UNC where he’d have had the chance to play wide receiver on their football team in addition to furthering his baseball career. (Notably, Adams’ father is the defensive line coach at UNC.) Fangraphs pegs him as an 80-grade runner, while MLB.com has him at a 75 (on the 20-80 scale), and there’s little doubt in any of the aforementioned scouting reports that he has the potential to handle center field as a plus defender. He’s said to have good bat speed and a good feel for hitting, but he’s also still raw as a prospect given that he’d yet to commit to baseball on a full time basis before today’s agreement.
While Adams is obviously years from MLB readiness, he’ll add to a growing collection of talented outfielders in the Angels’ minor league ranks. Jo Adell, last year’s first-round pick, and Brandon Marsh (second round, 2016) both have the potential to play excellent outfield defense down the line and are both considered to be among the game’s 100 or so best prospects.
A few notes from Anaheim…
- The Angels have placed right fielder Kole Calhoun on the 10-day disabled list (retroactive to Friday) with a right oblique strain, per a team announcement. In corresponding moves, the club recalled infielder Kaleb Cowart and outfielder Michael Hermosillo and optioned right-hander Jaime Barria to Triple-A. The loss of Calhoun may be a positive development for the Angels’ offense, as the normally respectable hitter has opened his age-30 campaign with a hideous .145/.195/.179 line in 185 plate appearances. As a result, Calhoun easily ranks last among qualified hitters in wRC+ (3, compared to a career 104 mark). To Calhoun’s credit, he hasn’t allowed his offensive woes to carry into the field. He ranks first among outfielders in Ultimate Zone Rating (6.2) and 11th in Defensive Runs Saved (seven).
- Third baseman Zack Cozart is dealing with a left forearm strain, per Avery Yang of MLB.com. Cozart underwent an MRI on Friday, though the results aren’t yet known. While Cozart doesn’t seem overly concerned about the injury, it has kept him off the field since May 29, and he’s not in the Angels’ lineup Saturday. Cozart, whom the Angels added on a three-year, $38MM contract in free agency, has begun his Halos tenure with a .232/.310/.395 line and five home runs in 216 trips to the plate.
- The forearm surgery righty Matt Shoemaker underwent earlier this week was to repair a split tendon, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Shoemaker expects to resume throwing in six weeks, DiGiovanna adds, so it could be August before he factors in again in the majors – if he returns at all this season.
The Angels have claimed reliever Oliver Drake off waivers from the Indians, per a club announcement. He had been designated recently by the Cleveland organization.
Meanwhile, the Halos also announced that southpaw Ian Krol cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A. It is not yet clear if he accepted the assignment to the club’s top affiliate.
The 31-year-old Drake has had a rough go of things this year. He opened the season with the Brewers and then landed with the Indians. Despite recording 19 strikeouts and a 46.0% groundball rate in his 17 frames, he has coughed up 15 earned runs on 21 hits and nine walks on the year.
For the Halos, Drake will provide a fresh arm that still holds its share of intrigue. He has, after all, managed a 13.1% swinging-strike rate this season and has surely been unlucky to carry only a 51.6% strand rate and .412 batting average on balls put in play against him. Indeed, Statcast credits him with an appealing .311 xwOBA that significantly lags the actual .353 wOBA that has been produced by opposing hitters.
The Angels issued a pair of unpleasant health updates Tuesday, revealing that right-hander Blake Wood will require the second Tommy John surgery of his career. Meanwhile, right-hander Matt Shoemaker has already undergone forearm surgery — specifically, a nerve decompression and a pronator teres tendon repair. Wood, obviously, will be out the remainder of the 2018 season and a significant portion of the 2019 season. As for Shoemaker, the Angels merely announced that “additional information will be provided when appropriate.”
The outlook on Shoemaker looks to subtract a second rotation piece from the rotation for the foreseeable future. J.C. Ramirez has already undergone Tommy John surgery and won’t pitch again this season. For the time being, that leaves the Angels with a rotation mix of Shohei Ohtani, Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Jaime Barria, Nick Tropeano and Parker Bridwell atop the depth chart. While those are certainly seven capable starters, there’s no shortage of recent injury issues among the group, either.
It’ll be the second straight season in which Shoemaker has undergone surgery to address a nerve issue in his forearm. While the righty has shown to be a plenty capable rotation arm at times in the big leagues — he logged a 3.80 ERA in 431 1/3 innings from 2014-16 — he’s never made more than 27 starts in a season and has never topped 160 innings as a Major Leaguer. While the Angels surely hope to see him return to the roster by season’s end, Shoemaker’s lack of durability makes it difficult to count on him for any meaningful contributions moving forward.
Wood, 32, joined the Angels via waiver claim last season and has posted a 3.77 ERA with 32 strikeouts against 11 walks in 28 2/3 innings out of the Halos’ bullpen. However, he landed on the DL with an elbow impingement late in April, which eventually prompted further testing and eventually revealed the UCL damage.
Now, with surgery to address that damage set for this Friday, it appears that the injury could ultimately spell the end of Wood’s time with the Angels. Wood entered the season with five years, 131 days of MLB service time, meaning he’ll be a free agent at season’s end. He’ll finish out the season on the 60-day DL, and while he could certainly return to the Halos on a minor league deal, he’ll also be able to gauge interest from all 30 clubs on the open market.
The Angels have designated left-hander Ian Krol for assignment, Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group tweets. The Halos recalled righty Akeel Morris from Triple-A in a corresponding move.
Krol is in his first year with the Angels, who signed him to a minor league deal over the winter. The 27-year-old made his debut appearance with the club on Sunday and tossed two scoreless innings of one-hit ball, but that wasn’t enough to keep him on its roster. Krol previously threw 21 effective innings at Triple-A, where he posted a 1.71 ERA with 8.57 K/9, 3.56 BB/9 and a 50.9 percent groundball rate.
Also a former National, Tiger and Brave, Krol has produced passable numbers at the major league level, having combined for a 4.50 ERA with 8.43 K/9, 3.46 BB/9 and a 45.2 percent grounder rate in 190 innings. He’s out of minor league options, though, so if a team does claim Krol, it’ll need to put him on its 25-man roster or try to sneak him back through waivers.