Blakely, healthy, among Angels prospects in the AFL
Werner Blakely’s first season of affiliate ball in the Angels’ system was interrupted twice by injury and saw the 20-year-old shift over to third base, a relatively new position.
Despite the stumbling blocks, Blakely, who played just 55 games for Single-A Inland Empire, earned a call to join the Scottsdale Scorpions during the Arizona Fall League, where he is set to face an elevated level of competition.
“It definitely was a surprise, but I put in a lot of work,” Blakely, the club’s No. 15-ranked prospect, said. “I work hard and I believe that the Angels believe in me. Selecting me here to the Fall League, that was great to hear. But now the real work begins.”
In limited action this year, the lefty batter slashed .297/.447/.470 with 20 extra-base hits and 40 RBIs. While his walk rate sat at 19.1%, his swing-and-miss concerns reared their head, as he whiffed at a 29.8% clip. While that time sidelined kept Blakely from garnering key in-game reps, he ultimately views the experience as a positive one.
“I was really able to stay locked in on my time off, and I feel that time off helped me a lot as a player,” Blakely said. “I was able to learn a bunch of things and apply them on the field when I came back, so it was a plus for me.”
The Angels like Blakely’s raw tools, one of which is his speed. Through his first 44 games with the 66ers, he swiped 19 bags and was caught just once. Thus far in his pro career, he has amassed 40 stolen bases to just five times caught stealing.
Selected by Los Angeles in the fourth round of the 2020 Draft out of a Detroit high school, Blakely looks to carry the flag and make a difference for those in his community.
“I take a lot of pride in coming from the city of Detroit,” Blakely said. “It’s definitely not a hot bed of baseball coming out of there. But one thing we have got is that we’re hungry and ready to play. We have a lot of talent up there.
“I was blessed enough to be at the right place at the right time and get my name out there and I just want to be a trailblazer for other kids – especially the black community, trying to get more of us playing the game.”
Angels hitters in the Fall League
Kyren Paris, SS/2B (No. 20): Whereas injuries sidetracked the opening act of Paris’ pro career in 2019 and ‘21, he was able to ascend as high as Double-A for the final month of his age-20 campaign this year. Regarded as a plus runner, the club’s second-round choice from the 2019 Draft swiped 33 bags in 37 tries across 105 games in ‘22. Through 671 pro plate appearances, he has posted a .373 on-base percentage
Bryce Teodosio, OF: The Fall League will serve as a proving ground for Teodosio, who scuffled to the tune of a .192 average in his first taste of Double-A. Stealing bags has been his most valuable weapon, racking up 28 steals in 112 games for the Trash Pandas. An undrafted free agent out of Clemson, the 23-year-old spent the majority of his regular-season action in center field.
Angels pitchers in the Fall League
Connor Van Scoyoc, RHP: No Angels hurler amassed more strikeouts (140) at a single level in 2022 than Van Scoyoc did with Single-A Inland Empire. The 6-foot-6 right-hander racked up 10.5 K/9 IP, heating up alongside the weather with a 9-0 record and 1.93 ERA across 13 starts from June 9-Sept. 3. He displays a three-pitch mix, with a sharp curveball that serves as his primary putaway pitch.
Ivan Armstrong, RHP: Acquired from the Giants at the Trade Deadline in 2021, the 22-year-old dominated with 11 scoreless frames over a month at the Arizona Complex League. Upon a callup to High-A Tri-City, the Dominican Republic native tied for the club lead with six saves and was one of five players on the club to average better than 12 strikeouts per nine.
Jack Kochanowicz, RHP: The Angels will deploy even more height on the hill for Scottsdale during the AFL, with the 6-foot-6 Kochanowicz set to continue logging innings. A third-round selection in the 2019 Draft, the righty’s season debut was delayed until June due to an oblique strain. After opening the year as a starter with Inland Empire, a shift to the bullpen did wonders, as he posted a 1.62 ERA and held opposing batters to a .492 OPS over his final seven appearances.
Kelvin Caceres, RHP: Another 66er hurler who compiled strikeouts in bunches, Caceres whiffed 117 batters in 77 1/3 frames. Serving primarily as a bulk-inning relief arm, the 22-year-old held opposing batters to a .170 average across 36 appearances, but he did walk 54 in that span. His best secondary offering is a biting breaking pitch; on June 5, he struck out nine over four frames, all of which came on his curve.