Angels in the AFL: Adams reunites with hitting coach
Club's No. 30 prospect honored to join seven other LA participants in Fall League
Caleb Adams hasn't seen much playing time in the Arizona Fall League, starting just two games per week as a member of the Mesa Solar Sox taxi squad.
However, the 22-year-old outfielder understands the significance of the Angels' decision to send him to the prestigious league in the first place -- especially after he had just completed his first full professional season.
"It's always an honor when you're chosen to come out here and play in this type of a league," said Adams, the Angels' No. 30 prospect. "Everybody's goal is to play with the best in the game, and, at our level, this is the best in the game."
After spending his entire professional debut in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, Adams, a 10th-round Draft pick in 2014 out of Louisiana-Lafayette, opened the 2015 season in the Midwest League, where he batted .302/.398/.426 in 65 games for Class A Burlington. The Texarkana, Ark., native continued to rake following a midseason promotion to the hitter-friendly California League, batting .293/.380/.453 in 51 games for Class A Advanced Inland Empire.
"I feel like every player has to make adjustments, some more than others," said Adams, reflecting on his transition from college to the professional ranks. "I had to make quite a few but was lucky enough to get those ironed out pretty quick. There are obviously things that I'm not proud of and things I am proud of, but I think it was a successful season. We ironed a lot of things out in my approach and my mechanics, so it was definitely a success."
Adams credits Inland Empire hitting coach Brent Del Chiaro for his progress at the plate this year. In the AFL, the two have been reunited and are working together on a daily basis.
"I only had a chance to spend half a year with [Del Chiaro] in Inland Empire," Adams said, "but he's one of the hitting coaches out here, and I think he's going to give me a chance to fine-tune some things to get ready for next season."
At 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, Adams has good strength for his size and makes hard contact. While he possesses more power than he's shown early in his career, his ability to utilize it during games is unlikely to improve until he tightens his approach and trims some of the swing-and-miss from his game. Adams also provides value with his defensive versatility, as he showed the ability to play all three outfield positions this past season.
Overall, Adams' profile suggests he might be able to carve out a role as a fourth outfielder in the Major Leagues. But given the Angels' success in developing college players like Adams selected outside of the early rounds, the 22-year-old knows it's possible to surpass such expectations.
"I look at all those big league guys and know they all weren't first-rounders or top prospects," he said. "But I don't want compare myself to anyone else -- just go out there and play my game the best I can and let it take me where it may."
Angels pitchers in the Fall League
• Alan Busenitz, RHP - A 25th-round Draft pick in 2013 out of Kennesaw State, Busenitz struggled as a swingman during the first half of the season at Double-A Arkansas after making the jump directly from Burlington. The 25-year-old righty fared considerably better following a midseason demotion to Inland Empire, where he worked out of the bullpen in a middle-relief role.
• Harrison Cooney, RHP - Cooney, a 2013 sixth-rounder, had a challenging year in the California League but showed good durability along with a knack for inducing groundballs.
• Ryan Etsell, RHP - The 23-year-old righty pitched well out of the bullpen at Inland Empire over the first two months of the season but struggled after moving into the starting rotation. While the Angels have continued to deploy him in the latter role during the Fall League, Etsell's stuff and control issues suggest he's likely to return to the 'pen.
• Greg Mahle, LHP - Mahle's success as Inland Empire's closer during the first two months of the season earned him in a quick promotion to Arkansas, where he ultimately saved 16 games and posted a 3.06 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings. That being said, the Angels' No. 15 prospect stands out more for his pitchability than his stuff, leading scouts to project him as more of a middle-inning arm as opposed to a closer.
Angels hitters in the Fall League
• Eric Aguilera, 1B - Aguilera had breakthrough season at Inland Empire, posting a .925 OPS with a career-best 17 home runs and 94 RBIs, though those numbers come with the caveat that he was a 25-year-old in the California League. However, it still earned him a taste of Double-A late in the season.
• Chad Hinshaw, OF - Hinshaw, 25, fared well this past season in his first taste of Double-A, but he's back in the Fall League for the second straight year after missing more than two months of the regular season with a thumb injury. He has been one of Mesa's top hitters in the Fall League thus far, posting a team-leading .375 average with three extra-base hits and eight RBIs.
• Stephen McGee, C - McGee made two trips to the disabled list this past season and played just 68 games, but he still managed to reach the Double- and Triple-A levels in just his second full pro campaign. Meanwhile, the 24-year-old backstop has made the most of his two starts per week in the Fall League as part of Mesa's taxi squad, batting .316/.391/.684 with two home runs in six games.