Farm system making impact in big leagues
ANAHEIM -- They can be a bit streaky at times, and they managed just eight hits in their last 43 at-bats with runners in scoring position, but the bottom line is the Angels entered Friday ranked second in the Majors in runs per game.
And they're doing it with as many as four organizational players from a farm system that has been deemed the worst in baseball two years running.
"We may not have any big-name guys, but at the same time, we can play," slugging prospect C.J. Cron said. "We knew that. We don't really care what people rank us as. We just want to go out and have a good season and make our way to the big leagues, which we did."
Cron, ranked third in the system by MLB.com, has batted .364 with a pair of homers in 10 games and has seemingly carved out a prolonged role in the big leagues as a right-handed-hitting option at designated hitter and a first baseman who can give Albert Pujols an occasional day off his feet.
Then there's Grant Green, who was acquired from the A's for Alberto Callaspo last July, has hit .333 in 10 games and has displayed the versatility the Angels had been looking for from him, playing left field, third base and second base.
Or Luis Jimenez, who was called up because two third basemen -- David Freese and Ian Stewart -- are on the disabled list and won a game for the Angels on Tuesday night, hitting a go-ahead two-run double and saving another run with a diving catch.
Or first baseman Efren Navarro, a 50th-round First-Year Player Draft pick who has spent almost all of the previous three seasons in Triple-A, then dabbled in the outfield during winter ball this offseason and has gone 5-for-14 with three walks in the Majors, playing the outfield corners as Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun continue to rehab.
They've all been called up from Triple-A within the last 14 days, and they've helped the Angels win eight of 13 games during that stretch.
"It makes me feel really good," Navarro said of having so many of his Salt Lake Bees teammates contribute. "They kept me on the roster for a reason, and they called me up for a reason, and that's to help the team win. That's what [manager Mike] Scioscia expects from us."
The Angels' farm system was ranked 30th by Baseball America heading into the 2013 and '14 seasons, mainly because of the lack of high-ceiling prospects and the overall dearth of starting pitching.
But they have a few talented relievers -- especially Mike Morin, who has yet to give up a run in seven big league appearances -- and some of their upper-level position players have shown they can contribute.
"We knew going into Triple-A this season that we had a good offense," Cron said, "and there were a lot of guys that had either played in the bigs before or were right on the doorstep. And kind of having that mentality helped us to start the year. We have a good group of guys, and that's our job -- to be prepared if they need us."