Baldoquin still adjusting to life in United States
ANAHEIM -- After missing more than seven weeks with a strained left shoulder, shortstop Roberto Baldoquin returned to the lineup for Class A Advanced Inland Empire on Friday and entered Wednesday batting .172 -- though he had four hits in his previous 12 at-bats -- with six errors in 16 games.
The Angels hope Baldoquin, who was given an $8 million signing bonus this past winter and is the club's No.3-ranked prospect, is ready to be the everyday shortstop by the end of next season, at which point Erick Aybar will be eligible for free agency. Only 21, Baldoquin barely played in games in the two years leading up to his defection from Cuba, and he's still learning the culture, lifestyle, and language in the U.S.
That's what 2015 is about.
"Our goal is to get him used to just being in the United States, playing in the United States, living in the United States, and once he gets comfortable with all those things, I think the baseball part will take off," said Angels director of player development Bobby Scales.
"This young man is intelligent, he's quick to learn things, his English is coming along very nicely and he wants to get better and he wants to play. I'm not worried about him. The injury kind of derailed him a little bit, but these things happen in baseball. I'm not at all worried about where he is or where he's going to end up this year."
Below are some additional notes on Angels Minor Leaguers, with their organizational rankings in parenthesis:
SP Andrew Heaney (1): Acquired from the Dodgers for second baseman Howie Kendrick, Heaney couldn't win a rotation job in Spring Training and has seemingly been inconsistent at Triple-A Salt Lake. In 14 starts, the 24-year-old left-hander has posted a 4.40 ERA while allowing 10.1 hits per nine innings and posting a 3.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Among his last four outings, two have been quality starts and two have seen him yield seven runs.
Scales chalked that up to the volatile nature of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League and believes Heaney is ready for the Majors.
"He just needs the opportunity, again," Scales said. "When it's his time to come up here and contribute, I'm sure he will, and I'm sure he'll be fine. He's a good competitor and he has tremendous stuff along the left side. That's a true commodity in our game."
SP Sean Newcomb (2): Drafted 15th overall out of the University of Hartford only a year ago, Newcomb was promoted from Class A Burlington to Class A Advanced Inland Empire in mid-May and has posted a 3.82 ERA in seven starts for the 66ers, striking out 42 batters and walking 17 in 33 innings. On Tuesday, the 22-year-old left-hander struck out 11 in five innings, but he also gave up six runs.
"He throws 95 [mph], and it looks like he's playing catch," Scales said.
But he also needs time.
"Growing up in the Northeast, he just hasn't played nearly as much baseball as other guys," Scales added. "His development may be a little slower than other guys who pitched in the south or in the west. He may need more innings, and that's OK."
Nick Tropeano (5): The 24-year-old right-hander, acquired alongside catcher Carlos Perez in the deal that sent Hank Conger to the Astros in November, has been on the Minor League disabled list since late May with rotator cuff tendinitis. The injury isn't deemed serious; there's no structural damage in his shoulder. Tropeano has begun his throwing program in Arizona and Scales hopes to get him back "in the near future," though there isn't a solidified timetable yet.
SP Chris Ellis (9): The 22-year-old right-hander has become one of the most intriguing prospects in the Angels' system. A third-round pick out of the University of Mississippi last June, Ellis got promoted to Double-A after 11 starts and has allowed just one run in his first 12 innings for the Arkansas Travelers.
"He really throws the ball downhill," Scales said. "You hear that term a lot, but he really gets on top of the ball and drives the ball down to the bottom of the strike zone. He's got a fastball, breaking ball and changeup, and they're all plus pitches. And when he's on the mound, he's a bulldog. There's a little meanstreak in him."
SP Hunter Green (11): A second-round Draft pick out of high school in 2013, Green missed all of '14 with back issues, then suffered a stress fracture in his elbow while throwing in extended spring camp this year. The 17-year-old left-hander is throwing again in Arizona, and Scales hopes to get him on the mound by the end of July.
3B Kaleb Cowart (14): The former top prospect earned a promotion to Triple-A despite batting just .242/.326/.387 at Inland Empire. The Salt Lake Bees needed a third baseman with Kyle Kubitza promoted to the Major Leagues, and Cowart is batting .368 with a home run in six games.
"I think he's freed up a little bit just mentally," Scales said. "We'll see what happens. Hopefully something clicks and he can move forward. His struggles definitely aren't for lack of effort or caring or work."