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01/06/11 5:30 PM EST
Angels wrap up productive winter-ball stints
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Explosives can come in small packages. Angels prospect Alexi Amarista is giving the distinct impression that he could be another "Toy Cannon" in the making. Listed at 5-foot-8 but perhaps closer to 5-foot-6, Amarista bombed away in the Venezuelan Winter League, where a number of current and future Angels -- Juan Rivera, Mark Trumbo and Alberto Callaspo, notably -- had strong performances. A second baseman capable of handling multiple positions along the lines of a young Chone Figgins, Amarista unloaded nine homers along with 34 RBIs and 41 runs scored in 57 games while batting .295 to elevate his stock -- and his name on the Angels' depth chart. "This kid, Amarista, just keeps getting better," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of the Venezuela native who turns 22 in April. "The reports on his play in Venezuela were terrific. He's playing at a consistently high level and had a very good season at [advanced Class A] Rancho [Cucamonga] and [Double-A] Arkansas. We're looking for him to continue developing at [Triple-A] Salt Lake." Amarista, a switch-hitter, doesn't have Figgins' arm strength or blazing speed, but he's a good athlete with surprising pop who "really gets after it defensively and on the bases," according to Scioscia. He was the Midwest League batting champion in 2009 and continued to drive the ball into the gaps with consistency in '10. In the same high-level Venezuelan competition featuring a number of established Major League players, Trumbo also enhanced his profile with some impressive offensive production. Trumbo, a first baseman who hopes to nail down a roster spot with the Angels by showing he can handle the corner-outfield roles this spring, batted .336 with a .405 on-base percentage and .579 slugging mark. Playing 28 games, primarily at first and as a DH, he had five homers and 21 RBIs. Rivera, bidding to rebound from a disappointing 2010 season after a highly productive 2009 campaign, batted .343 with a .465 slugging mark in 25 games. The corner outfielder had two homers and 17 RBIs. Looking to claim the third-base job this spring, Callaspo hit .312 in 32 games with no homers and 18 RBIs. Maicer Izturis, another candidate at third, batted .217 in 19 games. Catcher Hank Conger, worn out after a long season that included an impressive September look with the Angels, appeared in only 10 games, batting .139. Conger will be in competition with veterans Mike Napoli, Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson for a catching job that appears to be up for grabs this spring. Solid pitching efforts were delivered by right-handers Amalio Diaz, Ryan Vogelsang and Eric Jung and southpaw Jose Alvarez. Diaz was 3-3 in 28 relief appearances with a 1.67 ERA and 1.12 WHIP across 37 2/3 innings. Vogelsang was 6-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 11 starts with a 1.15 WHIP in 60 innings, while Jung (4-4, 4.78) took 13 starts and worked 58 1/3 innings. Alvarez, with three starts among 22 appearances, was 3-3 with a 4.03 ERA in 29 innings. Anthony Ortega, a former top prospect who endured an injury-marred 2010, fought his control in 17 innings, walking 14 while striking out 10 and going 0-2 with a 2.65 ERA. Minor League infielder Luis Figueroa lit up the Puerto Rican Winter League, batting .361 in 41 games. The Dominican Winter League was not nearly as productive for the Angels. Center fielder Peter Bourjos, also worn down by a very busy 2010, batted .207 with a .301 on-base percentage in 24 games. Catcher Alberto Rosario batted .214 in 27 games. Power right-hander Ysmael Carmona was 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in 13 appearances. In Mexico, Francisco Rodriguez continued the dependable work that marked his rookie season with the Angels. He was 2-1 with a 2.87 ERA in 16 games. But infielder Freddy Sandoval struggled with the bat, hitting .173. The Arizona Fall League, which brings together many of the game's premier prospects, enabled Brandon Wood to relax on his home turf and regain a good feel for his batting stroke after a disappointing 2010 season. Wood, looking to wipe the slate clean with a strong spring, hit .341 with a .489 slugging mark in 21 games with two homers and 20 RBIs. He had seven walks and 16 strikeouts in 88 at-bats. Versatile outfielder Jeremy Moore, a left-handed hitter who throws right-handed, opened eyes with his bat in the AFL, batting .343 and slugging .543. Shortstop Andrew Romine hit .233, while right-handed reliever Ryan Brasier impressed with a 3.95 ERA in 13 2/3 innings, striking out 14 while walking six. "I've always felt the winter leagues can be an important part of a young player's development," Scioscia said. "It exposes him to high-quality talent, and they really get after it in those leagues with some passionate fan support."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.