Meet Will Smith. No not the actor. The left-handed pitcher and Angels' #12 prospect.
The 6' 5" 230-pound starter was drafted in the seventh round last year out of Gulf Coast Community College, the same school current Travelers closer David Herndon (below) attended in '06.
The 20-year-old Smith started the season at Low-A for Cedar Rapids and is currently on the DL after two appearances and a 3.00 ERA. Both Herndon and Smith were signed by super scout Tom Kotchman, who is also the manager of the Rookie League Orem Owlz. Kotchman also signed another former Traveler, Angels' infielder Howie Kendrick.
Travelers fans may remember the very likable Brent Del Chiaro, a catcher mostly in a reserve roll from '02-'06 at Ray Winder Field.
Del Chiaro is now the hitting coach for the Kernels in Cedar Rapids. And as a former catcher he apparently still has to be able to dodge. More than baseballs, that is. While doing a little research on Del Chiaro, I came across this line from an alleged former girlfriend on a site about players and dating.
"I dated him for a while, and just like any baseball player he is a cheater. He may have a girlfriend but you still have a chance if he's in your town! "
Another player to keep an eye on is the #16 prospect, outfielder Clay Fuller, the brother of former Traveler Cody Fuller.
Drafted out of high school at Spring Branch, Texas, in '06, Fuller is another burner in an organization built on speed. The switch-hitter ranked fourth in the minors last season with 13 triples and going in to this season had been successful on 78 percent of his steal attempts. Because of that, his natural outfield position is center.
Fuller moved up to High-A Rancho Cucamonga this season and is hitting .236 with four home runs and eight RBI. If current Travelers center-fielder Peter Bourjos were to be called up to Salt Lake, Fuller could be his replacement at Dickey-Stephens.
After missing all of last season with an ankle injury, one of the Angels' top power-hitting prospects is ready to make a move in '09.
6' 3" 212-pound third baseman Matt Sweeney's power rivals Brandon Wood, Mark Trumbo, and Hank Conger according to Baseball America. The 21-year-old #18 prospect, who began the season at Rancho, was drafted out of high school (Rockville, Maryland) in the eighth round of '06.
In 21 games, Sweeney is hitting .310 with three home runs and 16 RBI.
It's thought he will move to first base, and if Trumbo gets the "call," you can bet Sweeney would take over that position at Arkansas.
Back during the World Baseball Classic, I heard color analyst (my favorite color man) and unanimous 1984 Chicago Cubs' Cy Young winner Rick Sutcliffe say the line below about one of the Netherlands' players, Randall Simon.
You may recall back in July '03 while with the Pirates, Simon took a whack at a young woman participating in the famous sausage races at Milwaukee's Miller Park. As the participants raced by the visiting dugout, Simon hit the woman dressed as an Italian sausage in the upper body with a bat, knocking her over in to another race contestant. Both were slightly injured with skinned knees.
Simon was arrested for disorderly conduct and fined $432. MLB also suspended him for three games and fined him $2,000.
Sutcliffe wryly said, "If Simon had hit the hot dog in the race instead, he probably wouldn't have been fined as much."
-- Lonesome Traveler