LA Angels Traveling Route 66 to Anahiem: IE 66ers Update #1

Luis Valbuena could be the Los Angeles Angels primary first baseman when he returns from a hamstring injury next month. Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Luis Valbuena could be the Los Angeles Angels primary first baseman when he returns from a hamstring injury next month. Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Angels High-A team, the Inland Empire 66ers are located in San Bernardino, CA. Named for the area’s rich affiliation with Historic Route 66, the team is almost a mandatory stop for all LA Angels prospects and rehabs.

In this reoccurring feature, we will take a look at the team and who might be heading up and getting closer to playing with the LA Angels. Additionally, we will be giving a glimpse at a team close enough to the big club, that a majority of the fan base is a short drive up the 60, 91, or 10 freeways to take in a game.

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In the standings: The 2017 season is off to a bumpy start for the 66ers. Currently sitting at 9-14 and last place in the California league, the team has had to settle for individual victories thus far.

The Batter’s Box: Top prospect Matt Thaiss has struggled this far. The first basemen has hit below .250, but has been warming up in the last week. However, the offense has had some positive contributions . Zach Gibbons has followed a strong 2016 rookie ball season with a jump to High-A and a strong start there in 2017. Gibbons doesn’t profile as a power hitter, but the LF has above average speed. Gibbons also has a patient approach, having walked more than he struck out last year (29 BB: 20 K.) He has maintained similar numbers early on in 2017. At 23, their is hope that he will advance a little faster through the farm system.

Towing the Rubber:  The starting pitching has had some struggles, as a 9-14 record would suggest. However, it is not as dire as it looks on the surface. SP’s Jake Jewell and Grayson Long have performed well enough to already get promoted to Double-A Mobile. Fellow starters Jamie Barria and Jose Rodriguez have gotten off to solid starts.  Barria has given up a few long balls (4), but has gone 6 IP or more in 3 of his starts thus far. Rodriguez, for his efforts has pitched into the sixth inning for three straight starts, surrendering 3 ER or less in each contest.  RP Adam Hofacket has also pitched well through the first month with a 2.92 ERA, 2 holds, and a 12:2 K:BB rate. If the starting pitching can continue to trend up, the team’s record should do the same.

On the Mend: Luis Valbuena has been rehabbing with the 66ers, manning 3B for five games so far. He has had a strong showing, hitting .316 and driving in five runs during that time. Valbuena is eyeing a Tuesday return to the Angels. That likely means he will play Sunday with the 66ers before traveling to Seattle where the LA Angels will play a three game set starting on Tuesday.

Barnstorming the Cal League: This upcoming week the 66ers face the Lancaster JetHawks for 3 games (May 1-3.) They then travel to neighboring Rancho Cucamonga to face off against the Quakes for a 4 game set through the weekend (May 4th- 7th.) The Quakes series also holds the fun of being Angels vs. Dodgers high-A ball teams.

Family Fun Zone: Tuesday May 2nd. $2 Tuesday- $2 tickets, hotdogs, soda, popcorn, and tacos. Affordable fun for the whole family.

The 66ers can be reached at (909) 888-9922 or via their website.

Next: Angels best draft pick from each of the last 10 drafts

The Inland Empire 66’ers experience is one of the best in the California League.  Check it out soon.