The LA Angels had a great team in the minors in the Inland Empire 66’ers during the 2016 season. The 66’ers didn’t qualify for the playoffs that year, but they have now produced eight MLB players.
Not all the players are currently on the LA Angels roster, but all have made some contributions this season, some have made significant contributions. The eight players from the 2016 Inland Empire 66’ers are: pitchers Jake Jewell, Eduardo Paredes, Justin Anderson, and Kenyan Middleton. Hitters include, David Fletcher, Jose Briceno, Taylor Ward, and Michael Hermosillo. Paredes and Middleton both made their Angels debut in 2017, but they were still part of the 66’ers 2016 class.
This is pretty impressive for a team who was considered by many to have the worst farm system in baseball just a few years back. While Jewell and Middleton were lost for the season due to injury earlier this year they still have bright futures. Paredes and Hermosillo have not made much of impact yet for the Angels with Hermosillo being sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake City and Paredes has been back and forth from the Angels Triple-A affiliate so many times it can make your head spin.
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However, the other four players have made an impact almost immediately upon reaching the Angels. While Taylor Ward has only played one game which was Tuesday night, he immediately made his presence known by ripping a double and a single to drive in a run and also score a run in his MLB debut as part of an Angel 7-3 victory over San Diego. Ward had been hitting .349 in Triple-A before getting the call up Monday Tuesday morning. I’m sure there is more where that came from.
Justin Anderson saw a similar debut on the mound back in April as he was called upon in a high leverage situation in his home state of Texas against the Astros. Anderson shut down two Astro threats in back-to-back games, both Angels victories mowing through such batters, as Altuve, Correa, and Springer.
Anderson followed it up with two strong outings in Yankee Stadium striking out four batters in 2.2 innings of work which included Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Didi Gregorius. In his first six appearances Anderson did not allow a run which spanned six innings and included nine strikeouts. Anderson has recorded four saves thus far and his been a solid set-up man for Blake Parker.
Jose Briceno has become the Angels number one catcher since the trade of Martin Maldonado at the end of July and has delivered very solid numbers with a .291 average to go along with three homers and nine RBIs. Briceno hit a home run in his MLB debut and has had other key moments already this season.
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Last but by no means least is middle infielder David Fletcher. Fletcher has been a God Send since being called up from Triple-A in June hitting .324 in his first two weeks of MLB action and he hasn’t stopped there. Fletcher is now hitting .254 with a homer and 15 RBIs. While those numbers aren’t eye-popping he seems to come through in key spots and does the little things well like on Monday night when he laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to drive in Shohei Ohtani.
Fletcher’s glovework has been even more amazing playing nearly flawless defense at second and third base (which he never played before being called up) and even a little shortstop. He has been a solid replacement for Zack Cozart at third who was lost for the season. Then when Ian Kinsler was traded Fletcher switched to his traditional second base and has done very well there as well.
So all in all the Inland Empire Class of 2016 has made quite a difference for the Angels this season and will hopefully continue to do so in the future.