The LA Angels farm system has been rising up over the past four seasons under general manager Billy Eppler. Mid-season all-star selections provide some proof.
The Inland Empire 66ers, the LA Angels Single-A affiliate, have five all-star selections for next Tuesday’s game in San Bernardino. The Sixers have four pitchers and one hitter who made the squad. Pitchers Kyle Bradish, Oliver Ortega, Andrew Wantz, and Jorge Tavarez all were selected after posting strong first-half numbers.
Outfielder Torii Hunter Jr. was the lone hitter to make the squad for the Sixers. Hunter Jr. leads the team in RBIs, walks, stolen bases, and is second in OBP.
The Sixers have four pitchers who the Angels drafted in the first ten rounds in the 2018 Amateur Draft on the team. Bradish was picked in the fourth round in last year’s draft out of New Mexico State and has shown great promise. He is 2-3 with a 2.95 ERA with 52 K’s in 39.2 innings. Bradish has a mid-90’s fastball with a nice change-up, slider, and a curve ball. He has three outings with nine or more strikeouts, including a start in late May against Lancaster when Bradish struck out 12 batters in 5.1 innings of shutout baseball.
Andrew Wantz is another pitcher who was drafted by the Angels in the 2018 Amateur Draft. Wantz was picked in the 7th round out of UNC Greensboro and was also chosen to the Single-A All-Star team. Wantz has also pitched well for the Sixers going 5-3 with a 3.56 ERA. He struck out 58 batters in 48 innings with a 1.19 WHIP.
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Wantz has a low 90s fastball that tops out at around 94. He also possesses a good slider and a change-up and has been mostly used as a starter. His last three starts for the Sixers were especially good as Wantz pitched 16 innings with a 1.68 ERA and 26 strikeouts. The Angels were impressed enough they have recently promoted Wantz to Double-A Mobile. He will not pitch.
“Honestly as a pitcher you’ve got to love it. They are moving pitchers up very quickly,” Wantz said. “If you are doing well you will be rewarded for it. It is just a good organization to be a part of to get to the big leagues faster.”
The other two pitchers that made the Single-A All-Star team from the Sixers are foreign-born pitchers who were signed as free agents in Oliver Ortega and Jorge Tavarez.
Ortega was signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic. He pitched two years for the Angels rookie leagues in Arizona and Orem then missed the whole 2017 season. Ortega came back strong in 2018 pitching well in Low Single-A Burlington going 4-5 with a 3.51 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 82 innings of work. This season Ortega is 2-3 with a 3.57 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 53 innings of work.
Ortega has been used mostly as a starter and a long reliever on some piggyback starts. If you don’t know a piggyback start is, it is where a team uses a starter for four to five innings and then a long reliever to finish up the final four to five innings. Wherever he is used Ortega is just glad to be doing so well and just hopes to keep it up.
“I just try to pitch as well as I can and help my team. I’m happy (with how I’ve pitched). I feel great,” Ortega said. “I’m so proud.(of making the all-star team) I’ve been working hard every day.”
@66ersbaseball tweeted this release announcing the Sixers all-star selections.
Ortega’s fellow countrymen Jorge Tavarez has been used mostly as a closer or late-inning reliever and has performed admirably. Tavarez was also an International free agent signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.
In his four years in the minors Tavarez has 23 saves with a 3.05 ERA and 258 strikeouts in 206.2 innings. He possesses a mid-to-high 90’s fastball which has been clocked as high as 97 this season. This year he is 0-2 with a 3.94 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 32 innings and four saves.
The final all-star is Torii Hunter Jr., which definitely has name recognition going for him. Hunter Jr. has been in the Angels organization since quitting the Notre Dame football team in the winter of 2016. The Angels drafted Hunter Jr. in the 23rd round of the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft.
Hunter Jr has a career .279 batting average with four homers and 79 RBIs with 52 stolen bases. He played with the Sixers toward the end of the 2018 season after being called up from Burlington. This season Hunter Jr. is hitting .236 with one homer and 23 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He has shown great speed and defensive ability in the outfield plus he has walked 30 times which leads the team.
Hunter Jr. hopes to make it to the big leagues one day and follow in his dad’s footsteps by playing for the Angels. Unfortunately for Hunter Jr. he may not play either as he was place on the 7-Day Injured List Thursday.
Sixers manager Ryan Barba is pleased to see so many of his players make the all-star team. “It’s good for them. It’s a great experience. I’m sure they will have a good time,” Barba said. “We will be the home team so it will be great for them to play in front of the home crowd.”
So if you want to see some future stars on the big stage from all the Cal League teams come out next Tuesday, June 18th to San Miguel Field in San Bernardino for the Cal League All-Star Game. You’ll see four Angel prospects in action plus a pre-game home run hitting contest. Also Hall of Fame reliever Rollie Fingers will be signing autographs during the pre-game.
The schedule for the evening is as follows.
3:30 – 6:30 PM Fan Fest Chance to meet all the players on both teams.
5:00 PM – Home Run Derby
6 PM – Rollie Fingers autograph session as part of the Fan Fest.
6:45 PM – Hall of Fame Ceremony featuring Rollie Fingers
Game time is 7 pm.
For Tickets to game and fan fest visit the Sixers website at www.66ers.com.
Halo Hangout will be out there to cover all the festivities.