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Texas League All-Star Dean Anna poised to lift Padres’ Double-A San Antonio Missions to playoffs

Utility baseball player Dean Anna is the consummate leader.
A three-sport letterman in baseball, basketball and golf while attending Lincoln-Way East High School in Mokena, Illinois, he chose baseball at John A. Logan College in Carterville and was rewarded by being named All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference during his sophomore year after leading his team in home runs and breaking the school record for RBI. Dean Anna’s leadership continued as a junior transfer at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana–where he led the Cardinals in doubles, triples, walks and runs.

Missions’ Dean Anna

The Padres took notice and selected the versatile five-foot-eleven right-handed fielder/left-handed batter in the 26th round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft. Since then the Midwesterner has proven worthy in the Padres minor leagues by catapulting his teams to three championship titles in Fort Wayne (2009), Lake Elsinore (2011) and San Antonio (2011). Having played in three 2012 Padres Spring Training games before being sent back to San Antonio to defend the reigning Texas League Champion Missions, super utilityman Dean Anna is making a difference in the team’s nightly do-or-die must win scenario to make the playoffs since six of the Missions’ remaining handful of games are against second-half leader Corpus Christi Hooks, who are ahead of San Antonio by nine games.

After speaking with Missions’ Dean Anna, we found him to be one of the most humble players in the dugout. His work ethic is unparalleled and his ‘never say die’ approach to the game is commendable. With the Missions needing their clutch player to step up and lead the team to the post-season, Dean Anna is more than capable to take on the role as captain. Batting .282 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI, Anna’s on-base percentage of .392 is among leaders in the entire Texas League. The 25-year-old prospect is certainly exciting to watch, and we expect to see him play his best baseball yet in his quest to help his team repeat.

Dean Anna led the Fort Wayne TinCaps to the 2009 Midwest League Championship.

Roberto: I understand you have played every position on the field but catcher, correct?
Dean Anna: The only catching I have done…caught a few bullpens. If the opportunity came, I think that I would have to catch. But I haven’t caught a pitch yet.
Roberto: Would you like to try pitching professionally?
Dean Anna: Yeah, I would love to actually. I have always wanted to try one inning or two just to see how it is out there. Make me feel like I was 10 again pitching.
Roberto: How does playing second base differ from playing shortstop in regards to turning the double play?
Dean Anna: Well, second baseman, there is three different turns, you know. Second base you got a drop step, you got a flip and then you got a side flip. So I mean you just really work on your craft, you know. At first it’s real difficult when you start at second base. Because I started at short(stop) all of my career, and I moved to second when I got to pro ball. And you know I thought it would be easy, but actually it was a little hard because of all the different type of turns for double plays from throwing it from shortstop. The drop step was different, the side flip was different and the underhand flip was different. And you use them in a different type of areas. So you really have to understand what area you’re in for what ball to throw, you know. So that was the big thing. Even to turn double plays when you’re on the bag…you know there’s a way of doing it that way. It seems to look easy but wherever the ball’s taking you–you have got to go to it. And you have got to be quick as possible and get out of there because that runner is getting on you fast. So that’s another thing you have got to have quick hands.
Roberto: When has a baserunner crossed the line to intentionally cause you harm?
Dean Anna: You know what? If a cleat hits you, you know they’re out of hand probably. But it’s hard to tell because you can’t see the runner sliding because you’re focusing on the ball thrown at you. So both of your eyes are following the ball. It’s impossible to look at the runner while the ball is in the air and catch it at the same time. So you’re just hoping, you know. You kind of have a clock in your head so you kind of know when the runner is coming to second base. So you know when to get out of there. But sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes you forget the time of it and how fast the runner is getting on you.

San Antonio Missions’ infielder Dean Anna turns a double play.

Roberto: How difficult is it to remain engaged in the game when you play nine innings night after night? After all, isn’t baseball a game that can change instantly with one single pitch?
Dean Anna: Yeah, that’s how baseball is played. I mean every pitch matters, you know. There’s a situation on every different pitch. You have got to be on your toes. Sometimes if you are not ready for what that moment is going to bring to you it can cost your team a game, you know. So that’s a big part of baseball, just staying in the game the whole time and having that mental toughness–just knowing everything, what’s going on…
Roberto: As an infielder, do you communicate with your outfielders on the field?
Dean Anna: Yeah, you know, the right fielder and me (second baseman). We talk pretty much with every batter. We kind of know where we are going because I know if he is playing shallow or deep. Especially on guys, right-handed hitters, that maybe stay inside the ball well and hit the ball good to right field. We’ll know that he should be coming in a little shallow. So I kind of know that we’re not going to blow into each other, you know. The tough ones are when the ball is kind of sinks into center, like right center or left center. That means that you have all three players running at it. And that’s when it gets confusing, where the communication gets confusing. But with right field and second base, we’re okay out there. We kind of know where we’re staying.
Roberto: Were you hurt being selected as a late round draft instead of an early pick?
Dean Anna: No, you know, it didn’t bruise my ego at all. I was just happy to get the opportunity to play pro ball. That’s what I have always wanted to do. And you know I was going to give it my best, and I’m doing pretty good right now and stuff like that. I just wanted to have a chance, an opportunity that ‘s all you can ask for in life actually. So I’m just happy for that.
Roberto: Are you ready to be called up to Major League Baseball by the Padres?
Dean Anna: Yeah, I mean I’m definitely ready if they’re ready, you know. But I’m just playing ball and having fun. It’s day-by-day. I mean I have no control over any of that stuff. I wish I was a psychic. Yeah, that would be real nice. That’s fully out of my control. I just take it day-by-day. I play as hard as I can, and you know hopefully good things will happen.

Ex-Mission and current Padre reliever Miles Mikolas holds up his championship ring for the fans.

Roberto: Do you stay in touch with all of your teammates who have made it to MLB?
Dean Anna: Oh yeah, we definitely do. I talk to a couple guys like (Blake) Tekkote,
Miles (Mikolas), (James) Darnell. Those guys had a great time, they’re having fun up there. They said it’s an unbelievable experience, you know their first-time, their first game. Hopefully one day I can get the same feeling.
Roberto: Are you prepared for all of the rookie pranks that go along with being in MLB?
Dean Anna: Yeah, hey, if I can get to the big leagues they can prank me everyday (laughter). Yeah, I’ll be the prank guinea pig. I don’t care (laughter).
Roberto: Do you think being five-foot-eleven and 180 pounds puts you at a disadvantage?
Dean Anna: I mean the size for me…it doesn’t really matter. Honestly, I feel like it’s not like football or basketball where you have got to be 6’6”, you got to run a 4.2 forty. Baseball is such a mental game and if you can just read between the lines well. I mean a smart baseball player…that will make you look better. Just being a smart baseball player, I think plays a big role in all that.
Roberto: Don’t you think that being a left-handed hitter has its advantages?
Dean Anna: Yeah, that definitely helps a little bit for sure. Get down the line a little quicker.
Roberto: Having only reached double digits in the stolen bases category early in your professional career, why don’t you steal more bases with the speed that you possess?
Dean Anna: You know…I’m not a big steal guy, but I have real good anticipation like when the ball is hit. I can tell if the ball is going to drop or not without looking. Like I just know that I can probably get (from) first to third with a line drive and know that the fielder is not going to catch the ball. I just got good instincts.
Roberto: Where did you pick up this talent? Did good coaching have anything to do with it?
Dean Anna: Yeah, definitely great coaching helps out…you know. After a while, you just get a feel. You know how the ball sounds off the bat. You know where the ball’s going. You just kind of get a feel for the game when you play for a while and start getting a rhythm. You just kind of know. Roberto: Who did you used to follow before becoming a part of the Padres organization?
Dean Anna: I’m a Midwest guy from the Chicago suburbs. My family is all diehard Cubbie fans. Yeah, it runs through our blood.
Roberto: Do you have your suitcase ready to go if you get called up next month?
Dean Anna: No, my bags are not packed. Honestly, I’m just taking it day-by-day. If that does comes…that opportunity…I would be so happy, you know. I’m just excited to see what happens.
Roberto: Excited to get pranked? What has happened to you so far in the minor leagues?
Dean Anna: When I was in High-A, everyone knows that I don’t like animals and stuff.
You know I’m kind of a city guy so I don’t like all the country stuff and all the fishing and stuff. One guy had a little snake and it was live. So he put it in my pocket in my locker,
right where my phone’s at. So I go to grab my phone, and this little snake pops out of my pocket. I did a back flip down on the floor. So then after that, I almost had a heart attack. And then I ‘m sitting, watching TV. I had my shirt tucked in and one of my teammates opens my shirt and puts the snake down my back. I went crazy! That was kind of funny…
Roberto: With your fear of snakes, did you cringe when you learned that former teammate Miles Mikolas ate a live lizard in the Arizona Fall League bullpen?
Dean Anna: I texted him that same day when I heard and asked him what he was thinking. He said it was funny and good protein intake.
Roberto: What is your biggest baseball taboo?
Dean Anna: I’m a big guy where I don’t want anyone to touch my baseball gloves. I don’t like anyone putting their hands in them.
Roberto: Do you have a pre-game routine that you follow?
Dean Anna: I like to really relax like for an hour. Get off my feet and just relax. Listen to my music. Calm down, you know, relax. Get mentally prepared for the game.
Roberto: What about your routine at-bat and in-between pitches?
Dean Anna: My ritual when I go up to bat…I always do my batting glove thing. Like every pitch I do this one batting glove, I tighten my left one up then my right one up. Then I touch the two outside corners of the home plate. Then I get ready to go. I feel like in baseball you’ve got to be consistent to move up. So everything I do I make sure to do the same way. Just because your brain works that way, you know. Your brain works like if you do the same thing it should trigger something.

Dean Anna celebrates with his teammates after a walk-off home run blast by Jason Hagerty.

Roberto: The golden sombrero is not a good thing in baseball. Have you ever struck out
four times in the same game?
Dean Anna: If I got the golden sombrero, I would change what I ate that day. Like if I had bad games, I make sure that whatever I ate that day…I wouldn’t eat it the next day. I make sure that I wouldn’t wear the same shoes to the field. Like I’m a superstitious guy a little bit. Just because this game makes you kind of like that.. But when I’m going good I’m eating the same food everyday. I’ll walk the same way. I’ll take the same path. Just because it’s just a mindset thing.
Roberto: What is your personal professional best hitting streak to date?
Dean Anna: I’ve recently had a nine-game hitting streak, and I just didn’t shave for nine days. So I was getting a little scruffy, and then it ended. I mean it didn’t get that bad, but
it was getting bad where people were asking ‘What are you doing?,’ you know. But I wish it could have gone a little longer.
Roberto: Are you happy to have been part of the San Diego farm system?
Dean Anna: The Padres organization is great, you know. I’m happy to be a part of them. Hopefully someday I can get up there and witness that. And have fun with that. It seems great. Everyone says it’s great. So it would be nice. I’ve been out there once when I was
in High-A Lake Elsinore. We actually went out for a game and everything was beautiful. Everything was so nice. Hopefully one day I can play there and get my chance.
Roberto: Did you enjoy your time playing in the Midwest as a member of the Single-A
Fort Wayne TinCaps?
Dean Anna: When I was at Fort Wayne, it was nice because I have family out there that way. So I saw my family a lot.
Roberto: Did the humidity and heat in Indiana prepare you for the weather you are now experiencing this summer in the Texas League?
Dean Anna: Nothing compares to San Antonio heat. Honestly, it’s very hot out here!
Roberto: Sometimes do you flash back to the good old days in California playing for the
Lake Elsinore Storm when it’s over 100 degrees outside at game time in San Antonio?
Dean Anna: Lake Elsinore was not bad at all. The thing that surprised me about Lake Elsinore is that it can get cold out there. I’ve never been out to California since I was in
the Cal League and that was last year. I couldn’t believe how cold is was in the beginning. Because I was like ‘California, is that place cold? Really?’
Roberto: Southern California weather is hard to beat. Wouldn’t you agree?
Dean Anna: Yeah, yeah…it was nice, very nice!
Roberto: How about the beautiful sights there? Now you truly understand what the
Beach Boys meant when they wrote ‘California Girls’?
Dean Anna: (Smiling) Yeah, it makes sense!
Roberto: Thanks for your time and sharing so much with us today.
Dean Anna: It was a great interview. It was fun. It was great—thank you!

Padres add heat to mix with reliever Miles Mikolas, the legendary Lizard King of the San Diego bullpen

Venice Beach’s Lizard King, an alter ego of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, imitated a Native American shaman. Since shamans identified strongly with an animal deity, Morrison chose the lizard because of its ability to reinvent itself by constantly shedding its skin and personified his deity by only wearing leather pants. Native cultures shaman guide followers through sacred ceremonies involving the ingestion of peyote to lead worshippers on a spiritual awakening of higher consciousness in the same way Morrison led his loyal audiences through a journey so that they may never think the same way again. Opting to skip the hallucinogens and make believers of those weak at heart in the Peoria Javelinas bullpen during the 2011 Arizona Fall League, new San Diego Padre relief pitcher Miles Mikolas turned Lizard King chose to square up on clubhouse dues by accepting the $250 dare bet wagered by fellow players and ingesting a Mountain Dew marinated cold-blooded reptile.

New San Diego Padre reliever
and part-time bullpen shaman Miles Mikolas inspects his live lizard lunch before chasing it down with cold Mountain Dew.

With nearly 10,000 hits on YouTube for his fearless antics in the bullpen, the six-foot-five Mikolas has quite a Alice Cooper cult following outside of baseball. Hoping to tone down his rock star status and keep the fear factor limited to hitters facing him on the mound, Mikolas said: “We were joking around in the bullpen and one thing led to another and there was some money on the line so … you know. I’m a little bit fearless. Even eating a lizard won’t turn me away. Hopefully, I can open their eyes a little bit more.” Although he has enjoyed his notoriety outside of the game for having no fear, the phone rang early Saturday morning at 6 am (Texas League time) to see just how much he could intimidate the slew of armed and dangerous hitters found daily on the Miami Marlins line-up card. Heralded as PadresProspects.com’s #25 prospect and not expected to make his MLB debut until late this season, the 23-year-old San Antonio Mission right-handed reliever received his call up from Double-A ball to the major leagues earlier than expected when Padre closer Huston Street was placed on the 15-day DL. Mikolas couldn’t have picked a more powerful slugger, the Paul Bunyan of professional baseball–Giancarlo Stanton–for his very first batter to face in his MLB debut on May 5, 2012 at PETCO Park.

Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton rounds the bases after welcoming Padre reliever Miles Mikolas to
the show with a towering home run
off the left field third tier of the Western Metal Supply Company.

With his hometown of Jupiter, Florida also being the home of the Marlins’ Spring Training, Miles Mikolas was beyond transcendental pitching against the team he cheered for as a youth. Miles said, “It was a great feeling being out there, especially against a team I grew up rooting for in South Florida as a Marlins fan. To be facing them was neat.” The rookie who had gained Lizard King notoriety for his fear factor ways in the bullpen would shed his skin on the mound in the ninth inning with the Padres trailing 3-1. With the count full on Giancarlo Stanton, the six-foot-five reliever served up a fastball he probably wishes that he could take back. Stanton answered by launching a moonshot off the left field third tier of the Western Metal Supply Company to give the Marlins a comfortable 4-1 lead. Mikolas can take solace in knowing he’s not the only pitcher to give up a home run to the 22-year-old Stanton, who has homered six times in the last nine games and is on pace to become the future all-time MLB home run record holder. “It’s good knowing that he is getting a little bit of everybody,” Miles said. “I’m not the only guy getting singled out.”

Padres’ future closer #39 Miles Mikolas is destined for greatness.

With the top layer of the epidermis peeled off by Giancarlo’s baptism by fire, Mikolas was stripped to the raw core of his confidence and fought back. The remainder of his MLB debut was nearly textbook minus a walk to Gaby Sanchez. John Buck was shell-shocked staring at Mikolas’ Hammer, the epitome of a sharp-breaking curve, for strike three. Then Marlins starting pitcher Mark Buehrle laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Sanchez to second. Mikolas ended the inning on a high note by striking out last year’s National League Batting Champion Jose Reyes looking. Miles reflected and said,
“I settled down and made some really good pitches there toward the end. One bad pitch. Right after Stanton hit the home run I was like, ‘Well, you know, there it is. Welcome to the major leagues.'”

Miles Mikolas got his first taste of success pitching for the South Florida powerhouse
Jupiter High School Warriors.

Mikolas made his encore appearance pitching in the Padres’ 6-3 loss to the Marlins on Sunday, when he came in relief during the eighth inning and recorded the final out after issuing a walk. Prior to pitching in the Bigs, Mikolas was 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA in Double-A San Antonio. Padre manager Bud Black commented, “This spring, he threw the ball well.
I think that continued on there in San Antonio. Of all the guys that we looked at, he was the guy that our Minor League people said, ‘He’s the guy.'” The San Diego skipper has liked what he has seen so far from the rookie Mikolas. “That’s a big curveball,” Black said. “His challenge will be to get that in the strike zone. It has good rotation. You can combine that with a low-90s, mid-90s fastball. It’s a nice variation. It’s a nice difference of velocity. But the key is getting the breaking pitch in for a strike, because he’s got enough fastball. There’s no doubt about that.” A few weeks ago, Aussie pitcher Hayden Beard–Mikolas’ roommate at Double-A San Antonio–predicted weeks ago that Miles would be the first member of the Mission pitching staff to break into the Bigs. ‘The Big Dog’ Beard said, “I’m stoked for Miles. It couldn’t happen to a better bloke!” After Jupiter High School baseball, Mikolas played through his junior year at Nova Southeastern University (NSU)–where he ranked fourth all-time with 167 career strikeouts and fifth with 32 games started–before being the seventh round pick by San Diego in the 2009 draft. That year he was one of four NSU players drafted, three of whom have now appeared on a Major League 40-man roster–including Mikolas, J.D. Martinez (Astros) and Mike Fiers (Brewers). After converting from a starter to a reliever, Mikolas quickly moved up the Padres system to the Single-A affilate Fort Wayne TinCaps, where he would become a 2010 Midwest League All-Star after striking out 78 batters in 60 appearances.

The Southern Florida native last season split time between the Single-A Advanced Lake Elsinore Storm and the Double-A San Antonio Missions. He went a combined 4-0 with 21 saves and a 1.38 earned run average. Mikolas was dominant on the mound, striking out 69 in 72 innings of relief. Rumor has it that an unnamed Lake Elsinore Storm pitcher was betting everyone he could hit triple digits but could only hit 99 on the radar gun that year. However, the Lizard King of the bullpen has since touched 100 mph with a spike in velocity. The fearless pitcher and part-time shaman will change our way of thinking of the Padres’ winning ways by keeping hitters uneasy and off balance with his unrelentless heat and signature Mikolas Hammer.

Mariners prospect Chih-Hsien Chiang making Chinese-Taiwanese proud in Arizona Fall League

Slugger Chih-Hsien Chiang shattered club records as a Red Sox Minor Leaguer and was chosen Eastern League 2011 Player of the Year.

Acquired by the Seattle Mariners on July 31st in the trade that sent pitcher Erik Bedard to the Boston Red Sox, 23-year-old Taiwanese-born outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang was recently selected as the recipient for the George M. Trautman Award for Topps Eastern League 2011 Player of the Year after being the driving force behind the Red Sox’s AA affiliate Portland Seadogs in Portland, Maine. The awards are presented to the player of the year in each of the 16 domestic Minor Leagues by the Topps Company of New York, in conjunction with the Minor League Baseball. Leading the Eastern League in batting average (.340), runs batted in (76), doubles (37), extra-base hits (59), runs scored (68) and slugging percentage (.648), Chiang was the Eastern League Player of the Month for June and July as well as the 2011 Most Valuable Player runner-up. Racking up 18 home runs and four triples in 88 Seadogs games this past season, the left-handed hitting Chih-Hsien Chiang combined his 2011 impressive numbers to his 2010 campaign in setting a new franchise record for grand slams (3) and being only one of two players to homer in four straight games.

Chih-Hsien Chiang in the 2011 Arizona Fall League adds new life to the Seattle Mariners bright future.

Prior to playing for the Peoria Javelinas–a team of professional baseball prospects from the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers and the recently crowned 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals–in the Arizona Fall League (AFL), Chiang was a stand out in both the Major League Baseball Futures Game on July 10th in Phoenix, Arizona and the Eastern League All-Star Game on July 13th in Manchester, New Hampshire. Ranked by Baseball Prospectus as the Mariners number 10 prospect with a projected 2013 Major League debut, Chih-Hsien Chiang blasted his first home run of the AFL season off Surprise Saguaros reliever Alejandro Ramos in the 10th inning of Wednesday’s extra inning 10-7 heartbreak and then went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs in Thursday’s 9-5 loss to the Salt River Rafters. Batting .297 overall and .421 against left-handed pitching in 64 at bats in the AFL, the six-foot two slugger is quite intimidating in the batter’s box. Switching off as designated hitter and right fielder for Peoria, the reverberation of Chih-Hsien Chiang’s bat will be felt after every swing well beyond the Arizona desert and across the Pacific Rim to the delight of baseball lovers worldwide. Stay tuned as the best has yet to come!

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