We have guys that can drive the ball into the gap and out of the ballpark. It is going to be fun to watch. —Salt Lake Bees manager Keith Johnson
SALT LAKE CITY — Five years ago, the Salt Lake Bees were one of the best teams in minor league baseball, let alone the Pacific Coast League.
Since then, success, particularly in the postseason, has been practically nonexistent and there are numberless reasons why.
Chief among them has to be the abysmal state of the Los Angeles Angels farm system. Two years ago, ESPN’s Keith Law considered the Angels farm system the worst he had ever seen and while it certainly improved last season, said improvement was minuscule (Los Angeles’ farm system was ranked 27th out of 30 teams in Law’s 2017 rankings).
Injuries have also played a significant role in the Bees' struggles, injuries to the Angels that is.
Thirty-two players donned both a Bees and Angels uniform at some point last season, which was due to nine Major League injury rehab assignments. Perhaps more telling, the Bees made a franchise record 240 transactions last year, sending a player up to the Angels 61 times.
While the ‘17 season was a bounce-back year of sorts, Salt Lake barely missed the playoffs, finishing one game shy of the division title, the postseason drought continued.
There is significant hope for the ‘18 season, however, due to one specific reason — power.
“We have the three-run homer in our lineup this year,” Bees manager Keith Johnson said. “It is something that has been missing for a little while.”
To his point, the Bees hit 136 home runs in ‘13, the second-most in the PCL, driving in 756 runs. In the four subsequent seasons, the best Salt Lake could muster was 102 homers, in ‘17, which was the second-worst total in the league.
Salt Lake appears primed to obliterate that mark this season.
Leading the way will be infielder Chris Carter, formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers, who had 41 dingers in the majors two years ago.
“We had to hit-and-run, steal and take the extra base all the time to create some offense (the past few years),” said Johnson. “Now we have some batters box offense.
“We have guys that can drive the ball into the gap and out of the ballpark. It is going to be fun to watch.”
Further aiding the Bees cause is the amount of major league experience on the roster. Salt Lake has 2,936 MLB games played on its roster, including 2,574 games in the field.
Former Minnesota Twin and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Ben Revere stands as the most experienced Bee, with 857 games under his belt.
As far as prospects go, there is, at long last, hope. The Angels' farm system is significantly improved and the preeminent hope on the Bees, as far as position players go, is outfielder Michael Hermosillo, the Angels' 10th best overall prospect.
“He is very athletic, kind of a highlight reel type of player,” said Johnson. “We finally have a guy that has come up through our system.
“There is still a little bit of development aspect to go in there, but he is opening some eyes. We’re looking for him to take that last step, to show consistency at this level, so he can kick that door down.”
“I just want to give my all every day,” said Hermosillo. “There is so much that I want to achieve and accomplish this year. I’m excited.”
“Our roster right now is very talented and we will see how that plays out,” Salt Lake general manager Marc Amicone said. “We are seeing the best baseball players; the very best baseball talent that isn't in major league baseball. That is pretty cool.”