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Seven Levels of Angels: Salt Lake's 20-year Team

Published July 21, 2013 2:05 pm

Some of baseball's biggest stars — from David Ortiz to Jered Weaver — made their names in SLC.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Banners displayed around Spring Mobile Ballpark's outfield plaza celebrate Salt Lake's stars of the last 20 seasons.

Minor league baseball is all about the future — and the past. Los Angeles Angels players including Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Jered Weaver are fondly remembered at various stops in the system, with their career checkpoints being commemorated by bobblehead dolls and garden gnomes in promotional giveaways this season.

To observe the Triple-A Salt Lake franchise's 20th season, The Salt Lake Tribune presents the all-time Buzz/Stingers/Bees team, covering affiliations with the Minnesota Twins (1994-2000) and the Angels.

The selections, in consultation with Bees broadcaster Steve Klauke, are based on a combination of the players' Salt Lake success and what they went on to do. Some needed multiple Triple-A seasons to develop their games. Others were barely here before being summoned to the Angels.

First base • Kendrys Morales

Morales was highly productive over parts of three seasons with the Bees, batting .335 with 153 RBIs in 208 games. Now playing for Seattle, he's a career .281 hitter in the major leagues.

Honorable mentions • Efren Navarro, Scott Stahoviak, Mark Trumbo

Second base • Howie Kendrick

Kendrick is the most consistent hitter to come through the Angels' system. Playing for five teams, he hit in the high .360s four years in a row. That included his .369 mark in 69 games with the Bees in '06.

Honorable mentions • Chone Figgins, Brian Raabe, Mitch Simons

Third base • Todd Walker

On his way to playing 1,288 games in the majors for seven teams, Walker displayed a classic left-handed hitting stroke in Salt Lake. He batted .339 with 28 homers and 111 RBIs in 135 games in 1996.

Honorable mentions • Jose Fernandez, Corey Koskie, Adam Pavkovich

Shortstop • Alfredo Amezaga

Having formed the franchise's best double-play combination with Chone Figgins, Amezaga is the pick at shortstop due to his breakthrough season of 2003. He batted .347 in 75 games, a dramatic increase in production.

Honorable mentions • Erick Aybar, Denny Hocking, Brandon Wood

Outfield • Marty Cordova, Torii Hunter, Mike Trout

Cordova was the American League Rookie of the Year for the Twins in 1995 after batting .358 in the Buzz's inaugural season. In his second Buzz stint, Hunter hit .368 in 2000 to launch himself into an outstanding big-league career that now has taken him to Detroit.

Trout played only 20 games for the Bees last season, but he merits selection by having become a big-league phenomenon the same year, finishing second in the AL MVP voting.

Honorable mentions • John Barnes, Peter Bourjos, Brian Buchanan, Terry Evans, Nick Gorneault, Jacque Jones, Chris Latham, Matt Lawton, Robb Quinlan

Catcher • A.J. Pierzynski

Pierzynski helped the Chicago White Sox win the 2005 World Series, has appeared in two All-Star Games and has batted .284 in 14 big-league seasons. Yet he was not an immediate success in Triple-A for the Twins. He showed improvement by batting .335 in 41 games for the Buzz in 2000, while hitting two grand slams in a home game against Calgary.

Honorable mentions • Hank Conger, Jeff Mathis, Damian Miller

Designated hitter • David Ortiz

Even as the most productive DH in baseball history, Ortiz was a close choice over Bernardo Brito. That's because Brito was a marvel in '94, driving in 122 runs in 108 games. Ortiz's big league career is overpowering, however. Playing mostly first base for the Buzz, he batted .315 with 30 homers and 110 RBIs in 1999.

Honorable mentions • Brito, Paul MacAnulty, Adam Riggs

Right-handed pitcher • Jered Weaver

Weaver went 6-1 with a 2.10 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 73 innings with the Bees in '06 before going 11-2 the rest of the year with the Angels.

Honorable mention • Chris Bootcheck, LaTroy Hawkins, John Lackey

Left-handed pitcher • Joe Saunders

He went back and forth several times from Triple-A to the Angels, but was highly consistent with the Bees in '06. Saunders went 10-4 with a 2.67 ERA, highlighted by a scoreless streak of 311⁄3 innings.

Honorable mentions • Travis Miller, Mark Redmond, Dan Serafini

Relief pitcher • Francisco Rodriguez

Having arrived from Double-A Arkansas in mid-June, "K-Rod" stayed with the Stingers through the end of the 2002 season. He became an October star with the Angels, helping them win the World Series. Now with Milwaukee, Rodriguez has recorded 303 saves in the major leagues — including 62 for the Angels in '08.

Honorable mentions • Greg Jones, Bart Miadich, Scot Shields

kkragthorpe@sltrib.comTwitter: @tribkurt 20-year Buzz/Stingers/Bees team

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the return of Triple-A baseball to Salt Lake City. The Tribune's 20-year team, from 1994-2013:

Pos. Player Years

1B Kendrys Morales 2006-08

2B Howie Kendrick 2006-09

3B Todd Walker 1996-97, 2000

SS Alfredo Amezaga 2001-04

OF Torii Hunter 1998, 2000

OF Mike Trout 2012

OF Marty Cordova 1994, '97

C A.J. Pierzynski 1998-2000

DH David Ortiz 1997-99

RHP Jered Weaver 2006

LHP Joe Saunders 2005-07

RP Francisco Rodriguez 2002 —

About the series

The Salt Lake Tribune's Kurt Kragthorpe spent early July on the road taking stock of the teams, players, fans and ballparks of the Los Angeles Angels and their minor league affiliates. His purpose: to ferret out great stories at each stop and, in the bigger scheme, connect the dots between what fans love about baseball — especially the minor league version — and the players toiling to make it to the bigs.

Saturday • Salt Lake City

Sunday • Anaheim

INSIDE • The Bees join in "Sandlot" nostalgia as actors from the movie visit Spring Mobile Ballpark. > D7 —

Salt Lake Bees

League • Pacific Coast.

Level • Triple-A.

Home • Spring Mobile Ballpark (15,411).

Average attendance • 6,720.

Record • 54-45.

Top hitter • Efren Navarro (.347).

Top pitcher • Ryan Brasier (5-2, 4.14, 10 saves).

Notable • The franchise changed its nickname from Buzz to Stingers in 2000 following a trademark infringement suit by Georgia Tech and from Stingers to Bees in '06 in a tribute to the Salt Lake team of former owner Larry H. Miller's youth.