No question, the Salt Lake Bees were a run-producing machine in 2006. The Pacific Coast League's Pacific North Division champions scored the league's second-most runs with a combination of speed, power, and a handful of .300 hitters.
This season, those sitting on the Franklin Covey Field berm would do well to wear a hard hat.
Last season, Howie Kendrick, Dallas McPherson, Nick Gorneault and Kendry Morales created a potent lineup. This season, Kendrick is sure to stick with the Los Angeles Angels, and Gorneault and Morales are having excellent springs and are fighting for a roster spot with the Angels. One or both may return. (McPherson had back surgery and is expected back in August at the earliest.)
In 2007, new names such as third baseman Brandon Wood, outfielder Terry Evans and infielder Matt Brown are expected to lay down some heavy lumber.
"We'll have a different makeup from last year," Salt Lake manager Brian Harper said. "We don't have the speed we had last year, but we have a lot of young hitters with a whole lot of potential. We have five, six or seven guys who have 20-home-run potential."
Wood, tabbed by many as the Angels' No. 1 prospect, has hit 66 homers and driven in 198 runs the last two seasons. In three stops last season, Evans, acquired from the St. Louis organization in the Jeff Weaver trade, hit 32 homers and drove in 87 runs.
Brown hit 19 balls over the fence.
"We've got some guys who can hit the ball a little bit," said Mike Elyward, who slugged a combined 13 homers last season with Salt Lake and Double-A Arkansas. "Having power is a good thing, but you've got to get guys on base to enjoy the power."
And that's where the questions begin. Can these players make the adjustment from Double-A to Triple-A?
"It's been an easy adjustment so far," said Evans. "But it's hard to tell in spring training. After a month, we'll know more. It's the same game; I don't think it will change that much."
Despite all the runs, overshadowing the hitter-friendly confines of Franklin Covey Field - at least for two-thirds of the season - were the Salt Lake pitchers. In 2006, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and Dustin Moseley, three-fifths of Harper's starting rotation who won 29 games in Triple-A, also combined to win 19 games for the Angels.
Salt Lake will be hard pressed to match that pitching level in 2007. When it comes to the long ball, though, the Bees promise plenty of power when the season opens in Salt Lake City on April 5 against Las Vegas.
Of the three, Moseley might be back with Salt Lake when Weaver and Bartolo Colon come off the disabled list in late April. Until then, Moseley's bid to become the Angels' fifth starter took a giant leap forward Tuesday when he scattered eight hits and struck out six in a six-inning performance in a 12-2 win against the Chicago White Sox.
"No one's told me," Moseley said afterward about his future in the Los Angeles rotation. "But if that happens, I've been feeling pretty crisp."
One thing is for sure - whoever starts for Salt Lake should enjoy plenty of run support.
"We won't have the speed we had last year," Harper said. "But I know we'll have plenty of power."
Bees opening series vs. Las Vegas 51s at Franklin Covey Field
April 5, 6:35 p.m.
April 6, 6:35 p.m.
April 7, 2:05 p.m.
April 8, 2:05 p.m.