So how third baseman Kaleb Cowart and right-handed pitcher Bobby Cassevah perform in the Arizona Fall League with the Scottsdale Scorpions could be defining moments in their careers.
Cowart's immediate goal is to move to Double-A next season. Promoted to Inland Empire in the Class A Advanced California League from Class A Cedar Rapids, he appeared in 69 games this year, hitting .259 with seven home runs and 49 RBIs.
"It's the pitching," the switch-hitting Cowart said when asked about adjustments. "It just gets that much better. It goes from not just throwing fastballs, but fastballs that move and all kind of offspeed stuff in different counts."
Cowart added he will work on his approach at the plate, trying to hit the ball the other way and not miss the pitch he wants.
Cowart said that after the thrill of being the Angels' top pick (18th overall) wore off, he got back to the basics.
"Once you get to pro ball, everyone's equal," said Cowart, who started slowly this fall, hitting only .182 in his first six games. "It doesn't really matter what round you went in. Everybody has the same chance, and it's up to you to put up the numbers."
That's an assessment Cassevah wholeheartedly endorses. He underwent Tommy John surgery after his junior year in high school and did not pitch as a senior, so he knew he would be a late pick.
"I think if you're first-rounder or 50th-rounder, you still have to go out there and play baseball," he said. "You still have to go out there, you have to work hard and you've got to do your best. And if you don't [perform], it doesn't matter who you are, you're not going to stay around very long."
Cassevah's career has run the gamut from rookie leagues to the Majors. He was a starting pitcher for two seasons at the outset, then went to the bullpen. In 2012, he started the season at Inland Empire before being called up by the Angels. In mainly a seventh-inning role, he appeared in four games, with a 1-0 record and a 7.20 ERA. He ended the season in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League with Salt Lake, where he posted a 4-1 mark with 10 saves.
"I guess I was locating my fastball a little better, going out there and trying to attack hitters, getting hitters out with three pitches or less, let my defense work for me, and I guess the success speaks for itself," he said.
Cassevah, used exclusively as a reliever for the past five seasons, had made two starts in the Fall League through Monday, compiling a 1-0 record. In seven innings, his ERA is 0.00.
"I didn't know I was coming to the Fall League until a week before the season started," Cassevah said.
He and the organization see the stint as an opportunity to make the most of it.
Scorpions manager Carlos Mendoza likes what he has seen from both players to this point.
"[Cowart] is a young guy, showing some good tools defensively at third base, moving around pretty good, making some plays, and offensively, he's got a good chance," he said. "He's got a good swing from both sides of the plate. The ball jumps off his bat, and there's some tools there, an interesting guy."
Mendoza gives Cassevah a lot of credit for persevering the past seven years.
"He has big league experience, and coming down here and wanting to work was a plus," he said. "You don't see that too often. He's been doing everything we've asked him to do. He's been outstanding. He's throwing the ball really well, throwing a lot of strikes, doing everything that he needs to do to get better.
"When you see all the hard work paying off, it's always good to see. He keeps working hard and he's seen results."
Angels hitters in the Fall League
Carlos Ramirez, a catcher out of Arizona State, was an eighth-round Draft choice (261st overall) in 2009. He is looking for his hitting stroke after struggling at the plate this season with Arkansas of the Double-A Texas League, where he hit .204 in 85 games. Ramirez is rated the Angels' No. 19 prospect by MLB.com.
"The main thing is my hitting, and that's where I really want to focus, and go out there and work in every single day," he said.
Travis Witherspoon had a tough time in his foray into Double-A this season, hitting just .202 in 54 games with Arkansas, while striking out 54 times. The right-handed-hitting outfielder was a 12th-round pick (381st overall) in the 2009 Draft. His batting average had been on the rise until he reported to the Texas League.
Randal Grichuk, the Angels' first-round pick (24th overall) in 2009 Draft, put together a nice season at Inland Empire in 2012, batting .298 with 18 home runs and 71 RBIs in 135 games. That marked the most games he had played in his Minor League career. He also swiped 16 bases. MLB.com rates him the Angels' No. 12 prospect.
Angels pitchers in the Fall League
Buddy Boshers is a 6-foot-3 lefty with a 20-9 mark and 3.81 ERA in the Minors. He has racked up 305 strikeouts in 324 innings while being used mainly as a reliever the past three seasons. In 2012, over 63 1/3 innings of work between Inland Empire and Arkansas, Boshers struck out 75. The Angels drafted him in the fourth round (139th overall) in 2008.
Kevin Johnson was a 20th-round (624th overall) selection in 2010. He has an ERA of 3.91 over three Minor League seasons, mostly as a reliever. He split time in 2012 between Salt Lake and Arkansas. In 36 appearances with Arkansas, he had 16 saves and an ERA of 2.37.
Ryan Chaffee was a third-round Draft choice (105th overall) in 2008. The righty jumped from Class A Advanced to Triple-A in 2011, posting a 1-1 record with Salt Lake. He started the 2012 season as a reliever with Inland Empire, where he was 2-0 with seven saves. He was promoted to Arkansas, posting a 5-1 record with a 2.72 ERA in 37 appearances.
Nick Maronde, who was a third pick in the 2011 Draft (104th overall), pitched in 12 games as a reliever for the Angels this season, allowing six hits and one earned run with seven strikeouts and three walks in six innings of work. He was originally a 43rd-round Draft choice of the Oakland Athletics but did not sign, opting to attend the University of Florida.
Jim Gintonio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less