Tyler Chatwood, who grew up about an hour for Angel Stadium in Redlands, Calif., was grabbed by the Angels with their first pick in the 2008 Draft. After graduating high school, the right-hander reported to the Arizona Summer League, where he was 1-2 with a 3.08 ERA in his first 11 outings as a pro.
Chatwood is still a spring chicken -- he turned 21 on Dec. 16 -- and he looked better and better as he aged and matured over the next two seasons. He moved from Class A Advanced to Double-A and even made a start in Triple-A in 2010, and his walks-per-innings ratio has dropped each year he's been a pro as his strikeout totals have climbed higher and higher.
In 2010, Chatwood established himself as the top pitching prospect in the Angels system. He started the year in the Cal League, where he fanned 70 in 81 1/3 innings while putting up a 1.77 ERA in the hitter-friendly circuit, at one point winning seven decisions in a row.
Although he experienced some growing pains over his first few Southern League starts, he tossed a three-hit, complete-game shutout in his fifth try at the Double-A level, and he allowed more than two runs only twice in his next seven outings.
MiLB.com: You grew up an Angels fan. How did you and your family react to getting drafted by that team?
Chatwood: You know, it was an awesome feeling just knowing the local team -- to be picked by your favorite team! It didn't really even hit me until a year or so after. I got to go see some games in the playoffs, and it was amazing.
These are the guys you grew up cheering for and now you're on the same team or in the same organization as them.
MiLB.com: After spending your first year in Arizona and your second in Cedar Rapids, how great was it to start 2010 closer to home?
Chatwood: That was great. I actually got to live at home when I was playing [for Rancho Cucamonga]. Every time I pitched I had a lot of people come and cheer for me -- my friends and my family. That was pretty awesome.
MiLB.com: A lot of pitchers have a hard time in the Cal League, with the high altitudes of some parks and dry, desert air of others. You blew right through. What was your secret?
Chatwood: Probably this year more than any other, I just trusted my stuff more. I wasn't trying so hard to trick guys. I was just throwing more strikes and letting them get themselves out.
MiLB.com: You've now made at least one start at each Minor League level. What are the biggest differences on each rung of the ladder?
Chatwood: Probably just the hitters being more disciplined. The higher you go up, you actually have to show the hitters that you can throw all of your pitches for strikes before they're going to swing at them.
Down in the lower levels, if it was 0-2, you could bounce a curve ball and you're going to get the strikeout. But the higher you go up, they're not going to swing unless it's a strike. The speed of the game is different too. It was much faster higher up.
MiLB.com: In your delivery, it looks like your arm comes right up over the top. Has that always felt natural to you? Has anybody in the organization or any other coaches along the way had you try to change?
Chatwood: Not really. I think when I first got drafted, my arm slot was a lot higher. It's a little less over the top now, but it's still over the top. I worked on it a little in Arizona and in my first full season, and I just kind of found my natural arm slot last offseason.
MiLB.com: Who's the most intimidating hitter you've faced?
Chatwood: There's a lot as you get going up [through Double-A and Triple-A]. Probably, I'd have to say [Royals prospects Mike] Moustakas or [Eric] Hosmer. Both of those guys, you make a mistake, you're going to lose the ball.
MiLB.com: Life in the Minors is known as kind of a grind, but there must be a lot of upside. What's your favorite part of being a Minor Leaguer?
Chatwood: Just being able to play baseball every day. You're playing baseball with your buddies that you get to know from year to year. That's awesome. I mean, how many people can say they're playing baseball for a living? That, and the camaraderie with the other guys, that's just great.
MiLB.com: If you could instantly and magically improve any one part of your game, what would it be?
Chatwood: It would probably just be commanding all three of my pitches a little better. And probably being able to throw my changeup with a little more confidence -- that's something I've worked on this year.
MiLB.com: If you weren't in baseball, what would you be doing for a living?
Chatwood: I'd probably be in school right now. I don't even know [what career I'd pursue]. I wouldn't even know where to start.
MiLB.com What are your goals for the 2011 season?
Chatwood: Just kind of build off last year and work on my command. I try not to worry about [numbers] very much. I just try to pitch my best and let the rest work itself out. So, yeah, I just want to keep improving my command.