Thursday, December 4, 2014


By Robert Cunningham, AngelsWin.com Columnist - 

Starting Rotation Pitchers

So defining and finding the ideal starting pitcher is probably a lot more difficult than a position player in some respects.

Ideally that pitcher would be able to get both left-handed and right-handed hitters out equally well posting a good ERA- number in the process. Additionally they would field their position well, be mentally tough and competitive, and control the running game well.

Clayton Kershaw is a pretty close example of what a lot of teams are trying to find and place at the top of their rotations.

After Kershaw, pitchers come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and flavors. Some are flame throwers while others are control artists. Some limit walks well, while others rely on hiding the ball and deception in their deliveries.

As mentioned above a majority of MLB pitchers are right-handed throwers (70%-75%). This of course means that left-handed hurlers are in short supply and are thus more valuable in trade even if they don’t throw as hard as a right-hander does. Keeping a mix of LHP and RHP is necessary but, right now, good LHP is precious.

In fact, generally, a smart GM would a) try to acquire left-handed starters that have a varied pitch repertoire that can get both left-handed and right-handed hitters out consistently, b) left-handed starters that throw, preferably, a changeup or at least a slider or curveball, c) left-handed starters that have strong pick-off moves and can control the running game, d) left-handed starters that can field their position well, and, finally, e) right-handed pitchers that do all of the above.

Let’s take a look at the possibilities for the 2015 starting rotation. Steamer projections assume 200 innings pitched for starters and 65 innings pitched for relievers.

Jered Weaver

2015 Steamer Projections

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Jered Weaver
4.12
1.27
6.94
2.52
4.43
0.80

First let me step out of the third person and say that I love Jered Weaver. As far as I am concerned he is an Angel through and through and it would do nothing but please me to see him spend his entire career with the team as long as he’s capable of competing effectively. He’s earned the fans loyalty as well as any past Halo ever has in the history of the ball club (i.e. my mom would have loved him).

Age is catching up with Jered. His fastball velocity is down significantly from when he began his career (90+mph vs. 86-87mph today). On the plus side he still outperforms his peripherals on a yearly basis due, in part, to a very deceptive delivery and pinpoint command and control of his breaking pitches.

Oh and let’s not forget that Weaver is one of the most mentally tough and competitive pitchers in all of baseball which goes a lot farther than people realize.

Jered has two years left on his contract for the 2015 ($18MM) and the 2016 ($20MM) seasons. Weaver negotiated a no-trade clause that is good through the life of the extension.

When Weaver signed this extension with the team it was commonly assumed that the last year or two of the contract would likely create negative value for the Angels.

Overall the deal will probably be close to break-even for the Halo’s when you take into account Jered’s veteran clubhouse leadership and instruction and mentorship to the other pitchers on the staff.

Based on Jered’s performance versus the value of his contract it seems very likely the Angels will retain him for his remaining two seasons.

Before the contract ends it would not surprise me to see the Angels discuss a contract extension with Weaver for another 2-3 years, albeit at a highly reduced price and role on the team (think #4 starter instead of “ace”).

Educated Guess: Jered will definitely be here in 2015 and 2016 barring a request by Weaver himself to be traded. As his contract approaches its expiration anything could happen but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 2-4 year extension for Weaver to spend his twilight years with the one and only organization he’s ever known.

As a fellow Dirtbag this would please me to no end.

C.J. Wilson

2015 Steamer Projections

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
C.J. Wilson
4.23
1.38
7.57
3.87
4.01
1.50

Unfortunately Mr. Wilson took a step back this season that saw him become very inconsistent in the final weeks of the Angels 2014 campaign.

It appears that C.J. might have lost a very slight tick off of the velocity of his pitches and opposing batters were clearly seeing his fastball and curveball better this season resulting in more hits and more of those hits found a few additional holes in the field (2014 .306 BABIP vs. Career .291 BABIP). Another contributing factor was an increase in walks which helped to compound the problem.

The good news is that Wilson increased the use of his slider and changeup although the former was far more effective and the latter was still only an average offering at best.

This is good news because a wider variety and mastery of pitches will help Wilson combat the velocity attrition he is beginning to experience.

Wilson will end up being an interesting decision for Jerry Dipoto. Starting in 2015 Wilson’s contract allows him to block trades to 8 teams (and the same in 2016).

If the Angels were willing to eat some of his total contract ($38MM), say $10MM-$20MM, they could probably receive a significant prospect (think Sickel’s B Grade) or package of lesser prospects in return.

Of course if you move C.J. then you create a hole that you need to fill in the starting rotation and it would not be an insignificant one either.

Left-handed starters that can eat 200 innings don’t grow on trees. If the Angels need to create payroll space then Wilson would surely be a candidate in that regard and there would certainly be teams willing to acquire him if the Angels throw money in.

Educated Guess: I’m on the fence about this one. If Jerry wants to dole out the extensions for some of the younger players this off-season then I can see Wilson being moved to create payroll space.

Otherwise I see him staying for at least the beginning of 2015 and possibly being moved at the trade deadline, if the Angels are out of contention, or in the off-season next year.

I’m going with the latter because Tyler Skaggs earliest possible return is near the end of the 2015 season or more likely the 2016 season and Wilson is likely needed to eat innings and maintain pitching depth.

Garrett Richards


2015 Steamer Projections

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Garrett Richards
3.62
1.25
8.14
2.97
3.38
3.0

Although some of us thought Richards would be a top of the rotation starter most fans didn't expect this tremendous breakout performance in 2014.

Garrett is a groundball pitcher and it certainly showed this season. A 2.61 ERA, with the peripherals to support it, combined with a nearly 51% groundball rate generated Richards first “ace” season with what is hoped to be many more to come.

When you consistently throw a 96-97 mph fastball as a starter (or heck even as a reliever) you have the ability and upside to do some special things. Garrett’s four-seam fastball and slider were absolutely devastating pitches this year and it showed in the results.

Unfortunately, as we all know, Garrett blew out his knee near the end of the season trying to cover first base on a ground ball play. It is hoped that Richards will return before the beginning of the season but only time will tell if he is able to fully recover in a normal time frame.

Garrett is certainly a strong candidate for a contract extension. At this point the Angels may wait to make sure that the knee injury doesn't negatively impact his pitching performance but it wouldn't surprise me to see Jerry Dipoto broach the subject of an extension either this year or no later than next year.

Richards would certainly give the guaranteed money serious thought because injuries can happen at any time, at any place, as he well knows.

Richards is entering his first year of arbitration this off-season and I think the Angels would like to get ahead of the curve and lock him in for his four remaining arbitration years (2015-2018) and two of his free agent years (option years for 2019 and 2020). Notably that would keep him here with his good friend Mike Trout for the next six seasons.

Educated Guess: The Angels will sign Garrett to an extension either this off-season or next for somewhere in the ballpark of 6 years and $90MM-110MM. This will be dependent on his timely recovery from his injury.

No matter what, Richards is arbitration controlled for the next four seasons so the Angels will certainly retain him during that time period assuming he continues to perform at the level he did this year (the Steamer projection above is pessimistic in my opinion).

Garrett is the Angels new ace with all due respect to fan-favorite Jered Weaver. Richards should be ready for Spring Training or shortly thereafter.

Matt Shoemaker

2015 Steamer Projections

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Matt Shoemaker
4.04
1.24
6.86
2.12
3.98
1.4

Speaking of tremendous breakout performances, Angel’s fans please introduce yourself, if you haven’t already on Twitter, to #ShoeBacca.

So for the handful of fans who thought Richards would have a breakout season there was maybe one or two people who thought Matt Shoemaker would dominate opposing teams like he did this year.

Seemingly coming out of nowhere to the average fan, Matt put on a clinic featuring a devastating split-finger fastball that confounded opposing hitters. As Mike Scioscia stated recently, “Matt saved our season!”

There is no doubt that Shoemaker stepped into the void in the Angels rotation and quickly cemented himself as a front-of-the-rotation starter. He competed hard and earned his spot not only for this year but next year and beyond it seems.

One of the most outstanding numbers from Matt’s season was his K%-BB% (Strikeout rate minus walk rate) of 18.5%

 In 2014, for starters that pitched more than 90 innings, Matt ranks 19th out of 147 pitchers in K%-BB%. The names ahead of him include Kershaw, Sale, Price, Kluber, Scherzer, Zimmermann, et al.

Shoemaker’s ability to strike out batters and limit walks is one of the main contributors to what was a fantastic rookie season. It also boded well for his future that he went up against other team’s ace pitchers and defeated them handily.

Matt certainly projects confidence, ability, and presence on the mound and those were attributes that the Angels were very happy to have in 2014.

Shoemaker is team controlled through the 2019 season. He doesn’t begin arbitration until after 2016 ends so the Angels have time to observe Matt’s performance next season before getting more serious about a contract extension.

Educated Guess: Shoemaker will be in the 2015 rotation. An extension in next year’s off-season, if Matt continues to perform like he did this year, is certainly in the cards. Notably the Steamer projection discounts Shoemaker’s breakout performance.

In the worst case scenario the Angels control Matt through the 2019 season so he is ours for at least 5 more years if the organization chooses to retain him that long.

Hector Santiago

2015 Steamer Projections

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Hector Santiago
4.07
1.36
7.43
3.65
4.59
(0.5)

Unfortunately Hector had a mostly inconsistent year that saw him drop out of the rotation and then return later on.

There was a stretch from right after the All-Star Break through the end of August, though, where Santiago was absolutely brilliant, posting a 1.47 ERA over 9 games and 43 innings pitched, albeit on a slightly inflated .227 BABIP (vs. a .288 career BABIP).

As I wrote here, in December 2013, the Angels acquired Hector because his pitch movement, especially with his changeup, has exceptional horizontal and vertical depth.

Jerry wanted to replicate Jason Vargas’ exceptional changeup by acquiring Santiago on the cheap and avoid having to pay a free agent contract to retain Vargas.

Hector just needs to find consistency and that should improve moving forward. If he is able to refine his command and control in conjunction with keeping a more centered and calm mound presence there is no reason why Santiago could not have a long and fruitful career as a starter.

Even in the worst case scenario, Hector could move to the bullpen and likely excel in a late inning relief role but quite honestly I think that would be a waste of his talents. His stuff is good enough to play in the rotation as a solid #3 or #4 starter if he can limit the number of walks he issues.

Educated Guess: Hector will likely be given an opportunity to start off the season in the rotation or possibly the bullpen. What happens from there is entirely in Santiago’s hands.

It appears that he still has options so the Angels will certainly give him a go in Spring Training as a starter and then if that doesn’t pan out he will likely be moved to long relief or as a left-handed specialist.

The Steamer projection assumes he will be in relief but the numbers would still be relatively valid if he was a starter.

Depending on how Hector performs the Angels could possibly extend him or trade him as well. A lot is riding on Santiago’s 2015 season and the hope is that he will be able to grab the brass ring and maximize his tremendous talent.

He also seems like a really nice guy (Google Santiago’s Soldiers) so he is somebody you should be rooting for either way. Follow him on Twitter as well, he will follow you back!

Tyler Skaggs

2015 Steamer Projections

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Tyler Skaggs
3.79
1.29
7.84
3.17
3.80
2.1

It has been shown that as pitcher velocity has risen over the last several years there has been a subsequent increase in Tommy John surgeries. Unfortunately Tyler Skaggs became one of many pitchers that went under the knife this year.

First of all nothing is promised with Tommy John Surgery. The operation itself has improved dramatically over the last couple of decades but, as with any surgical procedure, full recovery is not always obtained (e.g. Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett, Brandon Beachy, Daniel Hudson, et al). Let’s hope that Tyler recovers and heals properly and is able to return to baseball activities.

Secondly Skaggs won’t return, at the earliest, until late 2015. Typical TJS’s require about a year of recovery time and since Tyler went under the knife near the end of the 2014 season you can pretty much count him out of making any significant impact in 2015. If he happens to recover well and the Angels physicians approve his return to action it would truly be a surprise boost.

As can be seen looking at the Steamer projection, the loss of Tyler will certainly be missed next season. Skaggs is a lefty who will be able to eat innings and provide quality production if healthy.
So finally what we should be looking at is Skaggs return to the rotation in 2016. By then he will have, if all things run according to plan, had a chance to build up some arm strength and should be able to provide a limited amount of innings in 2016.

Remember that any pitcher, especially if they have not thrown for a while, will require time to stretch out their arm in order to throw an entire season’s worth (180+ innings) of pitches.

Educated Guess: Tyler will be out most of the season recuperating and then will get back to a throwing program under the guidance of the Angels medical staff.

Skaggs has an outside shot of returning in a very limited role near the end of the season, perhaps in a bullpen spot. Otherwise he will not be back until at least 2016 where he would reenter the rotation.

Nick Tropeano

2015 Steamer Projections

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Nick Tropeano
4.23
1.33
7.12
3.06
4.22
(0.4)

Recently acquired from the Houston Astros in a rare inter-divisional trade (although Dipoto appears to be making them far more common), Nick Tropeano fits the mold of the type of pitcher that the Angels are acquiring in the last 2 years: High K%-BB% combined with low batting average against and limiting hard contact with most of them having excellent changeups.

Although many will miss Hank Conger the reality is that the drop-off, if any, from Hank to a replacement catcher isn’t as impactful as some may believe. Hank certainly brought excellent pitch framing skills and a bat that could still improve but to acquire a young, controllable starting pitcher like Tropeano was probably worth it from an overall team production perspective.

Props should be given to Dipoto for striking early and taking advantage of the Astros Rule 5 roster crunch. It should be noted that Steamer sees Tropeano as a reliever, in terms of innings pitched, at this time so take the projection with a grain of salt.

Educated Guess: Nick may start the year in the Angels rotation if Garrett Richards hasn’t fully recovered by that time. Otherwise he will pitch in Arkansas or Salt Lake and will be a primary depth option in 2015.

Wade LeBlanc

2015 Steamer Projections

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Wade LeBlanc
3.86
1.29
6.84
2.63
4.17
(0.3)

Author’s Note: LeBlanc was non-tendered by the Angels just after I submitted this article for publication. Chuck was kind enough to let me re-write it. I genuinely believed and had the conviction that they would retain him at $800K. I did mention in the ‘Educated Guess’ system that the possibility of a non-tender existed so unfortunately my prediction was wrong.

However there may be two reasons he was not re-signed: 1) There might have been a physical (injury) issue that I, as an outsider, was unaware of that affected the decision or 2) The Angels have a trade in place for a MLB starter and needed the roster space to acquire the new pitcher.

Wade was out of options so he would require a spot on the 25-man roster to start the season. It looks like he was simply a casualty of the roster crunch (specifically a rotation spot) not because of his performance.

It would not surprise me to see the Angels make a sincere effort to re-sign him to a Minor League deal but Wade, I’m sure, would prefer a Major League job and he may very well find one if other teams have been paying attention to the results he posted last season.

A vaguely interesting Minor League signing pre-season in November, he was claimed off of waivers by the Yankees in early June and then was subsequently designated for assignment a week later, where he elected free agency and re-signed with the Angels in mid-June.

The left-handed pitching LeBlanc features a fastball, two-seam fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. In Wade’s time with the Angels this year his fastball, curve, and changeup took a step forward in terms of velocity (fastball and changeup) and pitch usage (two-seam and changeup).

After being called up August 25th, Wade pitched in 9 games, across 22.1 innings, to a 2.82 ERA with 17 strikeouts and 4 walks, participating in the Angels dynamic stretch run to make it into the playoffs.

Dipoto knew exactly what he was doing in signing LeBlanc as the Angels analytics department clearly is targeting and hoarding left-handed starters that either a) have a good changeup already or b) have secondary pitches that they think can be improved upon from a mechanical or usage perspective.

LeBlanc seems to be an example of the latter as he threw his two-seam fastball an additional 14.3% and his curve ball use nearly doubled in 2014. Wade’s two-seam, curve, and changeup were all effective pitches for him this season.

LeBlanc likely has a shot at making the opening day roster for 2015. He is arbitration eligible and would likely, in my best guess opinion, make approximately $1MM if the Angels tender him a contract (MLBTradeRumors.com estimates $800,000 which is probably a lot more accurate). 

Considering that Tyler Skaggs is out for most of the year, the Angels could certainly use LeBlanc in the rotation, as long relief, or even as a left-handed specialist, especially in light of the Angels rotation depth issues late in the year.

The Steamer projection above assumes 65 innings pitched so take it with a grain of salt just like Tropeano’s projection.

Educated Guess: Wade LeBlanc, who appears to be out of options, will start on the Angels 2015 roster, most likely in the rotation, a long relief role, or as a left-handed specialist.

At a relatively inexpensive salary (if my guess, above, is right) he would provide depth for the starting rotation. There is also a possibility that the Angels non-tender him but I think with all of their starting pitching concerns they had last year and LeBlanc’s excellent showing, they will (and should) retain his services.

Cory Rasmus

2015 Steamer Projections

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Cory Rasmus
3.76
1.32
8.36
3.73
4.01
(0.1)

Another pleasant surprise this season was right-handed pitcher Cory Rasmus.

Cory was the piece the Angels acquired from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Scott Downs near the trade deadline in 2013.

Although Rasmus stumbled initially out of the gate in May and June of 2014, he quickly righted the ship. Between July 4th and August 25th, Cory sported a 2.22 ERA, across 24.1 innings, with 28 strikeouts and 8 walks. He has a nice four-pitch mix which includes a sharp slider and a quality changeup that he can use against left-handed hitters.

On August 30th, the Angels had Cory start his first game against Oakland where he pitched 3 innings as part of a bullpen group designed to replicate a missing starter.

Between August 30th through September 28th, Rasmus, as a short-inning starter, pitched to a 2.37 ERA, across 19 innings, with 19 strikeouts and 5 walks.

Controllable through the 2019 season, Cory won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season making him a potentially valuable asset.

Jerry Dipoto stated, as reported by Alden Gonzalez here near the end of the regular season, that the team will seriously consider stretching Rasmus out into a starter for 2015.

Rasmus’ Steamer projection is also assuming 65 innings pitched so make mental adjustments accordingly if he becomes a starter.

Educated Guess: Rasmus likely starts down in the Minors to stretch his arm out more and to provide rotation depth. If Richards isn’t ready for the start of the season or Wilson is traded then Rasmus could easily be our #4 or #5 starter.

Drew Rucinski

2015 Steamer Projections

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Drew Rucinski
3.43
1.20
7.67
2.32
3.63
0.3

Right-hander Drew Rucinski spent most of his time down in AA pitching for the Arkansas Travelers but he certainly opened some eyes with his consistent performance in 2014.

Rucinski was called up briefly in both July and then late September to pitch in three games for the Angels where he did well despite lackluster results.

He was one of the top pitchers in AA in terms of K%-BB%, for pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched, with a 16.2% for the season which ranked 7th overall.

Although he will likely start the season back in Arkansas or possibly at Salt Lake, Drew doesn’t have too much left to prove and should provide capable starting pitching depth for the Angels. Like Rasmus he is controllable through 2019 and won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2016 campaign has concluded.

His Steamer projection above is based on 65 innings pitched so as a starter he certainly looks like he could positively impact the Major League roster as a rotation candidate.

Educated Guess: Drew will most likely start the year in AA. He will be one of the first called up in case of injury to a starter at the Major League level.

Jose Alvarez

2015 Steamer Projections

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Jose Alvarez
3.76
1.26
6.57
2.29
3.97
(0.2)

Alvarez was the piece the Angels received from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Andrew Romine.

If you haven’t noticed yet Jerry Dipoto likes to acquire left-handed starters with good changeups. Jose has a good fastball/changeup combination and, like Cory Rasmus, will probably have an opportunity in the rotation sometime in 2015.

Unsurprisingly, when Alvarez has thrown a full season of innings, his K%-BB% hovered in the 16%-17% range, not unlike Rucinksi. As a comparison, Matt Shoemaker averaged about 16% in the Minors. K%-BB% is one of a few primary indicators of quality pitching ability.

Jose is under team control through the end of the 2019 season and won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2016 campaign has ended. If for any reason he can’t pull the starting gig together he could certainly be a high-end reliever down the road.

The Steamer projection is based on 65 innings pitched but as you can see Alvarez could likely be a #4/#5 starter for the team if those numbers are accurate.

Educated Guess: Alvarez, after spending a majority of the season injured, will stretch his arm out in a starter’s role, likely with the Salt Lake Bee’s or Arkansas Traveler’s. He will probably be a 3rd or even 4th depth option unless the Angels really need a left-handed starter.

Jose has had a lot of time to recover from his injury but spending some additional time finding his grips and rhythm on the mound makes him a more likely depth piece for a little later in the season.

Alex Sanabia

2013 Major League Results

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Alex Sanabia
4.88
1.70
5.04
4.07
5.85
(0.6)

*Alex doesn’t have a Steamer projection available for 2015, so I used his 2013 Major League numbers instead

Recently signed to a Minor League deal, Sanabia, a right-hander, bounced up and down in the Marlins organization for nearly 7 years and part of 2014 with the Diamondbacks.

In 2010 and 2011, in limited action with the Marlins Major League club, he found some success with his sinking fastball. It is for this reason that it appears Jerry Dipoto thinks he can turn Alex into a reclamation project.

By getting Sanabia back to using the sinker at a very high rate (50%+) and varying the rest of his pitches (four-seam, slider and changeup), the Angels hope to get a replacement starting pitcher who can provide AL average pitcher production, which has real value since Sanabia would likely make the league minimum.

Clearly Dipoto is augmenting his Major League moves with analytics-based acquisitions in the Minor League realm, just like Rucinski and LeBlanc, where the Angels see potential value and deep depth for the club. Sanabia may flame out in our system but the risk is very minimal and the upside is quite valuable.

Educated Guess: Alex will spend the early part of the season in AA or AAA emphasizing an increased use of his sinker in combination with his other pitches. He might be an early choice, if he is showing good results in the Minors, to replace an injured starter as he does have previous Major League experience.

Nate Smith

2014 Arkansas Travelers Minor League (AA) Results

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Nate Smith
2.89
1.25
9.67
4.33
3.04
N/A

* Nate doesn’t have a Steamer projection for 2015, so I used his 2014 AA numbers instead

This 23 year old left hander, selected in Round 8 of the 2013 draft, has quickly made his way through the Minors, capping off the year with the Arkansas Travelers to the tune of a 9.67 K/9 rate with a 2.89 ERA over 62.1 innings pitched.

Smith will likely continue to pitch for the Travelers but is on the depth chart nevertheless. He has certainly shown a strong K%-BB% rate to date and has done a good job of keeping opposing hitter’s average down.

Educated Guess: Nate will most likely start out in A+ or AA in 2015. He is low on the depth chart at this moment but he certainly appears to be on a fast track towards the Majors.

Sean Newcomb

2014 Rookie/A-Ball Results

ERA
WHIP
K/9
BB/9
FIP
WAR
Sean Newcomb
6.14
1.50
11.05
3.68
3.75
N/A

*Sean doesn’t have a Steamer projection for 2015, so I used his 2014 Rookie/A-Ball numbers instead

The Angels 1st round pick in 2014, Newcomb could be a surprise addition to the team in September, 2015. Already a fairly polished pitcher, Sean could bring some added depth to the 2015 rotation, albeit it more likely as a late year September call up.

Newcomb brings a plus fastball and changeup along with an average curve ball from the left side. Mechanically he has an easy throwing action and projects to be a middle-of-the-order rotation piece with some higher upside if his command and control improves.

Although Sean’s actual ERA and WHIP results, in his first professional season, was not what he desired, his underlying numbers (K/9 and BB/9) point to a potentially strong starting rotation option in the next 2 years.

Educated Guess: Sean is mentioned here because, although he is likely at the bottom of the rotation depth chart, he is an accomplished college pitcher that isn’t that far away from the Majors.

There is maybe a 30% chance that he will make an appearance later in the year with more action to follow in 2016 and 2017. It is very likely that he will be a member of the starting rotation by no later than 2017 with cups of coffee in between now and then.

Best Guess 2015 Starting Rotation

In no particular order:

Garrett Richards
C.J. Wilson
Jered Weaver
Hector Santiago
Matt Shoemaker

2015 Starting Pitching Depth

Cory Rasmus
Nick Tropeano
Drew Rucinski
Jose Alvarez
Alex Sanabia (not on the 40-man)
Nate Smith (not on the 40-man)
Sean Newcomb (not on the 40-man)

A pre-season depth chart of twelve starters certainly isn’t a bad way to begin 2015.

If Howie Kendrick is moved in trade I’d fully expect him to bring back a return of a MLB pitcher or a quality starting pitching prospect that is near MLB ready (AA or AAA). If that happens it would bring the team to a total of thirteen starting pitchers on the depth chart which is an even better way to start off the year.

To be clear the depth chart lists and puts pitchers in an order of call up and readiness. It would be unlikely to see Newcomb and Smith early in the season. However if attrition really took a toll (as it did last season for the Halos) this pitching depth would be seen later in the year.

The Angels really look like they will have more than sufficient depth next year and all of the depth pieces appear to be at least average (or better) MLB starters. Jerry Dipoto and staff have prioritized starting pitching quality and depth and it will continue to evolve and improve in 2015.

Richards, Weaver, Wilson, Santiago, and Shoemaker will probably fill the first five slots in the rotation. On the chance Richards is not back I’d expect that Cory Rasmus, Nick Tropeano or Drew Rucinski would fill the 5th starter role.

Twelve competent starters is solid rotation depth. At this point Jerry can afford the luxury of retaining key players such as Howie Kendrick if he can make the necessary payroll adjustments.

Although it may not be readily apparent most of the pitchers on the Angels staff are actually quite competent. Some actually have significant upside that isn’t really obvious at a first glance or based on previous history.

LeBlanc was a good example of this phenomenon. For most of his Minor League career he has maintained an above average K%-BB%. However he has had trouble limiting hits, especially during his Major League cups of coffee, creating a false image of his potential.

Now in 2014, Dipoto and the pitching staff made an adjustment and Wade used his two-seam fastball significantly more last season. The results were even better than in 2012 when LeBlanc utilized what PitchF/X classified as a cutter.

Clearly Wade is making up for his deficiency in velocity by varying his pitch mix across his four-seam and two-seam fastballs, curveball, and change up with solid success.

Why should we think that his limited performance is sustainable?

During that 9 game stretch, mentioned above, where he helped carry the team to the post season, Wade had a .292 BABIP which is in line with his career BABIP of .298. He wasn’t over his head.

The point of that example is that every starting pitcher listed above is perfectly capable of being slotted in the rotation and providing quality innings.

Will some experience highs and lows? Will some of them fail to produce?

Yes of course but twelve competent starters is a good start and can give a lot of breathing room, especially later in the season where it will very likely be needed.

In Part V we will discuss the bullpen.
Love to hear what you think!

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