Looking at the Angels’ Potential 2017 Rotation: Part One

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Updated: October 5, 2016

The Angels came into the 2016 season with what they believed was real and valuable depth in their rotation, carrying eight pitchers that they believed had the ability to contribute quality innings at the major league level.

When all was said and done, the Angels used almost double that number to make it through the year. Injuries and ineffectiveness wreaked havoc upon the pitching staff, casting a shadow over the season that extends to 2017 as well.

With young stud pitchers Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano both ruled out for all of next season with Tommy John surgeries, the Angels have huge question marks in the rotation for next season. The Angels do have a few interesting internal candidates; this piece will cover only those pitchers under contract for next season, and how they finished off the year, with part two looking at potential free agent pitchers the Angels could consider.

Garrett Richards – The news continues to be positive for Richards as he rehabilitates his elbow injury, and for the moment it appears as though he will avoid the Tommy John surgery that cost Heaney and Tropeano this year and most certainly all of next year.

If Richards continues this trend through his next few steps, he will be able to progress through a normal offseason and will enter next season as the de facto ace. Richards only made six starts this year, so it’s impossible to truly evaluate his season, but it goes without saying that much of the Angels’ hope for contending next year is tied to Richards’ ability to avoid TJ surgery and pitch to his potential.

Matt Shoemaker – Before suffering a brutal injury that ended his season prematurely, Shoemaker bounced back from a particularly horrendous start to become the ace of the staff, propping up what was otherwise a truly putrid rotation.

After languishing through the month of April with a 9.15 ERA, Shoemaker rebounded after an early demotion to lower his ERA all the way to 3.88, and his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, a better measurement tool because it attempts to calculate only that which is in the pitcher’s control) was even better at 3.51. If Shoemaker bounces back next season and stays at this level he could form a potent 1-2 punch with Richards at the top of the rotation.

Ricky Nolasco – Basically an afterthought in a trade built around acquiring Alex Meyer from the Twins, Nolasco finished the season on the strongest note of any of the Halo’s starters. Nolasco put up a 3.87 FIP in his seventy-three innings for the Angels, and gave up more than three runs only once in his last six starts, a streak that began with a complete game shutout against the Reds on August thirty-first and ended with three straight starts allowing zero earned runs.

If the work Nolasco reportedly put in with pitching coach Charles Nagy has enabled him to turn a corner and deliver more consistent positive results, then the Angels will have won their deadline deal with Minnesota handily.

Tyler Skaggs – After missing all of 2015 with his own TJ surgery, this was the year Skaggs was to finally begin to build some momentum and consistency and reach his potential. Unfortunately, lingering issues forced Skaggs to miss more than half the season and he only ended up making nine starts for the Halos.

Skaggs was mostly inconsistent, mixing a couple brilliant outings within his mostly mediocre small sample size. Skaggs 3.85 FIP and fifty strikeouts in fifty innings indicate that there is talent there ready to be capitalized on, but Skaggs has yet to put it all together consistently. Skaggs was able to finish this season on a healthy, if underwhelming, note, going less than two innings without a strikeout against the Astros. The expectations will be high for Skaggs next season after what should be a normal offseason and spring training, and if he ever reaches his potential you could begin to see the makings of a pretty good rotation for the Angels.

Alex Meyer – The real target in that Angels’ trade, Meyer was brought along slowly through the minors and in his five starts for the Angels, with a strict pitch count limiting Meyer to just a handful of innings per start. Meyer has truly electric stuff, with a huge fastball and sharp curve, and he used both to great effect, eliciting twenty-four strikeouts in his twenty-two innings.

Meyer’s biggest problem throughout his short career also held him back in his starts with the Halos – control. Meyer walked thirteen batters, and if he’s ever able to reign in his control and pitch more efficiently he easily has the stuff to be an ace. Meyer is still only twenty-six, and he flashed enough in his starts to give Angels’ fans hope that he could put it all together and stay healthy, but at this point he’s still mostly a question mark.

Daniel Wright – The Angels took a flyer on Wright when they picked him up off of waivers from the Cincinnati Reds, and gave him a few starts to see what they had in the young starter going into next year. Wright was mostly mediocre in his five starts, never pitching more than six innings, never striking out more than five, and allowing less than three earned runs only once.

However, Wright was also never terrible in any of his starts, and showed modest improvement each time on the mound, culminating in six innings of one-run ball against the Astros in his final start. Wright showed just enough improvement and is young enough to hold some potential as a back-of-the-rotation starter or quality minor league depth every team needs.

Brett Oberholtzer – Claimed off of waivers from the Phillies in August, Oberholtzer was flat-out bad in his two starts with the Halos and never returned to the rotation, making a few appearances here and there in relief. Arbitration eligible, it seems more likely the Angels will decline to tender him a contract and let him go. Even in the case they do retain his services for 2017, it will most likely be as a bullpen piece and emergency rotational depth. If Oberholtzer is in contention for a rotation spot in Anaheim next season, either he made the biggest leap imaginable or the Angels’ are in trouble.

The Bottom Line – You can see the makings of a very good and young rotation forming here if everything breaks right and everyone pitches to their potential, but therein lies the problem, as well. You can just as easily picture everything going wrong; Richards suffers a setback and misses 2017 after all, Shoemaker regresses to his pre-demotion, 2015 form, Nolasco’s positive small sample size doesn’t outweigh the previous three seasons of bad pitching, Skaggs and Meyer suffer through some combination of injuries and inconsistency all season long and fail to reach their lofty potential, and Wright and Oberholtzer are forced out of their element into being rotation mainstays and struggle all year, and… wait… is that Tim Lincecum!?

The fact is, some of those negative outcomes actually seem more likely than the positive outcomes for these players. There is something here for the Angels, but they’re gonna need a lot of good luck and probably some outside help to be competitive in the rotation.

 

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