While this year’s Angels team started off strong going 6-2, including two amazing ninth inning comebacks, the Halos have crashed back to Earth losing five games in a row. To compound the problem, the starting pitchers have begun the season in a less than stellar manner. In 13 starts, Angels starting pitchers have a combined 2-4 record while giving up 41 earned runs.
Garrett Richards, returning from an UCL injury, was only able to pitch 4.2 innings before hurting the bicep in his throwing arm. Andrew Bailey has now joined him on the DL with inflammation in his right shoulder.
Daniel Wright was called up from AAA Salt Lake but gave up three earned runs and three walks in his four innings before being sent back down.
The injury bug hit the Angels pitching staff hard last year too. It got so bad that the Angels were bringing in pitchers like David Huff (0-2, 11.81 ERA with the Angels) to make spot starts.
Unfortunately this year’s number one and two worries for the Angels, poor starting pitching and injuries to pitchers, have already come to perdition. Not that injuries don’t hit teams every year but it seems that the Angels’ pitching staff have been hit extra hard the past two years. If this trend continues, the Angels may be wasting another year of Mike Trout and looking at spending yet another October watching the playoffs from home.
To compound the problem, the Angels’ farm system isn’t loaded with pitchers who are ready to face major league hitters. But if poor pitching and injuries continue, some of these pitchers may be in an Angels uniform sooner that we think. Here are three pitchers that we could see pitching for the Angels at some point this year:
LHP Nate Smith
Smith has been on the radar of the big league club for a few years. Last year we almost got to see Smith throw his first pitches in the majors until a late season injury blew his chance at a September callup. Smith has been a dominate pitcher in the lower minor leagues going 6-3 with a 3.07 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP in Advanced A ball. After moving up to AA Arkansas, Smith continued his success posting a 13-7 record and a 2.68 ERA to go along with a 1.115 WHIP.
It is when Smith faces AAA hitters that he has not been as sharp putting a 10-13 record while allowing opposing batters to hit .288. Smith is still considered a top pitching prospect as the Angels proved by protecting him in the Rule 5 draft. But he will need to tighten up his pitching and figure out how to miss more bats before getting his first big league callup. With all that being said, I do expect to see Smith in an Angels uniform before the September call ups.
RHP Alex Meyer
The tall (6’9’’) righty was brought over to the Angels last year in the trade that sent Hector Santiago to the Minnesota Twins. A former top prospect in the Twins organization, the Angels see Meyer as a low risk/high reward type of player. Injuries have derailed him for much of his career, going on the DL for shoulder problems five times since 2012, but this in turn lowered his overall value allowing the Angels to take a chance on him.
Meyer has spent most of his minor league career (51% of career innings pitched) in AAA where he has gone 12-13 with a 3.80 ERA with striking out 291 batters in 253.2 innings. This includes 10 innings and 12 strikeouts this year while pitching for the Salt Lake Bees. If he can continue to gain better control (six walks in 29 innings in 2016 versus 48 walks in 92 in 2015) Meyer can expect at least a few call ups for spot starts this year and could end up at the back of the rotation by season’s end.
RHP Vicente Campos
While the name may not excite every Angels fan, if Campos can stay healthy, he could be part of this year’s Angels’ pitching rotation. Originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners when he was only 16 years old, Campos posted a 17-12 record with a 3.27 ERA in his first three seasons in the minors. After moving to the Yankees minor league system in 2012 Campos posted an impressive 7-2 record to go along with a 1.149 WHIP.
According to John Sickels, Campos missed 2014 with Tommy John surgery and after a 10-5 start in the minors, his 2016 season ended early due to a fractured ulnar. (source: http://www.minorleagueball.com)
Campos again started the 2017 season on the DL but if he is able to come back healthy and maintain his put strong numbers (472 strikeouts/153 walks in 524.1 career innings) when he starts pitching for Salt Lake, Campos could find himself contributing to the big league club this year.
There is no doubt that the Angels starting pitchers have struggled this year, although Tyler Skaggs pitched seven shutout innings in a 1-0 loss to the Royals on Sunday. But if the struggles continue, the Angels will have to decide if they will hold tight with whom they have or shake things up and give someone else a chance on the mound.