I’ve always had high hopes for Kevin Jepsen. Back in 2009 I was not alone among Angel fans in thinking he might be the closer of the future. At 25 years-old with a decent curve, four-seam and two-seam fastballs in the upper 90′s and a good cutter against right-handed hitters, it seemed like the had the arm and the stuff to take the ninth inning, eventually. He lived through the Adenhart tragedy and was integral in honoring Nick, which I counted as a big plus. Seems like he’s a good teammate.
In 2010, Jepsen had a fine year and appeared to be a bullpen fixture for the late innings. On average he struck out more than one batter per inning (9.31 K/9) during 59 innings over 68 games. His groundball percentage was a 55%, but his homerun per fly ball ratio was an outstanding 5%. For a young guy, Scioscia seemed to have confidence in him. But then in 2011 the wheels fell off the bus and he spent more time in AAA than in the majors. Suddenly his control was missing and he walked nearly 1.5 batters for every strike out. He pitched only 11 innings for the Angels in 2011. He had arthroscopic knee surgery in September of last year.
As July 31st approaches, General Manager Jerry Dipoto and the Angels face some tough choices regarding upgrades. With Ervin Santana struggling, a trade for starting pitching is surely being considered although many fans see the bullpen as a significant area of need as well. This year Jepsen started off terribly, averaging one earned run per appearance over his first nine chances, so he was on the shuttle to Salt Lake City by early May. But wiith a K/9 ration of 12.6 in 25 innings in AAA he made it back to the big club early this month and has posted a 1.04 WHIP in 15.1 innings pitched including a big inning against the Rangers on Sunday where he appeared effectively wild but dominant. If he can maintain his performance, get the ball to Downs or Frieri by grabbing plenty of hold chances, the bullpen is set and Dipoto can focus on picking up a starter.
With stuff like Jepsen has, a little wildness is not a bad thing as long as it doesn’t convert into walks. Remember Percy’s squint? I was never sure where he was looking, much less where the ball was going and it worked pretty well for him. Here’s hoping that Jepsen remains healthy, happy and reasonably in control as he tries to take over the 7thinning.