This is probably the most Dipoto built roster you’ve ever seen. There’s depth, and by depth, I mean options. Lots and lots of options. Quite frankly, it’s confusing and hurts my head to even wrap around it, so I simply won’t. The best I can do is just lay them out for you.
- Starting Pitching: The Angels rotation for the majority of 2015 lines up as follows: Richards, Weaver, Shoemaker, Wilson and Santiago. This is a fine rotation, more than likely good enough to get them back into the playoffs. There’s just one problem, it’s not their best rotation.
Nick Tropeano – The Angels went out and acquired the 24 year old Tropeano from the Astros. He’s got an average fastball and slider to go with a plus-plus (scout talk for “among the best”) curve. He owns a 3.22 ERA in the minor leagues including an otherworldly 3.03 ERA in the extremely hitter friendly PCL.
Andrew Heaney – The top LHP prospect in all of baseball. This 23 year old had a stretch in A+ a year ago when he didn’t give up a run for over a month. He owns a 2.77 ERA in the minor leagues, possesses a plus fastball, plus slider, plus command and an average change up.
Cory Rasmus – Angels fans got a small glimpse of Ramsus last year when he went 3-4 innings at a time as an Angels starter down the stretch. Normally this wouldn’t be making headlines if not for the fact that Rasmus is a former first round pick that throws in the mid-90’s, is still young at 26 and he posted a 2.57 ERA for the Angels last year.
How on earth can you keep these three out of the rotation when C.J. Wilson at age 34 is coming off his worst season as a major leaguer, when he recorded a 4.51 ERA in the pitcher friendly confines of Angel Stadium. We also shouldn’t forget Wilson’s ill-fated playoff start where he failed to make it out of the first inning.
The Angels also have the option of moving Santiago from the rotation and inserting him into the bullpen, but there’s also a major problem with this. Hector Santiago was actually good last year as a starter. A 3.75 ERA isn’t terrible, but more importantly Santiago learned and made adjustments last year, as evidenced by his 2.98 ERA in the second half.
If it were me, I’d trade C.J. Wilson for whatever I can get. The Angels need the spot, could use some more payroll flexibility and frankly, there’s no middle room with him. If he’s not on the top of his game he’s downright terrible. I’d slot Nick Tropeano in the rotation in his spot. Then as much as it pains me to do, I’d put Santiago in the bullpen (after Richards returns) as either a set up man, long reliever or lefty specialist (or all three!) and move Heaney into the rotation in his spot. I’d keep Rasmus in AAA for now because I’d like to see what he can do with 6 inning stints.
This would line the rotation up as Richards, Weaver, Shoemaker, Heaney and Tropeano. Not bad. In fact that has potential to be the best Angels rotation in a very long time.
- Relief Pitching: The Angels lineup quite well in relief, with just a few questions marks. We know Street has the 9th, Smith has the 8th and Jepsen (gulp) owns the 7th. We even know Morin has the 6th. That leaves three or four spots open for a glut of pitchers.
Fernando Salas – the ERA, K’s, control and FIP are all really encouraging. Yet he just seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whenever something bad happens in the late innings once Frieri left, it seems Salas was on the mound.
Vinnie Pestano – A former elite setup man with the Indians, the sidearmer fell out of their good graces and landed himself in AAA as a result of injury woes. But while in AAA, he recorded a 1.78 ERA and was one of the best relievers in the International League. Upon landing with the Angels Pestano impressed in Salt Lake and then fired 9 impressive innings with the Angels which landed him on the playoff roster and a million dollars this offseason.
Cesar Ramos – The token lefty. He tossed 82 innings at a 3.70 ERA last season for the Rays. He gets lefties out, but he can also handle going 2-3 innings at a time.
Hector Santiago – Similar to Ramos except he could figure as a starter or even as a setup man. Pretty versatile.
Cam Bedrosian – Often tabbed as the closer of the future, Bedrock Jr. features an impressive mid-high 90’s fastball with late life and a fall off the table slider. He’ll even turn over a change up on occasion.
Trevor Gott – This 21 year old has a mid 90’s fastball, array of secondary pitches and a 1.53 ERA in AA Arkansas.
Danny Reynolds – Mid-to-high 90’s fastball and workable secondary offerings.
Again, if it were me, those last four spots would go to Santiago, Ramos, Pestano and Salas, but you can expect the other three fire-ballers to have something to say about that.
- Second Base: Here’s the really icky part. No one is exactly sure who the Angels second baseman will be. It could be any of four potential players.
Grant Green – Once heralded as one of the top prospects in the minors and the answer to all of Oakland’s long-standing problems at shorstop once Tejada left, Green as it turned out was everything everyone thought he would be…..with his bat. He hits for average (career .309 average in the minors), power (annual 30+ doubles and 10+ HR’s), can reach base (.357 OBP) and can even swipe a few bags. His glove on the other hand, not so much. The Angels, much like the A’s have tried Green out at several different positions (LF, 2B, 3B, 1B and SS) and have reached the same conclusions. He’s athletic enough to get by at many positions, but by no means is that a glove you want out there everyday. Perhaps settling at one position can change things.
Josh Rutledge – Rutledge’s success in the minors (career .328 hitter) has not yet translated to the majors, though he did manage to hit .269 last year. The majority of his value is tied to his glove, as Rutledge is generally considered at least an average defender at 3B, SS and 2B. He also happened to swat 13 HR’s and steal 14 bases in AA, so there’s always the possibility his bat could pick up.
Taylor Featherston – The most athletic of the bench, Featherston was just scooped up by the Angels in the latest Rule 5 draft. You can count on him for power (30+ doubles at every stop and 16 HR’s last season in the pitching friendly Texas League), hit for average (career .276 hitter), he can get on base (.346 OBP) and will even swipe 15+ bags a season. Featherston is considered an average defender at SS, good defender at 2B and potentially good at 3B as well.
Alex Yarbrough – At 2B only by trade, Yarbrough is a switch hitter with considerable pop (50 XBH per season in the minors), hits for average (.295 career hitter) and is an above average defender.
There are a lot of choices here. You can chase Green’s upside and take the chance of him as a defender. You could play it safe and send Rutledge out there, who won’t do a ton with the bat but will rarely ever let you down with the glove either, or you can play the lottery with Featherston who just might do everything good and provide you with double digit HR’s and SB as icing on the cake.
If it were me, I’d let Green settle on his one position for the year, it’s the Angels best change at recouping the offense lost by trading away Kendrick. I’d use Featherston as his late inning defensive replacement and also backup. Given Featherston’s upside, he’d definitely be able to make this a “hot-hand” sort of platoon.
Tyler Skaggs. A very good, very young LHP with upside. Once he comes back in 2016, will there be a spot in the rotation for him to come back to?
David Freese. Next year he’ll be a free agent. This year, Chase Headley hit .243/.328 with 20 doubles and 13 HR’s and is expected to command at least 50 million dollars. Last year, Freese was hurt in the first half and hit .260/321 25 doubles 10 HR’s. Freese isn’t that good and is headed for a major payday next year.
Speaking of which, we are no closer to finding out who Freese’s eventual replacement is. Featherston or Rutledge have to be the leading candidates. First person to mention Kaleb Cowart will be henceforth ignored.