Wow, I really did a poor job of planning this series of profiles out. Today is my birthday and I somehow managed to schedule myself to have to write about Kevin Jepsen, one of my least favorite Angels. I think I may have some deep-seated self-loathing issues. Anyway, let's get on with it.
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA calculation is approximate because my math skills are only "meh")
What happened in 2013?
Same shit, different year. Kevin Jepsen really struggled to start the season. Check!
Then it turns out he was actually hurt. Check! Apparently he had a shoulder issue that cost him over a month, but once again gave him a convenient excuse for not being very good.
Jepsen then came off the DL and was pretty solid for a month. Check!
Then he went in the tank again. Check!
Just when we were getting close to finally being able to write him off, he got hurt again. Check! He had an emergency appendectomy in late-August and missed the remaineder of the season.
Yep, just another typical Jepsen season. Where he gave up too many hits (10.25 H/9 on a .345 BABIP), got roughed up by lefties (.358 wOBA allowed) and was generally disappointing, but not disappointing enough for the Angels to cut ties with him because, hey, he still throws 95+ MPH.
What do the projections think he will do in 2014?
The projections are in lockstep with Jepsen being decidedly mediocre. There is nothing particularly egregious that any of them foresee though. His walk rate in manageable. His strikeout rate is a little underwhelming. He gives up just a few too many hits and is slightly homer prone. It is basically Jepsen's career in a nutshell.
The projections even wisely peg him to work between 48 and 55 innings this season. Given his injury history, that seems bang on. I want to say more, but it is pretty plain to see that the projections for Jepsen have him nailed as a below average middle reliever.
Does the Monkey agree or disagree?
I think it is pretty obvious by now that I don't like Jepsen. I like him even less than the projections do though. What I am happy to report is that I think Scioscia is starting to like him less as well. Last season, Jepsen had the lowest average game leverage rating, 1.13, when entering games of his career. Part of that was Scioscia working Jepsen back into the bullpen mix after his injuries, but it also goes to show how Scioscia is losing trust in him at long last. Having 10 meltdowns in 45 appearances will do that, I guess.
If there is one area where I really disagree with the projections, it is that they have his ERA and FIP pretty close together. That's just natural for projection systems. However, it isn't natural for Jepsen. His career ERA is a full run higher than his career FIP. He has one season where his ERA was within 0.19 of his FIP. Every other season, there has been at least a full run worth of disparity. He simply defies FIP.
A big reason for that is that he allows an abnormally high BABIP. For his career, batters have a .337 BABIP off of him. That is the 22nd highest BABIP of all-time for pitchers with 200 innings (obviously, BABIP stats aren't perfect going back through history, but you get the point). This is an established thing for him and I see little reason for it to change.
What are the known unknowns?
Jepsen's latest effort to extend his stay of execution has been trying to develop a changeup during spring training. This is a noble endeavor, but one that is probably doomed. Jepsen's theory is sound in that he would add a changeup to his repertoire that would help him be able to handle left-handed batters better, at least that's how it would work on paper.
The problem is that guys almost never actually are able to develop a quality new pitch in spring training. There is a reason players spend years in the minors honing their pitches before they get promoted. You can't just decide you want to throw a changeup and suddenly have a major league quality offering, especially in your age 30 season.
But Jepsen isn't done there. He also has dropped his arm slot down to more of a three-quarters motion. This appears to be in response to the shoulder problems he has had throughout his career. He says he feels more comfortable, but we don't know if this change will help his consistency and command or if it will have a negative effect on his command or velocity.
On that off chance that either of thos changes work, they actually could open up a whole new path to success for Jepsen. The odds remain firmly against that happening though.