The MWAH prospect countdown marches on with the one guy in the system who might actually be ready to contribute in a big league rotation.
Position: Starting Pitcher Highest Level: Double-A
Throws: Right Height: 6'1" Weight: 190 lbs.
Age: 23 Born: 6/27/89
2012 Season Stats
Double-A: 140.1 IP, 6-8, 2.89 ERA, 117 H, 55 BB, 9 HR, 109 SO, 0.77 GO/AO, 3.78 FIP, .273 BABIP
Fastball – B-. Schugel isn’t a soft tossing righty, but the velocity on his fastball isn’t anything I’d consider above average. I saw him sit between 89-91 on several occasions in 2012. But his fastball incorporates considerably movement and tails in on the hands of right-handed hitters, making it effective. He also puts it wherever he wants, which helps make up for the lack of velocity.
Off-speed Pitches – B-. Schugel probably throws the best change-up in the system and is one of the few pitchers who still throws a “slurve” (combo slider and curve). He spots both wherever he pleases. Most pitchers need to refine their change up before reaching the majors, Schugel is the exact opposite. Without a dominant fastball, Schugel will need to rely heavily on that changeup and get me over Slurve at the major league level.
Control – A. Schugel is your classic “strike thrower”, which is a rarity in this system. He lives in the strike zone and relies on the movement of his fastball and plus change-up to make hitters get themselves out.
Command – A. I noticed Shugel likes to live on the inner half of the plate more than most pitchers, which is peculiar given his particular arsenal. The uncommon part is that he gets away with it. I’ve seen pitchers throw 5mph harder than he does not have the same sort of success under the hands that he has, which is difficult to figure out. The best way I can explain it would be the movement on his ball.
Mechanics – B. Schugel has what I’d consider a three quarters or high three quarters release and doesn’t use a ton of effort to get the ball over the plate. I’ve watched his delivery continue to get smoother since the Angels chose to make him a starter rather than reliever.
Performance – B+. In his first stint in the high minors Schugel posted a 2.89 ERA and continued to improve as the season progressed. Still, his numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Schugel hasn’t pitched a full season in an environment that wasn’t pitcher friendly yet. That will for sure change next season when he’ll head to perhaps the most pitcher friendly park in the most pitcher friendly league in the entire world. If he continues to be a productive pitcher there, he should challenge Richards and Maronde for the 5th spot in the rotation in a year or two.
Projection – C. This is the reason why Schugel isn’t a top 100 prospect despite his recent performances. He doesn’t really have the stuff to be a great starter in the major leagues. I still envision him being a good 5th starter or swing starter in the future though. Sort of an upgraded version of Jerome Williams.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date – 2014.
(*As always, the above scouting report is provided by Scotty Allen of LA Angels Insider)
Season Summary: Fresh off of a breakout campaign in 2011, Schugel had a lot to prove in 2012. Based on his stat line in Arkansas this season, it appears that he did all the proving he needed to and maybe a little bit more. Yet for some reason I am left wanting for more. The first thing you'll notice when looking at Schugel's 2012 season is his sparkling 2.89 ERA. Seriously, look at it, it is so shiny! Of course, having spent the season in Little Rock, we all know that A.J.'s numbers are given a little extra sheen thanks to the home park as represented by his 3.78 FIP. That is actually a bit misleading though as A.J.'s home-road splits were not drastically different. In fact, his ERA was much lower on the road, although he didn't generate as many whiffs on the road, which is kind of weird. It is almost as weird as his platoon splits where his strikeout percentage is almost twice as high against lefties as it is against righties, yet lefties hit him legitimately harder. It makes no god damn sense and it is the second season in a row this has been the case for Schugel.
OK, it kind of makes sense as is change-up is his best pitch and thus better at neutralizing lefties, but it doesn't seem like good recipe for long-term to success. The concern is that as the competition improves, he will continue to not generate whiffs against righties, only they will start hitting him harder. Meanwhile, lefties will continue to hit him hard but not be fooled by his off-speed stuff as much. If your bad at math, that would add up to Schugel getting hit hard by everyone and that is sort of a problem. But that is also a worst case scenario.
What to Expect in 2013: 2012 showed us how much Schugel can benefit from pitching in a pitcher's environment, but 2013 will show us how much he can or cannot overcome pitching in a hitter's environment. Pitching in Salt Lake is almost unfair, especially for a flyball pitcher like Schugel, but how he performs there should give a good indicator of whether or not he can hack it in the majors as a starter. If he does prove himself, don't be shocked to see Schugel get a call-up if the big league rotation gets ravaged by injuries. A.J. may not be the top pitching prospect or have a real high ceiling, but he is the closes to being ready for the pros as a starter (Maronde obviously can work as a reliever, but he isn't as ready as a starter).