One of the very first members ot the entire 2012 draft class to appear in the majors, Michael Roth upped his prospect status and now has himself in position to fight for an opening Day roster spot.
Position: LHP Highest Level: MLB
Bats: L Throws: L Height: 6'1" Weight: 210
Age: 23 Born: 2/15/90
2013 Rank: #28
2013 Season Stats
Double-A: 79.1 IP, 6-3, 4.20 ERA, 24 H, 36 BB, 8 HR, 51 SO, 4.93 FIP, .290 BABIP, 47.2 GB%
AFL: 21.0 IP, 1-0, 3.43 ERA, 18 H, 10 BB, 0 HR, 10 SO, 3.82 FIP, .273 BABIP
MLB: 20.0 IP, 1-1, 7.20 ERA, 24 H, 6 BB, 0 HR, 17 SO, 2.40 FIP, .369 BABIP, 41.3 GB%
Fastball = B-
I know this grade bucks conventional wisdom on Michael Roth but hear me out. In college, he was a lefty that sat 86-89 mph that lived low and on the corners. The average major league fastball from a LHP is between 88-90 mph, and average grades earn a “C” in this grading system. Last season, in his relief appearances, Roth was sitting 91-93 mph. If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering where that extra 4-5 mph came from. I’ve come to the conclusion that 2-3 of it came from Roth just rocking back and firing knowing full well he didn’t have to last more than an inning or two. The other 2 mph probably came from increased strength and higher quality coaching that helped him get the most from his body. When Roth returned to a starting role in AA he was still sitting 90-91 with regularity.
Offspeed Pitches = C+
Roth offers a plus changeup and two different types of curve (one for a LHB, another for a RHB) that are used to offer a bit of a different look. The changeup is really what keeps hitters off-balance, but as we saw this past season, the side-arm curve he uses on LHB can be knee-buckling.
Control = C
I’m really tempted to give Roth a better grade than this because I know he has considerably more control than we saw while he was with the Angels and what he showed in AA this season. But the numbers aren’t lying, right now he’s sporting a BB/9 up toward 5. I’m not worried though, before long it will be more reflective of his abilities.
Command = B
Roth rarely misses to the point where he’s made a huge mistake. When he misses his spots, it’s usually where the batter can’t punish him. So combined with his abilities as a finesse type of pitcher, Roth is above average in this department.
Mechanics = B
Last season, I noted that Roth alternated between a side-arm delivery against LHB and a three-quarters delivery on RHB and that this approach never works at the Major League level. Though his ERA wasn’t pretty, Roth definitely showed last year that he can and will use multiple arm angles at the Major League level. It’s part of what makes him such an effective pitcher and he continues to pull it off.
Performance = A
Why on earth would I give a pitcher who sported a 7+ ERA in the pro’s an “A” grade in the performance? Simple, Roth was pitching in the major leagues less than a year after being drafted. How many 9th round selections could you say that about? How many 9th round selections skip over A ball and Advanced A Ball entirely and go up to AA? Furthermore, Roth went to the AFL after the season ended and was one of the better pitchers in that league before undergoing a minor surgery on his hand. All in all, I’d call it a wildly successful year for Roth.
Projection = C
Unlike the last two prospects (Wood and Scoggins), Roth lacks the projection that makes scouts excited. He has a middling fastball and average offerings as off-speed pitches. But here’s what sets Roth apart. He was dominant in college, went up to AA and was dominant again before experiencing a rough stretch after losing his rhythm in the majors. To me, Roth looks like a player there’s more to than meets the eye. His different looks, intelligence and ability to keep hitters off balance may continue to work and he may end up being a back-end starter in the major leagues similar to Joe Saunders. Or he may end up taking a spot in the bullpen where he’d be able to sustain a few extra ticks on his fastball and be used as a lefty specialist/middle reliever.
Grade as a Prospect = C+
Not every system has a prospect with as much collegiate success or that climbs the ladder as quickly as Roth. But those prospects that can’t measure up in those areas against Michael hold an inherent advantage over him in that they probably have better fastball/breaking ball combos. Still, I’d take Michael Roth and his higher floor any day of the week over a prospect tossing in the mid-90’s but with no idea where the ball is going.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date = 2014
Roth logged some time in the Majors in 2013 and is expected to be a starter in AAA Salt Lake in 2014. Don’t be discouraged by the numbers he posts there. That’s a ballpark and environment that was made specifically to the detriment of pitchers like Roth. He still has a reasonable shot of outperforming the legion of lefty relievers the Angels brought in this offseason and securing a spot in the Angels bullpen as a lefty specialist. He’d likely need to beat out Nick Maronde, Clay Rapada, Buddy Boshers and Brian Moran for that spot though.
2013 in Review*
Roth was a ninth round pick out of South Carolina in 2012, where he was something of a legend. He made 11 appearances in Rookie ball in 2012 then 1 start in Double-A in 2013 when the Angels decided to give him a call up to the majors after they were hit with injuries. That's quite the vote of confidence for the kid. Roth was always considered to be a mostly finished product, so it isn't too surprising that they thought he was ready. But with so little professional experience, it wasn't a surprise that Roth struggled in the bigs. He would have three different stints with the Halos by the time the year was done, working 14 games in relief and one abbreviated emergency start made on short rest. He finished with a 7.20 ERA, but he wasn't nearly that bad. he also wasn't nearly as good as his 2.40 FIP.
While Roth didn't put up great numbers in Arkansas in his time there (partly because he was being yanked up and down between the majors), the organization was clearly still impressed as they tapped him to be one of their representatives in the Arizona Fall League. He lasted only six appearances there before getting shutdown early to have a cyst removed from his wrist.
In his brief time with the Angels, Roth showed a lot of potential as a reliever. He was very effective against lefties and not overmatched against righties despite his arm slot issues. He could certainly work as a LOOGY, but because he has such deception and built up endurance, there is an intriguing role for him as a multi-inning reliever. His different arm angles and delivery could throw hitters off, without having to worry about being overexposed going through the order multiple times.
For now though, the Angels seem more than content to keep him in the rotation. He should jump up to Triple-A, but will at least get a shot at making the Opening Day roster as a second southpaw in the bullpen and maybe even at cracking the rotation. Both are longshots, especially the rotation role. More likely is that Roth will be a candidate for a mid-season call up for either role if/when injury strikes. Assuming Roth doesn't fall victim to the altitude in Salt Lake, he should be a much stronger candidate for a full-time role in the majors in 2015.
*As we do every year, the scouting reports and grades are provided by Scotty Allen while Garrett Wilson provides the 2013 in Review and Looking Ahead sections.