Acquired from the Braves for Scott Downs, Cory Rasmus may not be able to crack the Angels' Opening Day bullpen, but he has cracked our top prospect list. Will we get to see more of him in Anaheim in 2014 or will he be banished to Salt Lake until he can work out his command issues?
Position: RP Highest Level: MLB
Bats: R Throws: R Height: 6'0" Weight: 200
Age: 26 Born: 11/6/1987
2013 Rank: Unranked
2013 Season Stats
AAA: 46.1 IP, 3-1, 1.94 ERA, 26 H, 27 BB, 2 HR, 56 SO, 40.4 GB%, 3.16 FIP, .261 BABIP
MLB: 21.2 IP, 1-1, 5.40 ERA, 24 H, 13 BB, 6 HR, 20 SO, 30.4 GB%, 6.60 FIP, .281 BABIP
Fastball = B+
Rasmus is a run of the mill Angel reliever in his ability to bring it. Sciosica has proven across his lengthy tenure that he just loves late inning relievers that can bring the heat. Rasmus has been clocked at as high as 98 mph but generally sits 93-95 with a fair amount of downward movement on the pitch despite not being necessarily tall. He doesn’t hide the pitch necessarily well and doesn’t come at an awkward angel. It’s a simple “mid-90’s fastball, see if you can hit it” type.
Offspeed Pitches = B
Rasmus’ off-speed pitches are a little less clear than his fastball. We know for sure he throws a very good curveball. It’s not the traditional 12-6 break but it has depth, a sharp bite to it and he keeps it in the zone. What we aren’t sure about, however, is his other offspeed pitch. I’ve been told before that it’s a two-seamer, a sinker and a change. Whatever it is, the pitch sits in the mid-to-high 80’s and has some serious cutting movement that comes in on lefties when thrown above belt-high and can dive down at the ankles of righties when kept low. There isn’t a sharp break to the pitch, but it does serve the role of changeup given that it’s 8-10 mph softer than his fastball with a different movement. I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as a good pitch as much as I’d say it’s just a different look that keeps hitters from keying on his dynamic fastball-curve combo.
Control = D
Like many Angels relief prospects, Rasmus has a hard time putting the ball in the strike zone. And also like every other Angels relief prospect I’ll say that if Rasmus can throw strikes, he’ll be successful in the major leagues. Oddly enough, the pitch he can throw for a strike the most often is his curveball, which bodes well for future use as a fastball should be the easiest pitch to get over. Rasmus owns a career 4.2 BB/9 in the minor leagues and that number is legitimized by the fact that’s it has crept closer to 5 as he’s reached AAA. Clearly, there are some adjustments needed.
Command = D
Logically, if a pitcher has a hard time throwing a strike, he’ll also have a hard time putting the ball specifically where it needs to be. But again, Rasmus, though extremely typical in his stuff and approach isn’t exactly typical as a reliever. He’s still learning the nuances of being a reliever versus a starter as much of his minor league career was spent either as a starter or on rehab from multiple shoulder surgeries. So there is considerable hope that Rasmus will develop some sort of idea of where his pitches are going. And to make this pot even more confusing, Rasmus can control his curveball and place it pretty much wherever he wants. Usually, it’s the other way around.
Mechanics = C
If he were to use this delivery as a starter, I’d hate it and tell you right off the bat he places way too much stress on his shoulder and doesn’t use his lower body enough or even leverage his torso enough to take some of the stress off his shoulder. It’s basically like Garrett Richards’ delivery, minus the use of aforementioned torso and lower body to remove stress on the shoulder and help propel the ball toward home plate. Rasmus seems like he just muscles the ball up there in the mid-90’s. This, however, isn’t necessarily problematic because he’s a reliever and relievers don’t need sparkling mechanics to carve out a role in the majors. They just need to get outs in crucial situations and Rasmus is an expert at getting the swing-and-miss type of out.
Performance = B-
Despite being traded and not having the ability to throw a strike, Rasmus had a pretty solid year. He tallied a 1.94 ERA between the Braves and Angels’ AAA affiliates, racking up 56 K’s in only 46 innings. Once he was promoted to Anaheim he was used in mostly low leverage situations and managed to build a semi-respectable 4.20 ERA with 14 K’s across 15 innings. But again, the problem was he also issued 10 free passes in those 15 innings. Still, it was a tremendous success in that he cut his teeth as a major leaguer for the first time in 2013 and should have a reasonable shot at a repeat appearance in 2014, with hopefully a better idea of where the strike zone is.
Projection = C+
Rasmus projects to be a middle reliever. Normally, that doesn’t warrant a “+” at the end of the “C” but given how Rasmus logs many of his outs, he could become a very dynamic middle reliever. Rasmus doesn’t give up very many hits and is rarely ever taken deep. Most of the time, when Rasmus throws a pitch, it ends up in the catcher’s mitt and this makes Rasmus a unique if not semi-elite reliever. The problem is of course much of the time, he sends a runner or two to first base via base on balls. The other side of the coin is considerably more positive however, because generally when the batter swings at Rasmus’ offerings, he misses. If Rasmus cut his BB/9 in half he’d be a setup man or closer type, but I just don’t see that happening, so despite excellent stuff, Rasmus is likely to be a 6th/7th inning man in the major leagues.
Grade as a Prospect = C
Rasmus may be above average in several aspects as a reliever. But the reality is, every organization has a reliever (or three) that throw in the mid-90’s but can’t keep the ball in the strike zone. So in that respect, Rasmus really isn’t anything special. But how many of those relievers have an ERA under 2.00 in AAA?
Estimated MLB Arrival Date = 2014
The Angels have so many relief options heading into 2014 that it’s difficult to guarantee any reliever a spot on the major league squad. But Rasmus’ recent performance suggests he could be solid in low leverage roles for them. Then again, Rasmus does have options, so the Angels shouldn’t have any problem sending him to AAA to work out some of the kinks and hopefully lower that abysmal BB/9 while maintaining his excellent ERA and K/9.
2013 in Review*
Rasmus was the sole return that the Angels got for Scott Downs at the trade deadline. At the time, it seemed like a less than impressive return and Rasmus did nothing to dispel that perception upon arriving in Anaheim. Entering his age 26 season, Rasmus already has the look of a Quad-A reliever. He throws hard enough that in the minors he was nearly impossible to hit with just a .163 batting average allowed last season. But in the majors, his lack of command and middling offspeed stuff turns him into a pinata. He only allowed a .267 average in the majors, but he got touched up for six homers in just 21.2 innings of work. So… yikes.
The other issue for Rasmus is that he appears to struggle with gloveside hitters. In the small sample that was his time in the majors, he limited righties to a .294 wOBA but got demolished by lefties to the tune of a .482 wOBA. The same held true to his Triple-A performance where he held righties to a .179/.294/.297 slash line but lefties got to him with a .231/.339/.423 slash line. To be fair, his minor league splits in previous seasons were much more even, but it is concerning to see this trend develop at these high levels of competition.
One reason to hold out hope for Rasmus is that he is still relatively new to this pitching in relief thing. 2012 was his first season working out of the bullpen full-time. Perhaps with a little more experience in the role, he can learn what will work for him in the role in the majors where he can't just rely on blowing his heater past people. Perhaps one of those adjustments would be to scrap an offspeed pitch. He throws his slider, curve and change at almost the exact same ratio, which is pretty unusual for a reliever. Ditching a pitch (or even two) would allow him to refine the other offerings so that they will play at the big league level.
Until he makes some adjustments, there isn't a whole lot of hope for Rasmus to contribute in a suddenly crowded Angels bullpen. Even if he does get a shot, his ceiling is pretty limited because of his lack of command. He doesn't give up a lot of contact, but his inability to hit his spots has made it so that when he does give up contact, it is hard. That just isn't going to work.
*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.