For most teams, opening the season knowing that the #1 and #2 pitchers would be missing the first 30 – 45 days would be considered a disaster. While far from optimum, the absence of John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar in the Angels rotation seems to be a delivery of opportunities rather than a third-place bad trip.
Prior to the announcement that Escobar was to be shelved due to his sore shoulder, the controversy about spring camp was in the battle for #5 between Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders. The news of Kelvim’s delay immediately put the two young pitchers into a more proper time frame of battling for their respective place. And now with Lackey put on the slow-track-back, Dustin Moseley leaves the bullpen, heir apparent to the #5 spot.
With Chris Bootcheck hurt, Darren O’Day had solidified his chances to make the bullpen out of Spring training and now Rich Thompson or Jason Bulger look to join him. A lot can change in two weeks, but two weeks from Monday it all changes for real! The clock is ticking...
The bad news is that the best case scenario is the Angels play 14 games with pitchers who were not among the top 20 AL pitchers last season. Got that? The worst-case scenario is... well, this is still the Angels you bandwagoneer folks may not know too much about, worst-case could involve Mo Vaughn in some capacity so let’s not go there, suffice to say that some of us can stomach a LOT. Let’s just say that the worst-case scenario is that Arte cannot justify a ticket price increase for 2009.
Rotation #5 - 3
Dustin Moseley is 26. In 2007, he was a tick better than a league average pitcher out of the bullpen, and was often the mop. He can eat 6 innings with an ERA of 4.40 over every 9 IP. He started 8 games last season. His career ERA with 4 days rest is 4.87. With 5 days rest it is 3.32. This is not Johan Santana, but he has been statistically better than half of the pitchers in baseball with his 104 ERA+ and it is not a stretch to think he will be at least slightly better this season.
Ervin Santana, 25, is the enigma wrapped in a riddle. He seems to effortlessly humiliate major league lineups five days after looking like a batting practice pitcher in a war zone. This spring was to be the bubble on which his chances to be a major league starter rested. One bad pop in March and he was looking at long relief or AAA. Instead, he has at least 7 starts ahead of him to do more than just pitch – it is time for him to pitch consistently.
Joe Saunders, 26, is the oldest of the Fifth Starter Trio. He will turn 27 on June 16. Whereas Santana veers in peaks and valleys in relationship to League Averages, Saunders is comfortably near average with a 103 ERA+. With a year’s more stamina to the major league grind, it is not a stretch to imagine a Saunders becoming more dominant, easily being the #3 starter on almost any American League team. In fact, at the moment, he is OUR number three starter!
The depth chart beyond these three has to include minor league prospect Nick Adenhart, but no other minor league arm in this system will have proven deserving of a callup before June and another blow to the depth could probably warrant stretching out Chris Bootcheck in his rehabilitation.