5. Nick Tropeano, 23, AAA. 4.3 RA-9 WAR, 2.7 FIP WAR. 3.03 ERA, 124.2 IP, 25% k-rate / 7% BB rate
At just 23 years old, Tropeano put up some of the best numbers of any pitcher in Triple A, earning his major league debut and then holding up well under the bright lights. He’d been a steady performer in Houston’s system for years before last season’s breakout, and it was likely those numbers -- and not the traditional scouting reports -- that motivated the Angels to bring him (and Carlos Perez) to Anaheim in exchange for pitch-framing guru and post-game interview ace Hank Conger.
Last year’s success was due Trop's usual competence against righties and a re-forged ability to annihilate lefties. Same-handed minor leaguers have managed just a .251/.300/.361 line against him throughout his career, and advanced PCL guys were no exception. Against MLB righties, Trop's 80 mph slider, long maligned by the scouting community, was good for a 20% whiff rate while his signature change-up coaxed a bonkers 36% whiff rate. He'll have to make his adjustments like any other young pitcher, but there's no reason to believe that he's suffering from lack of a third secondary pitch.
Against PCL lefties, Tropeano was flat-out dominant, yielding just a .156/.230/.288 line. While he had overpowered lefties in the lower minors, Texas League opposite-handers hammered him to the tune of a .909 OPS in 2013. Some of last year's improvement derived from simply missing more bats: 1 in 4 PCL lefties whiffed against him, up from 1 in 5 Texas Leaguers the previous season. But there was an additional dose of secret sauce in 2014, and one that seems counter intuitive given what we know about the PCL: Trop allowed nearly 8% more flyballs than in 2013, which helped him limit BABIP against to just .193. Much of that additional air born contact was weak, and much of it was to the opposite field, providing some hope that it will prove a repeatable skill, especially in Anaheim.
Tropeano presently looks like the odd man out in the opening day rotation, but he should see plenty of major league starts before 2015 winds down. If his shoulder holds up longterm, then he could be a back-of-the-rotation rock for the Halos for years to come.