When Billy Eppler took over as the GM on October 4, 2015, he knew that he had work to do. He had to navigate several crippling long-term contracts, rebuild the league’s worst farm system, fill several important positions in free agency, and work with both Mike Scioscia and Arte Moreno (both of whom have had history butting heads with the baseball operations side of the front office): all while having the expectations of a winning franchise.
Contending quickly turned to contention as multiple key players had major injuries, including Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Andrelton Simmons, and C.J. Cron. With no farm system to deal from, Eppler pivoted to waivers and the trade market to little avail during much of the season. It wasn’t all lost, though: Eppler struck pay dirt several times during the process, acquiring enough arms to fill out an entire triple-A rotation.
Here are a few of his key acquisitions.
Acquired for cash back on March 26, Scribner has completely turned his career around with the Angels. Scribner posted better peripherals this season, including a lower walk rate and lower HR rate. Should he continue on the trajectory he’s made, he will earn a promotion to the big leagues at some point next season. For now, though, he will seek to anchor the Salt Lake Bees’ pitching staff in 2017.
Campos was put on waivers as he suffered an injury to his pitching arm but has the talent to be on a 40-man roster. The Angels promptly picked him up. Campos has the ability to be a good pitcher but it’s a matter of health and injury risk. In fact, prospect evaluator Eric Longenhagen had this to say:
When Campos is healthy, his fastball will climb into the mid-90s — as it did when I saw him mid-year with Trenton — but he was sitting 88-90 and touching 91 in his sole big-league appearance. He works in an above-average, mid-80s changeup to both left- and right-handed hitters and its effectiveness is more predicated on movement than it is changing speeds. His mid-70s curveball has good depth and is consistently average while flashing above and he’s shown the ability to throw it for strikes.
If Campos’ velocity returns to pre-injury form after he recovers from his latest fracture then he has a fourth starter’s repertoire, but he’s riskier than your usual close-to-the-big arm because the injury rap sheet is so long.
If Campos pans out, then terrific. If not, then it’s not a huge loss. Even if he is average in AAA it is still a good move because the Angels didn’t sacrifice a player in return and needed to fill a AAA rotation spot anyways.
Surely, Meyer will see the AAA rotation at some point this year. Meyer’s placement on this list is based on the assumptions that Jesse Chavez will begin the year as the fifth starter in the Angels’ rotation and the organization sees Meyer as a starter. Thus, the only place to give him consistent reps would be in AAA Salt Lake. Meyer, of course, was the prize of the Hector Santiago trade and is quite promising. With the signing of Chavez, it’s unclear what Meyer’s role will be with the team in 2017 (starter, reliever, or both?).
Wright has pitched to mixed success throughout the minor leagues, so it didn’t inspire much confidence when the Angels claimed him off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. Wright wasn’t much better in the big leagues, pitching to a 5.40 ERA in 5 starts. Stashing him in the minor leagues and biding time for him to improve is a much better idea. Though he is by no means a mainstay in the rotation, Wright is capable of making a spot start when needed (which is incredibly important when the alternatives would have been David Huff, Brett Oberholtzer, or Tim Lincecum).
Banuelos was one of the better southpaw prospects in the minors before a Tommy John surgery in 2012-13 sapped him of his velocity. Banuelos hasn’t been the same since, but posted a solid AAA season in 2015, giving Eppler hope that Banuelos could potentially be something more should he return to prior form. Taking a flier on him was a no-brainer given the talent and cost (nothing).
Honorable mention: JC Ramirez
Ramirez is slated to stretch out as a starter this upcoming season. He is out of options, so he will have to win the fifth spot in the rotation or hope for injuries if he wants a chance to start.
Eppler has done an admirable job of building rotation depth throughout the upper minors, which should result in better starting pitching even if starters go through their normal wear and tear during the season. Banking on guys such as Campos, Banuelos, and Wright to all be successful is highly unlikely. But even if just one of these lottery tickets works out, then it will have been well worth it.