In a rotation full of question marks, there may be no bigger unknown than the 24 year-old lefty. Most pitchers make it all the way back following Tommy John surgery, though the timeline (and immediate results) have been spotty. Will our young hurler be more Matt Harvey or Ryan Madson? For this edition, please predict his year-end WAR and ERA.
2015 2014 Season:
2016 Composite projections:
Skaggs last took the mound on July 31, 2014, putting him near 20 months of recovery time. For comparison, Jose Fernandez returned 14 months after his procedure, while Matt Harvey took 17 months. Both pitchers pretty immediately returned to form. Of course, they are two of the best in the game, so even with diminished command (generally cited as the hardest thing for a pitcher to recover), they would still be pretty tough to hit.
Skaggs, of course, lacks the body of work of those two superstars, so it would be hardly fair to hold him to their standard upon his return. The bigger question seems to be, when will that return happen? The Angels are taking the conservative approach, already indicating he will start the year on the DL, with an innings limit expected to be in the 165-175 range. Skaggs is 100% on board with this plan, citing conversations with former teammate (and Angel farmhand) Patrick Corbin, who returned from the procedure last year after a 15-month recovery:
"Guys that I've talked to said that when it gets to September, they know that limit is good," Skaggs said. "You've been gone for a full year, and you start losing juice at the end. So it's good to have an innings limit."
A return to form like Corbin's would be a welcome sight for the Angels, as he was incredibly sharp over 85 innings with a 3.60 ERA and an impressive 8.25 SO/9, allowing only 1.8 BB/9. Like Harvey and Fernandez, Corbin has enjoyed more major league success to date than Skaggs, who would be a bit of a mystery still, even if he wasn't returning from surgery. While we were all satisfied with his progress in 2014, none of his stats really scream "breakout candidate". One positive to take away from his first year in the majors was improved walk rates over his minor league days, while also keeping his HR rates above average.
Going into spring training, the Angels had what was thought to be enviable rotation depth, making anything they get out of Skaggs a happy bonus. Now, C.J. Wilson is still injured, Jered Weaver is apparently injured and can't hit 80 MPH on the radar gun, while no one else seems to be taking the bull by the horns. This would seemingly leave the door wide open for Skaggs to grab hold of a rotation spot and not let go, once he finally makes his season debut. He has had plenty of rest and says his arm feels great. Early projections are conservative on his innings, but with the current state of the Angels' rotation, I can easily see a scenario that has him pitching over 100 innings this year. The question is, what does he do with those innings? What will be his WAR and ERA?