How many pitchers could Eppler chuck if an Eppler could chuck pitchers? Answer? At least 15, but depends on how you count. Since the end of the 2016 alone, Billy Eppler has acquired 5 starting pitchers. You add those 5 starting pitchers to the pitchers on the 40 man roster and the pitchers in Salt Lake and you come up with potentially 16 starters. For good measure, we’ll throw in 3 more guys who could start their season in Salt Lake after great 2016 at the AA level.
Some of these guys will get to take the ball in a big league game this year, but many won’t. The question is how likely are they to get the call-up and how many of them? If you read my article yesterday, there are 4 pretty much locked pitchers in the rotation and 2 that have a shot for that #5 spot. You don’t get through a 162 game schedule with 5 or 6 starting pitchers. The Angels actually had 15 different pitchers start in 2016, and 13 of those made 2 or more starts.
The odds listed below are my best guess at how likely they are to make a start for the Angels this season. Of course there are no sure things, but my 100% rating means it’s most likely going to happen barring any injuries, trades, etc.
Currently on 40 Man Roster:
Daniel Wright - Odds: 100%
Wright has already pitched for the Angels and it had mixed results. He gave up 12 runs in his first 3 starts (14.2 IP), but only 4 runs over his last 2 games and 12 innings including a 1 run 6 inning game against Houston in his last start of 2016. Wright has a decent fastball and a good curve and changeup but no real overpowering stuff. His super low walk rate and ability to throw strikes also makes him an intriguing bullpen piece. The odds are high that Wright takes the mound at some point in 2017. Wright is only 25 so a good candidate to season a bit more down in AAA this year until he is needed.
Nate Smith - Odds: 100%
I was excited to see Nate Smith pitch in person at the Futures game last year - even though he gave up 4 hits and 2 runs during his inning. He has pretty average stuff and a still developing slider and is going to need a good slider (his third pitch) to be successful in the big leagues. Smith had a good first half in Salt Lake last year but fell apart a bit in the second half with a 5.66 ERA and .306 BAA. Smith would have started last September but he was shut down early with tendinitis. He could even be a long shot for the #5 spot on opening day.
Brooks Pounders - Odds: 90%
Pounders has options left and will probably start the season in AAA. Pounders has a cool name and a huge frame (6’5”, 265#) and the Royals even named him AAA pitcher of the year in 2016. He’s highly likely to get a start at some time in 2017, depending on what kind of stuff he shows in Salt Lake. If his Salt Lake showing is anything close to last year (3.14 ERA, 1.295 WHIP, 10.1 K/9), we should see him pitch sooner rather than later.
JC Ramirez - Odds: 80%
Ramirez is destined for the bullpen but the Angels said they plan to stretch him out as a starter in the spring. He’s also out of options so probably will stick on the 25 man roster. Stretching him out makes him viable to go 2-3 innings in relief if needed as well as an occasional spot start without burning someone’s option or calling up a AAA guy since he’s already there.
On team but not on 40 Man Roster (AAA guys):
Most of these guys will start their season in Salt Lake
Vicente Campos - Odds: 70%
Campos is a dark horse for the #5 starter spot. Though relatively unlikely, he does have an option left and we will probably see him at some point in 2017. Campos pitched at 4 different levels last year and for 2 different teams (Yankees and Diamondbacks). He threw 5.2 innings in his major league debut last year, allowing 2 earned runs (both homers), 2 walks and 4 hits with a BAA of just .182.
Troy Scribner - Odds: 60%
Scribner was signed in 2013 after going undrafted. In 4 minor league seasons, he has a 3.56 ERA, .217 BAA, and 1.22 WHIP. He even put up a 3.30 ERA in Salt Lake last year through 46.1 innings, along with a complete game 2 hit shutout back in July for his AAA debut. How’s that for a hello? He had a couple rocky outings last year but overall was pretty solid. His odds are good that he gets a call up at least by September.
Bud Norris - Odds: 50%
I’m going to split the odds on this one. The Angels owe Norris 1.75 million if he makes the big league roster (plus more in incentives) so he’s going to have to really prove himself for them to drop the cash. From 2010-2014 he had been a pretty steady workhorse with 150-180IP per season but that has dropped off as of late. Norris went through a period where he was an Angels killer, but hasn’t really impressed the last few seasons. He could also end up in the bullpen at some point, as it’s nice to have a proven veteran like him on your pitching staff.
Manny Banuelos - Odds: 30%
Banuelos has had a string of arm issues and has hopefully put those behind him. His 2016 season was less than impressive with a 5.33 ERA and 1.796 WHIP over 50 innings and three different levels. Banuelos needs to get his walks under control if he wants to make a big league roster as he averaged 5.7/9IP in 2016 and almost 4/9IP in his career.
John Lamb - Odds: 15%
Lamb is out of options, so there isn’t much flexibility with him if he gets called up. In two seasons with the Reds, he had a 6.17 ERA and 1.604 WHIP though 119.2 IP. He’s a lefty though which could play to his advantage in getting his shot. Still, I think his chances of pitching for the Angels are pretty slim.
Blayne Weller - Odds: 0%
Weller is here mostly for the sake of completeness since he is on the Bees roster. I don’t see him making the Angels roster at any point in 2017 and he may not even start in Salt Lake. This 27 year old is mostly pitching depth for the Angels minor league organization at this point.
Currently on AA Mobile Bay Bears Roster:
These guys have a shot at making the Salt Lake opening day roster and their best shot of a big league start probably comes in 2018
Alex Blackford - Odds: 10%
Blackford was a 37th round pick out of Arizona State back in 2013 so had pretty low expectations. At just about every level (aside from A Adv), he’s been impressive. Blackford spent all of 2016 in Arkansas and ended the season with a 3.07 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and .189 BAA which are some impressive numbers. He had 6 games in which he didn’t allow a run and 11 in more in which he allowed 2 or less in his starts, which means there were only have 5 starts where he allowed more than 2 runs. Back on August 12th, he threw a perfect game through 6 innings before being pulled after 86 pitches. I would be very surprised if he doesn’t start in Salt Lake and his best odds of a big league visit probably come late in the year.
Jordan Kipper - Odds: 10%
Kipper has steadily progressed though rookie ball, A Advanced, and AA in his first three full seasons. Like Blackford, he has a good shot at the Bees opening day roster. Kipper one-upped Blackford’s perfect appearance by throwing a complete game no-hitter and facing the minimum number of batters after walking the lead off man in a game back in May.
Chris O’Grady - Odds: 0%
O’Grady was a 10th round pick back in 2012 and has floated around the minors now for 5 seasons. He turns 27 in April so I can’t imagine him not being in Salt Lake, but he’s also getting on the higher end of that age curve to make it as a big league starter. He’s spent most of his career as a reliever but the Angels started giving him regular starts to end last year and in his last 10 games (9 as a starter) he had a 1.68 ERA and just 5 walks over 53.2 IP. I don’t expect to see him pitch for the Angels in 2017 since he’ll have to get more work in as a starter - probably in Salt Lake.