For the most of 2017, the Angels have had a streaky team. At times it has been a train wreck difficult to look away from, at other times it has been an enthralling storyline of The Little Engine That Could, a group of guys that don’t ‘wow’ on paper, but just might be good enough if you blink. And considering the injuries they have had to overcome, the Halos have already exceeded expectations and generated much-needed excitement from fans, who had endured a similarly difficult injury-ravaged season the previous year.
The stopgaps Billy Eppler cobbled together over the offseason have been far from perfect, but it is the rag-tag team of fighting musketeers that has kept the Angels afloat this year, and provide them with a reason to be bullish in the “Trout era.” The cost control factor of deep finds such as Parker Bridwell, J.C. Ramirez, and Blake Parker allow the Angels to spend money in free agency on bigger fish.
Parker Bridwell has a 3.00 ERA and 4.66 FIP in 10 starts and pitched 6.21 innings per start. Considering that he is often pulled before the 90-pitch mark, that IP/start figure could be significantly higher. He has several elements of a FIP-beating profile. Namely, a tendency to give up home runs (14.3% HR/FB) and a lack of strikeouts. Even if he does regress to the full extent of his peripherals, he would still be an inning-eating, back-end starter. Seven out of his ten starts have been quality starts, starts in which he has pitched at least six innings and given up three runs or less. He is in his first year of pre-arbitration, which means he is under team control through 2022. He would be an upgrade over Ricky Nolasco, for example, except Bridwell would cost $11.5 million less next year.
J.C. Ramirez is a similar story to Bridwell, being picked up from the Reds last summer. Ramirez has similar peripherals as well, except he carries a 4.21 ERA. JC has done an admirable job in seizing the opportunity presented to him; he is also controllable through 2022.
I’ve talked plenty regarding Blake Parker’s excellence, so I won’t go too in-depth here. He’s a late-blooming veteran that has now become a dominant reliever in the Angels bullpen, performing 40% better than league average by FIP and 38% better than league average by ERA: he’s really, really good and the Angels have him until 2021.
And this isn’t even to mention the Angels other players who have tremendous upside or have room to improve. Alex Meyer has broken out. You can see the potential glistening from Keynan Middleton’s every pitch. Cam Bedrosian is excellent in his own right. Kaleb Cowart has shown an ability to be a tremendous defender at both second and third base, and now he can hit! C.J. Cron has always flashed his hitting ability, and a hot streak at any time could change the complexion of an entire series.
But the most exciting part, by far, has to be this.
- Garrett Richards
- Andrew Heaney
- Tyler Skaggs
- Matt Shoemaker
- Nick Tropeano
- Alex Meyer
- Parker Bridwell
- J.C. Ramirez
- Nate Smith
- Troy Scribner
- Jaime Barria (should be MLB-ready by mid-2018)
- Grayson Long (should be MLB-ready by mid-2018)
- Daniel Wright
- Osmer Morales (could be MLB-ready in late-2018)
- Others that emerge from Eppler’s waiver wire magic spaghetti sauce
Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s pitching depth to kill for. Billy Eppler has acquired five starters on the above list. The top five are in various stages of recovering, but they have all shown they belong in the major leagues when on the mound. Toss them all in with Parker Bridwell, J.C. Ramirez, a quality free agent starter, and you’ll end up with a quality starting rotation with incredible pitching depth.
The Angels are close as it is, and that’s despite their 2017 squad losing Trout for two months and their entire starting staff for the vast majority of the year. You can see how plugging holes with quality players (Moustakas, Maybin, Alex Cobb, 2b/1b (?), bullpen help) could catapult them into contention for 2018 and beyond. They have versatile pieces in Kaleb Cowart (3b/2b), David Fletcher (2b/SS), and Michael Hermosillo (OF).
Surely, Billy Eppler knew that this season could be interesting. With money coming off the books, they knew they could make a few ripples. But now, with the added flexibility their new gems present to them, they can afford to take the plunge so long as they don’t miss the pool.