You can never have too much pitching. This is a fact. Even the World Series bound Astros and Dodgers used 11 and 10 starting pitching during their 2017 drive to the Fall Classic. For their part, the Angels have 13 different pitchers start games last year, when 12 of them starting more than 1 game. This year, the Angels have quite a few capable arms, so we’ll take a look at the guys who’ve pitched in the big leagues (no Shohei Ohtani or Jaime Barria) and what to expect out of them this year.
In part 1 we are looking at the lefties
Part 2 will focus on the “veterans”
Part 3 will look at the rest / #5 guys
Age: 26 Throws: L
Debut: June 19th, 2014
Innings Pitched (MLB): 162.2
Pitch Repetoire: Fastball, Changeup, Curveball
Andrew Heaney has only started 6 games over the past 2 seasons thanks to TJ surgery and 5 of those were late last season. He managed to throw 105.2 innings over 18 games in 2015 with a 3.49 ERA and 3.73 FIP. At age 24, it was a hopeful sign of things to come before the wheels fell off.
Heaney’s return from surgery didn’t go so well with an insane 12 home runs allowed over 21.2 innings last year. He really only had one solid start (against Oakland) when he struck out 10 on 1 run and 2 hits over 6 innings.
Heaney’s fastball is more of sinker so you won’t find fastball stats for him in PitchFX since they classify it as a sinker. He relies heavily on his sinker, which he used nearly 62% of the time in 2017 compared to his changeup and curve which both sat around 19%. There has been some debate whether Heaney’s breaking pitch is a slider or curve, but I’m going with curve since this pitch has a bit too much horizontal break to be a slider.
Heaney, perhaps confident from a freshly constructed UCL, threw harder in 2017 than in previous years and had about a 1 MPH uptick on each of his pitches.
Heaney’s sinking fastball was very hittable last year, allowing 8 home runs out of 78 at bats. Along with that came a 62.5% FB rate and very poor 15.6 GB rate. It’s a good pitch to help set up his off speed offerings but he will need to work on keeping it away from the heart of the plate this year and hopefully he can get back some of the nearly 2 inches of vertical drop he lost on it from 2016 to 2017. Despite the changes in this pitch, Heaney still had the 5th best sinker vertical drop in MLB last year. He also had the lowest rate of zone contact (78.1%), but keep in mind it’s a small sample size.
You can’t throw a changeup too much - especially one that sits around 78-80 MPH, but it does generate a hefty 49.2% out of the zone swing rate and a nearly 13% whiff rate. When Heaney leaves this pitch in the zone, hitters have a 95.7% contract rate and like his sinker, Heaney’s changeup was a bit off last year with 2 inches less of drop and he allowed a batting practice like .345 AVG against this pitch.
In 2017, Heaney reduced his sinker usage about 5% and increased his curve usage around 4% (the other 1% increase went to his changeup). His curveball was definitely the best thing he had going for him with a .077 BAA, 57.1 K%, and a 20% whiff rate (which was actually down from previous years). Given that the overall contact rate on his curve was only 40.9%, Heaney may be better served by stepping up it’s usage a tad this year.
What to expect in 2018
Surgery behind him, as well as his first 5 post TJ starts, Heaney is poised to have a great season. If he can use finesse to his advantage as well as some well time curved and well placed sinkers, he could be a very effective piece of the rotation. Steamer projections put him around 136 IP and 4.46 FIP along with an 8.05 K/9 and 1.5 WAR. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict he looks more like his 2015 season with a 3.73 FIP and 1.202 WHIP, along with a sub 4 ERA and a 2+ WAR.
Age: 26 Throws: L
Debut: Aug 22nd, 2012
Innings Pitched (MLB): 315.2
Pitch Repetoire: Fastball, 2-Seam/Sinker, Changeup, Curveball
Tyler Skaggs has thrown 134 innings over the past 2 seasons since coming back from TJ Surgery. Last season he stared off strong with a 3.99 ERA and 1.261 WHIP over his first 5 starts (before his injury), but ended with a mediocre 4.55 ERA and 1.388 WHIP. At times, Skaggs has some moments of brilliance as evidenced by 3 of this 16 starts last year in which he went 7 innings, allowed 3 total runs in those games and struck out 18.
During the first part of the season, Skaggs didn’t his his 2-seam fastball with sinking action. PitchFx labels this as a sinker but it’s held with a 2-seam grip. Skaggs added the pitch back in September for the first time since post TJ surgery.
Skaggs’ fastball had a bit of a dip in velocity in 2017 but he used it better with a drop in BAA around 25 points, a 6% drop in walk rate, and a 4% increase in ground ball rate. Also of note, thanks to better placement, was a 7% increase in out of zone swings which went up to 25.5%. Unfortunately, when he missed, he missed big, and Skaggs gave up a career high 9 home runs off his fastball.
In September, Skaggs added back his sinker for the first time since he went out with TJ surgery. Unfortunately, it was not very effective and a large part of his ERA increase the later half of 2017. Since 2014 when he last used it, his out of zone swing rate dropped around 9% and hitters had a .375 OBP.
The whiff rate on Skaggs’ changeup has gone down every year since he debuted to just 7.4% last season from a high of 24.6% his rookie year. Opponents hit a lofty .400 against this pitch and he’ll have to use it more wisely for it to be effective in 2018.
Skaggs’ had an impressive 32.7% K rate on his curveball last year, even though that was down 7% from his previous 2 seasons. Also impressive was a 37.5% out of zone contract rate. Skaggs doesn’t throw this pitch in the zone much (only 36.3%) and he doesn’t need to. When he does, he often hits corners and leave hitters frozen on strike 3, making it a very effective knockout blow.
What to expect in 2018
Moving forward, Skaggs’ injury issues are hopefully behind him and he could put in a career high numbers of innings which currently sits at 113. He has the arsenal to put up a good season, especially if he can command his changeup and sinker a bit better. Streamer predicts Skaggs will throw 154 innings with a 4.13 ERA, 8K/9, and a 1.9 WAR. Seems about right to me.