Go ahead and take a gander at the AL West standings. The Angels are 14 games back of the Astros, 6 games behind the A’s and 9 games back from a Wild Card spot. 9 games is a lot. Let’s face it, the Angels are not going to the playoffs this year. Again. It sucks, but you have to sometimes put up with seasons like this to get to the good ones.
There has been a lot of chatter about trading some of the Angels’ better starters or even some of the bullpen pieces. But - let me tell you what the problem is with that scenario. First, let me ask you a question and keep the answer in your back pocket for a minute. Do you like watching Mike Trout play with the Angels?
Okay, here we go. Let’s talk starting pitchers. Both Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney are young, under control for 2 or 3 more years, and relatively cheap. Both pitchers, especially Tyler Skaggs could fetch some good prospects if Billy Eppler were to flip them to a competing team in need of starts (like the Yankees). But this stupid. The Angels need BOTH of these guys in 2019 and 2020 if they want to make a playoff run with Mike Trout on the team. If the Angels can’t put together a winning team by then, it would be a huge surprise if Trout were to stay an Angel. Let’s pretend Skaggs and Heaney got traded for some good prospects. First, those prospects would probably not be ready by 2020, and even if they were, it doesn’t really help the pitching situation.
Here is what a Heaney and Skaggs-less rotation would look like next year:
JC Ramirez. He’ll be coming back form TJ surgery so a lot of unknowns here. Plus, opening day is about 1 year from his surgery date so it’s highly likely he can’t join the active roster until a few months into the season.
Alex Meyer. Meyer has logged 18 games as an Angels over 2016 and 2017 before going out with a torn labrum that required surgery. The former 1st round pick will be 29 when he returns to the rotation next year. The good news is he should be ready to go as the recovery timetable for his surgery puts him around September 2018.
Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani is probably done pitching for this year but we will know more tomorrow. Even if he avoids surgery, there will probably be some sort of limit on him next year. And will he pull a Richards - only to need surgery later? It’s hard to rely on him 100% (or even 70%) to be a full time piece in the 2019 rotation.
Nick Tropeano. I watched Tropeano in a rehab start last week (the day I met Billy Eppler - cool dude!) I like Trop, but he’s probably not gonna ever be more than a 5th starter type guy. His slider has been better and his changeup is VERY hittable. There is potential though for him to a workhorse through the season over the next few years.
Felix Pena. Never all that highly rated, Pena has a pretty good fastball and curve. On top of that, his slider and changeup have been absolutely lethal this year. He could be a key piece in the rotation next year.
Jaime Barria. Not overwhelming, Barria has been a steady addition to the rotation and should be next year as well.
Matt Shoemaker. Our old buddy Shoemaker and his nasty splitter has been plagued by injury problems. Not sure if the expectations should be too high for him next year.
Is this the rotation you want to roll with next year - the 2nd to last year of Mike Trout’s contract? Up there you have 4 injury question marks and 2 “rookies”. Do you feel pretty good about any combination of the above guys making up your rotation? It sure changes the picture if you throw Heaney and Skaggs at the top of the list then make these 7 guys battle for those #3, #4, and #5 spots.
The Angels do have some of those as well, but they may or may not be ready to join the roster full time by opening day 2019. You also don’t want to rely on them to carry you through a season and playoff run.
Griffin Canning. He could be ready to join the big league rotation next April but 2018 is his first full pro season and he’s currently sporting an 8.44 ERA in Salt Lake. He has some refining to do and MAY join the rotation in 2019 but when? Canning has future ace potential but not until 2020 or 2021.
Luis Pena. Could see him pitch for the big league team before the season is over, but there is some question if he ends up in the bullpen still.
Jose Suarez. He’s only 20 years old and already in AAA but we probably won’t see him before at least the end of 2019.
Jesus Castillo. Wouldn’t be ready for next year. Maybe 2020. He’s having a so-so season in Mobile this year and is a pretty well rounded piece for a 4 or 5 type guy in a few years.
Chris Rodriguez. Huge potential but not ready until at least 2020 and probably 2021. He hasn’t pitched yet this year due to a stress reaction in his back.
Still want to trade Heaney and Skaggs? You’re crazy. If you do - this is your 2019 rotation:
- Jaime Barria
- Nick Tropeano
- Alex Meyer
- Shohei Ohtani ?
- Matt Shoemaker
Are we going to the playoffs with that rotation? Nah. Probably not even winning 80-85 games with those guys.
How about a rotation that looks more like this>
- Tyler Skaggs
- Andrew Heaney
- Nick Tropeano
- Shohei Ohtani ?
- Jaime Barria, Alex Meyer, Matt Shoemaker
Much, much better, right?
What about the bullpen? That’s enough stuff for a whole other article. It’s possible the Angels could move some bullpen pieces and still complete next year but I’d be inclined to keep them. Our bullpen is already short on talent and we need to add to it - not subtract if we plan to compete.
You still want to sell, sell, sell? Okay, let’s get rid of Heaney, Skaggs, Cam Bedrosian, Justin Anderson, and Blake Parker. At this point you might as well add Mike Trout to the list because with all those guys gone we win 75 games next year and Trout punches his ticket to a team that can compete. You want to keep Trout as an Angel? Then we need to start being contenders and I’m pretty sure that’s what Eppler has been setting up for 2019 and 2020.