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AngelsWin.com Today: 2019 Angelswin.com Primer Series: Rotation


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2018 Angels Pitchers WAR

2018 Angels Pitchers K%-BB%

2018 Angels Pitchers AVG

By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer

Author’s Note: Immediately prior to publication Nathan Eovaldi signed with the Boston Red Sox on a 4-year, $67.5M deal ($17M AAV). Rather than re-write, the author has decided to publish the original.

Two years.

The nightmare of pitcher injuries for the Angels has been on-going now for two years. More really if you change the goal posts to include the beginning of Skaggs’ saga.

However, 2018 was not a complete disaster in terms of production for some starters, as both Tyler and Andrew Heaney made strong strides in terms of innings pitched which should translate to a full slate of starts in 2019. Unfortunately, the Angels have lost Garrett Richards to free agency and Shohei Ohtani has already had his Tommy John Surgery (TJS) and will be unavailable to start next season.

This leaves the top-of-the-rotation bare. The Steamer projection system thinks Tyler and Andrew are going to have equivalent seasons in terms of RA9-WAR (2.9 each) which is comparable to a mid-rotation starter (#3 or perhaps #2 type guys). Alex Meyer was not far behind them on that list, but he had top-of-the-disabled list injury concerns and has been designated for assignment.

A touch further down the Steamer projection list, you will find left-handed prospect Jose Suarez and Matt Shoemaker at 2.2 and 2.1 RA9-WAR, respectively. Surprisingly the Angels recently non-tendered Shoemaker, despite his reasonable, projected $4.3M arbitration salary. That was probably a really tough call on Eppler’s part. Diving deeper down the list you may be pleasantly surprised to see top pitching prospect Griffin Canning listed at 1.7 RA9-WAR. Suarez or Canning could be successors to Shoemaker on the roster this season or next if the Angels decide to save payroll space.

As you approach the tail-end of the list you see back-end rotation contributors like converted reliever-turned-starter Felix Pena, Nick Tropeano, and forgotten left-handed prospect Nate Smith. J.C. Ramirez is the caboose on this train, likely because Steamer did not like his significant velocity drop in 2018 and is penalizing him for it (perhaps rightfully so).

Currently, based on the existing roster and MLB service time accrued, the Opening Day rotation projects to be:

  1. Tyler Skaggs
  2. Andrew Heaney
  3. Jaime Barria
  4. Nick Tropeano
  5. Felix Pena

Behind that group you have other potential options such as Griffin Canning, Jose Suarez, Luis Pena, Patrick Sandoval, Jesus Castillo, Dillon Peters, Luis Madero, Nate Smith, and, later in the season, J.C. Ramirez.

What we do not see in that group is that ‘Ace’ go-to, top-of-the-rotation guy. Ohtani will very likely not pitch in 2019. Meyer and Richards are gone. All of that adds up to a rotation problem.

Finding, at the minimum, a quality starter that can soak up a lot of innings should be Eppler’s #1 priority. Certainly we have other needs to fill but shoring up the starting five will be critical to the Angels success in 2019.

So what options do the Angels have to improve their rotation?

Free agency has some intriguing options including RHP Charlie Morton, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Matt Harvey, LHP Dallas Keuchel, and RHP Trevor Cahill. It is being reported that the Seibu Lions of Japan have allowed LHP Yusei Kikuchi to be posted, so he too should be available on the open market.

Morton will be in his age 35 season but will probably sign a 2-year deal at about $25M-30M, total, with perhaps an option attached if he does not retire.

Eovaldi is an interesting case. Looking at previous pitchers of similar age coming off of commensurate seasons the closest comparable in recent history is Jhoulys Chacin who signed a 2-year, $15.5M deal. However the potential of Nathan is so much higher, you have to think that he could easily command around $13M-17M per season on a 4-5 year contract, particularly throwing a 97 mph fastball. The danger here is that he has had two previous Tommy John surgeries so there is real risk.

Happ should pull down a similar deal to Morton, probably a 2-year, $30M deal. Harvey could get a bit less than Eovaldi but should be in the same relative ballpark. Keuchel will also probably get something akin to Eovaldi’s contract based on his recent history but with less total years, probably a 4-year maximum deal. Cahill will probably sign a 2-3 year deal.

It had been the author’s hope that the Angels might make room for Garrett Richards at around the $10M range but the Padres blew that up, offering him $18M which was probably hard to not accept on Garrett’s part. The reality is that the Angels probably did not have the roster space to accommodate him as he rehabilitates.

Moving to the trade market there are some potentially intriguing opportunities that may or may not be available including the Diamondbacks LHP Robbie Ray, the Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner, perhaps one of the Indians top RHP’s like Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, or Trevor Bauer, the Marlins RHP Jose Urena, maybe one of the Mets top starters LHP Jacob deGrom, RHP Zack Wheeler or RHP Noah Syndergaard, the Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy, the Blue Jays RHP Marcus Stroman, the Yankees who are actively shopping Sonny Gray, or one of the Tigers starters, RHP Michael Fulmer or LHP Matthew Boyd.

Out of that group Fulmer, Kluber and Syndergaard with their longer control would cost the most to obtain and may, in fact, be unreachable or simply too rich for the Angels. In the next tier down, price-wise, you find three more top-tier names in deGrom, Carrasco, and Bauer. The third tier down you start to see more affordable options like Bundy, Stroman, Ray, Salazar, Urena, Wheeler, Gray, and Bumgarner.

Although trades can certainly include a combination of Major League players and Minor League prospects, the first three names would certainly cost the Angels their top prospect Jo Adell plus more, making one of those three very unlikely unless we were sending back significant Major League talent of our own (possible). The Mets and Indians would almost certainly ask for Jo in the next tier of names but the Angels would probably prefer to send Griffin Canning, Jahmai Jones, or possibly one of Tyler Skaggs or Andrew Heaney as the centerpiece, again making one of those names difficult to obtain.

It is that next group of pitchers that would probably pique Eppler’s interest the most if he decides the trade market is the way to go. Any of those eight names could potentially be had by building a trade around one of Jahmai Jones or Brandon Marsh, as the centerpiece of the deal, perhaps even less in the cases of Salazar, Urena, Wheeler, Gray, and Bumgarner.

One interesting aspect of the free agent and trade markets is the apparent abundance of left-handed starters available. This could present an opportunity for Eppler to trade one of Tyler Skaggs or Andrew Heaney for another area of need and then sign or trade for one, two or even three starters, one of which would be left-handed. For example if the Nationals do sign Bryce Harper to a mega-contract the Angels could possibly trade Andrew Heaney for Adam Eaton and then sign J.A. Happ to replace Andrew’s spot in the rotation.

Ultimately, because our farm system is still developing, Eppler is more likely to target the low-hanging fruit that will not cost a top prospect in trade. Any prospect that is not considered a core long-term piece (think Adell or Canning for example) can be used to facilitate these low-resource deals. Eppler could surprise and execute a straight-up trade of someone like Andrew Heaney for a better starter like Trevor Bauer, exchanging years of control and taking on salary to upgrade to a top-of-the-rotation asset, as well.

By non-tendering Parker and Shoemaker, Billy has additional, available payroll to sign a mid-level starter or make a trade for any pitcher that is available in a deal. The market is full of teams flush with cash to spend so this off-season could turn into a real rodeo with some teams getting tossed off the bronco early and often (particularly if Lackey un-retires).

It should be noted that Halos starters fared decently well against left-handed hitters (LHH’s) in 2018, ranked 12th in all of baseball by K%-BB%. However, against right-handed hitters (RHH’s) we were middle-of-the-pack, ranked 15th in the League.

Eppler is likely to target at least one starter that fares well against RHH’s in his search although that is not a hard requirement. Fortunately there are several starters in free agency (Eovaldi, Lynn, and Happ) and trade (Carrasco, Bundy, Bauer, Kluber, Teheran, Greinke, Junis, Wheeler, Gray, Porcello, Ray, and Godley, among others) that performed well against RHH’s in 2018 and will be potential targets of Billy as we enter the off-season.

Break the Bank ($151M+)

  • Michael Fulmer

High Price to Pay ($101M-$150M)

  • Corey Kluber
  • Noah Syndergaard

Middle of the Road ($51M-$100M)

  • Jacob deGrom
  • Trevor Bauer
  • Nathan Eovaldi
  • Carlos Carrasco
  • Matthew Boyd
  • Dallas Keuchel
  • Marcus Stroman
  • Matt Harvey
  • Yusei Kikuchi
  • Dylan Bundy
  • Robbie Ray

Bargain Basement ($1M-$50M)

  • Danny Salazar
  • Charlie Morton
  • Lance Lynn
  • J.A. Happ
  • Jose Urena
  • Zack Wheeler
  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Sonny Gray
  • Trevor Cahill

Author’s Choice

So out of the free agency group, Patrick Corbin clearly had the best overall splits against both sides of the plate but he is now a National. It was going to be a tall order for Eppler to sign him anyway due to fierce competition for his services and the fact he would eat up a lot of open payroll space. Originally I had Corbin pegged on a 4-6 year deal at $20M+ per season and he got the higher end of both of those.

Behind him though, the next best choices include J.A. Happ, Nathan Eovaldi and perhaps one of Matt Harvey, Anibal Sanchez, or Charlie Morton.

It is my opinion that if the Angels go through free agency they will push hard on Nathan Eovaldi or J.A. Happ and only go after one of the other three if they cannot secure the services of either of the first two or through a trade.

If Eppler does pursue the trade market he will likely go after some low-hanging fruit that includes more of the names listed in the ‘Bargain Basement’ category. Many of those names will not break the prospect bank and include Robbie Ray, Jose Urena, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, and Sonny Gray.

Out of that group Zack Wheeler and Robbie Ray are of particular interest with the latter likely being more available than the former. However the former would probably only cost us two mid-tier prospects (or perhaps a MLB player) while the latter would cost us a name like Brandon Marsh or Jose Suarez, plus maybe one mid-to-lower tier type prospect in any deal.

If pushed to choose one from free agency, J.A. Happ makes a lot of sense on a 2-year deal at no more than $30M total. This would allow the Angels to ease one of Jose Suarez or Patrick Sandoval into the rotation while maintaining payroll flexibility.

On the trade side Robbie Ray currently appears to be the target that best fits our needs combined with potential availability in a deal. He has two years of arbitration control left so the Angels could possibly extend him if they like his results or move on from Ray when Suarez and/or Sandoval is ready a year or two from now. Bauer would be my dark horse candidate. In fact if the Angels did a Heaney for Bauer trade I could still see the Angels acquiring Ray which would create a really nice starting five of Bauer, Ray, Barria, Skaggs, and Tropeano for 2019 and beyond (not to mention if they sign a guy like Happ or Eovaldi in free agency too). Ohtani rejoining the rotation in 2020 would only make this group more lethal.

In the next Section we will discuss the Catcher position.

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You will notice I did not put Zack Greinke on that list, not because I don't think he could help our team in the short-term but because his AAV is a back-breaking amount to our current payroll situation.

For me Ray represents a top target because 3-year running averages on his splits show he is great against both sides of the plate and he has the high K/9 rate that Eppler loves to have. He will likely cost us one of Brandon Marsh or Jose Suarez plus at least one more mid-level type prospect. As an alternative on the free agent market, Happ makes a lot of sense as he too has good splits on both sides of the plate.

There are other options beyond these two guys but they make a lot of sense to the current Angels squad.

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3 minutes ago, ettin said:

You will notice I did not put Zack Greinke on that list, not because I don't think he could help our team in the short-term but because his AAV is a back-breaking amount to our current payroll situation.

For me Ray represents a top target because 3-year running averages on his splits show he is great against both sides of the plate and he has the high K/9 rate that Eppler loves to have. He will likely cost us one of Brandon Marsh or Jose Suarez plus at least one more mid-level type prospect. As an alternative on the free agent market, Happ makes a lot of sense as he too has good splits on both sides of the plate.

There are other options beyond these two guys but they make a lot of sense to the current Angels squad.

Would you take on Greinke if it meant we got Ray as well, without giving up any of our top-5 prospects?

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8 minutes ago, Chuckster70 said:

Would you take on Greinke if it meant we got Ray as well, without giving up any of our top-5 prospects?

Not sure it would have to depend on the deal but I don't care for the high risk and payroll involved with Greinke period. Even if it included Ray. It would be a big gamble on Zack.

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Of all of the key pitching prospects (Canning, Suarez, Sandoval, Soriano, Castillo, Luis Pena, Madero, and Jose Rodriguez), they just need for two or three to pan out to ultimately join Ohtani, Heaney, and Barria.      

Seems like one short term mid-to-upper rotation starter and one durable innings eater are needed for 2019. 

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15 minutes ago, ettin said:

Not sure it would have to depend on the deal but I don't care for the high risk and payroll involved with Greinke period. Even if it included Ray. It would be a big gamble on Zack.

I mean, if they're taking on a year of Calhoun and two years of Cozart in addition I would do it. We're getting a couple of top of the rotation starters and unloading some $$ and commitment. 

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11 minutes ago, Chuckster70 said:

I mean, if they're taking on a year of Calhoun and two years of Cozart in addition I would do it. We're getting a couple of top of the rotation starters and unloading some $$ and commitment. 

Well that might be different Chuck. We line up with the D-Backs on needs but that contract and risk level is high. I am not saying that we couldn't reach a deal with the right amount of money changing hands and what not but Greinke just feels dangerous to me.

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12 minutes ago, Chuckster70 said:

I mean, if they're taking on a year of Calhoun and two years of Cozart in addition I would do it. We're getting a couple of top of the rotation starters and unloading some $$ and commitment. 

Eppler was big on Cozart for a reason, and fully intended to have him be their starting 2B before Kinsler fell into their lap for practically nothing.  I think Eppler figured he'd have Kinsler for one year and flip him for prospects the entire time.  I expect we'll see Zack Cozart starting at 2B for the Angels.  

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And in regards to Cozart, most everything I see right now indicates to me that he'll bounce back.  It won't be the same as he was his final year in Cincy, but he'll be more acceptable.  The biggest thing we saw in his final year with the Reds was simply better plate discipline and more willingness to pull the ball.  His failures with the Angels last season were due in part to injury, and reverting to the same offensive strategy he used before his breakout. 

If Cozart is healthy, you gotta figure he'll probably hit .250 with 20 HR, a .310 OBP and great defense at 2B.  Again, a far cry from where he was, but not a total waste of money.  

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Without Richards and Ohtani, the 2019 rotation has a much lower ceiling than the 2018 did, and the 2018 rotation ended up being mediocre.

That said, there's room for optimism. Heaney and Skaggs should both solidify as good #3s. Barria might struggle to keep his ERA under 4.00, but I think is a solid #4. Pena and Tropeano are decent #5s. But assuming everyone's healthy (which is a big assumption), that's a 3,3,4,5,5 rotation - hardly championship caliber. 

Maybe Happ turns it into a 3,3,3,4,5 rotation. Slightly better in that it replaces one of Pena/Tropeano with Happ, but still without that #1-2 that every contender seems to need at least one of.

I agree that not keeping Shoemaker is a bit of a head-scratcher - he's certainly worth the $4.3M "risk." Not sure what's up with that, except maybe they saw him as another Pena/Tropeano and want to look for upgrades.

As far as the prospects go, only Canning has a good shot at being a #2 or better. I think Suarez and Sandoval are more likely going to be #3-4s. The Castillo, Gatto, Pena, Madero types are #4-5s at best. There are some other guys who have good upside--starting with Soriano and Chris Rodriguez--but they're all a long ways away and most won't pan out.

In the end, the Angels need some good starting pitching fortune. They need a couple of those young high end arms to take a big step forward. Hopefully someone will this year and we'll be able to be excited about a Soriano or Rodriguez or Hernandez.

 

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1 hour ago, Second Base said:

And in regards to Cozart, most everything I see right now indicates to me that he'll bounce back.  It won't be the same as he was his final year in Cincy, but he'll be more acceptable.  The biggest thing we saw in his final year with the Reds was simply better plate discipline and more willingness to pull the ball.  His failures with the Angels last season were due in part to injury, and reverting to the same offensive strategy he used before his breakout. 

If Cozart is healthy, you gotta figure he'll probably hit .250 with 20 HR, a .310 OBP and great defense at 2B.  Again, a far cry from where he was, but not a total waste of money.  

Outside of the fluky 2017, he's never done all 3 of those things in a season.  I don't think we can count on that at all.

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2 hours ago, beatlesrule said:

Carassco signed an extension.

Yes it happened right about the time I hit 'Publish'.

Smart move by the Indians to be honest. I still think Kluber or Bauer are still in play on the trade market. The latter in particular makes sense for us. The Indians are trying to shave some payroll which is one reason why they are even entertaining trading one of their top starters and Bauer is arbitration-controlled with escalating salaries and his agent is Boras so an extension is unlikely which is why I think they will move him over the contractually-controlled Kluber, although moving Corey would relieve more money in 2019.

A simple straight trade of Andrew Heaney and his three years of arbitration-control for Bauer and his two years of arbitration-control makes a lot of sense for both teams. Heaney will only be making about $2.5M in 2019 in comparison to Bauer's $11.6M. Total estimated arbitration salaries are approximately $16.5M for Andrew over the next three seasons and about $33M for Bauer over his remaining two seasons. The Indians downgrade quality-wise but gain an extra year of control over a starter with a much smaller arbitration price base and the ability to potentially extend him. The Angels get better quality with less control for the next two season and have a real top of the rotation pitcher.

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On 12/6/2018 at 11:10 AM, AngelsWin.com said:

Morton will be in his age 35 season but will probably sign a 2-year deal at about $25M-30M, total, with perhaps an option attached if he does not retire.

Eovaldi is an interesting case. Looking at previous pitchers of similar age coming off of commensurate seasons the closest comparable in recent history is Jhoulys Chacin who signed a 2-year, $15.5M deal. However the potential of Nathan is so much higher, you have to think that he could easily command around $13M-17M per season on a 4-5 year contract, particularly throwing a 97 mph fastball. The danger here is that he has had two previous Tommy John surgeries so there is real risk.

Happ should pull down a similar deal to Morton, probably a 2-year, $30M deal. Harvey could get a bit less than Eovaldi but should be in the same relative ballpark. Keuchel will also probably get something akin to Eovaldi’s contract based on his recent history but with less total years, probably a 4-year maximum deal. Cahill will probably sign a 2-3 year deal.

It had been the author’s hope that the Angels might make room for Garrett Richards at around the $10M range but the Padres blew that up, offering him $18M which was probably hard to not accept on Garrett’s part. The reality is that the Angels probably did not have the roster space to accommodate him as he rehabilitates.

Feel good about my estimates on Morton and Eovaldi, but I completely missed the mark on Richards, his contract was much higher than I thought it would be, based on other comps. Still expect Happ to pull in a similar deal to Morton but he might squeeze out another year for a total of about $40M-45M, perhaps. Still think Keuchel will get a 4-year deal with a similar AAV range (maybe $15M-17M give or take).

Still think we will pull in a low-hanging fruit starter like Gray, Urena, Ray, et al. Maybe two of them even based on what Eppler can negotiate. Of course if Eppler can move a Major League asset like Heaney for a better quality starter with less years of control that is still a possibility too.

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21 minutes ago, ettin said:

Feel good about my estimates on Morton and Eovaldi, but I completely missed the mark on Richards, his contract was much higher than I thought it would be, based on other comps. Still expect Happ to pull in a similar deal to Morton but he might squeeze out another year for a total of about $40M-45M, perhaps. Still think Keuchel will get a 4-year deal with a similar AAV range (maybe $15M-17M give or take).

Still think we will pull in a low-hanging fruit starter like Gray, Urena, Ray, et al. Maybe two of them even based on what Eppler can negotiate. Of course if Eppler can move a Major League asset like Heaney for a better quality starter with less years of control that is still a possibility too.

I get the sense that the Padres offer of 18 million blew pretty much everyone out of the water.  That's so much more than what any team has offered in a recovery contract to this point.  They must legitimately believe that Richards will be an ace upon his return to the mound.  While Garrett certainly has the arsenal, most guys have a little bit of an adjustment in their first year back on the mound. 

Bold move by the Padres. 

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1 minute ago, Dochalo said:

Teams who have called the Diamondbacks about Robbie Ray say that the left-hander isn’t available in trade talks, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets.  That tracks with reports from earlier today, which stated that the D’Backs had put a very high price tag on Ray, even if the southpaw isn’t entirely untouchable. 

This......and I think Eppler was pretty clear that he wouldn't be trading his top prospects in order to acquire pitching.  And Robbie Ray would likely cost a top prospect or two.

Everything I'm reading so far insists that Eppler is probably going to be looking to acquire starters that make too much money on other teams, or guys that fall through the cracks in free agency.  I can't say I agree with it, in fact it sort of bugs me that the Angels are choosing to behave like a mid-market club for the fourth time in five years if this is the case. 

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Here's the line that worries me the most............

"The market is full of teams flush with cash to spend so this off-season could turn into a real rodeo with some teams getting tossed off the bronco early and often........."

Players are disappearing fast on the FA market, compared to last year. And if we aren't really interested in trading from our farm system, 2019 is going to be a loooooong season.

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22 minutes ago, Dochalo said:

Teams who have called the Diamondbacks about Robbie Ray say that the left-hander isn’t available in trade talks, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets.  That tracks with reports from earlier today, which stated that the D’Backs had put a very high price tag on Ray, even if the southpaw isn’t entirely untouchable. 

You've been awfully negative lately!

First Blash now Ray? :dancing-with-joy-smiley-emoticon:

Zack Wheeler would be an interesting acquisition since he only has one year left. Think he would provide a lot of value and wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. New York may keep him though if they actually move Syndergaard.

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16 minutes ago, WeatherWonk said:

Here's the line that worries me the most............

"The market is full of teams flush with cash to spend so this off-season could turn into a real rodeo with some teams getting tossed off the bronco early and often........."

Players are disappearing fast on the FA market, compared to last year. And if we aren't really interested in trading from our farm system, 2019 is going to be a loooooong season.

You missed the parentheticals part of that quote which I thought was perhaps the best line in the Rotation article :awesome-smiley-emoticon:

But yes, free agency is more difficult because of the teams with big pocketfuls of cash which was why I thought trade was the more likely route.

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18 minutes ago, ettin said:

You've been awfully negative lately!

First Blash now Ray? :dancing-with-joy-smiley-emoticon:

Zack Wheeler would be an interesting acquisition since he only has one year left. Think he would provide a lot of value and wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. New York may keep him though if they actually move Syndergaard.

I'm just keepin' it real.  ?

I've been spouting my narrative for months  which is that we won't be trading top prospects and that the system needs a little more recovery time after the ass whooping it took for the five years previous to Eppler showing up.    2019 will be similar to 2016, 17, 18 in that we'll put a solid team on the field that will need some good fortune to grab a WC spot.  

I think things would be different if Eppler wasn't able to build the farm back to good in such a short period.  The next step will be that translating into wins at the major league level.  

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50 minutes ago, Dochalo said:

I'm just keepin' it real.  ?

I've been spouting my narrative for months  which is that we won't be trading top prospects and that the system needs a little more recovery time after the ass whooping it took for the five years previous to Eppler showing up.    2019 will be similar to 2016, 17, 18 in that we'll put a solid team on the field that will need some good fortune to grab a WC spot.  

I think things would be different if Eppler wasn't able to build the farm back to good in such a short period.  The next step will be that translating into wins at the major league level.  

I agree: https://thesportsdaily.com/2018/12/04/2019-angelswin-com-primer-series-epplers-strategy-a1w1/

"Based on Billy Eppler’s actions to-date as General Manager of the Angels, the author suspects that he will get a bit more aggressive this off-season (as exampled above) but will not break the bank or our Minor League system to maintain a steady path forward with Mike Trout in-tow. Free agents will be signed to fill current holes and Eppler will trade prospects from the fringes (guys who are not in our long-term core keepers) or depth (the aforementioned outfield, infield, and pitching depth) of our farm system."

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12 hours ago, Angel Oracle said:

Percent odds that Skaggs actually makes it through a whole season, and makes at least say 30 starts?

30 starts? He's never pitched more than 24 (2018) and I'm guessing even if he's healthy all year, the Angels will baby him and plan for 28 or so, so I'd give him about 10% chance for 30, 50% chance for 25.

I wonder what percentage of starters who begin the year in the rotation end up with 25 starts. I'm guessing it is something like 50-60%.

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