Are the Angels in trouble?

Undoubtedly by now, you’ve heard that Jered Weaver has been diagnosed with a broken non-throwing elbow.  Weaver is the Angels ace and has placed Top Three in the Cy Young race for the past two seasons and Top Five for the past three seasons.  Any team would be hurt by the loss of such a pitcher.  Arguably, many teams could be expected to fall apart.  Seeing as the Angels are many news source’s favorite punching bag since they began spending money, you could expect some serious doom and gloom to head their direction in the coming days.  But as with any team, we must ask the question, “Will the Angels be alright?”. 

To start, C.J. Wilson will now serve as the Angels ace.  Wilson was diagnosed with bone spurs in June/July of last year and his second half performance suffered as a direct result of it.  Before the diagnosis, Wilson owned a sparkling 2.43 ERA and the year before he owned a 2.93 ERA in Texas.  He’s had ace numbers since transitioning to starter.  However, not a lot of people are convinced C.J. Wilson can carry the Angels staff.  To round out the rotation, fellow left-hander Jason Vargas came over from Seattle in the trade for Kendrys Morales, Tommy Hanson came over from Atlanta in return for Jordan Walden and Joe Blanton was inked to a two year deal. 

Vargas should find pitching for the Angels a relatively advantageous task.  He posted a 3.85 ERA in Seattle in 2012, is moving to yet another pitcher friendly park in Southern California and will have the top defensive outfield roaming behind him.  The Angels are hoping Tommy Hanson can bounce back despite a down 2012 with Atlanta, and out of Joe Blanton, the Angels are mainly looking for 200 innings.  In essence, the Angels aren’t looking like they’re hoping to win a lot of games 2-1, but 7-5 rather.  This brings us to Jered Weaver’s replacement, Garrett Richards. 

The 24-year-old Richards’ numbers don’t tell the whole story with this pitcher.  He owns a 4.74 ERA in the major leagues so far, not exactly a dominant performance.  However, Richards was solid at every step in the minor leagues and owns a career 3.34 ERA on the farm.  Richards has a 96+ mph four-seam fastball, a 94+ mph two seam fastball that has been nearly unhittable, a sweeping slider that has always been graded as a “plus” pitch, a 12/6 curve that buckles the knees of most batters given it’s contrast in speed with the rest of his pitches and a change up that he can throw for a strike.  As far arsenal goes, Richards has “top of the rotation” written all over him.  In fact, if you’re asking for fantasy advice, I’d say go add him right now, I believe his performance should be on par with the likes of Shelby Miller and Alex Cobb for the next month. 

However, the concern for the Angels isn’t necessarily whether or not their rotation is good enough.  But is it on its last legs?  Can the Angels afford to lose another starter?  The Angels almost certainly is a loud and resounding “no”.  After Garrett Richards, their option are thin at best.  Jerome Williams is their long reliever and he posted a 4.58 ERA last season, most of his appearances coming from the rotation.  He should be considered a slight step below Joe Blanton.  They could dip down to AAA where Barry Enright has seen considerable success.  Enright even posted a 3.91 ERA in a half season’s worth of work in 2010, but no one expects him to amount to anything other than a swing-starter.  Still, Jerry Dipoto is known for his keen scouting eye and specifically singled out Enright last season when the Angels could use pitching depth.  Still, could we really expect the likes of Williams and Enright to replace a pitcher the likes of Jered Weaver for any extended period of time?  As far as prospects go, A.J. Schugel and Matt Shoemaker are both in AAA.  Both pitchers have a lot of movement on the ball, but much like Williams and Enright, no one is confident they are long term solutions.

In essence, we could sum up the Angels situation like this.  They’ll be alright with Garrett Richards for now in Weaver’s expected month long absence.  However, the Angels absolutely couldn’t stomach another serious blow to the rotation.  If one of their current starters were to go down, you could expect one of two things to occur.  The first, they’d struggle to keep pace with the likes of Oakland and Texas.  The second, they’d explore the trade market only to find they don’t have the prospects to pull a deal.

About Scott Allen

Scott is a writer for The Outside Corner and writer/prospect expert at Monkey With A Halo can be followed on Twitter @ScottyA_MWAH