Angels Loading Up On Young Starters, But Who Will Play Second Base?

At the top of the Angels starting rotation are veteran Jered Weaver, last year’s amazing rookie Matt Shoemaker, and the fast-declining C.J. Wilson. Following them first and foremost is Garrett Richards, whose return date from last year’s serious leg injury remains uncertain. Then, there is the inconsistent Hector Santiago, and the also injured Tyler Skaggs, whose return timetable is even more uncertain than Richards’. The lack of depth was a major problem for Angels last season, and it became most pronounced as the post season approached, and quickly ended. Thus, additional and improved starting pitching was to be an off-season priority for general manager Jerry Dipoto.

There have been two potential additions to the starting staff, but both of these guys are young, inexperienced, and unproven rookies, who may or may not be ready for regular turns on a major league pennant contender. Nick Tropeano, as 24-year-old righty with four major league appearances and 21-2/3 inning pitched under his belt, was acquired from Houston in exchange for back-up catcher Hank Conger. Tropeano has pitched close to 500 innings over four minor league seasons, and
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should be ready to fill a spot on a major league roster, but whether that means being ready to be solid and consistent enough for a regular rotation spot through a pennant race remains uncertain.

Even more uncertain is the immediate future of Andrew Heaney, acquired this week from the Dodgers in exchange for long-time Angels’ second baseman Howie Kendrick. Heaney also had a cup of coffee in the majors late last season, with slightly worse results than Tropeano. Heaney was in seven games, going 0-3 with a 5.83 ERA. Even more significant than that, however, is the fact that at 23, he has far less minor league experience than Tropeano, pitching only slightly more than 250 innings over the last two seasons, with an addition six appearances in 2012. While the lefty Heaney has been considered a Top-20 prospect, the chances of him being ready to contribute as a member of the Angels’ rotation this coming season is much less likely that even Tropeano’s chance.

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And then there is the question of just how Mike Scioscia will fill the gaping hole at second base. As of now, there appears to be three contenders for the spot, veteran Gordon Beckham, acquired late last season from the White Sox and who played well in 26 games for the Angels but who is now a free agent, Grant Green, acquired the season before from Oakland for Alberto Callaspo and who has hit well in limited playing time since, but who is a question mark defensively at second (and as
I have said before, at 6′ 3″, appears much more suited for third base), and the newly acquired Josh Rutledge, who at 25 is the youngest of the three but who has played pretty well over three seasons as a part-timer, mostly at shortstop, for Colorado.

Are more moves coming? That remains to be seen, but as of now, the team with baseball’s best record through the 2014 regular season, with the exception of the bullpen that was rebuilt magnificently during the season, appears to be less strong, less deep, and with maybe even more question marks, than a year ago.

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