In fantasy baseball, circumstance is sometimes nearly as important as talent, and Tyler Skaggs is in a relatively favorable spot right now. For one, the young left-hander’s greatest strength may actually be the Angels’ greatest weakness: lack of pitching depth.
After Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, the Halos don’t have much in the way of established starting pitching. Garrett Richards, owner of a 4.42 career ERA and 1.43 WHIP, doesn’t inspire much confidence, and Hector Santiago, who posted a 3.56 ERA in 2013, might be set for a return to reality considering his .289 BABIP was well below his minor league average. The latter two starters both have excellent stuff and could put up big numbers, but 2014 doesn’t seem like the time to expect big production.
The takeaway from this is that while Skaggs will start the season as the fifth starter in the rotation, he’ll have an excellent shot at moving up from that spot. It’s hard to imagine both Richards and Santiago putting up great numbers, which could open the door a bit for Skaggs.
There’s also the advantage of the Angels’ lineup, as I mentioned when I wrote about C.J. Wilson last week. With a fully-healthy Albert Pujols and a bulked-up Josh Hamilton hitting behind breakout candidate Kole Calhoun and MVP candidate Mike Trout, that lineup is looking seriously scary.
When it comes to Skaggs himself, however, the left-hander’s greatest statistical asset is his strikeout totals. He averaged 9.8 K/9 in the minors, results attributable to his excellent stuff. Featuring a fastball with plus-velocity that’s complemented by a pretty nasty curveball, there’s little doubt Skaggs has the stuff to be a solid fantasy contributor. He’s also looked solid this spring, quieting concerns about his velocity drop last season by displaying a fastball in the mid-90s. He even limited the Reds to just one hit in four innings on Sunday, drawing praise from manager Mike Scioscia.
Before you get too high on Skaggs, however, he’s far from perfect. Most disconcerting is the fact that he has all of 68 big league innings under his belt, and he’s compiled a 5.43 ERA over that span.
An interesting part of Skaggs’ struggles in the majors is his trouble liming home runs. After allowing a measly 34 long balls in 498.2 minor league innings (0.6 HR/9), he’s let up 13 homers in the majors for a terrible 1.7 HR/9 rate. With Skaggs’ stuff, it’s hard to imagine the trend of home run susceptibility will continue, which bodes well for the young starter. He’ll have to prove he can locate the ball better in the strike zone, however.
In short, Skaggs has the benefit of a favorable situation with the Angels and the potential to rack up some lofty strikeout totals, but until he can address some of the red flags concerning him, it’s best to proceed with caution around the young left-hander. Even so, given his ADP (411.42, 113th among starters), it's easy to pick up some established pitchers early and then take the minimal risk on Skaggs. In other words, why not?