On Wednesday night in Arlington, Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker collected his 15th win of the season, setting a rookie record for the AL West division leaders.
Shoemaker, 27, isn't your typical rookie. He's less than a month away from turning 28 (and shares the same birthday as yours truly), and spent the better part of five seasons honing his craft at Triple-A Salt Lake.
While in Triple-A (in the Pacific Coast League), he posted a 5.38 ERA and 1.48 WHIP and 331:103 K:BB ratio across 423 innings -- not exactly a dominant line.
But the Halos hurler has burst on the scene in 2014, starting 15-4 and recording a 3.16 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 119 strikeouts in 128 1/3 innings. He's the No. 29 starting pitcher entering play on Friday, according to the ESPN Player Rater, and is the second most valuable starter in Anaheim -- trailing only breakout stud Garrett Richards (No. 10), who is out for the season and hasn't pitched since Aug. 20.
The Shoe started the year in the bullpen, but injuries and ineffectiveness from the team's starting five forced him in and out of Anaheim's rotation. Since the All-Star break, Shoemaker has started exclusively, leading all of baseball with seven wins in 10 starts. Over this time, he's gone 7-2 with a 1.95 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings, while holding opponents to a .200/.240/.306 slash line (drool).
More impressively, Shoemaker has shown elite command, posting a 6.33 K/BB rate in the second half, which is seventh best in baseball. On the season, he owns a 4.96 K/BB rate, which flirts with the top-10 qualifiers in the category. And his 4.6 percent walk rate would rank among the top-12 starters if he qualified.
Given Shoemaker's track record in the minors, it's hard to believe he'll again produce top-30 numbers next season, but it's not entirely out of the question either. Shoemaker relies on a change/splitter because his fastball velocity isn't anything special (~90 mph), and a 63.4 percent first-pitch strike rate has certainly helped contribute to low walk rates.
I'm concerned the league will catch up to his ordinary stuff (outside of his change/splitter), and we'll see Shoemaker struggle in his sophomore season. His strikeouts have been inconsistent from game to game, and nothing in his batted ball profile really sticks out at you.
If you own the bearded one in a keeper or dynasty league, I'd look to shop him aggressively in the offseason -- his sudden emergence and hot finish could net you something good.
Next season, I expect Shoemaker to be a game-by-game streamer and not an everyday starting option in standard 12- or 14-team formats.
Stats from FanGraphs.com