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Searching for Hope in the Angels Rotation

Is there any way that the Angels could piece together a competitive rotation without delving into the trade market? Probably not. What about a competent one? Again, the outlook is not so good. But the farm system isn't entirely barren.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last few years, there have been precious few certainties in Major League Baseball - that is part of what makes it the best game in the world. Even so, the Angels have been one of the few teams that stands out for its predictability; Mike Trout will be wonderful, Jered Weaver will ply his trade with batting practice fastballs, the rotation as a whole will be riddled with question marks, and the team's farm system will continue to offer a whole lot of nothing. Despite the organization's perceived shortcomings, however, some felt that the rotation a shot at being a strength this season. After all, Garrett Richards had flashed top of the rotation potential, Hector Santiago has been a FIP-beater, and Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs were ready to take the next step. And then everyone got hurt.

Well, not everyone - just Richards, Heaney, and Skaggs, with the first two likely to miss the remainder of the season.

The hot topic surrounding the Angels right now is whether they should consider dealing Trout, in an effort to restock the farm system in one fell swoop. And that idea may have merit; however, it does not fully solve the problem of who is going to fill out the team's rotation for the next five months. By my count, there are four internal options that could step-in at some point in 2016:

Nate Smith, LHP

For better or worse, Smith became the most big league ready prospect in the Angels system on the heels of the Sean Newcomb deal. The 6'3", 200-plus pound southpaw is a prototypical command/control type, pairing a 90-ish MPH fastball with a legitimately above-average change-up. Smith supplements those offerings with fringe-y breaking balls (a slider and a curve), throwing all four pitches for strikes. He's pitched quite well in Triple-A Salt Lake thus far, with a 3.79 ERA, 7.8 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9 in 35.2 IP (six starts), and could probably step into the Angels rotation today, if the need arose. Smith doesn't profile as much more than a back of the rotation starter, due to his lack of swing and miss stuff, but he should limit walks and keep the ball in the park.

Kyle McGowin, RHP

McGowin was recently promoted to Triple-A, where he was hit pretty hard by in his debut at the level. His minor league numbers have been mostly underwhelming on the whole, but he has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter. The 24-year-old McGowin features a low-90s sinking fastball and a solid average slider, though his change-up is still a work in progress. He has been home run prone in the minors (which could be a product of spending his entire professional career in hitter-friendly environments), but the movement on his fastball portends good groundball rates should he be able to consistently pound the bottom-third of the zone. McGowin's upside is higher than Smith's, but he is a bit less refined overall. He may need more time in Triple-A to work on his command and change-up.

Victor Alcantara, RHP

If McGowin's numbers were a bit disconcerting, then you may not want to look into Alcantara's. The flamethrowing 23-year-old might have the best pure stuff in the Angels system, with an upper-90s fastball with great movement and an above-average slider. However, his command and control leave a great deal to be desired, and his lack of a workable change-up portends a future in the bullpen. Alcantara will get every opportunity to start, though, and the Angels have a great deal of need in the Majors right now. If he turns things around in Double-A Arkansas, I could see him getting a chance to showcase his stuff at the highest level sooner rather than later.

Alex Blackford, RHP

Heading into this season, Blackford was one of my guys. The 5'10", 200 pound righty spent the majority of his first three professional seasons as a reliever (a role that he filled in college), racking up strikeouts and limiting hard contact. With new GM Billy Eppler in tow, the Angels decided to convert Blackford to the rotation - a common occurrence with the Yankees, Eppler's former employer. Blackford features a low-to-mid 90s fastball with excellent movement and a big breaking ball, along with a surprisingly potent change-up. He did just hit the DL with a minor injury, and he only has 12 starts in his professional career, but I could see him forcing the issue ... perhaps even sooner than Alcantara.

When it comes down to fantasy leagues, I do think that Smith will be worth a flier when he eventually gets the call to the Show. Angel Stadium offers a pitcher-friendly home park, and he could be a potent streaming option as a result. Outside of Smith, however, I am not sure that any of these pitchers are worth consideration outside of deep, AL-only leagues. Alcantara and Blackford could be worth a grab and stash for the future, but neither seems likely to have a positive impact in the rotation this season.