It’s time to move on from the teams in the AL Central and look at the players who are out of options beyond the borders of our favorite MLB divsion. From here on out I will tackle teams in alphabetical order with the notable exception of skipping the AL Central teams I’ve already covered and the Royals which I will tackle at the very end. The Los Angeles Angels have five players, all pitchers, on their 40-man roster that are out of options. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Now 27-years old the right-handed reliever made his big league debut with the Angels in 2010 and finished the season with a 3.15 ERA in 20.0 innings but did so with a 1.55 WHIP, 8 BB and 8 SO. The following season he made 30 appearances with LA. In 39.2 IP he drastically decreased the number of hits allowed per nine which dropped his WHIP to 1.19 on the season and helped him to a 2.72 ERA. However his 24-19 SO-to-BB remained subpar and suggested that Cassevah was a reliever that would be unable to sustain his early and improbable results. In 2012 the wheels came off for the Angels 34th round pick back in 2004. He put together a 32-21 SO-to-BB, 1.66 WHIP and 5.79 ERA in 51.1 minor league innings – all but five of them with Salt Lake (AAA). Cassevah did manage to log an additional 5.0 innings for the Angels in late-May and early-June but the results – 4 ER, 5 H, 6 BB, 2 SO – mirrored the rest of his season. Even in the minors he has had trouble finding the strike zone and he lacks the type of strikeout stuff that causes teams to overlook a bit of wildness. Cassevah has thrown 401.2 innings in the minors and another 64.2 in the majors with a 1.30 SO/BB – a far cry from the minimum 2+ ratio you’d look for in a quality bullpen asset. Even though he’s an extreme ground ball pitcher, which somewhat mitigates his low strikeout to walk ratio, there’s just not enough there to believe he’s going to find much success going forward. As far as the Royals interest here, I think his track record more than speaks for itself. He should be avoided at all costs if he hits the market and given the Angels other candidates in camp for their 2013 bullpen, chances are he will be available.
Frieri, a right-handed reliever, was signed out of Columbia by the Padres back in 2003. LA acquired him last May by giving up Donn Roach and Alexi Amarista. Roach was fantastic for San Diego’s high-A affiliate but there is little doubt why the Angels saw fit to trade him away to get their hands on Frieri. In many ways he’s the polar opposite of Cassevah. In four seasons in the majors Frieri has thrown 162.2 innings with a stellar 2.32 ERA and 1.14 WHIP to go with 217 strikeouts and 82 walks. That works out to a fantastic 2.65 SO/BB and he matched or outperformed his career marks in nearly every category after the trade. His big league resume is far more impressive than his minor league one but that’s primarily a function of his career taking off after he was moved back to the bullpen in 2010 (he was used primarily as a starter during the 2008 and 2009 seasons). Frieri is the type of reliever you make room for on your roster if you’re the Royals, or any other team. That is, if you can get your hands on him. There is little chance that he’s not with the Angels on Opening Day.
Jepsen, 28, represents the third straight right-handed reliever we’ve looked at. The Angels 2nd round pick in the 2002 draft, he’s coming off the fifth season in which he accumulated some major league service time. More important than that, 2012 was the best of his career. In 44.2 innings he pitched to a 3.02 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 7.7 SO/9 and 3.17 SO/BB. Jepsen was on the mound at the end of the game for 11 of his 49 appearances for LA and earned two saves in the process. He is a power arm that appears to be coming into his own thanks to his cutter and curveball which both served as above average major league pitches in 2012. That’s in addition to his fastball that he threw at an average velocity of 96.4 mph last year and wound up 4.5 runs above major league average. Jepsen and the Angels avoided arbitration at the end of January by agreeing to a $1.18 million salary for the upcoming season. He figures to be on their 25-man roster at the end of Spring Training, but even if he does hit the market the Royals don’t figure to give him much of a look. That’s not to say that Jepsen isn’t valuable. There’s reason to believe he will continue to improve in the coming years, but the Royals bullpen is already crowded with talented, power options that are younger.
Now that we’ve come to Mills, we finally get to a starting pitcher but he’s also different from the trio we’ve already discussed because he’s a lefty. Twice drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays (22nd round in 2006 and 4th round in 2007) Los Angeles acquired him on December 3rd, 2011 by giving up the services of Jeff Mathis. Since making his major league debut back in 2009, Mills has appeared in 15 games including 10 starts. Overall he has a 7.76 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 53.1 innings with the Blue Jays and Angels. Last season he made just one start, on July 8th, in the big leagues. He made the most of it tossing a 5.0 inning, 3 hit shutout that included 6 strikeouts and no walks. That glimmer of hope aside, the rest of his season was spent with Salt Lake in the PCL and it wound up being the worst of his six minor league seasons – 5.86 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, and 1.68 SO/BB in 109.0 IP. The Angels rotation appears set one through five (barring injuries of course). That means Mills is on the outside looking in and the bullpen would also figure to be a long shot. As a control pitcher that primarily throws in the 80s with a changeup as his best pitch, he’s not a viable option for Kansas City. As much as we may doubt Hochevar’s ability to put it together, Chen’s ability to recapture his 2010-2011 form or Mendoza’s ability to defy the odds and produce (despite lackluster peripherals) all three are better back of the rotation options than is Brad Mills. The same could be said for Adcock, Teaford and Will Smith for that matter.
Williams was the 39th player taken in the 1999 MLB Draft by San Francisco and his star was burning hot right out of the gates. He was the Giants #1 prospect prior to 2000 and 2001 and he was their #3 prospect prior to the 2002 season. He wasn’t just one of the best in San Francisco’s system however, Baseball America had him on their Top-100 prospect list at #19, #19 and #50 in those same three years. He made his major league debut in 2003 and turned in a 3.30 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 88-49 SO-to-BB in 21 starts (131.0 IP). He was just 21-years old at the time and the future looked very bright for the right-hander. Unfortunately his first big league season was his best. He’s battled several injury issues and bouts of ineffectiveness ever since. Now at 31 years of age, he’s a shell of what he once was but still managed to finish 2012 with a 4.58 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 98-35 SO-to-BB. Williams appeared in 32 games last year, started 15, threw a complete game shutout and notched his first career save. Given his versatility and assuming his arm is sound I’d be surprised if he doesn’t make the Angels Opening Day roster. That said if Williams does hit the market it would certainly give me pause if I happened to be in Dayton Moore’s shoes. I can’t say definitively that he’s better than many of the options in the Royals roster mix, but he could be and his proven versatility is appealing. If this were 2011 or 2012 he’d have provided a significant upgrade, but instead we’re looking at 2013 and Kansas City’s pitching staff is far better, top to bottom, than it’s been in a very long time.