Up next in our prospect countdown, quite possibly the breakout star of not only the Angel farm system, but maybe all of minor league baseball, pitcher Matt Shoemaker. From undrafted to Texas League Pitcher of the Year, is his big season for real and, if so, what can Halo fans expect from him?
2011 Season Stats (AA): 12-5, 156.1 IP, 2.48 ERA, 132 H, 17 HR, 35 BB, 129 K, 3.79 FIP, .261 BABIP, 0.80 GO/AO
2011 Season Stats (AAA): 0-2, 21.0 IP, 8.14 ERA, 28 H, 3 HR, 12 BB, 12 K, 5.77 FIP, .347 BABIP, 1.14 GO/AO
Fastball – B-. It’s a straight 91 mph fastball, nothing fancy. It’s effective because he spots it.
Breaking Ball – B. His slider is good in AA, but doesn’t grade a plus pitch in the majors.
Change up – A. He uses a splitter as his change. Great speed differential and diving action.
Performance – A. Angels minor league pitcher of the year.
Projection – 5th starter or effective swing man.
Comp – Floor: Trevor Bell. Ceiling: Derek Lowe.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date: Possibly mid-2012, more likely 2013
Season Summary: Shoemaker came out of nowhere to become a top pitcher in the Texas League and all but forced his way onto this prospect list. After a fairly non-descript season in High-A ball the year before, Shoemaker got the promotion to Double-A and absolutely dominated the Texas League, leading the the league both in ERA and strikeouts. That was good enough to earn him an All-Star nod, Texas League Pitcher of the Year and a spot on this year's USA Baseball team. Not too bad for a guy who wasn't even drafted out of college.
The big thing to worry about with any Traveler pitcher is whether or not his stats are artificially improved by playing in the spacious confines of Dickey-Stephens Park. That wasn't the case at all for Shoemaker though as his home-road splits were nearly identical. If anything, Shoemaker was better away from Little Rock with a road ERA of 2.33 and BAA of .210. Whatever the reason for his breakout season, those splits certainly indicate that it is for real. That being said, Shoemaker is not as good as his numbers. His 3.79 FIP with the Travs strongly suggests that a fair amount of luck was involved. That doesn't mean he didn't have a nice season, just that his level of dominance is probably not going to be sustainable.
There is one red flag for Shoemaker though. At the beginning of the season, he actually started in Triple-A, making four starts for the Bees, getting shelled in the process. He returned to Double-A after posting an 8.14 ERA in Salt Lake. That could easily be explained away as him not being able to make such a big jump so fast, but it also might be an early warning sign that his stuff just isn't going to work at that level of competition or in the hitter-friendly environments of the Pacific Coast League.
What to Expect in 2012: Fully expect Shoemaker and his awesome 'stache to start the season in Triple-A. The thin air in Salt Lake should be a true test of whether or not Shoemaker's new found ability to not allow hits was a one year fluke or not. If he reverts to his pre-2011 form, Shoemaker could disappear from the prospect radar just as fast as he got on it. Of course, if he can continue to limit base hits, his strikeout and walk rates should allow him to have decent success and possibly even make him a candidate for the Angels' major league rotation in 2013.
The guess here, in a word, is "regression." Shoemaker has always managed to miss bats at a good rate, but his flyball tendencies and hittability are not going to make for a fun time in the PCL. Hopefully he won't get bombed all the way back to Double-A, but it seems unlikely that he will be much more than an average to above average performer.