The Angels’ 2011 Rotation

The Angels won’t have to look outside the organization for pitching this winter, since they have six major league starters under team control for 2011 plus an assortment of minor league arms. If the group stays healthy, the Angels could have one of the league’s better rotations next year.

That’s especially true if Scott Kazmir can recapture the form that made him one of the league’s most exciting starters just a couple years ago. He’s just 26, so we shouldn’t rule out a mid-career renaissance for the left-hander. Still, Kazmir’s walk rate remains high (4.9 BB/9) and his strikeout rate has dropped for the third consecutive season and now sits at 5.6 K/9. That’s not too far below the league average, but Kazmir struck out 10.4 batters per nine just a few seasons ago as a 23-year-old. The Angels don’t need Kazmir to strike out more than a batter per inning again, but they do need him to lower his 6.19 ERA.

Kazmir is something of a variable, but the Angels have four more predictable starters. Jered Weaver has been one of the league’s best pitchers this year. The 27-year-old has set himself up for a big raise through arbitration after posting a 3.14 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. Ervin Santana has put together another strong season (4.02 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 186 innings) and he’ll be back in 2011. Joel Pineiro is now recovering from a left oblique strain on the disabled list, but he was effective in 20 starts before getting hurt, posting a 4.18 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. 

Dan Haren hasn’t had any trouble adjusting back to the American League since the Angels traded for him in July. He has a 3.39 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in L.A. and he doesn’t turn 30 until next week, so like the rest of the Angels rotation, he’s still in his prime.

If Kazmir falters or someone gets hurt, manager Mike Scioscia will be able to call on Trevor Bell. The rookie right-hander is in the Angels rotation now and has pitched well so far. His season ERA sits at 4.85, but his strikeout (6.6 K/9) and walk (2.9 BB/9) rates are respectable. The former first rounder has always shown excellent command in the minors and Baseball America suggested before the season that Bell could become a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Other Angels prospects are further away from contributing in the major leagues. Trevor Reckling, a 21-year-old left-hander, and Fernando Rodriguez, a 26-year-old right-hander, have struggled with command at Triple A this year. Reckling could become a mid-rotation starter, according to Baseball America, but he isn’t there yet. Tyler Chatwood pitched at three levels this year and the 20-year-old posted a 2.84 ERA with improved command. It was a promising season for the right-hander, but he still only has 13 games of experience above A ball.

The combination of Weaver, Haren, Santana, Pineiro, Kazmir and Bell should give the Angels a strong rotation next year. That depends on health, of course, but for the time being, GM Tony Reagins can focus on other needs since the Angels' 2011 rotation seems capable of keeping the club in contention.