Angels right-hander Nick Tropeano has been diagnosed with a medium- to high-grade tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the team informed reporters (Twitter link via Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times). While he’s headed for a second opinion, Tommy John surgery is the likely outcome. While he could potentially aim for the same stem-cell treatment that teammates Andrew Heaney and Garrett Richards have utilized — Heaney has been ticketed for Tommy John surgery in spite of said alternative — MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez notes (links to Twitter) that doing so would mean that Tropeano’s recovery would linger well into the 2018 season if he attempts the treatment and ultimately finds it unsuccessful.
For the Angels, the highly likely loss of Tropeano adds to what has been a nearly unprecedented deluge of pitching injuries. The Halos have now lost Richards, Heaney and Tropeano to UCL tears, while left-hander C.J. Wilson will not pitch this season due to shoulder surgery. Further complicating matters for the Halos has been Jered Weaver’s significant dip in velocity, as the former ace has limped to a 5.02 ERA in 107 2/3 innings this season with a fastball that sits in the 82-83 mph range. Left-hander Tyler Skaggs has yet to pitch at the big league level this season due to setbacks in the recovery from his own Tommy John surgery (in late 2014), though he’s said to be nearing a return to the big league rotation at long last.
The Angels were already clearly out of the picture in the American League West and in the AL Wild Card race, but the loss of so many arms with injuries that will cost them some or all of the 2017 season calls into question how willingly they can part with potential trade chips like Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker. Anaheim’s farm system has been largely depleted by trades and the forfeiture of high draft picks to sign free agents, and the team has very little in the pipeline that is on the immediate horizon. If the club is able to acquire some near-term rotation options in trades for either of those arms or for potential trade chips like Yunel Escobar and Huston Street, it’d be a major boon to the system. However, as it stands, the club’s rotation consists of Weaver, Shoemaker, Santiago and the struggling Tim Lincecum, with Skaggs, Jhoulys Chacin and prospect Nate Smith serving as possible alternatives.
While the Angels have seen their share of struggles out of the rotation this season, Tropeano had been a bright spot, logging a 3.56 ERA with 9.0 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and a 33.3 percent ground-ball rate in 68 1/3 innings. Acquired from the Astros alongside Carlos Perez (in exchange for catcher Hank Conger), Tropeano is under control through the 2021 season, so even if Tommy John surgery is the ultimate outcome, the 25-year-old will have plenty of time to contribute to future Angels’ pitching staffs down the line.