Jerry Dipoto loves him some Tyler Skaggs. Unfortunately, he's poised to make life difficult for the Mariners in 2017.
The 25 year-old lefty was taken late in the 1st round of the 2009 draft out of Santa Monica High School, and was on a fast track to debut for his (relatively) hometown team. Then, a year later, he was part of a trade with the Diamondbacks involving several luminaries, including Patrick Corbin and one Joseph Francis Saunders, for Dan Haren. The trade occurred on August 7th, 2010, during Dipoto's roughly three-month stretch as the interim general manager for the Dbacks. Skaggs made his MLB debut at the age of 20 in Arizona, but struggled to find consistency, posting an FIP of 5.29 in his time there, with a fastball that topped out at 90 mph.
Prior to the 2014 season, Skaggs’ phone lit up again; he was a part of another trade, larger and more riddled with fascinating names than the previous one. He was also headed home. The Diamondbacks felt comfortable with their glut of outfield talent, and were covetous of the powerful bat wielded by Sir Mark Trumbo. In the midst of a contentious power struggle with Angels manager and animated tomato Mike Scioscia, LA’s general manager Gerard Dipoto spied a chance to reacquire the then-22 year-old Skaggs.
In a three-way deal, the Angels acquired Skaggs from Arizona and another young starter, Hector Santiago, from the White Sox. Arizona received Trumbo, as well as reliever A.J. Schugel (probably real) and minor leaguer Brandon Jacobs (an excellent running back and subpar outfielder). The White Sox, though it’s neither here nor there as it relates to Skaggs, received Adam Eaton, who was the 11th most valuable position player in the MLB last year by fWAR.
Skaggs broke out in 2014, with mechanical adjustments and a renewed physical adjustment that led to his average fastball jumping up to over 92 mph, and the numbers followed. In 113 innings, he tallied 86 strikeouts to just 30 walks, and posted an impressive 3.55 FIP in 18 starts. Just as he seemed to have broken through, he met the fate of so many young pitchers these days: Tommy John.
After missing the entire 2015 season, there were many question marks about if Skaggs could maintain his new and improved velocity and effectiveness. Fortunately for the general sentiment of kindness to your fellow man, but unfortunately for the Seattle Mariners, Skaggs came back in the second half of 2016 and looked as dangerous as before. In just 49.2 innings, Skaggs put up a career high K/9 of just over 9, with a sub-4 FIP yet again. He almost completely discarded his two-seam, and worked a simple fastball-curveball-changeup combination to flummox hitters.
At 6'4, 215 lbs, Skaggs has the body to be a workhorse, but has yet to put it all together for a full season. Last year, Angels pitchers were caught in a miasma that seemed to target any part of the body that could be required for a pitching motion. With the return of Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, who went down with a right elbow injury and a horrifying line drive off the head, respectively, Skaggs will be right at home in a thin-but-talented Angels rotation that Jake outlined in depth this morning. A year and a half removed from surgery, he is projected for 2.5 fWAR and a 3.69 FIP this year. If his health holds, the Mariners will have to face off against Dipoto's former favorite son frequently in 2017. Unfortunately, they'll be in for a fight.