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Devilish Injury Strikes Angels’ Rotation

Spring training just does not seem to agree with Angels starting pitchers. Last year, the top two projected arms in the rotation (John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar) were felled by health issues. While ace Lackey (triceps) returned in mid-May and turned in another solid campaign, number two man Escobar (shoulder) never threw a pitch for the big league club in 2008.

Unfortunately, a health issue has once again knocked out LAA’s projected number two starter, as Ervin Santana will begin the 2009 campaign on the disabled list with a sprained medial collateral ligament (also known as UCL, the stabilizing ligament in the elbow made famous by Tommy John Surgery). The timing is especially disappointing for both the Angels and fantasy owners, as Santana had just turned in a highly promising season (4.55 K/BB ratio, 3.30 FIP) an inked a four-year, $30M contract extension during the offseason.

With Santana shelved, the Angels must now select two starters from a group that includes Dustin Moseley, Shane Loux and Nicholas Adenhart.

Moseley began the 2008 season as Los Angeles’ fifth starter, making five early season starts. In all, the right-hander made 10 starts for the club as well as two relief appearances. The results look downright ugly (6.79 ERA), but an unangelic .379 BABIP did him no favors. Moseley’s FIP was a more tolerable 4.52 in 50.1 innings of work, as he posted rates of 6.62 K/9 and 3.58 BB/9.

His work in AAA, however, inspires little confidence. Moseley struck out 6.4 batters per nine innings and walked 2.62, but he surrendered nearly 1.8 HR/9. The 6-4, 190 pounder was once considered a gifted prospect (the Reds drafted him in the first round back in 2000), but he’s definitely more of a finesse pitcher these days. The 27 year-old features an 88-90 MPH fastball, a mid-70’s curve and a low-80’s changeup.

Loux is another low-octane right-hander. The 6-2, 235 pounder, formerly a Tigers prospect, went five years between big league performances. After last reaching the majors in 2003, Loux tossed 16 frames for the Angels last season. Loux spent some time with the Royals in ’06 and was released by the Mariners prior to 2007, at which point he contemplated hanging up his cleats. While donning the tools of ignorance a pitching prospect in an indoor facility, Loux switched places with the guy for a few pitches and impressed the facility owner. The owner referred Loux to an Angels scout. Returning to the mound in ’08, Loux posted rates of 5.02 K/9 and 2.61 BB/9 with AAA Salt Lake City. The 29 year-old kills some worms (51.8 GB% in AAA) with a 90 MPH sinker and a hard mid-80’s slider.

Adenhart entered the 2008 season as the pride and joy of the Angels’ player development system. The lanky right-hander was considered a premier prospect in the 2004 amateur draft, but an elbow injury caused him to fall to the 14th round. Undeterred, the Angels ponied up $710K for Adenhart’s services. Possessing a low-90’s heater, a sharp curveball and a changeup, Adenhart got his career off to a great start. After punching out over a batter per inning in rookie ball in 2005, he split the ’06 season between Low-A and High-A, whiffing around eight hitters per nine innings while issuing around 2.5 walks per nine.

Bumped up to AA for the 2007 campaign, Adenhart threw 153 innings with rates of 6.82 K/9 and 3.82 BB/9. He got off to a superficially impressive start in 2008 at AAA and received a call-up to the majors, but he was beaten like a drum in three starts: 12 IP, 18 hits, 12 runs, 4/13 K/BB ratio. Returned to Salt Lake, Adenhart struck out an adequate 6.81 per nine but his control took a step backward (4.64 BB/9). Despite his struggles, the 22 year-old still has plenty of believers in the scouting community (Baseball America named him LAA’s #1 prospect during the offseason). However, Adenhart’s turbulent big league introduction and erratic work at AAA suggest that he’s not big league ready.