Prospect Spotlight: Nick Tropeano. Possible 2015 AL Rookie of the Year?
Nick Tropeano does not get mentioned as an elite prospect. In fact he rarely gets mentioned at all. He didn’t make any of the top 100 prospects lists that have been released this Spring. He doesn’t have a blazing fastball. Nor does he have a picture-perfect windup and delivery. He didn’t play at a major college. He didn’t get drafted until the 5th round. He didn’t get his first cup of coffee in the major leagues until he was 24.
What he does have is some striking similarities with several other unheralded pitchers who achieved unexpected success last year. What do the likes of Jacob deGrom, Matt Shoemaker, Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel, James Paxton and Yusmeiro Petit have in common? A few things actually:
A.) None of them were high draft picks or bonus babies.
B.) None of them were ever considered top prospects.
C.) They all got their first extended major league action in 2014 while in their mid-to-late twenties in age.
D.) They all pitched extensively in the AAA Pacific Coast League, which is a notoriously tough league for pitchers.
E.) They all had good strikeout rates in AAA and appeared on the K-BB% leaderboard in the PCL.
F.) None of them are flamethrowers.
G.) All have large, varied repertoires
H.) They all came out of nowhere to post excellent results in the major leagues last year.
DeGrom won the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Shoemaker finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting while McHugh finished fourth. Can Tropeano match their success? I believe he can, if not this year then next.
Cut From the Same Mold
Tropeano is a big man at six foot five inches tall and 205 pounds. He was a 5th round pick out of SUNY Stony Brook. He never made a top 100 prospects list in his minor league career. His fastball sports only average velocity at 91.4 mph. He also uses a sinker, slider, changeup and a rare splitter. That is a nice 5 pitch mix. All are considered major league average pitches, with the changeup sometimes grading at plus.
The Angels acquired Tropeano this winter by trading Hank Conger to the Astros. Tropeano has averaged a nice 9.2 K/9 and 3.42 K/BB throughout his minor league career. He pitched last season at the AAA level in the extremely hitter-friendly PCL and thrived, leading the league in ERA, WHIP and the all-important K-BB%. He was the best pitcher in the PCL last year at the age of 23, in a league where many of the pitchers (and batters) are several years older, including quite a few with major league experience. Noah Syndergaard was the best prospect in the league but Tropeano outpitched him in most metrics. Getting advanced hitters out in small, high-altitude ballparks where pitches don’t break well in the thin air takes some savvy. Tropeano’s forte is command at the bottom of the strike zone with all of his pitches. That is a recipe for getting major league hitters out as well.
People tend to think of Tropeano as a guy with the ceiling of a #4-5 starter who eats innings at the back end of a mediocre rotation. I am here to tell you that Tropeano has a chance to be more than that. He is not ace material. He won’t lead your fantasy team to a championship all by himself. But if given an opportunity he can be a breakout pitcher similar to the surprisingly good pitchers above. Those guys were the difference makers in many fantasy leagues last year. All of them began the year either in the minors or in a major league bullpen. They were on the waiver wire in 99% of fantasy leagues to start the season. Some team in every league picked them up for a song and received a tremendous boost to their bottom line stats as the season progressed. Tropeano could do the same thing for you this year. Keep an eye on Tropeano and be ready to pounce on him if he gets a chance to join the Angels’ starting rotation.
Right now it looks like Tropeano could be on the outside looking in at the Angels’ rotation. He is battling Hector Santiago, Andrew Heaney and possibly Tyler Skaggs for the 5th slot. If Garrett Richards misses the early part of the season due to his knee injury it could give Tropeano a chance to grab a job right from the start. If not, then he might have to wait awhile to get his chance. If (or when) he gets that chance, Tropeano could be in store for some excellent fantasy results. The Angels play in a very friendly ballpark for pitchers (only AT&T and Petco have lower park factors). They also have a very strong defensive lineup (the Angels had the 6th best defensive efficiency ratio in baseball). Not only that, the Angels were the highest scoring team in the majors last year. All this means that Tropeano is likely to have a lower ERA and WHIP and snare more Wins because of the team he plays for. Having a good Angels starting pitcher on your team is likely to pay off handsomely.
What will it cost you to get him?
To give us some sense of Tropeano’s value in fantasy leagues right now, let’s start with his ADP of 669 according to FantasyPros. Now that is mostly for re-draft leagues, but it does give us a sense of what fantasy owners are thinking about Tropeano. Essentially they are not thinking of him at all. Tropeano is ranked as the 175th-best pitcher in the FantasyPros consensus rankings. He didn’t make our TDG top 200 starting pitcher rankings at all. He is not rostered in most dynasty leagues. Dynasty owners are excited about prospects like Kris Bryant, Byron Buxton and Yoan Moncada — not Nick Tropeano. Even if he is rostered in your league I would bet you could acquire him cheaply. Tropeano is a major league ready pitcher who should contribute to your team very soon. He is not a guy to stash on your minor league roster. He is a far cry from an elite prospect but he should end up with a better career than many elite prospects. If you want to snag the 2015 version of deGrom, Shoemaker or McHugh now is your chance.
If you trade for him let me know what it cost you.
Last week I wrote about Tropeano’s Angels teammate Matt Shoemaker. Read it here… Rankings Counterpoint: Matt Shoemaker