TDG’s Triple Play: Los Angeles Angels!
The Triple Play is back for a fourth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Paul Monte and a rotating panel of writers. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Alex Cobb, Age: 33, Position: SP
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Cobb is coming off his best start of the season against the Oakland A’s and now is the time to jump in. He is only rostered in 7% of Yahoo leagues and 40% of Fantrax leagues, so go check if he’s on the waiver wire in your league and add him asap for his next start. Now that that is done, let’s talk Cobb.
Got a feeling ’21 is going to be a good year
The 2021 season started with a Quality Start for Cobb against the vaunted Chicago White Sox where he struck out seven against only one walk. It then proceeded to get much worse, with away games against the Astros, Royals, and Rangers where Cobb gave up 10 runs in 9 2/3 innings to those powerhouse offenses, and fantasy managers dumped him in droves (with good reason, if a pitcher cannot get a QS against the Royals or Rangers that is no Bueno). He did strikeout 16 batters in those games, and his strikeouts have been something that has not been common in his career profile with a career strikeout rate of only 7.61.
After those three stinkers he returned home to Anaheim and faced his old team, the Rays on May 4th. Cobb struck out eight while walking five in five innings, but gave up no runs although a blister on his hand led to a new (for him) injury to add to the long list. But he healed up quickly and returned to face the Twins at home on May 20th, limiting another strong offense to one run while striking out four in five innings. His recent start at Oakland saw Cobb go seven innings with eight Ks, no runs, and only two walks.
I had no reason to be over-optimistic
It seems like Cobb’s been around forever; being thirty-three years old and a 10-year MLB veteran, along with a substantial injury history, can mess up time, and that’s even before Covid screwed up time royally! A quick history lesson: Cobb began his career in Tampa, where he was quite good for the 2013-14 seasons, lost the 2015 season, was hurt and ineffective after that, eventually leaving the Rays for Baltimore and a big free agent deal. Cobb was injured and ineffective in Baltimore too, leading the Orioles to send him and $10 million to the pitching starved Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for prospect Jahmai Jones.
What about the Boy!
I have heard it said that for most pitchers (low-end SP2s and on), a fantasy manager should expect 1/3 good starts, 1/3 average starts, and 1/3 poor starts. With Cobb in 2021 we have three good starts (OAK, MIN, CHW), two average ones (TB, KC) and two bad ones (TEX, HOU). Still though, Cobb has produced a 2021 stat line thus far in 33 innings of 43 strikeouts, an ERA of 3.78, a K/9 rate of 11.61 (easily the best in his career), a FIP of 2.18, a BB/9 rate of 3.24 all while having a BABIP of .376 and giving up one home run. One home run thus far! That is dang impressive, no?
Cobb throws three pitches, and the two main ones are fastballs, a Split finger and a sinker. He is generating strikeouts using his Split and Curveball to great effect, with a 36% Whiff% on them both. He supplements those with a Sinker that he throws at an average of 92.4 mph. All combined they have Cobb in the 99th percentile of all MLB pitchers for Chase Rate and 95% for Barrel rate which is why he isn’t giving up homers; hitters cannot get their barrels on his pitches.
Especially if you and me, see it in together
Cobb gets Seattle next, then KC again, and after that possible opponents Arizona, the A’s again and Detroit. Then a steady diet of the division foes should assist his effectiveness the rest of the season. Cobb is healthy, with his K rate booming, while keeping the ball in the yard, and trending up (to the MOON!). Grab him for his next couple starts and see where he takes you, I’m expecting him to continue to make ‘21 a good year for all (and especially Who fans).
Jared Walsh, Age: 27, Position: 1B/OF/RP
Analysis by: Bob Osgood
One Of These Nights
It is not often that we are discussing the 1,185th overall pick in the draft as Major League relevant, never mind as an everyday player and possibly budding star first baseman, but here we are with Jared (don’t call me Joe) Walsh. The 39th round pick’s path to the big leagues is a beautiful example of progression and growth. Drafted in 2015, Walsh hit .339 in short-season ball. He worked his way to Low-A in 2016 and did what a 22-year-old should do, by hitting .290 with 7 HRs and an 18.8% K-rate. On to High-A in 2017, Walsh was barely challenged, hitting .331 with 8 HRs in 70 games before a one-month struggle at Double-A to end the season. In 2018, we saw Walsh’s power emerging for the first time. In his second go-around with Double-A that year, he went from a 4.1%/39.2% BB/K ratio (in 20 games) to a 12.1%/27.7% ratio. A season split into thirds at three levels (High-A, Double-A, Triple-A), Walsh combined for 29 HRs and 99 RBI, proving that his impending monster season in the infamously hitter-friendly PCL would not be a fluke. When Walsh pounded 36 dingers in only 98 games at Triple-A Salt Lake in 2019, with a .325/.423/.686 slash line and 161 wRC+, the Angels gave him the call.
Life’s Been Good To Me So Far
When you think of two-way players on the Angels who hit left-handed, Jared Walsh may not be the first name to come to mind, but I neglected to mention to this point that as Baseball America scouted, “Walsh ranges from 90-94 mph with his fastball and can spin a decent curveball.” He mixed in 13 appearances out of the bullpen with a 4.15 ERA, in between the 36 home runs at Salt Lake in 2019. To be honest, I’m not sure it’s possible to have more fun in minor league baseball than being slotted in the PCL at the age of 25, hitting a home run every two and a half games, and pitching in relief every five games. Walsh was called up to the MLB Angels four separate times during the course of the 2019 season, but with subpar results striking out 40.2% of the time and hitting .203 in 79 at-bats. As he did at double-A, Walsh made the necessary adjustments either in the offseason or in the unexpected three months off in the pandemic-filled spring of 2020 and has stayed at the big league level ever since, now playing in his age-27 season.
Hotel California, Up For Good
I’ve become a believer that Jared Walsh is the real deal. The Angels might not have released sure-fire Hall of Famer Albert Pujols if they didn’t think so. They haven’t even brought him in as a mop-up pitcher, as they did five times in 2019, as to not risk injury to their now-everyday first baseman. Since the start of the 2020 season, Walsh has a wRC+ of 154 for any player with 300 or more plate appearances. The only names that he trails: Mike Trout, Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna, Jesse Winker, Fernando Tatis, and Freddie Freeman, per Fangraphs. His 20.8% K-rate in 2020-2021 is more than serviceable, with 23.8% being the league average over the past two years. In 2021 alone, Statcast has Walsh as the top 6% of the league in wOBA and his 114.2 MPH Max Exit Velocity is in the top 7%. The power is real. While Walsh has a Chase Rate in the bottom 13th percentile, he makes contact with 66.7% of the pitches he chases (League Avg: 58.7), which has kept his strikeout rate in check. “A good bad-ball hitter,” if you will. Walsh never really had the prospect pedigree, and there may be some out there who are still not believers. As I creep Walsh closer and closer to the top-100 in dynasty rankings, I would love to target Walsh in dynasty leagues in return for a pitcher that may have some risk. If you’re worried about Zac Gallen’s elbow, Luis Castillo’s freefall, or Zach Plesac’s inability to take off his shirt in a calm and controlled manner, Jared Walsh is a perfectly reasonable target.
Kyren Paris, Age: 19, Position: 2B/SS, Level: Low-A
Analysis by: Ben Sanders
The Angels have a type when it comes to position player prospects. They like elite athletes and don’t mind if they are young and unpolished. Kyren Paris fits the mold well. He was still several months away from his 18th birthday when he was chosen in the 2nd round of the 2019 draft. It wasn’t his pedestrian high school performance (.852 OPS as a senior) that caught the Angels’ eyes, but rather his explosive athleticism and potential for future growth.
A hamate injury limited him to just three Rookie games in 2019, and of course COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 minor league season. The lack of opportunity does not seem to have slowed his development, as he is slashing .297/.423/.516 in his first 16 games for Low-A Inland Empire.
Good first impression
Paris’ speed has been on display with 10 stolen bases already. Granted, Class A leagues are experimenting with rule changes that make swiping bags easier, and he has been caught three times, but he’s still third in Low-A West despite missing some time due to injury.
Also of note is his .219 isolated power, thanks to four doubles and five triples. No home runs yet, and though that might never be a huge part of his game, players who rack up extra-base hits at an early age often grow into longball power later. Several sources mentioned that he has added muscle and looks bigger and stronger than his listed size of 6’0 and 165 pounds.
His 16.7% walk rate is encouraging, and a patient approach could allow him to hit at the top of an MLB lineup someday. His 26.9% K-rate could be lower, but for such a young player getting his first taste of full-season ball, it’s hardly a disaster. His defense also shows room for improvement, with 10 errors already this season. He has split time between both middle infield positions and struggled more at shortstop, but he does have the physical tools to play there. If he ends up at 2B, that’s probably a good thing for his fantasy value.
Long way to the top
Paris has the upside to someday contribute in all five traditional roto categories and be a monster in runs and stolen bases. That day is at least a few years away though. He has only 19 career games under his belt and is too raw to be on a fast track to the big leagues. In shallower dynasty leagues, he may be too far away to be worth rostering just yet. He’s at least worth watchlisting though, and if his strong start continues, expect to see him on top 100 prospect lists by the end of the season.
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