Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Tyler Skaggs striving to stick in bigs
By Jerry Crasnick ESPN.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona Diamondbacks pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs is only 21 years old, but he has already learned a couple of valuable lessons that should serve him well as he navigates the ins and outs of a lengthy major league career.
First and foremost, Skaggs has come to understand that personnel moves are rarely personal, and even broken hearts eventually mend.
He has also discovered that getting to the big leagues is a process, and not everyone can make it look as seamless as his close friend and former minor league roommate, Mike Trout.
Tyler Skaggs was 1-3 with a 5.83 ERA in six starts for the Diamondbacks last season.
Skaggs, a rangy left-hander, has had the majors in his sights since the Los Angeles Angels selected him out of Santa Monica (Calif.) High School with the 40th pick in the 2009 draft. It seemed like a perfect marriage of prospect and team, given that Skaggs grew up rooting for Tim Salmon, Troy Glaus, John Lackey and the other Halos and has fond memories of the team's 2002 World Series parade.
When the Angels traded Skaggs and three other players to Arizona for Dan Haren in 2010, it was an awakening, to say the least.
"It was tough, because that's the team you grew up loving and wanting to be on," Skaggs said. "You think it's like a family. They drafted you and you think you're going to be in the big leagues with them. Then they trade you and you're like, 'Man, I don't know what I did wrong.' Then you realize you didn't do anything wrong. It's just a business."
After striking out 429 batters in 389 minor league innings, Skaggs earned a call-up to the big club in Phoenix last August. He began spring training in competition with fellow prospects Patrick Corbin and Randall Delgado for the No. 5 spot in Arizona's rotation, but the Diamondbacks dispatched him to Triple-A Reno after he looked shaky in his first four outings and had difficulty throwing strikes. Manager Kirk Gibson told reporters that Skaggs was pressing and should turn things around once he relaxes and stops overthinking on the mound.
If the scouting reports are any indication, Skaggs will figure it out soon enough. He throws his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s and complements it with a money curveball. Skaggs picked up a few pointers as a youngster watching Oakland's Barry Zito carve up his beloved Angels with a similar 12-to-6 curve.
Skaggs' velocity slipped by a few mph last September, prompting the Diamondbacks to shut him down with about two weeks left in the season. Over the winter, Skaggs committed himself to a more stringent workout program to ensure that he has more staying power in 2013. His workout partners in Malibu included Minnesota Twins infielder Trevor Plouffe and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, who made some unwanted news in February for his reported link to the Biogenesis clinic in Miami.
Skaggs, who considers Braun a good friend, remains supportive.
"I know there's a lot of speculation going on with Ryan," Skaggs said. "He's his own person and makes his own decisions. But I believe what he says. He's innocent until proven guilty in my eyes. He comes to work out every day and brings a lot of energy, and he pushes all of us to become better. He's a hard worker, and it kind of rubs off on me and Trevor."
During his brief appearances with the Diamondbacks, Skaggs has earned a few admirers of his own. His veteran teammates see big things in store for him, even if he has to endure a few setbacks along the way.
"When he came up, you could see right away that he wasn't overwhelmed by the situation," said reliever Brad Ziegler. "He had his ups and downs, but over the course of his career, he's going to have way more ups than downs.
"His stuff is about as good as any lefty in baseball. For him, it's just a matter of harnessing it. He has a good, repeatable delivery, so the command is going to come. When he gets that down, the sky is the limit. He's a No. 1 or 2 on any rotation in baseball."