Once again, someone we saw and noticed right away that there was something special. Mark Sappington, is the highest ranked pitcher in our 2014 Countdown, and it's well deserved. He came from a Division II school (Rockhurst University) and during the off-season, builds himself up for baseball from the day the season is over. Off the field, Sappington is just as cool of a guy off the field as he is on with a far and above outstanding character (recently decided his new nickname was "Thunderdragon" if that says anything about how cool the guy is).
Sappington's best pitch naturally is his fastball. It has good sinking motion and sits anywhere from 94-97. He throws from a downhill plane, and with his six-foot-five stature, naturally has a sinking motion. As for added velocity, we sat behind the plate with the scouts one night and saw Sappington reach 98 a pair of times. Sappington spends his off-seasons in the gym building himself up, which means we doubt he'll lose velocity anytime soon, but possibly could gain a mile per hour or two.
Sappington's slider has been described as an "out-pitch" by just about everyone we've talked to. After seeing it, we agree. It has a good break to it and sits in mid 80's, sometimes touching 87 MPH.
The changeup will be Sappington's way of staying in the rotation as opposed to being moved to the bullpen. He will succeed at either spot, but the Angels would like to keep him in the rotation. His changeup is decent but he needs better command of it. Scouts have told us that this pitch has grown better each day, and could actually become a plus pitch for Sappington.
For a young pitcher who came from a non-Division I school, he has decent command, but it needs work. Sappington has missed locations in the later innings of his starts, which is another reason he could end up in the bullpen. If he can fix this though, he has the potential to be a mid to front of the rotation pitcher.
Adjustments to Sappington's mechanics and delivery could help him in the command department. He uses his legs and frame to deliver the pitch, which is a good thing, but it needs slight tuning. We're no professional coaches, but an elbow extension and possible head tilt to the glove side could allow Sappington to improve his command, and also add some velocity to his pitches.
Sappington came out of the 2012 draft strong, but the stats might not show it. In the Pioneer League, you only get such limited time on the mound every start, giving you limited time to make up for mistakes. Sappington had six of his 15 appearances (12 starts) see no runs against, and four only have one earned against. The five appearances where he had more were why his ERA was slighly inflated at 5.15 at the end of the season.
Sappington began his road of successful numbers in 2013 in High-A. Over his first nine starts, Sappington posted a 2.05 earned run average and 1.120 WHIP. His next three starts were the exact opposite as he had a combined 18 earned runs over the three starts including one game having seven walks. Sappington picked back up again though in his next ten starts, posting a 2.01 earned run average (including one game that had five earned, if that say's anything about how low the other games were), and a 1.180 WHIP.
If you take away that three game stretch from Sappington's High-A numbers, he would have finished the season with a 2.43 earned run average and 1.072 WHIP.
Sappington's 2013 wasn't over just yet, as he took the leap in to Double-A. He lost a slight bit of command, walking seven per nine, but he kept his ERA down at 3.86 over his five starts, and finished with a 1.675 WHIP.
EXPECTED OF THE FUTURE:
It's likely that no matter how great or poor Sappington does during Spring Training, he will start as the ace of the 2014 Double-A rotation for the Angels. Sappington saw limited time in Double-A in 2013, but he showed he can stick at that level, and he will probably spend the majority of 2013 with the Travelers. Sappington very easily could see time in Triple-A come All-Star break or later depending on how well he excels over time.
Sappington's future with the Angels relies mostly on if he will be a starter or reliever. Sappington has shown promise with his changeup, and the Angels would like to keep him in the rotation. If he is moved to a bullpen role, you could almost expect him to be a closer with the stuff he has. If Sappington is turned in to a reliever, you could expect his estimated time of arrival to the Majors as sometime in early to mid 2015. If he is kept as a starter, he could make it as a full-time man in the rotation as soon as the beginning of 2016.
Sappington will have a future in the Major Leagues, and it should be a bright future. Scouts have told us they see Sappington as a solid three slot in any rotation, and we agree fully. We also believe he has the talent and will to potentially be near the top of any rotation as a two-slot guy. One thing is for sure, this kid has loads of talent, and we are big fans.
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