On Wednesday afternoon the Rays announced a trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, of LHRP Cesar Ramos for RHP Mark Sappington.
Sappington is a 23-year-old right-hander who came into the 2014 season rated as the Angels’ fifth-best prospect by Baseball America. He, however, took a big step back and struggled mightily as a starter in 2014. A demotion and mid-season move to the bullpen revitalized Sappington, however, as Mike DiGiovanna wrote recently for Baseball America. Sappington’s big fastball and biting slider make him a potentially valuable power arm out of the pen — over 32 relief frames last season with the Angels’ High-A affiliate, Sappington struck out 49 and walked ten.
Sappington was one of the best arms in the Angels’ system, but his difficulty repeating his delivery and his struggles to throw strikes never allowed him to reach his potential despite a plus fastball (92-95 mph), average slider and tick below average change up.
Sappington’s emotional, adrenaline-fueled pitching approach and his inconsistent delivery have led scouts to believe that he would be a better fit as a reliever. The Angels moved him to the bullpen not longer after he was demoted to high Class A Inland Empire this season and he did show significant improvement.
Sappington had walked 69 batters in only 82 innings as a starter, but he had much better control once he moved to the pen, walking only 10 and striking out 49 in 32 innings. He is a potential setup man if he can keep put together even fringe-average control thanks to his plus stuff, but that’s been a struggle for him throughout his career.
The move is interesting and could open the long relief role for Jeremy Hellickson. With the Rays 2015 starting rotation all but sorted out, and without any accrued trade value following a pair of down seasons which bookended an injury culminating in surgery, Hellickson could excel out of the bullpen.
- Ian Malinowski asserted, “Yesterday, the Rays traded long-reliever Cesar Ramos for to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for 23 year old relief prospect Mark Sappington. Scott covered already gave a description of Sappington, based on the available scouting reports. He’s something of a project. The Angels tried to make him into a starter and they failed. Now that he’s been moved back to the bullpen, Sappington has a live fastball that he apparently has trouble commanding, probably because of his funky, max-effort delivery. None of his other pitches project as good major league offerings right now,” in a piece titled The potential of Mark Sappington.