Garrett Richards - SP, LAA
Richards has long been heralded as one of the Angels' best pitching prospects and has posted very good numbers in the minors, but he hasn't been able to put it all together in the majors yet. He had his chance to do so delayed once again after the Halos filled out their rotation with Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson during the offseason.
It didn't take long for a spot to open up, however, as Jered Weaver landed on the disabled list with a broken left elbow nine days into the season. Richards, who opened the campaign as a member of the bullpen, was called upon to fill in for the injured ace and provide some support for a unit that has been rather underwhelming thus far.
After allowing four runs over 6 1/3 innings in his first start against the Astros, Richards was fantastic in his second turn, rattling off seven shutout frames against the high-powered Tigers while striking out eight, walking none and yielding only two hits.
The 24-year-old right-hander has shown the ability to dominate in the past with a fastball that registers at 95 MPH, but has struggled to find consistency. Invariably his command tends to escape him – evidenced by a 4.3 BB/9 rate in 85 MLB innings prior to this season – and he hasn't struck out as many as you'd hope based on his velocity.
Nevertheless, he's a durable young hurler with a big arm, and he's got an excellent opportunity in front of him. Weaver is expected to be out until late May and several other members of the LA rotation have scuffled, so if Richards can throw strikes and continue pitching deep into games, he'll likely stick in a starting role even after Weaver's return.
Richards has pitched into the seventh inning in both of his starts thus far despite opening the season as a reliever and he's issued only four walks in 17 2/3 innings. So far, so good.
Kevin Slowey - SP, MIA
When you look over Slowey's body of work as a professional baseball player, you can't help but notice the minor-league numbers. They're truly fantastic: 2.45 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 433/71 K/BB. In 466 innings, he allowed only 365 hits and 31 homers. His dominance has been on display at every level of the minors, including Triple-A where he accrued a 2.91 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 36 starts.
Slowey has never had the stuff to match those spectacular numbers (reflected by the fact that he never ranked higher than No. 71 on Baseball America's top prospect lists), but he's a polished, intelligent pitcher who throws strikes. He's always seemed like a good bet to realize some measure of major-league success.
Unfortunately, there have been plenty of hurdles impeding his progress at the highest level. Late in his first full big-league season in 2008, when Slowey put up a 3.99 ERA and won 12 games as a 24-year-old, he took a comebacker off the wrist. The injury nagged him and eventually required surgery in 2009. He wasn't the same over the next few seasons, and then in 2011 he had some well publicized spats with Twins management before the team finally let him loose. He spent a year in the Indians organization before latching on with the Marlins, where he won a rotation spot this season by putting up a 2.41 ERA in spring training.
Slowey has parlayed his strong spring results into a nice early-season run, as he holds a 1.90 ERA through four starts. As has been the case throughout his big-league career, Slowey isn't racking up tons of strikeouts but he's throwing strikes and he finally appears to be healthy again. He's also still only 28 years old.
Despite his minor-league track record, it's a pretty safe bet at this point that Slowey isn't going to dominate in the majors but he has proven in the past that he can be effective when not being nagged by ailments. Escaping the American League in favor of the NL East only helps his case.