The MWAH prospect countdown marches on with a relief prospect who is still held in high regard despite taking a major step back this season.
Position: Relief Pitcher Highest Level: Double-A
Throws: Right Height: 6'1" Weight: 215 lbs.
Age: 23 Born: 3/14/89
2012 Season Stats
High-A: 24.0 IP, 1-1,8 SV, 1.88 ERA, 10 H, 14 BB, 0 HR, 31 SO, 0.83 GO/AO, 2.74 FIP, .192 BABIP
Double-A: 19.1 IP, 1-5, 0 SV, 12.10 ERA, 23 H, 19 BB, 3 HR, 21 SO, 1.62 GO/AO, 7.08 FIP, .370 BABIP
Fastball – A-. He has two fastballs. The first is a hard sinking fastball sitting between 94-96 mph. This pitch generates a lot of ground balls and is his bread and butter against right-handed batters. The second pitch sits at 91-93 mph with a floating/tailing action that moves away on lefties. Both have the same arm angle and release, I’m assuming the only difference is his grip.
Off-speed Pitches – A-. Tillman, along with Wood and Alvarez have the best sliders in the system. Tillman’s is a hard slider that sits in the mid-80’s with late, sharp life. It’s clearly his go to pitch with two strikes.
Control – C. Tillman actually has considerably better control than his numbers show. I’ve rarely seen him miss the zone by much, he’s usually right around the plate, despite his unsightly career 4.8 BB/9. Admittedly, this is where he really struggled in AA, he just couldn’t get the ball over the plate.
Command – C. Before the 2012 season, this would have graded as an “B”. A couple of weeks after his demotion from AA it again was a “B”. But for a 2-3 month period Tillman simply wasn’t able to put the ball where he wanted it, thus driving the grade down.
Mechanics – A-. Clean as they should be for a reliever. Obviously being in a shorter role he tends to exert more energy than a starter would, but his release is repeatable, the follow through is present and the ball tends to explode out of his hand and jump on hitters.
Performance – C. Admittedly, his performance in AA was a tremendous step in the wrong direction this past season. He lost his command, was hit around, lost his confidence and thus put up really poor numbers. Once he was back down in the Cal League, Tillman was downright dominant. He recovered his command and again looked like the pitcher that would climb the system quickly and solve the Angels bullpen problems. Still, he’s putting too many runners on base.
Projection – B. There’s still some debate about whether Tillman projects better into a closer or setup role. Personally, I don’t make such distinctions because I don’t think there’s a difference as long you get outs. After all, who would look at Scott Downs and think elite setup man or closer? I have little doubt that Tillman will conquer his control issues and become a very good late inning relievers for the Angels in the next few years.
(*As always, the above scouting report is provided by Scotty Allen of LA Angels Insider)
Season Summary: Daniel Tillman entered 2012 as the undisputed top relief prospect in the Angels system after he carved the low minors the previous two seasons. So, naturally they got aggressive with him and started him in Double-A Arkansas where-
OH MY GOD! THE CARNAGE! THE HUMANITY!!! AVERT YOUR EYES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yeah, that didn't go so well as his 12.10 ERA at the level suggests. Tillman's control problems only got worse and for the first time he was actually kind of hittable, though he did still generate plenty of whiffs, providing a glimmer of hope. After about half a season, the Angels pulled the plug and dropped him to Inland Empire where he had pitched only briefly the previous year. Upon his demotion, Tillman settled down almost immediately and once again began posting video game numbers like allowing just 10 hits over 24 innings while striking out over a batter per nine innings. Of course, his control problems still remained with him issuing 5.25 free passes per nine innings with a vast majority of those walks coming in a few weeks in August, which speaks more to him having an issue in the consistency of his mechanics. That's definitely not a small problem to fix, but at least it is something that seems like it can be fixed and kept under control.
What to Expect in 2013: It looks like Tillman is going to be back on the slow walk up the organizational ladder, which is disappointing as there had been some hope that he would just keep blowing away hitters and force his way onto the big league roster as soon as 2013. Now, we instead find ourselves hoping that Tillman can get back on the horse and hold his own on his forthcoming return to Double-A Arkansas.
Not handling an aggressive promotion isn't all that big of a deal at the end of the day, but the real issue at hand is how that jump not only exposed Tillman's warts, but seemed to exacerbate them in the process. His control was never seen as good or even average, but based on last year's results he looks like the kind of guy who doesn't even know where it is going when it leaves his hand. The good news is that his stuff is so good that if he can just reign in his control issues to a more reasonable and consistent level, he could get placed back on the fast track, possibly even putting himself into position to compete for a bullpen spot in 2014.