In 2010, a sophomore third baseman hit .385/.470/.656 for Central Arizona College. In June of that year, the Angels used a 25th round pick on that third baseman. After signing, that player appeared in 17 rookie league games, posted a 3.91 ERA over 23 innings. That’s right. Angels pitching prospect AJ Schugel (@Schug_Knight) was primarily a third baseman during his college career, then converted to pitching after the Halos drafted him.
“I kind of grasped it a little quicker than I expected,” the right-hander said. The adjustment has gone pretty smoothly for Schugel, who received his first invitation to Major League Spring Training this season. His stuff isn’t elite, but, according to one scout, Schugel uses a solid-average fastball, a plus changeup, and an average curveball to attack hitters. His pitchability is also an asset, despite having less than three full years as a pitcher.
“He looks like more of a back-end guy right now,” the same scout said. Schugel’s quick grasp of pitching might mean that there’s more in the tank. The 23-year-old isn’t a finished product, and he’s trying to get better at commanding the strike zone. “If I can pitch in, it’s gonna’ make the plate that much bigger,” he said.
Minor league pitching coach Trevor Wilson deserves a good deal of credit for the way Schugel has developed thus far. AJ noted that Wilson has worked with him each step of the way, coaching him in rookie ball, then again in Low-A and Double-A, where Schugel posted a 2.89 ERA over 140.1 innings in 2012. In 2013, Wilson will be the pitching coach for Triple-A Salt Lake City, where he’ll more than likely be coaching Schugel again.
When I asked Schugel to highlight one of his best memories thus far in his minor league career, he brought up the 2011 Cal League playoff run. After a strong go at Low-A Cedar Rapids, Schugel got the bump to High-A to help Inland Empire in the final weeks of the season. It’s cliche, but Schugel is a player that wants to win.
In his first spring with the big league club, Schugel got to experience what the competitive Angels environment is like. “It was awesome, a great experience,” he said. Schugel watched the bullpens of the major leaguers, and hopes to apply some of the positives to his own game.
The Angels gambled on Schugel when they decided to draft him. It looks like that gamble is going to pay off, and AJ Schugel could be in line for some major league playing time as soon as 2013.