Right-handed starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker might be in the right organization at the right time.
Shoemaker is a product of Trenton High School in Trenton, Mich. Trenton is the same high school that also produced Major League pitchers Anthony Bass and J.J. Putz.
Shoemaker attended Eastern Michigan University, where he saved 14 games as a sophomore, setting a team record. He threw 136 innings in 56 games, only 15 of those were starts. Shoemaker's record was 6-7 and he had a 4.83 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. In a word, his performance was average. Shoemaker was not selected in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
The Angels gave Shoemaker an opportunity, and they signed him as a free agent in 2008. After parts of seven Minor League seasons, and five innings pitched for the parent club last season on Sept. 20, Shoemaker is part of the Halos' starting rotation.
The odds of undrafted players making the big leagues are slim. In reality, roughly just above 10 percent of Minor League prospects make the Majors. The chances of undrafted non-international free agents playing in the big leagues are worse.
However, Shoemaker has several compelling factors that make him a viable pitching option.
At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, Shoemaker knows how to pitch. He will be 28 years old in September and his maturity is evident on the mound. Quite simply, Shoemaker goes right after hitters. He isn't overpowering and he doesn't have a fancy delivery, but he isn't afraid to pitch inside and attack hitters with great movement on the ball.
Shoemaker has a live arm and a deep repertoire. When he repeats his delivery and mixes his repertoire well, he changes the eye levels of the hitters. But there are times when Shoemaker just gets too much of the plate and becomes very hittable. Because he has good command and control, he is efficient at getting ahead in the count and taking charge of the at-bat.
Whenever I have seen Shoemaker pitch, he has shown command of the strike zone -- he doesn't allow himself to get behind in counts. That said, he's careful not to get too much of the plate. Shoemaker's two fastballs, one a four-seamer that he throws at 92 mph and the other a sinker at 91 mph, form the nucleus of his repertoire. That sinking pitch may indeed be more of a split-finger fastball. He also throws a slider, a curveball and a changeup that I have seen. Shoemaker's slider sits at 80-82 mph and his changeup is thrown at 76-77 mph.
None of those secondary pitches are overpowering. But using those pitches allows Shoemaker to add and subtract velocity from pitch to pitch.
Shoemaker has started 120 of the 139 Minor League games in which he pitched. He has thrown 786 2/3 innings and has compiled a winning record of 50-40 in the Minors.
After starting the 2011 season at Double-A Arkansas, Shoemaker was promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake. He spent both 2012 and last year at Salt Lake as well. Shoemaker improved in his second full stint in the Pacific Coast League and likely pitched himself into the Angels' plans.
With the exception of a brief return to Triple-A in mid-April until the first week of May, Shoemaker has spent the bulk of this year pitching for the Halos.
Throughout his career, Shoemaker has yielded an above-average number of home runs, which happens when he gets the ball up in the zone. More than half of the balls hit off Shoemaker are hit in the air. It is inevitable that some will find their way to the gaps or over the fence.
By far, left-handed hitters have more success hitting off Shoemaker. It is an issue that requires attention.
The results for Shoemaker have been solid. As he demonstrated early in his career, his command and control have been the basis for his success. Because Shoemaker throws strikes, he induces some swings and misses, and he has a strikeout rate that equates to over nine hitters per nine innings.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.