Salt Lake Bees pitcher A.J. Schugel has been on a fast track in the Los Angeles Angels organization since being selected in the 25th round in the First-Year Player Draft in 2010.
Although the right hander has had rough going most of this season, compiling a 1-4 record in 11 starts with an inflated 7.99 ERA, the Bees organization stands behind Schugel and continues to give him the opportunities to develop — and help him win some games.
On Saturday night at Spring Mobile Ballpark in Salt Lake City, the young pitching prospect earned his second victory of the season while leading the streaking Bees to a 7-4 win over the visiting Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
Schugel’s performance was encouraging as he pitched six innings, giving up two runs early in the game on only five hits. His command was sharp as well as he issued just two walks while striking out four Sox.
Going in to Saturday night’s homestand opener against Colorado Springs, Schugel was coming off consecutive nine-run outings, surrendering 14 hits in five innings at Las Vegas and nine hits in only two innings at a home start against Memphis.
Outings like those could signal a demotion for a young pitcher, but Schugel, despite the numbers in the box score, shows flashes of dominating stuff, thus the belief in him from the organization.
Acting manager Bill Richardson, who is holding down the fort for four games in the absence of Bees’ manager Keith Johnson, praised the effort by Schugel, calling it a building block in the young starter's career. "I think there was more in the tank there, really did, but with a good live arm like that I think it was a great performance on his part," said Richardson.
The temporary skipper was referring to removing Schugel from the game after the sixth inning despite the 23-year-old seemingly in control on the mound.
It was the third time Schugel had gone through the sixth inning this year, the deepest he has pitched into any game for Salt Lake. “Not necessarily,” Schugel answered when asked if there is set pitches count that the coaches monitor on him.
“It’s really up to the coaches to decide when it’s time,” Schugel said. “I felt good, but it really just depends on what they want to do. They have the say when you’re done and you just do what they say.”
Schugel, a native of Winter Haven, Fla., was pleased with his 12th start for the Bees. “I pitched in. My fastball was good and I mixed it in and out,” he recalled. “The key is throwing strikes — especially up here. The hitters are faster, so you just have to mix it up a lot,” he added.
The expectations on Schugel’s rise through the Angels’ farm system seem to be right on schedule. He turns 24 this month and now has a couple of decent minor league seasons under his belt.
After a successful prep career lettering in baseball and hockey at Mountain Vista High School in Highlands, Colo., the San Diego Padres in MLB’s First-Year Player Draft selected Schugel in the 33rd round.
He did not sign, however, opting to attend Central Arizona College, where he was discovered by the Angels. His father, Jeff, is a professional scout for Los Angeles, so perhaps the connection worked in his favor, but chances are the young hurler would have been selected soon after.
It immediately looked like a smart move by the Angels' scouting system as Schugel was sent to the Arizona Angels of the Arizona Rookie League where he pitched 15 innings in 11 appearances.
He was moved to the Orem Owlz, the local rookie affiliate for the Angels that compete in the Pioneer League, to finish off the summer of 2010, where he went 2-2 in six appearances working out of the bullpen.
In 2011, Schugel split the season competing in single-A before earning his way to pitch for the double-A Arkansas Travelers of the Texas League. He was a workhorse for the Travelers, pitching 140 innings in 27 starts. His record was 6-8, but his ERA was 2.89, the kind of number that draws attention from the parent club.
On top of solid statistics for his first pro season spent with one team, Schugel garnered a few personal accolades for his work, including Texas League Post-Season All-Star. He was also voted to MiLB.com Organizational All-Star.
Currently, the right-hander is listed as No. 16 on the Angels' top 20 prospect chart, the eighth pitcher in that line of major league hopefuls.
Earning his second win of the season could be a turning point for Schugel during his season in Salt Lake. The journey to get better as a pitcher is a long one and the journey to the big leagues even longer. But Schugel will no doubt stay on the fast track through the Angels’ system.
Kenny Bristow is the staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and contributes to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To contribute to DNews preps for your area, inquire at 801.237.2143.
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