Scouting Rangers Prospect #43: Cody Eppley

After appearing in 10 major league games last season, sidearming right-hander Cody Eppley is looking to spend more time with the Rangers in 2012. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 26-year-old prospect with an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Cody Eppley
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: October 8, 1985
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 205
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Acquired: 2008 Amateur Draft, 43rd round

When Cody Eppley was selected as a 43rd-round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft after a four-year collegiate career, it's safe to say he didn't have the longest leash in the organization.

The right-hander, who worked mostly as a starting pitcher at Virginia Commonwealth University, entered his first spring training as a 23-year-old reliever who had spent much of his debut summer in the rookie-level Arizona League.

Although Eppley had pitched well with the rookie club, he became a candidate to be released when his velocity began dropping in spring training 2009. Luckily for the 6-foot-5, 205-pound hurler, the Rangers didn't cut him right away.

Often times, before an organization releases a traditional over-the-top pitcher, they'll drop him down sidearm to see if it has a chance of working. Many pitchers are released a few days after the initial experiment. Some go on to reach the major leagues.

Rangers' minor league pitching coordinator Danny Clark decided to have Eppley begin experimenting with the sidearm slot near the end of camp that year. Not only did the hurler take to the new mechanics quickly, but he also found himself in Single-A Hickory after just a few weeks of extended spring training.

Eppley earned some job security after an excellent '09 campaign with the Crawdads. He posted a 2.93 earned-run average in 67.2 innings, yielding 65 hits while walking only six and striking out 76. Though he wasn't quite on the prospect radar, the performance was intriguing.

During his first season as a sidearmer, the VCU product featured the same repertoire that he does today––sinker, slider, and the occasional changeup. While he pounded the strike zone and got ground balls, his fastball sat in the mid-80s.

But Eppley took yet another step forward in 2010, beginning his season with 18 consecutive scoreless innings in High-A before earning a quick promotion to Double-A Frisco. As the '10 campaign progressed, so did Eppley's velocity. His mid-80s sinker climbed into the upper-80s––reaching 90-91 mph on occasion––and the sink became sharper.

By the end of that season, Eppley had made 18 appearances––logging 28.2 innings––at the Triple-A level. Just two full seasons after he'd become a sidearmer, the prospect was knocking on the door of the major leagues.

Eppley spent most of the 2011 campaign in Triple-A but logged 10 major league appearances–-nine total innings––during a stint with the Rangers in late April and early May. He was mostly effective in Arlington aside from one disastrous performance against the Yankees, when he coughed up six runs in one-third of an inning.

In Triple-A, the Pennsylvania native posted a 3.90 ERA in 43 appearances. Over 55.1 innings, he surrendered 51 hits while walking 34 and striking out 55.

Like his major league stint, Eppley was bitten by the occasional poor outing in the minors when his command was spotty and his stuff was flat. He allowed only one run in 14 innings at one point. But that stretch was bookended by two outings in which he yielded 11 total runs in 3.2 frames.

Eppley finished his year on a positive note while pitching with the Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League. Working out of the winterball club's bullpen, he permitted seven earned runs in 20.1 innings. He struck out 26, walked seven, and his sinker induced more than 3.4 groundouts per flyout.

Also See: Rangers Minor League Notes (March 1, 2011)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 7, 2011)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 8, 2011)
Rangers All-Prospect Teams (November 8, 2011)

Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball: The 6-foot-5 righty drops down sidearm and attacks hitters with an upper-80s sinking fastball that works between 87-91 mph. The deception from Eppley's delivery––coupled with the life on his sinker––helped him limit Triple-A right-handed hitters to a .214/.311/.267 slash line in 151 plate appearances last season. He has also posted high ground ball rates since becoming a sidearmer in spring training '09, including a clip of about 2.5 groundouts per flyout between Triple-A and the major leagues last season.

After posting low walk rates in '09 and '10, Eppley issued 39 free passes in 64.1 innings last year. His fastball command took a step back, causing him to fall behind in counts and become more hittable. His ability to command the sinker low in the strike zone will be key in determining whether he's ultimately a full-time major league reliever or an up-and-down contributor. Eppley has shown the ability to do so in the past but must regain his 2010 form.

Other Pitches: Like most sidearmers, Eppley features a sweeping slider as his breaking pitch, throwing it between the upper-70s and low-80s. While his slider isn't a wipeout offering, it can miss bats against right-handed hitters when he gets ahead in counts. The pitch has horizontal break with little tilt and resembles his fastball out of the hand.

The deception and sinker-slider mix makes Eppley tough on fellow righties. But again, like most sidearmers, he'll need to at least hold his own against left-handers in the majors. He mixes in the occasional upper-70s, low-80s change to southpaws––it's a usable third pitch out of the bullpen.

Projection: A classic sidearming sinkerballer, Eppley isn't going to blow hitters away with his stuff, but he has a chance to find success in the majors if he's locating his fastball and getting ahead in counts. As mentioned, his ability to command his fastball should be the ultimate decider. He could carve out a consistent big league role as a tough-on-righties middle reliever. He could also wind up on the Round Rock-to-Arlington shuttle over the next couple seasons if his command is inconsistent, as it was in 2011.

2012 Outlook: The 26-year-old reliever is on the 40-man roster––with 10 appearances of major league experience last season––and he should battle for a big league middle relief job in spring training. Although Eppley certainly isn't a lock to land an opening day roster spot, it's not out of the question either. He'll return to Triple-A Round Rock if he doesn't make the team and should log some big league innings in 2012 regardless.

ETA: 2012.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
2008 AZL Rangers (RK) 2-2 25.2 19 5 34 2.10
Clinton (A) 0-0 2.0 2 0 3 9.00
2009 Hickory (A) 1-3 67.2 65 6 76 2.93
2010 Bakersfield (A+) 2-0 18.0 9 1 24 0.00
Frisco (AA) 1-1 22.2 12 9 27 1.19
Oklahoma City (AAA) 2-1 28.2 32 13 31 4.08
2011 Round Rock (AAA) 4-2 55.1 51 34 55 3.90
Texas (MLB) 1-1 9.0 11 5 6 8.00

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