In June 2009, Tyler Skaggs lived a common boyhood dream: He was drafted by the baseball team for which he grew up rooting. Born in Woodland Hills, Calif., the 6-foot-4 left-hander was selected 40th overall by the Angels. He enjoyed immediate success in the Halos system, allowing only two runs over 10 innings as Rookie-level Orem won the Pioneer League championship.
A year later, Skaggs' dream came to an abrupt end when he was traded to the D-backs in a deal for Dan Haren. That didn't stop his progress, however, as he developed into one of baseball's premier prospects. After going 8-4 with a 3.61 ERA at Class A Cedar Rapids before the trade, Skaggs yielded three runs and struck out 20 over 16 innings for South Bend.
The 20-year-old took another step forward this season, posting a 2.96 ERA over 158 1/3 innings between Class A Advanced Visalia and Double-A Mobile. He fanned 198, then put together a 1.38 ERA in 13 postseason innings as the BayBears captured the Southern League title.
MiLB.com recently caught up with Skaggs to talk about the trade, his championship season and more:
MiLB.com: You were drafted 40th overall by the Angels in 2009. Can you describe what that was like?
Tyler Skaggs: It was a great feeling. They were my hometown team, it was really a dream come true. They were like the Dodgers for me. I always liked the Angels and always wanted to play for them.
MiLB.com: Did you have a favorite player growing up?
Skaggs: Angel-wise, not really, but Randy Johnson was a big idol of mine. Just being a lefty, tall, intimidating, he threw pretty hard. It was something I wanted to be. I remember when I was little, I tried to make my mechanics like his.
MiLB.com: Was the trade to the D-backs a bit of a shock?
Skaggs: It was different. I think it worked out for the best, to tell you the truth. I'm in a great organization with great players and great coaches. I'm really happy about it.
I felt like [the Angels] didn't want me and Arizona wanted me more. Of course, they traded me for Dan Haren, so I couldn't really be too mad. I was a little hurt by it, but it's just a business. Players get traded for other players, and I'm not really worried about it now.
MiLB.com: You had a great year in 2010, but you were even better in 2011, despite playing against tougher competition. What changed for you this past season?
Skaggs: I'd have to say pitching-wise, I was more fundamental. My changeup was better, and the pitching staff really helped me a lot. I think as the levels go up, you've got to bear down on each hitter, and I have to give thanks to the catchers because of the way they called pitches and their approach to the game. It was a fun season this year; I played for two really good teams and was lucky enough to win a championship.
MiLB.com: At Mobile, you were starting along with Jarrod Parker, Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer and Charles Brewer. What was it like to pitch in a rotation with so much talent?
Skaggs: It was really fun. We had five aces, really. It was exciting watching every other pitcher pitch. You build off other people's starts. If Parker pitched well, the next day I tried to outdo him. It was a good competition and really good for our team.
MiLB.com: Mobile beat Birmingham, 3-2, and Tennessee, 3-1, to win the Southern League championship. What did that mean to you and the team?
Skaggs: It was an amazing experience. It was a good [final] series, even though we won, 3-1. This was just a great team to be on -- great characters, great coaching staff. It was really exciting. All the hard work from the start through the season really paid off.
MiLB.com Do you have any pregame rituals?
Skaggs: Just wake up, go get something to eat and usually watch a couple episodes of "The League" or "Sons of Anarchy." I get to the field with some music, hang out and joke around. I'm not too serious before games.
Then I get my arm stretched and flip the switch and start getting serious about the game. I throw long toss, then throw about 30 pitches in the bullpen and I'm ready to go.
MiLB.com: What's the best professional advice you've gotten?
Skaggs: Probably something that really stands out is from [Visalia pitching coach] Doug Drabek. He just said, "Throw strikes. It's hard for them to hit, no matter where the ball is." He just stressed throwing strikes and getting ahead of batters. He really helped a lot this year, him and [Mobile pitching coach] Dan Carlson. They just really pushed me to become a better pitcher.
MiLB.com: What's the best thing about the offseason?
Skaggs: Probably the great weather we've been having in California right now. And it's nice to be home with family and friends. Really, I'm just glad I'm working out again and trying to break camp with the big league team next year. I'm excited for Spring Training to come.
MiLB.com: Hypothetical situation: You're hours away from starting Game 7 of the World Series. What are you listening to on your iPod?
Skaggs: It's between two things. It would probably be Jay-Z, "The Black Album," or Waka Flocka Flame, his first album, "Flockaveli."