Obituary: Tyler Skaggs (1991-2019)

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R.I.P. to Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who has died at the age of 27. The pitcher was found unconscious in his hotel room in Southlake, Texas, on July 1. The Angels had flown into Texas for a series against the Rangers. Police, who were called to the scene, were unable to revive him and pronounced him dead at the scene. Skaggs pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks (2012-13) and Los Angeles Angels (2014, 2016-2019).

(Editor’s note: this page has been updated on August 31 to reflect the findings of the coroner’s report. Scroll to the bottom to find the new content.)

“It is with great sorrow that we report Tyler Skaggs passed away earlier today in Texas,” said a statement from the Angels. “Tyler has, and always will be, an important part of the Angels Family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Carli, and his entire family during this devastating time. There are no other details at this time, please keep Tyler’s family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Obviously, there are not many details of Skaggs’ death. Police do not suspect foul play or suicide, and a cause of death will not be available immediately. For now, though, the baseball world is trying to process the death of a popular and young player. The July 1 game between Texas and the Angels was postponed.

“I am deeply saddened by today’s tragedy in Texas,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. All of us at Major League Baseball extend our deepest condolences to Tyler’s wife Carli, their family, their friends and all of his Angels’ teammates and colleagues. We will support the Angels’ organization through this most difficult period, and we will make a variety of resources available to Tyler’s teammates and other members of the baseball family.”

Many of Skaggs’ teammates and friends in baseball have expressed their condolences on social media.

Tyler Skaggs was born on July 13, 1991 in Woodland Hills, Calif. One of the things he was looking forward to this season was pitching in Dodger Stadium, in fact. He attended Santa Monica High School and was drafted by the Angels in the 1st Round of the 2009 Amateur Draft. A couple of outings in rookie ball helped justify his position as a top lefty pitching prospect with a dominating curveball. After a little more than a year with the Angels, he was traded to Arizona as the player to be named later in a deal that sent Patrick Corbin to the D-Backs and Dan Haren to the Angels.

Skaggs produced in the Arizona organization. In 2012, he went 5-4 with a 2.84 ERA in 13 starts for AA Mobile. He then went 4-2 for AAA Reno before getting his call to the major leagues. He won his MLB debut, tossing 6-2/3 innings of 2-run ball against the Miami Marlins while striking out 4. He went 1-3 in 6 starts for Arizona that year and 2-3 in 7 more starts in 2013. That December, he was traded back to the Angels in a three-team deal that also included the White Sox.

Back with his original team for 2014, Skaggs went 5-5 with a 4.30 ERA in 18 starts. He stuck out 86 batters and had a 1.212 WHIP in 113 innings. Some changes to his delivery gave his fastball a little extra speed. Unfortunately for Skaggs, he had to undergo Tommy John surgery on August 13, wiping out the rest of his 2014 season and all of 2015, just when he’d established himself as a reliable part of the Angels’ rotation. In his last game, he held the Orioles hitless through 4-2/3 innings before a sharp pain in his forearm caused him to leave the game. He had torn a ligament in his elbow.

“I’ll never watch it. I refuse to,” he told USA Today. “I was having such a good game, but it just brings back too many bad memories.”

Skaggs worked through rehab and a minor-league stint and returned to the majors in 2016. In 10 starts for the Angels, he had a 3-4 record and stuck out slightly more than a batter an inning. He was up and down with the Angels in 2017 as well, going 2-6 in the majors and missing more time due to injuries. He spent his first full season in the big leagues in 2018. He had a career-high 24 starts and won a career-high 8 games with a 4.02 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 125-1/3 innings.

In 2019, Skaggs was poised to set highs in every pitching category. He had started 15 games and had a 7-7 record and 4.29 ERA to show for it. He walked 28 in 79-2/3 innings while striking out 78 batters. It’s fair to say that Skaggs was poised for his breakthrough year, with his arm injuries behind him at last.

“It’s nice to have him back,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said after Skaggs returned from an ankle injury to defeat the Royals this past April. “He’s a guy we were counting on. Hopefully we keep him healthy the rest of the way and he continues to pitch well.”

In his 7-year career, Skaggs started 96 games and had a 28-38 record and 4.41 ERA. He struck out 476 batters in 520-2/3 innings and had a 1.331 WHIP. Over this last offseason, Skaggs married his wife, Carli.

My condolences to the Skaggs family and the Angels organization, as well as all his teammates, past and present, who are hurting now.

ESPN Story:

August 31 Update: The results of Tyler Skaggs’ autopsy were released on August 30, and it has been reported that he had fentanyl and oxycodone, both of which are opioids, in his system, along with alcohol. The cause of death, per news reports, was listed as “alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication with terminal aspiration of gastric contents.”

His death is still under investigation by the Southlake Police Department, and a release from Skaggs’ family indicates there may be much more to this story than a drug overdose. The family has retained attorney Rusty Hardin, a Houston lawyer who had defended several athletes, including Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs and Warren Moon, in civil and criminal cases.

The family’s statement says:

“We are heartbroken to learn that the passing of our beloved Tyler was the result of a combination of dangerous drugs and alcohol. That is completely out of character for someone who worked so hard to become a Major League Baseball player and had a very promising future in the game he loved so much.

“We are grateful for the work of the detectives in the Southlake Police Department and their ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding Tyler’s death. We were shocked to learn that it may involve an employee of the Los Angeles Angels. We will not rest until we learn the truth about how Tyler came into possession of these narcotics, including who supplied them. To that end, we have hired attorney Rusty Hardin to assist us.”

This is, to the best of my knowledge, the first mention of anyone associated with the Angels being connected to Skaggs’ death. If the coroner’s report answered some questions, the resulting news just raised many more. The next step, I suppose, is to await the results of the police investigation.

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