The LA Angels may have a diamond in the rough in young reliever Keynan Middleton. Middleton has made a meteoric ride since the beginning of last season going from Single-A to Triple-A in one year and now he is in the majors.
When Middleton received the call to come up and join the LA Angels last week, he had completed one of the fastest rises in recent Angels history. Middleton possesses a high 90’s fastball, but he also has a tremendous slider and now he is getting a chance to showcase his talents on the biggest stage of all.
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Last season I was blessed with the opportunity to talk with this young man as well as watching him pitch. I don’t which one was more impressive talking to Middleton or watching him pitch. Middleton was only 22 years old at the time, but he had a maturity well beyond his years. He was not only a pleasure to talk to but he was also very articulate and genuine.
I had just watched him pitch a scoreless 9th inning for the Inland Empire 66’ers and was talking to him about what he thinks about when he is on the mound and Middleton’s response was “I just want to be better than each batter I face.”
Last season pitching in Single-A Inland Empire, Double-A Arkansas, and Triple-A Salt Lake combined to pitch going 1-2 with a 3.41 ERA and a WHIP of 1.14. In 66 innings pitched Middleton allowed 47 hits and walked 28 batters while striking out 88 holding opponents to a .196 batting average with eight saves.
This Spring Middleton was invited to Spring Training, but Middleton did not fare too well giving up six runs in seven innings which was a 7.71 ERA striking out only four batters. However when he went to Triple-A Salt Lake Middleton found his groove again pitching in 12.2 innings with a 2.81 ERA and two saves.
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Then last week Middleton received the call he has been waiting for, the one that told him he had finally arrived in the majors. So far the results have been mixed for Middleton as he has pitched in three games for a total of two innings giving up one run on two hits while striking out two batters and holding opponents to a .250 batting average.
How long Middleton will be up with the Angels is anyone’s guess, but even if he doesn’t stick with the Angels this time around you will surely see him do so in the future. Middleton is the Angels #5 prospect and has been on the fast track since he got drafted in the third round in 2013 after playing junior college ball for Lane Community College in Middleton’s hometown of Portland, Oregon.
One thing is for sure, Middleton is a special individual with loads of potential. Once he puts it all together Major League batters better watch out.