Los Angeles Angels: Keynan Middleton settling into major league role
By Jon Huskey
The Los Angeles Angels have been hammered with injuries the last two years. As a result, the team has had to try a lot of different things. One of those things has been calling up prospect Keynan Middleton.
Middleton didn’t leap right out of the gate for the Los Angeles Angels in his debut, or the first few games that he pitched. However, Middleton did provide the team with a fresh, live arm. With a little bit of time, Middleton has been able to establish himself in low-leverage situations. Gradially, the reliever has built his confidence and management’s confidence in him.
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A starter in the lower minors, Middleton and his mid-90’s fastball simply didn’t do enough as a starter. His ERA was high and his strikeout rate lower than what a team wants from a hard throwing pitcher. Never rising above low A-ball, the conversion to relief pitcher in 2016 jump started his progress. Middleton pitched well in High A-Ball, Double A, and eventually Triple A in 2016.
Middleton saw his strikeout rate jump into double digits in two of his three stops in the 2016 season.
The improvement resulted in the exact same number of strikeouts in relief, as he had starting the year before (88 K.) That Middleton’s IP total in 2016 was half of his total in 2015 says even more about what the pitcher was able to accomplish in shorter outings. His ERA was nearly two runs less after the conversion to the bullpen. Middleton was also able to drop his H/9 by over 4 hits.
At the onset of 2017, Middleton was putting together another strong season in relief for the Angels Triple A, Salt Lake Bees when necessity and performance collided. Injury after injury had already necessitated the promotion and acquisition of a number of other players. Middleton joined that group, arriving in early May. The first handful of games were up and down. After six appearances the young fireballer sat at 7 K, 5 BB, 3 ER, and a 5.40 ERA in 6 IP.
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Since his May 17th appearance, Middleton has pitched in 14 games, lowering his ERA to 2.65. Over that time he has struckout eleven batters, while walking five in 11 innings pitched. While one of his most recent appearance did see him yield a run, it was only his third earned run allowed in his last 15 appearances. Middleton has also been working into higher leverage situations, earning two holds and two wins in his last fI’ve appearances.
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Middleton and the Los Angeles Angels have a ways to go to prove that they are both going to be in contention for the foreseeable future. However, the young reliever is well on his way to showing what he brings to the mound on any given day. With a fastball that has topped out in the high 90’s and a slider that regularly rests in the high 80’s, there is certainly the makings of a longtime bullpen arm in Anaheim. And Middleton is proving it on an almost regular basis.