Halo Hangout made another stop at the Inland Empire 66ers home stadium, Class A Advanced affiliate to the LA Angels, to chat up some young Angel prospects. This time out we met with the bulldog of a pitcher, right-hander Tyler Stevens.
Tyler Stevens, from the University of New Mexico, joined the LA Angels organization when he was drafted in the 18th round of the 2017 draft. While attending the University of New Mexico, Stevens had himself an impressive college career; in his 2017 college season Stevens struck out 102 hitters in 97.1 IP, working mostly as a starter. With the Inland Empire 66ers Stevens has pitched 21.1 innings out of the bullpen while striking out 26, all to the tune of a 2.53 ERA.
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The success he’s currently having with the 66ers is very reminiscent of his winning college career with the University of New Mexico. As soon as Stevens joined the Angels pro-ball ranks he took off at full speed, logging 37 strikeouts in 31.1 IP in split time with the rookie ball Orem Owlz and Low A affiliate Burlington Bees.
RHP Tyler Stevens #31
H.H: Your 21.1 IP with the 66ers is the most you’ve thrown at any level, are you starting to feel a groove?
Stevens: Oh yeah, last year I knew I wasn’t going to throw very much due to the fact that I almost threw 100 innings again at the University of New Mexico . I’m used to throwing 6-7 innings an outing, so these 2-3 inning stints aren’t necessarily that big of a deal. I’ve finally found myself, found my release point, and hopefully will keep it going as long as I can.
H.H: In 2016 at the University of New Mexico you logged a 100.2 inning season. Are you aiming to return to a high volume role?
Stevens: I would love to start again, but I’m gonna do whatever the organization needs me to and gives me the best opportunity to stay on the playing field as long as I can. Hopefully I’ll make it to my main goal in the MLB.
H.H: You’ve walked only 4 batters in your 21.1 IP so far, how do you feel your control of the strike zone evolving?
Stevens: I really pride myself on being able to command the zone and throw strikes in any count with all my pitches. That’s the thing I’ve really worked on from college to pro-ball is really commanding the strike zone and limiting the free passes to hitters. If you walk somebody the majority of the time they score, [emphasized] which you don’t want to let them do from the bullpen.
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Career IP: 52.2; Career Walks: 9
Stevens is an absolute bulldog on the mound, taking control of the game in every way possible. He’s a physically imposing pitcher at 6’0 215 lbs, as soon as he steps on the mound you can see the power he brings to the table. He’s a physical beast, a mental dominator, and most importantly a precise pitcher. He keeps hitters off the base-paths in a variety of ways, from limiting walks to racking up strike outs; his .229 batting average allowed to opposing hitters speaks for itself when it comes to Stevens ability to silence hitters. Combined with his 11.0 SO/9 rate and 1.7 BB/9 rate it’s apparent Stevens has a tight grasp of the most important tools needed for success.
What’s truly astounding is Stevens ever-growing momentum on the mound, once he gets started he’s like a run-away freight train. As the game moves along he only grows stronger, as his pitch count rises so does his ability. With the time he spent as a starter with the University of New Mexico, logging nearly 200 innings in his last two seasons [2016-2017], it’s clear Stevens is physically and mentally built for a strong workload.
2018 ERA: 2.53
H.H: Last night you threw 3 innings and earned your 2nd win of the season, how are you feeling?
Stevens: I actually feel pretty good today, not too tight, not too sore. Three innings for me is kind of “cake” cause throughout college and high school I started. Throwing 30-40 pitches isn’t that big a deal to me and I get stronger as the game goes on. I felt really good yesterday, and today I’m not really feeling the consequences.
H.H: What tool are you most focused on developing on the mound?
Stevens: Honestly, flexibility and mobility with my hips and trunk; still just commanding the zone, really being on the attack. Don’t ever give in and have that bulldog mentality that we talked about in Spring Training and carry it throughout the whole year.
Career Strikeouts: 63
With the amount of experience Stevens gained pitching at a high volume with the University of New Mexico it’s no surprise he exudes such a confidence on the mound. Yet this isn’t just any confidence, this is the approach of an intelligent, aggressive baseball player. He overpowers his opposing hitters in every which way, from beating them with the quality of his pitches to forcing hitters into beating themselves with contact outs on the quality of his stuff.
It’s one thing to know the facets of the game as a pitcher, to know you need to keep hitters off the bases with walks and pitch to the strike zone with aggressive control. Yet it’s different to truly understand these facets and gracefully work alongside them, a quality you could say separates the “ace” from the high quality pitcher.
Tyler Stevens is one who understands the game in that way, the way he speaks about his mental processes shows a pitcher who demands control of the game from the get-go. It’s not just his stuff that puts him on top, it’s his attitude that takes him over the top. His classic bulldog mentality doesn’t come along very often, and when it does it’s always a sight to behold in game-time
2018 Opposing Hitter On Base Percentage: .273
H.H: You’ve held opposing hitters to a .229 Batting Average during your time with the 66ers this season. How are you keeping hitters off balance?
Stevens: Really just working with all four of my pitches. Getting ahead a lot which makes the hitters more offensive and gets them to swing at pitches they don’t want to. Also, really just working down in the zone cause if you miss up in this league it’s going over the wall. Getting groundballs and weak contact is really the key for not only me, but the whole pitching staff on this team.
H.H: In your last 6 IP you’ve struck out 8, are you feeling more aggressive with your approach lately?
Stevens: Yeah, that’s another thing too that I pride myself on, getting high strikeouts with limited walks. The least amount of people that can get on base the less opportunity they have to score, if I can keep them off the bases from free passes or not letting the ball get in play it makes my job easy.
RHP Tyler Stevens, #31
Tyler Stevens is the epitome of the bulldog pitcher; he’s built like a truck, has the mentality of an ace and grows in ability as his in-game workload progresses. There are 29 other organizations that would be lucky to have a pitcher as tough as Stevens, someone who can command the game in whichever way the situation demands. As long as Stevens continues to work the way he has since college, and even before then, the Angels will see him rise through the ranks with and settle in as a top mark pitcher for the big league club.