Keynan Middleton is Still the LA Angels Closer of the Future
By Vincent Page
The LA Angels once again saw pitcher after pitcher go down in 2018. Injuries to the pitching staff have been a theme the past two years, and the Halos lost stud reliever Keynan Middleton to Tommy John early in 2018. However, he is still the LA Angels future at closer.
The LA Angels saw something rare in 2018. After an up-and-down rookie year, Keynan Middleton entered 2018 as the team’s bona fide ace out of the bullpen. He ended 2017 on a streak of 11 scoreless outings.
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He began 2018 just as dominant before a damaged UCL ended his season. In 17.2 innings of work, Middleton threw his way to a 2.04 ERA while striking out 8.2 batters-per-nine innings. The one concern with his game is his walk rate, as he allowed 4.6 walks-per-nine innings.
Middleton is set to return sometime in the middle of the 2019 season. While the Angels could move his return based on their position in the playoff race, Halo fans can definitely expect to see the 25-year old continue his ascent to be one of the MLB’s top closers in 2019.
A third round pick, Middleton has a blazing fastball that he uses as his main setup pitch. He has excellent command of the pitch and has touched triple digits with it before. However, Middleton’s money pitch is his devastating slider. He can use it against both left-handed and right-handed hitters, and it is his primary strikeout pitch. He also mixes in an average changeup that has been used effectively low in the zone to work groundouts.
Given all the injuries, the Angels bullpen performed admirably in 2018. Veterans and young players alike stepped up and most showed flashes that will give them a chance at a role in 2019. However, no relief pitcher on the Angels roster has as much talent and upside as Keynan Middleton does.
A UCL injury is not career defining. Pitchers come back year after year and return to form, some even improving. Middleton was the Angels closer of the future before the injury, and when he returns, the Angels and Middleton will expect more of the same dominance.