The LA Angels are gearing up for an interesting Spring Training with a plethora of exciting prospects making their way to Tempe. Despite inviting Top Prospects such as Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh to Spring Training there was still one questionable “snub”. Despite all the proven talent and near-readiness for the MLB the Angels did not invite top pitching prospect Patrick Sandoval to Spring Training.
Patrick Sandoval, the Angels 22 year old left-handed starter whom they acquired via trade with the Houston Astros during the 2018 season, will not be attending Spring Training this season. After pitching to a 2.06 ERA in 2018 across Single and Double A it was clear that Sandoval was one of the more ready (and talented) prospects in the Angels system. He has everything Angels GM Billy Eppler and the Angels squad need; a left-handed starter with a strong K ability (10.7 K/9 in 2018), limited walks (2.1 BB/9), and power negating prowess (0.4 HR/9).
Sandoval did this across 122.1 IP last year, though he didn’t pitch above Double A. The Angels clear Top Pitching Prospect Griffin Canning, who was invited to Spring Training, did pitch 59 innings in Triple A while maintaining a 5.49 ERA; though it needs to be noted that ERA isn’t as important as some of the more fine peripherals such strike out ability regarding evaluation. Canning kept his K/9 rate to a 9.8 despite giving up plenty of runs and hits, which actually helps his case as he could easily strike out more once he gets his handle on controlling hitters consistently.
At this level of the minors, especially with first exposure, it’s more important to see performance over results. I know that sounds a bit backwards, but with prospects such as Canning it’s about knowing that their ability and talent is there, even if they give up plenty of hits and runs it’s more about evaluating the actual skill-set than the mistakes made. It’s shown that Griffin Canning can flex his strike-out prowess (64 K’s in 59 IP) which is why the Angels are taking big looks at him this Spring.
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Which further begs the question as to why leave out Patrick Sandoval? I understand he hasn’t shown himself at the Triple A level and you don’t want to “expose” him too quickly, but the fact of the matter is that Patrick Sandoval may be just as ready as Griffin Canning. It is a little harder to evaluate given Sandovals lack of Triple A time, but the fact is his strike-out ability is on par if not better than Cannings. Sandoval carved up a total of 145 hitters in 2018, but even more important was the 29 walks. There is a great balance between strikeout and zone-control with Sandoval, though “balance” may not be the operative term as there lies a massive chasm between the walks he allows and the strikeouts he earns.
Patrick Sandoval is very much an ace in philosophy and execution, and even if he doesn’t reach the potential of a #1 or #2 starter (most project him as #3) he still pitches with a mind of an ace. I guarantee you that Sandoval will make just as strong a #2/#3 Ace as the Astros Gerrit Cole. Oh wait, Sandoval came from the Astros system didn’t he? Well it makes perfect sense that he would have a properly developed ace mentality no matter what spot in the rotation he pitches out of. That’s the strength of the Astros starting staff and developmental program, they’re practically all aces. Patrick Sandoval brings a lot of that magic to the Angels with his Jered Weaver like killer/bulldog mentality. Patrick Sandoval doesn’t just throw, he doesn’t even just pitch, he surgically dissects and works each and every hitter he faces without abandon.
Patrick Sandoval could very well impact the club in 2019 just as Jaime Barria did in 2018. Big league looks are important for developing guys like Patrick Sandoval, you need to give them a clear vision of what they’ll be facing and exactly how they can find success against the top competition. You can’t understand how to beat the top talents without being exposed to their level of play, so I don’t understand the point in leaving someone so close to being MLB ready out of that oh-so important learning experience.
It’s not the most critical thing to send Sandoval to Spring Training so he can take back to the Minors the experience and knowledge of what he needs to become to be truly successful. Then again it is kind of critical that this experience isn’t being given to Sandoval. He’s more than ready for the Angels, he knows exactly what he wants and what he needs to do to get there; for the organization not to meet him halfway and let him learn what they need from him to find big league success is a bit egregious. A big oversight if you will.
Especially when you see pitchers like Forrest Snow, whom at the age of 30 has not pitched a single game of MLB ball (4.76 ERA in 2018 across Double/Triple A); or the 29 year old Matt Ramsey, who has not pitched a single MLB game thus far, though he did pitch to a 2.04 ERA across 53 innings in Rookie Ball and Triple A.
It’s not that those guys don’t deserve to get Spring Training looks, it’s just the question of whether they can display more talent and value in Spring Training than the developing ace of Patrick Sandoval. The case can be made for Matt Ramsey as he did hold a 10.7 K/9 rate, though he looks more like a bullpen piece with his 53 IP as opposed to Sandovals 122.1 IP.
I understand the Angels desire to work with more known quantities, but at the same time when you’re giving looks to young talent like Griffin Canning or Jeremy Rhoades it seems almost like a lapse in judgement to leave off a pitcher who rates as highly with potential and talent. Leaving Patrick Sandoval out of the Spring Training invites may not be the worst thing, but what it definitely does is the steal the opportunity to have an impactful rookie help evolve the outlook of the team. And if you’re saying “but they’re taking that chance with Canning!” the only thing I can say is “they missed out on having another chance”.
It’s still going to be a great Spring Training for the Angels, but if it feels like somethings missing, or lacking, you now know why.