Among the LA Angels 21 non-roster invitees are six pitchers who will be joining the team for Spring baseball in just a couple of weeks. Pitching became the Angels biggest concern in 2018 after numerous injuries shelved many Angels pitchers throughout the season.
The LA Angels will be looking to circumvent the issues of 2018 by entering 2019 more than fully loaded. Of the 6 non-roster pitchers invited to Spring Training how many of them have an actual chance to join the squad right out of the spring?
Miguel Almonte, Griffin Canning, Alex Meyer, Matt Ramsey, Jeremy Rhoades, Forrest Snow; those are the six non-roster pitchers the Angels invited to join them for Spring Training. Some of these names might ring a bell with the Angels faithful such as Alex Meyer, Miguel Almonte, or Griffin Canning. With the Angels looking to head into 2019 with a full-stack of depth there is decent opportunity that one or more of these pitchers can make the team right out of Spring. If so, which pitchers have the best chance?
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Lets start with the recognizable names; Alex Meyer missed all of 2018 due to setbacks in recovery from shoulder surgery in September of 2017. Meyer came to Anaheim in a 2016 trade with the Twins and pitched 89 innings before his eventually trip to the DL in 2017. Meyer faced rehab setbacks which has kept the young athlete from pitching for almost two years, which makes this Spring a huge turning point for the young mans career. Those 89 innings with the Angels saw Meyer pitch to a 3.94 ERA with a 10 K/9 ratio with 99 total Ks, although those K’s came in tandem with 55 walks.
Alex Meyer has held down a starting role with the Angels relatively well when healthy and many fans are looking to him replicate his previous production prior to injury. Will he be able to overcome the setbacks from injury and pitch as good or even better than before? Chances are that Meyer can pitch himself into a role with the Angels heading into Opening Day given his previous track record with the Angels, especially if he can overcome the competition from fellow pitchers competing for a big league role. Plus, you’d have to think the Angels have a spot penciled in for him given his awful injury struggles
Alex Meyer looks to have the best shot out of these six pitchers, though some of the others aren’t too far behind. Miguel Almonte makes an interesting case; despite his 10.29 ERA in 7 IP (2018) he allowed runs in only 3 of his 8 apperances. His first appearance of the season saw him give up 2 runs in one inning which ballooned his ERA to 18.00, a spot where it never really recovered. His sample sizing is really too small to make order of, although peripherials such as his 3 BB’s/7K’s shows that there could be more than just a 10 ERA guy. Almonte has not had a lot of success in the Majors, at the age of 25 (across 3 seasons) he only has 17.2 IP, though there is his average 8.66 ERA through those three seasons.
Almonte has the chance to break through as a bullpen option should he elevate his game (or pitch into a larger sample size) beyond what we’ve seen so far, though there is an arm or two that look more solid as a relief option than Almonte.
Matt Ramsey, for instance, may be on his 5th organization without a single MLB appearance, yet he looks the most ready of any of the 6 options (unless Meyer moves to the bullpen) to provide sustainable relief. Ramsey is 29 years of age and holds a total 2.69 ERA through his 6 years in the Minors. This past year, 2018, saw him pitch in Rookie ball and Triple A for the Houston Astros and maintain 2.04 ERA through 53 IP before coming to the Angels.
ERA isn’t the most conclusive stat to refer too, though it is one of the more direct, easier to understand-in-context type stats. When it comes down to the more defined peripherals is where we see Ramsey shine even brighter. 2018 saw Ramsey maintain a 10.7 K/9 rate, which is right next to his career rate of 10.8.
He has the strikeout ability that Billy Eppler wants to fill the bullpen with, and when you add in Ramsey’s ability to balance the strikeout and walk (3.94 K/BB) it looks like the only thing that can keep Ramsey from making the Opening Day roster is a poor Spring Training. Matt Ramsey could very well end up becoming a valued piece of the Angels bullpen across the 2019 season and a great Spring Training is the first step to seeing that realized.
Next up on the bullpen options is Jeremy Rhoades, who will be 26 come Spring Training. Rhoades hasn’t had nearly as much MiLB experience as Ramsey, nor as much success, but he has shown that his development is trending in a very positive direction. 2018 saw Rhoades pitch 78 innings of 2.54 ERA baseball in tandem with 70 K’s and 19 BB’s.
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Rhoades is starting to come into himself after four previous MiLB seasons that saw Rhoades struggle to put up ERA’s below the mid 4’s. A big key in Rhoades future development is his ability to avoid the hit, an ability which isn’t so finely tuned yet. Rhoades allows almost 1 hit per inning (8.2 H/9) which is somewhat balanced out by his ability to minimize walks (2.7 BB/9), though being hit prone is very dangerous heading into the opportunity for a big league role.
There is a heavy importance on constructing the bullpen this year, Rhoades could very well fit that mold but it doesn’t seem if he’ll be able to accomplish that right out of Spring Training.
Like Rhoades, the last non-roster invitees look to be depth options for now. Forrest Snow hasn’t made his MLB debut yet, at the age of 30, and his numbers tell the story of a depth option more so than a pitcher competition for an Opening Day spot. His 8.5 K/9 rate is pretty good given his 126.2 IP, yet his 9.0 H/9 could be troubling should the Angels see to employ him as an inning eating starter.
He’s definitely a guy that can put the bullpen in a troubling spot, but at the same time he could fit nicely into a starting role designed to chew up a handful of innings. I wouldn’t expect to see Snow command any sizable duties unless called upon as a depth option.
Lastly, we have the Angels prime-time prospect Griffin Canning, the #1 pitcher in their farm system. If you haven’t kept up on him, Griffin Canning was drafted in 2017 by the Angels after pitching as the “Friday Night Ace” with UCLA. Canning made his MiLB debut in 2018 and pitched himself into a promotion after just 8.2 scoreless innings in Class A Advanced.
Double A wasn’t much different as he pitched 45.2 innings and commanded 49 strikeouts (1.97 ERA) before being promoted to Triple A. The learning curve did hit in Triple A, but despite his elevated ERA (5.49) he commanded the same peripherals that make him the dynamic prospect he is. All in all he held together a 9.9 K/9 across 59 IP in Triple A, and despite that 5.49 ERA he still managed to keep hitters to a 7.9 H/9.
Griffin Canning, despite his clear-cut trajectory to big league ace-liness, is only in Spring Training to put him in a position where he can test himself against Big League level competition and take that experience back to the Minors where he can continue developing with a clearer vision.
It’s not wild to think that Canning would be a full-time starter in 2020, but 2019 may be a little too soon. Barring any kid of injury bug that requires Canning for depth (like Jaime Barria in 2018) I don’t think the Angels will be rushing Canning soon.
Unless, that is, he handles the competition in Triple A so fiercely that the Angels have no choice but to promote him. It’s not the most unlikely option, but it’s not something that can be counted on. The Angels have a lot of options going into this Spring Training, which already makes them a better team than they were in 2018.
Not only do they have more options, those options provide more quality than 2018’s depth chart. Sure, Forrest Snow doesn’t look like a blow-up pitcher, but it’s arguable he could provide more depth value than someone like Deck McGuire. Matt Ramsey has the potential to pitch himself into a bullpen role while Alex Meyer is healthy once more and is looking to reclaim his previous job, even guys like Miguel Almonte are out there to prove the small sample sizes wrong.
There’s going to be a lot of competition for Opening Day spots in this Spring Training, a lot of value whose worth will be evaluated microscopically. This is something that can easily put, and keep, the Angels in a position to compete for a chance at not just the playoffs, but the whole enchilada itself.