LA Angels News

LA Angels Roundtable: Six Under-The-Radar Key/Bounce Back Players for 2019

By Vincent Page
ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 12: Shohei Ohtani #17 hits a two out single scoring Kole Calhoun #56 and Justin Upton #8 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the ninth inning of the game against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium on August 12, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 12: Shohei Ohtani #17 hits a two out single scoring Kole Calhoun #56 and Justin Upton #8 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the ninth inning of the game against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium on August 12, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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HOUSTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 01: Felix Pena #64 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches in the second inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 1, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 01: Felix Pena #64 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches in the second inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 1, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Felix Pena

By David Peng

The Angels are going into Spring Training with a projected starting rotation that includes two guys clearing a full season past Tommy John surgery, two free agents on one-year contracts looking to bounce back from down seasons, and a 22-year-old going into his sophomore season. The one name that hasn’t been bantered about much is Felix Peña — but he shouldn’t be forgotten.

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Pressed into service after another season of rotation injuries, Peña, a middling prospect for the Cubs who the Angels acquired for a PTBNL in October of 2017, came through with a solid season. In 90 innings over 17 games as a starter, Peña posted a 4.00 ERA, with opponents hitting just .242/.304/.375, and struck out over 8 batters per 9 innings.

Though he can touch 95 MPH with a 4-seam fastball, Peña generally sits at 92-93, with an average slider and change-up that the Cubs didn’t deem important enough to keep. In 2018, though, Peña added a sinking fastball. Thrown with the same release point and velocity as his 4-seamer, the sinker gave Peña a deceptive wrinkle that he didn’t have before.

Over the last four months, Peña has gone from not throwing a sinker at all to throwing it nearly 60% of the time. Adding that pitch turned him from a fringe major leaguer into a real contributor last season.

Now, even though the Angels already have five guys projected as rotation starters in front of him, no one believes those five are all they’ll need. A big league season is long, and nobody’s rotation lasts all season. Recent history tells us that the Angels are going to need at least a few more starters. Peña has earned the right to be first in line when the Angels need to reach back for a sixth starter.

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