The LA Angels knew they had a battle on their hands going into Spring Training for the fifth spot in their rotation. Jaime Barria, Felix Pena, and Nick Tropeano were the main candidates, with Griffin Canning, Jose Suarez, and Dillon Peters being dark horse choices.
So far after the first week of Spring Training where five of these six pitchers have seen action for the LA Angels this Spring. Nick Tropeano dropped out the race before he even got started due to a setback in his rehab from Tommy John Surgery. The rest of the candidates have all looked good in their first outings.
Dillon Peters – left-handed starter acquired from the Florida Marlins.
Dillon Peters could win a roster spot as a lefty-specialist or as a 5th starter. Peters got the nod in the first Spring Training game as he pitched two scoreless innings against the San Francisco Giants. Peters only took 19 pitches to get six outs with four being on ground outs. Peters allowed an infield hit and also struck out one batter.
He will get another shot to pitch this week most likely in a “B” game. If he continues to pitch well he might get the opportunity to make the Opening Day Roster in some capacity. Grade: A
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Jaime Barria – Right-Handed Pitcher
Jaime Barria is probably the odds-on favorite to be the Angels fifth starter especially since he already filled that role admirably in 2018 going 10-9 with a 3.41 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. Barria had the most wins of any Angel starter in 26 starts.
If Barria pitches well this Spring he will be the fifth starter when the Angels break camp at the end of March. In his first outing Barria pitched two innings giving up one run and striking out two against the Milwaukee Brewers. Not bad, but also not flawless either giving up the one run.
Felix Pena: Right-Handed Pitcher
Felix Pena is probably the one other pitcher in the mix that could be considered an incumbent it is Pena. Pena also got an opportunity to fill the starter role for the Angels in the second half of 2018 with decent results as well.
Pena started 17 games and went 3-5 with a 4.18 ERA, with a 1.24 WHIP. He had 85 strikeouts in 92.2 innings of work. In his only Spring Training outing Pena relieved Barria and pitched an amazing three innings of scoreless relief in getting the victory over the Brewers walking one batter and striking out three Brewers.
This could end up being one of the best battles of the Spring Barria and Pena. Right now Pena is slightly ahead, but Barria did not pitch badly so he still could be in the lead. Grade: A+
Griffin Canning – Right-Handed Pitcher
Griffin Canning is a longshot to make the Opening Day rotation this year, but if he has a good showing this Spring it will make his path to the rotation much easier for 2020. Canning had his first action Wednesday afternoon against the Colorado Rockies pitching a scoreless inning of relief not allowing a hit and striking out one batter.
Canning looked good in a short outing of one inning. It will be interesting to see how he does if he pitches an extended outing. Canning should his mid-90’s fastball and an assortment of breaking stuff. He was the Angels first round draft pick in 2017 and last season made his way from Single-A to Triple-A in just one season going 4-3 with a 3.65 ERA in 25 starts striking out 125 batters in only 113.2 innings of work. He also posted a 1.15 WHIP.
Canning again will probably not be on the Angels roster when they start the season, but don’t be surprised if you see him in Anaheim before season’s end.
Jose Suarez – Left-Handed Pitcher
Jose Suarez is another dark horse candidate who made a quick rise through the Angels minor league system going from Single-A to Triple-A in 2018. Suarez went 3-6 with a 3.92 ERA in 26 starts striking out 142 batters in 117.2 innings of work. His WHIP was the only thing that left some to be desired as it was 1.41. His strikeouts to walks was a sparkling 3 to 1 ratio (144/42).
Suarez is another pitcher that could end being used as a lefty-specialist for the Angels in 2019. He has not had much experience in relief (only 6 relief appearances in four minor league seasons). Suarez also pitched well on Wednesday against the Rockies retiring all three batters he faced in one inning of scoreless relief.
So as you can see the race for the 5th starter spot will be an interesting one to follow. Each outing for all the candidates involved will be important. It could come down to final days of the Spring before new Angels manager Brad Ausmus makes his final decision as to who his 5th starter will be.
However, with all the injuries the Angels have had within their starting rotation in the past three seasons, even if you don’t get the fifth starter spot in Spring Training you still have a good chance to see some action before season’s end or in Peters and Suarez’s case, out of the bullpen. STAY TUNED!!!