Baseball is a funny story; the Angels relievers have looked hot as of late but today they were the Achilles heel for the Angels in both split squad games. The Angels dropped a sure-fire win against the Royals after giving up five runs in the 9th while losing a contest against the Dodgers that seemed doomed from the 5th inning on.
Luis Garcia came into the Dodgers game in the 5th inning and looked like a man who hadn’t picked up a baseball until that very moment in Spring Training. He hasn’t looked this bad at any point in Spring Training, up until today he’s pitched in 4 games and walked only one while allowing just one run. But today? Just 0.1 IP with 2 hits allowed and four walks en route to three total runs allowed. I should mention that one of those walks happened with the bases loaded
This is pretty eye opening because as solid as he was up to this point this one trash-fire of an appearance has blown up his earned run stats. Makes you realize exactly why he had a 6+ ERA last year with the Phillies, as sharp as he can be he will have stretches of completely unusable pitching.
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Lets hope that this was just a part of Spring Training and not a piece of the bigger picture.
Game 1: Angels 7, Royals 8
Winning Pitcher: Andres Machado (RHP): 1.0 IP, 4 Hits, 3 Runs, 1 HR
Losing Pitcher: Ryan Clark (RHP): 0.1 IP, 2 Hits, 2 Runs, 1 HR
Game 2: Angels 2, Dodgers 6
Winning Pitcher: Pedro Baez (RHP): 1.0 IP, 1 K
Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia (RHP): 0.1 IP, 2 Hits, 3 Runs, 4 Walks
There were a decent amount of bright spots in these two games today, but what really stands out is what went wrong. I already detailed Luis Garcia’s failings to kick off the article but he wasn’t the only pitcher who let the game get away from him. In the Royals game we saw a Top Angels Prospect, Jesus Castillo (RHP), make a pitching appearance and struggle big time. Castillo is prized in the Angels system for his pitchability and IQ, he’s essentially a Dan Haren type with precise breaking pitches and well placed fastballs.
Unfortunately he just could not throw any pitch in the proper spot or miss any bats. Against the Royals Castillo pitched one inning and allowed four hits with five runs and three walks. He did nab a single strikeout but compared to the rest of his performance it doesn’t really go for anything. Ryan Clark may have been saddled with the loss after giving up two runs off two hits but the true damage came from Castillos inability to find himself on the mound.
Jaime Barria made the start in the Royals game and had a pretty nice game aside from the three walks he allowed in his three innings of work. Yes, I know thats a big “aside”, but within the environment of Spring Training you are mostly expecting to see athletes still in the process of sharpening up their skills. It’s not about what’s looking dull in their approach, it’s about what’s looking sharp, that’s the ultimate purpose of Spring Training. The dullness can always be sharpened up as Spring or even the season goes along. That being said, Barria also struck out two and allowed just one run.
On the Dodgers side of the split we saw much less offense, only two runs thanks to a Peter Bourjos RBI double and an RBI from Kaleb Cowart. The biggest part of the game was actually Mike Trouts early game triple that could have easily been an inside-the-park homerun if he wasn’t held up by the 3rd base coach. Overall there wasn’t very much spark in the Angels performance on the Dodgers side of the split aside from a handful of strong outings by the aforementioned hitters as well as some of the pitching.
Another big time under-the-radar stud making a quiet come-up within the Angels franchise made a fantastic appearance in today’s game. Brett Hanewich, the 24 year old RHP, showed off a magic fastball as he collected two K’s in a 9th inning appearance. Hanewich has a very interesting story as he spent this last offseason working with 1983 Cy Young award winner John Denny. The spin rate on his fastball rates above MLB average and we saw all magic of that in todays Spring appearance. He’s just one of the many promising young prospects on their way towards making impactful big league contributions very soon.
Felix Pena is offering a lot of hope towards the future of the Angels starting rotation. His Spring has looked extremely dominate so far, and even though we saw a little more “down-to-earth” performance from Pena today he still pitched a top-notch game. In 3 innings of work he allowed four hits and a walk but also limited the damage by allowing just two runs. On top of that he collected four strikeouts. The Angels have desperately needed talent to hold down the bottom of their rotation and with a talent like this the Angels will have more than just a “bottom-end of the rotation”. They’ll have valid threats from the #1 starter to the #5.
Jared Walsh pitched yet another perfect inning of work in his appearance against the Dodgers. Not only did he have another efficient inning, he came away with his first strikeout of the Spring off of Whit Merrifeld. Despite his flashy MiLB hitting stats (29 HR’s, 99 RBI’s) he’s been surprisingly (not to me) impressing big time off the mound. He has shown off great ability at the plate and a solid approach (.912 OPS, 3 XBHs in 17 PA’s), but his mound work has been something else. Maybe it’s because his pitching ability was unknown to many coming into this Spring, but to see such effective execution out of Walsh is truly encouraging regarding his and the Angels future. He has the bat, the defensive versaility, and now the pitching ability that will allow him to find a spot in any MLB roster.
Jose Rojas is as interesting as they come, an under-the-radar prospect among many other under-the-radar prospects. Rojas is 25 years and only in his third season with the Angels MiLB as he started his professional career at the age of 23 out of college. In his three seasons he’s collected a total 1199 Plate Appearances and has maintained a .290 average from Rookie League all the way to Triple A. The 2018 MiLB season saw him hit 12 HR’s and 23 Doubles with a .289/.355/.501 slash line in 425 at-bats and it’s really looking like those talents are translating smoothly into the Big League scene. Today he brought in two RBI’s off a double which brings his Spring stats to 3 HR’s with 2 Doubles and 6 RBI’s. He isn’t slowing down and at this pace the Angels may be forced to give him a spot on the Big League roster.
Wilfredo Tovar is another athlete among the Spring Training invites that are attempting a career reclamation. Tovar hasn’t played in the Majors since 2014 with the Mets, he was 22 years old at the time and has since played in the MiLB. He’s only 27 and is looking like a serious contender for a Big League role, especially after today’s performance of two big extra base hits, one being a double and the other being a HR for two RBI’s overall. This adds on to his already impressive Spring line of 5 hits with a double, HR, a Triple and 3 RBI’s. If he keeps this up he may be able to provide the 2019 Angels quantifiable value as a reserve infielder.
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Brett Hanewich looked fantastic in his outing against the Dodgers today. His fastball has been described as “heavy and hard”, and “like a bowling ball” and we got a great look at it in prime form. Hanewich came away with two great looking strikeouts that established him as more than just a Spring Training invite, he is a serious contender for the 2019 bullpen. Maybe not out of the gate but there is a very real chance that he can contribute near the end of the season if he keeps developing at this pace. He graduated from Stanford, where the Angels drafted him from in 2017, and you can see that refined intelligence in his pitching approach. His pitching IQ rates highly and when you put that in tandem with his heavy fastball you have yourself a very dangerous pitcher coming out of the bullpen. We may not see it right out of the gate in 2019 but we’ll see it soon.
Taylor Cole pitched with the Angels in 2018 and offered 36 innings of 2.75 ERA baseball. Today he showed the strength of his form with a strikeout in 1 inning pitched, though he did allow a walk in that inning. Cole struck out 39 batters across the 2018 season while mostly being used as a reliever. He did however start two games (pitching one inning and 1.1 IP in the two starts) and his longest appearance was a 3.2 IP stint on August 5th, 2018. Last year Cole provided multi-inning relief work which bodes very well for this team as the Angels would be well off with that kind of versatility. It’s not expected (or hoped) from Cole to start any games this season, but if he can provide multiple innings of relief in any situation he is called upon we’ll be treated to a very strong Angels bullpen in 2019.
The Angels are playing in their next Spring contest tomorrow against the White Sox, which you can watch on Fox Sports West at 12:10 PM PT.