Patrick Sandovals debut offers hope for stability in 2020

CINCINNATI, OHIO - AUGUST 05: Patrick Sandoval #43 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim throws a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on August 05, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - AUGUST 05: Patrick Sandoval #43 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim throws a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on August 05, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The LA Angels saw one of their top pitching prospects, LHP Patrick Sandoval, make his MLB debut yesterday against the Cincinnati Reds. Sandoval dazzled in his debut with 5 innings of 2 run, 8 K baseball while walking just 2 and allowing 3 hits in a start that offered glimmers of hope for the Angels 2020 season.

Patrick Sandoval may just be exactly what the LA Angels needed after such a difficult 2019 season that saw the starting rotation decimated by injury and ineffective pitching. The biggest concern for this Angels squad is their ability to field enough competitive starters to take the team on a competitive run come 2020, but after last night some of that concern has been allayed. There seems to be a lot of pressure on the Angels to fill up the holes in the rotation come free agency, but after seeing prospect Patrick Sandoval excel in his debut it seems as if they Angels may have checked one much needed box off of their wish list. That need being a young, controllable starter (preferably left handed) with enough talent and presence to anchor the middle of the rotation.

One of Sandoval’s biggest developmental concerns was whether or not his stuff would allow him to exceed the limits of a back-end starter. After his debut against the Red yesterday, in which he struck out 8 hitters on the power of his hot fastball, eye-popping change-up, and nasty slider, it is more than clear that Sandoval has what it takes to be the middle of the rotation presence the Angels need. Not only was Sandoval’s stuff better than many talent evaluators anticipated, his ability to translate his best skills directly to the MLB with little learning curve allowed him to flash both dominance and the promise of a high ceiling.

In the MiLB Sandoval was throwing a fastball that sat around 93-94 mph, but after watching him pump his fastball to 96 mph in his MLB debut it’s clear that he has, and is, undergoing the evolutions needed for him to succeed in a big way in the Majors. He is only 22 years of age and if he is adding a couple extra mph on his fastball after just one year one can only imagine how much more growth may be left in the young star.

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What excites me the most about Sandoval is the way he mentally applies his repertoire. Sandoval is the personification of the term “pitchability”; he is as smart as they come, his aggression is palpable, and his control of in-game rhythm is an extreme rarity among young prospects such as himself. He proved to be able to hit his spots at a big league level and he knows exactly where to put which pitch in his arsenal to give hitters the maximum amount of fits. The fact that Sandoval was competing toe-to-toe with Joey Votto, a career.302/.422/.521 hitter, only shows how high of a level Sandoval naturally competes at.

The most impressive aspect regarding Sandoval’s debut was the immediate translation of his best qualities from the minors to the majors. His IQ was there as well as his ability to intelligently mix up pitches and force hitters into pitchers counts regularly. His aggressive mindset and pitch control did not falter in the face of MLB hitting. He wasn’t just striking guys out, he was producing regular ground balls as well as he did in the minors. Most importantly his hard-nosed nature prevailing in the face of difficulty; despite pitching into a tight and inconsistent strike zone as well as pitching around multiple infield errors Sandoval pushed through and pulled in some critical outs in extremely hot situations.

Of course it will take a handful of starts before being able to really pencil Sandoval’s name into the 2020 team roster, but if he can continue at the pace he’s set down for himself in his debut there is no doubt he will be looked to as a legitimate weapon going into 2020. The Angels biggest issue this season and seasons past has been starting pitching stability. If Sandoval proves to be as reliable as we expect him to be then the Angels will be heading into 2020 with a rotation that may consist of Shohei Ohtani, Griffin Canning and Patrick Sandoval at it’s very core.

Patrick Sandoval's debut was solid. Next

If you plug a couple of free agent starters in that mix you’ll be looking at the most competitive, and stable, rotation the Angels have fielded in a long time heading into 2020.