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LA Angels: Who will take over for an injured Alex Claudio?

Alex Claudio (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Alex Claudio (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Angels, Patrick Sandoval
Patrick Sandoval, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The Angels didn’t exactly get off to a perfect start when they began spring training on Wednesday. Four players are delayed in their arrival to Tempe, Arizona, due to visa issues. That doesn’t seem to be a large concern at the moment, but something to keep an eye on is a hip infection that will sideline reliever Alex Claudio for 1-2 weeks or more.

Claudio was signed to a one-year, $1.125 million deal early this offseason. The lefty was brought in as part of an overhaul to the Angels bullpen which was a glaring weakness in 2020.

If Alex Claudio misses time with injury, the Angels may call upon one or more of the following pitchers to be used as a left-handed specialist.

As a member of the Brewers last season, Claudio posted a 4.26 ERA and 1.263 WHIP in 19 innings. Claudio also held left-handed hitters to a .212 batting average and .621 OPS+ for Milwaukee.

He wasn’t dominant on traditional box scores, but Claudio was analytically among the league’s best pitchers.

Alex Claudio 2020 Statcast Statistics:

  • Barrel % (3.4) Top 8%
  • Exit Velo (81.7) Top 1%
  • Hard Hit % (25.4) Top 3%

I’m no doctor, but a hip infection sounds pretty nasty. If Claudio misses an extended period of time, the Angels will be without a left-handed specialist in their bullpen. The Halos will have the following pitchers in their spring camp who could get their shot if Claudio remains sidelined.

Angels left-handed relievers on 40-man roster (Career Statistics)

  • Patrick Sandoval (24): (19 games) 5.33 ERA 1.355 WHIP
  • Jose Suarez (23): (21 games) 7.99 ERA 1.776 WHIP
  • Jose Quijada (25): (40 games) 5.94 ERA 1.830 WHIP
  • Hector Yan (21): Has not pitched in Major Leagues

The Angels don’t have any left-handed relievers in camp as non-roster invitees, so those four players will likely be called upon in the next few weeks. Maybe there’s a chance top prospects Reid Detmers (No.2) and Packy Naughton (No.12) can be used as relievers, but that likely wouldn’t be until later on in the season.

There isn’t much experience among these options. I think Sandoval has the best chance to be the first lefty out of the ‘pen, and he could see this role regardless if Claudio is healthy during the regular season.

The Angels want to continue giving Sandoval opportunities to develop at the big league level, but there might not be a spot in the starting rotation.

The best way to give Sandoval consistent repetitions without sending him to the minor leagues is to use him as a reliever. Sandoval’s usage could be similar to Julio Urias and the Dodgers.

Missed opportunities turn into upgrades for A's bullpen. Next

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If he performs well, the Angels could eventually use Sandoval as a starter this season, or in 2022.

80 percent of the current Halos starters will be free agents in the offseason, so there is a good chance general manager Perry Minasian will look to promote a few starting pitchers currently on the roster.

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