The future of Angels pitching rests on the arms of top prospects (No.2) Reid Detmers and (No.4) Chris Rodriguez. It’s doubtful either pitcher finds a spot in the rotation on Opening Day, but there is a possibility both Rodriguez and Detmers begin the season in the Halos bullpen.
The Angels currently find themselves with a bit of injury trouble among their relievers, as Felix Pena is dealing with a hamstring injury and Aaron Slegers has missed time with back spasms. There’s a chance they could recover in the remaining week and a half of spring training, but if not, the Halos will look elsewhere for help.
A projected eight-man bullpen will feature closer Raisel Iglesias, Ty Buttrey, Alex Claudio, Mike Mayers, Jaime Guerra, and Jaime Barria. The injuries leave two spots open.
Both Rodriguez and Detmers have shown flashes of their potential, but the problem is that neither has much experience outside of their small sample sizes in camp. Injuries and the pandemic have limited Rodriguez to high-A ball while Detmers has not even pitched in rookie leagues after being drafted last summer.
This brings up the debate of whether or not an immediate jump to the big leagues could be a detriment to their development.
2021 Spring Training Statistics:
- Rodriguez (4 games): 4.1 IP 3 ER 7 H 0 BB 7 SO
- Detmers (2 games): 2 IP 1 ER 1 H 1 BB 2 SO
It’s a tough decision to make and gets harder when you factor in the injury history of Rodriguez. The 22-year-old made his spring debut after a near two-year absence from the mound while recovering from back surgery. Rodriguez has shown his nasty-pitch arsenal but has been hit hard as well. Regardless of which level he begins the season at, there will be caution easing Rodriguez into consistent outings. If the Angels don’t plan on using him a lot at the big-league level, I see no reason in having him as a reliever on Opening Day rather than waiting until later in the season.
"“I think if you were to take somebody like that, you’d have to be prepared to really be kind of frugal in between appearances, to make sure that he does have time to recover,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “You can’t get greedy with a guy like that if you were to take him.”"
Injuries are not a concern for Detmers, but getting meaningful repetitions are. It’s rare for a pitcher to make the immediate jump from college to the Major League, but impressive performances in the remaining ten spring training games could allow this to happen. If the Angels plan on using Detmers consistently out of the bullpen, I don’t think it would negatively affect his growth as a pitcher. He would be facing the best talent, whereas he would not do so in the minor leagues. We’ve seen teams like the Dodgers utilize Julio Urias as both a reliever and starter, and now the left-hander is poised to take the next steps as an elite arm in the league.
Rodriguez and Detmers are both talented enough where the Angels would still want to use them as starting pitchers in the future. Given the current struggles of Griffin Canning and Andrew Heaney, the opportunities could come sooner than expected if poor performances are carried into the regular season.
Even if this does happen, I think Patrick Sandoval and Jaime Barria would get their shots while Detmers and Rodriguez continue developing in the minors. It’s unknown if Sandoval or Barria factor into the future plans of Angels pitching, but both will get their opportunities this season.
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While it’s a possibility the Angels use either Detmers or Rodriguez as relievers to begin the season, I don’t think it’ll happen. The Halos don’t seem like they are in any rush to take risks for the sake of competing, and there are other options available on the team if bullpen help is needed.