There will (more than likely) be no playoff run for the Angels in 2021.
There will (more than likely) be no Mike Trout before this season’s final curtain falls.
Shohei Ohtani will take the field, but he’ll do so while battling a sore wrist that has curtailed his pitching efforts somewhat, leaving him as only half of the greatest player having the greatest season in MLB history down the stretch.
As the summer turns to September, it can be difficult to find hope in anything beyond Brandon Marsh’s beard and Raisel Iglesias’ spotless ninths.
But, while you may have been prepping relentlessly for Rams season, the Angels decided to remake their starting rotation on the fly, adding two interesting weapons down the stretch.
If you can get to a television while this team treads water, we recommend tuning into the development of both Janson Junk (stolen from the Yankees) and Packy Naughton (plucked out of a New England schoolbook from the 1800s).
Packy Naughton and Janson Junk are worth watching for the Angels.
Junk’s first MLB start didn’t go swimmingly over the weekend against the Rangers…but they often don’t. That shouldn’t be an indicator of his big-league future, especially as his minor-league breakout between both the Yanks and Angels organizations has continued to turn heads throughout the community.
Plus, Junk arrived in LA thanks to the Yankees’ misbegotten Andrew Heaney trade; all the love in the world to Heaney, but his 7.00+ ERA in the Bronx has fueled multiple meltdowns. The Angels have already won this deal.
Junk’s impressive and advanced mix of pitches has led to a complete post-shutdown revival. His 2019 season was release-worthy, featuring a 5.54 ERA across three levels (mostly High-A). His 2021? In both the Yanks and Angels’ systems, he whiffed 97 men in 93 innings, and left the Bombers’ farm with a sterling 1.10 WHIP and 1.78 ERA. Though he scuffled in five starts with the Trash Pandas post-trade, he still earned a September showcase because the Angels consider the advanced righty part of their future plans. So far, we’re one start in, with a defensive betrayal and an elevated WHIP masked by the fact that he still allowed only a singular earned run.
And then there’s Packy, the violent lefty who has the potential to be a genuine folk hero if he can continue to parlay his low walk rate into big-league effectiveness.
Dealt a trio of challenges immediately, the reliever-turned-starter has had to turn down the Padres, red-hot Yankees, and the Pads a second time on Tuesday. So far, though his starts haven’t resembled finished products, there’s been plenty of his trademark electricity on display.
Born in Boston (doy), Naughton has been surprisingly hittable in the high minors this year, but has controlled the controllables, walking just 13 men in 56.2 Triple-A innings (while surrendering 69 hits). Whether as a member of the rotation or a jacknife bullpen weapon, there is something in Naughton’s rock-and-fire delivery.
Over the next several weeks, the Angels — and their fans — will get to find out exactly what that is, instead of watching stiffs like Jose Quintana and Dylan Bundy continue to struggle in the exact same manner every fifth day.
We’ll opt for mystery over a known, failing quantity every time down every stretch.
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