For much of the 2021 season, pitching has been the Achilles heal of the LA Angels. Relying on aging veterans like Jose Quintana and Alex Claudio to get the job done was a complete disaster from the start.
Things eventually got a little better once the likes of Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez and Jaime Barria all earned more playing time, but by then, the damage was already done.
However, once it became clear that the Angels were probably going to miss the postseason, the team shifted gears and instead started focusing on giving many of its young pitching prospects their first taste of the majors.
So far, this strategy has worked out wonderfully for the Halos, with the results representing a pitching staff that is on an upward trajectory heading into next season.
Young LA Angels pitchers show promising sign of what’s to come in 2022.
Headlining this group of exciting new LA Angels pitchers is Reid Detmers.
The Angels’ top pitching prospect, Detmers hasn’t quite had the glowing debut many had hoped (nor did anyone expect him to land on the COVID-19 list), but regardless of the results, the young lefty has still shown a lot to like.
While a 7.11 ERA is pretty unsightly, manager Joe Maddon essentially threw Detmers to the wolves, having to face the Oakland A’s, LA Dodgers and Houston Astros in his first three career starts. That’s one heck of a gauntlet for a 22-year-old.
Still, Detmers held his own, initially going 2.1 scoreless innings against the A’s before allowing a couple of home runs in the third.
Similarly, after a rough first couple of innings against the Dodgers, he hunkered down and finished his night firing three straight scoreless innings.
Detmers, of course, topped this all off with a glowing performance versus the Astros, holding their vaunted offense to just one run and three hits over six innings.
If this isn’t enough to make you believe that Detmers can be a fixture of this rotation for years to come, just look at this curveball and tell me you’re not impressed.
In addition to Detmers, the Angels have brought up two more promising young starters in recent weeks.
The first was fellow lefty Packy Naughton.
Though he doesn’t quite have the stuff to match Detmers, what Naughton brings to the mound is great potential as either a starter or a reliever (as well as an A+ name).
Like Detmers, Naughton has also faced an unenviable gauntlet through his first four appearances, featuring the Dodgers, NY Yankees and the San Diego Padres.
In relief, he stumbled a bit in his debut against the Dodgers, allowing three baserunners and one run in his lone inning, but he followed up this performance with one of the Angels’ best relief outings of the year.
Facing the Padres, Naughton demonstrated incredible command and composure on the mound, stranding two inherited runners in the second before working through an error in the fifth and ultimately finishing his day going 4.1 innings without allowing an earned run.
As a starter, Naughton has been even more impressive. While his first start versus the Yankees was a bit underwhelming, he quickly rebounded and again brought his A-game to the Padres, firing five shutout innings on just 72 pitches.
Whether as a starter or a reliever, Naughton has proven that he deserves to be on the Opening Day roster next year.
Then there’s Janson Junk (another A+ name right there). The new arrival from the Andrew Heaney trade, he recently made quite a first impression in his debut against the Texas Rangers.
In his first major league start, Junk flashed some elite movement on his curveball (57.4 inches vertical drop) and slider (6.3 inches horizontal movement).
Making this even more impressive is the fact that both pitches are reportedly still something of a work in progress for the righty, meaning they might become even deadlier options over time.
Sure, he’s only made one start so far, but if he can keep this up, Junk will undoubtedly factor into the Angels’ rotation plans for 2022.
Also, don’t forget about Chris Rodriguez.
While his injury plagued rookie season may be cause for concern, what shouldn’t be dismissed is just how well he performed while he was healthy.
He was excellent out of the bullpen, particularly in April when he struck out 17 batters in 14.2 innings. Averaging more than two innings per appearance that month, Rodriguez was a crucial innings eater on a staff that desperately needed one.
Rodriguez also looked strong in his brief stint as a starter, before getting injured again. Across two starts, C-Rod pitched 10 strong innings, allowing just four earned runs and striking out nine.
Now, if he can just stay healthy, Rodriguez could be one of the most effective pitchers the Angels have had in years.
Lastly, the Angels’ bullpen has received a major boost as well in the form of Andrew Wantz and Austin Warren (there has to be some kind of alliterative nickname we can give these two).
These two have been a godsend in the bullpen these last couple of months, combining for just over 30 innings pitched.
Wantz immediately impressed in his debut, tossing 1.2 scoreless innings against Baltimore on July 4.
Since then, he’s been tremendous as a cleanup man, typically coming in during the fourth or fifth inning, and has so far given up just six earned runs through 12 appearances.
Likewise, Warren has been absolutely dominant since his debut. With a 1.69 ERA in 11 outings, he’s showing great potential as a high-leverage, late-inning option.
Whether he’s holding runners on or helping maintain a slim lead, Warren has systematically shut down opposing offenses at almost every step of the way. In time, he may prove to be the ideal setup man for closer Raisel Iglesias moving forward.
Bottom line, get excited about 2022.
Barring some major regressions, all of these rookies are ready to make a huge impact in their sophomore seasons. Combine them with the young pitching talent already established on this team and the Angels could be a sleeper pick for one of the league’s best pitching staffs next year.