The 2021 Los Angeles Angels season has been…well, largely unsuccessful, outside of the realization that the most astounding marvel in baseball history currently occupies their uniform.
Hopefully, that’ll be true for many years down the line.
If there’s any franchise that knows your bones aren’t made by having one or two superstars on their roster, though, it’s the Angels.
Over the past decade, Arte Moreno has either imported or discovered Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Josh Hamilton and Anthony Rendon, yet outside of 2014, the team hasn’t managed to make a successful postseason chase.
No, division titles and playoff series are won at the margins by outfoxing desperate teams and by player development victories.
Last month, we were hesitant about making declarative statements about the deadline deal that sent lefty Andrew Heaney to the Yankees and brought top prospect Janson Junk to California. Since the move was consummated, Heaney’s become unplayable.
Junk? He’s flashing the breakout stuff that put him on the Yanks’ radar in 2021 and forced them to make a decision about his future on the 40-man roster. They made the wrong one.
The Angels won the Janson Junk-Andrew Heaney trade with the Yankees.
Somewhat eased into the big leagues — in terms of innings count, but not in terms of his opponents — Junk will wrap his 2021 season with 16.1 innings of baseball, 20 hits (a figure thrown off by his final start in Texas), and a 3.86 ERA.
This season wasn’t about dominance from the start for Junk, though he did flash an advanced sweeping breaking ball and managed to keep contenders in the Astros and White Sox off balance for four-inning stints (three runs for the ‘Stros, one at Chicago). This second half was about the 25-year-old finding a rhythm and proving he deserved a long look at the back end of the rotation in 2022, and he certainly did that.
How did Heaney perform in his walk-year summer in New York? Thanks for asking. He was abysmal, somehow hanging out at the edges of the roster until this past week, when instead of DFAing him, the team demoted him to the Florida Complex League.
The Yankees hate admitting their mistakes, but this was an obvious one.
Heaney managed to post a 7.32 ERA in the Bronx, surrendering 13 homers in 35.2 innings — and that’s including a remarkable start against the Red Sox, where he went seven two-hit, one-run innings on Aug. 18. What was that all about?
Somehow, after being bumped from the rotation to the bullpen, Heaney ended up in several high-leverage outings, most notably blowing a 7-4, seventh-inning lead to the Baltimore Orioles in a home game that massively cost the Bombers.
In short, the Angels shed a massive problem to one of the contenders everyone most wants to see fail, and they got back a rookie who held his own and ended up on Pitching Ninja. A clear and obvious victory.
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