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Angels pitcher Caden Dana blazing a fast track towards Major League debut


ryanmfalla

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By Ryan Falla, AngelsWin.com Staff Reporter

It's not everyday you find an ace-caliber high schooler bulldogging his way to top prospect rankings just one year out of high school, and it's even less often that you find that arm in the 11th round of the draft. The Angels latest top prospect, RHP Caden Dana, came into the Angels organization as a high schooler in the 2022 draft, and though he’s pitched less than 80 innings with the organization he’s already established himself atop the leaderboards. Though he has pitched just one full professional season in the minors the quality of his stuff, as well as his physical and mental makeup, has firmly entrenched his status as a soon to be big league starter. The maturity present in the now 20 year old speaks for itself with his presence on the mound, and his dedication behind the scenes allow his best qualities to shine regularly. When talking about Caden Dana you often hear whispers of ace-like potential, yet when analyzing his ability it becomes clear this conversation should be more than just whispers.

“It was a big step for me going from high school ball to facing grown men in Rookie ball. It was different but I adapted pretty quick. I stuck with my main intention from high school; just throw strikes, focus, and get that out.”

Screenshot_20240110_133147_Chrome.jpgHis first full season in the Minors saw him waste no time establishing his stock as a top organizational prospect. Dana struck out 89 hitters across 69.1 innings of work between Low A and High A in 2023 while allowing just four home runs. Hitters managed a sub .300 OBP while seeing power numbers fall to a meager .324 slugging percentage against his stuff. He also performed well against the splits as right handed hitters managed a lowly .621 OPS while lefties hit for a similarly meager .619 OPS. This was not across short sample size either as Dana pitched against righties in 155 PAs with lefties seeing the plate 126 times. Dana’s strikeouts may be the most upfront indicator of his Major League quality, yet his ability to sap power out of bats is the talent that will spell the most success for Dana going forward.

“I'm just trying to keep them as off balance as possible, keep them guessing. Don't let them know what's coming. That’s my goal, if you get off-balance swings you won’t give up too many home runs.”

Through 53.1 innings at High A Dana registered as a top pitcher across multiple categories in the Northwest league, notably finishing the season as a top 5 pitcher in K/9 rate (12 K/9), K% (31.7%), FIP (3.23), and Swinging Strike % (16.6%). Despite producing most of his outs through the flyball (43.7%), which would be the 6th highest FB% in the Northwest League, Dana managed a top 3 HR/FB rate of 5.5%. This ability to keep the ball in the park bodes well for his future pitching in Anaheim as Angels stadium has seen its fair share of flyball/strikeout pitchers find great success. Dana tends to comp towards a Noah Syndergaard type given his edge towards power pitching over finesse, though he does come packaged with a fair grasp on strike zone control for a pitcher entering his age 20 season. Attitude and energy wise, Dana is reminiscent of Angels favorite Jered Weaver, a quality sure to play well with fans in the coming years. His presence on the mound is highly aggressive, and his ability to spot the ball all across the zone is strong enough to give credence to the future stars ace-like comparisons. Dana’s physical frame (6’4, 215lbs) supports his power repertoire well, offering confidence that he will continue to add velocity onto his already mid to high 90’s power fastball. His slider looks to develop into a quality Major League out pitch, and once he furthers his sense of control on his hammering curve Dana will present a true force to be reckoned with as an Angel. 

“I got a four seam fastball, change up, split change up, 12-6 curve and a slider. I can play up and down. I can play east and west. I like bullying hitters with my fastball, really test them with that. Build off that with a curveball or slider, really test them with the secondary. All of my pitches work well with each other.”

13147331_934e001b99c44e60b4132690f47f1ef6.jpgThe Angels have made a recent habit of spending over slot in the draft to attract talented high school pitchers edging towards college. Despite being a talent capable of first round quality development Dana fell to the 11th round of the 2022 draft, leading to speculation that he would take his talents to the University of Kentucky before the Angels swooped in with a well over slot bonus to secure his talents. The Angels would repeat this same strategy in 2023 after swooning pitcher Barrett Kent with a well over slot bonus in the 8th round to keep him from fulfilling his commitment to Arkansas. Instead of watching top level high school talents refine their draft stock in college, and likely fall out of the Angels reach, the organization has taken to securing these arms before they can develop into surefire top 10 picks out of college. An inspired strategy for an organization often picking outside of the top ten, why wait for talents to become first rounders in three years when you can roll the dice in the middle rounds now? This strategy has so far proven effective as Caden Dana’s development has him fast tracked towards a soon to be Major League starting role.

“I was drafted on the third day of the draft, my agent called and told me the Angels had come up with a really good offer. They ended up drafting both me and my brother [Casey Dana] that day. My dad was on that call too, it was something I had only dreamed. The Angels had proposed the idea the day before we got drafted. I was happy and also pretty shocked to hear that, I didn't think that situation was possible going into the draft. It was the best outcome for me, my brother and my family. Getting everyone into the picture together.”

Dana’s path to the Majors is quite straight-forward from here as he finished 2023 with success at High A, seeing his last three starts all go for 6 IP with at least 7 K’s in each start (9 K’s last two starts). It would not be out of the question to see him begin the year at Double A, and from there he’s just a stones throw away from the big league club. The Angels are quickly preparing Dana for a Major League workload as he regularly threw 80+ pitches an outing last season with four of his ten High A outings being 90+ pitch affairs. You often see 18 to 19 year old prospects average 40-60 pitches an outing, signifying the Angels desire to develop a Major League stamina early. This is not without warrant either as Dana came into the organization with a natural ability to maintain quality of stuff deep into starts, especially the strength of his power fastball. The stars appear to be aligning for Dana to make his big league debut in short order; as is the Major league starting staff is not particularly deep and with the Angels tendency to promote prospects out of Double A there appears to be a clear shot to the Majors for Dana. Especially should the bottom end of that big league starting depth fall out of order in 2024. Realistically speaking Dana is earmarked for a 2025/2026 debut, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him making his first big league impressions late in 2024 come September call-ups. He is one of the more aggressively minded pitchers within the system, and with the stuff to back up his bulldog mentality he is sure to provide impact quickly once he hits the Majors. This organization may be far removed from the modern glory days of bulldog aces like Jered Weaver or John Lackey, but with Caden Dana in the fold Angel fans can look forward to a starting staff that will bring Angels dominance back to the AL West. Dana may simply be a prospect today, but come tomorrow we will see him shine as one of the brightest spots in the future of the Los Angeles Angels. 

Here is also an interview that my AngelsWIn.com colleague @taylorblakeward did with Caden Dana earlier this past summer. 

 

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