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Angels Kenny Rosenberg pitching a path to Opening Day


ryanmfalla

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By Ryan Falla, AngelsWin.com Columnist

Though the Angels are heading into the 2024 season with the most question marks we’ve seen in modern Angels memory there is enough sneaky value across the board to offer outside chances at success all throughout the year. From front-line starters ready to tap into their highest upside behind the philosophies of Ron Washington's coaching staff to the reserves prepared carry the team through tumultuous stretches. The Angels may not be rich in brand names this season, but what they do have is enough young talent across the roster to brute force their contention window into an early opening. One such athlete on the Angels who looks to legitimize fans hopes for a successful 2024 is reserve starter Kenny Rosenberg, who pitched himself into legitimate Major League considerations after a stretch of strong spot starts to round out 2023. His stint of late season success places him first in line for the roster spots up for grabs this spring, and while there is more competition for the final reserve spots than last year the mission remains the same for the rising star. Armed with a quality repertoire that features sneaky good off-speed offerings, Rosenberg stands ready to absorb Major League innings for a team whose recent track record makes arms such as his a golden commodity. 

“In my early minor league experiences I played against guys like Bo Bichette, Vladdy Jr. and Fernando Tatis, I've gotten guys like that out in the minor leagues. Just because you're playing in a bigger stadium with more people doesn't change anything for me. I’m just simplifying my game to that. If I make good pitches I'll have good results.”

Rosenberg displays a visible exceptionalism with the off-speed, which is no surprise after learning he expressed an affinity for the change-up while still in his childhood years. His innate feel for the secondary generates major league whiffs at a solid pace as hitters consistently struggle to groove the ball across the entirety of the zone. Rosenberg minimized power strokes to such a degree that sluggers were mostly kept in check as they managed a below league average 30.4 hard hit percentage against his stuff.  Although he was generally an off-speed featured pitcher in 2023 his underlying peripherals have shown an above-average cutter and slider waiting to be tapped into. The 38 inch drop on his cutter sits 9 inches above the league average break and similarly the movement on his slider is well above average as it cuts at 11 inches while dropping 48 inches (league average at 6in. cut, 37in. drop). Despite having a break nearly twice as big as league average his slider was his least thrown pitch in 2023 as he threw it just seven times across the total 543 pitches thrown that season. A greater emphasis on the pitch should see even more success come his way next year considering how far he went relying mostly on his fastball/change-up (FB:43.1%/CH:37.6%). Mixing more of his strong cutter into the fastball use should see his swing and miss trends continue to blossom into notable form. 

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“The change-up has been a pitch that I've thrown since I was eight years old. There are days where I'm more confident throwing change-ups for strikes than fastballs. The way I change speeds can keep hitters honest no matter what the count is; whether I'm behind, ahead, even, counts full, or first pitch of the at-bat. I don't think they can narrow in on a particular pitch or location. Execution in those counts and being unpredictable are the two biggest things for me.”

Rosenberg's mechanically sound, consistent delivery and generally above average repertoire inspires a palpable optimism that he can contribute quality big league innings with the support of Ron Washington's elite coaching staff. A team wide focus on developing quick counts on the pitching side and delivering the defense playable outs has been a centerpiece in camp this spring under Washington and should prove to be the difference maker on the Angels hopes for improved pitching in 2024. Too often did it feel that the 2023 Angels put the entirety of the onus on their pitchers as they consistently forced themselves into deep counts trying to wrangle outs at the plate. Kenny Rosenberg’s inherent skillset is a stellar match-up with the new staff’s philosophy as he habitually serves his fielders weak contact on swing and miss stuff. Attacking the zone and trusting hitters to beat themselves on his secondary offerings will be the biggest key for Rosenberg as he pitches himself into a full-time role as a quality serviceman on the big league roster. His 2024 ZiPS projections see him logging 111 IP with 7 wins and 104 Ks over 47 BBs which is fairly in line with his expected averages based on last seasons output, though a portion of those IP will be determined by the health of the Angels starting front-five. However, given the stresses of a 162 game season it is expected Rosenberg will get his fair share of big league work through the year.

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“I’ve really enjoyed the couple of weeks that I've been able to work with Barry [Enright] in person.  We had some conversations in the off season about some things I could chase, whether it's gaining velocity or just moving down the mound better and being more consistent with the strike zone. The big emphasis has been taking care of the baseball defensively and making sure we give our fielders an opportunity to get guys out behind us.”

Rosenberg projects as a loopy Joe Saunders/Jamie Moyer type with strong off-speed combos working alongside a fastball that offers best as an execution/mix-up pitch behind his cutter. Some of his best pitches, shape wise, were some of his least thrown in 2024, leaving plenty of opportunity for coaching to tap deeper into his upside this season. Rosenberg has already proven his ability to execute on the mound as he managed two wins in three starts last year with his final start of 2023 coming as a 5 IP 6 K no-decision in which he allowed just one hit. Of his two losses as a Major Leaguer only one came as a starter, and in that loss Rosenberg tossed a Quality Start across 6 innings. Having someone who can put your team in line for the W off reserve is powerful asset across a long 162 game season, especially when the value and consistency from your starting front five remains unpredictable. Despite what pundits might try to tell you there is more than enough quality of youth to inspire optimism in Ron Washington's ability to push this team towards competitive baseball. A push for the playoffs often relies on the strength of your second half heroes as much as it does your day one All-Stars, and though Rosenberg's second half heroics in 2023 went uncelebrated 2024 may shape up to be the year we see deserved fanfare for both Rosenberg and the Angels as they brute force their way into relevancy under the mysticism of Ron Washington. 

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