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ryanmfalla

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Ryan Falla, AngelsWin.com Feature Reporter

The need for legitimate arm talent in the Angels big league bullpen is lost on no one, and while it may seem options for improvement are vastly limited, there currently exists a wide pool of Angels minor league talent ready to be plucked. From Triple A all the way down to High A exists a plethora of arms on the cusp of their Major League debuts, some which we will likely see in the coming months. Some names you will be familiar with, and some you may be hearing for the first time today. The pool of talent is much bigger than anticipated and because of this we will break down the potential 2024 impact by level, starting with the surprisingly large pool of talent sitting in the Double A pitching lab. Don't let the fangraphs gaslighting fool you, the Angels have legitimate talent ready to prove the doubters wrong.

Ben Joyce

Outside of two skewed outings that saw him walk three hitters in each affair Joyce has thrown 9 walkless outings in 14 games. His last six outings have seen him go scoreless with a .059 OPS allowed. His numbers have seen rapid improvement across the board since 2023; he’s generating groundballs at a 15% higher pace while giving up 13% less fly balls. Joyce has more than just velocity on his side this time around, he’s pitching with observably more control, generating more outs on contact, and walking less hitters while maintaining the same healthy strikeout rate. Joyce will be manning the back-end of the big league bullpen sooner rather than later with sights set on eventual closing duties before the end of 2024. Expect to see him before the end of June.

Victor Mederos

Another high velocity pitcher who is benefitting from an improved ability to generate outs on contact. His last 35 IP has seen him pitch to a 2.57 ERA with a meager .616 OPS allowed. 57% of his outs have come as ground balls with just 16% of batted balls registering as line drives. His whiffs generated is coming at a few percentage points below his 2023 standards, but the Angels are making great use of it as his weak contact rate is up exponentially. He will likely see a potential MLB role materialize as he brings his strikeout rate closer to average, and should he remain a pitcher of two extremes over a longer course we will likely see him shift more towards relief. If the Angels see fit to tap this deep onto the depth chart in 2024 it will likely be calling him as a reliever rather than a starter.

Caden Dana

Very little needs to be said regarding his reputation as all Angel fans are well versed on the mythology. Just one of his seven starts this year has seen him go for less than 5 innings of work with five total starts being 6+ IP affairs. Every start that’s gone 5 IP has seen him allow no more than 2 runs. His 83.8% left on base rate is good for Top 6 in the Southern League while currently leading the league in BAbip (.180). A return to strikeout norms would be preferred before seeing him make a big league debut, so for now there is no rush while Dana simmers in his success and develops further layers in his pitching. As long as his development continues to truck along we should see him in line for extended roster looks in September as long as the health and performance of the big league roster does not fall apart before then. This is a guy you DO NOT want to see receiving any early call ups, as he is the Angels best system arm and you want as much unfettered development as possible.

Michael Darrell-Hicks

Hicks put himself on the map in 2023 after wowing pundits with his strikeout ability in Low A (11.2 K/9). 2024, however, has seen a completely evolved Hicks as he’s maintained an eye-popping 0.47 ERA across 19 Double A innings so far. The 26 year old was a late bloomer coming into the league as an undrafted 24 year old FA in 2022 who initially struggled in his first pro looks. From where we are now that seems to be a lifetime ago as Hicks fully embraces a weak contact philosophy that has him generating a 56% groundball rate. Like many other Angels Double A guys he is striking out a slightly reduced clip (8.5 K/9), though it is coming at a heightened effectiveness. His OPS allowed on the season sits at .441, and with his ability to go multiple innings we could very well see him find time in the Majors as a multi-inning mid leverage arm. The big league potential for Hicks is at an all-time high.

Mason Erla

There’s little you can say about a guy sporting a 0.00 ERA across 11 outings that can make his numbers look sweeter, yet a dive into Erla’s production shows everything that an Angels fan could want. He is leaving runners on base at a 92.3% clip, which is good for 4th in the Southern League. An heir apparent to Adam Cimber, Erla manages much of his success due to a limited walk rate alongside a critical ability to keep the ball in the park. Erla benefits most from an increased ability to work the zone as he is currently throwing for strikes almost 70% of the time as opposed to his 58% strike rate in 2023. A revisit to the PCL would be a huge test for Erla, and should he shove with continued effectiveness I would wager a callup to be in the cards around the All Star Break.

Nick Jones

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One of the more interesting cases in Double A, Nick Jones was drafted in 2021 and spent a couple seasons finding his footing before taking off in 2023. His control is phenomenal as he’s walked just one hitter on the year while striking out 18. This all comes from an ability to legitimately work the edges of the zone as he’s maintained a 20% strike looking rate. He generates whiffs at a solid clip as well, though his ability to generate weak contact could use a bit more seasoning. His 13.2 IP has seem him maintain a 3.29 ERA, though hitters are swinging to a .296 AVG against him. There are positives to be found here considering how well his run prevention ability already stands, and should he begin to generate ground balls at even an average clip there will be a world of promise to be had for Nick Jones. His MLB potential will be very reliant on the development of his weak contact, though where he stands now he is on the cusp of a potential 2024 MLB IP further down the line.

Alan Rangel

A pitcher, who like Nick Jones, almost has it all. He generates weaker contact than his aforementioned teammate, though his ability to get it on the ground leaves a bit to be desired. The vast majority of his outs come in the air (76% FB out), and though he has a strong K ability (10.9 K/9) and enough control to limit the walks you need to see more outs come on the ground before you commit to potential MLB outings. That being said, his ability to prevent runs is as good as anyone as he’s pitched to a 2.61 ERA off a .589 OPS allowed. There is room for growth, and you don’t want to tap him before he can fill out that space, but with time he should be ready to provide a few competitive innings for the big league team later this year.

Hayden Seig

Seig joined the Angels as an undrafted free agent in 2022 and currently sports an 1.40 ERA in Double A. His 6'5 frame gives the Angels a lot of physicality to lean on, especially should you consider multi-inning work at the bigs later this year. He excels at holding runners on base (4 SB attempts in 2023; 1 SB allowed in 2024), and when coupled with his high ground ball rate (55%) there is a lot to love about his future projections. The Angels big league squad has excelled at cutting down runners on the base paths, and with Seig's ability to hold runners down there is potential for deep late inning success at the bigs. He often stays around the zone, produces solid whiffs, and keeps power out of the bat (.415 OPS allowed). As long as he maintains his averages he will streamline himself for MLB work the near future.

Eric Torres

Probably the closest to a complete product as there is in Double A (outside of Joyce). Torres currently sports a 2.38 ERA with a miniscule .467 OPS allowed. His effectiveness in the strike zone is telling as he not only has strong swing and miss stuff, but he produces weak contact at a legendary rate. Short sample sized be damned, Torres has maintained a 0% line drive rate with 64% of his outs coming on the ground. We’ll see how long he can maintain these lofty numbers, though even a slight return to the median would see him still performing at elite levels. Barring any developmental missteps Torres is all but cemented into an eventual 2024 debut.

Ivan Armstrong

An absolute unit of a back end pitcher, Armstrong registers at 6’5 247 lbs and uses every ounce of that strength on the mound. He currently works a multi inning relief role which could put him at the top of the Angels wish list come time for promotions. His control keeps him involved in AB’s all throughout (69% strike rate), which is a quality the Angels bullpen could make great use of. He dots the outer edges of the zone to such a degree that hitters take strikes looking 20% of the time. There is some room to grow with his swing and miss stuff as he currently generates whiffs about 10% of the time, but considering his young age (23) there should be room to elevate his whiffability before he hits the big league mound. Overall he’s managed a 1.90 ERA through 23.2 IP with a 9.9 K/9. He’s produced 5 double plays so far, and considering how hard up the Angels are for outs in the bullpen he may be one of the first of this crop to see multi-inning relief work at the Big A in 2024

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