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Angels Caden Dana on Futures Game invite, looming MLB promotion




By Ryan Falla, AngelsWin.com Staff Reporter

The biggest asset a young ballplayer can bring into their initial exposures to the professional game is confidence. Above the fastball, the control, the pitchability, and many other factors, confidence is often what separates the amateurs from the budding professionals. This extends beyond baseball and into all of life, and if there is anyone who understands this sentiment deeply it would be the freshly nominated Futures Game invitee (and Top 100 MLB Prospect) Caden Dana. Dana’s reputation has written its own story as he makes the slow climb to the Major Leagues as a member of the Angels organization, and though time is a factor that controls all, Dana knows that time will eventually take a backseat to ethic and achievement in the long haul. Although confidence is the air that inflates his ever growing stature his desire to dutifully shoulder the responsibilities of a professional ballplayer will be the seam that fastens his Major League destiny.

“The responsibilities are always the same. No matter if you're one of the top guys you still have a job to do and your performance on the field shouldn't change who you are. Be the same guy every day no matter how you do or how good you are, how highly ranked you are. Go out, do your job and back up your boys. My life right now is one outing at a time. It's every five days. That's how my life is moving. Off the field I'm still doing the same stuff, nothing's changing. It goes hand in hand with getting invited to the Futures Game and prospect showcases. Your hard work is paying off but it's not the end goal. I gotta keep going. I got to work for it.”

The eye test may not be as relied on in baseball as it has been in decades past, but with Dana the difference between himself and his peers is more than obvious even to the layman's eye. Whereas other pitchers seem as if they have room to physically and spiritually grow into their professional selves Dana looks every bit the big leaguer that he is destined to become. Just recently casting aside his high school boyhood self from two years ago, the 6’4 215lbs phenom stands atop the mound not just as his own man, but as THE man of the rotation. The go to in a room full of go tos. 6th in ERA in the Southern League (2.99 ERA), 2nd in Ks (97), 2nd in IP (90.1), 4th in lowest BA allowed (.192), and 3rd in K% (26.7%). Allow me to correct my most recent statement, Dana is not the go to in a room full of go to’s, he is the go to in a league full of go to’s.  

“The work I've been putting in is paying off, all I can do is just keep going out and getting better. The prospect games and spring training are just the stepping stones, the motivation to keep getting better. I was blessed to pitch in those. I'm honored to be invited to the Futures Game and I think it's a reminder that you got to keep putting in the work and good things will happen.”

A big factor in Dana’s meteoric rise this year has come through specific evolutions across multiple regards. 2024 has seen Dana discover a true sense of longevity that was missing in his 2023 go around. His third start of the current season saw Dana log 7IP for the first time ever in a professional start with the young star hitting this mark four times through the first half. Dana’s growing stamina has been a key fixture in his developmental successes as his hottest streak of the year saw him throw 100 pitches three starts in a row while maintaining a 1.77 ERA and .515 OPS with 26 strikeouts through 20.1 IP (June 7th-June 19th).

“I went in not knowing what the [2023] season would do to my body because I've never played baseball for six months straight. It was always spring and summer, maybe three months. I would do like 45 innings in high school ball. The long [professional] season took a toll on my body. I didn't take accountability on how long the season is. It hit me, I got gassed almost halfway through the year. The best way to put it is like a paycheck bandit just stealing money, not pitching. That's the worst feeling ever when you just watch baseball and can't go on the field and you just take up your teams money. I hated not being able to perform and play. Recovery and putting on strength was the big factor this off season. You gotta go long in games because that'll be a big factor moving up. No one wants to see a starter go four innings every time, that's just not what we're meant to do. That was a big flip of the switch coming into this year.

Secondly, Dana’s revamped slider has seen an extreme growth in his strike throwing abilities. Whereas his high octane fastball came as his premiere pitch coming into the season he now commands a truly powerful secondary that aptly backs up his fastball. Prior to enlightenment Dana was sporting a slightly below league average CSW%, as noted by fellow AngelsWin correspondent Taylor Blake Ward. CSW% measures the Called Strikes and Swinging Strikes registered by a pitcher with Dana opening the initial stretch of the season sitting at 26.1%, which would be below league average. Come late May, however, Dana would solidify his coming track by registering a 37 CSW% during a May 26th start, and since then Dana has only looked forward as he’s managed 57 Ks in the 45.1 IP since May 26th. [credit to Taylor Blake Ward once more for the CSW% stat dive] Whereas his slider sat in the low 80’s coming into the year he now flirts with 90mph on a regular basis. Pre 2024 scouting reports rated his slider as a 60/70; though recent progress may see that “future” 70 settling firmly into the palm of the young stars hand.  

“I shifted my perspective [on the slider], I really didn't do much mechanically. It was more changing my intention with the pitch, throwing it like a heater and getting aggressive with it. The velocity came with that aggressiveness. It became a better pitch that way.”

Now with the Futures game laying in plain sight there is no better time to look towards the future of Caden Dana and the Los Angeles Angels. Now without Ohtani the urgency in providing a legitimate top of the rotation presence is now greater than ever for this malnourished big league roster. The MLB track on Caden Dana seems to jump it's own timeline with each and every start, and while you won't want to rush the development of such an impact prospect there is great value in getting him big league looks by seasons end. Not as a sudden surge of responsibility, but as an eyewitness experience that he can take back with him to offseason preparation. There really is no reason to hold Dana back from September innings at the Majors; the confidence is more than there, the stuff is elevating towards serious legitimacy, and the physical strength needed for a long season is seeping into his bones as we speak. The phrase "time will tell" is often used in these regards, but with Dana you can throw that tired platitude into the backseat as his work ethic, confidence, personal belief, and physical dominance brings him as close to the Majors as any 20 year old can get.

“That thought [MLB callup] will light a fire under my ass when things are going bad, but it’s like I said before; God has a plan for everyone. The time will be right when that happens. I'm just trying to be where my feet are and do good where I'm at.”


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