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Baseball America: “They [Angels] have no bullpen,” one opposing scout said. “It’s going to be a big issue.”


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https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/spring-training-buzz-nick-pratto-tyler-glasnow-among-players-impressing-evaluators/

While there is growing optimism about the Angels rotation with the spring training performances of Shohei Ohtani, Dylan Bundy and others, there is also growing concern about the state of their bullpen.

The Angels bullpen posted a 4.63 ERA last season, 21st in the majors, and blew an MLB-high 14 saves. They added Raisel Iglesias and Alex Claudio in the offseason, but the overall group has failed to inspire confidence.

Felix Pena struggled before going down with a hamstring strain, Mike Mayers’ stuff has gone backwards in rival evaluators' opinions and Ty Buttrey continues to be erratic. Offseason trade acquisition Aaron Slegers is dealing with back spasms and minor league free agent signee Junior Guerra has given up five hits and four runs in four innings this spring.

“They have no bullpen,” one opposing scout said. “It’s going to be a big issue.”

Against that backdrop, Angels manager Joe Maddon has raised the possibility of using top pitching prospect Chris Rodriguez in relief this year. Rodriguez, the Angels No. 3 prospect, has yet to pitch above High-A and has thrown only 9.1 official innings since 2017 due to a pair of back injuries and the coronavirus pandemic. He did pitch 65-70 innings between the alternate training site and instructional league last year.

“If you look at (Rodriguez) right now, he looks like a relief pitcher to me," Maddon said. "But that doesn't mean he can't start. Just looking at the way he comes after you, the physical stuff, how intimidating he can be in the short term, it's very interesting.”

The Angels reportedly signed veteran reliever AJ Ramos to a minor league deal on Wednesday, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Ramos was a standout late-game reliever for the Marlins from 2013-17, including making an All-Star Game as their closer in 2016, but he missed part of the 2018 season and all of the 2019 season after having shoulder surgery. He made three appearances for the Rockies last season.

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There were some very good relievers available that weren't horrendously expensive and they completely passed.  Ultimately, it came down to money.  They stuck to a specific budget like they always do,

Bullpens are a crapshoot. The bullpen could suck. The bullpen could be mediocre. The bullpen could dominate.

In 2018 an "opposing scout" said Ohtani was a high school hitter and should be in the minors.

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I agree with this assessment. The pen is very questionable. There are no guarantees after Iglesias. But Rodriguez might prove valuable, and Sledgers is interesting. IMO, they should be seriously considering bringing in Shane Greene. 

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19 minutes ago, PattyD22 said:

Wouldn’t it be great if these guys could over achieve and shove this assessment right up every pundits ass?  
 

Like the 2002 team did?

I agree @PattyD22. Going into that season we had a bunch of unknowns and K-Rod didn't come upon the scene until Sept of 2002, being converted to a reliever after starting in the minor leagues. 

Basically the Angels had Scot Shields and Troy Percival going into that season. That's it. Mayers and Iglesias could be every bit of good as those two, so you're right. Hopefully we'll get a Brendon Donnelly, Ben Weber type performance from two other guys and Chris Rodriguez could give us an entire season worth of K-Rod results. 

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1 minute ago, Chuckster70 said:

I agree @PattyD22. Going into that season we had a bunch of unknowns and K-Rod didn't come upon the scene until Sept of 2002, being converted to a reliever after starting in the minor leagues. 

Basically the Angels had Scot Shields and Troy Percival going into that season. That's it. Mayers and Iglesias could be every bit of good as those two, so you're right. Hopefully we'll get a Brendon Donnelly, Ben Weber type performance from two other guys and Chris Rodriguez could give us an entire season worth of K-Rod results. 

Exactly Chuck.  A bunch of no name guys who came together and over achieved.  Could it happen?  Who knows.  Can it happen?  Who knows?

Bottom line is we have a whole season ahead of us.  This prognostic nonsense is clickbait.  Who gives a shit.  

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It is an issue, there's no way around it. 

Iglesias is great. Mayers had 1/3 of a year of success. Not enough to depend on. I love the look Slegers offers, but it's too early to count on him. Buttrey has 1/2 of a year of success and a year plus of getting hit hard. You shouldn't bet on him either. Claudio shouldn't be used late in games, against lefties or righties. There's a reason they got Guerra so cheap, I'll just leave it at that. Barria is a starter, not a reliever. 

The best avenue for success, at least as I see it, is if Rodriguez morphs into K-Rod, which he certainly has the stuff for, and Sandoval and Suarez end up being pretty solid in relief too, which is where I project both of them. Left handedness doesn't matter, I think they can get both lefties and righties out.

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13 minutes ago, Second Base said:

It is an issue, there's no way around it. 

Iglesias is great. Mayers had 1/3 of a year of success. Not enough to depend on. I love the look Slegers offers, but it's too early to count on him. Buttrey has 1/2 of a year of success and a year plus of getting hit hard. You shouldn't bet on him either. Claudio shouldn't be used late in games, against lefties or righties. There's a reason they got Guerra so cheap, I'll just leave it at that. Barria is a starter, not a reliever. 

The best avenue for success, at least as I see it, is if Rodriguez morphs into K-Rod, which he certainly has the stuff for, and Sandoval and Suarez end up being pretty solid in relief too, which is where I project both of them. Left handedness doesn't matter, I think they can get both lefties and righties out.

Agreed, I have more confidence of Barria as a starter and not as a reliever.

They really should have soent the extra money to get one more bull pen piece.

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There were some very good relievers available that weren't horrendously expensive and they completely passed.  Ultimately, it came down to money.  They stuck to a specific budget like they always do, which is what it is.  The amount spent should get it done but spending more would have helped.   So you're left with super cheap options in RF and at the back of your rotation.  The good news is that we've got some depth in those areas to overcome poor play.  

In the pen we really don't.  It's a hodgepodge of one established guy and the rest isn't even a coin flip really.   In recent years past it wasn't as much of an issue because we likely weren't playoff bound even with a really good pen.  This year, with the division wide open, it stands to be a critical factor in the teams success and will likely determine whether they make the playoffs.  ie, they likely won't because of it.  

There is nothing more frustrating than a bad bullpen.  Losing games late or not giving a really good offense a chance to come back is beyond painful.  Winning games where you have a lead or coming back from couple runs down is one of the most fun things to see in a team.  

I will be astounded if this pen performs anywhere near league avg.   The fact that we're hanging our hats on Mayers who dominated for 30 innings last year yet was a dumpster fire for the rest of his time in MLB is laughable.  And he's our second best arm?  Our setup guy?  Yeesh.  

 

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1 hour ago, Angel Oracle said:

In my opinion, it all comes back to Arte.   For whatever reason, it seems that he doesn’t value the bullpen’s importance today.

We hear that he’s pursued starting pitching, but never hear anything about pursuits of key late innings guys.

He will just blame Minasian or someone else..

IMO, Davis and Brady likely end up being used as RPs.   Both have the stuff to K people.   Brady seems to really hammer the strike zone too.

Ill be bent if they end up trading real talent for RP help when they could have addressed it via FA.

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I agree that our pen looks shaky, at least in terms of established credibility, but as others have mentioned, bullpens are crapshoots and you never know what'll happen.

Iglesias was certainly a significant acquisition.  He should be a very dependable closer and lock down the 9th.

The rest, who knows?  Mayers was great last year, but if scouts who have seen him this spring are concerned, then that's certainly something to monitor.  We saw the same thing happen with Robles - dominant one season, then completely terrible the next.  It's not like Mayers has much of a track record.

On a more optimistic note, I'm intrigued by what Sandoval can do as a multi-inning relief weapon, if that's how we choose to deploy him.  He has the stuff to dominate for a few innings at a time and could morph into a late inning relief option against the other team's LHHs (as mentioned by @Second Base, left-handedness doesn't really matter, but Sandoval does have the stuff to get out both LHH and RHH).

Pena should return a few weeks into the season too, so hopefully that'll offer some more stability as well.

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My guess is Minasian will be addressing the pen throughout the year...his staff will have a better idea of who they can part with from the farm, and we’ll see them trim some guys in deals as the summer unwinds.

It’s where guys like Thaiss, Suarez, or the multiple SS prospects will wind up being used, much like Jones.

Wouldn’t be surprised if something happened this week. 

Also think we will start seeing a lot of SPs converted if everyone stays healthy. 

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21 minutes ago, totdprods said:

My guess is Minasian will be addressing the pen throughout the year...his staff will have a better idea of who they can part with from the farm, and we’ll see them trim some guys in deals as the summer unwinds.

It’s where guys like Thaiss, Suarez, or the multiple SS prospects will wind up being used, much like Jones.

Wouldn’t be surprised if something happened this week. 

Also think we will start seeing a lot of SPs converted if everyone stays healthy. 

Yeah.  I mean, just the nature of bullpens - we see a lot of teams constantly adjust and tinker with them throughout the year.  We've also seen many teams employ different strategies.  The 2015 Royals won the WS with a super dominant pen.  Conversely, the 2019 Nationals had such a poor bullpen that they effectively utilized their SPs as relievers to get through the postseason run, and also randomly had Daniel Hudson step up and become a closer during that playoff run, after being discarded by multiple teams.

You just never know with the bullpen.  At least with Iglesias, with the number of effective pitches he has, he should be a good closer, as he isn't dependent on just one very good pitch to get by.

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7 hours ago, TaylorBot said:

Bullpens are a crapshoot. The bullpen could suck. The bullpen could be mediocre. The bullpen could dominate.

This is all that really needs to be said. 

I mean, it's absolutely a concern. We have really just 1 reliable guy and a bag of peanuts. You know the thing.

But given how volatile relievers are, can we really go into the season saying "yeah this is a great bullpen" regardless of whether we added a bunch of "good" relievers? They have to perform. We'll see a lot of moving parts the first couple months and hopefully Maddon will find a group that can get outs.

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I'm willing to bet the Angels pen exceeds expectations this season, esp with Pena returning.  In fact the whole team with all the fierce competition for the remaining spots on the roster will create a very ambitious team, everybody's trying to outdo the other, haven't been this excited for a season to begin since like ever...

Maybe that's the pandemic in me speaking, but I don't think so... I know my baseball, and this team looks fun.

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I mean, our best bullpen of the last five years was comprised mostly of Bud Norris, Yusmeiro Petit, and David Hernandez...two minor league deals and a guy acquired in a AAA trade. 

It all comes down once again to health. One of the biggest reasons the bullpen has been so bad recently isn't because of the arms necessarily, but because the rotation has been such a mess the bullpen wound up having to cover a lot more innings, endure a lot more pressure, and dealt with even more roster manipulation. 

If the rotation can stabilize for once, and we get four or five guys knock out 20-25+ starts, I think the bullpen could really lock in nicely, regardless of who is in there.

After seeing Rojas seemingly make the team, I'm also becoming pretty certain Rodriguez is in the bullpen. Maddon seems to be going with guys he really likes, even from an intangible side, even if it's sort of unexpected.
 

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There's just no continuity because we haven't had anyone come up from the minors and provide any semblance of production of the pitching side.  Even if we get a couple guys to have a good year, will they next year?  There's potential for having to replace like 10 of our 14 pitchers for 2022.  

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13 minutes ago, Dochalo said:

There's just no continuity because we haven't had anyone come up from the minors and provide any semblance of production of the pitching side.  Even if we get a couple guys to have a good year, will they next year?  There's potential for having to replace like 10 of our 14 pitchers for 2022.  

When you consider Maddon's preaching of culture, the addition of clubhouse-friendly vets, and the likely additions of Rojas and Rodriguez, I think you see the direction the Angels are headed becoming more clear. 

They're going to aggressively promote and push their internal options and try to build a team heavy on chemistry. 

Rojas is a prime example. He's risky. Could be a 4A player, could be a real liability defensively, could strain the team's needs at SS/CF...but if he hits and plays well, you have a really, really bug feel-good story. Hometown late-rounder debuting at 28. It doesn't show up in box scores or BBREF, but if your clubhouse is as chemistry/camaderie-based as we're being led to believe, this type of success can really galvanize a team. That seems to be their approach, or at least a big part of it. It's why encouraging Rodriguez, Ward, Detmers, Rengifo has been such a big part of this spring as well. They're pushing these guys, talking them up, putting confidence in them publicly. There seems to be a strategy to re-make the attitude of the team and give even the bit players more confidence. 

If it all coalesces and these guys gain confidence and suddenly perform to an average or above-average rate, even role-players like Ward or Suarez or Thaiss, this team could become immensely dangerous, a la 2002. 

All of this also sounds right in the Maddon-type of approach to winning.

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