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AngelsWin Today: Angels Zach Joyce talks draft, expectations coming into organization out of Tennessee

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401473_20230226_BB_Dayton_IC_050.jpgThe Angels 2023 draft saw a number of fascinating selections from GM Perry Minasian as the team targeted a number of near ready, college level talents with turnaround potentials within the next two seasons. From the highly developed batter’s eye of Nolan Schanuel (with a swing to see his discipline through) alongside the big power potential of Alberto Rios, there is no shortage of high potential names beginning their journey in the system. One name that stands above the rest of this draft class is Tennessee pitcher Zach Joyce, a hard throwing righty with an utterly dominant mound presence. The intimidating form of Zach Joyce stands at an imposing 6-4 225lbs, capable of crushing you with a look alone, able to back it up with a stinging repertoire which he delivers with brutal efficiency. Angel fans may already know him as the brother of current Angels big leaguer Ben Joyce, but don’t let yourself think his name alone is what got him drafted. While he may be twins with his brother Ben, their similarities going all the way down to the minutiae of their repertoire, Zach Joyce stands on his own as one of the brightest spots in the Angels future. Twin brother or not, Joyce brings beleaguered Angel fans a lot to forward too during a season that has seen its many ups and downs challenging many a fans love for the game.

“It's awesome being out here. All the guys have taken us draft picks in, it's been a lot of fun being part of the team. We’re playing some good baseball, winning a lot of games, it's been a lot of fun getting going. I stepped away from baseball for a couple years until this year. I’m focused on getting back in and taking it one step at a time. That’s the biggest thing for me right now.”

Armed with a fastball that can touch the high 90’s alongside a hard breaking slider and cutter, Zach Joyce looks to cut a quick path to the Majors on the quality of his pitchability. He comes into the organization managing a developed strike zone control beyond that of someone just entering professional baseball right out of the draft. Always quick to the zone, typically working ahead in the count and with little wasted effort in his mechanics, Joyce appears in proper form despite missing multiple years at Tennessee due to health issues. With his struggles now far behind him what remains is a future as bright as can be as one of the best prospects currently in the Angels system. Statistically speaking his balance between the walk and strikeout is as good as it gets as he currently sports a miniscule 0.0 BB/9 with the 66ers. Small sample sizes aside his hot start still speaks to a heightened level of mechanical quality and pitchability within the young star. This is no random streak either, back with Tennessee Joyce maintained an impressively low two walks across his 17 strikeout season (10.1 IP) with the school in 2023 before being drafted by the Angels.

“The first couple of outings are just getting used to pro ball. Obviously it's a little bit different, but I feel like Tennessee prepared me. And knowing Ben, asking him questions, prepared me a lot. This year at Tennessee was a building process coming back to the game, getting comfortable out there. Getting a couple bigger situations out there on the mound. But really just taking in as much as I can especially with guys like O’Hoppe around here and Davis Daniels. Being able to learn as much as I can this year is the biggest thing for me.”

IMG_6626.JPGZach Joyce's last baseball experiences before coming back to the game in 2023 consisted of his JUCO years at Walters State CC through 2019-2020 with his brother Ben. His freshman year in JUCO saw the brothers push the team to a JUCO World Series on a season that saw the young star manage 24 K’s on 6 walks across 13 relief appearances (1.15 ERA). The absence of significant baseball work over the last three years may be concerning to some, but to others the low mileage on his arm can be seen as a major plus regarding his long-term outlook as a reliever, even more so considering how he has not skipped a beat since returning to the game. Considering the league wide issue concerning pitcher injury at the Major League level it may be a bit of a boon for Joyce to come into the organization bearing just ten innings and change over the last three years.

“Right now I'm out of the bullpen; I'm throwing a four seam fastball, cutter and slider. Working on getting that fastball up is a big thing for me, kind of using that lower release angle, getting the ball up in the zone. Using that ride to miss some bats and then playing the cutter and the slider off of that.”

Of course as with all prospects there still remains a bit of development to be had, namely with Joyce's ability to fully miss bats as the hits can find ways to sneak through, though with someone of his experience level in professional baseball this is to be expected. There exists little doubt the Angels want Joyce in Double A as soon as possible without rushing him, and as it stands he’s closer to pitching innings in Double A than he is removed from the innings he pitched at Tennessee. Joyce comes with a Major League target date of 2024, and should he find himself taking off in Double A by seasons start next year he will likely find himself with the Major League club by September 2024 at the latest. You can only hope the Angels will be further entrenched in talent at the MLB level come 2024 so Joyce can experience a proper developmental track without being rushed to fill holes.

“I was with my mom and dad and my girlfriend [during the draft], and then I got to call [Ben] right after. Going out to Arizona for draft camp, I was with him there. It’s nice to know a guy in the organization, especially a guy four minutes older than you. It's been an awesome opportunity for our whole family.”

Having both Joyce brothers in the organization is a treat for Angel fans who have been hard up for things to look forward to, but with the current state of talent in the Minors sentiments will change fast. Don’t let FanGraphs and the national media gaslight you into thinking the Angels have no farm system; as it stands the state of the Angels prospect depth is deeper than it has ever been. While that may not mean anything to systems such as the Dodgers or Mets this is a far cry from former Angel seasons that saw a system devoid of any tangible talent. With playoffs in sight for the Angels Low A 66ers there will be a real chance to develop lasting winning qualities within this rising core, something starkly missing from the current big league broth of talent. Developing ballplayers is one thing, but developing winners is a whole other business of its own, and with Zach Joyce at the forefront of the Angels current developmental core there will be no shortage of talent absorbing these winning ways en route to the big leagues.  

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