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By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer NOTE: This article contains a detailed summary of each prospective bullpen candidate under the "Spoiler" bar. Some of you may just want to jump to the conclusion so the player contents are hidden from view. If you want to read that section, simply click on the bar and dive deeper into each of our reliever candidates, there are some interesting tidbits. In 2019, the Angels continued to develop a core group of relief options that produced to the tune of 2.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) across 761.2 innings pitched (IP). The latter number was the 2nd most IP, just behind the Rays bullpen at 772 IP. Assuredly, Eppler and staff would like to not only improve the bullpen's production, but also reduce the total number of IP, for the group as a whole, if possible. The good news is that most of that relief corps will remain this season and a key reliever, Keynan Middleton, should return to the fold, which could provide a real boost to a squad full of upside and potential, capable of closing out the later innings of any ballgame. It is the hope that the bullpen will potentially improve on their 2019 performances, giving reason to believe that the Angels relievers, as a collective, can build on last years 16th ranked production level and become a Top 10 relief staff. To start let us review 2019 results for the current, projected, 40-man relief staff as of December 16th, 2019: As you can see, the Halos bullpen was led by Hansel Robles (1.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR)) and Ty Buttrey (1.4 WAR). Other contributors included Noe Ramirez, Cam Bedrosian, Taylor Cole, Felix Pena, and Justin Anderson. The belief is that the group can potentially take a nice step forward in 2020 and there is reason to feel this could be the case. Part of that solution will come directly from upgrades made in the rotation to, funny enough, relieve the relievers. If the starting rotation can eat up more quality innings, the bullpen will, ideally, be fresh on a more regular basis, which generally should equate to some modest level of improved performance. Additionally, some relievers may make some needed adjustments to improve their performance. Finally, there is a reasonable likelihood that Eppler and the front office staff will still add to this group prior to Opening Day, next year. To better understand what the Halos have let us take an in-depth look at each relief candidate and what they can bring to the table in 2020. Simply click on the Spoiler bar to unroll the comprehensive, individual player analysis. Note that data is pulled from FanGraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net, and BaseballSavant.com: Likely Outcome: The Angels will continue to use the waiver wire to pick up relief targets of opportunity as the off-season continues and avoid expending resources as is typical for this front office. The next, most likely, alternative is to find a target of opportunity in free agency or trade, probably the latter. This is because the FA market lacks quality options whereas there are some interesting names that might be available in deals with other teams. Author's Choice: Personally, if the price is right, acquiring a name like Brad Hand (someone Eppler has inquired on previously) or Mychal Givens would be great. Since Eppler and his team love high spin rates so much, names like Drew Steckenrider, David McKay, Joe Jimenez, Buck Farmer, Jose Urena, Jeff Brigham, or Robert Gsellman might hold some level of interest. Ultimately this is not an area that I am to concerned about, as the Angels front office has done an outstanding job acquiring relievers that have the skills and tools to turn into effective relievers. All that the Angels need to do is start the season with an established group that can soak up innings and be effective to help the team reach the Trade Deadline in the right posture (wins) so that Eppler can reevaluate at that time whether the Halos need to acquire a rental bullpen option or two to help carry us over the Division finish line. Conclusion: Eppler probably understands that this unit, as a whole, might need some level of improvement, so it seems plausible that if he gets an opportunity to pick up a good reliever in trade (maybe names like Josh Hader, Jose LeClerc, Ken Giles, Mychal Givens, Scott Oberg, Keone Kela, Joe Jimenez, Jeurys Familia, Mark Melancon, Carlos Martinez, Richard Bleier, Ian Kennedy, Tim Hill, Paul Fry, Jared Hughes, Brad Hand, or Seth Lugo, among many others, might have some level of availability) or in free agency (maybe a guy like Arodys Vizcaino, Addison Reed, or, perhaps, Tyler Thornburg) he would do so, to help lift the squad a little further for the 2020 season and possibly beyond. Billy was recently quoted as saying, "There are a lot of ways to create a winning team." One of those ways is to build a really deep bullpen, not dissimilar to what the Yankees have done over the last couple of years, to help consistently build a bridge to success when transitioning from a starter to the later innings of a game. The good news is that the Angels have a good base of relievers to build upon, so the idea of a high quality relief corps is not a fantasy for the 2020 Angels. If Eppler was able to add a Hader, Giles, Givens, Hand, Martinez, or Jimenez type of player that would go a long way toward a consistent, sustainable run at the American League West Division championship. To be clear it does not have to be one of those names, either, there are plenty of other options out there to be had. Finally, the Angels could end up pulling one of their starters in and converting them to a relief role. Near the end of the season, the Halos used Jose Suarez in a long relief role four times, although they will likely start him in the Minors in the rotation. Jaime Barria and Dillon Peters made six and five long relief appearances, respectively, mostly early in the season. Jared Walsh is a two-way player, capable of relief work too, but he is most likely to do mop-up, low leverage work where the team is either ahead or behind by a significant amount of runs. Even Sandoval made a long relief appearance in early August. To be clear these guys are clear-cut starters (except Walsh) and will probably be used as such but they are available if the Halos switch course or have a need. Currently, it appears the Angels bullpen, barring an injury, trade or designation for assignment, will start the season with at least the following relievers in-tow: Hansel Robles Ty Buttrey Noe Ramirez Cam Bedrosian These four are the probable core base of the Angels 2020 bullpen. Behind them, the next group represents potential higher-probability adds and out-of-options players, in no particular order, that could be included on the 26-man active roster: Keynan Middleton Jake Jewell Taylor Cole Adalberto Mejia Mike Mayers Luke Bard Justin Anderson To be clear these seven will need to have good Spring Training outings to be included on the Opening Day roster, it will not be handed to any of them. Finally, the following names are very likely to start the year in the Minors no matter how well they perform in Spring Training (and in Pena's case he is on the IL for a while): Hector Yan Parker Markel Felix Pena So to wrap up this very long discussion, the author believes, based on the current 40-man roster, that the Opening Day starting eight (it is typical to start the season with eight relievers) will probably include these names: Hansel Robles Ty Buttrey Noe Ramirez Cam Bedrosian Keynan Middleton Adalberto Mejia Jake Jewell Mike Mayers If you do not feel we will carry eight out of the gate, then knock Mayers off the end of that list, probably. Also there is a real chance that if Eppler finds a reliever on the free agent or trade markets, that Mayers or Mejia (probably in that order) will be displaced off the 40-man and designated for assignment to make room for the new addition(s). This is what a good minimum resource bullpen looks like and this thriftiness allows the Halos to apply their monetary and trade resources elsewhere, for the betterment of the team as a whole. Longer term, once the Angels have an established rotation and position player group (which they are getting closer to this off-season), Eppler may be able to afford adding higher quality bullpen arms but, for now, he and the front office staff are doing this the right way. The Primer Series continues, next, with the Left Field article.
I've been known to be what some would call a pessimist. Not now. This team has is showing a crazy amount of heart that we haven't seen much of in recent seasons. My only concern is that the rotation is not going deep enough to keep from (eventually) taxing the bullpen. But if the rotation can step their game up, I'm ready to drink the Kool-Aid.
Thoughts on the bullpen As the season inches closer there are still jobs to be won, especially in the bullpen. The Angels figure to go 7 arms strong to start the season, and with Angels closer Huston Street who is expected to start the season on the DL these are the 7 names I expect you will see on the opening day roster. Cam Bedrosian: Cam is one of the few locks to crack the bullpen. He's lining up to be the closer to start the season. Cam made a meteoric jump between the 2015 and 2016 season, in 2015 he sported a 5.40 ERA in 33.1 IP. Let's jump to 2016 in 40.1 IP he surrendered just a 1.12 ERA while also racking up 51 strikeouts. He's always been labeled as the next great closer in a long line of amazing Angels closers. Let's see if he can live up to it, the opportunity will be there. Andrew Bailey:The Angels are used to seeing Andrew Bailey not only in an Angel uniform, but also as an Oakland A. The former rookie of the year came to the Angels late last year as a waiver claim, and boy did he impress. He looked like he was back in 2009-10 form. Although it was a small sample size 11.1 IP he only gave up 3 earned runs. If he comes in and picks up where he left off he will be vitale to the Angels in late inning situations. Jose Alvarez: The Angels stole Jose Alvarez from the Detroit Tigers in 2014 in exchange for utility infielder Andrew Romine. Alvarez who once was starter was converted to the bullpen, and that move sure did payoff. Alvarez will be tasked as the lefty specialist for Mike Scioscia, the good thing about Jose is that he can also give you length as well. Jose had a 3.45 ERA in 57.1 IP in 2016. I expect he will be called in to face the Cano's, Seager's, and Odor's late in the game. Blake Parker: Blake Parker was an underdog to make the bullpen at the start of spring, but as each day goes by he impresses more and more. The non-roster invite has struck out a whopping 15 batters in 9.1 IP and is currently rocking a 0.96 ERA this spring. Parker who is 31 had a 4.67 ERA in 2016 between the Yankees and Mariners. He had a hectic winter bouncing from team to team, he went from getting claimed by the Angels then going to the Brewers, he never made a pitch for the Brewers, then got claimed by the Angels again. Hopefully he takes his masterful spring to the regular season and finds a home in this Angels bullpen. JC Ramirez: The Nicaraguan fire baller has electric stuff. The Angels initial plans at the beginning of spring training was to make him a starter but it more and more looks like he will be securing a spot in the bullpen. Ramirez was claimed in June 2016 off waivers from the Reds, it looks like Angels found another steal off the waiver wire. Ramirez had a 2.91 ERA in 46.1 IP with the Angels. With Ramirez getting stretched out this spring he bring versatility to the bullpen you can use him as an innings eater and even throw him out there in high leverage situations. Yusmeiro Petit: The seasoned Venezuela veteran has been pitching professionally for 16 years now. He's coming off a not so great season with the Nationals having a 4.50 ERA in 62 IP. He too brings versatility to the pen having also been a starter in his career. He looks to be in great form as of now though with a 0.75 ERA this spring in 12 IP. Petit's best season came with the Giants in 2014 he came out of the bullpen and had a 3.69 ERA in a 117 IP. He also picked up a world series ring with them that season as well. Bud Norris: Last but not least is good ole Bud Norris. Bud who came into this spring competing for the 5th starter job essentially lost that to Jesse Chavez. That said, if there’s an injury to a starter in the rotation, Bud will most likely be the first to get the call. Bud will figure to be the long man out of the bullpen from the onset. He hasn’t had an awful spring at all, posting a 3.48 ERA in 10.1 IP this spring. Bud was once upon a time a highly touted prospect in the Astros system, he has since bounced around from the Astros, Orioles, Dodgers and even made a stop in San Diego. Bud was most effective last season while with the Atlanta Braves where in 70.1 IP he posted a 4.22 ERA. Hopefully he can have the type of success that he had in 2011 & 2014 and be great innings eater.
Hi All: Thank you for welcoming me aboard Angels Win. This is my second post. My first was in spring training, sharing my optimism for the year to come. Some observations (some of which I know have been shared by others in past posts): Oakland's extended hot streak reminds me of 2002. That was the year that Oakland finished with 103 wins, winning the West. Beyond us winning the series in 2002, what I most remember was that despite how scorchingly hot Oakland was, they could not separate from us in a significant way. The A's won 20 consecutive games in a stretch from August to September, but we stayed nearly as hot all the way. This years Angels team reminds me of that. I love the way the back end of our rotation (Skaggs and Shoemaker) are contributing. Who knew--we now have a bullpen that is lights-out and reliable. Sciocisa and Dipoto deserves props for this. Scisocia uses the first half of the season to sort things out roster-wise. I don't think her gets enough credit for that. He now has people in roles that they can succeed in. The American League is weak this year. The only formidable opponents the Angels are contending with are the A's, Seattle (because of their pitching), Detroit (who are weaker then last year) and Baltimore (who I think will win the East). World series caliber teams show an ability to come from behind. Unlike like year, the 2014 Angels fight to the last out and have the most come from behind victories as any in the majors. Very cool. World Series caliber teams have a string bench. The 1988 Dodgers has the Stunt Men. This Angels team has that kind of bench, with people like McDonald, Cowgill, Green, etc, who are all making contributions. World Series caliber teams have we versus I mentality which leads to a strong club house/chemistry. We have that in 2014. You can tell that everyone is on the same page and different people contribute on a daily basis. I love the fact we beat Texas' brains out on Thursday and Mike Trout had no hits. Other people contributed. World series caliber teams have leaders. This team does with Poujols, Weaver, Freeze, and Trout (who in earlier years was probably too green to take on a laedership role. I don't know if the Angels will win the series this year. I do believe the direction they have taken will lead to a world series in the near future. PS: I am concerned about CJ Wilson. Never have been a fan. He seems like a nice guy with no balls and no ability to pitch well in meaningful games. He's got great stuff but he thinks too much. I don't know why he doesn't throw more strikes.