Two weeks from Wednesday, Angels pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Tempe, Ariz., for their first workouts together. The Angels’ bullpen was without a closer going into camp a year ago, but Hansel Robles stepped into that role. Heading into Spring Training, the Angels will look to Robles as their default closer, but there are still some intriguing candidates joining him.
Last season was Ty Buttrey’s first full season in the majors since being acquired from Boston in exchange for Ian Kinsler at the 2018 trade deadline deal. A season in which Buttrey and his fellow Angels relievers were tested with heavy use due to a dilapidated Angels starting rotation and managerial decisions. Buttrey survived the season and will be a better pitcher going into 2020 as a result of last season. Buttrey has closer stuff and could find himself growing into that role with the Halos down the road.
Keynan Middleton was getting save opportunities before injury struck in early 2018 and shelved him for the rest of the 2018 campaign and the first half of 2019. Middleton is now full healthy and back throwing hard. Look for him to immediately see opportunities in seventh, eighth, and, ninth innings in April. Robles, Buttrey, and Middleton should get chances in the ninth inning at points throughout the season.
Cam Bedrosian is probably the only other pitcher as close to considering a sure thing for the Angels bullpen Opening Day. Noe Ramirez will be joined by Justin Anderson, Luke Bard, Taylor Cole, Jose Rodriguez, newcomers Kyle Keller, Mike Mayers, Parker Markel, Neil Ramirez, and Jacob Barnes to battle for the remaining four to five spots in the bullpen. Add into the mix potential starting pitching options like Matt Andriese, Felix Pena, and Dillon Peters, and there will be some battles for roster spots in Arizona.
There is, of course, the possibility the Angels could acquire pitching from other clubs as Spring Training wraps up and other clubs look to move excess pitching. Chris Stratton (2019), Akeel Morris (2018), and Miguel Almonte (2018) are recent examples of pitching acquisitions at the end of camp.
The Angels’ bullpen is greatly improved by the healthy return of Keynan Middleton, Robles established in the ninth-inning role and young pitchers like Buttrey and Bard having received more MLB experience in 2019. Players to keep a close eye on during spring training are Jacob Barnes, Kyle Keller, Jose Rodriguez, and Matt Andriese. All have the potential to work their way into key roles on 2020 Angels.
Angels Moves This Week
The Angels signed right-handers Jacob Barnes and Jake Thompson, second baseman Ryne Birk, and outfielder Eduardo Pinto to minor league contracts.
Jacob Barnes, 29, was once a highly-regarded late-inning pitching prospect for Milwaukee. Barnes has appeared in 182 MLB games with 4.25 ERA, 185K, 84BB, 180IP. Barnes split last season with Milwaukee and Kansas City. This is a high-upside pick-up for Angels who could find himself in the mix for a spot in the Angels Opening Day bullpen with a strong Cactus League showcase.
Jake Thompson, 25, has pitched in 30 MLB games (18 starts) with Philadelphia between 2016 and 2018 posting 7-8 win-loss record, 4.87 ERA across 116 innings with 61 walks and 81 strikeouts. Thompson spent last season with the Detroit Tigers’ minor league clubs. He’ll add depth to Triple-A Salt Lake pitching staff going into the 2020 campaign.
Ryne Birk, 25, played independent ball last season after spending 2017 and 2018 at Double-A Corpus Christi. Birk should provide middle infield depth for Halos at Double-A Rocket City or Triple-A Salt Lake in 2020.
Eduard Pinto, 25, spent 2019 playing independent ball after finishing 2018 at Double-A New Hampshire (Toronto). Pinto’s MiLB career features .300/.355/.381 across 511 games and likely will provide outfield depth for Angels upper minor league levels in 2020.
Angels Down on the Farm Report
The Angels announced their minor league coaching staffs this week. Below are the managers, hitting coaches, and pitching coaches for each minor league club.
AAA – Salt Lake: Lou Marson (MGR), Brian Betancourth (Hitting), Jairo Cuevas (Pitching)
AA – Rocket City: Jay Bell (MGR), Matt Spring (Hitting), Tim Norton (Pitching)
Hi-A – Inland Empire: Jack Santora (MGR), Kenny Hook (Hitting), Michael Wuertz (Pitching)
Lo-A – Burlington: Jack Howell (MGR), Will Bradley (Hitting), Tyler Anderson (Pitching)
Rookie – Orem: Andy Schatzley (MGR), Ryan Serba and Daniel Ortega (Hitting), Bo Martino and James Fort (Pitching)
Rookie – Arizona: Dave Stapleton (MGR), Casey Shaw and Tyler Jeske (Hitting), Buddy Baumann and Tanner Reklaitis (Pitching)
Rookie – Dominican: Hector De La Cruz (MGR), Anel De Los Santos and RayWilly Gomez (Hitting), Enrique Gonzalez and Jose Marte (Pitching)