Every baseball team goes through injuries, but few have suffered as many as the LA Angels have in 2017. These injuries have been to key positions as well, but have uncovered some solid players and potential building blocks for the LA Angels.
The LA Angels came into the season with a superstar center fielder in Mike Trout, three closers with Andrew Bailey, Huston Street, and Cam Bedrosian all competing for the role, and a solid starting rotation. Now, all three closer candidates have been on the disabled list accompanied by Trout. Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs have both spent months on the DL. However, the Angels have found a way to continue to hover around .500. Countless players have stepped up, especially since Mike Trout went to the DL. A few young contributors have been discovered as well.
With all three of the pitchers competing for the closer role eventually landing on the disabled list, someone had to fill the role. The bullpen this season has been great, one of the strongest position groups for the Halos. Five relief pitchers have an ERA of 3.00 or lower. Two players have been the highlights of the bullpen this season, one an aging veteran reviving his career and the other a top prospect who is gaining more and more trust.
The aging veteran is Bud Norris. After spending most of his career as a starter, he made the move to the bullpen this season and is posting a career-best 2.51 ERA. He filled into the closer role admirably, converting 11 of 12 save opportunities. While Cam Bedrosian is coming off the DL, there have been no signs of removing Norris from this role. Bedrosian will undoubtedly be a welcome addition, but Norris should remain the closer until he stutters.
The aforementioned young prospect is Keynan Middleton. Since debuting on May 5th, Middleton has slowly but surely gained the trust of the Angels’ coaching staff. Manager Mike Scioscia has praised the young pitcher for handling his ascension through the bullpen well, going from meaningless innings to pitching in hold situations with the game on the line. Middleton has proven that he belongs in the Angels’ bullpen, and could very well evolve into the team’s closer.
The bullpen has stepped up miraculously, but the starting rotation has had their problems. With Richards and Skaggs hurt, the remaining three Opening Day starters have experienced problems. Ricky Nolasco leads the MLB in long balls allowed. Jesse Chavez has been consistently below average. Matt Shoemaker has not been the same pitcher he was last year. However, a trio of young pitchers have given the team hope for this season and the future.
JC Ramirez was thrusted into the starting role early in the season, and has possibly been the Halos best starter. While his 4.19 ERA is not overly impressive, that is because of his weakness in the first inning. He owns a 9.75 ERA in the first inning. However, in the middle innings (4-6) he owns a 1.99 ERA. When he gets past the top of the order, he has been extremely efficient.
The second pitcher is Alex Meyer. Standing at 6-9 and 225 pounds, his lanky form has caused an inconsistent form throughout his career. However, he seems to have finally found his stride this season. Owning a 3.52 ERA on the season, he has gotten better as the season goes on. In his last start on Saturday evening, Meyer threw seven phenomenal innings. He allowed only two hits and one walk while striking out nine batters. He will undoubtedly be up for a rotation spot next season, especially if he continues his current upward trend.
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Last is Parker Bridwell. Acquired from Baltimore early in the season, he has only made two appearances for the Halos this season. However, the change of scenery has been great for Bridwell. In the two games, he has impressed. In his first starts against the Atlanta Braves, Bridwell went six innings and allowed three runs. He gave up two home runs while striking out four. He was sent down afterwards, but called up again recently. On June 14th, he made a relief appearance and went 3.2 innings allowing only one unearned run. He did give up seven hits, but consistently got himself out of trouble. Bridwell is not yet a finished product, and could be a key piece for the Angels in the coming years.
Last but not least we have Eric Young Jr. He stepped in when Mike Trout went to the DL, and has provided a much needed spark for the club. He has been performing in the field as well. Young Jr. has hit .311 so far in the season and delivered three clutch home runs. His play in the field has been impressive as well, showing constant hustle and an excellent glove. While Young Jr. may not be a future cornerstone, the Angels will have to find ways to keep him in the lineup even when their two time MVP returns to action.
The Angels have been hovering around .500 for what seems like an eternity. These players have proven they’re worthy of playing time, even when the injured return to the diamond, and will not be forgotten about in the future.