This prospect is learning to harness high heat

May 10th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- Velocity has essentially become king for pitchers in the modern game and it’s difficult to find a harder thrower in baseball than .

Joyce, ranked as the Angels’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has a fastball that can reach 104 mph and averaged 100.9 mph in his first taste of the Majors last season. But Joyce is still learning to harness his stuff and cut down on his walks, which is why he’s still developing at Double-A Rocket City.

Joyce, 23, has posted a 5.91 ERA with 19 strikeouts and nine walks in 10 2/3 innings this season. He's striking out a whopping 16 batters per nine innings but has been hurt by his walk rate and giving up two homers. Joyce, though, is coming off a trio of strong relief appearances, striking out six in three scoreless innings.

The Angels liked what they saw from Joyce in Spring Training and worked with him to improve his focus on the mound and limit distractions. They created something called the “chaos drill,” during which they blared loud music and allowed fans to yell to try to distract Joyce as he threw a bullpen session on the club’s half-field.

Angels manager Ron Washington was impressed by Joyce’s stuff but said there’s more to it than just throwing hard to become an effective Major Leaguer. Joyce has to improve his control despite his elite velocity.

“He’s a young kid,” Washington said. “If you can’t throw it over the plate, 104 is no good.”

Joyce, who was selected in the third round of the 2022 Draft out of the University of Tennessee, earned his first promotion to the Majors last season. He posted a 5.40 ERA with 10 strikeouts and nine walks in 10 innings. But he also dealt with a bout of ulnar neuritis in his right arm that kept him out of action for three months.

Joyce made a full recovery from the surgery and said this Spring Training that he worked to refine his delivery and has been working to improve his hard slider and sweeper. He also said he’s trying to calm down more on the mound, which is why he found the “chaos drill” beneficial. If he can throw more strikes and stay locked in, he’ll earn a callup again at some point this season. He has the stuff to be a potential closer of the future, but he knows he still has plenty to work on.

“I get so amped up,” Joyce said. “I want to succeed obviously. But I think just being able to just keep the heart rate down and just stay focused on one pitch at a time and execute that pitch and then move on to the next one is big for me.”

Triple-A Salt Lake: RHP Davis Daniel

Daniel, the club’s No. 28 prospect, is off to a solid start, registering a 5.89 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 11 walks in 36 2/3 innings with Triple-A Salt Lake. He was called up by the Angels on April 30 for depth reasons but didn’t see action. But he held his own in the Majors last year, posting a 2.19 ERA with nine strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.

High-A Tri-City: RHP Walbert Urena

Urena, 20, was in Major League camp in Spring Training for the first time this year and is yet another Angels prospect who is young for his level but faring well. Urena, the club’s No. 12 prospect, has posted a 3.86 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 28 innings at Tri-City despite being more than three years younger than the average competition. He still needs to improve his control but has a power sinker that can hit the upper 90s to go along with a solid changeup and a developing slider.

Single-A Inland Empire: LHP Francis Texido

Texido, the club’s No. 29 prospect, has started strong with Inland Empire, carrying a 3.60 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 25 innings. The 19-year-old is also young for his level, as he's roughly three years younger than his average competition. He was originally signed out of Cuba for $250,000 as part of the 2023 signing class, as he doesn’t have elite stuff but knows how to pitch.