Dana stands out at Spring Breakout, as do pair of teens

March 17th, 2024

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The future was on display Saturday night, as MLB’s Spring Breakout showcase arrived at Tempe Diablo Stadium with a matchup between top prospects from the Angels’ and Dodgers’ organizations.

The Angels dropped this unique version of the Freeway Series, 8-1, but there were plenty of positives players and coaches took away from the event.

Dana stands tall
Angels No. 3 prospect Caden Dana cuts an imposing figure on the mound, listed at 6-foot-3 and 233 pounds with flowing blonde locks and arm tats that makes the all-too-familiar Noah Syndergaard comps perhaps a little too on the nose.

The 20-year-old got the start and lived up to the hype with three strikeouts in two hitless and scoreless innings, his only blemish a walk of Dodgers top prospect Dalton Rushing.

“I think I was in control. Command was good,” he said. “That was one thing I wanted to focus on today, just throwing strikes.”

Dana was also impressed with his catcher, 18-year-old Juan Flores, who had never caught him in a game.

“He only caught me once before, maybe, in like a bullpen or something,” he said. “He was good. He’s got potential to be really good.”

Dana made three appearances at big league Spring Training before being sent to Minor League camp, so he’s familiar with the bigger stage, but the Spring Breakout event still offered a special experience.

“I think it was just cool going against the prospects from another team,” he said. “For our guys to get their names out there, it was a good opportunity, so I think it was a good event.”

Has he tired of hearing the Thor comps?

“Yeah, we gotta switch it up,” he joked. “I think Achilles is more accurate.”

Rada doesn’t disappoint
Angels No. 2 prospect Nelson Rada is 18 years old and already in his third professional season. The center fielder turned heads at big league camp with his bat-to-ball skills and elite speed on the basepaths, and he added to that resume on Saturday with a first-inning single and swipe of second base off the highly touted Rushing, who was behind the dish for the Dodgers.

“Nelson’s a great kid. He works extremely hard,” said Angels Minor League infield coordinator Joe Kruzel, who was acting manager for Spring Breakout. “He has a knack of putting the ball in play. He finds some holes. ... He’s really exciting to watch.”

Rada had 55 stolen bases in 115 games last season in his first year of Single-A.

“That’s a thing we try to preach, guys being aggressive on the bases, taking some chances and forcing the other team to stop us,” Kruzel said. “Especially Rada, a guy at the top of our order gets on base and has an opportunity to cause some havoc out there and put some pressure on the defense.”

Another teen steps up
Flores, who’s almost six months younger than young Rada, didn’t just impress Dana with his work behind the dish. The club’s No. 22 prospect also showed he can contribute with the bat and on the basepaths. He singled off No. 8 Dodgers prospect Jackson Ferris before stealing second base in the third inning.

“When you look at that [Dana-Flores] battery,” Kruzel said, “that’s a couple young kids I can see being in Anaheim in a couple of years.”

Flores, who spent last season in the Dominican Summer League, didn’t have a lot of experience with the five pitchers he caught in his six innings.

“It’s a little difficult because one of the biggest things between a catcher and pitcher is communication,” Flores said via an interpreter. “So when we don’t have that experience together, it adds a challenge.”

Nevertheless, Kruzel was happy with what he saw from Flores.

“For a young kid, he does an extremely good job of being able to catch and receive and block the baseball,” Kruzel said. “And also he’s got a plus arm, and that will derail some teams from trying to steal on him.”

Wash can’t get enough
All week, Ron Washington said he planned to grab a shower after the Angels’ early Cactus League game before watching the Spring Breakout from the stands, but the broadcast caught him still in uniform chopping it up in the dugout in the early innings.

“Ron’s a hands-on guy,” Kruzel said. “If you get up early enough and you go out on the backfields or on the half field, Ron’s out there doing the work. I mean, you gotta have a lot of respect for that.

“Hopefully, we can keep it going with our guys in the Minor League system, getting them prepared, and when they go up there, they know what they’re getting with Ron.”

But Saturday was Kruzel’s turn in the big chair.

“It’s always exciting to manage. I mean, you get a different vibration,” he said. “To be able to do that and represent our organization, I feel very blessed and honored.”