Can Silseth's new cutter earn him a rotation spot?

Former Angels serve as guest instructors; prospects to sub for Team USA

March 8th, 2023

TEMPE, Ariz. -- After a dominant showing with Double-A Rocket City last season that led to him becoming the first player selected in the 2021 Draft to reach the Majors, right-hander has emerged as the Angels’ top pitching prospect.

Silseth, ranked as the club’s No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, is competing for the sixth spot in the rotation and made his second start of the spring in Wednesday's 4-3 walk-off win over the Rockies, striking out five and allowing one run over four innings. He’s added a new pitch to his arsenal this year -- a cutter -- which he believes will especially help him against left-handed hitters. Last year, he held righties to a .722 OPS, but lefties had a 1.117 OPS against him.

“Last year, when the split wasn’t on, it tended to be a pretty bad outing,” Silseth said. “This is just another weapon. With six weapons, and if I can get ahead, it can be lethal, in my opinion.”

Silseth, 22, went 7-0 with a 2.28 ERA in 15 starts with Rocket City, but he struggled in seven starts in the Majors, posting a 6.59 ERA with 24 strikeouts, 12 walks and seven homers allowed in 28 2/3 innings. He said it was a learning experience in the big leagues last year, and he realized he needs to attack the zone more and to be more consistent with his location. Silseth also made it a point to get in better physical shape this offseason, as he wanted his legs to be stronger to pitch deeper into games and deeper into the season.

Silseth is likely to start the season in the Minors, however, as lefty Tucker Davidson and right-hander Griffin Canning appear to be ahead of him on the spring depth chart. But he’s preparing himself for the chance to impact the rotation whenever the Angels need him, and he's not putting any extra pressure on himself.

“I’m just motivated because I love the game so much,” Silseth said. “Goals are just goals. I just come in and just do my work. And if I get that sixth spot, I get that sixth spot. But I’m just trying to have fun and be the best version of myself.”

Angels manager Phil Nevin has been impressed with Silseth’s new cutter and believes it’ll help him give the hitters another pitch to worry about.

“It’s actually turned into a very, very good pitch,” Nevin said. “He's used it a few times to get Major League hitters out. I don't care what time of year it is. The pitch recognition and stuff is there for the hitters. When you see big league hitters taking swings like they have on that pitch, which is something he's just incorporated, you know it's a good one.”

Lackey, Kennedy, Hunter in camp
Former Angels John Lackey, Adam Kennedy and Torii Hunter are in camp this week as guest instructors. Lackey and Kennedy both won a World Series with the Halos in 2002, while Hunter played with the club from '08-12.

“These are world champion guys,” Nevin said of Lackey and Kennedy. “Lackey started Game 7 as a rookie, and we talked about that with the group on [Monday]. And AK hit all those home runs in the ALCS. Those guys have been through it all and have won a ring, so anything these guys can absorb from them, the better we’ll be.”

Hunter, who was briefly a teammate of Nevin’s with the Twins in 2006, arrived on Wednesday and spent time working with the club’s outfielders.

“His energy is the same as when he was a player,” Nevin said. “We played together for a short time, but you can just see it right away. The smile on his face, guys just flock to him. He's a leader, they can pick his brain whatever they want to do.”

Angels prospects to play as subs for Team USA
When the Angels host Team USA on Thursday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, No. 2 prospect Zach Neto, No. 15 prospect Jeremiah Jackson, No. 30 prospect Jordyn Adams and Trey Cabbage will spend the game in Team USA’s dugout, as they will be used as substitutes late in the game.

Nevin said it will be a great experience for the youngsters to be around so many superstars, and they were all excited to hear about the opportunity.

“I think they're going to have a blast being in that dugout with those guys for the whole game and getting in there later and being on the same field with them,” Nevin said. “Their eyes lit up when I told them they were going to do that."