Age ‘just a number’ to 2 red-hot Halos prospects

April 12th, 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 -- If it’s one thing the Angels are known for with their prospects under general manager Perry Minasian, it’s being aggressive with their promotions and challenging their young players.

The Angels have had several Draft picks reach the Majors in a hurry in recent years, such as first baseman Nolan Schanuel, shortstop Zach Neto, lefty Reid Detmers and right-handers Chase Silseth, Sam Bachman and Victor Mederos.

So it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see the club’s top two prospects start this season with Double-A Rocket City despite their youth. Center fielder , the Halos’ No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is just 18 years old, and right-hander , the club’s No. 2 prospect, is 20 years old.

Rada is nearly six years younger than the average competition at Double-A, as he skipped High-A Tri-City after excelling at Single-A Inland Empire, where he was the youngest player in the league. He hit .276/.395/.346 with two homers, 13 doubles, six triples, 55 stolen bases and 48 RBIs in 115 games there in 2023.

And Rada said this spring that he’s not intimidated by playing against older competition because he’s been doing it his whole life.

“Age is just a number,” Rada said through interpreter Manny Del Campo. “I just know I can do my job wherever they put me.”

He’s still tapping into his power but has the patience and speed to become a prototypical leadoff hitter. And he showed that in his first taste of Major League Spring Training this year, stealing five bases in 12 games and hitting a homer.

Angels manager Ron Washington said he believes Rada can be even more aggressive on the bases this year as he continues to learn the nuances of baserunning.

“He’s a young kid with good bat-to-ball skills,” Washington said. “We just want him to play his game. He puts the ball in play and can run. We’re trying to get him a little more aggressive on the basepaths. But he’s 18 years old, so he’s in his head. We just told him to trust his speed and got an interpreter to tell him [that] if he gets thrown out, just to dust himself off and try it again. He’s got carte blanche.”

Dana has also been on the fast track since he was selected in the 11th round of the 2022 MLB Draft out of Don Bosco Preparatory High School in Ramsey, N.J. Dana was signed for an over slot bonus of $1.5 million, a record for a player drafted after the 10th round.

It’s looked like a shrewd decision for the Angels so far, as he has the potential to be a frontline starting pitcher. He posted a 3.56 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings across Inland Empire and Tri-City last season to earn a promotion to Rocket City for 2024.

Dana, who resembles former Angels right-hander Noah Syndergaard with long blond hair and an imposing 6-foot-4 frame, made his season debut with the Trash Pandas on Wednesday, striking out seven over 4 2/3 innings.

Dana also was in big league camp for the first time this spring and showed some glimpses of his potential, including shining as the organization’s starting pitcher in Spring Breakout against top Dodgers prospects. He has a fastball that reaches the high 90s to complement his slider, curveball and developing changeup.

“I love his mound presence,” Washington said. “I love his confidence in what he's trying to execute. He's young, and he's very absorbent, meaning that he's absorbing every bit of knowledge that he can get. And he's trying to apply it. The one thing about this organization is that age and your experience don’t matter. If you’re able to get outs, that’s what matters.”