Dana pumped for first taste of SoCal rivalry in Spring Breakout

February 17th, 2024

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Despite being only 20 years old and in his first Major League camp, it’s hard for top Angels pitching prospect Caden Dana not to stand out.

Standing 6-foot-4 and sporting flowing blonde hair reminiscent of Noah Syndergaard, the burly right-hander is already an intimidating presence. He’s also coming off an impressive season that saw him reach High-A Tri-City at age 19, where he was four years younger than the average competition.

So Dana is used to being around older competitors. He also could see action in the first annual Spring Breakout, which is a four-day event that will showcase the game’s top prospects as part of 16 exhibition games at Cactus and Grapefruit League ballparks.

A team of top Angels prospects will host the Dodgers’ top prospects on March 16 at 4:10 p.m. MST at Tempe Diablo Stadium. It’s part of a doubleheader that will see the Angels host the Cubs at 1:10 p.m. in a Cactus League game. And Dana said he’s ready for his first taste of the rivalry if he gets to pitch in the game. Given that he’s the club’s top pitching prospect and could easily find himself among MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects at some point this season, he’d be a strong candidate to start.

“I think it’s great,” Dana said. “I think it’s a chance to get your name out there. And we’re playing the Dodgers. So beat the Dodgers.”

Dana is one of several top Angels prospects who could participate in the event, including outfielder Nelson Rada and catcher/outfielder Alberto Rios. First baseman Nolan Schanuel, infielder Kyren Paris and hard-throwing reliever Ben Joyce are all eligible to play as well but can opt out because they are on the 40-man roster.

The Spring Breakout rosters are scheduled to be revealed live on MLB Network on March 7 at 8 a.m. PT. The rosters will be composed of 20-25 of the club’s top prospects from any level, using MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 lists as a baseline.

It could be an opportunity for Dana to shine, and he’s also just excited to be around big leaguers in camp for the first time. He said he’s been trying to soak up as much as he can from the veterans.

“It’s awesome,” Dana said. “There are a lot of good people around with a lot of knowledge and who have played the game for a long time. It’s just a good environment to be in. I get to pick people’s brains. It’s just beneficial, overall.”

Dana threw his first spring bullpen session on Thursday with catcher Logan O’Hoppe and said it went well because he appreciated how open O’Hoppe was in his communication. O’Hoppe noticed at one point that Dana was overthrowing his curveball, so he stopped him to let him know. Dana was able to quickly figure it out and get back on track.

“He’s a mentor behind the plate,” Dana said. “Most guys might see something and stay quiet, but he stopped me mid-bullpen and told me what he saw. I was just trying to force something. But he’s good at what he does, and it shows right there.”

Dana started last year at Single-A Inland Empire but quickly proved he was too advanced for that level, posting a 1.20 ERA in three starts with 18 strikeouts in 15 innings. He was challenged with the promotion to High-A Tri-City, where he posted a 4.22 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings. But he was shut down in mid-July for precautionary reasons, and he said building more strength to pitch deeper into the season was a goal of his this offseason.

“One thing I will take away from it is underestimating how long the season really is and how much it wears you down,” Dana said. “It was a great season. Had a good team. So now it’s about accountability and taking care of your body. So it was about gaining that strength and getting ready for the regular season.”