Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Options abound for 5th spot in Angels rotation

@RhettBollinger
February 22, 2019

TEMPE, Ariz. -- After signing veteran right-handers Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill to one-year deals this offseason, the Angels have their first four spots in their rotation locked up, as lefties Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney will be counted on to lead the staff.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- After signing veteran right-handers Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill to one-year deals this offseason, the Angels have their first four spots in their rotation locked up, as lefties Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney will be counted on to lead the staff.

But it leaves the fifth-starter job up in the air this spring, as manager Brad Ausmus said he didn’t want to declare any favorites in the competition. Right-hander Jaime Barria is considered the front-runner, however, as he’s coming off a strong rookie season, but the Angels want to get a look at other starters in camp such as Felix Pena, Dillon Peters and prospects Griffin Canning and Jose Suarez.

Right-hander Nick Tropeano is expected to open the season on the injured list as he recovers from a setback with his throwing shoulder. He said he’s about five to six weeks from being ready to pitch in games. Fellow right-hander JC Ramirez, who is already throwing bullpen sessions, is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is on track for a return in June.

Here’s a look at the healthy candidates for the fifth-starter spot this spring:

Jaime Barria, RHP

2018 statistics: 10-9, 3.41 ERA, 98 K, 47 BB, 17 HR, 129 1/3 IP, 2.5 WAR

Barria, 22, had a breakout rookie year and is looking to build on it. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder doesn't have an elite strikeout rate, but mixes his pitches well, including the use of a sinker to go with his four-seam fastball, slider and changeup. Hitters simply had a hard time squaring him up because of his command and sequencing, but he'll need to improve his walk rate a bit this season.

Felix Pena, RHP

2018 statistics: 3-5, 4.18 ERA, 85 K, 28 BB, 12 HR, 92 2/3 IP, 0.7 WAR

Pena, acquired from the Cubs via trade before last season, had a surprisingly solid first year with the Angels. The 28-year-old throws a bit harder than Barria and uses a curveball as his primary offspeed pitch to go along with his changeup. Pena also has experience in the bullpen, making relief appearances with the Cubs from 2016-17 before the Angels had him start 17 games last year with two relief appearances. If he doesn’t win the fifth spot, he could be moved to the bullpen or possibly optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake if the Angels want him to be stretched out for starting pitching depth.

Griffin Canning, RHP

2018 statistics: 4-3, 3.65 ERA, 125 K, 44 BB, 8 HR, 113 1/3 IP across three levels, including Triple-A

Canning's first professional season went as well as the Angels could have hoped, as he saw his velocity improve from his time at UCLA and had no injury concerns despite not pitching in 2017 after being taken in the second round of the MLB Draft. Canning, 22, is ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect behind center fielder Jo Adell by MLB Pipeline and is considered close to being Major League ready. It’s Canning’s first time in Major League camp and he wants to make an impression on the coaching staff, but he’s likely to open the year at Triple-A.

Jose Suarez, LHP

2018 statistics: 3-6, 3.92 ERA, 142 K, 44 BB, 117 IP across three levels, including Triple-A

Suarez, listed at 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds, has a similar build to Barria, but throws from the left side and has seen his stuff improve since being signed out of Venezuela in 2014. Suarez, the club’s No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has seen his strikeout rate improve, including striking out 73 batters in 78 1/3 innings at Triple-A. He also keeps the ball in the park, serving up just five homers last year, which is in line with his career numbers. Like Canning, the 21-year-old is close to being ready for the Majors, but is likely to start at Triple-A.

Dillon Peters, LHP

2018 statistics: 2-2, 7.16 ERA, 17 K, 15 BB, 27 2/3 IP, -0.6 WAR

Peters, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Marlins, has two seasons of Major League experience, and the Angels are trying to help him improve his spin rates to make him more effective. The 5-foot-11 lefty has been impressive in his four years in the Minors with a career 3.37 ERA but has yet to see it translate to the Majors. But he gives the Angels depth and can be optioned to Triple-A if the Angels want to keep him stretched out should he not make the roster.

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.