Double vision: Halos 'very excited' to select Zach Joyce -- Ben's twin -- in 14th round

July 12th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- When the Angels drafted reliever Ben Joyce in the third round of last year’s MLB Draft, it generated buzz because he once threw a fastball 105.5 mph during his junior season at the University of Tennessee.

Joyce has already reached the Majors, having debuted on May 29, and while he’s currently on the injured list with a nerve issue in his right arm, he looks to be a major part of the club’s bullpen going forward. And now the Angels will have another Joyce in their organization, as they drafted his twin brother, Zach, in the 14th round of the 2023 MLB Draft on Tuesday.

Just like his brother, Zach spent this past season as a reliever, and he posted a 4.35 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings as a junior at the University of Tennessee. While he doesn't boast the same explosive triple-digit velocity as his brother, Joyce is armed with a mid-90s heater and a solid mid-to-upper 80s slider.

“The story of it being Ben and his brother is great, but this is a guy regardless of any Angels connections that we were targeting,” said Angels scouting director Tim McIlvaine. “He’s a guy who could help us, for sure. The story with Ben could be awesome at some point as well, but [Zach] is a really talented kid. We were very excited and lucky to get him.”

Joyce, 22, has also been open about his issues with mental health, as he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020 but didn’t pitch in '21 and ’22, instead prioritizing his mental well-being. He was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety and underwent therapy, which he has embraced and encouraged others to seek out if needed.

“The biggest thing for me is being able to open up about mental health,” Joyce told’s Jesse Borek in February. “I learned that I have a big support staff around me -- coaches here, teammates, even when I wasn’t playing.”

Joyce returned to the mound with the Volunteers this season, making his debut against UC San Diego on Feb. 19, striking out both batters he faced to escape a jam with the bases loaded. He also struck out the side in his home debut against Alabama A&M on Feb. 22. His fastball averaged 95 mph in those outings, but reached as high as 98 mph later in the season.

“This fall at Tennessee, he was throwing the ball really well,” McIlvaine said. “He was spinning the ball really well and then the velocity started climbing back up. He was up to 98, even. He’s back. He’s got the injury stuff behind him. He's got the personal stuff behind him. It’s all full throttle ahead for him now.”

Joyce is listed at 6-foot-4, one inch shorter than his twin brother, who was born four minutes before him. They both had late growth spurts after their junior year of high school and grew into their velocity, as neither was drafted in 2019 out of Farragut High School, located just outside of their hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.

McIlvaine said he first started scouting the brothers when they pitched at Walters State Community College in Tennessee in 2020. They both eventually needed Tommy John surgery, but McIlvaine said it was apparent even then that they had special arms.

Ben made a name for himself with his incredible velocity while pitching for Tennessee in 2022. He’s now ranked as the Angels’ No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline and posted a 4.50 ERA with five strikeouts in four innings with the Angels before he went on the injured list in mid-June. He’s currently rehabbing in Arizona, and could return at some point this month.

“I thought they were both really talented,” McIlvaine said. “Ben kind of took off a little bit quicker. And then Zach had Tommy John and he had to recover from that and took the year off. But this fall, he looked great.”

McIlvaine said he’s not sure where Zach will begin his professional career just yet, as the Angels will analyze his readiness next week when they host a minicamp for their draftees at their Spring Training complex in Tempe, Ariz. His brother debuted with Double-A Rocket City last year and started the season there again this year before getting promoted in late May.

“We kind of assess everybody, see where everybody's at,” McIlvaine said. “We're gonna kind of take it step by step and let him kind of dictate how fast he's able to move.”