In a season where the Los Angeles Angels used a franchise record number of players, it’s easy for some to fly under the radar. The three players being covered in today’s review — however — were strong bullpen options when the team was devoid of them.
Andrew Wantz, Jose Quijada, and Chris Rodriguez all came in at different points in the season, but all three made a major impact during their limited time. Rodriguez dealt with injuries, but even got in two starts before he ultimately had to sit out the season.
With all three of these players being 26 or younger, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them as a part of the Angels future plans.
Wantz made his MLB debut with the Angels on July 4, 2021. The now 26-year old right-hander spent the rest of the season with the big league team, putting together some impressive outings during his time. His final numbers for the season are less impressive than what he showed in those three months.
In 27.1 innings over 21 appearances, Wantz had a 4.94 ERA, a 1.244 WHIP, a 4.30 FIP, and an eye-opening 12.5 Ks per nine innings. He had some issues with walks, allowing 14 free passes, and that pointed to a larger command problem, as a large number of hits became the norm as the season progressed.
Wantz absolutely has the potential to be a long-term bullpen option. However, he must cut down on the walks before he can become that. Starting at the Triple-A level to begin 2022 before a potential midseason call-up would make plenty of sense, especially if the Angels land veteran relievers in free agency.
Quijada made his MLB debut in 2019 with the Miami Marlins, but he was ultimately waived and picked up by the Angels. He struggled in the shortened-2020 season, which is why he began 2021 at the Triple-A level. However, his dominance and 1.53 ERA there led to being called back up to the Angels.
The results were a career-best year serving as one of the Angels’ young relief options. He could absolutely be described as a high-leverage player, as 13 of his 26 appearances came in games separated by two runs or less. In that time, he had a 4.56 ERA, a 1.364 WHIP, 13.3 Ks per nine innings, and a 99 ERA+.
Most impressively, he held a FIP of 3.09, which means that bad defense was a major contributing factor to his mid-4 ERA. Like Wantz, Quijada had walk problems, but that was a common theme amongst most Angels relievers this season.
It’s unclear exactly where Quijada stands within the organization. There is a world where he makes the Opening Day roster, but it’s also possible he’s optioned to Triple-A to refine some of these issues that plagued him.
Rodriguez’s first year in the Majors proved just how unique a talent he is. The Angels made a surprise move when they placed him on the Opening Day roster as a reliever. A career starter, Joe Maddon and Perry Minasian wanted to give him a chance in the bullpen.
He impressed immediately, posting a 2.30 ERA and 17 strikeouts in his first 15.2 innings. Then, he suffered a shoulder injury that held him out for a month. When he came back, he wasn’t the same player. Over his next five appearances, he allowed four runs, nine hits, and three walks in just four innings and was optioned all the way down to Double-A.
He stretched himself back up to a starter, and was called up to do exactly that at the beginning of August. He made two starts, allowing four earned runs on 10 hits, but struck out nine batters over 10.0 innings. There was hope that he finally was becoming the pitcher the Angels needed him to be.
Then he suffered a lat strain and missed the remainder of the season, leading to even more questions about what his future with the team looks like. When Rodriguez is healthy, he is one of the more talented pitchers in the Angels system. The problem is that he’s rarely healthy. At just 22 years old, he’s already faced several back and shoulder issues that have required surgery or long stints on the IL.
He looks to be one of the team’s biggest question marks heading into next year. If he’s healthy, he can be a productive Major Leaguer in any role. But with him, health is the ultimate question mark.