The Los Angeles Angels turned to two young starters to help get them through an injury-riddled 2021 season, Patrick Sandoval and Jose Suarez. While the two had shown flashes of promise in previous seasons, both took massive leaps as they anchored the Halos rotation.
Here, we’ll take a look at each of their breakout campaigns and how they fit with the Angels Opening Day roster in 2022.
Days 8-12 of our player review series can be viewed here. For days 1-7, check out any of days 8, 9 or 10.
Day 8: Taylor Ward, Juan Lagares, Steve Cishek
Day 9: Jaime Barria, Phil Gosselin, Jack Mayfield
Day 10: Griffin Canning, Dylan Bundy, Justin Upton
Day 11: Alex Cobb, Max Stassi, Mike Mayers
Day 12: Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell
Sandoval’s age-24 season saw him take a huge leap from the inconsistency that plagued him in 2019 and 2020. With his elite changeup and ability to force bad contact, he became a reliable piece for the Angels to rely on now and well into the future.
Sandoval tossed 87.0 innings over 14 starts and three bullpen appearances in 2021. In that time, he held a 3.62 ERA, a 1.207 WHIP, and a 9.7 K-per-9 rate. Sandoval ranked in the 97th percentile in average exit velocity against, was 92nd percentile in whiff percentage, and had an above-average 124 ERA+.
His best moment of the season came against the Minnesota Twins on July 24. Sandoval took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, but fell two outs short. He ultimately allowed one earned run in 8.2 innings pitched, securing the victory.
The Mission Viejo native’s season ended abruptly when he suffered a back injury after his start on August 13. The next leap for Sandoval will be to cross the 100 innings threshold, which he should be able to do easily once at full strength again.
The Angels have said that Sandoval will be fully recovered in time for Spring Training, and — at the moment — looks to be the third starter in the rotation behind Syndergaard and Ohtani, pending other moves by the team.
Similar to Sandoval, Suarez went from a developmental piece to a legitimate big-league pitcher during his age-23 season. Suarez had difficult showings in 2019 and 2020, but a switch flipped for him when he went from long reliever to starter midway through 2021.
Suarez made 23 appearances and 14 starts in 2021, totaling 98.1 innings, the second-highest number on the Angels roster. Suarez put together a really solid campaign, headlined by a 3.75 ERA, 1.231 WHIP, and an 80th percentile average exit velocity against.
After joining the rotation at the beginning of July, Suarez’s ERA was 4.44. But similarly to Sandoval, he had a breakout moment when he pitched a complete game on Sep. 4, allowing just one run and throwing an efficient 100 pitches.
While Sandoval’s 2022 goal is to simply get healthy and show some more development across the board, Suarez has more specific things that must be improved. The young starter lacks a go-to putout pitch, leading to low strikeout numbers and high rates of contact. He ranked in just the 28th percentile for K%.
If he can find the pitch that allows him to increase his strikeout totals, he can become a strong starting pitcher in this league, and it’s something the Angels need from him if he’s going to be a part of the team’s six-man rotation next season.