The Angels’ bullpen was a pleasant surprise last year, but with three key relievers gone and Blake Parker struggling, who should shut the door for them? Here’s a look at three candidates you may not be thinking of.
‘Major Key’ has been pretty great this season for the Angels. Once a fringe roster contender, Middleton has made a name for himself so far in his young career. After a promising showing in 2017, he has carried it over to 2018. Through his first 6 innings, Middleton has shown the stuff and flair for the 9th inning. In his first appearances, he’s allowed no runs, and has gotten out of a couple jams. Mike Scioscia has also shown trust in him by putting him in high pressure situations. If I had to put money on it, I’d peg Middleton as a potential breakout reliever and one that could take over the 9th if he keeps it up.
If you’re a Braves fan or if you watched them last year, you may have thrown up in your mouth a little. Johnson had a rough 2017 where he posted a 5.56 ERA, but with a new squad in a new season, he looks really good. Johnson has been counted on several times already this season, allowing two earned runs over 7.1 innings pitched. He’s also struck out 8, which gives him a K/9 of about 10. The 34 year old right-hander does have a solid history besides 2016. He had accrued a 3.76 career ERA with 492 Ks with his best stuff in a 50 save season in 2013. He has the track record, but his lack of blow-it-past you stuff may keep him in the 6th or 7th inning.
You may not know who Noe is, but he could be a surprise in the Halos’ bullpen. Ramirez, formerly on the Red Sox, was picked up last year and made a brief cameo at the end of the season. He did a solid job for the Angels, posting a 2.16 ERA in 10 games and struck out 10. He’s kept it going by tossing 6.1 innings this year with 11 Ks, nearly 18 K/9. It’s obviously a small sample size, but his ability to get whiffs serves him well, and could get him a few save opportunities.
Blake Parker and Cam Bedrosian could certainly keep high-leverage roles, but if they struggle, the Angels have some options to shut down games. Whoever it is, they need someone to step up and take the closer’s role.