Though its proficiency is yet to be known, the Angels bullpen will almost certainly fall under the radar this season. There’s no proven late-leverage arms with strong, recent results to be seen here. One might think that this would call for a long-term investment this winter, like an Aroldis Chapman, a Kenley Jansen, a Mark Melancon. Perhaps a Wade Davis or a Daniel Robertson through the trade market?
This was not the case, as the Angels did not once even dip their feet in the knee-deep reliever waters (excluding the prompt re-upping of Andrew Bailey, of course). In doing so, they are experimenting with an unorthodox method of bullpen management, one that is reflected in innings pitched rather than appearances made. This strays from the traditional thinking of having a starter throw six innings, having three pitchers come in afterwards for one inning each. Instead, this would mean 5-6 innings of Skaggs and having a former starter or swingman like Petit, Norris, or Chavez come in and finish out the game. This results in the remaining arms to stay fresh and be available for the following days, maximizing the utility out of the other bullpen arms on the roster.
Even though nobody is going to get all that excited over potential multi-inning relievers like Yusmeiro Petit, these unspectacular innings-eaters are crucial to saving wear and tear on others, and that is where much of the real value comes from. Sometimes it’s the quantity over the quality that is paramount and a good swingman provides both on a consistent basis.
Huston Street is capable when he truly is healthy, while Cam Bedrosian might be the only arguable spectacular player in the bullpen. Andrew Bailey provides quality innings with quietly good spin numbers and Jose Alvarez has always flown under the radar as a lefty option. Per Roster Resource, JC Ramirez and Austin Adams are out of options, so they will both be on the opening roster. Given how good Yusmeiro Petit has been this spring, one would have to believe that he has a strong shot of making the roster as well.
Beyond those options, the Angels have many prospective possibilities like Kirby Yates, Blake Parker, Drew Gagnon, Keynan Middleton (Keynan!), Brooks Pounders, Deolis Guerra, among others. After watching him thus far, I feel strongly in saying that Keynan Middleton is by far the best reliever that won’t make the Angels’ roster (that’s not a slight, but because of others’ lack of options Middleton will be forced to start the year in AAA). Given the sudden breakouts of relievers, you’d have to believe that at least one other will be serviceable at the big league level.
Bullpens are extremely volatile. And when a club doesn’t have a consistent stalwart like a Chapman or a Jansen, they’re going to have to do things differently. Even though the Halos bullpen doesn’t look great now, there are capable arms in that reliever pile. And with veteran swingmen like Norris and Petit filling a void, the fringiest of bullpen arms will bear minimal responsibility. It’s not going to be exciting, but it’s going to get the job done and put the focus of the team on the position players - where it should be.