FanPost

Cam Bedrosian is the hero the Angels need right now

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Possessing a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, Cam Bedrosian, son of 1987 Cy Young Award-winning closer Steve Bedrosian, was drafted by the Angels with the 29th overall pick in the 2010 draft and was immediately touted as a future late-inning reliever. He struggled initially, but Bedrosian finally found his groove in the majors last season and may be exactly what the Angels’ bullpen needs to help make the team competitive in 2017.

Bedrosian’s professional career got off to a rocky start, as he only pitched 12 professional innings before succumbing to Tommy John Surgery and being forced to sit out the entirety of the 2011 season.

When he returned in 2012, he was thrust into the Low-A rotation in order to get some innings under his belt and posted an ugly 6.31 ERA while walking more batters than he struck out. In 2013, he returned to the bullpen and began showing promise, striking out over 11 batters per nine innings.

Bedrosian really shined when he was promoted to Double-A a year later where he struck out about half of the batters he faced and owned a strikeout-to-walk ratio of five and an ERA slightly above one, earning him his first promotion to the big leagues at the age of just 22 years old.

The major leagues were not kind to Bedrosian, as he posted an ERA over six and walked about 13% of the batters he faced while striking out only 21.5% in 19 1/3 innings. Because of his struggles, he was relegated to the minors for the most of the year where he put up impressive numbers once again.

In 2015, he spent about half of the year in the majors, but his numbers were nearly identical to those in his 2014 stint. Bedrosian spent the year wavering between Triple-A and the big leagues, and just like in 2014, he struggled in the majors and impressed in the minors. He simply wasn't fooling major league hitters. Something had to change, but what was it?

Fast forward to 2016, and Bedrosian became the best reliever on the team, holding opposing hitters to a measly .205 batting average before going down with an injury late in the year.

And there are quite a few reasons for this drastic improvement.

First of all, he started throwing his slider about 13% more often than he did in his rookie year and ditched his ineffective changeup, likely allowing him to focus on refining his slider. In his first two years, about three of every four pitches Bedrosian threw were fastballs, so he was not providing hitters with much uncertainty at the plate.

He still fires his fastball most of the time, but he now throws his slider more than 30% of the time, which has allowed him to more easily finish batters off with a third strike. Opposing batters swung and missed at Bedrosian’s slider nearly 15% more often in 2016 than they did from 2014-2015.

Not only were hitters being forced to guess more often, but they were also being kept off balance due to an increased velocity differential between Bedrosian's two dominant pitches; he has increased his fastball velocity to about 95 mph while decreasing that of his slider, which is now about 83 mph.

The combination of all of these factors led Bedrosian to slashing his walk-rate considerably while upping his strikeout rate, not to mention his minuscule 1.12 ERA, which ranked second among 176 relievers with at least 40 innings pitched last year.

Bedrosian increased his strikeout rate from 21.7% in his first two seasons to an impressive 31.5% in 2016. He also decreased his walk rate by almost 4%, which led to his K-BB% jumping from a forgettable 9.1% from 2014-2015 to an excellent 22.8%. In addition, Bedrosian took advantage of an improved Angels defense, as he increased his ground ball rate by almost 7%, which bodes well for 2017, as their defense will be even better.

Now 25, Bedrosian is seemingly living up to the high expectations that come with being a first-round pick and looks like he will be a major piece of the Angels' bullpen for years to come.

Of course, it is a bit unfair to expect Bedrosian to put up similar numbers again. He only threw 40 1/3 innings last year, and there is a good chance he regresses in 2017.

But what if he doesn't? It wasn’t like he just lucked into being one of the most dominant relievers in the sport. Bedrosian made legitimate changes to the way he attacks hitters, which leads me to believe that his transformation is real and while I don’t expect him to post an ERA near one this year, there’s no reason he can’t be the dominant force the Angels desperately need in a bullpen filled with uncertainty.

If Bedrosian carries the changes he made in 2016 into 2017 and beyond, the Angels may have something truly special on their hands.

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