With the pitching carousel circling the Angels for much of 2021, it was no surprise Jose Quijada was brought back up to the Angels active roster for the first time in May. After being picked up off waivers from the Miami Marlins before the 2020 season, Quijada pitched in six games with the Halos during the 2020 pandemic season, struggling to go 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in only 3.2 innings pitched. During his minor league time with Triple-A Salt Lake this season, Quijada impressed, going 3-1 with a 1.53 ERA and one save in 22 appearances.
During his first stint with the Angels, the southpaw tossed back-to-back clean outings against the Cleveland Indians (May 19) and San Francisco Giants (May 31) before shipping back to Utah. He returned once again on the road in Tampa Bay on June 26 for a forgettable performance that saw five earned runs cross the plate in only one-third of an inning. He would however get one more chance for redemption when recalled on July 30. This time, he made the opportunity count, staying with the Angels the rest of the season and putting together a resume worthy of more relief opportunities moving forward.
In his final 23 appearances, Quijada allowed earned runs on only four occasions, lowering an inflated 12.27 ERA to 4.56 by season’s end. He is utilized more as a situational pitcher rather than an innings eater, but even with that characteristic, he ranked Top-5 in many relief categories for the Angels bullpen. Those categories (amongst qualified relievers) include Opp Average (.213 - 4th), Strikeouts (38 - 5th), Strikeouts/Per 9 (13.32 - 1st) and Holds (5 - 4th).
If you remove the depressing game against the Rays, it immediately shrinks his ERA to 2.84 and cosmetically makes his numbers jump off the page in a more positive light. With the lack of lefties in the bullpen (Alex Cluadio released and Tony Watson traded), Quijada easily became the first and most steady option for manager Joe Maddon.
26 Games / 0-2 Record / 4.56 ERA* / 25.2 Innings Pitched / 38 Strikeouts / 15 Walks / 1.36 WHIP* / .213 Opp Avg.* / 20 Hits Allowed / 14 Runs Allowed / 2 Home Runs Allowed
Coming out of the bullpen, Quijada is a three-pitch pitcher that heavily relies on his 4-Seam Fastball. It settles in around 94 MPH while shading the upper portion of the strike zone. In Quijada’s career, 2021 was the best year for his fastball as it recorded a .176 Opp Average, 25% Put Away Value and 5.4% Solid Contract rate with opposing batters. His secondary pitches (Changeup and Slider) combine for 26.6% of the total pitches thrown, but it was his Changeup that gave the southpaw the most trouble. In limited usage, opposing batters hit .429 with a .786 SLG and a low WHIFF rate of 18.2%. As a lefty specialist that Maddon loved using in specific matchup situations, Quijada actually pitched much better against right-handers to the tune of a .179 Opp Average and 25 strikeouts.
BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
Quijada wiggled out of many slippery situations with inherited runners on base all season long. On October 1 in Seattle, the lefty shined late in the game with a one run lead. Up 2-1, reliever Mike Mayers yielded a leadoff triple to Luis Torrens, followed by a nine-pitch walk to Abraham Toro. With a ruckus crowd on hand at T-Mobile Park, Quijada entered the game and made his presence known by striking out the side. He got Jarred Kelenic and Tom Murphy swinging, before ending with Dylan Moore looking at a 96 MPH Four-Seam Fastball on the outside corner. The Angels would eventually win the game by the same score of 2-1, with this half inning swinging the pendulum of momentum in the Halos favor.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2022
Quijada will certainly be a part of the Angels bullpen plans moving forward. He is under Team Control through the end of the 2023 season ($575,000 AAV), followed by three seasons of Arbitration eligibility (2024-2026). He will not hit the unrestricted free agent market until the 2027 season when he is 32 years old.
The biggest part of Quijada’s game that he can work on improving this offseason would be better control of his secondary pitches as well as gaining more experience. Both aspects of his game have the opportunity to get stronger immediately as the Venezuelan native gets set to play off-season winter ball in his home country with the Tiburones de La Guaira (Venezuelan Professional Baseball League).