Due to a myriad of different factors that included untimely injuries and poor performance from their pitching staff, the Angels yet again found themselves as sellers once baseball’s July 30 trade deadline rolled around in 2021.
The club didn’t have many significant pieces to trade away at this time, but perhaps the biggest move that they did make was sending longtime Angel Andrew Heaney to the Yankees in exchange for a pair of minor-league pitchers. One of those arms, righty Elvis Peguero, was looked at as an interesting flyer due to his high-octane arsenal out of the bullpen, but starter Janson Junk was the one that was considered the real prize of that deal by pretty much everyone.
At the time, Junk was starting to gain some attention in prospect circles due to his performance to kick off the minor-league season with the Double-A Somerset Patriots. From the beginning of May through the time of the trade, Junk recorded a sterling 1.78 ERA in 65.2 innings across his 17 appearances while striking out 68 hitters and walking 20. This ERA mark was the best among all starters in Minor League Baseball at the time, and it had people wondering whether he should be ranked higher than the No. 27 spot on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top 30 Yankees prospects.
After being acquired by the Angels, Junk was rather aptly assigned to the Rocket City Trash Pandas, where he struggled a bit out of the gates. He turned things around in a big way during a start on August 27, though, coming within three outs of throwing a perfect game against the Biloxi Shuckers.
What an outing for Janson Junk.— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 28, 2021
The @Angels’ No. 23 prospect took a perfect game into the ninth and struck out eight for the @trashpandas. pic.twitter.com/c0nAKHhoaG
This excellent outing would prove to be Junk’s last one of the season in the minors, as a number of different injuries to the starting rotation forced the Angels to skip him over AAA and bring him straight to the big leagues. His first start in the majors came at home on September 5 against the Rangers, where he came out of the gates pretty strong before running into some unfortunate luck. With two runners on and two outs in the third inning, Junk induced what would’ve been an inning-ending ground ball, but Luis Rengifo botched the throw to first and allowed a run to score. The very next batter, D.J Peters, would go on to hit a three-run home run off of Junk, spoiling his debut and sending him packing with four unearned runs on his ledger in 3.1 innings.
First career strikeout for Janson Junk! pic.twitter.com/WN5Ofth0Yf— Halos Heaven (@halosheaven) September 5, 2021
Junk’s next two starts came against a pair of playoff teams in the White Sox and Astros, and he managed to put in a pair of pretty solid efforts despite being on a short leash for both of them. He threw 8.1 innings combined in those games, allowing four earned runs and walking just one while striking out three. He had some very good stretches within these games as well, retiring eight straight hitters at one point in the Chicago game and 10 in a row against Houston.
The final start of the season for Junk came against the Rangers, where he put together another decent performance. He went 4.1 innings in that one and struck out a career-high five hitters while walking no one. He did give up seven hits, but some timely work helped him limit the damage to just two runs against him. By the end of that outing, Junk’s ERA in the majors sat at a respectable 3.86, a mark that helped illustrate his solid first impression in Halo red.
16.1 IP, 20 H, 11 R (7 ER), 2 BB, 10 K, 3.86 ERA in four starts with the Angels
2.81 ERA in 91 innings combined between Double-A Somerset and Double-A Rocket City
Best Performance of the Year
Junk’s best outing in his brief September cameo would be his second career start against the White Sox on the 15th. His 4.1 innings pitched were tied for the longest he went while in the majors, and the one run allowed was his fewest in that time. The home run he allowed to Yoan Moncada in the fourth inning was the only real trouble he ran into that day, as the only other damage against him was was a pair of singles that didn’t come around to score. This was the start that the Angels saw Junk at his best, and it showed fans that he is capable of some success at the highest level, albeit in a somewhat limited capacity.
Outlook for 2022
Given the fact that Junk just made his debut this past season, it’s almost certain that he’ll be in the Angels organization for the foreseeable future. He’ll likely start next year in Triple-A Salt Lake, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back in the big leagues at some point to make a few spot starts if necessary. At the very least, he’s proven that he can be a good depth piece for years to come, and with more experience, he might be able to grow into a lot more than that.