ANAHEIM, Calif. — In a surprise move to bolster their bullpen, the Angels are calling up right-handed pitcher and one of their top prospects, Sam Bachman, from Double-A.
Angels General Manager, Perry Minasian, has shown a tendency for aggressive promotions within the system and to the Major League club, highlighted this season by Zach Neto – the Angels 2022 first-round selection – after just seven games in Double-A in 2023, and a combined 44 professional games. Neto was the first position player from the 2022 draft to reach the majors, another tendency the Angels are known for, as the called up Chase Silseth as the first from the 2021 draft class to reach the Majors, and Reid Detmers, the first from the 2020 draft class to reach the bigs.
Bachman, 23, was drafted ninth overall by the Angels in the 2021 MLB Draft as a power arm who could be quick to the Majors. He was ranked by Baseball America as the seventh best prospect in the Angels organization over the off-season.
A lackluster full-season pro debut – hindered by back injuries and an inability to finish his pitches – saw Bachman post a 3.92 ERA in Double-A Rocket City in 2022, where he struggled to miss bats with just 6.2 strikeouts-per-nine.
Bachman impressed during his spring outings in 2023, and returned to Rocket City where a new challenge arose in the “enhanced grip” baseball that Major League Baseball began testing for the first half of Southern League play. Bachman performance could be impeded by the baseball, as his walk rates have spiraled to 16.9%. Excluding one outing where he permitted six runs in just one inning of work, Bachman’s ERA is below the league average at 3.91 and is exactly on par with his performance from the year prior, but with substantial changes to the batted ball data where he has limited hitters to a .163 average while striking out 9.9 hitters per-nine-innings.
Scouts are unanimous about the “enhanced grip” baseball deterring evaluations in the Southern League, but there is a split in the camp about Bachman’s future projection. A glaring item is that Bachman’s mechanics, which include an inverted arm action and low slot release, would be better suited for the bullpen and is only glorified by his inability to hold premium velocity deep into outings as he will start a game sitting 94-97 but after 50-or-so pitches, will begin sitting 92-94.
Scouting Report: Bachman is an undersized pitcher at six-foot-one that works from a deceptive low arm slot. His fastball currently sits 94-97 with significant arm-side run, and has briefly touched 100-101 in college. Bachman has a plus-plus swing-and-miss slider (sweeper) in the upper 80’s. Bachman can counter the breaks of his fastball and slider to compete on both sides of the plate against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. He’ll have to improve his changeup to further project as a starter. He works around the zone and throws enough strikes to buy into his starter projection.
The Angels will utilize Bachman in a relief role initially, but with a large former Brewers presence in the Angels Front Office, one could speculate that this is a development tactic once used on now All-Star caliber arms. Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff have both been named All-Star’s as starting pitchers while Burnes is a past Cy Young Award winner, but both began their Major League careers as medium-or-high-leverage relievers. The Brewers also did this with homegrown pitchers like Adrian Houser and Aaron Ashby who are also now rotation arms. Kyle Glaser of Baseball America asked Brewers manager, Craig Counsell, in 2022 if this was a development scenario and he confirmed it while stating that the Brewers were contending and competing when these pitchers came up and it was the best way to get arms of that talent to the big club.
While this is speculative from this writer’s viewpoint, this scenario could be attached to both Silseth and Chris Rodriguez in current and past years. When asked about Rodriguez and this development tactic in specifics in 2021, Minasian and then manager Joe Maddon did not confirm the approach.
The Angels will be hopeful a new and live arm such as Bachman can improve their bullpen which has been highly critiqued despite being the sixth best in ERA in the Majors in ERA (3.57) and fifth best in FIP (3.74). A flurry of arms in the Angels bullpen has been hit with injuries, both short-stinted and season-ending, in the likes of Aaron Loup, José Quijada, and Austin Warren.
One of the biggest struggles for the Angels has been bridging the gap from their starters to the back end of their bullpen and two best relievers: Carlos Estévez and Matt Moore. That gap has new faces over the last month including veterans Chris Devenski, Jacob Webb, and Reyes Moronta.
Bachman could provide a new face and new life for the bridge to the high-leverage arms and could even be that necessary high-leverage reliever the Angels require to continue their contention for the postseason.
Direct from Baseball America’s handbook and their projection of Bachman: “Bachman is a special power arm with two potentially plus-plus pitches, but his size, delivery, and lengthy injury history make most believe he’ll move to the bullpen where he could be an effective late-inning reliever. The Angels believe he has frontline starter stuff and will continue to develop him as such.”
Bachman is likely to make his Major League debut sometime over the weekend at Angel Stadium, with eyes not only on his current status, but also with eyes towards the future in hopes of seeing a star-caliber starter beginning his career in relief.