In Monday’s Closer’s Corner, I singled out the Angels’ bullpen and suggested Fernando Rodney’s struggles could soon lead to a change. On Tuesday, Mike Scioscia stripped Rodney of his ninth inning duties until “he gets back in touch with some things.”
Given Rodney’s sub-par performance in recent seasons (three-year averages: 4.45 ERA, 7.97 K/9, 5.18 BB/9), the 34-year-old’s days as a closer may finally be over.
Enter Jordan Walden.
Walden was a 12th round pick out of high school in 2006. The 6-foot-5, 240 pound right-hander was developed as a starter, posting a 3.37 ERA, 8.37 K/9 and 3.27 BB/9 in three seasons between the Pioneer League, Low-A, High-A and Double-A.
After straining a elbow ligament in 2009, the Angels moved him to the bullpen the following year. By the end of the season, he had established himself as the team’s top set-up man in the majors, posting a 2.35 ERA, 13.50 K/9 and 4.11 WHIP in just 15 1/3 innings.
Walden throws mostly four-seam fastballs that sit at 94-97 mph, “but the pitch features sinking, two-seam action when he pitches to his arm side,” according to Baseball America. His low-80s slider is average and his changeup “unrefined.” While his control is below-average, hitters have struggled to lift Walden’s pitches, as he’s allowed only 17 home runs in 346 pro innings.
Walden doesn’t have the upside of fellow up-and-coming closers such as Craig Kimbrel, but on an Angels team that figures to compete this season, he has value. The 23-year-old should be added in all formats, though he’s currently owned in just 21 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Image courtesy of: Derral Chen
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