The Los Angeles Angels have promoted right-handed reliever Ben Joyce from Double-A to the majors, the team announced Sunday. Joyce will replace veteran lefty Matt Moore on the active roster after Moore suffered a strained oblique.
Joyce, 22, was selected by the Angels in the third round of the 2022 draft. He had gained national acclaim, or at least as much as a collegiate reliever can, during his time at Tennessee by pumping triple-digit-velocity heaters. Here’s what CBS Sports wrote about him last summer, all the while noting that he “would seem to be one of the safest bets to become the first player from this class to reach the majors.”
Joyce has a monster fastball and slider, with 43 of the former checking in at 100 mph or above during the NCAA tournament. (He topped out at, um, 105 mph during the regular season.) His heater also features good rise and is delivered from a lower arm slot, a sought-after combination these days. Teams who attempt to quantify stuff — i.e., all of them — are going to have trouble containing their excitement at what Joyce brings to the table. He’s on here anyway because there’s never been a consensus on how early is too early to take a reliever, and because teams will have drastically different timetables on when they’d expect him to reach the majors. Keep in mind, he’s thrown just 32 innings over the last two seasons due to his role and his past Tommy John surgery. A team who thinks he could reach the majors soon, perhaps even this year, might be tempted to draft him earlier than anyone else would entertain.
Joyce is the second player from the 2022 draft to reach the majors; teammate Zach Neto made his debut on April 15. Neto has since held his own, recording a 97 OPS+ in his first 147 big-league plate appearances.
Joyce, for his part, has managed a 4.60 ERA and a 1.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15 innings this season. It’s worth noting that the Southern League, where he pitched, has experimented with an “enhanced grip” baseball that had led to a significant increase in walks across the league, according to Baseball America’s analysis in early May. It’s possible that Joyce’s poor marks are, at least in part, to blame on the unfamiliar ball.
Moore, 33, joined the Angels on a one-year free-agent contract over the offseason. In 22 appearances this season, he’s accumulated a 1.44 ERA (311 ERA+) and a 3.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s been particularly effective against right-handed batters, holding them to a .117/.194/.167 slash line over the course of 67 plate appearances.
The Angels enter Sunday with a 28-25 record on the season, putting them in third place in the American League West and six games back of the Texas Rangers. If the regular season ended Saturday night, the Angels would be left outside of the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season. They trail the New York Yankees for the final wild-card spot by 2 1/2 games.