MiLB.com's Scouting Report series spotlights players who are just starting their professional careers, focusing on what the experts are projecting for these young phenoms. Here's a look at second-ranked Angels prospect Sam Bachman.
The Angels have gone through great lengths to address their pitching woes in the past few years. Among those moves was the selection of Sam Bachman with the ninth pick in last year’s Draft.
Bachman, the club’s second-ranked prospect, is the second college pitcher that the Angels have drafted in the top 10 in as many years. He made five starts for High-A Tri-City last year after a full season at Miami (Ohio). The 22-year-old right-hander struck out 15, walked four and allowed six earned runs in 14 1/3 innings (3.77 ERA) for the Dust Devils.
He didn’t immediately prove to be as dominant as he was in his final college season, which is to be expected. But he still showed off an arsenal with two incredibly intriguing plus pitches and seemed to have a handle on his developing changeup.
“[The changeup] is light years away from what it was in college,” Bachman told MLB.com at the start of camp earlier this month. “It was very inconsistent. I threw it sometimes. I didn't feel the need to throw it as much. But in pro ball, these guys are different. So, it's really improved a lot."
The attention-grabbing pitches for Bachman are a sinking four-seamer that has reached 102 mph and a slider that the Indianapolis native himself described as having the late-breaking action of a gyro-ball.
"It's a really dynamic pitch package that plays off of itself and the weapons are really impressive,” Angels scouting director Matt Swanson said after the Draft. “And what's really impressive is his ground ball rate. He's not just a pure power pitcher; he has a lot of finesse and grace that goes with it."
Bachman induced ground ball contact on 66.7 percent of batted balls during his first stint in the Minors last season. The four walks and 1.19 WHIP were also encouraging, as he carried a trend from his final season of college ball.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound hurler struggled with command in his first two seasons with the Redhawks. He found a way to not only limit the damage but stifle opposing lineups in his breakout junior season. Bachman finished that year with a 1.81 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings.
"The mental side, that's what carries careers the furthest especially getting to the big leagues and in the minor leagues. I think the mentality and how tough you can stay up there and how primed you can be is kind of the biggest thing,” Bachman told the Indianapolis Star before the Draft. "After my first year [in college] I was getting used to really just trusting your stuff and going out there and being a bulldog, having a mentality and being able to shut off the negative parts. Using fear, using your nerves to your advantage and funneling that energy in a better way."
There are reasons to suspect that Bachman’s time in the Minors could be short-lived. As it stands, the organization has a lot of opportunities for a young pitcher. Even with all their star power, Los Angeles has been thin on pitching talent, homegrown or otherwise, for the better part of a decade and even used all 20 of their Draft picks on pitchers in 2021.
The Angels have rarely gotten ace production from a starter since Mike Trout’s debut in 2011. Excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the club has only had seven pitchers post at least a 2.9 fWAR in a season -- which would rank 45th league-wide last year.
Even with the emergence of last year’s American League MVP, Shohei Ohtani, who compiled a 3.0 fWAR on the mound in 2021, and the offseason signings of Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen to one-year deals, there is still room in the rotation for Bachman to make a push to the Majors as soon as 2022.
"I'd love to make an impact early on. That's one of my goals, obviously,” Bachman told MLB.com at the start of camp. “But if I just keep my head down and work hard every day, I think I'll have a good opportunity sooner or later."
Reid Detmers, the club’s top prospect, blazed that trail last year. The No. 10 overall pick in 2020 debuted with Double-A Rocket City in 2021 after spending the lost season at the Angels’ alternate site following the Draft. He made 12 starts for the Trash Pandas, compiling a 3.50 ERA, then had a one-start pit stop in Triple-A Salt Lake before being promoted to the Majors in August.
There is precedent and there is opportunity for Bachman to pitch with the Angels in 2022. Last year, the organization played it slow, as he did not pitch more than four innings in a start. By then, the Angels were well out of contention and had no reason to push Bachman, especially after a full college season. But their star-studded lineup should open the season at full strength, and the reinforcements in the rotation and bullpen added this offseason should provide a better balance.
As he enters his first full season, durability is still one of the biggest questions surrounding Bachman’s future. Some scouts don’t think he can last long in a Major League rotation, but the club maintains that he will be developed as a starter.
No matter what the future holds, Bachman can likely make a more immediate impact in the big-league bullpen, whether it’s early in the season or, if the Angels find themselves in contention, sometime closer to a postseason push.
Here's what the experts at MLB Pipeline have to say about Bachman:
Scouting Grades (20-80 scale)
“Miami (Ohio) has produced 13 big league pitchers (most notably Charlie Leibrandt) as well as Bill Doran, Adam Eaton and Tim Naehring via the Draft, but it was Bachman who became its first-ever first-round pick. An immediate starter as a freshman in 2019, he kicked his stuff up a notch in the Grand Park Summer League after the coronavirus shutdown and then again during fall practice. Some scouts have given top-of-the-scale grades to both his fastball and slider this past spring, when he ranked second in NCAA Division I in WHIP (0.77) and fourth in hits per nine innings (4.4), leading to the Angels taking him No. 9 overall and signing him for just under $3.85 million.
After working at 91-94 mph for much of his first two college seasons, Bachman now sits at 94-97 and hits 101 with plenty of armside run and sink. His slider also has gained more power, operating in the mid-80s with nastier bite and destroys left-handers and right-handers alike. His deceptive, heavy changeup in the mid-80s gives him at least a solid third offering.
Bachman averaged 4.1 walks per nine innings during his first two college seasons but provided more consistent strikes after improving his conditioning and athleticism during his layoff. He does come with some reliever risk because he's 6-foot-1 with a short arm action and a low three-quarters arm slot, and he did miss two early-season starts with a tired arm. He's strong and competitive, however, and should remain a starter if his upgraded control and command are for real.”
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.