Angels rookie Jordan Walden throws really, really hard

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Joel Zumaya amazingly never ceased being the hardest-thrower in baseball even while battling all kinds of arm injuries over the past few years, averaging 99.3 miles per hour with his fastball both this season and last season.
However, now that Zumaya is sidelined while recovering from July elbow surgery the “hardest-thrower” title is vacant and R.J. Anderson of Fan Graphs writes that Angels rookie reliever Jordan Walden may be ready to claim it.
Called up last week, Walden has made three appearances, faced 13 batters, and thrown a total of 50 pitches. Of those 50 pitches 36 have been fastballs and they’ve clocked in at an average of 98.9 miles per hour. I watched in awe as he repeatedly cracked triple-digits in his big-league debut against my beloved Twins last week, but was surprised to find that his minor-league numbers aren’t nearly as jaw-dropping.
He moved from the rotation to the bullpen this season, posting a 3.44 ERA, .277 opponents’ batting average, and 41/24 K/BB ratio in 50 innings between Double-A and Triple-A before the call-up. Those certainly aren’t terrible numbers, but managing just 41 strikeouts in 50 innings while opponents bat .277 sure seems odd given his incredible fastball velocity and seemingly solid slider.
Consistently throwing strikes appears to be Walden’s biggest issue, but if he can harness his raw stuff while continuing to pump 99-mph heat at hitters from a low arm angle he sure looks like a potentially dominant late-inning reliever. And he may just be the hardest-thrower in baseball, at least until Aroldis Chapman and his mythical 105-mph fastball arrive in Cincinnati later this week.

Jeffrey Springs, Rays agree to $31 million, 4-year contract

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Left-hander Jeffrey Springs became the first of the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration salaries with their teams to reach a deal, agreeing Wednesday to a $31 million, four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

The 30-year old was among seven Rays who swapped arbitration figures with the team on Jan. 13. He began last season in the bullpen, transitioned to the starting rotation in May and finished 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 appearances, including 25 starts. He is 14-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 76 outings – 51 of them in relief – since he was acquired from Boston in February 2021.

Springs gets $4 million this year, $5.25 million in 2024 and $10.5 million in each of the following two seasons. Tampa Bay has a $15 million option for 2027 with a $750,000 buyout.

The 2025 and 2026 salaries can escalate by up to $3.75 million each based on innings in 2023-24 combined: $1.5 million for 300, $1 million for 325, $750,000 for 350 and $500,000 for 375. The `25 and ’26 salaries also can escalate based on finish in Cy Young Award voting in `23 and ’24: $2 million for winning, $1.5 million for finishing second through fifth in the voting and $250,000 for finishing sixth through 10th.

Tampa Bay’s option price could escalate based on Cy Young voting in 2025 and 2026: by $2.5 million for winning, $2 million for finishing second through fifth and $500,000 for sixth through 10th.

Springs would get $45.25 million if the option is exercised, $52.75 million with the option and meeting all innings targets and the maximum if he meetings the innings targets and wins two Cy Youngs.

Springs’ ERA last season was the second lowest in franchise history for a pitcher working a minimum of 100 innings. Former Rays ace Blake Snell compiled 1.89 ERA on the way to winning the 2018 AL Cy Young.

In addition to finishing sixth in the AL in ERA, Springs allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of 25 starts and two runs or fewer 17 times. He joined Tampa Bay’s rotation on May 9, gradually increasing his workload over his next six appearances. Springs was 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.

Arbitration hearings start next week and the Rays remain with the most players scheduled to appear before three-person panels.

Springs had asked for a raise from $947,500 to $3.55 million and had been offered $2.7 million. Tampa remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam, Pete Fairbanks and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Tampa Bay also agreed minor league contacts with catcher Gavin Collins and right-hander Jaime Schultz, who will report to major league spring training.

Infielder Austin Shenton and pitchers Anthony Molina and Joe LaSorsa also were invited to big league spring training.