By Chad Stewart
Possessing a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, Cam Bedrosian, son of 1987 Cy Young Award-winning closer Steve Bedrosian, was drafted by the Angels with the 29th overall pick in the 2010 draft and was immediately touted as a future late-inning reliever. After a couple of rough stints in the majors over the last two years, he may be reaching his potential.
Bedrosian only pitched 12 professional innings before succumbing to Tommy John Surgery and being forced to sit out the entirety of the 2011 season.
When he returned in 2012, he was thrust into the Low-A rotation in order to get some innings under his belt and struggled mightily. In 2013, he returned to the bullpen and began showing promise, striking out over 11 batters per nine innings.
Bedrosian truly shined when he was promoted to Double-A Arkansas a year later where he struck out about half of the batters he faced and owned a strikeout-to-walk ratio of five and an earned-run average slightly above one, earning him his first promotion to the big leagues at the age of just 22 years old.
The major leagues were not kind to Bedrosian, as he posted an ERA over six and walked about 13 percent of the batters he faced while striking out 21.5 percent in 19 1/3 innings. Because of his struggles, he was relegated to the minors for the most of the year where he put up impressive numbers once again.
In 2015, he spent about half of the year in the majors, but had nearly identical numbers to those in his 2014 stint. Bedrosian spent the year wavering between Triple-A and the big leagues, and, just like in 2014, he struggled in the majors and impressed in the the minors. He simply wasn’t fooling major league hitters. Something had to change, but what was it?
Fast forward to this year, and Bedrosian has solidified his place in the Angels’ bullpen, holding opposing hitters to a measly .211 batting average.
And there are quite a few reasons for this drastic improvement.
First of all, he is throwing his slider about 13 percent more often than he did in his rookie year and has completely abandoned his ineffective changeup, likely allowing him to focus on refining his slider. In his first two years, about three of every four pitches Bedrosian threw were fastballs, not giving hitters much uncertainty at the plate. He still fires his fastball most of the time, but he now throws his slider more than 30 percent of the time, and it has allowed him to more easily finish batters off with a third strike.
Not only are hitters being forced to guess more often, but they are also being kept off balance due to an increased velocity differential between Bedrosian’s two dominant pitches; he has increased his fastball velocity to about 95 mph while decreasing that of his slider, which is now about 83 mph.
The combination of all of these factors has led to Bedrosian slashing his walk-rate considerably and upping his strikeout-rate, not to mention his minuscule 1.03 ERA, which ranks fourth among all qualified relievers.
His dominant numbers have led to manager Mike Sciosscia utilizing him in more high-leverage situations this year, and with the Angels headed in an uncertain direction, Bedrosian may get a crack at the closer’s role sooner rather than later.
Now 24, Bedrosian is seemingly living up to the high expectations that come with being a first-round pick and looks like he will be a major piece of the Angels’ bullpen for years to come.
Of course, Bedrosian’s numbers this year may be unsustainable, and he will likely begin regressing at least slightly sometime soon.
But what if he doesn’t?
The Angels may have something special on their hands.
All statistics obtained from http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=13360&position=P.