Greg Mahle‘s first full season of professional baseball could not have gone much better. The left-hander was a 15th round draft pick out of the University of California, Santa Barbara and made it to Double-A Arkansas in 2015. Mahle impressed the Los Angeles Angels brass enough to receive an invitation to spring training and now is in the mix to earn a spot as the second lefty in the Angels bullpen along with Jose Alvarez.
Mahle racked up 25 saves in 2015 between Single-A Inland Empire and Arkansas to go along with an earned run average in the low threes and a 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Thus far this spring, Mahle has pitched to a 3.60 ERA in five innings of work. The other two lefties the club brought in this spring have had more than their share of struggles. Christian Friedrich lasted all of three days and never threw a pitch for the Angels due to injury concerns. Rob Rasmussen has been less than stellar this spring going 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in four innings pitched and a 2.00 WHIP.
Mahle throws a mix of fastball, changeup, slider, and sinker. His fastball has good movement with velocities changing from upper 80s to low 90s. The sinker is his out pitch, its late break giving the appearance of a splitter. The slider and change are still a work in process.
Mahle’s real attraction is deception. Much of his success can be attributed to changing arm slots with his pitches. He throws four pitches from three-quarters and two others, a fastball and a slider, from a submarine-style angle. Picking up a left-hander is difficult enough most of the time. Picking up one that changes arm slots depending on the pitch in the same at bat; that could be devastating.
Even while mixing speeds and arm angles on his pitches, Mahle still manages to have very effective control. This effectiveness has opened up the eyes of Angels manager Mike Scioscia and others with the club. Mahle was a longshot to make the roster for Opening Day as he started training camp, but he is now an intriguing option that may be the second lefty in the pen the Angels want so desperately.
One added benefit of sticking around this long in camp for Mahle has been rubbing elbows with closer Huston Street. In an interview with MLB.com, Mahle said “He’s really strict with his routine. That’s a guy who has had a ton of success for a long time, so that’s the guy you really want to look after.”
Mahle’s fastball velocity may end up being the reason that he doesn’t stick around as a closer in the big leagues. He does have the look, however, of a quality setup man or lefty specialist. Keeping his hits and walks down and striking out a batter an inning will keep him in demand. His splits against righties and lefties indicate both have struggled to mount much of anything against him.
Whether or not Mahle sticks around as the second lefty to start 2016 would not be a surprise either way. He figures to make an appearance in the Angels bullpen sometime during the season one way or the other. He just may have to navigate the waters of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League for the time being. Something says that this will not last for long and Mahle will continue his fast rise in the prospect ranks. Lefty specialist for the interim will probably lead to a full-time middle relief role in the near future. Longshots do pay off sometimes, and Mahle is gunning to be the next one for the Angels.