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Ben Joyce’s Big Remaining To-Do List

Ben Joyce's Big Remaining To-Do List

In less than a year, Ben Joyce has gone from being the most famous reliever in college baseball to being one who appears to be battling for a spot in the Angels’ Opening Day bullpen.

Joyce has one of the best arms in baseball. He’s touched 102 mph this spring and shown improved secondary offerings. He’s yet to allow a run in five spring training appearances (officially four since his appearance against Team USA doesn’t count for spring training stats).

But there’s one way in which Joyce is not really prepared for the reality of life in a big league bullpen. It’s clear that he has the stuff to be a successful MLB reliever. So far, he’s shown signs of being reliable as well.

But when it comes to durability, that’s a big unknown, because so far, Joyce hasn’t gotten a chance to show if he can actually handle the job he will be asked to do in the majors.

Between his time at Walters State (Tenn.) JC, Tennessee, Double-A Rocket City and now spring training with the Angels’ MLB team, Joyce has almost always worked on multiple days of rest.

That’s not how MLB relievers work. If Joyce does break camp with the Angels they would likely end up asking him to learn how to pitch on back-to-back days at the major league level.

Joyce was a starter at Walters State. He moved to the bullpen at Tennessee after he recovered from Tommy John surgery. But with a very deep bullpen, the Vols had little need to ever hand Joyce a taxing workload. He worked back-to-back days only once, when he retired one batter on March 5, 2022 and another batter on March 6. That pair of .1 inning outings were the only back-to-back appearances Joyce has made at the college or pro level.

Much more often, Joyce has had two or three days of rest before he’s been asked to pitch again. Joyce did get stretched out to two four-inning appearances last year with the Vols, but more often, he’s been asked to throw one inning or fewer. The rest pattern is not because he was being used as a quasi-starter. Of his 45 relief appearances in college and pro ball, 37 have been one inning or fewer.

As a pro, Joyce has been asked to throw one inning, rest for several days and throw one more inning. There’s an understandable reluctance for teams to ask college relievers to carry heavier workloads, as there are fears that a pitcher may get injured.

But as we wrote in 2019, MLB has a truly horrendous record of developing successful college relievers into successful MLB relievers. There are a multitude of…

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