The Los Angeles Angels made an intriguing selection early in the third round of the 2022 Major League Baseball amateur draft on Monday, plucking Tennessee right-handed reliever Ben Joyce with the 89th overall pick.
Joyce, 21 years old, made an impression this season in 27 appearances (all but one in relief) with the Volunteers, the best Division-I college baseball team in the regular season. He struck out 40 percent of the batters he faced en route to a 2.23 ERA and a 3.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He displayed a propensity for throwing hard, as his fastball was clocked up to 105 mph, that, when contrasted with his limited role, led CBS Sports to name him one of the class’s most polarizing prospects back in June.
Here’s what we wrote at the time:
Joyce has a monster fastball and slider, with 43 of the former checking in at 100 mph or above during the NCAA tournament. (He topped out at, um, 105 mph during the regular season.) His heater also features good rise and is delivered from a lower arm slot, a sought-after combination these days. Teams who attempt to quantify stuff — i.e., all of them — are going to have trouble containing their excitement at what Joyce brings to the table. He’s on here anyway because there’s never been a consensus on how early is too early to take a reliever, and because teams will have drastically different timetables on when they’d expect him to reach the majors. Keep in mind, he’s thrown just 32 innings over the last two seasons due to his role and his past Tommy John surgery. A team who thinks he could reach the majors soon, perhaps even this year, might be tempted to draft him earlier than anyone else would entertain.
Joyce would seem to be one of the safest bets to become the first player from this class to reach the majors. He might be in the perfect organization for it, too. Angels general manager Perry Minasian promoted Chase Silseth to The Show earlier this season, less than a year after selecting him in the 11th round. Meanwhile, Minasian’s first-round pick last summer, Sam Bachman, opened the year in Double-A and likely would have debuted by now as well were it not for an injury.
The only catch is that the Angels entered the All-Star Break with a 39-53 record, placing them far enough outside of the playoff race that Minasian might not deem it worth placing Joyce on the 40-player roster and/or beginning his service-time clock.