When Patrick Sandoval was assigned a book report in the third grade, he chose a biography of then-Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, his favorite player whose batting stance he copied as a Little Leaguer in Southern California.
“Wide legs, big arms, the hands moving up and down, just crushing balls, you know?” Sandoval said. “I was dug in. I was deep.”
With three years remaining on Pujols’ contract with the Angels, it is possible Sandoval could be teammates with the player he idolized as a kid. Sandoval, a 22-year-old lefthander, was traded from the Astros to the Angels for catcher Martin Maldonado in July.
“That would be an absolute dream come true,” said Sandoval, an 11th-round pick out of Mission Viejo High in 2015. “I look over at first and there’s my boy Pujols. That’d be crazy.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Sandoval is doing his part to turn that dream into reality. He combined to go 11-1, 2.06 in 26 games, 20 of them starts, at three levels and for two organizations in 2018. He struck out 145 and walked 29 in 122.1 innings, with an 0.96 WHIP and .196 opponent average.
Sandoval had a 42-inning scoreless streak in the Astros system that began at low Class A and ended at high Class A in mid-July. He quickly advanced to Double-A Mobile upon joining the Angels, recording a 1.37 ERA in four Southern League starts with 27 strikeouts in 19.2 innings.
Sandoval’s fastball ranges from 88-94-mph, and he has good feel for a mid-70s curveball and low-80s slider, but his signature pitch is an 80 mph changeup that he throws with great arm speed.
“It doesn’t have a big vertical movement, but it seems like it pops a parachute as it approaches the plate,” minor league pitching coordinator Matt Wise said. “It’s really filthy.”
Sandoval’s high-effort, up-tempo delivery, which matches his energetic makeup, needs a little polish, but he has good overall command and can throw his changeup in any count. He projects more as a back-of-the-rotation starter but could also be a good multi-inning reliever.
“He touches 94 (mph) with a solid-average curve and slider, and it looks like his changeup is a real weapon,” general manager Billy Eppler said after the trade. “Local kid with a chance to move quick. We’ll see where it all ends.”