It was the fastest pitch in college baseball history and two months later, the Angels selected him in the third round of the 2022 draft. Now, less than a year later, Joyce is in the big leagues, with Los Angeles picking his contract from Double-A Rocket City on Sunday with Matt Moore headed to List of people with a right-leaning strain.
Joyce will have to wait to make his debut though, as he didn’t appear in Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the Marlins that completed a disappointing series sweep. Lefty Patrick Sandoval allowed two runs over six innings, while relievers Jacob Webb and Aaron Loeb together threw three scoreless frames. But the crime was abolished for the first time since August 21, 2022.
Joyce, the club’s No. 9 prospect in the MLB Pipeline, found out about the news late Friday night, waking up to a call from Trash Pandas manager Andy Schatzley informing him that he had been called up to the Majors for the first time.
“It was the craziest feeling of my life,” said Joyce. “I was crying and shaking. All the feelings hit me.”
Joyce, 22, said his parents, Alan and Johnny, were in Alabama to watch him play Rocket City and he had to call them 10 times before they finally got up. The family exchanged a rant over the phone and quickly changed their travel arrangements, while Joyce’s brother, Zack, and girlfriend, Anna, took a trip west for his potential debut, which now likely takes place in Chicago or Houston.
“It means everything,” said Joyce. “It’s what I’ve been working towards since I was three years old playing baseball. It’s been my dream to make the big leagues and hearing that call is everything. It’s all the hard work you put in, it pays off and it’s awesome.”
Joyce posted a 4.60 ERA with 24 strikeouts and 13 walks in 15 2/3 innings pitched with Rocket City, which he says took him some time to adjust to the pre-rigged balls in Double-A this year. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder fared better last season with traditional ball, posting a 2.08 ERA with 20 strikeouts and four walks in 13 innings pitched. But he said he got more accustomed to the pre-rigged balls, while also starting to feel the Major League balls he used during the side sessions and side courses.
And he’s been playing better lately, throwing five scoreless innings over the last three games with seven strikeouts and one walk. He has also shown his ability to run in two of his last three rounds. He has not yet progressed in consecutive days but Joyce said his body is recovering well.
“His last three games have been really good,” said head coach Phil Nevin. “Some effective innings and his last outing was a couple of runs. He’s driving where we want him to be. He’s evolving here but he kind of has a thing for coming out big.”
Joyce said developing a new cutter was key for him this year to pair with his high-velocity fastball and sweeper. His fastball hit 104 mph in spring training and is usually between 99-102 mph, but he knows speed isn’t everything and he has to vary speeds to keep hitters balanced.
“I think just changing the way I approach hitters and gaining confidence has been a huge thing for me,” said Joyce. “I think adding that cutter was big for me because there was the difference Philo had from the fastball and the sweeper. It adds something in between. But I think confidence was the most important thing.”
Joyce is the latest youngster to be bred to guard game bulls, joining 23-year-olds Chase Silseth and Sam Bachman. Backman, the club’s fourth overall, was called up for the first time on Friday and made his debut, allowing one home run on two runs on four strikeouts. Shortstop Zach Neto, 22, also was called up from Double-A in mid-April.
It shows that the Angels are being aggressive with their prospects and Joyce is excited at the opportunity to make an impact. Neto and Joyce are the first players from the 2022 draft to reach the Majors, while Silseth was the first player from the 2021 draft to reach the Majors last year.
“We were at Double-A a few weeks ago and they were saying if you can put together some good weeks and do good things, you’ll move quickly,” Joyce said. “And they were honest with that, so it’s great to see.”
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