Daniel Ponce de Leon, an intriguing former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, has signed a minor-league deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
Entering the regular season, Daniel Ponce de Leon was part of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation. Of course, part of that was because of injuries to Miles Mikolas and Kwang Hyun Kim, but there was optimism that the right-hander would pitch at a high level until each pitcher returned.
It did not go according to plan, with Ponce de Leon struggling to consistently hit the strike zone and struggling after a promising first start. He went from the rotation to the bullpen to getting into an argument with Hall of Fame catcher Yadier Molina, which sealed his fate with the Cardinals.
Now, Ponce de Leon has signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Angels. He becomes the latest former Cardinals player to head to the Angels in recent years in a list that includes Chris Carpenter (front office), Dexter Fowler (trade), Jobel Jimenez, Joe Kruzel, Tony Ferreira and Joey Prebynski also headed as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted.
Ponce de Leon, 30, has always struggled with control. But he did have a very strong start to his career, posting a 3.31 ERA, 24.8 strikeout percentage and 40.7 groundball rate in 81.2 innings from 2018-2019. There is certainly plenty of raw talent, hence why he will continue to get opportunities, and his situation with the Angels gives him a realistic chance at a major-league opportunity.
While he is behind Shohei Ohtani, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Lorenzen, Reid Detmers and four others for a rotation spot, there is a chance Ponce de Leon can earn a bullpen spot with a strong showing in spring training. The Angels have been scouring the market for arms and he fits the low-risk, upside type player they have been seeking.
It’s a good spot for Ponce de Leon, but maximizing that opportunity means improving his control — and he’s been unable to do that to this point of his career. Perhaps a change of scenery is all he needs.