Jordan Craig Walden
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 5", Weight 220 lb.
- School Grayson County College
- High School Mansfield High School
- Debut August 22, 2010
Jordan Walden has been an All-Star pitcher.
He was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as a draft-and-follow pick in the 12th round of the 2006 amateur draft (the scout was Arnold Brathwaite) and began his professional career the next season.
Walden pitched for the Orem Owlz in 2007, going 1-1 with a 3.08 ERA in 15 starts. In 64 1/3 innings, he allowed 49 hits (for a .209 opponent average) and three home runs while striking out 63 batters. He led the Pioneer League in opponent average and was second to Juan Moreno in ERA. Baseball America rated him as the #3 prospect in the league behind Todd Frazier and Caleb Gindl.
Prior to the 2008 season, Baseball America named Walden the 81st best prospect in minor league baseball. He split that season between the Cedar Rapids Kernels (with whom he went 4-6 with a 2.18 ERA in 18 starts) and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (5-2, 4.04 ERA in nine starts), going a combined 9-8 with a 2.76 ERA in 27 starts. He pitched 156 1/3 innings, allowing 122 hits and seven home runs while striking out 141 batters. Baseball America tabbed him as the #13 Midwest League prospect (between Craig Italiano and Justin Jackson) and #12 in the California League (between Julio Borbon and Greg Halman).
Before the 2009 season, Walden was named the 70th best prospect in baseball. He pitched for the Arkansas Travelers and went 1-5 with a 5.25 ERA in 13 starts that season while allowing a .301 average.
In 2010 he converted to relief pitching, spending 38 games with the Travelers (1-1, 8 Sv, 3.35) and six games with the Salt Lake City Bees (4.05) without making a start. He was being timed at 98 mph on his fastball. He was promoted to the major leagues on August 22, replacing Maicer Izturis on the roster. In his big league debut, Jordan relieved Scot Shields with a 4-0 deficit in the 8th against the Minnesota Twins. He walked Joe Mauer and gave up a Jason Kubel hit to begin his career, but then whiffed Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome on three pitches each. Delmon Young then grounded out to end the inning.
Walden had a very unique usage pattern to begin his career: in his first 42 appearances, he pitched exactly one inning 40 times, and a third of an inning twice. As a comparison, only Kazuhiro Sasaki, who began his career as a closer with significant experience in Japan, had as many as 30 such games. Most pitchers are used in various roles before being assigned one of the top two roles in the bullpen - closer or set-up man - which result in only short appearances of mostly one inning; Walden immediately stepped into one of these roles as a rookie, and in 2011 was named the Angels' closer, extending the pattern. He had a great first half in his new role and was named to the 2011 All-Star Game as an injury replacement for the great Mariano Rivera. In his first full season, he finished 5-5 with 32 saves in 62 games, with a 2.98 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. The Angels were convinced they had found a closer for the long term, but he got off to a very difficult start in 2012: in his first 6 games, he had only recorded one save, but had been charged with a loss, was carrying an 8.31 ERA and had given up 5 hits and 4 walks in 4 1/3 innings. One day after he blew a save opportunity by coughing up a walk-off home run to the Tampa Bay Rays' Brandon Allen on April 26th, he was replaced as the closer by Scott Downs. Given how little he had pitched, the decision seemed hasty, but the Angels were struggling in last place in the AL West after spending lavishly in the off-season, prompting the top brass to push the panic button. However, even if Downs did not stay as closer, Walden never got his job back, as Ernesto Frieri took over in the Angels' late-game situations and did quite well. Walden had to content himself with a role as a set-up man, pitching 45 times with a 3-2 record, the one save, and a 3.46 ERA. He only pitched 39 innings, and his season ended early because of a bicep strain in August. On November 30th, the Angels traded him to the Atlanta Braves for P Tommy Hanson.
Walden has a very unusual pitching motion in that at one point both of his feet are completely off the ground at the same time during his delivery, as if he were jumping to throw.
- AL All-Star (2011)
- 30 Saves Seasons: 1 (2011)