UCLA baseball has 15 new players coming to Westwood this fall to replace the 10 who got picked in the 2021 MLB Draft and even more who graduated and went elsewhere. From top recruits to under-the-radar prospects and high-profile transfers, All Bruins is breaking all of them down to see what they could offer UCLA in 2022 and beyond.
Here is the report on incoming freshman Ethan Flanagan.
Another athlete from Orange County brings coach John Savage a lefty arm on the road back to the mound.
Pitcher Ethan Flanagan spent the past season as one of a few impact bats for Santa Margarita Catholic High School (CA), but the southpaw’s future with UCLA will be on the mound. Rehabbing this past year from an arm injury that kept him off the rubber in his senior year, Flanagan still helped lead the Eagles to a league championship game at the plate.
Perfect Game had Flanagan ranked as the No. 500 player and No. 81 left-handed pitcher in the country. In California, Flanagan was ranked No. 83 overall and the No. 8 southpaw in the 2021 recruiting class.
When Savage announced the 2021 recruiting class in December 2020, he said he was anticipating playing a large part in Flanagan’s development.
"Ethan is a projectable left-handed pitcher who has a tremendous future ahead of him,” Savage said in the recruiting class announcement. “Ethan is only at the beginning of what he can become, and we are excited to have an impact on him and his progression. Ethan has a fastball in the low 90s with a solid above-average curveball. He's a tremendous athlete who we expect to be very good at UCLA."
If Flanagan is able to regain his low 90s velocity and have a plus breaking pitch, he should be able to slip into some high leverage playing time late in his first season. Though since Flanagan injured his arm, it is projectable that Savage will have the lefty eased back into the mix on the mound.
Pitching from the stretch with velocity can make Flanagan a potential left-handed specialist late in games.
The 6-foot-3 left-hander could be an intriguing option a few years from now as a starter, but it will likely be bullpen work to start out in 2022. After all, he is one of just 5 lefties on the roster, so he could be an option in one or two out situations against lefty batters if other arms are overused.
It won’t be the most shocking development ever if Flanagan finds his way into pitching appearances this spring, but it is hard to see it happening. Coming off an injury, Flanagan may redshirt year one and build up his arm strength or make a late-season impact out of the bullpen. The late-season impact would only occur if the Bruins struggle to keep runs off the board late in games. Flanagan can become a starter by year three if he can stay healthy and succeed in summer ball next offseason. Savage knows what he has in Flanagan and will let him get back to full strength before pushing him into the deep end.