Image: (Harry How / Getty Images)
Los Angeles Angels
by Daniel Schultz
2021 Record: 77-85 (.475 win%, 4th in Division)
2021 Payroll: $180,349,558 (7th)
Projected 2022 Lineup:
1. DH Shohei Ohtani, .258 AVG/.363 OBP/.538 SLG, 3.6 fWAR
2. CF Mike Trout, .272 AVG/.407 OBP/.554 SLG, 6.5 fWAR
3. 1B Jared Walsh, .259 AVG/.333 OBP/.504 SLG, 2.7 fWAR
4. 3B Anthony Rendon, .273 AVG/.368 OBP/.469 SLG, 4.4 fWAR
5. C Max Stassi, .223 AVG/.303 OBP/.402 SLG, 2.6 fWAR
6. OF Brandon Marsh, .241 AVG/.315 OBP/.378 SLG, 1.0 fWAR
7. OF Jo Adell, .240 AVG/.293 OBP/.447 SLG, 0.8 fWAR
8. 2B Matt Duffy, .265 AVG/.336 OBP/.364 SLG, 0.6 fWAR
9. SS David Fletcher, .274 AVG/.323 OBP/.371 SLG, 1.8 fWAR
Projected 2022 Rotation:
1. Shohei Ohtani, 165.0 IP/3.79 ERA/1.22 WHIP, 3.0 fWAR
2. Noah Syndergaard, 163.0 IP/4.66 ERA/1.33 WHIP, 2.1 fWAR
3. Patrick Sandoval, 147.0 IP/4.01 ERA/1.34 WHIP, 2.1 fWAR
4. Michael Lorenzen, 128.0 IP/4.87 ERA/1.47 WHIP, 0.5 fWAR
5. Jose Suarez, 131.0 IP/4.74 ERA/1.41 WHIP, 1.0 fWAR
Projected 2022 Top 3 Relievers:
1. Raisel Iglesias, 67.0 IP/3.09 ERA/1.07 WHIP, 0.9 fWAR
2. Ryan Tepera, 65.0 IP/4.13 ERA/1.30 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR
3. Aaron Loup, 62.0 IP/3.86 ERA/1.29 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR
Coming off a disappointing fourth place finish in the AL West last season, the LA Angels are once again looking to compete for a spot in the playoffs. Perry Minasian, the current General Manager, looks to lead this struggling franchise to the promised land. This will be Minasian’s second season with the team, after signing a four-year deal back in November of 2020. Joe Maddon enters his third year as the Angels’ manager, still searching for his first winning season since leaving the Cubs. In the offseason, the Angels expensed a total of $128,900,000 in player spending, coming in as the 15th highest in the MLB. In other words, their capital spending this past winter essentially matched their team gameplay in recent years—that being mediocre at best.
With hopes of improving a weak starting pitching staff, the Angels signed RHP Noah Syndergaard to a one-year, $21 million contract. This will be the first year that baseball fans see Syndergaard without a Mets jersey on after he first debuted with New York in 2015. The 2016 All-Star has only pitched two total innings since the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery, and while there is no doubt that he once had star power capabilities, he may still have plenty left in the tank considering he’s only 29. Syndergaard has a career FIP of 2.93 with a total WAR of 18.7 over his 121 games pitched in. However, the doubt lies with his physical health and whether he can be as effective as he used to be. Syndergaard will need to be stellar this year if the Angels want to make a serious playoff run. $21 million could very well be an overpay, and this year will act as an expensive experiment between Syndergaard and the Angels.
The Angels also signed RHP Michael Lorenzen to a one-year deal worth $6.75 million. Lorenzen debuted with the Reds in 2015, amassing a seven-year stint in Cincinnati. He has only started 5 games in the past six years, despite starting 21 games in his rookie season. After coming off last year with an ERA of 5.59 (FIP of 4.17) over 27 relief appearances, his career WAR now accumulates to only 3.2. Although Lorenzen still believes that he has what it takes to become a reliable starter in the big leagues, it will be interesting to see whether or not the Angels follow through on this plan. This signing could very well hold too much optimism, and it will be interesting to see whether or not Lorenzen can at least provide some valuable innings. Especially considering that RHP Alex Cobb has now left for San Francisco, the Angels will need Lorenzen to step up his game and replicate some of the success that Cobb achieved last year. Cobb gave the Angels 18 starts last season, finishing with an ERA of 3.76 (FIP of 2.92).
Most Angels relievers struggled mightily last year, racking up a total team bullpen ERA of 4.59. On the bright side, the Angels did sign three additional bullpen arms after losing Steve Cishek to the Nationals. Aaron Loup agreed to a two-year contract for $17 million. Archie Bradley signed a one-year deal worth $3.75 million. And Ryan Tepera signed a two-year agreement for $14 million. This might potentially be some of the best news that Angels fans received over the offseason, even if it was not emphasized by the media. Bradley is currently 29 years old, while Loup and Tepera are both 34 years old. It definitely should be beneficial to have some veterans with great experience. Loup especially is coming off an outstanding 2021 season, where he produced a 0.95 ERA over 56.2 IP. Tepera had a sub-3.00 ERA, while Bradley’s was slightly higher at 3.71 last year with the Phillies.
The Angels also signed a couple more infielders, these being former New York Yankees shortstop Tyler Wade and former Chicago Cubs third baseman Matt Duffy. Wade signed a one-year deal for $825,000, while Duffy signed a one-year contract worth $1.5 million. Meant to give some more depth in the lineup, these look to be decent signings. Wade does not have any power in his bat and has a career BA of .212, but can possibly provide some value with his defensive abilities. Duffy, meanwhile, has a career BA of .283 over his six years of MLB experience. He should be able to provide a solid presence in the lineup in terms of hitting for contact, despite the obvious lack of power as well.
2022 Season Preview:
The LA Angels have not made the playoffs since 2014. Indeed, they have not won a playoff series since they swept the Red Sox in the ALDS in 2009. The fanbase is getting frustrated, and rightfully so. Many fans of baseball simply want to see Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani playing ball in the playoffs. Theoretically, it really should not be too much to ask for considering they are undoubtedly two of the best talents to ever play the game. However, baseball is a sport that requires a full team effort, meaning that Trout and Ohtani will need the rest of the roster to contribute if there is to be any real chance at success.
On April 7th, the Angels will send out Shohei Ohtani as the opening day starter against the Houston Astros. Almost everyone on the roster is currently fully healthy after an injury-plagued 2021 season, and a feeling of optimism for a playoff run will be in the air. Let’s hope that this article won’t jinx it. Most importantly, the Angels will finally see Anthony Rendon and Mike Trout return after serious injuries last year. RHP Griffin Canning is currently on the 60-Day IL which will hurt starting pitching depth, but all other current injuries are more so limited to lesser known names.
It appears that Mike Trout has now fully recovered from the right calf strain he suffered last season. As a result, it’s a sure bet to assume that he will continue to be himself by dominating every facet of the game. Trout is currently entering his 12th season with the team, but is still only 30 years old. He has 310 career homers already, with a career batting average of .305 and a total WAR of 77.8. Trout also brings stellar baserunning, defensive instinct, and overall baseball intelligence. He is a true ambassador for the game of baseball, and is respected by everyone in the sport.
In the rest of the outfield, Jo Adell will be very interesting to watch. He has all the potential in the world, and now just has to put it all together. He spent the majority of his time in AAA last season, but expectations are high for him this year. Brandon Marsh will also see significant time in the outfield, and showed some very promising signs of progress in his rookie debut season. As Justin Upton enters his 16th season in the big leagues, the Angels will look to soak up whatever power he has left in his bat as he enters the final year of his big multi-year contract. His ability to reach on base has definitely slipped over the past couple of years, and his role will probably be as a bench substitute unless injuries pop up.
Anthony Rendon should be a crucial key to success for the Angels this season. Rendon had to undergo surgery last year to repair a right hip impingement, and the Angels hope that this is a thing of the past. Assuming he returns looking like his normal self, the Angels will finally be able to see him play at third base for a full 162 game season. Let’s not forget how great Rendon was in both the 2019 regular season and playoffs when he helped lead the Nationals to their first ever World Series championship. He put together a regular season with a slash line of .319/.412/.598 while hitting 34 home runs and 126 RBI’s. Also, not to mention his outstanding playoffs stats, where he continued to dominate the competition with a .328 batting average, 3 homers and 15 RBI’s.
The rest of the infield should be stable as well. First baseman Jared Walsh had a great breakout season last year as he received his first all-star bid. He racked up a line of .277/.340/.509 with 29 home runs and 98 runs batted in. At shortstop, David Fletcher will hold down the spot. He is a quality contact hitter but does not provide any power at the plate. He is a solid defender and base runner as well. Matt Duffy will likely see most of his playing time coming from the second base position despite being an infield utility player. At catcher, the options are either Max Stassi or Kurt Suzuki, as both are experienced veterans at the position. Stassi just signed a three-year extension worth $17.5 million, and will likely get most of the reps this year.
The most concerning aspect of this team’s roster remains in the sphere of starting pitching. However, Shohei Ohtani will remain as a Cy Young/MVP candidate if he can stay healthy, which truly must be a difficult task considering the physical and mental toll it takes to contribute as an everyday player from both the pitching and hitting realms. Despite the inevitable fatigue, Ohtani has clearly shown that he can be the one to master all aspects of the game. Syndergaard will likely be slotted as the number two in the rotation, then leaving LHP Patrick Sandoval as the number three. Sandoval started 14 games last season for the Angels, and has a career ERA of 4.42. With Michael Lorenzen likely being the number fourth in the rotation, the Angels desperately need the rear of the rotation to outperform critics.
The fifth man in the rotation, LHP Jose Suarez, is only 24 years old, and showcased some real potential after his 98.1 IP and 14 games started last season. Relying on this youngster is still not an ideal situation, and he will definitely be prone to growing pains as he continues to develop his game. Additionally, it should also be mentioned that the Angels utilize a six-man pitching rotation despite the five-man rotation projection given above. The 22 year-old and top prospect, Reid Detmers, will look to take advantage of this sixth slot for the 2022 season.
In review, the Angels front office decided to address their blaring team weakness by adding another risk with the signing of Syndergaard. To be fair, he may surprise the league this year. It is still very surprising though that no money was spent on a reliable starter that is a sure bet to supply some valuable innings. If the Angels are buyers by the time the trade deadline comes around, don’t be surprised if Minasian tries to acquire an additional arm down the stretch of the season. Either way, the starting pitching unit remains as the Angels’ primary weakness as of current day.
Lastly, it does seem that the bullpen was effectively addressed in the offseason. Or, at the very least, that it will be a better unit compared to last year. As stated earlier, the signings of Loup, Tepera, and Bradley should help tremendously. Raisel Iglesias was the best reliever on the team last year, and will continue to perform closing duties. He had his highest K/9 value of his career last year at 13.24, while successfully converting on 34 out of 39 save opportunities.
Record Prediction: 82-80
Although the Angels have a chance at a playoff run, it can be reasonably concluded that another disappointing season is on the horizon. The Angels may have to win a lot of high scoring ball games, especially when Ohtani is not pitching. Unfortunately, there are not really any secure options outside of Ohtani on the mound, and he could very well be exhausted by the time the second half of the season comes around anyways.
The Angels do have the batting lineup to compete at the highest level, as the quartet of Ohtani, Trout, Rendon, and Walsh will be feared by opposing pitching staffs. The remaining hitters in the lineup should be above average or at least serviceable, which rounds out a high quality unit. Jo Adell having a breakout year would be a wonderful spark to the squad. Ultimately, however, the competition in the AL West should be enough to hold down the Angels, as the Astros and Mariners will look to build off their 2021 seasons where they both attained 90+ wins.
Player to Watch #1: DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani
What an absolute legend. There really is nothing else to describe him as. His game does all the talking, and his stats back it up. If he can replicate his season from last year, he should be the AL MVP once again without a doubt. He had 46 home runs and 100 RBI’s last season, while generating a slash line of .257/.372/.592.
On the pitching side, he started 23 games on the mound. Ohtani featured some filthy movement on his pitches, while also dominating opposing hitters with a flamethrowing fastball. His arsenal includes a four-seam fastball, slider, split finger, cutter, and a rare curveball. In total, he generated 156 strikeouts with a 3.18 ERA. A question still remains: How long can he keep this going? Hopefully the answer is for the foreseeable future.
Player to Watch #2: LHP Reid Detmers
Reid Detmers is a very exciting youngster, officially coming in as the Angels’ #1 prospect according to MLB.com. After attending the University of Louisville, he was picked 10th overall in the 2020 draft. Detmers quickly moved up the minor league system, eventually reaching the majors last year to pitch 20.2 innings. Over those outings, he generally started poorly and gave up 17 earned runs in the process. His arsenal includes a four seam fastball that can reach approximately 95 mph. For offspeed, he has an effective slow looping curveball, alongside his lesser used pitches of slider and changeup.
Detmers seems to need to add Major League experience so he can fine-tune his arsenal. As soon as the young prospect can establish himself as a sturdy mid to backend rotation starter, the Angels will be much better off. Depending on how Lorenzen and Suarez perform, Detmers could potentially see some increased playing time at the big league level immediately. He will no doubt receive multiple chances if his initial struggles continue to persist.
Player to Watch #3: OF Jo Adell
On August 17th, 2021, the Angels were playing the Tigers at Comerica Park. The game was tied in the top of the ninth inning, and Jo Adell was up to bat with the bases loaded. He was facing off against the best Tigers reliever, Gregory Soto. In the end, Adell won the battle. Soto delivered a 97 mph heater right down the pipe, and Adell hit an absolute moonshot to the left field bleachers. The Angels then went on to win that game by a score of 8-2. This precise type of moment is exactly what the Angels are excited about with Adell.
Adell is someone that can be a game changer and provide a spark to the team. His potential is that of a superstar, but it has barely been tapped. Adell did not have a great start in his debut 2020 season, but progressed last year. In 2021, he hit for a .246 batting average with 4 home runs and 26 RBI’s over 140 PA. His max exit velocity over his career so far is 115.5 mph, which shows glimpses of his raw power. Adell certainly has the physical tools to be a star in the MLB, he just needs to keep learning and developing his game so he can reach that potential.
Categories: 2022 Season Preview