2023 MLB Season Preview: Los Angeles Angels

Image: Athlon Sports

2022 Record: 73-89 (.451 win%, 3rd in Division)

2023 Payroll: 202,838,094 (7th)

2023 Projected Lineup:

1. OF Taylor Ward, .281 AVG/.360 OBP/.473 SLG, 3.8 fWAR

2. OF Mike Trout, .283 AVG/.369 OBP/.630 SLG, 6.0 fWAR

3. DH Shohei Ohtani, .273 AVG/.356 OBP/.519 SLG, 3.8 fWAR

4. 3B Anthony Rendon, .229 AVG/.326 OBP/.380 SLG, 0.8 fWAR

5. OF Hunter Renfroe, .246 AVG/.310 OBP/.473 SLG, 2.0 fWAR

6. 2B Brandon Drury, .246 AVG/.300 OBP/.427 SLG, 1.5 fWAR

7. 1B Jared Walsh, .245 AVG/.308 OBP/.438 SLG, 1.0 fWAR

8. C Logan O’Hoppe, .238 AVG/.320 OBP/.401 SLG, 1.6 fWAR

9. SS David Fletcher, .269 AVG/.313 OBP/.360 SLG, 1.0 fWAR

10. INF/OF Gio Urshela, .261 AVG/.313 OBP/.403 SLG, 1.1 fWAR

2023 Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Shohei Ohtani, 173.0 IP/3.19 ERA/1.10 WHIP, 4.3 fWAR

2. Tyler Anderson, 185.0 IP/4.47 ERA/1.30 WHIP, 1.7 fWAR

3. Patrick Sandoval, 166.0 IP/3.77 ERA/1.30 WHIP, 2.5 fWAR

4. Reid Detmers, 150.0 IP/4.22 ERA/1.29 WHIP, 1.8 fWAR

5. José Suarez, 141.0 IP/4.42 ERA/1.35 WHIP, 1.2 fWAR

2023 Projected Top 4 Relievers:

1. Carlos Estévez, 63.0 IP/4.16 ERA/1.30 WHIP, 0.2 fWAR

2. José Quijada, 54.0 IP/3.81 ERA/1.31 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR

3. Matt Moore, 62.0 IP/4.12 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 0.1 fWAR

4. Aaron Loup, 60.0 IP/4.08 ERA/1.36 WHIP, 0.0 fWAR

Angels Ownership Status:

Before getting into the 2023 Angels, the team’s ownership status must be addressed first, unfortunately. As stated in my 2022 Angels Season Review Article, this franchise has glaring systemic issues. This attribution has not changed after the offseason as I was hoping it would. After Arte Moreno announced in January that he would remain as the team’s owner for the foreseeable future, I do not expect much to change for the better anytime soon. 

I thought that this decision was especially mysterious considering the high offers Moreno was receiving. Now, internal distress could surely fester as employees are unsure whether their owner is mentally focused or not. Despite this, there is still no question that Moreno definitely wants to win, considering the Angels’ high payroll spending (for better or worse). Whatever Moreno’s mindset is, I believe that a new organizational direction is desperately needed in Anaheim.

2022 Offseason Recap:

The Angels are coming off a disappointing 2022 season in which they finished with another mediocre record of 73-89. General Manager Perry Minasian is set to enter his third year on the job with the Angels. Manager Phil Nevin is currently on a one-year contract. This is his first time as an Opening Day manager in MLB, and it will undoubtedly be a make or break year for his career. 

The Angels are 7th in 2023 total payroll spending, compared to 7th and 10th in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Although this rank is relatively high compared to most other teams, this is still extremely deceptive when it comes to reflecting actual wins and losses on the baseball field. The Angels have been stuck in a poor middleground position for quite some time. They are still nowhere near the top spender, the Mets, who are dishing out approximately $336,000,000.

The Angels are also far off from more conservative, but nonetheless successful, teams like the Guardians who are only spending about $75,000,000. Most importantly, the Guardians have a top-tier prospect pool. The Angels, meanwhile, are neither competent at developing young talent nor are they capable of putting together a sufficient roster mostly through free agent signings. 

In other words, they own the 25th best farm system, and are not signing enough marquee free agents compared to competitors like the Mets, Padres, Dodgers, etc. This is simply not a recipe for success, and it seems like the Angels do not realize that they are locked into a recurring spiral of mediocrity.

The primary concern remains in the sphere of roster depth per usual. The Angels lost some key players before the 2022 trade deadline including Raisel Iglesias, Noah Syndergaard, and Brandon Marsh. Although I do believe that the Angels effectively replaced these players with some solid pieces, these new additions will not be sufficient to leapfrog them into serious playoff contention. The most notable free agent signings were SP Tyler Anderson, INF/OF Brandon Drury, RP Carlos Estévez, and RP Matt Moore. The Angels also acquired OF Hunter Renfroe and INF/OF Gio Urshela via trades.

Tyler Anderson is a positive addition to the Angels squad. The 33 year old signed a three-year deal worth $39 million last November. He was a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers in 2022 as he made his first all-star appearance. He threw a reliable 178.2 innings with his best ERA ever at 2.57. The question now becomes whether Anderson can sustain this success moving forward. First, it must be noted his numbers were inherently aided by a great Dodgers defense that was sixth overall on the FanGraphs team defense rankings. The Angels were 22nd on the other hand, meaning this could be one obvious indication for regression. 

However, I am still very impressed with his 2022 Baseball Savant numbers, where he was in the 98th percentile in average exit velocity, 95th percentile in chase rate, and 89th percentile in BB%. This signifies his ability to be accurate while regularly enticing hitters into weak contact. Thus, I still expect Anderson to be a reliable arm for the Halos during these next few seasons even if there is slight regression.

Brandon Drury is 30 years old and signed a two-year contract worth $17 million. He is a very interesting pickup for the Angels after having a breakout year with the Reds and Padres in 2022. Just like Tyler Anderson, the Angels will have their work cut out for them in terms of retaining this late-blooming growth. Most of his success came on the Reds last year where he had a slash line of .274/.335/.520 with 20 HR’s and 59 RBI’s over 385 plate appearances. With the Padres, he still had decent success on the power side, accumulating 8 more homers for an end total of 28. 

On Baseball Savant, he had his highest Barrel%, Pull%, and First Pitch Swing% out of any year of his career. Most of his success came from higher speed pitches including four-seamers and sinkers, which makes sense considering this is a typical first pitch that batters face. In other words, Drury had a more aggressive gameplan at the plate last season to gain better control over each at bat. Especially seeing that Drury was so efficient at hitting fastballs early on in the account, I could see pitchers mixing up their pitch sequences more often. As a result, Drury will have to adjust quickly or I could potentially see some regression occurring here as well.

Hunter Renfroe is 31 years old and signed a one-year contract for $11.9 million. He will instantly boost this lineup with some real power, especially considering he has hit 26+ homers in every year of his career since 2017 (excluding the 2020 pandemic season). Renfroe is actually coming off his best season in terms of wRC+ and fWAR (excluding 2016 when he only played in 11 games) with 124 and 2.5, respectively. However, there is no question that his game is clearly lacking in other areas. Namely his defense has been quite bad historically, although his arm power is an undeniable talent coming from right field.

Gio Urshela is also 31 years old and signed a one year deal (worth $8.4 million) as well. Unfortunately, he is another right-handed hitter in an already right-handed dominant lineup. Urshela does provide valuable versatility and decently consistent hitting though, so he should find his way into the lineup quite a bit. More than likely his playing time will be determined by others’ success rates. 

I could see Urshela beating out David Fletcher at shortstop for at least some reps if the Angels are willing to sacrifice better defense for more impactful hitting. Anthony Rendon is a major wildcard in terms of how much he’ll be able to return to his former self, meaning that Urshela could potentially split some playing time at his native third base as well.

2023 Regular Season Preview:

The Angels have only made the playoffs once over the past 13 seasons, not giving the fans much to cheer for when it comes to October. On the bright side, the Angels roster appears to be almost fully healthy for 2023. 

Obviously, there is still concern over Mike Trout and his chronic back injury. Hopefully nothing is indefinitely worsened throughout the course of the 2023 season or else the Angels’ chances for a Wild Card berth will quickly plummet. 

Besides Trout, Anthony Rendon appears to be finally healthy after undergoing both wrist and hip surgeries over the past two years. His resurgence this season would be absolutely huge for the Angels.

Shohei Ohtani has proved to be a stable presence over these past couple years in terms of availability. I can not praise his physical and mental endurance enough. Honestly, I did not believe this regular two-way playing was a viable option before the 2021 season when his workload substantially increased. 

In 2023, Ohtani’s mound usage may increase further because Nevin plans on using the sixth spot in the rotation as “a swing man” instead of a chalked-in starter. There is no doubt that effectively maintaining Ohtani’s health will be crucial to the Angels’ success again in 2023. 

Ohtani absolutely dominated in 2022 with a total fWAR of 9.5. He easily could have won the AL MVP last year if it was any other ordinary season, but Aaron Judge’s historic numbers were impossible competition. There is not much further commentary that I need to say here besides the fact that the Angels are very lucky to have Ohtani on their baseball team, and that they should not take him for granted.

Taylor Ward had a breakout year in 2022. He is currently 29 years old and effectively proved that he can be a solid presence in the Angels lineup for at least the near future. The Angels will also only be paying him $2,750,000 in 2023, and he will not become an unrestricted free agent until 2027. 

In 135 games played, Ward put together a slash line of .281/.360/.473 with 23 HR’s and 65 RBI’s. He showcased some very impressive Baseball Savant numbers as well, being in the 93rd percentile for chase rate, the 92nd percentile for xwOBA, and the 86th percentile for barrel percentage.

Jared Walsh is still under protection until 2026. His numbers substantially regressed in 2022 after his breakout season in 2021. In 26 less games played (144 in 2021 versus 118 in 2022), his wRC+ fell from 126 to 78 and his fWAR fell from 2.3 to -0.6. Walsh’s season was cut short last year after being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome which was causing pain to his shoulders. 

There is no question that this must have had a serious impact on his physical abilities. Walsh stated recently that he is fully healthy and ready for the upcoming season, so hopefully this stays true and Walsh can return to his former all-star self.

David Fletcher also had surgery last year after he needed to have his abs muscle and both his left and right adductor muscles repaired. As a result, he only played in 61 games in 2022. Despite this, he is still an everyday player in my eyes. Fletcher has produced consistent contact hitting over his Angels tenure with a career BABIP of .303. His defense has always been stellar from the shortstop position as well. Although his power hitting is an obvious shortcoming, he impacts the games in other ways.

Luis Rengifo is an interesting depth piece at 26 years old. He received a substantial number of opportunities in 2022 and demonstrated his potential by producing a 1.6 fWAR over 127 games. The most staggering aspect about him last season was his plate discipline. His BB% (at 3.3%) was dead last in the MLB among qualified hitters, while his K% (at 15.5%) was in the 86th percentile! 

This discrepancy seems peculiar at first glance but does make sense considering his extremely high Swing% of 55.7% (ranked fifth in the MLB among qualified hitters) which effectively shortens many of his at bats. If Rengifo can learn to become better controlled at the plate and ultimately lower his chase rate, then I could foresee a vast improvement in Barrel% and overall hitting production.

Patrick Sandoval had the best year of his career in 2022, proving that he has the skills to become a reliable mid to top-end starter. He boasted his best FIP ever at 3.09 over 148.2 IP. His slider produced an opposing batting average of .201, while his four-seam fastball was his worst pitch at .372.

If Sandoval can boost the velocity of his sinker and four-seamer (considering his current fastball average is only 93 MPH), then he could be a real problem for hitters in the future. Especially since Sandoval is only 26 years old, there is still plenty of time left for him to continue developing his body.

Reid Detmers is only 23 years old and is under Angel protection until 2028. I honestly can’t get over Detmers’ fabulous no-hitter (on May 10th, 2022), because it came as such a surprise to me. However, I expect Detmers to hover exactly where he is at in terms of overall production for 2023 and beyond. 

His 2022 Baseball Savant was in the 48th percentile for K%, 37th percentile for BB%, 49th percentile for Whiff% and 36th percentile for Barrel%. Detmers’ skillset and pitch arsenal is average to below average, but nonetheless he was still able to post a solid 2.3 fWAR in 2022. Overall, Detmers should prove to be a non-elite but positively steady late-rotation piece on the Angels for many years to come.

Player to Watch #1: OF Mike Trout

Another year has passed and Mike Trout is still producing at a hall of fame level. In other words, the sky is blue. Even in a year in which he only played 119 games, he hit for the third most homers in his career with 40. He finished the year with an fWAR of 6.0 and a wRC+ of 176, which makes sense considering he was in the 99th percentile of Barrel% according to Baseball Savant.

However, I will say that Trout substantially regressed in terms of his BB to K ratio in 2022. This was the lowest of his career (excluding his 2011 rookie season). Similarly, his Chase% was the highest of his career while his Whiff% was in the 17th percentile. In this area, Trout appeared to have struggled most against curveballs in 2022. Thus, Trout’s aggressiveness and plate discipline will be something to watch out for in 2023, but I fully expect him to rebound in this area nonetheless.

Player to Watch #2: C Logan O’Hoppe

Logan O’Hoppe was acquired before last year’s trade deadline from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Brandon Marsh. He is only 23 years old and should beat out Max Stassi for the starting catching position. The Angels desperately need him to contribute this year, especially considering Stassi’s poor 2022 performance. Stassi had a wRC+ of 63 last season and is now 32 years old. Also, Kurt Suzuki is officially retired, which means that Matt Thais is really the only other competitor for playing time in 2023. 

Logan O’Hoppe and Zach Neto are the only two players currently listed on MLB’s 2023 Top 100 Prospects rankings board, making it even more crucial that O’Hoppe perform up to his expectations as quickly as possible. However, I fully expect Nevin to give O’Hoppe as many reps as possible even if the youngster struggles throughout the course of his rookie season. 

There is much to be hopeful about for O’Hoppe, who hit for a combined 26 homers in only 104 games in Double A last season. FanGraphs’ Steamer is currently projecting him to play in 66 games (which I believe is too low) with a solid 104 wRC+ for 2023.

Player to Watch #3: SP José Suarez

I find José Suarez to be an interesting player, and I am not really sure why. He is currently only 25 years old and the Angels still have him under their control until 2027. In the past two years, he has pitched to an identical 8-8 record on the mound, while proving to be an under the radar stable presence. He has also posted sub-4.00 ERA’s during this span. Especially with the six man rotation not being concrete anymore, Suarez will look to capitalize on additional starts this season. 

Some of his Baseball Savant numbers are especially interesting and are worth going into a little more depth. Specifically, Suarez was in the 85th percentile for chase rate but only in the 41st percentile for Whiff%. He is also only in the 30th percentile for Barrel% while being near the worst among MLB pitchers for opposing Line Drive%. 

In general, batters have been very swing-happy against Suarez because his arsenal is not elite. While getting hitters to swing at so many pitches outside of the zone, it is concerning for a whiff percentage and barrel percentage to be as poor as this. Batters should never be so effective against an expanded zone. Thus, I am not sure if Suarez can maintain the level of success he has recently produced for very long, meaning that regression is very possible.

Position Group to Watch: Bullpen Arms

The bullpen is a critical position group to scrutinize over in 2023. In 2022, the Angels struggled mightily in this area, finishing 25th overall in both total fWAR and K/9 in the MLB. The bullpen was also third worst in terms of HR/9 as well. Looking into 2023, there is no doubt that Raisel Iglesias will be difficult to replace. Iglesias posted a 2.47 FIP and 1.6 fWAR over 62.0 IP in his combined 2022 season with the Angels and Braves. 

Carlos Estévez is currently the primary contender for the closing position this year. He is 30 years old and his 2 year deal is worth $13.5 million. Coming off his best MLB season with the Rockies, Estévez produced a FIP of 4.08 and an fWAR of 0.4 over 57.0 IP. Although Estévez is a few years younger than Iglesias, this is comparatively a step down in terms of overall skill set and production. 

Jimmy Herget is coming off a great season with a career best 2.48 ERA over 69.0 IP. Both Jimmy Herget and Jaime Barria were especially efficient in limiting the amount of walks given up. Barria also produced some steady numbers, finishing up the 2022 season with a 2.61 ERA. However, his 4.39 FIP indicates that this success may not be sustainable. 

Additionally, Aaron Loup and Ryan Tepera are both 35 years old now. I would argue that the Angels are overpaying them, especially considering their unimpressive FIP’s of around 4.00 in 2022. Comparatively, José Quijada is slightly more intriguing at 27 years old. His average K/9 over his MLB career is a respectable 12.64, although he was less effective in this aspect last season. 

Matt Moore is a 33 year old veteran addition who somehow produced a 1.95 ERA in 2022, which was the best out of his 11 MLB seasons. He remarkably had the highest K/9 percentage of his career (excluding his shortened 2011 season). His HR/9 was the lowest of his career as well (excluding 2019 in which he only played in two games). However, his 2.98 FIP and 5th percentile BB% indicates that at least some regression will probably occur. 

I believe the bullpen will remain as a major weak spot for the Angels in the upcoming season, although they did sign some adequate depth pieces. Management still has to quickly find out who is ready to take on the closing role early on in the season, which could cause some hiccups. The most concerning aspect about this is that they do not have a guy who can shut down teams in moments when they really need it. 

Players like Aroldis Chapman, Edwin Díaz, and Kenley Jensen are guys that can essentially shorten the game in favor of their respective teams. I heavily advocated for the Angels to go after one of these free agents in the offseason due to Raisel Iglesias being traded away, but the Angels’ front office did not rise to the occasion.

2023 Record Prediction: 76-86

I don’t expect much to change this year. Roster depth has been the issue in the past, and will continue to be the main difficulty once again in 2023. I could foresee another second half collapse, especially if injuries mount again. Beyond their star players of Ohtani, Trout, and a few others, they simply do not have enough consistent pieces. The backend of the starting rotation (and especially the replacement starters) along with the late-inning relievers will be major problems per usual.

Furthermore, the lineup is very right handed. I wish the Angels front office would have gotten some more left-handed threats in the offseason instead. Somebody like Joc Pederson could have been very intriguing, but Hunter Renfroe should still be a great power threat nonetheless.

Beyond the Angels, the AL West is turning into a very contested division. Besides the Houston Astros remaining as an inevitable juggernaut and a World Series favorite in 2023, the Mariners will be a formidable foe once again. The Texas Rangers could also be dangerous after their crazy signing of SP Jacob deGrom (that is if he can stay healthy of course). The Oakland Athletics, on the other hand, still might be the worst team in baseball. A 76-86 record is appropriate from my point of view, as the Angels will have their work cut out for them this year.

Categories: 2023 Season Preview, Articles, Season Analysis

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1 reply

  1. Muy buena la historia del avance de la temporada 2023. Los Angeles otro año igual, más de lo mismo esperaré el de los Chicago Cubs mi equipo🐻🐻🐻

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