For a team that employs likely the two most talented baseball players on the planet, the Los Angeles Angels have made a habit out of disappointing in recent years. In 2022, the Halos once again found themselves toiling in mediocrity, as they finished their eighth consecutive season missing the playoffs, and seventh with a sub-.500 record. They aren’t short on bright spots, though, and they have added some supplemental help for 2023 - perhaps this could finally be the year they turn it around.
Los Angeles Angels
2022 Record: 73 - 89 (3rd, AL West)
2023 FanGraphs projection: 84 - 78 (3rd, AL West)
In a decade that hasn’t been lacking in letdowns for the Angels, 2022 somehow outdid a many of their recent performances. They began the year with a commendable 27-17 record, but followed it up by embarking on a 14-game losing streak beginning in late May. The devastating run crushed ruined their postseason aspirations, and got their manager, Joe Maddon, the boot.
After that promising start, 2022 was more of the usual for the Halos. For context, here are their FanGraphs playoff odds, along with those of their division rivals who eventually made it:
A glimmer of hope into June, and then devastation.
In terms of year-long bright spots, Anaheim’s pitching actually held up their end of the bargain. The Angels’ staff-wide 3.79 ERA was top-10 in baseball, and their starters ranked sixth in the big leagues by fWAR.
Surprisingly, it was the offensive side of the ball where this team was really lacking. They had their as-scheduled seasons from Trout (40 HR in 119 games, 176 wRC+) and Ohtani, but the team as a whole managed just a 93 wRC+ in 2022. It wasn’t all bad at least, as they had Taylor Ward break out with a 20-homer, 137 wRC+ year on the back of a strong start and finish, en route to a near four-win season. Other than that, though, the order was dismal, often running out the likes of David Fletcher and Andrew Velazquez in distressingly high lineup spots.
As we head into 2023, projections are once again optimistic-ish about the Angels, and I don’t think it’s without reason. FanGraphs gives them a 39.7 percent chance to make the playoffs, which feels about right given the balance between their solid additions and still being those good ol’ Angels.
There are a lot of fresh faces on this squad, including a handful of solid producers in the lineup. They added Hunter Renfroe in a trade with the Brewers - he’s a power bat and solid defender in the outfield. The big righty (and Trout lookalike) is coming off a career year, with 29 homers and a 124 wRC+. There’s also Brandon Drury, who is also coming off a surprising career year. Even if he ends up being a platoon bat, his defensive versatility and ceiling he showed last year makes him a valuable addition. The Angels also added former Yankee Gio Urshela, who should be starting somewhere in this infield, and is coming off a fine rebound with the Twins in 2022.
Though they aren’t traditional additions, the Angels also hope to add uninjured versions of Anthony Rendon and Jared Walsh to the lineup, both of whom can be excellent when in peak form. Of course, they’d love more than 119 games from Trout, too
On the mound, Los Angeles brought in Tyler Anderson, who also had a banner year in ‘22. The southpaw had a 2.57 ERA and 3.31 FIP last year, as he slashed his walk rate and kept the ball in the yard.
Regardless of what they brought in, the Angels have some things few (or no) teams do. They have a guy who is simultaneously a top-10 pitcher and hitter in Shohei Ohtani, and a centerfielder who will go down as one of the best players in history in Mike Trout. Opening day is a couple weeks away, and the Angels’ two all-time talents have already found a way to make a huge impact.
The Halos also maintained the top-4 of their rotation from last season, on top of the Anderson addition. Patrick Sandoval (another WBC standout) broke out last year with his sub-3 ERA season in 148.1 innings, and Reid Detmers looks like a solid mid-rotation starter from the left side.
The Angels have some generationally great talent on their roster, and have surrounded it with some nice players that could push them over the edge. They have a quality rotation, and a lineup that could feature nine hitters all projected for a 100 wRC+ or better by ZiPS. They reside in a division with the reigning-champion Astros, and a surging bunch in Seattle, but their potential is hard to completely ignore. They might still be the third-best team in the West, but they have (stop me if you’ve heard this before about the Angels) an undeniably exciting ceiling.
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