MLB Team Roundup: Los Angeles Angels

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Los Angeles Angels

2021 Record: 77-85
4th place, AL West
Team ERA: 4.69 (22nd in MLB)
Team OPS: .717 (19th in MLB)

What Went Right

Shohei Ohtani was the best player on the planet, hitting 46 homers and going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA on the mound. Jared Walsh showed his 2020 breakout was no fluke, finishing with an .850 OPS and 98 RBI. Raisel Iglesias had a 2.57 ERA and a stellar 103/12 K/BB ratio, making him one of the game’s best closers. Patrick Sandoval showed a great deal of promise in the rotation, posting a 3.62 ERA with a 26% strikeout rate, before suffering a back injury.

What Went Wrong

Mike Trout, typically the best player on the planet, played in just 36 games before going down with the mother of all calf injuries and missing the rest of the season. Anthony Rendon made it through 58 games and then underwent hip surgery. Justin Upton, David Fletcher and Jose Iglesias all struggled offensively, finishing with sub-.300 OBPs. Andrew Heaney and Dylan Bundy were big disappointments, and the rotation put too much pressure on the bullpen, which would have been at least a little better if it didn’t have to throw the fourth-most innings in MLB.

Fantasy Slants

** The Angels will have two first-round picks in most leagues next year, or at least those leagues in which Ohtani can be shifted in between hitter and pitcher. As a hitter-only, he could slip into the second. Trout should be fully recovered from his calf injury, and while he’s no longer someone to consider at 1-1, he’s still about as good of a bet as ever in four of the five categories.

** Neither Brandon Marsh (.254/.317/.356 in 260 PA) nor Jo Adell (.246/.295/.408 in 140 PA) crushed it after midseason callups, but both showed enough to be a part of the Angels’ plans for 2022. Marsh’s defense helps his case, and the Angels are weighing moving Trout to left field next year. If they go that route, Adell and Upton would presumably compete for the job in right field, with Taylor Ward (.250/.332/.438 in 237 PA) also possibly in the mix. Marsh has the potential for 15 homers and 15 steals in his first full season. Adell’s power gives him ample fantasy upside, but he’s probably going to continue to have some difficulties hitting for average.

** Rendon missed two weeks in April with a groin strain, 10 days in May with a bruised knee and a few days in June with a triceps strain before going on the IL in early July with a hamstring strain. He had been absent for about a month when the Angels announced on Aug. 4 that he’d undergo season-ending hip surgery for a previously undisclosed problem. Rendon was terrific in 2020, the first year of his seven-year, $245 million contract. One imagines he’ll bounce most of the way back, but he’s turning 32 in June and health is far from a given. At least he’ll come at a discount from what his price tag has been in recent years.

** Sandoval was undone by homers in his first stints in the majors, going 1-9 with a 5.33 ERA between 2019 and 2020. This year, though, he just didn’t allow a lot of hard contact. In fact, of the 159 pitchers with 200 batted-ball events this year, he had the third lowest average exit velocity. He’s also above average at generating grounders and missing bats. The ability would seem to be there for him to become a No. 2 starter, perhaps as soon as 2022.

** The Angels also have high hopes for Reid Detmers, the 10th overall pick in the 2020 draft who had a 3.19 ERA and a 108/19 K/BB ratio in 62 innings between Double- and Triple-A this year. That he’s a big flyball pitcher will hold him back some in the ERA department, but his control will keep getting better and the ability is there for him to be a mixed-league guy next year.

Key Free Agents: Raisel Iglesias, Alex Cobb, Dylan Bundy, Steve Cishek, Dexter Fowler, Kurt Suzuki

Team Needs: The Angels are finally out from under Albert Pujols’ $30 million salary, and they were extremely fortunate that Ohtani agreed to a two-year deal in arbitration last winter that will pay him just $5.5 million next year. That gives them quite a bit of flexibility, even though they’re spending $102 million on Trout, Rendon and Upton alone. On the shopping list are at least three starting pitchers, a closer and a shortstop. The goal will be to avoid wasting another year of prime Trout and Ohtani. They’ve gone to the postseason just once in Trout’s career, getting swept by the Royals in the 2014 ALDS.