The Angels are entering a really intriguing off season this year. The expected loss of Shohei Ohtani combined with the youth movement spearheaded by Zack Neto, Logan O’hoppe, and others leaves the Angels with a lot of potential directions to take with the team.
I’ll be going over a few of those options and will start with what is probably my favorite: let the kids play. It is a Herculean task to get the Angels to the post season in 2024, but perhaps by taking stock of what we really have we can accelerate the rebuild/retooling process a bit.
66. That’s the number of players the Angels trotted out in 2023. It was the same number in 2022. That type of roster turnover simply doesn’t give players enough time to go through the adjustment period required at the MLB level.
No player exemplified this more than Mickey Moniak this year. Over last off season Moniak made a notable adjustment to his batting stance. He was much more open which gave him a much better look at the ball with both eyes. The early results were incredible.
He’d continue to be hot right until the calendar flipped to August. At that point his K rate went up and he slashed a meager .208/.222/.359 over his last 108 plate appearances. The league obviously adjusted to Moniak and we have no idea if he’ll adjust back. On the year he put up a nice 114 wRC+.
The talent is obviously there. Can he even it out over a full season? There’s only one way to find out.
Jo Adell has absolutely no trade value. He’s done will in AAA but struggled at the MLB level. However, he did put up an OPS+ of 87 and a wRC+ of 86 meaning he wasn’t that much worse than the average MLB bat. Those figures are pretty much in line with what one expects from a utility infielder or starting catcher.
And on the verge of going all Lyle on you, he did look a lot better at the plate in many after his call up in mid September. Assuming we lose Ohtani, Adell could have some value roaming the grass so Trout can get the bulk of the DH at bats and hopefully stay healthy for a season. And finally seeing him sink or swim will help the team plan ahead.
Logan O’Hoppe put up a really solid wRC+ of 113 from the catcher’s position; a spot that is usually well below league average. Due to shoulder surgery Logan only had 199 plate appearances. Playing him more often in 2024 is obvious.
Zach Neto gets a lot of love for defensive plays like this:
And while I appreciate the fact shortstop is historically a defense first position, that has changed over the last few years. Sluggers abound. And Neto’s wRC+ of 86 could use some improvement. He’s obviously the shortstop of the foreseeable future but his he the 2-2.5 WAR guy he was last year or a 4 WAR stud? Let’s see.
Nolan Schanuel was 12% better than MLB average but will he ever hit for any power? And will his OBP stay this high if MLB pitchers don’t fear he’ll hit one over the wall or to the alley for a double? Only one way to tell.
All of the Angels young pitchers disappointed this year. Patrick Sandoval in particular took a big step back, but he also led the league in unearned runs. He needs to make some mental adjustments but the talent Sandoval and Reid Detmers possess is apparent. I’d much rather invest in better coaching and video for the young guys than another Tyler Anderson.
Hopefully Ben Joyce can stay healthy and some of the Trash Pandas develop. Maybe they don’t. I’d still rather watch them try than watch Tepera and Loup types fail while making big money.
And this plan doesn’t necessarily prevent a smart longer term investment or two. Aaron Nola had a rough platform season but is durable and the type of guy who could help a young, five man rotation for a few years. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez are proven bats who are only 30 and should still be good when the team is actually ready to compete in a year or two.
Obviously adding 25 year old Japanese ace Yamamoto would be the ideal way to play out this strategy. I’ll have more on that in my second piece.
And I like Perry’s strategy of trading fringe prospects for non-tender candidates. It didn’t pan out with Gio Urshela and Hunter Renfroe this year but the reasoning was sound.
Still, I want to see the bulk of the playing time go to the kids. A few should be good and a part of the next competitive team. A few will sink, but at least we’ll know it.
Bottom line, I’m looking at a rotation of Free Agent/Detmers/Sandoval/Anderson/Canning. An outfield of Trout/Ward/Moniak/Adell. And an infield of Rendon (yeah, right), Neto, Drury, Schanuel with Rengifo and a free agent for depth. O’Hoppe and Thaiss at catcher.
Really, I’d target a non-tender candidate for an outfielder and a third base capable infielder. Honestly I’d be fine bringing Urshela back. A sweet glove capable of covering multiple positions with a wRC+ of 92 is as good of a bench piece as you’ll likely find.
Does this team win the AL West? No. A Wild Card? Most likely not. But could this team turn into something good over time? Yes. Which is more than any team that will feature 66 players can say.