2023 Los Angeles Angels Season Preview — Operation: End the Drought

Shohei Ohtani hi-fives teammate Mike Trout. Both are members of the 2023 Los Angeles Angels.
(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

2023 Los Angeles Angels Season Preview

One frustrating season after another has piled up for the Los Angeles Angels and their fanbase, giving 2023 a “now or never” feel. The Angels have made the postseason once since losing the 2009 ALCS to the New York Yankees. That came in 2014, when the eventual AL pennant-winning Kansas City Royals swept them in the Division Series. Since then, they have only had so much as a winning record once, that being in 2015.

Yes, the Angels have two of the greatest players of the 21st century and possibly all time in center fielder Mike Trout and two-way star Shohei Ohtani. But they are only two players. If this were basketball, that would be one thing, but it’s baseball. Trout and Ohtani can each bat only once every nine times. They must have a team around them.

Entering the 2022 season, the duo finally appeared to have a competitive team around them. When the Angels got off to such a great start, signs pointed to the drought being over, but a rash of injuries submarined the season. With the 2023 Los Angeles Angels being mostly healthy overall, this could easily be the year the drought ends. They certainly have the talent, especially with there being three Wild Cards. But they are in a tough AL West, where the Seattle Mariners seem primed to make noise and the defending-champion Houston Astros are still loaded with talent. Let’s see how the Angels stack up.

Injured Players

Opening the season on the 60-day injured list are starting pitcher Davis Daniel and reliever Jose Marte. Daniel has a strained shoulder, while Marte has a stress reaction in his elbow. Starting pitchers Griffin Canning and Chris Rodriguez are on the 15-day IL. Canning is still recovering from a lower back stress fracture, and Rodriguez is finishing up his recovery from an October 2021 shoulder surgery.

2022 Stats

Daniel did not play in the majors in 2022.

Marte — 7.36 ERA, 186 ERA-minus, 11 GR, 7 Scoreless Outings (ScOtg), 63.6 ScOtg%, 11 IP, 15 K (25.9%), 18 BB (31.0%), -5.2% K–BB%, 2-of-6 Inherited Runners Scored (IRS) (33%), 0-of-0 Saves, 0-0 Goose Eggs (GE)-Broken Eggs (BE) (0.0 GE/BE), 2.364 WHIP, and 0.0 WAR.

Position Players

Catcher Max Stassi is on the 10-day injured list with hip discomfort. First baseman Jared Walsh is also on the 10-day IL as he recovers from headaches and insomnia. According to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, Walsh has “found a specialist to treat his condition and will enter a two-week treatment program.”

2022 Stats

Stassi — 102 G, 375 PA, .180 (60-for-33)/.267/.303, 32 R, 12 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 30 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 38 BB, 112 SO, .258 wOBA, -15.3 wRAA, 0 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), -0.5 WAR

Walsh — 118 G, 454 PA, .215 (91-for-423)/.269/.374, 41 R, 18 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 44 RBI, 2 SB, 1 CS, 27 BB, 138 SO, .278 wOBA, -11.4 wRAA, -2 DRS, -0.7 WAR

Catchers

Rookie Logan O’Hoppe will open the season on the active roster. Matt Thaiss will join him to form the backstop duo. O’Hoppe was the Angels’ top prospect in 2022, and his debut is much-anticipated. Both performed at around replacement level in 2022, so the Angels need more production out of them on both sides of the ball in 2023.

2022 Stats

O’Hoppe — 5 G, 16 PA, .286 (4-for-14)/.375/.286, 1 R, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 2 BB, 3 SO, .307 wOBA, 0.0 wRAA, -1 DRS, -0.1 WAR

Thaiss — 29 G, 81 PA, .217 (15-for-69)/.321/.319, 9 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB, 0 CS, 11 BB, 24 SO, .286 wOBA, -1.5 wRAA, -2 DRS, -0.1 WAR

Infielders

Until Jared Walsh returns, Brandon Drury will play first base, as will utility infielder/outfielder Jake Lamb. When Walsh returns, Drury will return to his primary position of second base, where Luis Rengifo is filling in for the time being. Drury signed as a free agent this past offseason after spending 2022 with the Cincinnati Reds and the NL runner-up San Diego Padres. Lamb, who spent 2022 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners, came to spring training as a non-roster invitee. He was on his way to the minors before Walsh had to go on the IL. Drury should give the Angels some offensive thump, as he had an 18.0 wRAA in 2022.

Gio Urshela, acquired in November in a trade with the Minnesota Twins, will be the shortstop. Anthony Rendon, who has struggled to remain healthy in the past two seasons, will be the third baseman. Urshela will be a welcome addition to the infield both offensively and defensively. Rendon will need to return to 2019 form to start to make the impact the Angels expected when they signed him to his huge contract.

Utility man David Fletcher will be one of the reserves. Thaiss also will play a corner infield position if and when needed.

2022 Stats

Drury (with Reds/Padres) — 138 G, 568 PA, .263 (136-for-518)/.320/.492, 87 R, 31 2B, 2 3B, 28 HR, 87 RBI, 2 SB, 3 CS, 38 BB, 126 SO, .350 wOBA, 18.0 wRAA, -7 DRS, 2.6 WAR

Lamb (with Dodgers/Mariners) — 41 G, 111 PA, .216 (22-for-97)/.315/.392, 13 R, 6 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB, 1 CS, 11 BB, 38 SO, .314 wOBA, 0.4 wRAA, -2 DRS, -0.2 WAR

Rengifo — 127 G, 511 PA, .264 (129-for-489)/.294/.429, 45 R, 22 2B, 4 3B, 17 HR, 52 RBI, 6 SB, 2 CS, 17 BB, 79 SO, .314 wOBA, 1.6 wRAA, 1 DRS, 2.4 WAR

Urshela (with Twins) — 144 G, 551 PA, .285 (143-for-501)/.338/.429, 61 R, 27 2B, 3 3B, 13 HR, 64 RBI, 1 SB, 0 CS, 41 BB, 96 SO, .332 wOBA, 9.9 wRAA, 4 DRS, 3.1 WAR

Rendon — 47 G, 193 PA, .229 (38-for-166)/.326/.380, 15 R, 10 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 2 SB, 0 CS, 23 BB, 35 SO, .314 wOBA, 0.6 wRAA, 2 DRS, 0.9 WAR

Fletcher — 61 G, 228 PA, .255 (55-for-216)/.288/.333, 20 R, 9 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 1 SB, 0 CS, 7 BB, 16 SO, .275 wOBA, -6.3 wRAA, 7 DRS, 1.1 WAR

Outfielders

Mike Trout returns to center field and looks as strong as ever, especially after he had a strong showing in the World Baseball Classic. Taylor Ward will be the primary left fielder. Hunter Renfroe, acquired in a November trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, will be in right field. Offense should not be a problem for any of them. Trout, in 119 games, produced 42.8 weighted runs above average. Ward produced slightly over half that, 23.4. Renfroe also produced a double-digit total, 15.3. Defensively, the trio performed around the league average in 2022.

Brett Phillips will be a reserve outfielder, as will Rengifo and Lamb. Phillips is the best defender of the group, posting seven DRS in 2022.

2022 Stats

Ward — 135 G, 564 PA, .281 (139-for-495)/.360/.473, 73 R, 22 2B, 2 3B, 23 HR, 65 RBI, 5 SB, 3 CS, 60 BB, 120 SO, .362 wOBA, 23.4 wRAA, -3 DRS, 3.7 WAR

Trout — 119 G, 499 PA, .283 (124-for-438)/.369/.630, 85 R, 28 2B, 2 3B, 40 HR, 80 RBI, 1 SB, 0 CS, 54 BB, 139 SO, .418 wOBA, 42.8 wRAA, 0 DRS, 6.3 WAR

Renfroe (with Brewers) — 125 G, 522 PA, .255 (121-for-474)/.315/.492, 62 R, 23 2B, 1 3B, 29 HR, 72 RBI, 1 SB, 1 CS, 39 BB, 121 SO, .347 wOBA, 15.3 wRAA, 2 DRS, 2.7 WAR

Phillips — 83 G, 225 PA, .144 (29-for-201)/.217/.249, 22 R, 6 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 7 SB, 0 CS, 16 BB, 94 SO, .213 wOBA, -17.3 wRAA, 7 DRS, 0.2 WAR

Rotation

Two-way star and once-in-a-century talent Shohei Ohtani will be the ace of the rotation. He will also be the designated hitter, both when he is pitching and when someone else is. A quartet of lefties fill out the rest of the rotation. In order, they are Patrick Sandoval, Tyler Anderson, Reid Detmers, and Jose Suarez. Sandoval had a remarkable showing in the World Baseball Classic, helping lead Team Mexico to the semifinals. Anderson, who signed as a free agent, had a tremendous 2022 season for the team in blue 31 miles to the northwest, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The trio of Ohtani, Sandoval, and Anderson gives the Angels a nice three-headed punch at the top of the rotation. Detmers and Suarez prevented runs well in 2022, but they need to stay in games longer in 2023 to avoid overtaxing the Angels relievers.

2022 Stats

Ohtani (hitting) — 157 G, 666 PA, .273 (160-for-586)/.356/.519, 90 R, 30 2B, 6 3B, 34 HR, 95 RBI, 11 SB, 9 CS, 72 BB, 161 SO, .370 wOBA, 31.7 wRAA, 1 DRS, 3.4 WAR

Ohtani (pitching) — 15–9, 2.33 ERA, 59 ERA-minus, 28 GS, 166 IP, 219 K (33.2%), 44 BB (6.7%), 26.5% K–BB%, 1.012 WHIP, 57 QS%, 4 Wchp, 1 Ltuf, 0 WLst, 1 LSv, 6 IP/GS, 3.5 RS/9, 6.2 WAR

Sandoval — 6–9, 2.91 ERA, 74 ERA-minus, 29 GS, 148 2/3 IP, 151 K (23.7%), 60 BB (9.4%), 14.3% K–BB%, 1.339 WHIP, 41 QS%, 1 Wchp, 4 Ltuf, 6 WLst, 3 LSv, 5 2/3 IP/GS, 2.7 RS/9, 3.5 WAR

Anderson — 15–5, 2.57 ERA, 65 ERA-minus, 31 GS, 178 2/3IP, 138 K (19.5%), 34 BB (4.8%), 14.7% K–BB%, 1.002 WHIP, 64 QS%, 3 Wchp, 3 Ltuf, 0 WLst, 6 LSv, 6 IP/GS, 4.7 RS/9, 4.3 WAR

Detmers — 7–6, 3.77 ERA, 95 ERA-minus, 26 GS, 129 IP, 122 K (22.6%), 46 BB (8.5%), 14.1% K–BB%, 1.209 WHIP, 28% QS%, 3 Wchp, 0 Ltuf, 1 WLst, 4 LSv, 5 1/3 IP/GS, 4.6 RS/9, 2.4 WAR

Suarez — 8–8, 3.96 ERA, 100 ERA-minus, 26 GS, 109 IP, 103 K (22.3%), 33 BB (7.1%), 15.2% K–BB%, 1.248 WHIP, 20% QS%, 3 Wchp, 0 Ltuf, 1 WLst, 1 LSv, 5 IP/GS, 4.0 RS/9, 1.6 WAR

Relief Corps

The Angels start the season with five righties and four lefties — one of whom is long man Tucker Davidson — in the ‘pen. At press time, manager Phil Nevin had yet to name a closer.

The right-handers in the relief corps include Carlos Estevez, Jimmy Herget, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Wantz, and Jaime Barria. Estevez signed with the Angels as a free agent after spending 2022 with the Colorado Rockies. Another free agent signee was lefty Matt Moore, who spent 2022 with the division-rival Texas Rangers. The other two southpaw middle- and back-end relievers are Aaron Loup and Jose Quijada.

2022 Stats

Estevez — 3.47 ERA, 75 ERA-minus, 62 GR, 46 ScOtg, 74.2% ScOtg%, 57 IP, 54 K (23.0%), 23 BB (9.8%), 13.2% K–BB%, 6-of-23 IRS (26%), 2-for-6 Saves, 15–2 GE–BE (7.5 GE/BE), 1.175 WHIP, and 1.1 WAR.

Herget — 2.48 ERA, 63 ERA-minus, 48 GR, 38 ScOtg, 79.2% ScOtg%, 69     IP, 63 K (23.7%), 15 BB (5.6%), 18.0% K–BB%, 9-of-26 IRS (35%), 9-for-12 Saves, 17–2 GE–BE (8.5GE/BE), 0.913 WHIP, and 2.3 WAR.

Tepera — 3.61 ERA, 91 ERA-minus, 59 GR, 41 ScOtg, 69.5% ScOtg%, 57 1/3 IP, 47 K (20.3%), 20 BB (8.6%), 11.6% K–BB%, 9-of-21 IRS (43%), 6-for-11 Saves, 23–8 GE–BE (2.9GE/BE), 1.081 WHIP, and 0.7 WAR.

Wantz — 3.22 ERA, 81 ERA-minus, 41 GR, 29 ScOtg, 70.7% ScOtg%, 50 1/3 IP, 52 K (25.5%), 21 BB (10.3%), 15.2% K–BB%, 3-of-17 IRS (18%), 0-for-1 Saves, 7–2 GE–BE (3.5 GE/BE), 1.152 WHIP, and 0.8 WAR.

Barria — 2.61 ERA, 66 ERA-minus, 34 GR, 18 ScOtg, 52.9% ScOtg%, 79 1/3 IP, 54 K (17.1%), 19 BB (6.0%), 11.1% K–BB%, 8-of-19 IRS (42%), 0-for-3 Saves, 4–3 GE–BE (1.3 GE/BE), 1.034 WHIP, and 2.0 WAR.

Lefties

Moore — 1.95 ERA, 50 ERA-minus, 63 GR, 49 ScOtg, 77.8% ScOtg%, 74 IP, 83 K (27.3%), 38 BB (12.5%), 14.8% K–BB%, 7-of-21 IRS (33%), 5-for-6 Saves, 28–3 GE–BE (9.3 GE/BE), 1.176 WHIP, and 2.4 WAR.

Loup — 3.84 ERA, 97 ERA-minus, 65 GR, 42 ScOtg, 64.6% ScOtg%, 58 2/3 IP, 52 K (20.0%), 22 BB (8.5%), 11.5% K–BB%, 10-of-37 IRS (27%), 1-for-6 Saves, 9–7 GE–BE (1.3 GE/BE), 1.295 WHIP, and -0.9 WAR.

Quijada — 3.98 ERA, 101 ERA-minus, 42 GR, 31 ScOtg, 73.8% ScOtg%, 40 2/3 IP, 52 K (30.8%), 21 BB (12.4%), 18.3% K–BB%, 4-of-28 IRS (14%), 3-for-5 Saves, 15–7 GE–BE (2.1 GE/BE), 1.131 WHIP, and 0.7 WAR.

Davidson — 6.75 ERA, 169 ERA-minus, 1 GR, 0 ScOtg, 0.0% ScOtg%, 52 IP, 33 K (13.6%), 35 BB (14.4%), -0.8% K–BB%, 1-of-2 IRS (50%), 0-for-0 Saves, 0–0 GE–BE, 1.712 WHIP, and -0.8 WAR.

Outlook

Looming large is Ohtani’s impending free agency. It is likely that a competitive season could convince Ohtani to stay, especially after owner Arte Moreno went on the record to say that he’ll be willing to go over the luxury tax threshold to keep him. And it is equally likely that a losing season will mean losing out on re-signing him.

But the team cannot live on expectations and projections alone. They must stay healthy and must execute. With this roster, there is little excuse for missing the playoffs. The biggest question marks come at catcher and back-end relief. If the Angels can get production there, they should be in good shape regardless of what the Astros and Mariners do. Only time will tell.

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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