Since the arrival of outfielder Mike Trout in 2011, the Angels made the postseason only once (2014). In addition, they’ve had a losing record in each of their previous six years. Los Angeles finished 22nd in ERA (4.69). Their bullpen had 37 wins, 29 losses, and 39 saves with a 4.59 ERA (24th).
Even with a breakout offensive season by DH Shohei Ohtani, the Angels ranked 17th in runs (723), 20th in home runs (190), and 15th in RBIs (691). Their struggles came from 126 games missed by Trout and 104 games by 3B Anthony Rendon.
Los Angeles solidified the ninth inning by re-signing RP Raisel Iglesias. They also added RP Aaron Loup and RP Michael Lorenzen. They lost SP Alex Cobb (SF), SP Dylan Bundy (MIN), RP Alex Claudio (NYM), RP Steve Cishek, OF Adam Eaton, and C Kurt Suzuki to free agency. The Angels' top addition was SP Noah Syndergaard ($21 million for one season). LA also acquired IF Tyler Wade in a minor deal with the Yankees.
With a healthy season by their star batters, Los Angeles has the firepower to have the top offense in their division. They also need outfielders Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell to become trusted major league bats. Their most significant issues come at catcher and shortstop, but those two positions may be upgraded after the lockout.
The front of the starting rotation has two potential aces, but Los Angeles still has questionable talent filling out the backend of their starting staff. In addition, I don’t see enough impact arms behind Iglesias to push up the bullpen rankings.
The Angels' first step toward being a playoff contender is breaking the .500 mark for their record. I expect that to happen in 2022.
OF Shohei Ohtani
2020 was frustrating for anyone drafting Ohtani. After suffering a right forearm injury in early August, he appeared to have the green light for full-time at-bats over the last eight weeks. Unfortunately, Ohtani finished with regression in his strikeout rate (28.6) and a much weaker contact batting average (.282 – .415 in 2018 and .401 in 2019). The Angels only gave him 47 at-bats in September (.191 with two home runs and six RBI) while not having any other injury.
Injuries to Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon may have helped Ohtani blossom into an everyday player in 2021 rather than a pampered DH when he wasn’t pitching. The Angels gave him only two days off from hitting over their final 106 games, other than his seven contests in National League parks (he pinch-hit in six of those matchups).
Ohtani was a better hitter against lefties (.263 with 35 runs, 18 home runs, and 34 RBI over 198 at-bats). In June and July, he dominated at the plate (.295/37/22/42/8 over 166 at-bats). His bat delivered plenty of production (31 runs, 18 home runs, 48 RBI, and 11 stolen bases) over 185 at-bats over the final two months, but Ohtani only hit .216 despite lowering his strikeout rate (27.7)
His swing path became more balanced last year, leading to a jump in his HR/FB rate (32.9). Ohtani finished 12th in hard-hit rate (53.6) and second in barrel rate (22.3). His walk rate (15.0) is now elite, but he did have a higher strikeout rate (29.6).
When calculating SIscores, I separate hitting from pitching. As a result, Ohtani was the sixth most valued hitter in 2021 (SIscore – 8.42), highlighted by his surprising output in steals (3.10). I’ll do a separate profile for his pitching. This year, Ohtani comes off the board with an ADP of 8 in the high-stakes market in the NFBC. He checks the boxes in contact batting average (.397) and average hit rate (2.304) while continuing to improve. His success last year is repeatable, and his runs and RBIs should push higher with Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon back on the field. Next step: .270 with 110 runs, 50 home runs, 120 RBI, and 30 steals.
OF Mike Trout
In mid-May, a calf injury led to Trout missing the final four and a half months of the season. A toe issue on his right foot cost him the end of 2019 while also missing some time in July his first calf injury. In 2018, he battled a right wrist injury. Trout tore a ligament in his left thumb, leading to another long stint on the injury list the previous year. Over the past five seasons, he missed 231 games.
When at his best, Trout has an impressive walk rate (18.1 over his last six years). His average rate (1.913) and contact batting average (.412) have been elite in his career. Before last season (34.2 percent), his fly-ball rate was trending up since 2016 (44.9, 45.3, 49.2, and 50.3) while having an elite floor in his HR/FB rate (21.6 in his career).
The recent battle with calf issues suggests stolen bases are a minimal part of his profile.
Despite being one of the best players in baseball with a swing to deliver 50-plus home runs with an entire season of games, Trout will be on the avoid list for many fantasy managers in 2022. The Angels have an improved lineup around him, but they still don’t have a difference-maker player batting leadoff to help Trout’s RBI chances. His ADP (15) puts him in the second round in 12-team leagues in the NFBC. He has an extremely high floor in four categories, but Trout gives away his edge if he can’t play a minimum of 145 games.
3B Anthony Rendon
In his first season, hitting behind Mike Trout in 2020, Rendon struggled with runners on base (RBI rate – 14) while also seeing a drop in his contact batting average (.342 – .379).
Last year, his bat put fantasy managers in a hole over his first 58 games. He had a further step back in his contact batting average (.295), with a slight rise in his strikeout rate (16.5 – 13.5 from 2017 to 2020).
Rendon suffered a groin injury in mid-April. After returning from the injured list, he knocked himself out of the lineup after fouling a ball off his left knee. A month later, a triceps injury pushed him back on the injured list. In early July, Rendon developed a hamstring issue tied to a right hip injury that required surgery.
Over his final three years with the Nationals, he hit .310 over 1,582 at-bats with 286 runs, 83 home runs, 318 RBI, and 14 stolen bases. He led the NL in doubles in 2018 (44) and 2019 (44) plus RBIs (126) in 2019.
Rendon had the eighth highest SIscore for hitters in 2019 (7.39), but he is now two years removed from an elite season. His ADP (109) looks attractive based on his best years. The volume of his injuries is a concern for me, but I can’t dismiss him batting between Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Rendon only needs to be a .280/80/20/80 hitter at his lower price point to fill his draft value bucket. Call me interested, but I also won’t jump him in drafts.
1B Jared Walsh
Over five seasons in the minors, Walsh hit .301 with 85 home runs and 311 RBI over 1,715 at-bats. His growth in his swing came in 2019 at AAA (.325 with 36 home runs and 86 RBI over 382 at-bats). He showed the ability to take walks (9.8) in the minors with some risk in his strikeout rate (24.1).
With Los Angeles in 2020, Walsh blasted nine home runs with 26 RBI over 99 at-bats while lowering his strikeout rate (13.9). His average hit rate was strong in 2019 at AAA (2.113) and with the Angels (2.207 and 1.837).
Last year the Angels gave Walsh 467 of his 530 at-bats, hitting third to fifth in the batting order, leading to 57 runs, 24 home runs, and 81 RBI. He finished with repeated strength in his RBI rate (20).
Even with power earlier in his major league career, Walsh hit too many ground balls (47.5 percent). His fly-ball rate (29.9) was even lower in 2021, but he still had an impactful HR/FB rate (25.4). Walsh could quickly turn into a platoon player with any regression in his long-ball production based on his struggles against lefties (.170 over 182 at-bats with 10 home runs, 30 RBI, and 54 strikeouts). In addition, his launch angle (7.8) ranked 265th last season.
His short sample size with Los Angeles brings some risk when adding in his rising ADP (116). However, Walsh should have plenty of RBI chances, and his home run total could rise with a better swing path. To maintain his batting average, he must shave off some strikeouts (26.0 percent). He’s improving, so .270/80/25/90 looks like a reasonable floor.
OF Joe Adell
Over his four seasons in the minors, he hit .296 with 58 home runs, 212 RBI, and 38 stolen bases over 1,215 at-bats. His walk rate (7.3) was below the league average (8.2), with risk in his strikeout rate (26.3). The Angels drafted him 10th overall in the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft.
In 2019, Adell caught a bad break in March when he suffered a left hamstring and a right ankle injury on the same play. His first appearances in the minors came on May 24th at High A. After success over six games (7-for-25 with two home runs and five RBI), LA pushed him to AA. He played well over the next two months (.308 with eight home runs, 23 RBI, and six steals over 159 at-bats), earning him a call up to AAA (.264 with no home runs and eight RBI over 121 at-bats).
Adell looked overmatched at AAA based on his strikeout rate (32.6) and lack of power (AVH – 1.344). With no minor league games in 2020, the Angels gave him 124 at-bats. His contact batting average (.290) came in well below his minor league career (.416) while posting a tremendous strikeout rate (41.7).
Last year Adell played well at AAA (.289/57/23/69/8 over 311 at-bats), earning him another chance in the majors in early August. He lowered his strikeout rate to 22.9 percent with a shallower walk rate (5.7). Adell appeared focused on making weaker contact rather than swinging aggressively at the plate. His most impressive stat with Los Angeles was his RBI rate (28). Adell’s season ended in mid-September with an abdomen injury.
His overall strides in 2021 suggest Adell is ready to get a full-time job with the Angels. However, his ADP (237) in the NFBC requires over 500 at-bats to be worth his investment. I expect batting average risk unless his contact batting average comes in close to his minor league resume. For now, Adell has the feel of a 70/15/70/10 player with a much higher ceiling.
OF Justin Upton
Over the past three years, Upton hasn’t helped the Angels or fantasy managers win. He hit .211 over 684 at-bats with 101 runs, 38 home runs, 103 RBI, and five stolen bases. His strikeout rate (29.1) over this span was above his career average (25.7), but Upton did maintain his walk rate (10.3).
His swing path remains fly-ball favoring (43.5 percent) with strength in his HR/FB rate (18.3). He ranked 58th in barrel rate (11.7), with a productive launch angle (15.6 – 91st).
In June, Upton started to find his stroke (.339 with 21 runs, four home runs, and 11 RBI over 65 at-bats), but a back issue led to only 95 at-bats after the All-Star break (.126/7/3/9) and the final month on the injured list.
Upton still has plenty of power, and he is in a contract year. The Angels are on the hook for $28 million this year, so Upton will have another window to prove his worth. With 450 at-bats, he still has a 60/20/60 floor, but his ride tends to have more downs than ups. As a result, his ADP (574) in the NFBC is well below draftable value in smaller formats.
C Max Stassi
Stassi will compete for at-bats at catcher. He flashed power in 2018 (eight home runs and 27 RBI over 211 at-bats) for Houston, but he hit only .126 with 74 strikeouts (29.6 percent).
After struggling in the majors in 2019 (.136 with one home run and five RBI over 132 at-bats), Stassi played much better for the Angels over the past two seasons (.250 with 20 home runs and 55 RBI over 372 at-bats). However, his strikeout rate (31.7) regressed with more playing time in 2021. He doesn’t belong in the starting lineup against left-handed pitching (.194 with two home runs, seven RBI, and 25 strikeouts over 67 at-bats).
Over 11 seasons in the minors, Stassi hit .248 with 92 home runs, 347 RBI, and 12 stolen bases over 2,393 at-bats.
Los Angeles lists him as their starting catcher in late January, but they have to sign another option to split time with him. His ADP (303) in the NFBC paints him as a C2 in 15-team leagues, but I would look elsewhere for upside.
SS Luis Rengifo
Over seven seasons in the minor leagues, Rengifo hit .276 with 354 runs, 36 home runs, 226 RBI, and 143 stolen bases. His walk rate (10.1) projected well with a favorable strikeout rate (15.2). He played better at AAA (.296/98/16/73/22 over 507 at-bats).
The Angels gave him 195 games of experience over the past three years, leading to underwhelming stats (.216 with 78 runs, 14 home runs, 54 RBI, and six RBI over 621 at-bats).
Rengifo looks to be a placeholder at shortstop for Los Angeles. He has speed on his resume, but his success rate (71.5) needs to improve to get more chances in the majors. Without news of a starting job, Rengifo is undraftable.
2B David Fletcher
After showing growth in his approach in 2019 and 2020 (strikeout rate – 10.1 and walk rate – 8.5), Fletcher saw his walk rate (4.7) have a sharp decline, along with his contact batting average (.290 – .363 in 2020). However, he remained tough to strike out (nine percent).
His average hit rate (1.238) shows no signs of a push to even 10 home runs. Fletcher continues to have a low fly-ball rate (28.1). He had a barrel rate of zero, ranking him 311th out of 311 hitters with 250 plate appearances. His hard-hit rate (15.7 – 310th) showed why his HR/FB rate (1.3) regressed to a career-low.
Fletcher posted a new top in steals (15), and his run total (74) came from a volume of at-bats (626).
With 20 steals, Fletcher has a chance to be neutral in three categories. The direction of his approach says he is a bottom of the lineup hitter while showing the ability to hit for average. His ADP (328) in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship paints Fletcher as a starting player in late January. Even with a disastrous season last year, he ranked 124th by SIscore (-2.23) for hitters. Not my kind of ride, so I view him as only a bench player in draft champion formats. The Angels need one of their young players to seize the leadoff spot in 2022.
OF Taylor Ward
Ward came through the Angels’ system as a catcher while working his way to the majors via third base and outfield over three seasons at AAA. The Angels selected Ward in the first round (26th) in the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft.
Over six seasons in the minors, Taylor hit .299 with 67 home runs, 277 RBI, and 38 steals over 1,845 at-bats. His bat made a step forward in 2018 (.349 with 14 home runs, 60 RBI, and 18 steals over 375 at-bats) between AA and AAA with follow-through in 2019 at AAA (.306 with 102 runs, 27 home runs, 71 RBI, and 11 steals over 421 at-bats).
His strikeout rate (17.0) showed strength with a top-of-the-order walk rate (13.7) in the minors.
Ward only hit .230 with 15 home runs, 55 RBI, and five steals over 479 at-bats with Los Angeles over four seasons. His path to more playing time will come when he lowers his strikeout rate (28.3), which happened in 2021 (23.2 percent). The Angels gave him his best opportunity to start last season over the first two months (.238/25/7/28 over 168 at-bats), but Ward landed on the injured list with a rib issue while ending the year with a hip injury.
Ward has the minor league resume to have success in Los Angeles. A switch back to catcher would be a big win as he already has close to C2 stats despite never having a full-time starting job in the majors. The Angels had him behind the plate for one game last year, which may signify a catcher qualification in 2022. Ward will compete for playing time in the outfield out of the gate.
OF Brandon Marsh
Los Angeles envisions Marsh as their future centerfielder once Mike Trout transitions to a corner outfield position. His glove and arm grade are his greatest assets, while his bat is trailing as far as approach and power.
Over four seasons in the minors, he hit .288 with 25 home runs, 174 RBI, and 45 steals over 1,168 at-bats. Marsh will take walks (11.2), but his strikeout rate (24.3) needs work. He only has 94 at-bats of experience at AAA (.255 with 26 runs, three home runs, eight RBI, and two stolen bases).
With the Angels' major league season going in the wrong direction last summer, they called Marsh up after the All-Star break. His contact batting average (.414) held form, but he whiffed 35 percent of the time with a slightly below-par walk rate (7.7).
Marsh gained experience last season, but he needs more time to develop at AAA. His ADP (373) sits in the flier zone in the NFBC. Marsh will be a challenging start in fantasy leagues early in his career without more speed or power. The Angels may add another veteran outfielder after the lockout.
SP Shohei Ohtani
Over five seasons in Japan, Ohtani went 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA and 624 strikeouts over 543 innings. His best season came in 2015 (15-5 with a 2.24 ERA and 196 strikeouts over 160.2 innings).
Ohtani missed all of 2019 with TJ surgery. He was expected to be healthy in 2020, but his pitching season ended after two games with a right forearm issue. Fantasy managers knew something was wrong when he issued eight walks over 1.2 innings, leading to seven runs and three hits.
After his first start last year, he missed 15 days from pitching with an elbow issue. Ohtani walked 19 batters over his first 18.2 innings with 30 strikeouts. Over his final 19 starts, he went 8-2 with a 3.30 ERA, .221 BAA, 1.039 WHIP, and 126 strikeouts while issuing on 25 walks.
Lefties beat him for 12 of his 15 home runs with a .235 batting average. Over his last 11 starts, Ohtani pitched a minimum of six innings in nine starts. He only threw over 100 pitches in only four games on the year (three in September).
His average fastball (95.6) was an edge in velocity, but batters hit .286 against his four-seamer with eight home runs. Ohtani had an exceptional split-finger (.084 BAA) and a plus slider (.200 BAA) plus a developing cutter (.245 BAA).
Ohtani looks set to make 30 starts this year while pushing his innings to 180. However, the tandem of a sore forearm in 2020 and an elbow issue last April may point to a second TJ surgery down the road. Nevertheless, his arm looks electric while on a path for a sub 3.00 ERA and 200+ plus strikeouts. Now the trick is finding a winning balance between pitching and hitting.
SP Noah Syndergaard
Syndergaard had TJ surgery in March of 2020. Last year his right elbow flared up in late May. He threw the ball well over his five minor league appearances (one run over eight innings with nine strikeouts). In his two games for the Mets, Syndergaard allowed two runs and three baserunners over two innings with two strikeouts.
Over six seasons in the majors, he went 47-31 with a 3.32 ERA and 777 strikeouts over 718 innings. His fastball last year came in at 94.0 MPH (almost four MPH below 2019). When on his game, Syndergaard offers three plus pitches (slider, changeup, and curveball).
This draft season, he comes off the board as the 78th pitcher in the NFBC with an ADP of 207. His price point will rise this spring with positive news about his arm. The Angels invested $21 million in his arm, so they hope he pitches at least 180 innings this season. Fantasy managers now get to place their bets on his value. I expect him to be an edge as an SP3.
SP Patrick Sandoval
After dominating at A Ball in 2018 (7-1 with a 2.49 ERA and 71 strikeouts over 65 innings) and pushing his way to High A and AA (1.54 ERA and 74 strikeouts over 58.1 innings), Sandoval tripped up at AAA in 2019 (6.41 ERA) with regression in his walk rate (5.2).
He walked 3.4 batters per nine innings in his minor league career with an edge in his strikeout rate (10.4).
Over the three seasons in the majors, Sandoval went 4-15 with a 4.42 ERA and 169 strikeouts over 163 innings. Last year he allowed four runs or fewer in all 17 appearances, with an excellent run from 11 starts (3.00 ERA and 78 strikeouts over 66 innings). However, his season ended in August with a back injury.
His average fastball (93.4) was about the league average while flashing a plus changeup (.138 BAA) and slider (.188 BAA). Sandoval upped his strikeout rate (9.7), but his walk rate (3.7) remains an issue.
I’m a fan of pitchers with good changeups. However, without better command, his WHIP will be a problem. His ADP (221) looks too low unless his whole 2018 stats in the minors come along for the ride. Temper your expectations.
SP Reid Detmers
With minimal games played in college baseball in 2020, Detmers only made four dominating starts (3-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 48 strikeouts over 22 innings.
The previous year, his arm made a significant step forward (13-4 with a 2.78 ERA and 167 strikeouts over 113.1 innings). Over his final 23 games, he walked 2.6 batters per nine with an electric strikeout rate (14.3).
Detmers threw the ball well in his first stop in the minors (AA), leading to a 3.50 ERA and 97 strikeouts over 54 innings. Hidden in his dominance were 10 long balls that left the yard. After one stellar start at AAA (one run over eight innings with 11 strikeouts), the Angels called him on August 1st.
Major league batters drilled him over his first two games (15 runs, 32 baserunners, and five home runs over 19 innings). A battle with Covid-19 led to five weeks on the shelf. His season with another poor showing (two runs and five baserunners over 1.2 innings).
Detmers offered a league-average fastball (92.9 MPH). His slider (.235 BAA) and curveball (.150 BAA) held up in the pros. Batters smashed his four-seamer (.407 BAA with three home runs over 27 at-bats) while struggling with his low-volume changeup (.571 BAA).
When searching for a potential breakout arm in 2022, Detmers should be on your radar. His command still needs work, but he has the stuff to get himself out of jams with strikeouts. The Angels need a pitching prospect to develop quickly, and Detmers is close to being a trusted major-league asset. His ADP (451) puts him in the free-agent pool in almost all redraft formats.
SP Griffin Canning
In 2019, Griffin dominated in three starts at AAA (two runs over 16 innings with 17 strikeouts). After three starts with the Angels, he had a 5.65 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 14.1 innings. Griffin helped fantasy managers over his next eight games (.323 ERA and 44 strikeouts over 47.1 innings).
His arm didn’t look healthy in July (8.15 ERA), which led to two trips to the injured list with an elbow injury.
Canning battled a right elbow injury early in spring training in 2020 that would have cost him the first half of the season if Covid-19 didn’t shut down baseball. He battled his command (10 walks) and home runs (4) over his first four starts (4.42 ERA over 18.1 innings). Canning finished the year with much better results over his last seven games (2-0 with a 3.79 ERA and 38 strikeouts over 38 innings).
Last year his arm lost all value (5.60 ERA and 62 strikeouts over 62.2 innings) while serving 14 home runs. Canning suffered a low back injury in July that ended his season.
His average fastball (93.6) regained some velocity. However, none of his pitches had success getting batters out.
I don’t trust his right elbow, and I expect Canning to have TJ surgery at some time in his career. However, his ADP (665) puts him in the wait-and-see mode while possessing plenty of potential injury risk.
SP Davis Daniel
After struggling over three seasons in college (5.37 ERA and 1.518), the Angels drafted Daniel in the seventh round in the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft. Unfortunately, his 2019 season with Auburn ended with TJ surgery.
Last year his arm reached a much higher ceiling than expected at High A and AA (2.50 ERA over 93.2 innings with 130 strikeouts). Los Angeles gave him five games at AAA, but Daniel wasn’t up to the task (24 runs, 43 baserunners, and seven home runs over 21 innings).
He has a mid-90s fastball and a swing-and-miss curveball. However, his command and changeup need work.
Daniel feels like a gamble with risk early in his career in the majors. So his next step is solving AAA.
SP Sam Bachman
Bachman developed into an elite arm in 2021 in college. He posted a 1.81 ERA and 93 strikeouts over 59.2 innings. The Angels drafted him ninth overall in the 2021 MLB June Amateur Draft. Los Angeles gave Bachman five games at High A, leading to a 3.77 ERA and 15 strikeouts over 14.1 innings.
His fastball pushed to the upper 90s in 2021 while relying on an elite slider. Bachman also offers a high ceiling changeup.
With a short resume of innings pitched (never pitched over 80 innings in season), he’ll take time to develop his arm strength. Bachman should start the year at AA. His next step should push over 100 innings.
RP Raisel Iglesias
After a down season in 2019 (3-12 with a 4.16 ERA, 89 strikeouts, and 34 saves over 67 innings), Iglesias looked sharp in his 22 appearances in 2020 (2.74 ERA, 31 strikeouts, and eight saves over 23 innings). He finished with a career's best walk rate (2.0) while inching up his strikeout rate (12.1).
In 2018 and 2019, Iglesias gave up 24 home runs over 139 innings (1.6 per nine). Last year, Iglesias struggled with home runs (7) over his first 29.1 innings, leading to a 4.30 ERA and 43 strikeouts while converting 12 of 15 saves. However, his arm was sensational over his final 38 games (1.33 ERA and 60 strikeouts over 40.2 innings with 22 saves).
His average fastball (96.4) remained elite. His four-seam fastball (.215 BAA), slider (.203 BAA), and changeup (.178 BAA) were electric.
Over the last six seasons, Iglesias went 22-30 with a 2.80 ERA, 478 strikeouts, and 140 saves over 386.1 innings.
This draft season Iglesias is the third closer off the board with an ADP of 59. He needs to clean up his home runs. Iglesias looks to be on a path for a career-high in saves with an edge in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts.
RP Michael Lorenzen
With the Reds over seven seasons, Lorenzen went 23-23 with a 4.07 ERA, 406 strikeouts, and 14 saves over 473.1 innings while only working as a starter in his rookie season in 2015 (5.40 ERA).
Last year his season started with a bum right shoulder. After returning after the All-Star break, Lorenzen picked up three saves while tossing 13.1 shutout innings with 12 strikeouts. Unfortunately, his arm didn’t look healthy over his final 15 appearances (18 runs and 27 baserunners over 15.2 innings).
His average fastball (96.9) continues to be an edge in velocity. Lorenzen struggled with his cutter (.296 BAA) while tossing changeup, slider, sinker, and four-seamer.
He has an up and down arm, but Lorenzen doesn’t look healthy. Rebuilding his career starts in the seventh inning.
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