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2022 MLB season preview: Los Angeles Angels

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

USATSI_17949991

I’ve written an MLB betting guide for several years and the Los Angeles Angels blurb always seems to start in similar fashion: It’s criminal that Michael Nelson Trout has only played in three playoff games.

The best player of our generation, and one of the best of all-time, has a total of 15 postseason plate appearances. Trout made his debut in 2011 and has three MVP Awards, a Rookie of the Year, is on pace to hit more than 600 home runs and has played on only one team that has won at least 90 games. Maybe the saddest part is that, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Angels have been among the MLB leaders in Opening Day payroll during Trout’s 11-year run (top 10 every year), with these payroll rankings: 4-4-6-6-9-7-7-6-8-6-7. They’re in the top 10 again this year with four players making at least $21 million. Something has to give at some point, right? RIGHT?

2022 VSiN MLB Betting Guide

Offense

Trout only played in 36 games last season and the Angels finished 77-85. He still managed to accumulate 2.3 fWAR, which was good for fourth among position players, and he was on track for maybe his best season ever. He posted a .451 wOBA and a 190 wRC+ in 146 plate appearances before missing the rest of the season from May 18. Trout only had one hit over his last seven games, so his torrid early season pace was looking like the stuff of legend.

It’s not a bad lineup around Trout by any means. Shohei Ohtani is the reigning MVP and does things we have never seen — a guy who can hit 46 home runs but also be a really good starting pitcher. Even Babe Ruth never did what Ohtani is doing. Most importantly, Ohtani stayed healthy and played 158 games with 639 plate appearances to go with 23 starts and a 3.18 ERA with a 3.52 FIP. MLB even created a rule solely because of Ohtani, allowing him to stay in the game as the DH after he’s done pitching. What a remarkable talent.

Jared Walsh followed a good 2020 with a solid 2021 as he banged out 29 homers and nearly drove in 100 runs. The Angels desperately needed Walsh to step up because Anthony Rendon missed most of the season and was tracking toward the worst year of his career before injuries mercifully ended his season July 4. Rendon had posted a wRC + of at least 140 in each of the previous four seasons but finished 2021 with a 95, meaning he was 5% below average offensively.

I’d like to think Walsh can stay where he is or get better and Rendon can get back on track, even in his age-32 season. The Angels are certainly hoping so in Year 3 of Rendon’s $245 million deal. The problem for the Angels is Ohtani, Trout, Rendon and Walsh all have to stay healthy to overcome a bunch of bad hitters. Of the top 12 in plate appearances last season, only three players posted a wRC + above the MLB average. Many were far below average, including David Fletcher, who posted a 70 wRC + while leading the team in plate appearances with 665.

The Angels look like they’ll turn over the corner outfield spots to top prospects Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell. Adell was awful in 38 games in 2020 and better but still below average in 35 games in 2021. Marsh had his problems in 70 games as well. Both guys project to strike out a lot, so they’ll have to hit for power and find other ways to get on base to offset all of the swings and misses. Marsh walked a lot in the minors but doesn’t hit for much power. Adell will hit for power but doesn’t walk much, as he hit 23 homers in 73 Triple-A games but struck out 99 times against 22 walks.

As a collective outfield, even with Trout’s absurd 36-game numbers, the Angels got an 86 wRC + and a .296 wOBA. Only the Royals, Mariners and Rangers were lower in the wOBA department and only the Rangers, Royals and Rockies were lower in wRC + . With Trout back, Marsh and Adell may very well be the keys to the Angels offense.

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