Sixty years ago, the expansion Los Angeles Angels reported to Palm Springs for spring training to embark on their inaugural season. Six decades later, we will celebrate the best sixty players to suit up with a Halo based on an unbiased formula taking into account Fangraphs & Baseball-Reference WAR ratings, awards voting, All-Star, and postseason appearances, among other measurables. These rankings are strictly based on the players’ performance with the Angels and do not reflect overall career performance, years played elsewhere, or the personal opinion of the author.
This week we look at the first group of Angels players 60-56.
The 23-year-old Orange County native found himself immediately a key piece of the Angels rotation following his acquisition from Boston in exchange for fan-favorite Jerry Remy prior to the 1978 season. Aase would finish his first season in Anaheim 11-8 in 29 starts in a rotation featuring perennial All-Stars Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana. Aase would make 28 starts for the Angels’ first-ever division-winning team in 1979 in addition to also recording 2 saves in 9 games out of the bullpen.
He would capture national attention recording a 1.80 ERA in five innings of relief in the 1979 ALCS against Baltimore striking out six Orioles hitters in the series. Moving forward, Aase would split time between starter and reliever in 1980 before transitioning to a full-time reliever in 1981 leading the team with 11 saves. Aase and Minnie Rojas are the only two Angels to record both 11 or more victories and saves in seasons with the franchise.
The Angels would acquire the 30-year-old veteran of seven MLB seasons prior to the 2004 season, adding an ace to support John Lackey and Jarrod Washburn in the playoff-bound rotation. Colon would waste no time making his presence felt winning 18 games and pitching over 200 innings during his debut campaign with the Halos.
In his second season in Anaheim, the burly Dominican would become only the second Angels pitcher to win the American League Cy Young award, racking up a league-leading 21 wins and 3.48 ERA for the ALCS-destined club. Colon would play two more injury-plagued years in Anaheim, finishing his stay in the O.C. earning 46 of his 191 career victories, second only to his totals collected in Cleveland.
Despite suffering through numerous catastrophic injuries during his playing career for the Angels, Richards was arguably the best pitcher in their rotation when healthy throughout the majority of his eight seasons. Richards would only start 30 or more games a season once but would still finish his Angels’ career in 2018 with a 45-38 record, 3.62 ERA, and 702 strikeouts during his 187 appearances for the franchise.
Part of the magical draft class of 2009 along with Mike Trout, Randal Grichuk, Tyler Skaggs, and Patrick Corbin, Richards’ eight seasons provided a lot of ups and downs leaving fans to wonder “what might have been.” Regardless, Richards rated among one of the most effective pitchers during the Mike Scioscia era of Los Angeles Angels baseball.
The Angels made a splash when they signed the Cuban international free agent in 2005 at a time when the major league club had Darin Erstad and top prospect Casey Kotchman arriving on the scene playing first. Morales would debut for the Halos in 2006 and spend his first three seasons as a role player before the first base starting role opened up after Mark Teixeira opted not to re-sign with the Angels. Morales’s 2009 season was one of the finest by a first baseman in franchise history as he finished with a .306/.355/.569 slash with 34 home runs, and 108 runs batted in.
Morales finished fifth in the American League MVP voting in 2009 before carrying that momentum into the next season. He was heading for superstardom before breaking his ankle during a freak injury at home plate after he hit a walk-off home run Memorial Day weekend. The injury ended his season and kept him shelved for the entire 2011 season the following year. By the time Kendrys returned in 2012, Albert Pujols was now an Angel, Mark Trumbo was coming off a great rookie season, and Morales found himself an expendable designated hitter.
The quarterback of the 2002 World Series Champion Angels arrived on the scene as a breath of fresh air at a position coming out of a decade of underwhelming catching prospects such as John Orton and Jorge Fabregas. The eldest of the three catching siblings, Bengie would take over every day catching duties in his first full season hitting .281 with 14 home runs, 71 runs batted in, showcasing superb defense while finishing fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Two years later he would be seen by the world embracing Angels closer Troy Percival on the mound at the Big A as the Angels won their first-ever World Series championship. Molina ultimately completed his eight seasons with the Angels hitting .273/.309/.397 with 65 home runs including three bombs in the 2005 AL Division Series against the Yankees. One of six post-season series Molina would lead the Halos pitching corps to as their sign caller.
Let me know your memories of these players at @_HaloLife on Twitter. Keep an eye out for our next “60 on 60” list featuring a couple of future MLB fathers as we groove through the lists 55-51 rankings.
Follow B.J. Martin on Twitter @_HaloLife
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