Joe Maddon’s first full 162-game season as the Angels skipper was marred with injuries to key superstar players. Three-time MVP Mike Trout and All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon missed the majority of the 2021 campaign with injuries. While Shohei Ohtani ran away with league MVP honors, the three stars appeared in only 17 games together last year. As a result, they finished the season 77-85, fourth place and 18 games behind Houston. This year marks the 20th anniversary of their lone World Series championship as they look to break a seven-year playoff drought.
Make sure to check out all of our other Season Previews.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, One year/$21 million
Thor elected to leave the Big Apple for the O.C. beaches as he rebounds from his May 2020 Tommy John surgery. An injury that limited the 6-foot-6 righty to a pair of one-inning relief appearances late last season for the Mets. GM Perry Minasian is not only relying on Syndergaard’s health but his ability to be the Angels co-ace with Ohtani. The former All-Star’s velocity looks good heading into camp as the veteran joins a very young Angels starting rotation. Still only 29-years old, the power pitcher could cash in next season with a multi-year contract with solid 2022 performance.
Michael Lorenzen, RHP, One-year/$6.75 million
The former Cal State Fullerton two-way player returns home to the team he grew up watching. The 30-year-old Anaheim native has started only 26 of his 295 MLB outings. The Angels brass has signed him with every intention of making him a member of the starting rotation. Early spring results are a great indicator that the veteran could be up for the challenge. Lorenzen has made only five starts since his 21 games started during his 2015 rookie campaign. Now he will look to join Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, and Reid Detmers as the back end of the Angels six-man rotation.
Aaron Loup, LHP, Two-years/$17 million
Adding a lefty reliever with sub-1.00 ERA will only help a bullpen that has struggled in recent years. The Angels signed Tony Watson and Alex Claudio last year, but both were off the roster by the trade deadline. The 34-year-old southpaw has limited opposing hitters to a .181 average while posted 0.91 WHIP the past three years. Loup will find himself a crucial bridge between the unproven starting rotation and 2022 AL saves leader Raisel Iglesias.
Ryan Tepera, RHP, Two-years/$14 million
The latest piece of the bullpen’s $92.75 million investment may just make the final three innings miserable for opposing hitters. Along with the re-signing of closer Iglesias, Tepera joins fellow free agent signings, Archie Bradley and Loup, in late innings. The 34-year-old righty has been one of the most productive set-up men in baseball the past couple of seasons. Tepera has averaged 11.52 strikeouts per nine innings with opposing batters hitting an anemic .177 against him since 2020.
Alex Cobb, RHP, San Francisco Giants
The veteran right-hander rejoined his former Rays skipper in 2021 and it was a successful reunion. Good enough to get the San Francisco Giants to add the crafty starter to a two-year/$20 million deal. Cobb was a consistent presence and influence on a rotation featuring many rookie starters. His influence on those young arms will continue to aid the Angels this year and beyond.
Dylan Bundy, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Bundy’s Angels’ career started so well during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. The former O’s prospect with 6-3 with 3.29 ERA leading to a 9th place finish in AL Cy Young voting. If that was Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde appeared in 2021 as Bundy found himself demoted to bullpen duty by early summer. Finishing the season 2-9 with a 6.06 ERA and 74 ERA+ before signing with Twins this winter. Still only 29 years old, Bundy will have a chance to be a piece of Minnesota’s rotation this year.
Steve Cishek, RHP, Washington Nationals
The side-arm tossing reliever held down the 8th inning duties along with Mike Mayers last season. Even so, his performance in that role was well below that of the three new additions to the bullpen. Cishek will be another opportunity in Washington while the improved Angels bullpen will not be worse without him.
Trout and Ohtani are two of the faces of the game. Neither has won a postseason MLB game. The Angels’ ability to get there hinges heavily on the health of Rendon, Trout, Ohtani, Syndergaard, and Jared Walsh. At least one of the remaining rotation pieces of Lorenzen, Suarez, Sandoval, and rookie Reid Detmers will need to blossom. If they are in the playoff hunt as they approach the trade deadline, don’t be surprised to see them add a veteran starter.
Young outfielders Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh will get their first full seasons in the outfield in Justin Upton’s contract year. The catching and middle infield feature solid veteran options with improving Max Stassi and David Fletcher leading the group. Former speedy Yankees prospect Tyler Wade plays all over the field and could see a breakout season with Halos.
For the first time in over ten years, they start the year without Albert Pujols on the roster. In his place is first-time All-Star Walsh. The team is young and hungry. The time is now for the Angels to push hard for their first playoff appearance since 2014. They should be in the hunt in a competitive AL West all season barring any unforeseen rash of injuries. Expect a breakout performer or two from the group of Detmers, Sandoval, or Suarez in the starting rotation. Buyers at the deadline, the addition of another starter might be enough to earn them a final expanded playoff spot.
Check us out on our socials:
Twitter: @PTSTNews and @TalkPrimeTime
Facebook Page: Prime Time Sports Talk
Join our Facebook Group: Prime Time Sports Talk
Follow B.J. Martin on Twitter @_HaloLife
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images