LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Owner: Arte Moreno, worth $4.1 billion
World Series Titles: 2002
Greatest Player: OF Mike Trout
Division: AL West
Payroll: 6th, $212,000,000
2022 Result: 73-89, 3rd in AL West
General Manager: Perry Minasian
Manager: Phil Nevin, 52; Record: 46-60, 0 World Series Titles
Home Field: Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Capacity: 45,050
Key Addition: SP Tyler Anderson. The Los Angeles Dodgers fixed Anderson. It's the cross-town Angels’ job to make sure he stays that way. Led by an elite changeup, Anderson pitched to a 2.57 ERA in nearly 180 innings. He’s not going to strike a ton of guys out, but few were better at mitigating hard contact. If he can live up to the expectations his contract suggests, he’d be a key piece to their rotation. Barring catastrophic injury to a star, few players on this roster have the impact to make or break a season quite like Anderson.
Key Loss: SP Michael Lorenzen. Sometimes, competence and consistency are just as valuable as talent itself. Losing Lorenzen won’t tank the Angels’ season–he’s a middling pitcher with a career 4.3 fWAR. What his absence will do, however, is strip them of depth and versatility. Lorenzen has proven capable of pitching out of both the rotation and the bullpen. His help could be sorely missed if their projects towards the bottom of the roster don’t pan out.
Key Injury: SP Davis Daniel. There was some level of hope that Daniel could contribute some innings to this rendition of the Angels. He offers a plus fastball, adequate breaking pitches and enough command to pitch at the game’s highest level, regardless of his upside. However, a shoulder injury calls that into question. He was placed on the 60-day IL, greatly reducing the chances of making an impact in 2023.
Prospect Alert: C Logan O’Hoppe. The bar for star catchers at the Major League level isn’t particularly high, but it’s one seemingly everyone feels O’Hoppe will reach. Perhaps the top prospect in Los Angeles’ farm system, O’Hoppe boasts legitimate bat-to-ball skills beyond his age, especially for a catcher. His emergence helps alleviate stress for incumbent catcher Max Stassi, too. Expect him to step in as the starter.
Scouting Report: For the first time in forever, it feels like the Angels have a legitimate shot at living up to the expectations that come with having the generation’s best player. Year after year they’ve fallen short, wasting Mike Trout’s career with big free agent busts and an inability to develop prospects. This year, though, things may be different.
Of course, having two players that will go down in history doesn’t hurt. Trout and two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani are appointment television and arguably the two best players in the sport. If they’re healthy, they’ll dominate. Brandon Drury, Anthony Rendon, and Taylor Ward should be plus bats to surround them. You can argue the rest of their lineup is filled with question marks, but I’d counter that they are pretty decent bets as far as bottom-of-the-lineup guys go. I also like the defensive versatility and contact prowess that can be found on their bench.
Ohtani leads the way in the rotation, and I like Patrick Sandoval behind him. The aforementioned Anderson is the X-Factor, if you will, but he’s not alone in having high-variance projections that can shape their season. Reid Detmers struggled mightily at times, despite throwing a no-hitter. He absolutely looked the part, though, after changing how he threw his slider. If those changes stick he gives them an additional quality arm and greater rotation depth than they’ve had for years.
What causes me hesitation is the bullpen. Only Ryan Tepera has a proven track record of success. Yet, I find myself optimistic about the unit. Carlos Estévez flashed in Colorado last season, and Jimmy Herget is a perpetual highlight reel on the mound, getting guys to swing at pitches almost behind them. Matt Moore pitched to a sup-2.00 ERA last season, and Aaron Loup, only a season removed from dominance with the Mets, pitched well in 2022, too.
Over/Under Wins: 86-76, lose in AL Wild Card Round
BetBasics Best Bet: My optimism for much of this Angels roster has parlayed itself into a handful of lines that I like. The first, of course, is taking the -120 odds on them surpassing the 81.5 wins DraftKings has set for them. The decrease in value from -110 bakes in the likelihood of this one hitting, and I’m okay with that. There’s a good amount of room between my projection and the line, and I don’t think Vegas is properly accounting for improvements to the coaching staff, similar to San Francisco a few years ago.
Second, +175 odds to make the playoffs intrigues me. I think they end up making the October dance, but hesitation is warranted. The AL West and AL East are both full of competitive teams, and, frankly, Los Angeles has a track record of disappointing when it counts. I like this one, even if I’m not jumping in head first.
Lastly, Ohtani is listed at +200 to win AL MVP. He’s the favorite, but for me, this is more of a case study than a slam dunk bet. Will it take a historic season to take MVP honors away from Ohtani, or will we see voter fatigue? If only the former is true, a standard Ohtani season brings that award back to Anaheim.