By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
I haven’t been writing much, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been watching Angels baseball. I’m a diehard Angels fan. Win or lose, I follow my team. And, when you are really not feeling well, there’s no better medicine than a good Angels game.
As I reflected on the Angels Spring Training so far, I came away very impressed! We had a very good spring. And, I’m not just talking about our Win-Loss Record (which at 18-11 led the Cactus League).
There was something more about our spring training that got me excited. Reflecting back on all the games, at bats, innings pitched, etc., we had a very good spring training.
Thinking over our Top-30 Prospects, we saw a lot of them take a moderate or large step forward in their game. Players came in a lot more hungry and were performing at in-season levels. More players in our organization took steps forward, and that made the games far more exciting to watch.
Looking over each game, it was easy to see how impressive many of the players were. While I won’t name all the players who made big impressions, Joyce and Neto are two examples of guys who really came into camp far more advanced than advertised. They opened some eyes, along with many others.
And then, it dawned on me: Maybe this is finally a true Perry Minassian team. We never got a full answer to that question, but it seems that the writing is clear as to what he wants: a mix of stars and depth.
All during the offseason, the narrative has been that the Angels were going to raise their “floor” by signing lots of depth pieces. The problem with the Angels in the past has been our over reliance on our stars to carry us through the season. If any of them got hurt, we were essentially eliminated.
So, rather than signing a star shortstop, such as Trea Turner (assuming that he would sign with us), we traded for and signed players like Urshela, Renfroe, Drury, etc.
The whole offseason narrative came down to a focus on raising our floor for wins and to fill in depth rather than raise our high end performance. It was as if raising the floor came at the expense of raising the ceiling. That’s a false dichotomy. Raising the floor can and does raise the ceiling for the team.
When it comes to potential, there are at least two components to it. First, how high is one’s potential. Second, how likely is that person to hit his/her potential.
This offseason, Perry brought in many players, all of whom have playoff experience. We all know that the Angels, including Trout, haven’t been to the postseason since 2014. We have a young team, so bringing in some veteran leadership will go a long way towards helping our younger players succeed more on the field.
At the same time, all of the players that Perry brought in can play multiple positions. Flexibility is key to this team.
This is going to help us a lot with the balanced schedule. In the past, the Angels would use games up until June to see what was working and what wasn’t working. With a balanced schedule, and fewer games against divisional rivals to take matters into our own hands, every game counts—and counts a lot more than early games did in the past.
It also allows us to rest more players throughout the season to keep them fresh. Rather than pushing through minor injuries, our players can take a day or two off.
This means we need players to play with urgency to maintain their playing time. And that’s exactly what we saw this spring. With all of our Swiss Army knife players, we can mix and match whomever is hot or has the best record against an opponent. If a player is struggling, he will quickly lose playing time. Unlike last year, playing time is not guaranteed for many players. Performance will dictate their time.
And this is where the big step forward with our farm comes into play. Having more depth in the upper minors (unlike in the lower minors for so many years), we can quickly replace an arm or fielder. We don’t have to put up with sub-replacement level play. We can make a trade for a playoff drive.
So maybe this is the future of Angels baseball under Perry Minassian: a team with a lot of flexibility, good pitching, and a strong farm. Sadly, the person most likely to appreciate this team the most is Mike Scioscia—with all this flexibility, he could finally have a season with 162 different lineups!
The Angels team that I saw in Tempe this year reminded me of the teams I saw in 2004-2009—some of the best teams in franchise history. If that’s the case, I’m very excited for Angels baseball in 2023.