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My Takeaways from Spring So Far


CartiHalos

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With most of the major player reassignment done, the Angels Opening Day roster is beginning to take shape.  While a few questions still remain, I think I've seen enough to feel confident in posting my opinions here. I want to make it clear that I'm not a professional analyst, nor a professional hater. The things I'm talking about here are things I've been seeing and thinking all spring, and as much as I love the players the Angels have I'm an Angels fan above that.  Anywhere I see shortcomings or inconsistencies on the roster I'll comment on it.  With that said, let's talk about the roster:

Too Many Angels In the Outfield?

The entire Angels outfield has been absolutely stellar this Spring - Mike Trout (.694 OPS) has actually been the worst, but he remains Mike Trout.  Taylor Ward (.753 OPS) looks to have left field locked up, new signings Aaron Hicks (1.314 OPS) and Jake Marisnick (1.164 OPS) have been outstanding, and the 25-and-under crowd have impressed as well with Mickey Moniak (.894 OPS), Jo Adell (.704 OPS), and Jordyn Adams (.844 OPS).

That's 7 outfielders who have a chance at the 4 or possibly 5 outfield spots on the MLB roster. Getting the obvious out of the way, Mike Trout and Taylor Ward will be running center and left, respectively. Mickey Moniak has no remaining options, and has played great since his call up last May, making him the obvious choice for a potential platoon with recent Major League Signee Aaron Hicks in right. On the other hand Jordyn Adams appears slated to, at the very least, begin the season as a Bee. There's your 4 outfielders, however here's where things get tricky.

Jo Adell has no options left,  limiting the Angels choices to either A. Field him on the roster all year, B. Place him on waivers, or C. Try to find a trade partner for him. Option A seems most likely, bringing the total to 5 outfielders active for the Angels. In itself this isn't a problem, seeing as Trout will likely be getting a lot of looks at DH and Moniak is far better equipped to hit off righties. However, if we're fielding 5 outfielders, I'd almost prefer the 5th be Jake Marisnick.  He's been outstanding this spring, is better defensively than Adell as well as better on the basepaths.  Marisnick's 5 stolen bases lead the MLB (Adell is 4/4 in stolen base attempts, to be fair), and his defensive pedigree gives him value as both a defensive sub and a pinch runner, providing much needed versatility to an Angels bench that will likely consist of Matt Thaiss, Aaron Hicks, and Ehire Adrianza/Miguel Sano.

Of course, I understand why Adell will likely be the 5th outfielder, as Marisnick is on a Minor League deal, so there's no harm no foul with him starting in Salt Lake while Adell makes the opening day roster. I just really hope we get to see if Marisnick can replicate this spring performance in the bigs at some point this year. 

Who Gets The 4th Bench Spot?

Another internal battle is the battle for the 6th infielder/4th bench spot.  It seems to have been cut down to Miguel Sano, Ehire Adrianza, and *maybe* Livan Soto. While Soto's performance should give him a real chance, I tend to believe he won't get the nod simply because he's younger and less experienced.

Miguel Sano is incredibly fun to watch, however provides 0 value defensively, especially if Wash is trying to fit him in at 3rd on occasion. Adrianza provides familiarity for Washington from the Atlanta days and better positional versatility, albeit at a far lower offensive output than Sano. Adrianza's career high is a 102 wRC+, achieved in 2019 in Minnesota. His teammate, Miguel Sano, posted a 138 wRC+ in that same year, his best in a season with at least 100 games played. 

In my opinion, the spot should go to Sano, especially with the availability of DH at bats.  Adrianza certainly provides value, but Rengifo, Drury, and Neto in the middle infield leaves less room for Adrianza to show it. Sano's role will likely be DHing, pinch hitting, and potentially covering first in case of Schanuel struggling, which I don't think he will. My only issue with this is it leaves Rengifo as the backup shortstop in case of Neto needing a day off, but here's to hoping that under Wash's guidance Rengifo can improve his shortstop defense to make that less of a problem. 

Who's the Closer?

Last year, Carlos Estevez's first half was one of the most dominant Angels closer performances we've seen since K-Rod.  He followed it up with a fine, not great, second half, and thus far in spring he's been very unimpressive. I'm not saying he can't bounce back, but I'd much rather see Robert Stephenson be the go to guy in high leverage situations - 9th inning or otherwise. However, assuming he's not ready to start the season - or struggles with injury during - who's the guy?  We've seen Washington's teams close by committee before, with Gagne, Frank Francisco, and CJ Wilson sharing save opportunities before Neftali Feliz joined the team in 2010. Did Estevez's 2023 earn him the closer job this year? I kind of hope it didn't. There's too much talent in this group to be limited to traditional bullpen roles. I'd like to see Estevez, Stephenson, and Moore all get opportunities in the 9th.

Rotational Problems?

I will start this off by saying that, as a unit, the pitching has been incredible this spring, by Angels standards.  Whether it's the new coaching or the new players, they've been throwing more strikes and it's been great to see. Last year, despite winning the Cactus League, the Angels were bottom 10 in ERA and walked more batters than everyone but the White Sox and A's in the spring.  This year they've improved in both aspects, up to 17th in ERA and 22nd(!) in walks.  While it's not indicative of a top 10 rotation, it's a nice change of pace from the past. That being said, within the rotation I've had some concerns.

Reid Detmers has had a good spring in terms of making hitters miss and getting ground balls instead of fly balls, however mistake pitches still haunt him.  Griffin Canning has looked excellent despite some control issues in a couple starts, but could be poised to make a huge jump this year.  Chase Silseth looks outstanding, I still truly believe he could turn into a 120 ERA+ starter this year if given the opportunity to do so.  Even Tyler Anderson has looked much better than he did last year, though time will tell with that one. 

Patrick Sandoval, though, hasn't looked very good. It's sad, because he flashed so much potential in 2022, followed it up with a dominant WBC before a disappointing 2023 and a 10.29 ERA this spring.  Now, this is far from the end - Blake Snell posted a 5.62 ERA in spring last year and won the Cy Young. I bet Sandy will be very solid in our rotation this year, but it hurts to see this in terms of him becoming the ace it looked like he would become a couple years ago. A lot of his struggles seem rooted in getting behind in counts and getting frustrated with himself. Hopefully Barry Enright and Ron Washington can knock him out of that funk and get him into 2022 form again. Gotta root for the hometown kids. 

As Washington said in a recent interview with Rhett Bollinger,  "Things can change where someone has to leave the rotation."  This leads me to my last question - 

What Does Signing Blake Snell Do To The Angels Playoff Odds?

Let me start off by saying this whole Snell situation is so very frustrating. If Heyman gets on a livestream and says "There's mutual interest between Snell and the Angels, but it's hard to tell if Arte is willing to spend" one more time I might delete Twitter. That being said, in this world we're gonna imagine Arte has a change of heart and the Angels sign Blake Snell. How much closer are we to the playoffs than we were without him?

I think, honestly, quite a bit.  I'm very publicly a supporter of Blake Snell, but I see the qualms people have with signing him. Giving up the 2nd round pick would certainly hurt, especially since our farm system isn't very good, but you can only hope that a second round pick becomes Blake Snell.  Predictive stats and peripherals like Blake Snell more than results have even in his down years, and he's coming off a season where he won the ERA title by nearly 0.38 points, the biggest gap between #1 and #2 since 2007. 

The Angels lost Ohtani, and watching the team this spring has done nothing but make me believe the offense can hold their own without him, but the rotation is gonna miss him.  Starting pitching is clearly the biggest hole this team has, and getting a clear top of the rotation arm fills that gap more than any other single player. We can throw 1 or 2 year prove it deals to players that used to be top of the line starters as much as we want, but to compete for a playoff spot in 2024 or even 2025, I think signing Snell now is the best chance we have.

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