The season is still very early, but the Los Angeles Angels are currently sitting 10-7 and only half a game back in the division to the Seattle Mariners. Neither team has exactly set the world on fire in the past decade, with just one playoff appearance between the two teams. But only one of these teams has two of the most interesting (and best) players in Mike Trout and Shohei Othani. So the question is: can the Angels make their first playoffs since 2014 this year?
The Case For The Angels
As noted, the Angels have both Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, as well as other stars such as Anthony Rendon and Noah Syndergaard on this team. So far, the combination of Trout and Ohtani hasn’t been enough for this team, but that has largely been due to injuries. Ohtani was limited to strictly DH duties in 2019, and Trout’s 2021 was shortened, playing in just 36 games. But if both stay healthy, things could turn around for the team. Especially if Rendon can play better than he did in 2021 and Taylor Ward and Brandon Marsh can hit like they have so far in 2022.
Outside of Ohtani, starting pitching was the serious weakness of this team, and it was refreshing to see the team invest in that this off-season. Signing Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen might have been high risk moves, but in their first three starts each it seems to have paid off, as both have a under 3.00 ERA and under 1.00 WHIP. If they can keep that up without any injuries (as Syndergaard has had his fair share of), they and Ohtani are certainly a good enough 1-3 to put them in position to win games. The rest of their rotation is young, so there might be some growing pains before they settle in (Jose Suarez currently has a 5.54 ERA and Reid Detmers is up to a 6.57), but they’ve entrusted these guys for a reason. Hopefully they’re proven right.
The Case Against the Angels
Let’s start with the poor performances on this roster so far. I’ve already mentioned Suarez and Detmers, but the team currently has some underperforming bats as well. Rendon currently has a 107 OPS+, but with how much they’ve paid him he really should be up to at least a 120. Jared Walsh has to be better as well, even with the league-wide offensive drop off. David Fletcher has played just five games before an injury, and his fill in Andrew Velazquez hasn’t exactly been a threat at the plate, putting up a .139 BA in 12 games. And it’s not like he has a track record of being much better. 2nd baseman Tyler Wade hasn’t been great either. Fletcher should be back soon, but the team needs better bats in the middle infield. Maybe Matt Duffy plays his way into an everyday role at 2nd?
The bigger obstacle for the team, though, is the aforementioned Mariners. The Mariners are out for revenge after barely missing the playoffs last season, and it seems every player is coming up big to make sure that happens. New arrival Eugenio Suarez is crushing it so far this season, hitting .255/.359/.527 and creating some nice highlights along the way:
Eugenio Suarez SMOKED this ball pic.twitter.com/X3VpjgOJgE
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) April 20, 2022
This team is certainly not perfect, but they have a lot of good players in the right places to be a serious threat in the AL. Once again, it’s still early in the season, but this Mariners team is looking like they deserve that AL West spot. And with a lot of other great AL teams, the Wild Card might be more competitive than last year. Even if the Angels and Mariners end with similar records, there’s a chance whoever doesn’t win the division won’t even make the playoffs. I expect this division to go down to the final day before we know who wins it all.
What do you think? Do you expect the Angels and Mariners to continue to fight for the AL West? Will one of the other teams break out and steal the division from them? Let me know!
Image Source : insider.com
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