2024 Season Preview: Los Angeles Angels

What happened in 2023?

The Angels finished the 2023 season in 4th Place in the American League (AL) West, with a record of 73-89.

That, in itself, probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The Halos are currently on the longest playoff drought in Major League Baseball and the third longest in all of the major US sports.

And yet last season was supposed to be different. You just have to go back and read my 2023 season preview to note the optimism heading into Shohei Ohtani’s last contracted year with the Angels. They had pushed up the payroll, brought in quality major league depth, and were primed to challenge behind their two MVPs.

Despite the usual Angels bad luck and injuries piling up, the first half of the season saw a winning team, on the fringes of the wildcard race, and thus, a push at the deadline to acquire the talent to take them to the Postseason.

Lucas Giolito during his short time with the Angels last season (Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

In came a host of players, amongst them Lucas Giolito and CJ Cron, but the stretch of baseball through August and September was a disaster with the Halos going 17-38 to close out the season and end up with the fourth-worst record in the American League. On top of this, deadline acquisitions were later released in a desire to get back under the luxury tax that the Angels front office had surpassed for the first time, a task that they succeeded in by the finest of margins.

It must be noted, that once again the Angels were riddled with injuries and limited availability for their difference makers. Urshela went down early for the year, Mike Trout once again missed months of the season, this time with a freak injury. Anthony Rendon similarly missed major time. Taylor Ward missed months with a gruesome facial injury. The Angels most promising young stars, Logan O’Hoppe and Zach Neto, both missed considerable time with injuries too. Even Shohei Ohtani, in the midst of another MVP season, went down needing a second Tommy John surgery. How any team is supposed to succeed with this level of disruption is beyond me.

Notable comings and goings

The preview for this year is a struggle, and probably why I’ve put off writing it while I try to look for any sort of optimism about what is to come. I can’t start it without mentioning the obvious departure. Shohei Ohtani has signed a mega long-term contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It always felt inevitable, and there are so many question marks about why he wasn’t traded previously, but that chapter is now closed – thanks for the memories, and multiple MVPs, Shohei.

This, of course, has left major holes both in the lineup and in the rotation, and, quite frankly, they just haven’t been filled. The Angels have reduced payroll, and the only major acquisitions they have made have been in the bullpen; Robert Stephenson signed a three-year, $33 million deal, although he is already injured, and Matt Moore rejoined on a one-year, $9 million deal alongside a host of smaller bullpen deals. In terms of the lineup, the only new faces you should expect to see are Aaron Hicks in right field and a slimmed-down, rejuvenated Miguel Sano, who has just been announced as making the Opening Day roster from being a non-roster invitee.

Areas of weakness still to be addressed

This leaves a roster with plenty of deficiencies, but also a guarantee now that they’re not going to be addressed. For better or worse, the Halos are going into this season without making any big moves and relying on the young guys to make a big step in their development to lead this team.

I think the biggest area of concern is the rotation, where we saw a disappointing 2023 from guys we expected to step up. Both Patrick Sandoval and Reid Detmers did not progress as hoped, Tyle Anderson was very poor on his Angels debut and, without Shohei, they are reliant on Griffin Canning and Chase Silseth to perform, with not a huge amount of depth behind them.

Ones to watch

Yet, when we are looking for positives there are some young guys to watch out for. I could go a few ways with this, Zach Neto has had a great spring and Logan O’Hoppe has continued to show flashes of his huge potential.

Los Angeles Angels first baseman Nolan Schanuel (Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports)

But it’s Nolan Schanuel I’m going to pitch as one to watch. While there have been some grumbles that the power has not immediately been there on his Major League debut, he managed to reach base in every single game he’s played at that level. The kid knows how to hit, and he’s starting the year as our every day first baseman, despite only being drafted in last year’s draft. In typical recent Angels fashion, he’s been fast tracked to the majors and, following a very promising spring, with some added power, look for him to be a big run producer for Ron Washington’s Angels this year.

How will 2024 unfold?

if you’re reading this Shohei and Ippei, I think the smart money is on another low-70-win season. It’s really difficult to predict anything else following the past decade of performances and the loss of a superstar up the freeway. I’ve been quite disheartened over the winter at the state of the franchise. They just seem to be lacking in so many areas, in development, scouting, spring training facilities, roster construction, prospect pipeline, stadium renovations. The fanbase is struggling with morale and opinions of ownership are at an all-time low. The question marks around the desire to win or, more importantly, the ability to deliver a winning team should be at the forefront of any analysis of the franchise.

Last season felt like the end of the era, and this year is the very beginning of a new one. Ron Washington is a great hire and should be positive influence. There is young talent, important for the franchise’s future, that could become team leaders, who will be nurtured by his presence. Mike Trout must stay healthy. I expect absolutely nothing from Anthony Rendon, but he’s there too, until the latest injury. The bullpen should be a strength, but the starting pitching is a real concern.

I’m trying to talk myself into everything going right, keeping people healthy and some bounce back years occurring but, ultimately, the AL West is very strong and another fourth-place finish beckons.

Even in Spring I can’t force the optimism this year.

Nick Wright is the Los Angeles Angels correspondent for Bat Flips & Nerds. Follow him on X @LAAngelsUK.

Featured image – Jayne Kamin-Oncea – USA TODAY Sport

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.