What a time to be alive. Arte Moreno’s strategy of trying to stack the Angels offense, while signing experiments to one-year deals to fill the rotation is actually kind of working in the early going of the 2022 season. As of May 9, the Angels hold sole possession of first place over the Astros by half of a game. While Houston has had a stranglehold on the AL West since 2017, They have lost a few key members of the team over the past few years. While they have done an adequate job of replacing them, the Angels are looking to take over.
The Angels made some noise in the offseason this year. The only move that really jumps out to people is the one-year contract given to Noah Syndergaard. However, Michael Lorenzen is also a solid big league pitcher who will help to fill the rotation out nicely alongside Syndergaard, Patrick Sandoval, who is dominating opposing batters to the tune of a 2.03 ERA, Reid Detmers, and of course, Shohei Ohtani. They also bolstered their bullpen with the additions of Aaron Loup, Archie Bradley, and Ryan Tepera. Inking Raisel Iglesias back on a four year, $58M deal also ensures that the closer role will be one of the best in the game. Bringing back Kurt Suzuki means a good option for a backup catcher, while signing Matt Duffy adds depth to the middle infield. The flashy duo of ex-Yankees in Andrew Velasquez and Tyler Wade have already proven themselves both on defense, and in the lineup.
With all the help from free agency and trades, the real question is going to be will Mike Trout and Ohtani be able to stay on the field together, and how will they perform? 20 games into the season and Trout is playing at an MVP level as always. Ohtani started the season a little shaky, both hitting and pitching. Luckily for Los Angeles, he has started to pick it up in both categories, especially pitching. If those two can stay on the field all year and perform at their highest levels, there isn’t a better duo in baseball.
The Angels lineup fills out nicely on top of the previously mentioned players. Jared Walsh has been following his All-Star season with good numbers. Brandon Marsh has taken another step in his development and has been hitting pretty well. Max Stassi has been doing his job behind the dish well, while the hitting could use some catching up. Tyler Ward has come out of nowhere to be a breakout star in the beginning of the season. There are two players that the Angels desperately need more from. Anthony Rendon and Jo Adell are not performing the way their statuses suggest they should. Rendon is just above the average MLB player in most categories, but for $35M a year, the Angels probably want more than “just above average”. Adell was once among the top prospects in baseball, but hasn’t been able to quite live up to those expectations in the show yet. Hopefully for the Angels, he can find his groove soon.
The Astros have been at the top of the AL West for quite some time now. However, losing Gerrit Cole, George Springer, and Carlos Correa, to name a few, has weakened the team overall. Alex Bregman has struggled to recapture the success he had before 2020. Jose Altuve isn’t getting any younger. Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez have been decent but not great so far. Same goes with anyone on the pitching staff not named Justin Verlander. If the Angels can keep up the pace that they have started out at, they can top the Astros in the standings. However, if the Angels start to falter at all, they will get passed, and Houston probably won’t look back. Can the Angels top the Astros in 2022? Yes, they can, but it would be extremely difficult. The Astros are still the favorites to win the AL West, but the Angels are gaining ground on them, and will look to overtake them.