The 2021 season began last week and for the umpteenth year in a row the Los Angeles Angels seem to have reasons to be optimistic.
For Angels fans, that is probably a reason to be concerned, since year in and year out the team always finds a way to be a let-down.
It has been seven years since the Angels last found their way into the playoffs, and though one would want to believe the dry spell will finally end, it's hard to find a reason that anything will change now.
Heading into this season, the Halos have again looked to address the pitching issues that have plagued the organization.
The additions of Jake Faria, Raisel Iglesias, Alex Claudio, Aaron Slegers, Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb should all prove pivotal in cementing the Angels pitching staff as a league average unit at minimum. As well as the two other relievers that were scooped up days before the season began.
Bullpen additions are always welcomed especially following Ty Buttrey’s decision to walk away from baseball.
Iglesias, who was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds, and Quintana, who signed as a free agent, will likely play the biggest roles among the Angels newest pitching additions.
Iglesias should be penciled in as the Angels primary closer this season and Quintana, who showcased dominant stuff earlier this spring, has found his way into the rotation. Over 19.0 innings this spring, Quintana held opposing batters at bay and posted a respectable 3.32 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.
A lot of this season’s success will ride on the shoulders of Shohei Ohtani, who has crushed opposing pitchers. Though the stats weren’t amazing from him on the mound, his mechanics seem to have improved as he continues to work towards making a full recovery.
Ohtani led the Halos in home runs, batting average, on-base plus slugging, runs and hits this spring in significantly fewer at bats then much of his team.
It's a huge boost of confidence, seeing as Ohtani struggled at the plate last season and didn’t offer anything as a pitcher while sidelined for the entirety of the year.
Though his pitching stats were ugly on the surface, Ohtani has found his velocity reaching triple digits, and his splitter has once again been utilized in assisting the two-way star at striking batters out. If the Angels are to succeed, Ohtani will have to become the legitimate ace that he’s expected to be, and log the innings expected of the sixth starter listed in the teams rotation.
This spring also saw veteran left fielder Justin Upton make huge improvements, allowing him to become one of the Angels biggest threats in Arizona.
Upton isn’t the only veteran who has improved following a poor regular season last year. First-basemen Albert Pujols has shown he still has gas left in the engine. This resurgence is welcoming, given that Pujols struggled heavily in 2020 and was outplayed by Jared Walsh during the latter half of the season.
Pujols’s only concern however should be the terrifying skillset of Jared Walsh who has likely already stolen the starting position from the machine.
Walsh’s night Sunday almost saw him steal the show from Ohtani as he hit two home runs including a walk-off, and made an impressive stretch fielding a ball at first.
The 2021 seasons outlook isn’t necessarily gloomy but as previously mentioned, keep optimism low in order to avoid the disappointment that comes with being an Angels fan.