There’s nothing quite like a debut season to make a positive first impression for the fans.
There have been so many memorable debut seasons for players, whether it’s as a rookie, after a trade or after a signing with a new team. MLB.com is compiling the Top 5 debut seasons for each club, so here are the Top 5 for the Angels:
(Only players in their first season with the Angels count in the rankings, so Rookie of the Year Award winners such as Tim Salmon and Mike Trout aren’t eligible because they saw limited action in the year prior to their rookie season.)
1. Vladimir Guerrero, 2004
The first big move of owner Arte Moreno’s tenure with the Angels was the signing of Guerrero to a five-year deal worth $70 million before the start of the 2004 season. It paid immediate dividends, as Guerrero won American League MVP honors in his first year with the club, hitting .337/.391/.598 with 39 homers, 126 RBIs and a league-leading 124 runs in 156 games. Guerrero also led the Angels to the postseason that year but they ultimately were swept by the Red Sox in the AL Division Series. Guerrero hit just .167 that postseason but homered and had six RBIs in three games, as he had a knack for big hits. He was the club’s second winner of the AL MVP Award and the first since Don Baylor in 1979.
2. Shohei Ohtani, 2018
Ohtani earns his place this high on the list because he did something nobody had done since Babe Ruth, becoming the first player to hit at least 20 homers and make 10 pitching appearances in a season. Ohtani excelled in both aspects, hitting .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs in 104 games as a designated hitter, while also going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings on the mound. Ohtani also did it in as a 23-year-old in his rookie season in the Majors, although he had played five seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball Organization. He became the third player in franchise history to win AL Rookie of the Year honors, joining Salmon and Trout.
3. Doug DeCinces, 1982
DeCinces had already established himself as a solid player by the time the Angels acquired him in a trade with the Orioles for Dan Ford before the 1982 season, but in his first season in Anaheim, he had the best season of his career. DeCinces hit .301/.369/.548 with 30 homers, 42 doubles and 97 RBIs in 153 games to win the Silver Slugger Award at third base and finish third in the balloting for AL MVP. DeCinces was also a strong defender, which helped him post an impressive 7.6 WAR in his first year with the club. Only six Angels position players have ever posted a WAR higher than that in a season. DeCinces also helped the club to the postseason where the Angels ultimately lost in five games to the Brewers with DeCinces hitting .316 with two doubles and a walk in 20 plate appearances.
4. Nolan Ryan, 1972
Ryan had an incredible fastball, but he was mostly erratic in his five seasons with the Mets. The Angels took a chance on him in a trade that also netted them Frank Estrada, Don Rose and Leroy Stanton for Jim Fregosi, and Ryan put it all together as a 25-year-old in his first year with the club, going 19-16 with a 2.28 ERA with 329 strikeouts and 157 walks in 284 innings. Ryan led the league in both strikeouts and walks as well as shutouts with nine. He was an All-Star for the first time, finished eighth in the balloting for AL Cy Young Award and 30th for AL MVP. His strikeout total was the fourth-highest in baseball history at the time and he set the Major League record by allowing only 5.26 hits per nine innings.
5. Wally Joyner, 1986
Joyner immediately became a fan favorite in his rookie season, bringing “Wally World” to Angel Stadium, a moniker taken from the movie, "Vacation." Joyner looked like a natural as a 24-year-old rookie, hitting .290/.348/.457 with 22 homers, 27 doubles and 100 RBIs in 154 games. He was an All-Star and finished second to Jose Canseco in the balloting for the AL Rookie of the Year Award. He also was eighth in voting for AL MVP and was the first rookie to be voted into the All-Star Game by the fans. Joyner also helped the Angels reach the 1988 AL Championship Series, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion to the Red Sox. Joyner, though, excelled in the ALCS, hitting .455 with a homer, two doubles and two RBIs in 13 plate appearances.