Expect the Angels to run a lot more in 2024

March 4th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Manager Ron Washington has made it clear that being aggressive on the bases is going to be a big part of the Angels’ identity going forward.

When Washington managed the Rangers from 2007-14, his clubs were known for taking the extra base and stealing bags, much like the Angels under Mike Scioscia. Washington said he wants to get the Halos back to that mindset and has been harping on it all camp.

That was evident on Saturday, when catcher Chad Wallach took the extra base twice, including a hustle double and a rush home from second when the ball deflected off the shortstop’s glove and he raced home to score with two outs.

“If Wallach can take the extra base, anybody on his team can take the extra base,” Washington said with a smile. “But you have to want to, and he wanted to. We're just trying to push the envelope to see who can, see who can't, see who does want to, who doesn’t want to. But this is the place to do it. So if you're gonna make mistakes, it's always a teaching moment in Spring Training.”

The Angels have been noticeably more aggressive than last year, as they’ve stolen 16 bases in 10 games, which ranks second among all clubs in Spring Training this year. Last season, the Angels stole 72 bases, the second-lowest total in the Majors. They took the extra base just 38 percent of the time, which was tied for the second-worst rate in baseball. The Braves, who had Washington as their third-base coach, ranked first by taking the extra base 51 percent of the time.

Washington also brought along third-base coach Eric Young Sr. from Atlanta and hired former Astros manager Bo Porter as first-base coach. They’re both considered experts at teaching baserunning.

“I want us to be a tremendous baserunning team,” Washington said. “When you talk about baserunning, when you talk about stolen bases, the guys that can steal will get an opportunity to learn more about stealing. And the guys that can run the bases are going to get more opportunities to run the bases.”

Superstar Mike Trout is among those who have seen their stolen-base totals decline in recent years to try to stay healthy. Trout stole 49 bases as a rookie in 2012 and 24 as recently as '18, but he stole just one base in '20, two in '21, one in '22 and two last season.

Trout is still plenty fast, though, as his average sprint speed ranked in the 96th percentile last year, per Statcast. He hinted he’d like to run more this year when asked earlier this spring.

“I think so,” Trout said with a smile. “Maybe. You never know.”

Washington was more direct. He believes Trout can still be an elite base stealer if it’s something he sets his mind to.

“If Mike Trout wants to steal bases, he can steal bases,” Washington said. “He could steal 100 if he wanted to.”

While Trout isn’t expected to steal anywhere close to 100 bases, several Angels could see an improvement in their total from last year -- including guys like Mickey Moniak, Taylor Ward, Zach Neto and Luis Rengifo. But even Anthony Rendon, Nolan Schanuel and Logan O’Hoppe have stolen at least one base already this spring.

“I don't think these teams around American League will just let us run crazy on them, but if they go to sleep, we will run,” Washington said. “So you're going have to be on your P's and Q's. Because I want to be aggressive.”

That mentality is popular among Angels players who have more freedom to run this year after they relied mostly on power to score runs last year. The Halos hit the fifth-most homers (231) in baseball last year, but they lost two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani to free agency and they don’t have as much thump in their lineup this season, so they’ll have to find different ways to score.

“I felt like last year, with Mike, Shohei and Renfroe, we didn’t want to get too aggressive, because the home run was always in play,” Moniak said. “But we have a little bit of a different look this year and have some younger guys who can do a lot of good things. I think we can be aggressive on the basepaths and put pressure on the other team. I’m excited about it, because it’s been a part of my game since I was young.”