3 Angels storylines to watch in Spring Training

February 7th, 2023

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.

ANAHEIM -- Spring Training is almost here for the Angels. Players who are participating in the World Baseball Classic report to camp on Feb. 14.

The Angels had a busy offseason, as they tried to address a lack of depth that plagued them in 2022. They made several additions, including signing starting pitcher Tyler Anderson, potential closer Carlos Estévez and fourth outfielder Brett Phillips, as well as trading for infielder Gio Urshela and outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

The Angels are aiming for their first postseason berth since 2014, and it’s especially important this year with two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani in the last year of his contract. Spring Training will help lay the groundwork heading into the season, and there are several storylines to follow.

Here’s a look at three:

1. Who will win the sixth starter job?
One of the biggest competitions in camp will be for the final spot in the rotation. The Angels again will use a six-man rotation this year and have the first five spots filled with Ohtani, Anderson and lefties Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers and José Suarez.

The Angels have several internal candidates for that sixth spot, including lefty Tucker Davidson and right-handers Chase Silseth, Griffin Canning, Chris Rodriguez, Jaime Barría and Davis Daniel. It’s too early to name a favorite for that sixth spot, and there’s still a chance the Angels could sign or trade for another starter. Canning and Rodriguez are intriguing because they’ve had success in the Majors, but both missed the 2022 season due to injury. Davidson is also out of Minor League options, which could help his case because he’d have to be exposed to waivers if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster.

2. Who will emerge as closer?
The Angels appeared set at closer when they signed Raisel Iglesias to a four-year contract before last season, but they dealt him to the Braves at the Trade Deadline. The Angels were in the market for a closer this offseason and signed Estévez, who had some experience closing during his six years with the Rockies. He has 25 career saves, including 11 in 2021. The Angels believe he has the stuff and the mentality to close, but he hasn’t officially been named the closer.

Right-hander Jimmy Herget is coming off a strong season with the Angels and is expected to get some consideration. The Angels also have veterans Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup, who have closed out games. So the Halos could mix and match, if necessary.

3. What effect will the World Baseball Classic have?
The Angels have several players participating in the World Baseball Classic this year, including Mike Trout for the United States and Ohtani for Japan. Others on preliminary lists to play in the Classic include David Fletcher (Italy), Max Stassi (Italy), Zack Weiss (Israel), Sandoval (Mexico), Barría (Panama), Urshela (Colombia) and Luis Rengifo (Venezuela or Colombia).

The Angels will be without some of their key players for parts of Spring Training and will have to rely on youngsters to fill out their roster. Ohtani, for example, is scheduled to depart Spring Training on March 1 to join Team Japan in Tokyo and could be away from the team for as long as three weeks if Japan makes it to the final on March 21. Trout will leave Angels camp on March 7, but he won’t have to travel far to train with Team USA in nearby Scottsdale, Ariz.

Angels general manager Perry Minasian said he doesn’t believe the Classic will have any adverse impact on players participating, but it will be worth monitoring, especially with Trout and Ohtani ramping it up earlier than usual.