Angels hoping to establish new identity in 2024

March 25th, 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.

For the Angels to get back on track as a franchise, manager Ron Washington wants to establish an identity much like the one the club had under Mike Scioscia when Washington was in the American League West managing the Rangers from 2007-14.

So this spring, he went about trying to change the organization’s culture, focusing on a heavy emphasis on the fundamentals. Washington’s brand is about being aggressive on the bases, playing clean defense and getting ahead of hitters and not walking batters while on the mound.

It all sounds simple enough -- that’s part of the plan. Washington doesn’t want to complicate things for his players, who have enough to worry about.

“We want to be better at the whole game of baseball,” Washington said. “We don't pick and choose when it comes to baseball. There's nothing that's under the game of baseball that we're not going to address. We’re going to do the fundamentals. And we’re going to do it until it’s consistent and sustainable.”

The Angels are buoyed by veterans and as well as a young emerging core that includes catcher , shortstop , first baseman and starting pitchers and . Trout and Rendon, however, have dealt with injuries in recent years and are looking to return to health.

The club lost two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani via free agency to the Dodgers in the offseason and focused on fortifying the bullpen. The payroll is lower than in recent years, but the Angels are still trying to compete in a tough division that includes the postseason-contending Astros, Rangers and Mariners.

“It’s all about days together on a consistent basis and at the end of the year we’ll see where we stand,” Washington said. “You make it to the playoffs by being there every single day. I don't care how you feel. But you’re there every single day. And that’s what we’re trying to build.”

What needs to go right?
The Angels won 73 games in both 2022 and ‘23, and that was with Ohtani on the roster, so a lot has to go right for them to contend this season. Like every year, health will be key, as they can’t afford more injuries from Trout or Rendon. The Halos need their starting pitchers to bounce back after a down season last year, as , Tyler Anderson and Detmers all took a step back. The club also needs the young players to perform such as O’Hoppe, Neto, Schanuel, Detmers and Silseth.

Great unknown
The Angels have a lot riding on their young core, and it’s going to be the first full season in the Majors for O’Hoppe, Neto and Schanuel. They all have plenty to prove and it’s hard to project how they will fare this season. The Angels also have to figure out their outfield situation with five outfielders and see if can finally reach his potential. And, of course, it’s impossible to predict injuries, which ravaged the club in the second half of last season.

Team MVP will be …
Considering he’s won three AL MVP Awards and is an 11-time All-Star, it’s hard to pick anyone but Trout. Though, he has to prove he’s still an elite player, as he had a down year by his standards last season before sustaining a hamate fracture in his left hand on July 3 that essentially ended his season. But Trout was heating up prior to his injury, and based on his track record it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see him finish last year strong. Trout, 32, has to stay healthy and show he can catch up to velocity but he should be in store for a big year.

Team Cy Young will be …
Detmers has some of the best stuff from the left side in the Majors, but hasn’t put it all together just yet. He’s shown some flashes such as his no-hitter as a rookie in 2022 and some impressive runs, but is still looking for consistency. Detmers, 24, should benefit from the new pitching coaches and the emphasis on getting ahead of hitters. Fellow lefty Sandoval also has a case, while Silseth also has impressive stuff.

Bold prediction
The Angels will surprise and snap their streak of eight straight losing seasons. It won’t be enough to qualify for the postseason, but they’ll finish slightly over .500 in Washington’s first year as manager. The external expectations aren’t high for this club, but the Halos had more talent than a 73-win team in 2023, as they were decimated by injuries. Trout will have an MVP-caliber year and help the Angels get back on the road to respectability.