The Angels made a small signing earlier this week, bringing Brett Phillips aboard with a $1.2MM deal to be the club’s fourth outfielder. With Mike Trout, Taylor Ward and Hunter Renfroe set to be the primary starters on the grass, it seems the outfield jobs are now spoken for. Barring injury, that doesn’t leave much opportunity for players like Jo Adell or Mickey Moniak.
The club’s general manager Perry Minasian spoke about the situation yesterday, with Sam Blum of The Athletic and Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register each relaying some of his comments. “Those jobs are solidified,” Minasian said, implying that Adell and Moniak are likely to begin the season in the minors. “Those are obviously young players who are very talented that haven’t necessarily turned the corner yet that have been putting in a significant amount of work this offseason to do that,” Minasian said. “They’re both young. I think we forget about how young these two players are.”
The two players have followed similar trajectories thus far. Adell, 24 in April, was the first round draft pick of the Angels in 2017, selected 10th overall. Moniak, 25 in May, was selected first overall the year prior by the Phillies. He came over to the Angels in the Noah Syndergaard trade at last year’s deadline. Both players made quick charges through the minors to reach the majors in 2020, when Adell was just 21 and Moniak just 22. Since then, however, each player has struggled mightily. Adell currently has a batting line of .215/.259/.356 over 557 major league plate appearances. He’s also struck out in 34.8% of those trips to the plate. Moniak’s struggles have been even greater, as he’s struck out at a 39.5% rate while hitting .157/.218/.268.
There is an air of urgency around the Angels this year, with Shohei Ohtani slated for free agency at the end of the schedule. As such, the club isn’t relying on a breakout from Moniak or Adell, having acquired Renfroe and Phillips to push the younger players down the depth charts. Each of them has just one option year remaining, which perhaps makes this sort of a make-or-break year for them. Renfroe is set to reach free agency after 2023, which could provide an opportunity for one of the youngsters to find a future job if they succeed in turning a corner this year. However, they might have to be patient since the path has been blocked for now.
Minasian also provided some health updates on some other Angels, including Griffin Canning and Chris Rodriguez. Both of those pitchers missed the 2022 season entirely, with Rodriguez rehabbing from November 2021 shoulder surgery and Canning fighting lingering back issues. Both players have now begun throwing off a mound. “If both those guys are healthy entering spring training, they’ll be exciting to watch,” Minasian said. “Right now they are on schedule to be with us in spring training and we’ll see where they’re at.”
Canning posted a 3.99 ERA over 11 starts in the shortened 2020 season while striking out 23.5% of batters faced. However, he saw that balloon to 5.60 the following year while his strikeout rate dipped to 22.4%. Rodriguez was a starter in the minors but worked primarily out of the bullpen when he made his MLB debut in 2021. He registered a 3.64 ERA in his first 29 2/3 innings but has been dealing with the shoulder issue since then.
The Angels shouldn’t be reliant on either Canning or Rodriguez, at least to start 2023. They have a rotation consisting of Ohtani, Tyler Anderson, Patrick Sandoval, José Suarez and Reid Detmers. The club has ran out a six-man rotation in recent years to reduce the workload on Ohtani but have at least considered going to a five-man this season. If they want a sixth starter, they have some candidates for the final spot, such as Chase Silseth and Tucker Davidson. However, injuries and lackluster depth have been an achilles heel of the Angels in recent years, meaning the health of Canning and Rodriguez could be an important factor for them as the campaign goes along. That makes it at least somewhat encouraging that the players are on track for now.
The same goes on the position player side, as Minasian says that both first baseman Jared Walsh and shortstop Andrew Velazquez are on schedule for spring. Walsh was great in 2020 and 2021 but slumped badly last year and eventually required surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He hit .215/.269/.374 last year after batting .280/.338/.531 over the two prior campaigns. Velazquez, known primarily for his glovework, was sidelined by knee surgery late last year. Both players could play key roles on the 2023 Angels club if they are healthy, but the club has taken measures to provide safety nets. They’ve added utility players Brandon Drury and Gio Urshela to their infield mix this winter, joining David Fletcher, Luis Rengifo and Anthony Rendon. Should Walsh or Velazquez not be available, the club will still have plenty of options to fill out the lineup, but it sounds like both players are on schedule to get back on track.
Minasian also addressed one other spot on the roster with Spring Training now just over a month away. Ohtani might not be with the team when camp opens, but not because of injury. He is going to be playing for Japan in this year’s World Baseball Classic, with that team playing their first game March 9. At this point, it’s still unclear if Ohtani will report to camp with the Angels before then or simply meet up with them after the WBC.