How the Los Angeles Angels Got Here

How Did the Angels Get Here

Despite having two of the greatest players ever to step foot on a baseball field for six years, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, the Angels never finished a season with a winning record. Underperformance by free-agent signings and injuries are part of the blame, but a lack of player development has been the driving force in the Angels’ marathon of mediocrity. In 2009, the Angels had one of the best drafts in MLB history, drafting six future MLB players: Randal Grichuk, Mike Trout, Tyler Skaggs, Garrett Richards, Patrick Corbin, and David Carpenter. Those six players have combined for 124.2 bWAR and counting.

Then, from 2010 to 2017, all Angels draft picks that have reached the majors have combined for 52.2 bWAR, the lowest in all of baseball. The most bWAR produced by an Angels draft pick in that span is Mike Clevinger at 17.6, and he has never played a game for the Angels because he was traded in 2014 for Vinne Pestano at the deadline when Clevinger was still in A-ball. The Angels’ Achilles heel has been deep for over a decade. Great teams like the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Atlanta Braves have a complete roster with a healthy balance of stars and role players, achieved by drafting and signing international free agents, then developing those guys into everyday players with free agents and trades to fill holes. If you cannot develop your talent, you cannot produce MLB talent, and you do not have the prospect wealth to make significant trades, so you are forced to use free agency to fill an entire roster. And the Angels have proven that free agency is not a viable option to fill a roster.

Just look at the great teams that the Angels had in the 2000s. The World Series Champion 2002 team was filled with homegrown talent. Every day, players who were Angels products were Bengie Molina, Troy Glaus, Garret Anderson, Tim Salmon, and Darin Erstad. The pitching staff had Jarrod Washburn, John Lackey, Troy Percival, Scott Shields, and Francisco Rodriguez. Then you had the 2007 to 2009 Angels that won three straight American League West titles and made it to the ALCS in 2009. The starting lineup was homegrown, with Mike Napoli, Kendrys Morales, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Chone Figgins, Maicer Izturis, and Jeff Mathis. Then, Jered Weaver, John Lackey, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, and Kevin Jepsen were on the pitching side.

Looking at FanGraphs’ roster resource for the 2024 Angels, the only players that are homegrown that will likely get significant playing time are Mike Trout, Taylor Ward, Nolan Schanuel, Zach Neto, and Matt Thaiss for position players, and Reid Detmers, Griffin Canning, Chase Silseth and Ben Joyce on the mound. Because of the lack of depth and the desperation to win while Shohei Ohtani was still an Angel, the Angels were almost forced to draft the most MLB-ready players instead of the overall greater prospects and rush them to the majors with Zach Neto (2022 draft) Ben Joyce (2022 draft) and Nolan Schanuel (2023 draft). And not to discredit Neto, Schanuel, and Joyce at all, as they have held their own in the big leagues and have the potential to develop into fine MLB players.

The Angels have been in the bottom five of every one of Baseball America’s farm system rankings since 2013, with the exception of the beginning of 2018 when Ohtani was considered a prospect. So, what changed with the Angels? To put it simply, they have cheaply run their player development. There have been numerous reports, most notably from OC Register’s Jeff Fletcher and The Athletic’s Sam Blum. Both highlight in detail how the Angels have penny-pinched their player development. Other examples have come from former players and other organizations. The MiLB Player’s Association has reported multiple instances where the Angels mistreated their minor league players. The MiLBPA reported in June of 2022 that the Angels were one of five MLB teams not to pay players in extended spring training and had players under contract who had not been paid since October. The MiLBPA also reported the poor living conditions of the Angels’ minor leaguers in spring training.

Staying on the subject of spring training, former Angels starting pitcher C.J. Wilson has revealed on Twitter more instances where the Angels poorly ran spring training. Wilson’s tweets show that the poor treatment of players reached the big leaguers as well.

The life of a minor leaguer is already rough, but when you add on the extra problems that teams like the Angels create, it is hard to expect these players to be ready to play on a daily basis and reach their full potential. These problems can be fixed by investing in your farm system to ensure your players are in the best environment to succeed. The MLB draft is the biggest crap-shoot among all the major sports drafts, so sometimes your top picks do not pan out. But when you do not hit on any of your picks in a span of eight years, then that is a direct reflection on the organization. Until the player development issues get resolved, it is hard to believe that the Angels will ever be true contenders. They are a team with no future and barely a present.

Jack Janes

Journalism major at the University of La Verne. Played college baseball at Fullerton College and the University of La Verne. Also write for Inside The Rink.

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