When trying to figure out what went wrong for the Los Angeles Angels in 2021, it’s easiest to start with two of their best players, Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. The two superstars played in a combined 94 games, and both were unavailable for multiple months to end the season.
When they were playing, however, the two superstars looked very different. Trout was otherworldly in the 36 games he did play, setting himself up to be top three in MVP voting for yet another season. Meanwhile, Rendon struggled, playing as though he hadn’t fully recovered from his previous injury before suffering another one.
Now, both are just waiting to get back out there after making full recoveries. In 2022, both Trout and Rendon look to return to superstar form and lead the Angels to their first playoff berth since 2014. We’ll look back at their short 2021 seasons in Day 14 of our player review series.
Days 9-13 can be viewed below, and Days 9 and 10 can be used to find days 1-8.
Day 9: Jaime Barria, Phil Gosselin, Jack Mayfield
Day 10: Griffin Canning, Dylan Bundy, Justin Upton
Day 11: Alex Cobb, Max Stassi, Mike Mayers
Day 12: Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell
Day 13: Patrick Sandoval and Jose Suarez
It’s always a disappointment when a team’s best player plays just 36 games in a season. But for Trout in 2021, it was especially upsetting, as he was playing some of the best baseball of his career before suffering a calf strain that abruptly ended his season in May.
Trout’s 146 plate appearances in 2021 were among the best of his career. He was batting .333 with a 1.090 OPS at the time of his injury. He had already hit eight home runs, had 18 RBIs, and drawn 27 walks. He had a 190 wRC+, which would have been the best in baseball by 20 points.
Safe to say, Trout is still the world’s best baseball player when he’s on the field. And while there’s an argument to be made that he’s lost a small amount of his defensive dominance, it’s made up for by being elite in all phases at the plate.
When Trout was discussing a potential return in 2021, there was an idea that he could play right field to help ease his workload on his leg, while Brandon Marsh remains in center. Perhaps that discussion will rear its head again before 2022, but everything about Trout points to him being back in the anchor spot of the Angels outfield.
When he does return, he’ll come back to an All-Star in Jared Walsh, the elite emergence of Shohei Ohtani, and hopefully a healthy Rendon. If all is as it should be, Trout should be the No. 3 batter in one of baseball’s most dangerous offenses.
There are far more question marks surrounding Rendon, who played 58 games in 2021 and did not look particularly great in between a number of injuries. His season officially ended on July 4, but three separate IL stints made it a lost year long before that.
Rendon batted .240 with a .712 OPS in his 58 games this season, his worst offensive numbers since 2015. His walk rate was about the only positive thing he did at the plate, but hip and hamstring injuries certainly played contributing factors to these struggles.
His 95 wRC+ was the worst of his career and was just the second time he dipped below 100. Another sign of injuries derailing him was a 20th percentile sprint speed, the lowest mark of his career.
Perry Minasian has made it clear that Rendon will make a full recovery for 2022. If that’s the case, we should see a return to the Rendon that had a 140 or greater wRC+ in four consecutive seasons. He can absolutely change the outlook of the Angels if he is at full strength, headlining an infield already rounded out by Walsh and David Fletcher.