Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani grab a large portion of the attention of the fans and the media when it comes to Joe Maddon’s Los Angeles Angels. And despite some difficulties early this season, Anthony Rendon remains one of the most talented third basemen in all of baseball. However, Angels first baseman Jared Walsh has arguably been the team’s most consistent performer.
Walsh is quietly proving that his hot streak at the end of the 2020 season was not just luck. Through nearly two months in 2021, he is slashing .308/.371/.571 to go along with 12 home runs and 38 RBI’s. Among American League first baseman, he’s tied for second in WAR at 1.6 alongside 2020 MVP Jose Abreu.
With all of these numbers in his favor, Maddon passionately endorsed Walsh to be the starting first baseman at this year’s All-Star Game, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“No question,” Maddon said of Walsh being an All-Star candidate. “I don’t even know what the first basemen look like around the league right now. They got Olson here [in Oakland], he’s having a nice season. I’m a big fan, but I don’t even know if any first baseman’s numbers are better than [Walsh’s].”
Perhaps the only discernible flaw in Walsh’s game — especially since his move back to first base — is his difficulties hitting against left-handed pitchers. He’s batting just .218 against lefties compared to a dominant .347 against righties. However, Maddon is unfazed by it.
“Walsh can hit a lefty, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s all about pitch selection and when he forces them to come to him, he will do that. That’s exactly what you saw. It was a middle-low breaking ball and the ball came out hot like he can do.
“I know it’s in there. He’s gonna be able to hit lefties. That’s not an issue. It’s all about him keeping an organized strike zone but this guy, his work cannot be better and his eagerness before the game is contagious.”
Hopefully, Walsh gets the respect he has earned when it comes time to figure out this year’s crop of all stars. He has some stiff competition in the AL — namely Abreu and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — but he is statistically right in that conversation.
Maddon undecided on Ohtani’s double duty
After Shohei Ohtani’s recent start on the mound — a game in which he did not hit — Maddon was unable to confirm whether or not that would be the norm moving forward. He liked what he saw from Ohtani when he didn’t hit, but understands the necessity of having his powerful bat in the lineup.