The Los Angeles Angels have plenty of top-end star power with Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and perhaps the biggest star in sports, Shohei Ohtani. But they also have another, more unlikely star on their hands in first baseman Jared Walsh.
In 393 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, Walsh batted .333 with a .994 OPS, hitting 19 home runs, batting in 68 runs, with an OPS+ of 172. But his splits vs. lefties provided a large sample of his deficiencies with a .170 batting average, .565 OPS, and an OPS+ of 51.
This led manager Joe Maddon to implement a platoon situation and for Walsh to continue working with Jeremy Reed, who is currently the Angels’ hitting coach, on how to improve his viability against lefties.
“He’s made a ton of progress,” Reed said. “This is something we’ve talked about for quite some time. He’s gone into his offseason and tackled a lot of the different angles and the different things that lefties do to lefties. He has a really good understanding of what he wants to do. He has a really good foundation of each guy and and how they represent different shapes or how they’re going to attack them. For that I’m really proud of him, because it’s a difficult task to make adjustments in this game, especially when you’re an All-Star and you’ve proven that you can do things at an elite level.”
Walsh is viewed as the everyday first baseman of the future, and after posting a wRC+ of 166, nearly matching Bryce Harper’s league-leading mark, his improvement against lefties could put him in the conversation with some of the best in MLB.
“If you just look at Jared Walsh in general and look at how he continues to prove people wrong, from Day One of being pro, through A ball and Double A and Triple A, I’ve been blessed to be around him longer than some others,” Reed said. “It’s just another hurdle he’s gonna tackle.”
Maddon believes that Walsh has it in him to earn more playing time when lefties are on the mound, but it’s more about choosing the spots that put him in the best position to succeed.
Ohtani finding success after his own issues
Unfortunately, Ohtani’s 2022 got off to a slow start by going 5-for-29 while only registering one walk and two extra-base hits with 10 strikeouts.
After just 30 plate appearances to start the year following a shortened Spring Training, there was nothing to panic about following his 46 home run season with a .965 OPS at the plate while amassing a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts over 130.1 innings as a pitcher.
Following Thursday’s road game against the Texas Rangers, Ohtani said the opportunities for him to produce were there, he just wasn’t being as aggressive as he should be.
In the second game against the Rangers, Ohtani deposited a first-pitch fastball from Matt Bush into the right-field bullpen for his first home run of the season. He followed that up with a two-run shot in the top of the fifth inning on a cut fastball in the heart of the zone.