Joe Maddon and the Los Angeles Angels stirred up league-wide controversy by designating Albert Pujols for assignment. While it wasn’t a popular decision, it was made internally in order for Jared Walsh to become the team’s every day first baseman. Well, the early returns of that decision appear to be even better than the Angels had hoped.
Since Walsh went back to first base midway through the series against the Tampa Bay Rays — the day the Angels parted ways with Pujols — he’s slashing .421/.500/.684. This includes a near-perfect performance against Dusty Baker’s Houston Astros on Monday night. Walsh went 4-for-4 with two singles, a double, a home run, two RBI’s, and a walk. On top of that, he made several incredible plays defensively.
Maddon — while impressed by what he saw from Walsh — was rather unfazed by his incredible performance, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“Pretty spectacular,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence. Not surprising. He’s very capable of doing those kinds of things.”
Baker, who doesn’t spend every day alongside Walsh, had nothing but kind words after the game.
“I think he’s one of the best young hitters around, and so did [the Angels],” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “The reason why they let Albert [Pujols] go was so he could play first base every day. I know a lot of people were getting on me last time because I walked Walsh with first base open to pitch to Albert, and that’s why. He hits the ball all over the field. He hits balls to left, the changeup to center, hit a cutter to right field. This young man, he can hit.”
At this point in the season, Walsh is legitimately one of the best hitters in all of baseball. He has the fifth best batting average in the major leagues, the sixth best OPS, and is tied for second in RBI’s. Simply put, he’s been incredible through the first month and a half of the season.
If he can continue at even 80% of his current output, he provides a huge spark for the Angels. This is especially true when considering that — at full strength — he’ll likely be batting out of the fifth spot instead of fourth. The combination of Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and now Walsh is the stuff of nightmares for opposing pitchers.
Angels complete comeback win
In addition to Walsh’s outstanding work, the Angels put together a four-run comeback that saw them combine the home run ball with old-school run production. They did so in a 5-4 win in their series opener against the Astros.