Much of the talk surrounding the Los Angeles Angels outfield has been focused on Mike Trout, Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell, and Justin Upton. For good reason, though, as Trout is baseball’s best player, Upton is being paid $28 million in 2022, and Adell and Marsh are two of the most intriguing young prospects in the game.
However, this has led to a complete dismissal of Taylor Ward, a player who outperformed Upton, Marsh, and Adell in 2021. In 237 plate appearances last season, Ward compiled a .250 batting average, a .769 OPS, and a 111 wRC+, which sits 11 points above league average.
Marsh and Adell are expected to improve upon their 2021 statistics, but Ward still cannot be forgotten in this conversation. Luckily, the Angels have not stopped looking his direction, with Joe Maddon speaking very highly of their versatile outfielder, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“He’s a good outfielder,” Maddon said. “He’s a guy who plays all three really well. I would be comfortable if he starts (at any outfield spot).”
“He’s improved in every area,” Maddon said. “He’s always been this minor-league guy that everybody likes and it was always potential attached to him. I think we’re getting to the point now you’re gonna see the realization of potential.”
According to Fletcher, Ward was one of the most sought-after players in trade talks for the Angels this winter. By holding on to him, they’re showing their hand on what the starting outfield may look like on Opening Day.
Ward spoke about what he needs to do in 2022 to become a consistent piece of the Angels plan and what’s going through his head during Spring Training.
“I’m really trying to clean up things that I didn’t do very well last year, trying to implement those,” Ward said. “Offensively, I want to say right there. Defensively, there’s little things here and there that I’m cleaning up. So far, so good. Just keep it rolling.”
Ward said the last hurdles for him are some mental elements of the game.
“Just thinking ahead situations in the outfield, on the bases,” he said. “Offensively, that’s perfectly fine. I go into the box with a mindset and just stick with it.”
With five legitimate outfield contenders and only four spots realistically available, it’s unclear what the Angels are going to do with their roster. Ward is statistically a league-average defender and an above league-average hitter.
Can the Angels be confident that both — or even one — of Marsh and Adell can make the leap this season? Marsh is already a better defender than Ward, but Ward has more power. On the flip side, Ward’s power doesn’t hold a candle to Adell’s.
It’s possible they start the season with all three on the roster, and try to find a trade taker for Upton. Or, they keep five outfielders on the roster, with Upton and Ward platooning first base when Jared Walsh needs to take a seat against left-handed pitching, provided he doesn’t see significant improvement in that area.
Too many solid options is never a bad thing in Major League Baseball. However, the Angels appear to have too many options in both the infield and the outfield, making for some tough decisions over the next month.
Max Stassi signs extension
The Angels signed catcher Max Stassi to a three-year, $17.5 million extension on Thursday. The deal will play Stassi $3 million in 2022, and $7 million in both 2023 and 2024. It also includes a $7.5 million club option for 2025 that would turn into a $500K buyout if declined.