The 2021 MLB Playoffs are underway, with some teams just one win away from securing a spot in the Championship Series, while others are still in a heated battle. The Los Angeles Angels, meanwhile, are at home for the seventh straight season.
At this point, it’s been discussed ad nauseam that changes need to be made. Most of those changes involve revamping the pitching staff, looking into injury issues and their causes, and potentially finding more reliable veteran bats.
Looking at this year’s group of eight playoff teams, a couple of them give a blueprint that the Angels could realistically follow to find themselves playing meaningful October baseball in 2022. Here, we’ll look at the teams most and least worth following this offseason.
No. 2 Least Alike: San Francisco Giants
It’s not 100% clear how the San Francisco Giants are this good. They won 107 games during the regular season and are in a heated NLDS battle with division rivals, the L.A. Dodgers. However, their roster did not inspire confidence among anyone in MLB at the season’s start.
Fangraphs projected the Giants to win somewhere around 79 games. Their most loft projections put them somewhere in the 87-win ballpark. But their massive success is likely not replicable by the Angels because it may not even be replicable for them next season.
Their success took massively rejuvenated seasons from Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Darin Ruf, and several others over 33 years of age. The Angels simply are not built that way, meaning the Giants are not their blueprint.
No. 2 Most Alike: L.A. Dodgers
On the other side of the same NLDS battle, the Dodgers can provide the Angels with a solid frame of reference. Some of the key ingredients are already there, offensively. The Dodgers and Angels both have superstar bats, lightning speed, and above average fielders.
For the Angels to truly match on offense, they need to build out some depth, even though that’s less important in the American League with the designated hitter. It’s the pitching where the Angels need to really take a page out of the Dodgers book.
The Angels won’t get any homegrown talents as good as Walker Buehler or Clayton Kershaw this offseason, but their tandem of Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, and Shohei Ohtani can lead to some great things. Then, much like the Dodgers, they can scour free agency and the trade market to land the superstars. Trevor Bauer and Max Scherzer were two massive additions at various points during the 2021 season.
No. 1 Least Alike: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays entire 2021 payroll was just under $90 million. Going into next year, the Angels have just five players under contract making a combined $109 million. For that reason alone, the Rays are an impossible blueprint to follow.
This goes beyond just the Angels. What the Rays have done is unlikely to be replicated anywhere else in baseball, although many teams will certainly try. The moneyball Oakland Athletics have come back to life in the form of the Rays.
No. 1 Most Alike: Houston Astros
Yes, as hard as it might be to hear, the current playoff team the Angels should be following the closest is their division rival Houston Astros. Top to bottom, their roster is built almost identically to what the Angels hope to be.
Homegrown offensive talent, mixed in with a few international signings, free agents, and small trades. Pitching that was largely acquired via trade or free agency, and a few solid in-house arms that don’t carry the pitching staff but simply support it.
This is exactly what the Angels are looking to do this offseason, and two of the Astros pitchers — Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander — could even be Halos targets in free agency. The Astros have rightfully been shamed for their 2017 sign-stealing scandal, but the fact remains that they’ve been one of the better teams in baseball for five years.
If the Angels can find the right blend of free agent pitchers, they have the talent to find themselves right where the Astros are now.