Angels Notes: Adell, Moniak, Injuries, Ohtani
The Angels made a small signing earlier this week, bringing Brett Phillips aboard in a $1.2 billion deal to be the club’s fourth outfielder. With Mike Trout, Taylor Ward and Hunter Renfroe set to be the primary starters in the bullpen, it seems the outfield jobs are now the talk of the town. Barring injury, that doesn’t leave many options for players like Jo Adell or Mickey Moniak.
Clubhouse general manager Perry Minasian spoke about the situation yesterday, with Sam Blum of The Athletic and Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register each relaying some of his comments. “Those jobs are solidified,” Minasian said, hinting that Adell and Moniak will likely start the season in the minors. “They’re obviously young players that are very talented that haven’t necessarily turned the corner yet that have done a significant amount of work this offseason to do that,” Minasian said. “They are both young. I think we forget how young these two players are.”
The two players have followed similar trajectories thus far. Adell, 24 in April, was the Angels’ first-round draft pick in 2017, picked 10th overall. Moniak, 25 in May, was selected first overall a year ago by the Phillies. He came to the Angels in the Noah Syndergaard trade at last year’s deadline. Both players made quick charges through the minors to reach the majors in 2020, when Adell was just 21 and Moniak just 22. Since then, however, each player has struggled mightily. Adell currently has a hitting line of .215/.259/.356 over 557 major league plate appearances. He is also hit on 34.8% of those trips to the plate. Moniak’s efforts have been even greater, as he has hit at a 39.5% rate while hitting .157/.218/.268.
There is an air of urgency around the Angels this year, with Shohei Ohtani slated for free agency at the end of the schedule. As such, the club isn’t counting on a deal from Moniak or Adell, having acquired Renfroe and Phillips to push younger players up the depth charts. They each only have one option year left, which probably makes this kind of a renewal year for them. Renfroe is set to reach free agency after 2023, which could provide an opportunity for one of the youngsters to find a job in the future if they can turn it around this year. However, they may have to be patient as the road is blocked for now.
Minasian also gave some health updates on several other Angels, including Griffin Canning and Chris Rodriguez. Both of those pitchers missed the entire 2022 season, with Rodriguez rehabbing from shoulder surgery in November 2021 and Canning battling lingering back problems. Both players now start throwing a mound. “If both of those guys are healthy going into spring training, they’re going to be exciting to watch,” Minasian said. “Right now they’re on schedule to be with us in spring training and we’ll see where they’re at.”
Canning posted a 3.99 ERA over 11 starts in the shortened 2020 season while striking out 23.5% of the batters he faced. However, he saw that balloon to 5.60 the following year, while his strikeout rate dipped to 22.4%. Rodriguez was a starter in the minors but worked mostly out of the bullpen when he made his MLB debut in 2021. He posted a 3.64 ERA in his first 29 2/3 innings but has since dealt with a shoulder issue.
The Angels shouldn’t rely on either Canning or Rodriguez, at least to start 2023. They have a rotation consisting of Ohtani, Tyler Anderson, Patrick Sandoval, José Suarez and Reid Detmers. The club has run a six-man rotation in recent years to reduce Ohtani’s workload, but at least considered going to a five-man this season. If they want a sixth starter, they have several candidates for the bottom spot, such as Chase Silseth and Tucker Davidson. However, injuries and poor pitching depth have been an Achilles’ heel of the Angels in recent years, meaning the health of Canning and Rodriguez could be an important factor for them as the campaign continues. This makes it at least somewhat encouraging that the players are on the right track for now.
The same goes on the position player side, as Minasian says both first baseman Jared Walsh and shortstop Andrew Velazquez are on the schedule for the spring. Walsh was excellent in 2020 and 2021, but fell badly last year and eventually required surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He hit .215/.269/.374 last year after hitting .280/.338/.531 over the previous two campaigns. Velazquez, known primarily for his glove work, was sidelined by knee surgery late last year. Both players could play key roles on the 2023 Angels club if healthy, but the club has taken measures to provide safety nets. They have added utility players Brandon Drury and Gio Urshela to their outfield mix this winter, joining David Fletcher, Luis Rengifo and Anthony Rendon. If Walsh or Velazquez are unavailable, the club will still have plenty of options to fill out the lineup, but it appears both players are on schedule to get back on track.
Minasian also addressed another roster spot with Spring Training now just over a month away. Ohtani may not be with the team when camp opens, but not because of injury. He will play for Japan in this year’s World Baseball Classic, with that team playing their first game on March 9. At this point, it’s still unclear if Ohtani will report to camp with the Angels before then or just meet with them after the WBC.