The Los Angeles Angels' 2023 season is like a race against a clock, or rather a ticking time bomb. Fans know they are in danger of losing one of the most unique and marketable athletes baseball has seen in a long time. A postseason berth could decrease the chances of watching Shohei Ohtani leave for nothing this offseason. A couple of tough losses, and those ticks get louder. This is the agonizing fate the franchise and their supporters must endure for another 100 games.
With that type of urgency and pressure, underachieving players are going to be even easier to notice. And their shortcomings will be harder to forgive. The Angels (28-26) remain an enigma heading into June with up-and-down play and a competitive American League West making it difficult to gauge their future outlook. They are good enough to not entertain moving Ohtani at the trade deadline but might not be good enough to convince him to stay.
This dilemma is a nightmare for the organization, one they desperately tried to avoid following an active winter that saw LA acquire starting pitcher Tyler Anderson, infielder Gio Urshela and right fielder Hunter Renfroe. Urshela is batting over .300, Renfroe is showing off his cannon for an arm and Anderson has settled down a bit after a rough April. The biggest culprits are actually homegrown products who were expected to build off promising 2022 campaigns.
They have not so far, and fans are painfully aware. Let's take a closer look at these 2 Angels players who have quickly fallen out of favor in 2023.
2. Reid Detmers
Pitching woes have long been associated with this franchise, LA actually had the ninth best ERA in the MLB last year. Top prospect Reid Detmers was a key reason for that resurgence, recording a 3.77 ERA in 25 starts. Two of those included a no-hitter and an immaculate inning. The left-hander became only the third pitcher to accomplish both incredible feats in the same season.
Detmers' momentum has halted in 2023, though. He is 0-4 with a 4.93 ERA. Now, there are certainly Halo fans who will point to his improved strikeout and swing-and-miss rates as a cause for optimism. And yes, he is still only 23 years of age, so some patience will be afforded. But his struggles on the third time against the batting order are a problem right now.
The Angels can't burn out their bullpen. They need to trust their starters to get through the sixth inning. Detmers has done that just once this year and has failed to get out of the fifth three times already. Progression needs to be accelerated under these current circumstances. Desperation to quickly correct the problems of the past puts an unfair burden on the the 2020 first-round pick. But he needs to quickly find that balance between imposing stuff and solid durability.
1. Taylor Ward
Another former top pick who was being heralded as a strong 2023 All-Star candidate. There is still time, but Taylor Ward looks like a completely different player than the one who the tore the seams off the ball for a stretch in the beginning and end of last season. Late-summer 2022 Ward- batted .206 July-August, per FanGraphs- has been repeatedly stepping into the batter's box.
His .220/.295/.312/ .607 slash line is dismal all around, but making matters worse is that this there is little evidence to suggest a turnaround. Aside from last year's productivity, Ward has never been able to stick in the Angels' lineup, due to either injury or inconsistent play. His breakthrough and manager Phil Nevin's rousing endorsement ignited the fandom. Again, a very desperate fandom ready for a new day to dawn in Anaheim.
At 29 years of age, they are going to want to see the official arrival of Taylor Ward immediately. A third legitimate, albeit lesser, star player next to Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout could be the difference in a postseason trip or another disappointing season for the Angels.
The timer will keep on ticking, as this club delicately tries to cut the right wires and avoid another implosion.