Jared Walsh has made LA Angels franchise history by being the first left-hander since 1999 to hit 30 HRs for the Triple A Salt Lake Bees. The only other left-handed hitter to knock 30 bombs with the Bees was Red Sox legend David Ortiz at the age of 23.
I don’t want to start making comparisons here, but at the same time what more is it going to take to get the LA Angels to give Walsh a real shot at developing his talents in the Majors?
Walsh has displayed the best power bat of any Angels rookie with his 2019 slash line of .324/.427/.682 slash line in Triple A alongside his 30 HRs, 25 2Bs, and 71 RBIs in 386 PAs, but has only received 40 PAs in the MLB in 2019. Likewise we’re seeing Matt Thaiss absorb a ton of PAs with the Angels MLB squad, mostly by eating up reps at 3B, though his time with the big league squad has been full of struggle. While he did start his time in the bigs this year by hitting .244/.306/.600 with 5 HRs in his first 45 PAs before hitting a learning curve in his latest stretch, the young first baseman hitting .100/.229/.113 in his last 35 PAs. I know that you need to trust the process and let a rookie work his way through struggles, but at the same time when do you start splitting some of that time to other rookies who need similarly consistent MLB reps?
The issue with Walsh is that the Angels are not giving him the consistent reps required to fully flesh out a prospects skill set. Walsh has received no more than six consecutive PAs in the MLB. In Walsh’s time with the Angels he’s hit .237/.275/.289 with 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs, with a walk-off hit to his name. There are certain issues with his game that do need addressing of course, such as his tendency to open up his strike zone deep in counts and get caught chasing the breaking pitch.
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Walsh has that same issue during the opening weeks of his 2018 season with the High A 66ers, at one point he was hitting under .100 and showing the same issues he has in the MLB this year. That all changed fast however, because with consistent reps Walsh was able to regain a handle on his swing, tighten up his strike zone, and go on to mash the ball en route to becoming one of the best hitters in the Cal League that season with his 13 HRs, 36 RBIs, and .275 average in 178 PA’s.
Walsh has shown the ability to adjust to his struggles and when he overcomes them he overcomes them in a huge way, as noted by his Cal League leading power stretch in 2018.
Walsh has experience struggling through adversity, recognizing his shortcomings, and adjusting properly to achieve the highest amount of success possible, which is easily the biggest tool a prospect can have when it comes to successful development.
Angels top prospect Jo Adell is praised for his almost supernatural ability to adjust, and Walsh may not have it to the extreme degree Adell does, but it does need to be recognized that he has that same tool in his repertoire. Walsh has displayed it time and time again in the MiLB, all it takes is consistent reps to allow that tool to come to form in the MLB and flourish in the same way he did in the Minors. Unfortunately it’s hard to nurture ones tools when given such sporadic playing time, especially when it’s as inconsistent as getting just 6 consecutive PAs every few weeks.
On the other hand Matt Thaiss has seen two long stretches of both 21 and 19 consecutive PAs, and through his last 19 consecutive PAs he’s hit just .125/.263/.125. I’m not saying the Angels need to give some of Thaiss’ reps to other developing rookies, but at the same time watching Thaiss force himself through such deep struggles offers concern that he may be better of regaining his confidence at the Triple A level where he can remind himself how good he is at hitting and come back with renewed confidence and a retooled approach. In that time there are other Angels who both need and deserve looks at the MLB at a consistent pace.
This isn’t just referring to Jared Walsh, though he is the biggest victim in the Angels inability to spread equal playing time to their developing rookies. Another big disappointment regarding rookie playing time is the Angels lack of urgency in calling up Angels fan favorite Jose Rojas. These lack of call ups aren’t totally a fault of the Angels brass as they are stuck with Albert Pujols at 1B which essentially blocks off a ton of reps that could be going to Angels rookies, but at the same time there is a point where a healthy rotation of rookies needs to be set in place and that is not happening right now.
We’re at a point where Thaiss should probably be getting more time at Triple A adjusting his craft and regaining confidence while guys like Jose Rojas, who has hit .300/.366/.500 with 26 HRs in 500 Triple A PAs this season, get their much deserved MLB reps.
Walsh has bounced from the MLB to Triple A while Matt Thaiss has firmly entrenched himself in the bigs despite his intense struggles as of late whereas Rojas has yet to receive a callup. It’s easier to fix Rojas’ situation as it only requires a demotion of Thaiss to make room for Rojas, but at the same time that could be a big hit with Thaiss’ confidence and I can see why the Angels would be hesitant to do so.
Regardless of that, however, the Angels need to start seeing where all of their prospective pieces look to fall come 2020 instead of letting Rojas waste the rest of the season in Triple A whilst forcing Walsh through inconsistent MLB playing time. The Angels need to make their picture for 2020 as clear as possible with the little time they have left in 2019, and letting Thaiss struggle at 3B while Rojas and Walsh are left neglected does nothing to help define a clearer 2020.
The picture is a bit murkier for Walsh because he is essentially blocked off at both positions he plays, right field and first base, which would make penciling him in the lineup everyday or so more difficult than other Angel rookies. As of now, however, Walsh displays the highest promise among all the Angels prospective talents that are showing their faces in the MLB with his All-Star power stroke, A+ defense, and defensive versatility.
He’s even shown the ability to get outs from the mound at the MLB level with his 2.08 ERA in 4.1 MLB IP. The promise he shows is too good to not allow reps to develop, but it seems that the Angels are putting all their cards on Thaiss for the time being, which begs the question as to what will happen to Walsh and Rojas in the near future?
Will they be traded, will they continue to be stashed away in the Minors, or will they finally get the playing time they deserve and be allowed to develop into themselves at the MLB level? I can’t answer any of those questions right now, but all I can tell you is that if the Angels continue to let Walsh and Rojas go unappreciated we might end be forced into a situation where the Angels give them up to a team more willing to appreciate them. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t stomach the reality of watching Jared Walsh, and Jose Rojas, discover their MLB prowess with another club and haunt the Angels for years to come.
If that does happen please don’t let them end up on the Rangers. I don’t know if any of us can handle another Napoli/Guerrero-duo terrorizing the Angels in 2020 or beyond.