LA Angels: How soon will Jared Walsh take over for Albert Pujols?

Jared Walsh, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Jared Walsh, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
Los Angeles Angels
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

Arguably the greatest hitter of his generation, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols is playing into the twilight of his career.

The future Hall of Famer will make $30 million in the final year of the infamous ten-year, $240 million contract. Many fans have been waiting for the day the Halos finally shed the salary of their aging star.

I don’t think you can blame owner Arte Moreno, former general manager Jerry Dipoto, or even Pujols for the production decline after the signing. It was an investment that didn’t work out the way everyone hoped, and the Angels were going for it all when they brought in Pujols and pitcher CJ Wilson during that 2011 offseason.

It’s also fairly common for players past age-30 to decline at the backend of their hefty long-term contracts, leading fans to get upset when they are among the highest-paid on the team but are no longer playing at an All-Star level. Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera are a few players that come to mind in that regard.

When you’re the greatest hitter on the planet, someone will pay you significantly with the hopes you can sustain success. Unfortunately for the Angels, the decline came sooner than expected.

Albert Pujols Career Statistics:

  • With STL (2001-2011) .328/.420/.617 455 HR 1329 RBI AS (x9) MVP (x3) 
  • With LAA (2012-2020) .257/.312/.488 217 HR 771 RBI AS

To sum up the greatness of Pujols, I’d use this one statistic. In 2006, Pujols hit 49 home runs and struck out 50 times. That is ridiculous, and we will likely never see that from any player again in this age of baseball.

Sadly, this is a business of ‘what have you done for me lately?’. Those days of prime-Pujols are long gone, as are his duties as an everyday first baseman.

Last season, manager Joe Maddon benched Pujols in 10 of the final 24 games.

Starting in his place was 39th round draft pick Jared Walsh. The 27-year old took full advantage of his opportunities in 2020, slashing .293/.324/.646 with nine home runs and 26 RBI in 32 games.

Angels first baseman Jared Walsh will get his opportunity to replace future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols for the 2021 season and beyond.

It was a small sample size but, it will be enough for Maddon to continue giving Walsh starts at first base this season.

"“He’s [Walsh] going to get a ton of opportunity to play first base,” Maddon said. “I think you’re going to see it carry over from what you saw last year. There’s different ways to get Albert on the field, and I really have a lot of faith in his work ethic. Let’s just be patient and see what it looks like.”"

The first base position in Anaheim is Walsh’s to lose for the future. It looks good so far for the lefty, who slashed .324/.306/.471 in 36 plate appearances against left-handed pitching last summer. Walsh also struck out 13.9 percent of his 108 at-bats, almost 30 percent less than his 40.2 strikeout percentage in 87 at-bats the year prior.

Now it’s up to Walsh to prove he can sustain success for a full season. The 2021 season will be critical for both Walsh and the Angels in determining the first baseman of the future.

Next. What to expect from Andrew Heaney in 2021

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Pujols was effective at times last summer, but it’s asking a lot to rely on productivity for a full season at his age. Maddon will assess how and when to use the former MVP on the field this season, and off the field, Pujols will be relied on to mentor Walsh and the rest of the team in his final year.