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LA Angels: Jared Walsh is primed to become a superstar

SEATTLE, WA - May 01: Jared Walsh #20 of the Los Angeles Angels rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run off of starting pitcher Ljay Newsome #74 of the Seattle Mariners that also batted in Anthony Rendon #6 of the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning of a game at T-Mobile Park on May 1, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - May 01: Jared Walsh #20 of the Los Angeles Angels rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run off of starting pitcher Ljay Newsome #74 of the Seattle Mariners that also batted in Anthony Rendon #6 of the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning of a game at T-Mobile Park on May 1, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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It’s not easy for a 39th round draft pick to make it to the majors. Most never come close, while those that do often fail to stick around for long.  And yet, here is Jared Walsh of the LA Angels. He’s the only first basemen ever drafted in the 39th round to make it to the show, and he’s on the verge of reaching elite status.

Jared Walsh has the potential to become a household name.

Following his meteoric rise through the minors and a couple of solid years in the big leagues, Walsh is in the midst of a breakout season for the ages.

At first, it wasn’t certain if his brief success in the shortened 2020 season or his incredibly hot start to 2021 would be sustainable. Jump ahead to May 20th and it’s clear that this version of Walsh is here to stay.

Currently hitting .331/.399/.572 with a 166 OPS+, Walsh is not only one of the best hitters on the Angels, but one of the best hitters in the entire American League. Case in point, his name is littered across the AL leaderboards, most notably breaking into the top 10 in average, on-base percentage, OPS, OPS+, hits (48), RBIs (31), and offensive WAR (1.6).

As for his place among AL first basemen, he sits in third behind only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Yuli Gurriel in WAR rankings.

Despite all of this, Walsh is still something of an unknown quantity outside of the Angels fanbase. However, with franchise linchpin Mike Trout now set to miss six to eight weeks with a right-calf strain, the time is now for Walsh to step up and make a name for himself.

In Trout’s absence, Walsh is the de facto best position player on the team, at least until Shohei Ohtani starts getting more reps in the outfield. With an MVP-sized gap in the lineup, more attention than ever will be on Walsh to help carry the team for the foreseeable future. This is even more pressing considering that perennial MVP candidate Anthony Rendon is off to the worst start of his career at the plate.

Under these circumstances, Walsh can finally show the greater MLB community what he’s made of, proving that the Angels are more than just Trout and Ohtani.

If all goes right and the Halos do manage to hang on until Trout returns, the story will be of how Walsh hunkered down, put the offense on his back and got the job done. By then, he will likely have earned his first All-Star selection and, assuming he keeps up his current production, be in the thick of the AL MVP race alongside Ohtani.

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At that point, the name Jared Walsh will be synonymous with the other star first basemen of the league. When that happens, Angels fans can smile smugly knowing that they knew of Walsh’s brilliance long before anyone else even heard of him.

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