The Los Angeles Angels currently sit at 5-5 to begin the 2023 season. They've had games where they've looked great, and they've also had games they played extremely poorly and should have won with timely hitting, a competent bullpen, or a combination of the two.
The pitching has underwhelmed, but the lineup has also had its share of ups and downs. We all see the potential, especially when the entire lineup is producing. The bats have had their share of inconsistency in the first ten games of the season, and I think at least part of the reason is the situation at first base.
With Jared Walsh on the IL, the Angels have run with a platoon of Jake Lamb against righties and Brandon Drury against lefties. Drury has struggled to begin his Angels career but has the numbers against southpaws in his career to make you think he'd thrive in that role. Lamb, however, needs to be replaced, and a healthy Jared Walsh is what this lineup needs.
LA Angels first baseman Jared Walsh will help the lineup immensely
Against right-handed pitching, the Angels have been hitting Jake Lamb fifth and sixth to begin the season. Lamb had a really solid Spring Training, but hasn't performed at the big league level since 2017. This has held true so far this season as he has just three hits in his first 23 at-bats and has one hit in six at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Walsh did not have a good year in 2022 as he dealt with injury but was an all-star in 2021 and had an absurd .994 OPS against righties. He's never hit lefties well, but in a platoon role with Drury Walsh makes the Angels lineup scarier.
Without Walsh, the only left-handed bat the Angels have in the lineup every day is Shohei Ohtani. Switch-hitting Luis Rengifo plays sometimes, but is a better right-handed hitter than left. Walsh scares opponents, Lamb does not.
A top six of Ward, Trout, Ohtani, Rendon, Renfroe, and Walsh is the perfect way to set it up against a righty. Instead of leaving the Angels stars on base with Jake Lamb coming up, Walsh is more likely to drive them in. He did have 98 RBI in 2021.
This also forces managers to make tough decisions. You want to bring in a lefty to face Ohtani? That means he'll also have to face Rendon and Renfroe due to the three-batter rule. You want to bring in a lefty to face Walsh? That means he'd have to face Rengifo or Drury off the bench followed by some combination of Urshela and O'Hoppe. You want to leave righties in out of fear of the rest? They'll have to face Ohtani and Walsh who crush them.
Last night in the Angels pinch hit Lamb for David Fletcher to begin the ninth inning. Imagine if they had Walsh looming on the bench.
The point is, a healthy Jared Walsh is an all-star against right-handed pitching. Angels first basemen have just eight hits in 56 at-bats thus far with one home run over the first ten games. They have a WRC+ of 11 which is dead last in all of baseball. First base is a very important position to get offensive production out of, and the Angels don't have that right now.
Hopefully Walsh returns from his insomnia and migraines soon. The Angels offense really needs his big left-handed bat in it.