The Los Angeles Angels didn't have a very good 2022 campaign, finishing 73-89, but they do have some great players.
Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout are arguably the two best players in baseball. Anthony Rendon despite a rough start to his Angels tenure is a great player. Patrick Sandoval and Reid Detmers are young studs in the rotation. The most surprising player in 2022 ended up being one of the best players on the team
The most surprising player in 2022 ended up being one of the best players on the team in Taylor Ward.
After a career year this past season, I expect Taylor Ward to be even better next season.
For the first four seasons of his career, Taylor Ward was nothing more than just a versatile bench player. He can play a couple of positions and swung a decent bat. Last season was his best in the majors where he had a 107 OPS+ in 65 games.
Ward didn't play in a game until the Angels' ninth game of the season. He had two hits in three at-bats including a home run and two walks. From then on, Ward was an everyday player.
Ward finished April slashing .392/.500/.784 with five home runs and 13 RBI. If he played the whole month he probably would've won the American League Player of the Month award. It was by far the best stretch of his career.
Ward continued his hot start by slashing .314/.429/.614 in May with another five home runs and 13 RBI. Ward never hit more than eight home runs in a single MLB season, he set a career-high in the first month and a half of 2022.
In a game on May 20th against the Athletics, Ward made a very nice catch but barreled into the wall very hard which knocked him out of the game. Ward would end up missing the next six games but avoided a trip to the Injured List. While that was great news at the time, it might not have been the best decision in hindsight.
From that moment until September, Ward was a different hitter. He believes that incident was a factor in his three-month slump. He slashed .219/.293/.336 from May 26 until August 31 with just eight home runs and 24 RBI.
Ward went from leading the American League in hitting and OPS with ten home runs in a month and a half to being a shell of the player he was.
In September, Ward slashed .345/.397/.575 with six home runs and 18 RBI. He was back to the April and May version of himself.
Despite having no real track record of Ward being an elite player, I believe he will have sustained success. He ranked in the 93rd percentile in chase rate, the 92nd percentile in xwOBA, and the 89th percentile in xSLG according to baseball savant. He showed great plate discipline and hit the ball extremely hard.
With the lingering effects of that injury behind him, I expect Ward to be an elite player for the entire 2023 season if he can remain healthy.