Making the 2024 Los Angeles Angels better will be a difficult challenge for Perry Minasian to complete. The first step would be bringing back Shohei Ohtani. The team won 73 games with him playing at an MVP level. Taking him out of the picture entirely would be a hard pill to swallow for the immediate future.
While Ohtani is the number one target for obvious reasons, the Angels still have several areas to improve. The bullpen is thin at best. The rotation has potential, but really regressed in 2023 and was below-average even with Ohtani making 23 starts. Adding in free agency and via trade will be crucial for the Angels this offseason, but the best way for this team to improve would be for the players already here to take steps forward.
Unfortunately, not everyone will take the jumps we are hoping for. In 2024, expect these three Angels players to get better while these other two stay around where they were.
Zach Neto will take a step forward
Zach Neto burst onto the scene as an inexperienced rookie and looked destined to take off. The Angels selected him in the first round of the 2022 draft, but that didn't stop them from bringing him up to the majors less than one year after taking him. Neto got off to a slow 1-for-16 start, but once he got comfortable, really looked like a building block.
After Neto's brief four-game struggle to begin his career, he showed why the Angels selected him when they did. In the 51 games that followed, he slashed .279/.359/.468 with six home runs and 22 RBI. He had an .822 OPS in that span while playing elite defense at shortstop. He had hit three home runs in his last three games including a crucial blast in Texas before getting injured for the first time. Neto strained his oblique in the final game of the Angels' huge series win against the Rangers, causing him to miss the next month.
Neto returned right after the all-star break and was getting going before a back injury set him back once again. Neto missed over one month with a back injury, and he wouldn't return until September. Once again he struggled after returning but played decently well in the last week or two of the regular season.
If Neto can stay on the field, the tools are there for him to be great. He showed it in that 51-game sample earlier this season. His overall numbers took a hit after those injuries, but Neto was a crucial piece to what the Angels were trying to accomplish this season and will continue to be that as long as he can avoid injury in 2024. Expect big things in his second season.