Angels first basemen are underrated by FanGraphs

Feb 27, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Angels first baseman Jared Walsh (20) flips the ball
Feb 27, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Angels first baseman Jared Walsh (20) flips the ball / Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret that Los Angeles Angels first baseman Jared Walsh had a miserable year in 2022. He slashed .215/.269/.374 with 15 home runs and 44 RBI in 118 games.

While it's unfortunate that Walsh struggled so mightily, there's also reason for it. Walsh underwent thoracic outlet surgery that ended his season prematurely. He was playing with it for months and it's clear that this at least contributed to his struggles.

Despite knowing that, the Angels are ranked as the 22nd-best first base group in baseball according to FanGraphs. Knowing that Walsh is healthy and will only be playing in situations he's always done well in, that ranking feels shockingly low.

Jared Walsh, Angels first basemen disrespected in FanGraphs first base rankings

Angels first basemen were 28th in WRC+ and 27th in fWAR last season. Definitely not great. The Angels were also not only playing an injured Jared Walsh there, but players like Matt Duffy, Matt Thaiss, and Mike Ford all saw some time at the position and struggled. Overall, Angels first basemen had -1.1 fWAR. To see FanGraphs project them a two-win improvement from -1.1 to 1.6 in 2023 is good, but I don't think it's enough.

Do I expect Jared Walsh to have the all-star season he had in 2021? No, I don't think those are fair expectations considering the season he came off of even if the injury caused it. I do, however, think Walsh will be quite good for this reason. He will only start against right-handed pitching.

In his career, Walsh has slashed .272/.338/.497 with 40 home runs and 125 RBI in 880 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. Those numbers are really solid. An .834 OPS is absolutely nothing to complain about. His numbers against southpaws are anything but solid, as he's slashed .198/.235/.365 with 14 home runs and 48 RBI in 354 plate appearances against them.

FanGraphs believes Gio Urshela will be Walsh's platoon partner at first base with the veteran getting 133 plate appearances at first base. They also see Brandon Drury getting 84 PA's. Those players are much, much better than the likes of Duffy, Thaiss, and Ford. The Angels haven't really ever had a good platoon partner for Walsh which is why he's gotten chances against lefties even with his numbers being so bad.

FanGraphs has the Angels first basemen finishing with a lower fWAR than many teams I'm confused about. They really think Garrett Cooper is better in Miami? Ji-Man Choi and Carlos Santana are better in Pittsburgh? Alex Kiroloff is better in Minnesota?

Walsh had a .765 OPS with 13 home runs and 40 RBI through June. He then had a .421 OPS with two home runs and four RBI from July 1st to August 24th when he was shut down for the season. You tell me when the injury was really bothering him. I'd be shocked if the Angels weren't at least average at first base if not above average.

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