When the Los Angeles Angels signed Albert Pujols in the 2011 offseason, he was supposed to end up as the best player to wear number 5 in club history. He was one of, if not the best hitter in the game and was supposed to be the best player on a World Series-winning Angels team at some point in his long contract.
While he wasn't awful, Pujols unfortunately was nowhere near the player he was in St. Louis as a member of the Angels. While passing the best player to wear number 5 in Angels history was never going to be easy, someone as good as Albert was in a ten-year contract had high expectations.
With that being said, the best player to wear number 5 in Angels history is another easy one. He's one of the best players the Angels have ever had.
Brian Downing is the best player to wear number 5 in Angels history.
The Angels acquired Brian Downing in a trade with the Chicago White Sox in the 1977 offseason. Downing averaged 91 games per season in his first five years with Chicago and had a 98 OPS+ in that span. He was a decent player, nothing special production-wise. Until he arrived in California.
Downing's first season for the Angels was pretty on par with what he did in Chicago. A .666 OPS and a 98 OPS+. Decent, but nothing special. The following season, the 1979 campaign, is when Downing really broke out.
He slashed .326/.418/.462 with 12 home runs and 75 RBI in 148 games. He had a 142 OPS+, was an all-star for the first (and somehow only) time, and got some MVP votes, finishing 14th on the ballot. Downing spent his early days including that 1979 season with the Angels as a primary catcher but by the 1982 season, he had transitioned completely into an outfield/DH role.
Downing was a little bit ahead of his time as a guy who got on base a ton but didn't hit for the highest average in the world. He had a .271/.372/.441 slash line during his 13-year Angels tenure. The .271 average isn't bad by any means, but doesn't stick out like hitting .300. The .372 OBP is what really sticks out, but that's valued more in the present day. Downing even led the league with 106 walks in 1987 and walked more than he struck out over the course of his long career which is awfully impressive.
Downing ranks fourth among all Angels position players in bWAR, sixth in OBP, third in games played, fourth in runs scored, fourth in home runs, and fourth in RBI. He retired at the top of virtually every offensive statistic. He's without a doubt one of the best hitters in Angels history and has a spot in the Angels Hall of Fame because of it.