ZiPS projections seem to think the LA Angels improved drastically
Projections are just that, projections. Things we think will happen, but we have to see it play out on the field. ZiPS is projecting the Angels to finish 85-77 and tied for the third Wild Card spot in the American League with the Mariners. A 12-win improvement would be awesome to see after how awful 2022 was.
The projections are interesting because they have one 90-win team (Houston) and not a single 60-win team. They project the worst team in the AL to be the Royals at a 70-92 record. They think the AL will be incredibly balanced, which I also agree with, but not quite this balanced
ZiPS gives the Angels a 21.2% chance to win the division and a 53.2% chance to make the postseason. They're even given a 3.5% chance to win the World Series. All three figures are just percentage points behind the Mariners. The Angels having a 21.2% chance to win the division seems awfully high with how good Houston is. Even the playoff odds seem a tad high, but I'd put them around 50%.
Here's what Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs had to say about the Angels projected record:
"The Angels are one of the more interesting puzzles in baseball. The team is terribly constructed, indifferently owned, and is likely just a year away from losing Shohei Ohtani. Rather than make a big splash and add a top-tier free agent, the Angels ran around with a container of mortar and a trowel, trying to cover up enough holes for one last good season with Ohtani in tow. Names like Brandon Drury, Carlos Estévez, Hunter Renfroe, Gio Urshela, Tyler Anderson, Jake Lamb, and Justin Garza don’t exactly scream star power, but given the holes the Angels have, this roster might just actually be good enough to work in 2023."- Dan Szymborski
Szymborski is correct on just about every point he made. This is, without a doubt, one of the worst-constructed teams in baseball as they continue to field questionable products around Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. For the money they spend things should look a lot more promising. He is also likely correct, barring a massive shift, that this is Ohtani's last dance in Anaheim.
The players the Angels brought in are not the all-stars they have signed in previous years, as Szymborski notes, but I think that's a good thing. I think it's good that the Angels spread their resources around rather than just dumping it all into one player as they've been prone to do in the past.
His last point, that this roster might actually be enough to reach the postseason, is also correct. Anything can happen on a roster with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani on it. The Angels surrounded these two generational superstars with as good of a roster as they ever have. There are flaws, but players like Tyler Anderson, Hunter Renfroe, Gio Urshela, Brandon Drury, and Carlos Estevez are legitimate Major League ballplayers. The Angels won't be using AAA players every day as they did for much of last year, they actually have a (mostly) full 26-man roster of MLB-caliber players.
The Angels can absolutely miss the playoffs if Mike Trout misses substantial time again or if their lack of a strong bullpen comes back to bite them but this team should be competitive. The rotation, which was good last season, has improved with the Anderson addition. The lineup has added three new pieces. The bullpen has added a quality arm. Things are looking up, but is it enough? We'll all have to hope.