Heading into 2021, Albert Pujols and his large contract was on the Angels’ payroll for the final year, but that did not stop Jared Walsh from outshining the future hall of famer and taking his job by early May. The Brookfield, WI native elevated the Halos lineup, offensively and defensively, in a season filled with injuries and misfortune. Walsh played in 144 of 162 games, missing only two weeks (July 28 - August 10) with a Right Intercostal strain. After a fantastic end to the shortened 2020 season that saw the lefty swing for a .327 batting average, 9 HR, 26 RBI and finishing 7th in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, it was safe to say that a hot start would be imminent to start 2021. In 52 combined games between April and May, Walsh delivered a .306 batting average (57-186) with 12 HR, 38 RBI, 11 Doubles and 16 Walks.
During the dog days of summer (June - August), Walsh was taken aback at the plate with crippling strikeout numbers. In 244 at-bats, he struck out 79 times, dropping his on-base percentage to .317 (as of August 16). Even with peaks and valleys through the middle of the season, in true Walsh fashion, he ended the season on a high note. In 25 September games, he slashed .326/.390/.483 with 2 HR, 13 RBI and 8 Doubles. By the end of the season, Walsh led the team in Batting Average (.277) and Doubles (34), while ranking second in Hits (147), Home Runs (29), RBI (98) and Walks (48). The first baseman made himself public enemy number one in Seattle courtesy of home runs in back-to-back games (October 2 & 3), essentially leading to the Mariners falling out of playoff contention.
Defensively, from back picks behind the first base bag to showing his flexibility with numerous splits to dig out the baseball, Walsh showed why he is an asset in the Halos infield. Athleticism was the biggest key missing on the right side of the infield when Pujols was patrolling first until his release and more so the past couple of seasons. Walsh highlighted his defensive strengths by posting a .995 Fielding Percentage, which tied the American League lead amongst qualified first baseman (Matt Olson, OAK and Jose Abreu, CHW).
2021 STATS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS
144 Games* / 530 AB* / .277 Avg. / .340 OBP* / .509 SLG / .850 OPS / 147 H* / 29 HR* / 98 RBI* / 70 R* / 34 2B* / 1 3B / 48 BB* / 2 SB*
- 2021 American League All-Star
- 2021 AL Gold Glove Nominee
- First Angels 1st baseman under 30 Years Old with 25+ Home Runs, 90+ RBI since 1987 (Wally Joyner)
BEST OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
Who doesn’t love spoiling the New York Yankees in the wee hours of the morning? Well, Walsh single handedly made shockwaves in the baseball world on June 30 during the Angels 11-8 come-from-behind victory at Yankee Stadium. Down 7-3 in the pouring rain, Walsh crushed his 19th home run of the year into the Yankees bullpen to cut into the deficit before a 90+ minute rain delay came into play. However, what made the performance truly special was his game-tying grand slam (20th dinger of the year) off Pinstripes closer Aroldis Chapman, who had yet to surrender a home run in 2021. The moment provided a spark plug for the Angels to finish off the rally and take two of three in a crucial road series just weeks before the All-Star break.
Walsh detailed the moment as, “Euphoria, that’s the only way I can describe it,... It’s a pretty special moment to do that against someone [Chapman] I respect as much as I do.”
BEST DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
As a 2021 AL Gold Glove Award Nominee, Walsh provided plenty of jaw-dropping moments at first base, and even the outfield as well. On September 17 against the Oakland A’s, Walsh stole an extra-base hit from Tony Kemp that easily would have traveled down to the right field line to the foul pole courtesy of a backhanded dive and flip to relief pitcher Andrew Wantz.
An honorable mention would have to be Walsh making a diving grab in left field to rob Chicago Cubs superstar Kris Bryant of an RBI base hit in the 2021 All-Star Game in Denver, Colorado. For a natural first baseman to play the outfield at a dynamic level on one of the world’s biggest baseball stages, it was quite an impressive career moment thus far.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2022
By being a 39th Round pick in 2015, Walsh’s contract favors the Angels in the best possible way. He is under contract in 2022 for just $575,500, while being arbitration eligible from 2023 through 2025 and not hitting the free agent market until 2026. In just one season, Walsh has proven he can be an anchor of the Angels infield for the future. The pop in his bat and gold glove caliber defense scream “All-Star” each and every year and for being a lefty, he balances the Angels lineup that is typically right-handed heavy. Looking at his splits, the best area that Walsh needs to improve on for the upcoming season and beyond is his ability to bat against left-handed pitchers. In 182 at-bats, Walsh slashed a dismal .170/.208/.357 with 54 strikeouts. If he is able to make the jump to at least a league average batter against lefties, that will prevent a platoon situation featuring the righty versus lefty matchup that most teams/managers love to make. Cementing his name in the Halos infield does have plenty of perks, especially the endless bat flips and pimp walks after clutch hits and home runs.