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Best Of The Best: Top Angels Players Since 2003

An In-Depth Look At The Best Player From Each Position Over The Past 20 Years In Franchise History Since World Series Magic In 2002

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2022 season (once the lockout actually ends!) marking the 20th anniversary since the Angels franchise hoisted the World Series trophy, it gives us an opportunity to stroll down memory lane at some players that left, or are currently leaving an amazing impact on the field wearing Halo red.

Since the 2002 World Series, the Angels have combined for a record of 1,569-1,407 (.527) while recording six AL West Division titles (04’-05’, 07’-09’ and 14’) and finishing the postseason 10-22 (.313) with two ALCS appearances (05’ & 09’). On the awards side of the equation, there have been 5 MVPs (Trout x3, Guerrero & Ohtani), 2 Rookie of the Years (Trout & Ohtani), 1 CY Young (Colon) and 1 Manager of the Year (Scioscia). To say there have been plenty of moments that made fans jump to their feet in excitement is an understatement, even though heartache has come along for the ride as well.

***DISCLAIMER*** - This list below does not include any player who was on the 2002 World Series roster since they already left a strong mark on the organization by achieving the lone championship in team history. Also, we like to give ourselves a challenge every once in awhile.

OF - MIKE TROUT

Are we shocked that “The Kiiiiid” made the list? As the second species of fish to dawn the Angels uniform (Tim Salmon - 1992-2006), Trout’s impact not only to the franchise, but Major League Baseball as a whole is in a completely different hemisphere. The Millville, NJ native has power, speed, agility and all the intangibles you want in a five-tool perennial MVP. He is a 9-time All-Star, 8-time Silver Slugger, 5-time AL Player of the Month and finished the 2019 season leading the majors in On-Base Percentage (.438), Slugging Percentage (.645) and OPS (1.083). Since his debut in 2011, Trout continuously improves his game each and every year, begging the question: “What can’t he do”? If anyone is able to find the answer, just know Trout is already a step ahead of you making adjustments to excel moving forward.

OF - TORII HUNTER

“ToriiTown” got the people going if it was with a spectacular defensive grab or a bat flip after a clutch home run. His smile was one of the most contagious sights at the Big A during his five-year run (2008-2012) and his stats were nothing short of reliable. The 2009 Gold Glove Award winner recorded 16+ Home Runs, 78+ RBI and 24+ Doubles each season with an above-average fielding percentage no lower than .984. His veteran presence was felt in the dugout and essentially was like having another coach on the field at all times. The amount of respect and joy he brought to the game was unmatched.

OF - VLADIMIR GUERRERO

“Big Bad Daddy Vladdy” was the nickname given to one of the most uniquely feared hitters in Major League Baseball. He could hit anything… LITERALLY! For example, we all remember when he hit a ball off the ground (like a game of cricket) against the Baltimore Orioles in 2009. With an upbringing in the Dominican Republic and a so-called “whacky batting stance”, he was poised for greatness even starting out with the Montreal Expos. The six-year stint with the Angels was nothing less than magical. A run of four All-Star appearances, four Silver Slugger Awards, AL MVP honors in 2004 and a Hall of Fame induction as an Angel in 2019. He clubbed his 400th career home run and 1,000th RBI at Angel Stadium, brought crowds to their feet with countless clutch/game-winning hits and over 40 outfield assists with a cannon of an arm.

3B - ALBERTO CALLASPO

Once the Chone Figgins era wrapped up at the hot corner following the 2009 season, the Angels thought Minor League sensation Brandon Wood would be the next ticket. However, when that experiment failed, Callaspo would help get the train back on the track and stabilize the infield. After being acquired from the Kansas City Royals in 2010, his 2011 and 2012 season were nearly similar in the sense where he produced quality at-bats that in turn posted great numbers with runners in scoring position and from the left side of the plate. He led the team in situational hitting with a .300 average when men were on base, .292 with runners in scoring position and .313 with two outs. He was the perfect role player in any spot in the order that did not have to do too much to make a difference daily.

SS - ERICK AYBAR

One decade with a single team is an accomplishment in itself and a special nod to dedication. Aybar personified grittiness through his slap hitting ability and speed from both sides of the plate. The 2014 All-Star ranks 4th in Angels franchise history in Triples (43), 6th in Stolen Bases (141) and 9th in Runs Scored (572). But more importantly than his offense, was the Gold Glove caliber defensive played up the middle at shortstop. If it was Kendrick or Johnny Giovatella at second base primarily, Aybar still showed out, especially in 2009 and 2011 as he led the American League in Double Plays Turned at 102 each season. Also, a career Fielding Percentage of .973 in 9,664 innings played at shortstop, which ranks 68th All-Time in Major League Baseball history.

2B - HOWIE KENDRICK

If a pure hitter is what you seek, then look no further than “HK47”. A model of consistency at the plate spanned further than just batting average on a yearly basis. Kendrick’s gap to gap power turned into doubles with ease and scoring chances by the dozens. As a firm fixture in the lineup from top to bottom, Kendrick delivered a wide body of work which accounted for 134 Hits, 28 Doubles, 56 RBI and 59 Runs on average per/season. The 2011 All-Star currently ranks 6th All-Time in Angels franchise history with 249 Doubles and 8th with 1204 Hits and 30 Triples. Like Torii Hunter, Kendrick knew his purpose was much larger than just a player on the field. He was a fan favorite through his jovial personality and constant smiles during community engagements.

1B - ALBERT PUJOLS

The end of “The Machine” era in Anaheim was not what most people expected, but looking past the fallout, there were definitely record setting moments to remember for a lifetime. The most notable moment would be June 3, 2017 against the Minnesota Twins as Pujols entered a new realm of the MLB record books with his 600th career home run. One thing you could never doubt about Pujols’ game was his hustle. Even as he tapered into his late 30’s/early 40’s, he would still put the extra effort into attempting to go first to third or leg out a double, even though his mind could not keep up with his legs. All joking aside, Pujols still ranks high in Angels franchise history in Home Runs (222 - Tied 4th with Brian Downing), RBI (783 - 5th), Hits (1180 - 9th) and Doubles (214 - 9th). We all witnessed a future Hall of Famer at first base for 9+ seasons, so count your blessings at history taking place right in front of us.

C - MIKE NAPOLI

Since Bengie Molina, Napoli is actually the best catcher the Angels have put on the field based on WAR, averaging a 2.2 WAR over five seasons (06’-10’). Even though there were rumors of feuding behind closed doors between him and manager Mike Scioscia over defensive catching styles, Napoli proved his worth in the batter’s box. The righty blasted 10+ Home Runs and 34+ RBI in all five seasons while serving as yet another doubles machine in the lineup that saw his totals surpass 20 in his final two seasons. Even with shifting over to first base in 2010, Napoli managed a .988 Fielding Percentage behind the plate and kept his caught stealing percentage close to league average (26%-30%).

DH/SP - SHOHEI OHTANI

Who knew the 1991 Queen song “The Show Must Go On” would attribute to the reigning 2021 AL MVP. Even with the amount of injuries the Angels have accrued in recent seasons, Ohtani has put on quite the “SHO” as a two-way star since signing with the Angels in 2017. From an electrifying Rookie of the Year campaign in 2018 to recording 100 RBI and starting the All-Star Game as a pitcher and leadoff hitter last year in Colorado only skims the surface of his pure talent. This generational talent can fascinate you with fastball velocity sitting at 100 MPH, then sprint to steal bases the very next inning. The list of accomplishments just in 2021 alone would be enough to fill an entire career for most, but for Ohtani it is a great stepping stone as a leader and player poised on winning in the near future.

SP - JERED WEAVER

The ferocious right-hander took no prisoners when he stepped onto the mound. He was the leader of the pitching staff and showed his durability through the years making 30+ starts in seven of the 11 seasons and busting out double digit win totals in all but one season (2015). During a three year stretch (2010-2012), Weaver picked up three All-Star appearances and three Top-5 finishes in the AL Cy Young race. The amount of categories Weaver’s name is listed in Angels franchise history includes: Wins (150 - 2nd), Innings Pitched (2,025 - 3rd), Games Started (322 - 2nd), Strikeouts (1598 - 3rd) and third-most wins in a single season (20 - 2012). Nevertheless, the crown jewel moment of it all was May 2, 2012 when Weaver tossed a no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins marking the 10th no-hitter in franchise history.

SP - ERVIN SANTANA

Like Weaver, Santana brought an air of durability to the Angels starting rotation during his 8-year career in Anaheim (05’-12’). He started 30+ games on four different occasions and posted five different 10+ win seasons, with 2008 being the best of the bunch going 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA an All-Star appearance and being voted 6th for the AL Cy Young Award. Santana paralleled Weaver a bit the season prior with a no-hitter of his own on the road against the Cleveland Indians. The day was July 27, 2011 and it established three facts: 1) First Angels no-hitter while allowing a run, 2) Santana’s first career win against the Indians and 3) First no-hitter at Progressive Field. Even as Santana currently sits as a free agent, he still ranks Top-10 in Angels franchise history in Innings Pitched (1,475.2 - 7th), Games Started (233 - Tied 5th) and Strikeouts (1,167 - 7th).

RP - RAISEL IGLESIAS

Since the Troy Percival and Francisco Rodriguez era of closers came to an end after the 2008 season, the revolving door of reliable relievers circled through Anaheim until 2021. Right off the bat Iglesias was a shining star full of attitude and effectiveness. As fans, it was easy to sit back and watch a 1-2-3 9th inning and even a reliever who could throw multiple innings at a time. Iglesias was the first closer since 2015 to record 30+ Saves and receive AL Reliever of the Month honors. The right-hander sets a fiery tone amongst Angels’ pitchers, which is unsettling as an opponent and a special ingredient that has been lost over the years.

RP - DARREN OLIVER

No one aged finer than sweet red wine more like Darren Oliver. Signing a left-handed reliever who was entering his age 36 season was not viewed as an optimal decision by outside sources if you based your decision strictly off age. However, Oliver did a fantastic job proving the doubters wrong by displaying a strong sense of durability and effectiveness on the mound. During his three-year stint with the Halos (07’-09’), Oliver appeared in 178 games (209.1 innings) with a record of 15-3, an ERA of 3.10 (lowest ERA was 2.71 in 2009) and striking out 164 in comparison to only 61 walks. As an above average ground ball pitcher, Oliver pitched to one of the Angels strengths which was infield defense with 12% of his outs per/season coming via the double play ball.