AL WestAnalysis

Angels/Rangers series features more than just a divisional showdown

This AL West rivalry series between the Angels and the Rangers looks to be one of the hotter matchups of the season. A lot hangs in the balance between the four games within this series.

The Rangers are a clear-cut first-place team vying for further dominance within a middling BUT strangely competitive division. The Astros, thought to be the front runners heading into 2023, now chase the Rangers from 2nd with a gap starting to form between the two. The Angels sit at 3rd in the AL West with a 6.5 game deficient behind league-leading Texas. The Mariners hang in the balance as they attempt to find their 2022 footing while paying rent with the A’s for the cellar.

Should the Rangers come to take the four-game series, they would establish a 9.5/10.5 lead over the Angels and kick them down the cliff, forcing a long journey back to challenge for the lead again down the line. However, should the Angels take the series they’ll come within 2.5/3.5 GB from the Rangers. It doesn’t truly “challenge” the division lead, but it places what would then be a team surging off of a recent facelift into the conversation. From there, anything can happen.



One of the most fascinating aspects of this matchup is two of the hottest rookie-of-the-year candidates facing off. Josh Jung, the Rangers celebrated Rookie of the Year candidate, is making a quick case for himself as an end-of-year shoo-in. He currently ranks 4th in HRs among all MLB third basemen while also leading the entire 3B class in slugging percentage. His RBI count of 39 places him 5th among all MLB third basemen. Jung has no trouble putting all of these talents on display on a nightly basis, and this consistency is the leading factor in his continued greatness throughout 2023.

There’s a big reason why Josh Jung is as valuable as he is among all third basemen in the league. His percentiles tell the story of a man who absolutely abuses baseballs. Jung is just near maxed out on his exit velocity numbers while also carrying a brutally effective Barrel%. Josh Jung doesn’t hit balls – he smokes them. Josh Jung blasts baseballs into the next plane of existence. Add in a little more seasoning, and you’ll soon have yourself a true candidate for the highest of the high-tier hitters.


Creator: Gary A. Vasquez 
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Copyright: Gary A. Vasquez

Now we’re talking about a whole weekend of Jung versus the Angels? Sounds like a cleanup show featuring the young Texas star. However, it isn’t all dust and termites on the Angels’ side.

In terms of rookie phenoms, the Angels have stud shortstop Zach Neto, a celebrated callup only a mere 44 games in the minors after being drafted in 2022. Despite being seen as 2nd fiddle to Yankees’ beloved Anthony Volpe, Neto clears the supposed rookie shortstop king. In 52 games, at the age of 22, the Angels wunderkind has managed a .253/.337/.404 slash while popping 5 home runs with 20 RBIs. He has the 6th lowest strikeout rate among MLB shortstops with an 18.9K%. On the basepaths, Neto hauls in runs with 20 scored alongside 5 stolen bases with none caught stealing.

Zach Neto is the picture of a 22-year-old finding success in important ways without being too overwhelmed by the league. His always stellar defense looks even better at the Major League Level thanks to his ability to range out for balls and make spectacular plays due to his laser dot throws from deep in the hole. He has a mature feel for the strike zone and rarely chases balls outside, though due to rookie luck, he has been wrung up on balls outside the zone many times. The main picture here is that Neto has developed quite nicely in some very important levels and just has a few steps of development in front of him before he really maxes out those percentiles in a big way.

I believe this Texas matchup, despite being featured as a battle for the division, carries a deeper storyline – one that may be even more fascinating. Jung and Neto will showcase their stuff in a head-to-head battle for Rookie Of the Year considerations, and while neither can really lose any consideration, both can further pad their resume. It looks especially good when you do it to a division rival too.

Will it be Jung flashing his bat all over Anaheim, or will we see Neto flash his glove and bat all over the Rangers en route to a tornado of runs? Or it could be both, and further invigorate the Rookie of the Year competition, making 2023 baseball as must-see as baseball can possibly be.

After the Angels took game one last night in a thrilling 12-inning game, truly anything is possible for the rest of the series.

Follow us @Diamond_Digest for more throughout the season!

Featured Image: Los Angeles Angels / Twitter

Ryan Falla

Ryan began his work covering the Angels in 2011 for Monkey With A Halo before moving on the Halo Hangout where he began covering the Minor League Inland Empire 66ers, working with athletes such as Jared Walsh and Patrick Sandoval. In 2019 Ryan was credited by the Athletic for being the first to report on the Patrick Sandoval call-up, this news break being possible thanks to an inside source who gave Ryan the break on the story. In addition to writing with Diamond Digest, Ryan Falla also covers the Dodgers Low A team, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, for Dodgers2080

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