Best Angels Players Of All Time: Top 5 Legendary California Athletes, According To Fans

The Angels are one of the oldest west coast Major League Baseball (MLB) teams. They have moved around a bit, but the team has always been based in California. In fact, the Angels were one of two expansion teams in 1961, and the team’s first owner was Gene Autry. The Angels have gone from Los Angeles to Anaheim and were even known as the California Angels for a while. The team has had some all-time great ballplayers come through the organization, but only a few can be considered the best Angels players of all time. 

Speaking of great players coming through an organization, a recent study suggests that fans prefer championship teams comprised of homegrown talent as opposed to teams stacked with pricey free agents. Researchers at the University of Kansas surveyed 1,500 Americans. They found that sports fans prefer championship teams comprised of drafted or ‘homegrown’ players as opposed to teams with rosters comprised of expensive free-agent players. Apparently, sports fans appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to build a championship team from the ground up. 

There’s something about following a player’s career from rookie draft pick to all-star that makes it even more special for fans. However, another recent study suggests that simply getting out to watch a live sporting event is great for your mental health. A survey out of England found that respondents who recently attended a live sporting event – professional or otherwise – scored better in terms of “life satisfaction” than those who had not recently been to a game. The survey of 7,000 adults is the first of its kind to examine the mental health benefits of attending sporting events. Overall, sports fans claim that watching live events makes them feel more “worthwhile” and leaves them feeling satisfied. That’s a great reason to get over to Angel Stadium for a game this year. 

So, which athletes are considered the greatest in franchise history? StudyFinds did the research, consulting 10 sports and baseball-oriented websites in an effort to bring you the best Angels players of all time. Our list comprises the five most frequently listed players from across these sites. Think we missed one of your favorites? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below! 

The List: Best Angels Players of All Time, According to Experts

1. Mike Trout (2011 – Present)

The top spot on the list of the best Angels players of all time belongs to outfielder, Mike Trout. He was one of the top prospects in the history of baseball, and the future Hall of Famer did not disappoint the Angels organization as he’s easily one of the best players in the team’s history.  

Mike Trout rounding the bases
Mike Trout” by txaggie321 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

“Mike Trout has long been considered the best active player in Major League Baseball–and when he’s healthy, it’s kind of difficult to dispute that. Since being drafted by the Angels in the first round of the ’09 draft the resume Trout has put together is honestly hard to believe. The Millville, NJ native reached the Majors late in 2011 but officially his rookie season was the ’12 campaign when he slashed .326/.399/.564 with 30 homers and 49 steals and easily won the Rookie of the Year. Since then, Trout has won three AL MVP awards in ’14, ’16, and ’19, has been an all-star ten times, and earned nine Silver Sluggers. He’s given the Angels seven seasons with 30 or more homers, has driven in over 90 runs five different times, and has stolen more than 30 bases three times,” explains Yardbarker

Trout has been the face of the Angels franchise for more than a decade now, and he’s not really showing signs of slowing down. Unfortunately, the Angels haven’t really surrounded Trout with other talented players – other than Shohei Ohtani. 

“Mike Trout has been touted as the best player in baseball for several seasons, and he has the numbers to back up the claim. Trout has won three MVPs in his first 10 seasons and has finished in the top five of voting every year since his first full season in 2012. He is already approaching several career offensive marks in the Angels’ record book, and with a contract that runs for another decade, he likely will finish well above any other player in team history,” furthers How They Play

Trout is still young, and that’s part of what makes his placement on these lists so surprising. He is still in his early 30s, giving him room to add to his already impressive stats as an Angel. 

“Trout is a three-time American League MVP, nine-time All-Star, eight-time Silver Slugger Award winner and won the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year Award. A first-round pick in 2009, Trout is already the all-time leader among Angels players in fWAR (77.8), offensive WAR (76.2), on-base percentage (.419), slugging percentage (.583), OPS (1.002) and home runs (310). Considering he’s under contract through the 2030 season, Trout is unlikely to relinquish this spot as long as baseball exists,” adds Audacy

2. Nolan Ryan (1972 – 1979)

Next up on the list of the best players in Angels franchise history is a pitcher who needs no introduction – Nolan Ryan. He is one of the only players who is considered a top player for more than one franchise, and there’s no disputing what the legendary flamethrower meant for the Angels franchise. 

“Known as ‘The Ryan Express,’ Nolan Ryan spent eight seasons with the Angels and is considered one of the most dominant pitchers in MLB history. Ryan’s blazing fastball and unparalleled strikeout ability made him a legend. During his tenure with the Angels, he led the league in strikeouts seven times and threw four no-hitters,” writes Angels Nation

A lot of MLB fans probably forgot that Ryan played for the Angels and dominated batters in an Angels uniform, but that’s exactly what he did. He was beyond productive as a member of the Angels, and he’s easily one of the best pitchers in franchise history. 

“In five of these seasons, he struck out more than 300 batters, and he eclipsed Sandy Koufax’s record with his 383 Ks in 1973. In addition, he tossed four no-hitters with the franchise, went to five All-Star games, and finished in the top three of the Cy Young voting three times… Despite his success, Ryan only made one post-season start for the Angels in 1979. He pitched well but didn’t factor into the decision of a game that California lost. The appearance was his last as an Angel, as after the season, the club let their star walk via free agency. The club thought that Ryan’s best years were behind him, but they were wrong. Ryan pitched another 14 seasons at a high level, winning two ERA titles and playing in three more All-Star games before finally retiring in 1993 at 46 years old. The Angels retired Ryan’s #30 in 1992 before his playing days were over,” explains Pitcher List

“The Ryan Express came to California in 1972, where he went to his first All-Star Game and had first in leading the league in Strikeouts (32) and H/9 (5.3).  Eager to prove that it was no fluke, Ryan fanned 383 batters in 1973, one more than Sandy Koufax did in 1965, and breaking the modern mark… After slipping in 1975, Ryan was back to being the most dominant flamethrower in baseball, leading the American League in Strikeouts annually from 1976 and 1979.  He was a five-time All-Star with the Angels, with a 138-121 record and 2,416 Strikeouts. Ryan signed with the Houston Astros in 1979, and the native Texan stayed there until 1989, when he played for Texas for five years.  Ryan will always be most associated with those two teams, but it was what he did in California that he first showed that he was an elite Pitcher, and he had some of his best seasons there,” adds Not in Hall of Fame

3. Chuck Finley (1986 – 1999)

Another legendary Halo’s pitcher, Chuck Finley was spectacular on the mound for the Angels. “He was selected in the first round of the 1985 amateur draft by California. Finley was four times selected to the AL All-Star team, and in 1989 and 1990 twice finished second in the AL with a combined ERA of 2.48. Finley regularly finished in the AL top ten rankings in strikeouts, complete games and innings pitched. From 1989 through 1999, Finley was a fixture in the Angels starting rotation, averaging 14 wins per year for the 11 seasons,” explains Bleacher Report

Finley was a great left-handed pitcher who had no trouble pitching late into games. He was also a perennial All-Star and is the franchise’s all-time leader in wins, innings, and games started. 

“Chuck Finley spent the first 14 seasons of his 17-year Major League career in southern California with the Angels and was a huge piece of their pitching staff for a long time. The southpaw is this organization’s all-time leader in starts (379), wins (165) and innings (2,675), and he’ll forever have his fingers all over this team’s leaderboard. During his time with the Halos, Finley represented the club in four all-star games, gave LA over 200 innings in eight seasons, and led the Majors with 13 complete games in 1993,” notes Yardbarker

Finley was not the face of the Angels’ franchise but rather a steady workhorse who the team could rely on for solid starts year after year. The lefty had endurance and used tactical pitching to overcome batters in key situations. 

“While perhaps not a superstar, Finley is one of the most accomplished starting pitchers in Angels history, having made four All-Star teams in 14 seasons with the team. The lefty led the American League with 13 complete games in 1993, and a pretty staggering 183 1/3 innings during the strike-shortened 1994 season. As an Angel, Finley racked up 190 or more innings in 10 separate seasons, and is appropriately the Angels all-time leader in innings pitched at 2,675. Among all starting pitchers in franchise history, Finley is also tops in total fWAR (46) and wins (165),” adds Audacy

4. Jim Fregosi (1961 – 1971)

Fielding his way into the fourth spot on the list of the best players in Angels franchise history is none other than Jim Fregosi. He is easily the greatest shortstop in Angels history, and there’s no doubt that he’s one of the best players to ever suit up for the Halos of Southern California. “Jim Fregosi served as the face of the Angels throughout the 1960s and was a key player during the franchise’s early years. Known for his quick reflexes and agility, Fregosi was a stalwart at shortstop. His leadership, both on and off the field, was pivotal in building the foundation for the Angels,” notes Angels Nation

Fregosi is arguably the first star that the team ever had, and his glove skills at shortstop combined with his excellent hitting ability made him a great all-around player. Fregosi was an Angel for most of his career“Jim Fregosi spent 11 of his 18 seasons in an Angel uniform, and was named an All-Star in six of them. He hit .268 over his 1,429 games for the Halos, mashing 115 home runs and driving in 546 RBIs. He had an impressive 70 triples with the team, including a league-high 13 in 1968. He was inducted into the Angels Hall of Fame in 1989 and has his No. 11 retired in the rafters,” adds Sports Illustrated

Fregosi will always be tied to Nolan Ryan as the Angels traded Fregosi to the Mets for Ryan in the early ‘70s. This trade didn’t spell the end for Fregosi, though. After his playing career was over, he was hired by the Angels franchise to be the team’s manager in 1978. 

“After a rough 1971 season, the Angels traded Fregosi to the Mets, who were trying to contend. One of the players coming back to the Halos in the deal was a young hurler named Nolan Ryan. Fregosi did little for the Mets, making the trade one of the most lopsided in MLB history. He played seven seasons after leaving Los Angeles but never regained his All-Star status. After his retirement in May 1977, he wasn’t out of work long. Angels owner Gene Autry was a huge fan of Fregosi’s intellect and hired him to be the clubs’ manager in 1978. Fregosi helmed the team for three and a half seasons and managed 15 years in total. In 1998, the Angels retired Fregosi’s #11, making him one of only three former Angels players to receive the honor. Sadly, Fregosi passed away in 2014 after suffering a stroke,” furthers Pitcher List

5. Tim Salmon (1992 – 2004 & 2006)

Outfielder Tim Salmon is one of the most beloved players in the history of Angels baseball, and he deserves to be called one of the all-time Angels. “Salmon played his entire career in Major League Baseball with the Los Angeles Angels from 1992 to 2004, along with one additional season in 2006. In that span, Salmon made quite a difference for the team. In his first season in Los Angeles, Salmon won the AL Rookie of the Year award for a season that saw him hit 31 home runs and 95 RBIs,” writes Rookie Road

Salmon was beloved by Angels fans for his production on the field. Salmon was also a man of many nicknames including Mr. Angel and King Fish – a play on his last name, of course. “Salmon, or ‘Mr. Angel,’ was drafted by California in the third round of the 1988 draft. He would spend his entire 14-season Major League career with the club. He made his big league debut in 1992, and in 1993 made a real impact, winning the AL Rookie of the Year by hitting 31 home runs and 95 RBIs with a .283 batting average. In 1995, Salmon was awarded the Silver Slugger by hitting .330 with a career high 34 home runs and 105 RBIs. After a decade of dominating opposing pitchers, Salmon had a disappointing 2001, only hitting .227. He followed that by winning the AL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2002, hitting .286. Salmon retired following the 2006 season with a career .282 batting average. He also hit 299 home runs and 1,016 RBIs in 1,672 games. His OBP of .385 is third in Angels history with players over 1,000 plate appearances,” furthers Bleacher Report

Salmon played his college baseball at Grand Canyon University and went into coaching after retiring from MLB in the early 2000s. Tim Salmon played his entire career with the Angels, and he’s easily one of the most beloved players in franchise history. 

“Salmon won the 1993 American League Rookie of the Year Award, and would ultimately spend his entire 14-year career with the Angels. The slugging right fielder in the franchise leader with 970 walks, and is in the top five in career home runs (299), RBIs (1,016), OPS (.884), runs scored (986) and total bases (2,958),” notes Audacy

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