Saturday, March 18, 2017

2017 Pre-Season Profile: Los Angeles Angels


The Angels still boast the best player in baseball, but their production has been declining the last few seasons.  Will 2017 turn things around in Anaheim?

My 2016 Predictions
4th in AL West
This is Mike Scioscia's last season as Angels' manager.

2016 Results

74-88, 4th in AL West

The placement in the standings of the Angels at the end of the season I had right on as they slid one more spot down the AL West in 2016.  Mike Trout once again was dominant as he won another MVP, but the rest of the roster was underwhelming as the Angels found themselves heading in the wrong direction.  If Mike Scioscia was not such a quality and well respected manager, my prediction would have come true.

Additions / Subtractions

None of the moves the Angels made this offseason could be considered blockbuster, but there were several under-the-radar moves that could have an impact.  Luis Valbuena is a solid veteran bat, while Cameron Maybin, Danny Espinosa, and Ben Revere are high caliber defensive players.  The most notable change in the lineup might be the fact that for the first time since 2005, the Angels' rotation will not anchored by Jered Weaver, as he signed with the Padres in the offseason.

Most Important Hitter
Danny Espinosa
I think it is safe to say that the Angels now have the best defensive middle infield in all of baseball.  Andrelton Simmons is the consensus best glove man in the game, and with Danny Espinosa at second, they now have a perennial Gold Glove contender there as well.  With that said, Espinosa has the potential to impact the team with his bat as well.  His power numbers have been increasing the last few years.  If he can find a way to hit for a higher average as well, this might be one of the best moves of the offseason that no one is talking about.

Most Important Pitcher
Garrett Richards
For the past few seasons, Garrett Richards has been the best pitcher for the Angels.  The problem is he can't stay healthy.  In 2014, he tore his ACL covering first base, then an elbow injury knocked out most of his 2016 season.  Now he is expected to be their ace, but he can only do that if he is on the field.  If he can stay healthy, that will greatly benefit the Angels overall as he will anchor a below average rotation.

Player to Watch
Nate Smith
The biggest weakness of the Angels is definitely their development and farm system.  For the second straight year, their system boasts no top 100 prospects in the game.  On top of that, their top prospects are still at least a couple years away from being impact players at the major league level.  The best prospect that has a chance to make an impact this year is southpaw Nate Smith.  This 25 year old starting pitcher should make his debut in the Angels' rotation at some point this season and help give a spark.

2017 Prediction
5th in AL West
The Angels have farther to fall before they get back up again.  All the moves they have made are band-aids that don't really solve the issue.  They have no pitching and can't score runs.  Trout can only do so much, and Albert Pujols is now 37 years old (and shows his age more and more every year).  They need to think about rebuilding, but they have nothing with which to rebuild thanks to their empty farm system.  What that leaves is a mediocre team at best with nothing to get excited about on the horizon.

Fearless Prediction
This will be Mike Trout's last season as an Angel.
At first look, this might seem like an insane and ridiculous idea that will never happen.  I mean, who trades away the generation's best player.  When you think about it though, it's not as insane and implausible as you might think.  Mike Trout has been a big leaguer for 5 full seasons now, making the All Star Team all 5 years and finishing in the top two in the MVP voting each year.  He is only entering his age 25 season, which means he has a chance to even get better.  He is also under contract through 2020.  Looking at what the Angels have right now, unless they somehow sign every big free agent over the next four seasons, they will not be relevant again for at least four or five more years, even with Mike Trout.  As it is, Trout has only played in 3 postseason games so far in his career.  The only realistic way for the Angels to speed up this process is to overhaul their farm system, which can only happen fast by trading away their best players, which would be Mike Trout.  Can you imagine what kind of package a team would put together (Yankees, I'm looking at you) to bring in a generational talent like Mike Trout?  The choice the Angels have to make is either keep Trout and be irrelevant for the rest of his contract (which runs the risk of not being good again with him on your roster) or trade away the best player in the league and bring in an unprecedented haul of prospects (which has no guarantee of working out).  It's a tough choice to make, but the unpopular choice might be the right choice.

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