Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Home Ballpark: Angel Stadium of Anaheim
2014 Finish: 98 – 64 · 1st AL West
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 87.5 · Under
What We Love:
- Michael Nelson Trout: What can you really say about a player who finishes runner up for the AL MVP in his first two seasons, before winning it in his third? Did we mention that he is only 23 years old? Astoundingly, his MVP season was actually his worst season in MLB:
2012: 139 G · .326 AVG · 30 HR · 83 RBI · 49 SB · 67/139 BB/SO · .963 OPS
2013: 157 G · .323 AVG · 27 HR · 97 RBI · 33 SB · 110/136 BB/SO · .988 OPS
2014: 157 G · .287 AVG · 36 HR · 111 RBI · 16 SB · 83/184 BB/SO · .939 OPS
In a mere three seasons, Trout has wrestled the title from Miguel Cabrera to become the (arguable) Best Player in MLB; although Andrew McCutcheon is making a nice run at the title himself. There has also been talk that Trout is the consensus choice to replace Derek Jeter as the proverbial “face” of MLB. In Trout, the Angels have a legitimate five tool player, who can bat leadoff or in the three-hole, and is locked up through 2020 on an almost steal of a deal (6yrs/$144.5 mil). Nitpicking on a player of Trout’s ability is like accusing Scarlet Johansson of having pointy elbows. Nonetheless, the 2014 AL MVP will need to cut down on his strikeout rate in 2015 as he paced the American League with 184 whiffs last season.
- C.J Cron’s Potential: Former 1st round pick back in 2011 hit .256/11/37 in 242 AB in his first season with the Angels in 2014. The defensive inept Cron projects as a future 1B/DH but could start getting reps in LF to try to keep his bat in the lineup. If everything clicks for Cron, he could become a Mark Trumbo 2.0.
- The Mike Scioscia Tree of Management: Of the 30 current MLB managers in the game today, three of them have been assistants under the Angels Mike Scioscia at one time or another. Those three managers include: Joe Maddon (Cubs), Bud Black (Padres) and Ron Roenicke (Brewers). No wonder teams looking for a new manager often look to see who has been coaching with Scioscia before they make their decisions.
- The pending return of staff ace, Garrett Richards.
- The Rod Carew era of throwback jerseys.
What We Hate:
- Days as a Contender: On the back of a 98 win campaign, the Angels cruised to (another) AL West title. But are the days of 90+ win seasons and division titles a thing of the past? Sure the Angels have Mike Trout in the lineup and Garrett Richards in the rotation, but after that, things start getting a bit bleak. Albert Pujols pushed the clock back in 2014 when he hit .272/28/105 over 159 games, but at 36, he is a player in decline. The 33 year old, Josh Hamilton, only played in 89 games a year ago because of a shoulder ailment, and there is no guarantee of how many games he plays in 2015 because of said shoulder injury. Hamilton was also able to avoid a suspension this season in relation to his drug relapse this past offseason. With Howie Kendrick gone (traded to the Dodgers), 2B is looking like it might be an offensive black hole this season. David Freese may be the most overrated player in the Angels lineup and has failed to live up to his 2012 All Star season where he hit .293/20/79.
What is really concerning is the lack of starting pitching depth behind Garrett Richards. Jered Weavers fastball velocity is down (again); he was reportedly in the 85mph range for the majority of Spring Training. Matt Shoemaker came out of nowhere to win 16 games in 2014, but he is as likely to turn back into a pumpkin as he is to replicate that success. CJ Wilson, despite his silky, smooth hair, was both banged up and ineffective in 2014. Tyler Skaggs is out for the season with Tommy John surgery. LHP Hector Santiago was mediocre at best in his first season in Anaheim. The Angels also brought in two pitching prospects during the offseason in the hopes that they will add some much needed starting depth. LHP Andrew Heaney was brought over from the Dodgers in exchange for 2B Howie Kendrick, and RHP Nick Tropeano was acquired from the Astros in exchange for C Hank Conger. Both pitchers are not a lock to make the opening day lineup, but both may be counted on to contribute at some point this season.
With all that being said, the Angels are a franchise that has proven in the past that they are capable of winning games no matter what, this season just may be the hardest yet.
- The remainder of Albert Pujols contract: 7 yrs/$189 mil.
- Lack of impact prospects on the farm: 2014 first round pick, LHP Sean Newcomb, has become the de facto top prospect in a paper thin minor league system.
- Potential revolving door at 2B: One of Josh Rutledge, Grant Green or Johnny Giavotella will win this job based on default.
Player to Watch: SP Garrett Richards. The 26 year old Richards was enjoying a breakout season in his first full year as a starter before he tore his patellar tendon covering 1B. Before the injury, Richards made 26 starts, went 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA and struck out 164 batters over 168.2 innings. The Angels will need Richards and his 96.3 mph fastball (2nd fastest in MLB behind Yordano Ventura) to anchor a thin rotation, if they plan on playing baseball in October.
Top Pitching Prospect: Sean Newcomb · LHP · MLB ETA: 2017
Top Positional Prospect: Roberto Baldoquin · 2B/SS · MLB ETA: 2016
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=ana
Final Prediction: 2nd AL West