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Know thy enemy: The Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim)

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There’s upside with our rivals down south, but there’s are also considerable hurdles.

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s a theme among our AL West foes, it’s uncertainty. The Mariners have talent but are old, the Rangers were seemingly lucky in 2016, and the Astros just haven’t put it together yet. The A’s couldn’t field, hit, pitch, run, or field.

Then, there’s the Angels. The Angels just can’t stop with redundant names or expensive contracts. Said contracts have kept the usually active front office from making moves in spite of a roster that badly needs help.

2016 Record: 74-88

The Angels 2016 was a bit of a run out the clock situation. In spite of not owning a fastball, Jered Weaver commanded $20 million and even with that sweet dandruff money, C.J. Wilson charged the Angels another $20 million to barely pitch at all. Handicapped by those ugly contracts and with a mandate to cut payroll, the Angels were stuck with a not very good team. Injuries hurt the pitching staff and it was a wire to wire tough season outside of Disneyland.

2017 Outlook

At the top is Mike Trout, who if he can keep it up, is the greatest player of our generation. Frankly he’s a likable dude, aided by the fact that the Angels have been helpless during the majority of his stint as baseball’s best player.

From there, things go downhill rather quickly. Cole Kalhoun and Andrelton Simmons are good players, but their production has been offset by an otherwise meager lineup, filled with players who either can’t hit well, can’t field, or both.

That said, you can do a lot worse than having the best player in baseball, two solid players, some auxiliary pieces, and a few lotto tickets. Especially if you pair that with a great pitching staff.

Do the Angels have a great pitching staff? They have a very Oakland A’s 2015/2016 pitching staff. Remember that ember of hope that burned inside you as spring training came to a close and the regular season approached? It was fueled by unproven pitchers with upside.

The Angels staff isn’t unproven, but it is risky, it does have upside, and it could implode in a similar way to the A’s starters of the last few seasons. But that upside is intriguing, if you’re rooting for evil and therefore the Angels.

Garrett Richards is a legitimate ace when healthy. He throws gas, his slider is filthy, his motion is just the right amount of funky, and the results have been impressive in his young career. But health is no given, and odds are he won’t make it through a full 2017 workload. Richards missed the majority of 2016 with a UCL injury, the ailment that typically leads to Tommy John Surgery. Instead, Richards opted for rehab in the form of stem cell therapy which, if successful, would allow him to climb the hill much sooner than surgery would. It worked for Masahiro Tanaka so a full 2017 isn’t out of the question, but UCLs are funky.

After Richards comes Matt Shoemaker. Shoemaker is a pretty neat story if we’re being objective: undrafted, he’s defied odds upon odds to have a successful big league career. After a darling 2014, Shoemaker struggled in 2015 and at the start of 2016. He then made a Rich Hill esque change, throwing his best pitch (splitter) with much more frequency, turning him into a temporary ace. After an incredible stretch, Shoemaker came down to earth but there’s no doubt: he can be an above average pitcher.

Tyler Skaggs, Ricky Nolasco, Alex Meyer, and Jesse Chavez will round out the rotation, and that’s the crux of the Angels. Those four guys are far from proven, as are Richards and Shoemaker. Should lightening strike and everyone stay healthy and effective, and that’s a pretty good rotation. Should reality, it’s probably OK with a serious lack of depth and if a stroke of bad luck hits the Angels? Well, think of the A’s in 2016, soaking up innings from the randomest of places.

All told, it’s a team that really needs everything to break right in order to reach the postseason. But there are teams out there that can’t make that claim, so while imagining another year of irrelevance from down south is probable, it’s not a guarantee.

How will the offseason shake out for the Angels?

Similar to the A’s, the Angels are quiet. Gun-shy after being burned by multiple long contracts and with a minimized budget, they’re not going to be players in the remaining free agent pool. Their farm system is in shambles, so flipping future prospects for win-now talent is unlikely. They’re kind of like the Mariners, only in worse shape: the present is questionable at best, the future looks like a wreck. A full rebuild is probably coming down south, but there is a chance the Angels can squeeze a competitive roster out of a baseball god and some risky pieces.