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AL West 2020 preview: Los Angeles Angels are a true wild card

Offseason moves, 60-man player pool, and season outlook

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Oakland Athletics
What will Ohtani be — an ace pitcher and star slugger, or another member of the IL?
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The 2020 MLB season is just two weeks away from finally starting, coronavirus pandemic willing. The offseason feels like it was years ago, so let’s remind ourselves of what the competition looks like.

The Oakland A’s will only face nine different teams in their abbreviated schedule, with two-thirds of their games coming against their four AL West rivals. We began with the Mariners in the first post, and next up are the Angels.

Los Angeles Angels

2019 record: 72-90 (finished 4th in AL West)

Quick season review: Mike Trout won the MVP! It’s his third such award, to go with four runner-up finishes. However, for the seventh time in his eight full seasons, his Angels didn’t go to the postseason. They hovered around .500 through the end of July, but then took a nosedive in the final two months.

Most of their stars got hurt at some point, but the lineup still managed to be decent overall. The real problem was the pitching staff, which was one of the worst in the league. Trevor Cahill led the team with 102⅓ innings, and they eventually went full experimental mode with openers and bullpen games. Injuries exasperated the problem, and on top of that they were rocked emotionally by the tragic death of Tyler Skaggs.

It all went wrong last year, but there were still some premium cornerstones to build around. Here’s a quick look at their offseason moves from last winter.

Hello Goodbye
Free Agency
3B Anthony Rendon (7/$245m)
RHP Julio Teheran (1/$9m)
C Jason Castro (1/$7m)
LHP Ryan Buchter (minors)
RHP Mike Mayers (waivers)
RHP Jacob Rhame (waivers)

RHP Dylan Bundy (from BAL)
RHP Matt Andriese (from ARZ)
RHP Kyle Keller (from MIA)
RHP Parker Markel (from PIT)
Free Agency
RHP Trevor Cahill (to SFG)
RHP Luis Garcia (to TEX)
RHP Jake Jewell (to SFG)
RHP Nick Tropeano (to NYY)
C Kevan Smith (to TBR)
1B Justin Bour
IF Kaleb Cowart (to NYY)
OF Kole Calhoun (to ARZ)

IF Zack Cozart (to SFG)

The thing the Angels needed most was to revamp their pitching staff, so they ... spent a quarter-billion dollars on a hitter. Rendon is a great player, one of the best in the sport. But did the Halos need another superstar right-handed bat, to go with the two they already have (counting Upton) and the one on the verge of reaching the majors (Adell)?

In their defense, they went after Gerrit Cole, but it was going to take more than one stud anyway; surely there were other ways they could have spent this money to finally construct a quality rotation. I literally say this every year in my Angels preview, and every year it goes the same way, with Trout at home on the couch in October. Teheran and Bundy were decent additions, but as usual they’re pinning a lot of hopes on best-case health (which never works for them) and lotto ticket prospects panning out (which hasn’t worked for them in a while). It could work, especially in a short season, but if they’d thrown a couple hundred million toward it they could have significantly increased the odds and the talent level.

Meanwhile, Calhoun is a big name who left, but the outfield will still be one of the best in the majors even without him. Castro is a quality upgrade at catcher. For all my criticism, the team did get better over the offseason, even before factoring in hopes of improved health.

Here’s the player pool, which stands at 57 players out of the 60 maximum. Players with asterisks** are the favorites to make the Opening Day 30-man roster, with some help from MLB’s site, but I’ve only got 29 marked for now and possibly too many pitchers — perhaps one or two of the injured names will return in time? Players in italics are not on the 40-man roster (there seem to be 42 players listed right now, which means a couple could be on the undisclosed COVID-19 related IL, which would remove them from the 40-man). Ohtani is listed twice since he’s a two-way player, but he’s in parentheses once to point out the duplicate.

L.A. Angels 60-man pool
Pitchers Hitters

Andrew Heaney (L)**
Julio Teheran (R) (IL)
Dylan Bundy (R)**
Griffin Canning (R)**
Patrick Sandoval (L)**
Jaime Barria (R)**
(Shohei Ohtani) (R)(**)
Jose Suarez (L) (IL)
Hector Yan (L)
--Reid Detmers (L)


Hansel Robles (R)**
Justin Anderson (R)**
Matt Andriese (L)**
Cam Bedrosian (R)**
Ryan Buchter (L)**
Ty Buttrey (R)**
Mike Mayers (R)**
Kenyan Middleton (R)**
Felix Pena (R)**
Noe Ramirez (R)**
Jacob Rhame (R)**
Luke Bard (R)
Kyle Keller (R)
Parker Markel (R)
Dillon Peters (L) (IL)
Jose Quijada (L) (IL)
--Jacob Barnes (R)
--Taylor Cole (R)
--Hoby Milner (L)
--Neil Ramirez (R)
--Chris Rodriguez (R)
--Jose Rodriguez (R)

Jason Castro (L)**
Max Stassi (R)**
Anthony Bembooom (L)
--Jose Briceno (R)
--Jack Kruger (R)


David Fletcher (R)**
Tommy La Stella (L)**
Albert Pujols (R)**
Anthony Rendon (R)**
Luis Rengifo (S) (IL)
Andrelton Simmons (R)**
Matt Thaiss (L)**
Jahmai Jones (R)
Jared Walsh (L)
--Arismendy Alcantara (S)
--Jose Rojas (L)
--Elliot Soto (R)


Brian Goodwin (L)**
Michael Hermosillo (R)**
Shohei Ohtani (L)**
Mike Trout (R)**
Justin Upton (R)**
Taylor Ward (R)
--Jordyn Adams (R)
--Jo Adell (R)
--Brandon Marsh (L) (IL)

They’re gonna score some runs. Trout, Rendon, Upton, and Ohtani are a terrifying combo, with a solid supporting cast of Castro, Simmons, Goodwin, La Stella, Fletcher, and even an aging Pujols to run into some dingers.

But will the pitching show up? Heaney is approaching 30 and has only survived one full season, Teheran is already out with virus-like symptoms, Ohtani is coming off Tommy John surgery, Canning had elbow problems during the spring, and Barria, Peters, Sandoval, and Suarez all had ERAs over 5.00 last year. Again, it could all come together, but there are sure a whole lot of ways it could go wrong again too — though this is where a small-sample season could help them, with the chance to get hot but not have to sustain it for long.

That’s pretty much the question. Can they cobble together 60 games of pitching to support a star-studded lineup? Or will they lose a bunch of 10-8 slugfests? This team is a wild card in the truest sense of the term, in that they could go far on either side of the .500 mark. Oh, and all of this is assuming that Trout chooses to play the season rather than opt out for health reasons, which he’s still deciding.

The A’s will face the Angels (and Heaney) on Opening Day, at home for a four-game series from July 24-27.