Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Los Angeles Angels 2019 season preview

Jaime Barria. Photo from the OC Register


        Another year, more injuries for the Angels. Star center fielder Mike Trout missed a little bit of time, but not as big as the chunk of 2017 he lost. Pitchers Kenyan Middleton and JC Ramirez both will miss a lot of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Star slugger and pitcher Shohei Ohtani also had Tommy John surgery, and will not pitch this year. He will be back in the lineup approximately in May (explaining why he isn't in the projected lineup). The Angels still have star power, but can't do much if Trout isn't playing. They need Zack Cozart to stay healthy as well. The Angels are a make-or-break team this year.

         Offseason additions: RHP Cody Allen, 1B Justin Bour, C Jonathan Lucroy, RHP Matt Harvey, RHP Trevor Cahill, INF Tommy La Stella, C Kevan Smith, LHP Dillon Peters, RHP John Curtiss, RHP Luis Garcia, RHP Daniel Hudson, LHP Dan Jennings, OF Peter Bourjos, C Dustin Garneau, OF Jarrett Parker

          Offseason subtractions: RHP Jim Johnson, LHP Jose Alvarez, RHP Blake Parker, 3B Luis Valbuena (RIP), RHP Garrett Richards

          Rotation
Former ace Garrett Richards was always good when healthy, but never healthy. He left for San Diego in the offseason. Here's a surprise. The Angels had a healthy pitcher. Andrew Heaney was their only qualifying starter, pitching 180 innings. He had a 4.15 ERA, and will likely pitch opening day, because no one else will, they'll all be injured. Tyler Skaggs pitched in a career high 125.1 innings, and had a career best 4.02 ERA. At age 21, Jamie Barria didn't qualify because he didn't start the year with the team, but he had a very impressive 3.41 ERA in 26 starts. Veterans Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill signed with the team, which could push Felix Pena and Nick Tropeano into bullpen contention, but both will make plenty of starts while the starters are eventually injured.

          Bullpen
Cody Allen hasn't pitched in under 67 appearances since 2012, but Cleveland's former closer finally snapped in 2018. He had a 4.70 ERA, by far the worst of his career. But, he gets a chance with the Angels to be the closer. Ty Buttrey impressed and converted four saves after being apart of the Ian Kinsler trade in July. Hansel Robles, a Mets cast-off, had a 2.97 ERA in 37 appearances after joining the team. Justin Anderson walks too many batters, but he was apart of the Angels' closer committee last year. Noe Ramirez wasn't impressive in 2018, but pitched in 69 games. Cam Bedrosian is inconsistent, but when on the top of his game, he's their best reliever. The final spot is between Tropeano, Pena and Luis Garcia, acquired from the Phillies. Garcia was very good in 2017 but absolutely horrible in 2018.

            Catching
The Angels had many catchers play in 2018. The primary one, Martin Maldonado, was traded to Houston at the deadline. The team signed Jonathan Lucroy to play catcher. Lucroy, once one of the league's best catchers offensively, has had his power fall off in recent seasons. The backup spot is between Jose Briceno, and Kevan Smith, who was claimed off waivers from the White Sox.

             Infield
The only downside about Ohtani is that he only plays DH. That means Albert Pujols will have to play first base. Well, until Ohtani returns, Pujols can just DH. Power hitting first baseman Justin Bour is a good option. Andrelton Simmons is the league's best defender, winning his 4th Gold Glove in 2018, while finishing with a career best .754 OPS. With Kinsler gone, David Fletcher gets the second base job. He hit .275 in 80 games last year. Cozart played in just 58 games last year because of injury.

              Outfield
Mike Trout is and always will be baseball's best player, though some people think it's Mookie Betts. Trout had a 10.2 WAR in 2018, hitting 39 home runs, with 24 stolen bases, hitting .312 with a 1.088 OPS. In Justin Upton's first full season as an Angel, He hit 30 home runs, and he is capable of doing it again. Kole Calhoun had a terrible offensive season. He hit 19 home runs, but had a .208 batting average and .652 OPS. The fourth spot goes to either Peter Bourjos or Michael Hermosillo, the latter the only other outfielder on the 40 man roster.

                DH/Bench
Ohtani will be the every day DH when returning until then, it's Pujols' job. Smith and Briceno battle for the backup catcher spot. Until May, when Ohtani comes back, they Angels can go with 13 pitchers, so either Pena or Garcia will get a shot. Hermosillo is the fourth outfielder, while Tommy La Stella is the backup infielder.

                 Lineup
3B Zack Cozart
CF Mike Trout
LF Justin Upton
DH Albert Pujols
1B Justin Bour
SS Andrelton Simmons
C Jonathan Lucroy
RF Kole Calhoun
2B David Fletcher

                 Rotation
Andrew Heaney (L)
Tyler Skaggs (L)
Jaime Barria (R)
Matt Harvey (R)
Trevor Cahill (R)

                  Bullpen
Cody Allen (R)
Ty Buttrey (R)
Cam Bedrosian (R)
Hansel Robles (R)
Justin Anderson (R)
Taylor Cole (R)
Luis Garcia (R)
Felix Pena (R)

                    Bench
C Kevan Smith
OF Michael Hermosillo
INF Tommy La Stella

                      Additional Information
Ballpark: Angel Stadium of Anaheim
Manager: Brad Ausmas
GM: Billy Eppler
World Championships: 1
2018 record: 80-82

                      Steal of the Decade
The Angels were looking to improve their shortstop, with Erick Aybar aging. They sent Aybar packing before 2016, to Atlanta, along with Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis. In return, they got C Jose Briceno and Andrelton Simmons. Aybar was a flop in Atlanta, with a .607 OPS in 97 games. Ellis hasn't played in the majors yet, but could crack the Royals roster this year as a Rule 5 pick. Newcomb had his first full season as a Brave in 2018, with a 3.90 ERA. Entering his age 26 season, Newcomb will be a key part of their rotation. Briceno didn't make his debut until 2018, where he hit five home runs in 117 at bats. Simmons has become the best fielder in the game, and is now an offensive threat, hitting .292 in 2018 to go along with his fourth Gold Glove.

                        Prediction
The Angels are a good team. Their biggest component, once again, is injuries. They always lose key players. If the Angels can finally stay healthy, they have a chance to make the 2nd wild card spot in the AL.

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