Monday, March 9, 2020

Los Angeles Angels 2020 Season Preview

From Getty Images


        Every season is the same when it comes to the Angels. They have Mike Trout, the best player on the planet. They have Albert Pujols, one of the most overpaid players on the planet. They have multiple pitchers who are recovering from Tommy John surgery, and they don't have any decent starters. The Tommy John train has already started, as Griffin Canning isn't officially having the surgery yet, but has an elbow injury, which could eventually lead to TJ. The Angels have a plethora of young pitchers, but they need to figure out who is good and who is not.

         Offseason additions: 3B Anthony Rendon, RHP Dylan Bundy, RHP Julio Teheran, C Jason Castro, RHP Matt Andriese, LHP Jose Quijada, RHP Mike Mayers, RHP Parker Markel, LHP Ryan Buchter, RHP Neil Ramirez.

         Offseason subtractions: OF Kole Calhoun, C Kevan Smith, 1B Justin Bour, IF Zack Cozart, RHP Luis Garcia, RHP Nick Tropeano.

         Rotation
The Angels traded away four prospects for Dylan Bundy. The 4th overall pick in 2011 struck out 162 batters in 161.2 innings, but he allowed 86 earned runs for a 4.79 ERA for the lowly Orioles. He allowed 29 home runs and 58 walks. Andrew Heaney struck out 118 batters in 95.1 innings for a 11.1 K/9. He had a 4.91 ERA, his worst in a full season (it was only his third "full" year). Former Braves ace Julio Teheran was signed to a one year deal. He struck out 162 batters in 174.2 innings with a 3.81 ERA. He allowed just 7.6 hits per nine. Griffin Canning's elbow will be in question as he is shut down. In 18 games he had a 4.58 ERA with 96 Ks in 90.1 innings. Shohei Ohtani will be a starter when he gains eligibility to be a two-way player. He only DH'd last year due to Tommy John surgery. He had a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 51.2 innings in 2018. He hit 18 home runs with 12 stolen bases and an .848 OPS last year at the plate. The Angels have young pitchers in Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria, Dillon Peters and Jose Suarez attempting to be a swingman. Due to his seniority, Felix Pena could be the one to make the team. Pena probably had the best year out of all of them last year, with a 4.58 ERA plus 101 strikeouts in 96.1 innings over 22 games (seven starts). He would also follow openers in games.

          Bullpen
The Angels found their closer in Hansel Robles. In his first full season with the club Robles posted a career best 2.48 ERA in 71 games. He saved 23 games with 75 strikeouts in 72.2 innings. His walks per nine were down to a career low 2.0, as was his 0.7 HR/9. Ty Buttrey entered 2019 looking for the closer role. He had to settle as a set-up man. He struck out 84 batters in 72.1 innings with a 3.98 ERA. Keynan Middleton, who was the closer early in 2018 before undergoing Tommy John surgery, returned late to post a 1.17 ERA in 11 games. He has 85 strikeouts in 83.2 career innings. Noe Ramirez had a 3.99 ERA, and struck out 79 in 67.2 innings, with a career low 2.7 BB/9. Cam Bedrosian had a 3.23 ERA, the second best mark of his career. He struck out 64 batters in 61.1 innings, while allowing only seven hits per nine innings. Justin Anderson has been a workhorse for the Angels the past two years, playing in 111 games. He has a career ERA of 4.75 with 127 strikeouts in 102.1 innings. The Angels traded a top-30 prospect in Jeremy Beasley to the D-Backs for Matt Andriese. Andriese averaged about 1.1 innings per outing over 54 games last year, with 79 Ks and a 4.71 ERA.

            Catchers
The Angels signed former Astros and Twins catcher Jason Castro to a one year, $6.85 million deal. Castro had his best offensive season in a long time last year, hitting 13 home runs in 79 games with a .435 slugging percentage and .767 OPS. It was his best slugging and OPS since he was an all-star in 2013. The backup is Castro's old Houston teammate in Max Stassi. A seven year veteran with only 183 MLB games, Stassi hit eight home runs in 88 games in 2018. He was terrible last year, with a .136 average and .378 OPS in 51 of those games. 20 of them were with the Angels, where he had a .071 average and .235 OPS, and did not record an extra base hit.

             Infielders
Albert Pujols will be forced to play a lot of first base due to Ohtani. A first ballot Hall-of-Famer, Pujols will see his career average dip below .300 this year, a sad thing considering he did not hit under .300 in a season until he hit .299 in his 11th year. He hit 23 home runs with a .244 average and .734 OPS. A three time MVP, six time Silver Slugger, two time Gold Glover and 10 time all-star, Pujols has made one all-star team with no other awards since he joined the Angels in 2012. Tommy La Stella was a surprise all-star, though an injury cost him his chance to play in the game, and it limited him to 80 games. He hit 16 home runs with a .295 average and .832 OPS. He can play third and first base, as well as second. David Fletcher was the starting third baseman, but he won't play much there due to a big free agent signing. He will be a super utility player. In 154 games last season, Fletcher hit .290 with six home runs and eight stolen bases. Andrelton Simmons is still probably the best defender in the game, though Matt Chapman has a case. Simmons played in 103 games last year, hurting his case to win the Gold Glove. He has won four in his career. He saved 12 defensive runs. At the plate, he had one of his worst seasons, with a .264 average and .673 OPS. He hit seven home runs and swiped 10 bags. Anthony Rendon is the aforementioned big free agent signing. After finishing third in MVP voting, winning his second Silver Slugger and the World Series, the Angels gave Rendon $245 million over seven years. He had a career year at the plate in 2019, with 34 home runs, a league leading 126 RBIs and 44 doubles, plus a .319 average, .412 OBP and .598 slugging percentage for a 1.010 OPS. Luis Regnifo was almost traded in the offseason. He played in 108 games last year with a .685 OPS. Matt Thaiss is in a battle with Regnifo for the final spot. The corner infielder hit eight home runs in 53 games last year, with a .714 OPS.

              Outfielders
What can you not say about Mike Trout. The best player in baseball signed a monster contract before the start of the season, and had another great year, winning his third MVP and 7th Silver Slugger. He hit a career high 45 home runs, with 11 stolen bases and a .291 average. He led the league in OBP (.438), Slugging Percentage (.645) and obviously OPS (1.083) in 134 games. He edged out Houston's Alex Bregman for the trophy. He also had a 185 OPS+, leading the league for the fifth consecutive time. His career OPS rounds up to exactly 1.000. He will soon receive another outfield buddy, with top prospect Jo Adell primed to debut this year, but probably not for Opening Day. Justin Upton, the first overall pick in 2005, had a terrible injury filled year. He played in just 63 games, hitting 12 homers. However, he had a .215 average and .724 OPS, and he is not a good fielder in left. With Kole Calhoun off to Arizona, Brian Goodwin will hold the starting right field job until Adell comes from AAA. Goodwin hit 17 home runs with seven stolen bases, a .262 average and .796 OPS in 136 games. Goodwin will then take the job of Michael Hermosillo. In 18 MLB games Hermosillo hit no home runs with a .527 OPS. He had an .802 OPS in AAA.

                Projected Lineup
SS Andrelton Simmons (R)
CF Mike Trout (R)
3B Anthony Rendon (R)
DH Shohei Ohtani* (L)
LF Justin Upton (R)
2B Tommy La Stella (L)
1B Albert Pujols (R)
RF Brian Goodwin (L)
C Jason Castro (L)
*On non starting days only

                 Projected Rotation
Andrew Heaney (L)
Julio Teheran (R)
Shohei Ohtani (R)
Dylan Bundy (R)
Griffin Canning (R)

                 Projected Bullpen
Hansel Robles, closer (R)
Ty Buttrey (R)
Cam Bedrosian (R)
Justin Anderson (R)
Felix Pena (R)
Keynan Middleton (R)
Matt Andriese (R)
Noe Ramirez (R)

                 Projected Bench
C Max Stassi (R)
1B/3B Matt Thaiss (L)
IF David Fletcher (R)
OF Michael Hermosillo (R)

                 Prediction
The Angels have a very scary lineup. No team will want to face Trout and Rendon back-to-back. Their bullpen may lack a lefty, but all of their pitchers are very good and underrated when healthy. Their rotation is lacking, but they have the depth and bullpen to cover for it. I predict the Angels will finish 2nd in the AL West, and grab the first Wild Card spot in the American League.

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