John Lepore | March 13th, 2020
Today we go to the West Coast to visit the Los Angeles Angels. They’ve made some upgrades this off-season, but will it be enough to get to the playoffs for the first time since 2014?
Make sure to check out our other Team Previews here.
The feeling around the 2020 Angels is that Mike Trout finally has enough support to be a true playoff contender. As reported by Sports Betting Dime LAA’s World Series odds are a respectable +3000, on average, which is ahead of teams like the Indians and Red Sox. Perhaps more encouragingly, their odds to make the playoffs opened at +160, compared to +280 last year. That represents a 47% increase in the implied probability of Trout making just his second career postseason appearance and first since 2014.
The Los Angeles Angels were 72-90 last year and finished in fourth place in the American League West. They were victimized by the long ball as their pitchers gave up 267 HRs which was the second-most in the AL (Baltimore Orioles 305). They were middle of the pack to bottom-five in most pitching and hitting categories. Let’s see what they will look like this season and if they will play in October.
Castro comes over this season after spending the past three years with the Minnesota Twins. He is a solid pitch framer and is a decent left-handed bat. He underperformed his batted ball profile last year. He is a 15-20 HR guy and had a 12.0% BB rate last season. Pujols is not the man he used to be, but he did have 23 HRs and 93 RBI last season. I’d expect about the same. Fletcher was a bright spot on the Angels in 2019. He played 154 games and hit .290. His plate discipline is elite (8.4% BB rate, 9.8% K rate), but he only had six HRs and eight SBs. He is also a solid fielding second baseman with two Outs Above Average (OAA). Rendon was one of the big free-agent signings during the off-season, and rightfully so. The World Series champ has been one of the best third basemen in the majors the past few years. He has elite plate discipline (12.4% BB rate, 13.3% K rate), had a career-high 34 HRs last year and slashed .319/.412/.598. Dude is simply a stud. Simmons is one of the best fielding shortstops of all-time. His bat is solid also. Before his subpar 2019, Simmons averaged 143 games since coming to the Angels in 2016. In that time he’s averaged .284 with 10 HRs and 13 SBs. La Stella broke out last year, especially in the power department. He hit 16 HRs in 321 PAs last season after hitting only 10 in 947 PAs previously. He will likely be battling Fletcher for playing time at second base but could see more time there as Fletcher can move around the diamond.
Upton’s health is important to the team’s success. In 2018, his first full season in LA, he put up solid numbers slashing .257/.344/.463 with 30 HRs and even swiping eight bags. He is an average fielder at this point, but Upton’s bat can be a big piece to this team’s hopes of making the playoffs. Trout…there isn’t much to say here. Goodwin is basically holding a spot for Jo Adell here. He had a decent season last year but isn’t the future at 29 years old. Ohtani has shown that he can handle major league pitching. How much he DHs is still kind of up in the air, but Shohei can hit for power and run the bases (18 HRs, 12 SBs in 106 games).
Starting Rotation Projections
The rotation could be very good. It all depends on health. Heaney is a former first-round pick and will be only 28 this season. He’s had an extensive injury history, but in 2018 he was solid starting 30 games and tossing 180 innings with a 4.15 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and 180/45 K/BB rate. Julio Teheran is the one guy on the staff who has been a workhorse in his career. He’s started at least 30 games each season since 2013 and in that time has had a 3.64 ERA. He doesn’t strike out a ton of guys but with the defense behind him, he should continue to outperform his FIP and xFIP. Bundy has not done well the past few years, but he was pitching in Camden Yards. A change of scenery should do wonders for the former first-round pick. Going to a bigger ballpark should help as well as Bundy has allowed 70 HRs in his last 61 starts. Shohei Ohtani is an x-factor here. He is coming off TJS and no one really knows how much he will actually pitch. The stuff is there to be very effective. I’d expect about 22-25 starts and 140-150 innings. Griffin Canning is another wait-and-see pitcher. He will be reassessed in about three to four weeks after getting injections to address elbow discomfort. He’s only 23 so the Angels are expected to treat him with kid gloves. The fifth spot is up in the air. A lot will depend on spring training, but I expect Sandoval to be penciled in early with veteran Andriese available if the youngster falters.
The closer spot is Robles’s to start the season. He had a nice year in 2019 with a 2.48 ERA and 23 saves. He also only allowed six HRs in 72.2 innings along with a 75/16 K/BB rate. The rest of this group will be hit and miss. Buttrey and Bedrosian look to be the setup men with Pena and Barria as long men. The final few spots will depend on who impresses in ST. I expect Middleton, Ramirez, and Anderson to round it out.
Players to Watch For
Jo Adell – He is sixth on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects. He likely won’t make the Opening Day roster as the Angels have Trout, Upton, and Goodwin to man the outfield. He is having a so-so spring going 7-25 albeit with no HRs and 13 Ks. Service time issues, the fact that the Halos probably won’t need him immediately, and his plate discipline are factors that should keep him in Triple-A for the first couple months of the season. With all that being said, Expect Adell to make an impact when he does get the call. He will be 21 years old in April and the Angels want to make sure he hits the ground running when he gets to the bigs.
Jared Walsh – He isn’t exactly Ohtani, but he did pitch and hit for the Halos last season. He is more likely to make the team as a reliever at this point as his bat hasn’t shown up. As a pitcher can be a solid lefty who hits 92-95 on the gun with a plus curveball. And hey, he’s a bat off the bench in a pinch. An interesting player to watch and not bad for a 39th round draft selection five years ago.
The Los Angeles Angels made some good moves in the offseason. Arte Moreno and Billy Eppler don’t want to waste any more of Trout’s prime. The defense is excellent especially on the left side of the infield. The lineup will be a lot deeper with the addition of Rendon along with healthy seasons from Upton and Simmons and breakthroughs from Fletcher, La Stella, and Goodwin. It all comes down to pitching where the Angels are probably thinking someone has voodoo dolls out there. If the staff can, for once, stay healthy, they can and will compete for a playoff spot. I think Teheran and Bundy will be the workhorses and Ohtani and Heaney will do their part in more limited innings. Robles can hold down the closer role and a solid three-four man combo could be serviceable in the bullpen. The Angels go 90-72 and take the second Wild Card spot.
Questions and comments?
Follow Us on Twitter @thescorecrow
Follow Us on Reddit at u/TheScorecrow
Follow Us on Facebook at The Scorecrow
Follow Us on Instagram at The Scorecrow
Facebook Group where you can read and post articles at The Scorecrow
Reddit Group where everyone can post without fear of being banned at The Scorecrow
Follow John Lepore on Twitter @jball0202
Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images