Last place in the American League West with a league-worst 12-24 record, the Los Angeles Angels finished August sellers at the trade deadline. The club dealt starting catcher Jason Castro, second baseman Tommy La Stella, and outfielder Brian Goodwin to contenders. A club will high hopes going into the abbreviated 2020 season with MVP hopefuls Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Shohei Ohtani found themselves once again out of the playoff picture heading into September. The Angels’ struggles through August could be attributed to many factors; however, failing to hold on to leads and getting offensive production from veterans with high-end contracts in both left fielder Justin Upton and first baseman Albert Pujols were among those that were clearly hurting the club.
Justin Upton, with two years and $51 million remaining on his five-year contract, found himself with an abysmal season-low .094 batting average on August 19th as the Angels were about to reach the halfway point in their season. If Upton’s poor performance wasn’t enough, future Hall of Fame first baseman, Albert Pujols, also with one-year remaining on his bloated ten-year contract, was batting .223 at the end of August amid a sixteen-game home run drought. The Angels needed production from these two positions are were failing to get it from these two veterans as they entered September.
The Angels found themselves playing Brian Goodwin in place of Justin Upton to give themselves some production out of the spot expected to be filled by the four-time All-Star Upton. Goodwin was traded at the deadline Monday, August 31st and Upton began to get hot. Since September 1st, Upton is hitting .344 with a .417 on-base percentage, scoring six runs and driving in seven. Giving the Angels some much-needed production from their veteran investment in an outfield featuring Mike Trout and rookie Jo Adell. Upton’s contract and age would be very difficult to move to another club and a hot-hitting Upton is a much-needed addition to the Angels lineup that awaits future outfield prospects Brandon Marsh and Jordyn Adams in the coming years.
As Albert Pujols continued to struggle to reach his milestone 660th home run, hitting far too close to the Mendoza line than anyone would even expect, Jared Walsh began to get more opportunities at first base. Walsh, a two-way player who made his MLB debut with the Angels in 2019, entered the 2020 season focused on just being a position player. Walsh hit an unimpressive .203 with one home run and five runs batted in across 87 plate appearances during his rookie campaign. Walsh made the Angels Opening Day roster but was dispatched to the club’s alternate training site in early August, spending almost four weeks off the roster before getting recalled August 28th.
Jared Walsh was hitless in thirteen at-bats for the Angels going into September. That futility at the plate was about to change. The 27-year old left-handed hitting Walsh began getting more consistent playing time and he’s rewarded Joe Maddon’s Angels with a .389 average, five home runs, and thirteen runs batted in during his first nine games in September. Walsh hit home runs in four consecutive games last week falling one game short of tying the franchise record of five consecutive home run games set in 1977 by Bobby Bonds. Walsh now finds himself getting regular playing time and making an argument for consideration as the everyday first baseman of the Angels’ future.
Walsh and Upton have been revelations for an Angels club that seemed all but content to look to next season going into September. Now, with two weeks remaining in the season, the Angels find themselves only four and a half games behind the second-place Houston Astros for a playoff spot. The Angels have won seven of the first eleven games in September and will still need to finish the season on a winning streak in hopes that both the Astros and Mariners to collapse to have any hope of playing in October. If nothing else, the Angels improved September performance bodes well for a club that should be returning to the field next season with most of the same parts in place on their roster.
Angels This Week
The Angels enter the final two-week stretch of the season trailing the second-place Houston Astros by four and a half games. The second-place team in every division will have a playoff berth and both the Astros and Seattle Mariners are ahead of the Angels in the standings. The Angels will open a six-game final homestand of the season Tuesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Angels are sending Julio Teheran, Dylan Bundy, and Griffin Canning to the mound against Madison Bumgarner and two starters to be determined. The Angels will close out their 2020 home schedule with a three-game set against the Texas Rangers before hitting the road next week for their final five games in San Diego and Los Angeles.
Albert Pujols continues to climb some of the all-time hitting leader boards in many statistical categories as the season progresses and his career winds down. Pujols hit his long-awaited 660th career home run Sunday afternoon in Colorado tying him with Willie Mays for fifth-most home runs in MLB history. Saturday, Pujols hit the 669th double of his career passing Craig Biggio for fifth-most in that category all-time. Pujols now finds himself in the top five position for home runs, runs batted in, doubles, extra-base hits, and total bases going into the final season of his contract with the Angels.
The Angels added pitchers Jack Kochanowicz and William Holmes to the club’s alternate site roster last week. The nineteen-year-old right-hander Kochanowicz was the Angels third-round selection in the 2019 MLB draft and is ranked the 11th best prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline. He’s joined by two-way sensation William Holmes, who was drafted by the Angels in the fifth round of the 2018 MLB draft and finds himself ranked 21st best prospect in the Angels organization by MLB Pipeline. Both players are expected to get training with fellow Angels prospects and farm players at the club’s Long Beach State facility for the remainder of the season.
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