Heading over to California again for our LA Angels preview, this one written by Angels fan Craig Worton. Craig is another admin at the excellent UK MLB forum, hands down the best place to discuss baseball online with other UK fans. Follow the forum for Twitter updates and check the forum out for yourself.
The story of the 2017 season was all about injuries with Trout missing 6 weeks and most of the starting rotation missing significant time but yet on the 31st of August we were 69-65 and only 1.5 games back in the Wild Card race. What followed was an 11-17 run that meant we ended up 80-82 and what was an enjoyable season ended in disappointment.
The outlook for the Angels changed significantly when Shohei Ohtani picked the Angels over every team in baseball. Not only does he project to be a top of the rotation starter but he is also going to try and hit regularly. I think it will be a difficult thing for him to do but we got so little out of our first base and designated hitter spots in 2017 that I don’t view giving him a shot to hit as a downgrade.
Last season our rotation was depleted with injuries and we are likely to use a 6-man, or probably more accurately a 5.5-man, rotation that will hopefully help with the injury problems. The addition of Ohtani and the return to health of Garrett Richards (2.28 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 2.43 FIP but only 27.1 IP in 2017) changes the dynamic completely and if we get 50 starts between them then we should be in a good position. Shoemaker, Skaggs, Heaney, Tropeano, Ramirez, Bridwell and Barria gives us more starting pitching depth than last season which should lead to a much better performance than the combined 5.5 WAR that we got in 2017.
The ‘pen was a nice surprise in 2017 and will again be led by Blake Parker who was a nice surprise in 2017. Yusmeiro Petit and David Hernandez, who were key contributors last season, are gone and we have selection of arms, including Cam Bedrosian and Jim Johnson, who will need to replace their production.
In 2017 the Angels had 3 black holes in left field, second base and third base and all have been significantly improved upon. Justin Upton gives us the bat to pair with Trout in the middle of the line-up while, even with a bit of regression, Cozart should provide more offence from third while, even if he doesn’t bounce back, Kinsler should provide more at second base. Trout, Calhoun, Simmons should all provide solid production and I fancy Luis Valbuena to have a bounce back season. The concern is Albert Pujols who is a shadow of the player he was even in 2015 and, while he will be given the opportunity to play regularly to start the season, we may reach the point of having to bench him.
While the additions should lead to scoring more runs, the moves have turned the Angels into one of the best defensive teams in baseball. Andrelton Simmons has been the best defensive shortstop in baseball for the last six years and is joined by Cozart who has been one of the best shortstops and Kinsler who has been the best defensive second baseman over the last three seasons to make a brilliant defensive infield. Maldonado deservedly won the AL Gold Glove in 2017 and the outfield will provide solid defence.
Overall, we look much better on paper now than we did in 2017 at not just the Major League level but also have a much improved farm system. We will need a bit of luck with injuries but should be in for a good season.
89 – 73 (AL Wild Card) – I would give us a shot of winning any other division but the Astros look like they will again be the best team in baseball. After that who knows?
Mike Trout – He is the best player in baseball and he should have at least two more MVP awards. He was also putting together his best season before getting injured in 2017 which is a scary thought.
One to watch
Shohei Ohtani – I think everyone will be watching to see if Ohtani can pitch and hit well enough to be an everyday player.
Join the UK MLB fans forum: