MLB season preview: Mike Trout is great but the Angels are still mediocre

There’s only one question for the Los Angeles Angels. It’s the same question from last year. And it’ll probably be the question next year too: How can they leverage Mike Trout’s best years into a respectable run at a championship?

Last year they sure didn’t. They lost 88 games, which is worse than 77 they lost in 2015, which is much worse than when they won their division in 2014 and were swept out of the playoffs. This is a team that just can’t put it together, even with the best player in the game.

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Trout has been putting up MVP numbers since he got into the league, but the Angels haven’t been able to build a true winner around him. This year, the team gained more than $40 million worth of financial flexibility as Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson’s contracts came off the books, but they didn’t immediately invest that into making the team better.

They added a couple veterans who will improve the lineup to a degree, but pitching remains a question mark — enough of a question mark in fact that it’s tough to imagine the Angels challenging the Astros or Rangers for the top of the AL West.

Additions: Cameron Maybin, Ben Revere, Luis Valbuena, Jesse Chavez
Subtractions: Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Jhoulys Chacin

The Angels may not have added elite talent in the offseason, but they brought in some sneaky players who could be useful. Cameron Maybin has potential that still intrigues teams. Last year’s offensive outburst may have been propped up by an unsustainable BABIP, but he should provide strong base-running and great defense now that he’ll be moved to a corner spot. Valbuena is another flawed player, but should provide enough power and patience at the plate to give Los Angeles value. Revere is a solid fourth outfielder. The team also took a chance on Jesse Chavez to fill out the rotation. He’s fine as a fifth starter. It’s tough to say Los Angeles really lost a ton in the offseason. Weaver is far past his prime, Wilson didn’t even appear in the majors last year and Chacin had a 4.81 ERA. (Chris Cwik)

Breaking: Mike Trout is good at baseball. (AP)

It can’t always be Mike Trout, right? This time, it’s Cameron Maybin. The Angels picked him up via trade over the winter to man left field, hoping that he could have another season like he did in Detroit. And it was quite a season. He hit .315/.383/.418, the best triple slash of his career. However, he did that over 94 games, which reveals the main issue with Maybin: he can’t stay healthy. If he can, he could be an asset to the Angels, who unfortunately can’t just clone Mike Trout 15 times or so to fill out their roster. (Liz Roscher)

1. Yunel Escobar, 3B (.304/.355/.391, 5 HR, 39 RBI)
2. Kole Calhoun, RF (.271/.348/.438, 18 HR, 75 RBI, 91 R)
3. Mike Trout, CF (.315/.441/.550, 29 HR, 100 RBI, 123 R, 30 SB)
4. Albert Pujols, DH (.268/.323/.457, 31 HR, 119 RBI, 71 R)
5. Luis Valbuena, 1B (.260/.357/.459, 13 HR, 40 RBI)
6. Cameron Maybin, LF (.315/.383/.418, 4 HR, 43 RBI)
7. Danny Espinosa, 2B (.209/.306/.378, 24 HR, 72 RBI)
8. Andrelton Simmons, SS (.281/.324/.366, 4 HR, 44 RBI)
9. Martin Maldonado, C (.202/.332/.351, 8 HR, 21 RBI)

1. Garrett Richards (1-3, 2.34 ERA, 34.2 IP, 34 K)
2. Matt Shoemaker (9-13, 3.88 ERA, 160 IP, 143 K)
3. Ricky Nolasco (8-14, 4.42 ERA, 197.2 IP, 144 K)
4. Tyler Skaggs (3-4, 4.17 ERA, 49.2 IP, 50 K)
5. Jesse Chavez (2-2, 4.43 ERA, 67 IP, 63 K)

Angels pitchers Matt Shoemaker and Ricky Nolasco. (AP)

When your lineup boasts Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, there’s always potential for fireworks. Now that the Angels lineup is a little deeper behind those two, the offense should take a noticeable step forward. If the pitching improves along with it, the Angels should be a bigger factor and a threat to reach .500. (Townsend)

There’s going to be a heavy reliance on veteran pitchers with troubling injury histories. Guys like Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker and Huston Street, who’s already slated to miss four weeks with a side injury, hold the key to keeping the Angels relevant. If they can’t hold up, the Angels could continue sinking right down to 90 losses. (Townsend)

Any starting pitcher you find interesting?
Nolan Ryan? Frank Tanana? Chuck Finley? Jered Weaver? Let’s go living in the past. Or perhaps Matt Shoemaker’s present could be something fun. His overall 2016 profile doesn’t look special — a 9-13 record, 3.88 ERA, 1.23 WHIP. But consider what Shoemaker posted once he started using his split-finger pitch as a wipeout option. The final 20 starts break down this way: 2.83 ERA, 121 strikeouts against 17 walks over 130.1 innings. And he wasn’t especially lucky in that frame, allowing a hit rate of .309. Perhaps he’s turned a corner.

[More: Check out the Angels’ fantasy preview on Roto Arcade]

Shoemaker’s season had a scary ending — he took a line drive off the head in early September and didn’t pitch again. Early reports are promising — he’s doing normal workout activity and should be on regular schedule when spring training opens. Keep an eye on him. He’s currently a giveaway — ADP 238 — in the early NFBC marketplace. (Scott Pianowski)

If you like animals, then Andrew Heaney’s Instagram feed is for you.

MINE! #emu

A post shared by Andrew Heaney (@heandog8) on Feb 12, 2017 at 5:25pm PST

His recent trip to a safari-themed zoo resulted in a lot of truly entertaining posts, but when he’s not doing that, he also posts pictures of his dogs. And isn’t that all we want out of our favorite athletes on social media? (Roscher)

Most of these sections have focused on giveaways, and the Angels will be no different. With that said, you should go watch the Angels play to experience Mike Trout in person. Trout is easily the best player in baseball, and a generational talent. Based on WAR, he’s on a path to become the best player of all-time. Go to a game just so you can say you saw Mike Trout in person in his prime. It’s a story you’ll tell your grandchildren.

Oh, to commemorate Trout’s MVP win last year, the Angels are holding three nights where they are giving away Trout MVP bobbleheads. Those are cool, too.

ALSO IN THIS SERIES: San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!