Pressing Questions: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
If you land a franchise player in the NBA, you’re instantly viable. Secure a franchise quarterback in the NFL, you’re set to compete.
Lock up the best player in baseball? Keep the bricks and plywood coming, foreman. It takes a village. Despite having Mike Trout in tow for the last five full seasons, it hasn’t done the Angels much good.
[Ditch the paper and pen – play Squares Pick’em for the Big Game!]
The Angels have just one playoff appearance in the Trout Era, a three-game wipeout to the Royals in 2014. Things were especially bleak last year, when the club fell to 74-88 despite Trout’s second MVP season (and fifth straight Top 2 finish, an absurd run). It’s an open question: are the Angels even good enough to consider Trout a long-term building block? Perhaps it would make more sense to seek out a monstrous package deal, trade Trout for a bushel of tools, completely start over.
That’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, of course, so we’ll proceed with the roster in front of us. The Halos have a silly name (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), a goofy home ballpark, and a roster without much hope. Ah, but we’re just in it for the numbers — let’s see if we can find some optimism here.
Q: Is a poor supporting cast reason to not take Trout No. 1 overall?
Not on my clipboard. Trout is one of those players who offers a ridiculous upside and floor at the same time, and that’s what we want with the blue chips. He’s played 157 games or more in four straight seasons. His career slash of .306/.405/.557 speaks for itself. Some years he’s focused more on running (30 bags last year), some seasons have been more power filled (41 homers two years back, 29 last year). Bottom line, this is a durable, multi-skilled player entering his age-25 season, and he’s proven to be reliable no matter what the Angels slop around him.
Did most of you need that pro-Trout paragraph? I doubt it. Here’s hoping you secure an early pick and can land him, or your play in an auction format.
Q: What about the rest of the offense? Anyone we can target?
Although the Angels led the majors in runs as recently as 2014, it’s hard to talk yourself into the 2017 group. The Halos fell to 20th and 17th in runs over the last two years. Last year’s group was 14th in average, 22nd in slugging, 17th in stolen bases (after Trout, the next-best thief was Andrelton Simmons, at 10). Mediocrity, everywhere you look.
If you want to get sentimental for Albert Pujols, the cost has come down significantly. That’s what a December surgery will do.
Entering his age-37 season (per the birth certificate), Pujols has a three-year average of .261-82-33-106-5. That’s not anywhere close to the St. Louis version, of course, but it’s somewhere between a 2.5 and 3-category player. I worry about the runs scored — they dipped to 71 last year, and Pujols has dealt with a host of nagging injuries in the later stages of his career. He finally had surgery on his right foot about two months ago; he’s dealt with plantar fasciitis for several years. The Angels aren’t guaranteeing Pujols will be ready for opening day, which is why his NFBC ADP is around 132. I’m not going to consider him unless the price completely collapses. You probably know by now, I tend to fade the long-term injury cases.
Outfielder Kole Calhoun has some sympathizers, but I’d like to see more of a spike through his late 20s. He’s hit 44 home runs the last two years — useful, but nothing special given how power exploded all around MLB last year. He’s stolen a paltry 14 bases for his career, and he has a slash of .266/.328/.436. These are the “he is what he is” years — I’d like to grab for something more interesting.
Rather than take Calhoun as a Top 40 outfielder, I’ll look for a cheaper option, someone like Dexter Fowler, Kevin Kiermaier, Keon Broxton or Hunter Pence. And heck, if you want to go into the bargain bin for outfielders, you’ll still find names you like. It’s once again a deep position for the middle class and lottery tickets.
I’m curious to see how the club approaches 1B/DH C.J. Cron. He looks like a platoon candidate as we daydream for spring, but his career splits actually favor the right-handed tilt (an OPS spike of 90 points). If Pujols has a slow rehab process, maybe Cron will stick in the lineup most of the time, anyway. Cron probably has a 25-85 type of season percolating in him, if he can get regular playing time.
Q: 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.
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.
Q: Who’s the closer?
We won’t have an answer for a while; it’s going to be an open competition in spring training. Huston Street was hurt most of last year, and terrible when on the field. Cam Bedrosian has the look of a closer, and acquitted himself nicely last year. Andrew Bailey is around to challenge, too. Even if you have the Angels down for a losing record, and you should, their handshakes will still hold value to us. Stay tuned. (If I had to draft one of them right this second, I’d go with Baby Bedrock.)
Angels Projected Lineup
3B Yunel Escobar
RF Kole Calhoun
CF Mike Trout
DH Albert Pujols
1B Luis Valbuena/C.J. Cron
LF Cameron Maybin
2B Danny Espinosa
SS Andrelton Simmons
C Martin Maldonado
Angels Projected Rotation
SP Garrett Richards
SP Ricky Nolasco
SP Matt Shoemaker
SP Tyler Skaggs
SP Jesse Chavez
RP Huston Street
RP Cam Bedrosian
RP Andrew Bailey