State of the Angels

There’s no way around it: 2016 has been a lost season all the way around for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. While many pundits and projection systems had the Angels out of the playoff picture before the season,  the team having a .453 winning percentage through 137 games is a bit of a shocker. A mix of under performances and an absurd amount of injuries have led to the worst season since the beginning of the new century for the Angels. Many fans are already looking forward to 2017 due to this abysmal season but the team may not be a whole lot better next season either.

Rotation

Unfortunately for the Angels, 2017 doesn’t appear to be much brighter due to the aforementioned injury big that has killed the team. Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano will most certainly not pitch in 2017 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery this year. Garrett Richards has yet to undergo the same surgery for a torn UCL(Ulnar Collateral Ligament) and has rehabbed successfully thus far but his health is still a huge question mark. To add insult to injury, Matt Shoemaker, the best Angels pitcher in 2016(3.88 ERA & 3.3 WAR) suffered a fractured skull from a 105 mph line drive that hit his head on Sunday. Angels General Manager Billy Eppler said Shoemaker should be good to go in 2017 but you never know with an injury of this stature. Assuming Richards and Shoemaker are healthy in 2017, the Angels could roll out a rotation of: Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Ricky Nolasco, Alex Meyer/Nate Smith/free agent signing. It’s possible that rotation could succeed if everything goes right but there are a ton of question marks with that group.

Bullpen

The bullpen has suffered the same rut of bad performances and injuries just like the rotation. Huston Street, Joe Smith and Fernando Salas, the back end relievers for the team entering the season, all performed well below their career norms. Street had -0.6 WAR and had season ending knee surgery last month. Smith had -0.1 WAR and was shipped off for a mediocre prospect in July. Salas had a 4.47 ERA and was also sent shipping for a mediocre prospect. The huge bright spot in the pen was Cam Bedrosian, who of course had season ending surgery for a blood clot in his throwing arm because that’s just how this season has gone. Bedrosian had a 1.12 ERA in 40.1 innings and had become the new closer before undergoing surgery. After those guys, the best arm has been Rule 5 pickup Deolis Guerra, who has posted a 2.89 ERA and 3.52 FIP in 46.2 innings thanks to spectacular command and a very good change up. Other notables have been Mike Morin(4.59 ERA & 3.25 FIP in 49 innings), Jose Alvarez(3.51 ERA & 3.19 FIP in 51.1 innings) and waiver pickup J.C. Ramirez(3.41 ERA & 4.32 FIP in 34.1 innings).

If that group doesn’t inspire you, you’re not alone. The bullpen has the 4th worst WAR(0.8) in baseball and has the 6th worst WAR(4.26) although their 3.78 ERA is right around league average. It’s clear the team needs to redo this bullpen a little bit but there is the slightest bit of hope moving forward. Bedrosian and Guerra are 2 building blocks for the bullpen. Morin hasn’t matched his run prevention with his peripherals but that could change next year. Keynan Middleton and Victor Alcantara are 2 prospects who possess 97-100 mph fastballs who will be knocking on the door next season. With a few savvy free agent signings or trade acquisitions, it’s possible the group takes a step forward next year. It’s more likely that the group is poor again, however, with the current group the team has.

Positon Players

While Angels pitchers have been injured and ineffective all year long, the Angels position players have actually been pretty good and healthy(knock on wood). Mike Trout is doing Mike Trout things as he leads baseball in WAR(8.2), wRC+(176) and OBP(.443). Kole Calhoun has posted his 3rd straight 3+ WAR season and could have a career best year if he finishes hot. While those are the only 2 position players with 2+ WAR, 6 other Angels are above 1 WAR, including big surprises Jett Bandy(102 wRC+ & 1.2 WAR) and Jefry Marte(117 wRC+ & 1 WAR). Andrelton Simmons has been a defensive wizard and outside his fluke injury, he’s performed like a 3+ WAR player. Yunel Escobar has hit all year(116 wRC+) although his defense and base running have been putrid. Albert Pujols has continued to regress but is still a solid bat behind Mike Trout for now(114 wRC+) and C.J. Cron has had a career best year thanks to an improved approach(126 wRC+). You can definitely squint and see an offense that can be a top 10 unit next year, especially if the team finds some decent replacements in left field and 2nd base.

Defense has been a strong suit of this team as well, as they’re the 8th ranked unit via Fangraphs defensive system. The team has 24 defensive runs saved(DRS) and a 14.2 UZR(Ultimate Zone Rating). Andrelton Simmons has played a big part in the Angels being a good defensive unit and many other Angels rank right around average/above average defensively this year, including Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun.

One area the Angels could really improve is on the bases. The team has cost themselves 15 runs(-15 BsR) this season, the 4th worst mark among all teams. Yunel Escobar and Albert Pujols have been particularly bad and have brought the team down, even with Mike Trout ranking as one of the elite base runners in baseball.

Potential 2017 Roster

Much of the position player core should remain intact for next season but it’s likely that the team sees a pretty big overhaul on the pitching side. This is a completely random and fun exercise but we can pretend to see what the roster could look like in 2017.

Lineup:

  1. Yunel Escobar 3B
  2. Kole Calhoun RF
  3. Mike Trout CF
  4. Albert Pujols DH
  5. C.J. Cron 1B
  6. Chase Utley/Chris Coghlan 2B
  7. Jon Jay LF
  8. Jett Bandy C
  9. Andrelton Simmons SS

 

Bench: 

  1. Carlos Perez C
  2. Jefry Marte IF/OF
  3. Kaleb Cowart IF
  4. Cliff Pennington IF

 

Rotation: 

  1. Garrett Richards RHP
  2. Matt Shoemaker RHP
  3. Tyler Skaggs LHP
  4. Ricky Nolasco RHP
  5. Ivan Nova RHP

 

Bullpen:

  1. Cam Bedrosian RHP
  2. Sergio Romo RHP
  3. Deolis Guerra RHP
  4. Brett Cecil LHP
  5. Mike Morin RHP
  6. Jose Alvarez LHP
  7. Jhoulys Chacin RHP

 

Other Notable players who will be used:

  1. Alex Meyer RHP
  2. Nate Smith LHP
  3. Brett Oberholtzer LHP
  4. Keynan Middleton RHP
  5. Victor Alcantara RHP
  6. Troy Scribner RHP
  7. Greg Mahle LHP
  8. J.C. Ramirez RHP
  9. Tyler DeLoach LHP
  10. Jose Valdez RHP
  11. Manny Banuelos LHP
  12. Sherman Johnson IF/OF
  13. Rafael Ortega OF
  14. Rey Navarro IF
  15. Todd Cunningham OF

 

Addressing the pitching depth and fixing the holes in left field and 2nd base are going to be huge priorities for the Angels in the offseason. Billy Eppler has already stated that he plans on the Angels competing next year so a busy offseason could be coming. This doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a Jerry Dipoto-esque binge spree, especially with a weak free agent market, but the team can improve in more ways than 1. Several useful starters could be plugged in at left field(Jon Jay, Steve Pearce, Rajai Davis, Angel Pagan) and the same goes for second base(Chase Utley, Chris Coghlan). Addressing the rotation may be tough with little options out there but some lower tier starters like Ivan Nova, R.A. Dickey or Jon Niese could make sense as an innings eater for the team. There is a wealth of good relievers in the market(Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon) but Eppler will most likely shy away from dishing out big deals for relievers. Lower tier relievers like Sergio Romo, Tommy Hunter, Brett Cecil, Jesse Chavez and Drew Storen would make sense here.

You can see a situation arise in 2017 where the Angels have some good luck rather than bad luck and settle around .500 for the year but it’s tough to see any situation where the Angels are in the playoffs. There are far too many question marks with the current club and the depth in the minors to think this team wins 75+ games next year. Billy Eppler will probably approach the offseason with smart intentions of improving the ball club with short term guys who won’t garner big contracts. There’s nothing wrong with this approach but the hope is the team doesn’t try to spend its’ way back into contention again only to see the team hand out bad contracts, lose draft picks and still finish as a mediocre team. As usual, the rest of this season and the offseason to come shall be very interesting.

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