- The Angels locked up Mike Trout long term this offseason, but did they do enough with their pitching staff and lineup to get the game's best player back to the playoffs in 2019?
2018 finish: 80-82, Fourth in AL Central
SI's 2019 Prediction: 81-81, Third in AL West
Key additions: 1B Justin Bour, INF Tommy La Stella, C Jonathan Lucroy, RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Matt Harvey, RHP Cody Allen
Key departures: RHP Matt Shoemaker, RHP Garrett Richards, RHP Blake Parker
1. RF Kole Calhoun
2. CF Mike Trout
3. LF Justin Upton
4. 1B Justin Bour
5. SS Andrelton Simmons
6. DH Albert Pujols
7. 3B Zack Cozart
8. C Jonathan Lucroy
9. 2B Tommy La Stella
1. RHP Trevor Cahill
2. RHP Matt Harvey
3. RHP Félix Peña
4. LHP Tyler Skaggs
5. RHP Jaime Barria
RHP Cody Allen (closer)
RHP Ty Buttrey (closer)
RHP Hansel Robles
RHP Justin Anderson
RHP Cam Bedrosian
RHP Luis Garcia
LHP Dan Jennings
RHP Noe Ramirez
C Kevan Smith
INF Tommy La Stella
OF Peter Bourjos
Injured List: DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani, OF Michael Hermosillo, LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP JC Ramirez, RHP Nick Tropeano, RHP Tyler Cole, RHP Keynan Middleton
Movin’ on up! Andrelton Simmons is the most undervalued shortstop—maybe even player—in the game. Maybe, just maybe, if he puts up his third consecutive 5-win season and the Angels are actually competitive (that’s the much bigger if!), Simmons will finally get the same level of recognition as his fellow countrymen, Didi Gregorius and Xander Bogaerts. Plus, he’s the perfect hitter for the Angels’ lineup, hitting behind boom or bust guys like Justin Upton and Justin Bour. If Mike Trout is on second with two outs after the Justins fail to get him in, Simmons will most certainly put the ball in play and give the best player on the planet a chance to score. Best stat for Simmons: His strikeout rate has been in the top 1% in the league in each of the last four seasons, and his BABIP has been at least .291 in each of the last three years. Simmons puts the ball in play at an elite rate, and when he put on the ball, he gets his knocks more often that most.
Sell! Kole Calhoun was a Gold Glove winner in 2015 and was once a productive offensive rightfielder. He can hit you 15-20 homers a year. But he is not a leadoff hitter. Last season, Calhoun had a .283 on-base percentage and was the team’s primary leadoff man. Sure, the true role of a leadoff hitter—being the first player on his team to bat in a game—happens just once a day, he’s still the batter that hits directly ahead of Mike Trout. And if Zack Cozart and his .304 lifetime OBP is going to be hitting eighth or ninth, the Angels are going to be wasting a ton of opportunities for their $430 million man to drive in runs other than the ones he does on his 20-25 solo homers.
Appreciate this man! This would be an ideal spot for Simmons if Mike Trout somehow still wasn’t so underappreciated! Tom Verducci said it best shortly after Trout signed his 12-year, $430 million extension: “He is so good that his best comps are dead.” If you long for the days of watching generational talents like Willie, Mickey and the Duke patrol centerfield and destroy baseballs with grace, and if you’re constantly singing the “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio” part of “Mrs. Robinson” then this section is for you.
A Modest Proposal from Joe Sheehan: Mike Trout isn’t just the best player in baseball. Through age 26, he is the best player in baseball history. We have a hard time processing that, always placing sepia-toned superstars above the HD ones we see every day. He does everything at an elite level—hit, hit for power, run, field, get on base—except throw. He does all this without a hint of controversy, without ever showing the frustration of being the best player on a team that has made the playoffs once in his eight years. No matter who your team may be, take a minute this year to watch Mike Trout. He’s our Ruth, our DiMaggio, our Mays, except he may just be better than all of them.
MLB.TV Rating: 8.1
The greatest player of our generation—perhaps on the cusp of becoming the best ever (see above)—might not be enough to make the Angels a playoff team, but he certainly makes them much more entertaining. His presence alone is worth the full price of admission.
Keep an Eye Out For…: The Angels were so irrelevant last year other than Trout and AL Rookie of the Year Shohei Ohtani that Panamanian righthander Jaime Barria’s fantastic rookie season received nowhere near the recognition it deserved. At 21 years old, Barria went 10-9 with a 3.41 ERA and a 122 ERA+... Angels top prospect Jo Adell is going to miss at least two months of the season with two lower body injuries, but the 20-year-old outfielder is worth monitoring upon his return. If he’s as good as advertised, a future outfield with Adell and Trout will be a blessing for the Angels.
A rival scout previews the 2019 Los Angeles Angels
What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?
This is another team that’s going to be challenged by starting pitching. They made improvements position-player wise, and they’ll have some guys take some strides, but the starting pitching is an issue.
Who is the most overrated player on the team?
Matt Harvey. Is he still the Dark Knight? He looks OK. He says all the right things. He doesn’t appear to be so arrogant anymore. Maybe New York was getting to him. I know the thoracic outlet problem was a huge issue for them because it doesn’t happen to that many guys. This will be a big year for him. He’s had to learn how to pitch a little bit. The expectation level is so high because of who he was not so long ago. That’s the biggest point of intrigue there. Can he be that guy again?
Who is the most underrated player on the team?
Jonathan Lucroy. Oakland is really going to miss him. He did a great job with that staff and he hits fine. He lost his power, but he commands a staff really well. They got a steal with him for two years.
What young player(s) is/are on the cusp of stardom?
Shohei Ohtani. That sample size he gave us last year was just amazing. My goodness, he is the complete package. They’re going to take their time with Ohtani because they don’t want to harm his pitching future, so he’s going to DH the majority of the time. Ohtani has big-time power and he can hit the ball the other way. He keeps his hands back so well.
What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?
Cam Bedrosian. They were grooming him to be a closer. He had velocity but that isn’t there right now. He’s never really excelled and is more of a seventh-inning guy. He’s just not the guy they thought he was going to be.
Who gets the most out of his talent?
David Fletcher. He came up as a shortstop and moved over to second because they have Andrelton Simmons over there. He kind of reminds you of David Eckstein to a certain degree. He’s got more power than you think, and he’s very complete.
Who gets the least out of his talent?
Kole Calhoun. He looked so lost at times last year, just totally confused. He used to hit 20 homers in front of Trout. He used to bang the gaps but maybe he listened to too much launch angle stuff. His swing has been so inconsistent since he tried to tweak it. You just don’t know who he is anymore.
Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?
Justin Anderson You can’t see his stuff. He’s got high velocity that’s a bit wild in the zone, but he’s effectively wild. He’s a real uncomfortable at-bat.
Who has the best baseball instincts/IQ?
Mike Trout. At this point he probably doesn’t want to beat his body up anymore, but he does everything well. He can play shallow and get back in the field better and more quickly than anybody. He looks like Andruw Jones. He just does everything so well … but that’s obvious.
Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?
Ohtani. Ichiro could have hit for more power had he sold out and this guy is a super-sized Ichiro. He can do it to all fields. It’s got that sound to it and he has such a pretty swing that’s just so effortless.
Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for
Trout and Ohtani. That’s pretty easy. They’re franchise players.
Name the guy (or guys) on this teams that you would never want in your clubhouse.
It’s gotta be Harvey just because of the way he handled himself in New York. Pujols gives you the impression sometimes that he’s self-centered, but he’s a Hall-of-Famer. … The problem with Pujols is he’s a cripple out there. He’s gimpy and I guess he can still hit but he doesn’t have complete use of his legs. As long as Albert is not completely healthy with his legs, it’s a hindrance. He’s just not the big-time threat that he once was.
Whose effort could use a jolt?
The expectation just hasn’t been met with Zack Cozart. He needs to stay on the field. He needs to be there at third base. If he’s not ready, they should use Taylor Ward there, but Ward might not be ready defensively. Cozart was really good in Cincinnati. It’s hard to perform when you’re not healthy and he changed positions.
Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?
Trout, obviously. I want my best player up there and he’s the guy. There’s nobody even close. On the mound, Jaime Barria. I need a guy who can pitch and think his way through and he’s beyond his years with maturity. He’s a trickster, got arm angles. He can pitch backward. He can keep guys off-balance.
Who don’t you want in that situation?
Matt Shoemaker. He’s prone to give up the big homer. He makes too many mistakes at the wrong times. His lack of velocity gets him in trouble at the big league level. He’s not precise enough and has below-average velocity. It’s a recipe for disaster. José Briceño just doesn’t have the bat. He’s strictly defense so I don’t want him at-bat if he’s only playing once or twice a week.
Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?
Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh. Marsh is probably the most underrated player in their system. He can swing it and has a cannon in rightfield. He’s going to be a nice big leaguer. Adell looks better in a uniform than anyone. He can play center, power, and he can run. They’ll find a place for him—Peter Bourjos isn’t going to be the answer if somebody gets hurt
Is the current manager one that you would hire to run your club?
Brad Ausmus didn’t have much success in Detroit, so I’m not sure why they brought him in. I love Mike Scioscia, but these days it flows from the top and Scioscia had a bunch of control. Ausmus fits the A.J. Hinch mold. Maybe it’ll work.
What is the ceiling for the team this year? What about the next three years?
The ceiling is about 80 wins for the next couple of years. I don’t see them getting any better anytime soon. They don’t have starting pitchers in the pipeline.
Emptying the notebook:
Justin Upton is the beneficiary of