Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have one of the best players in the league with Mike Trout, but they lack depth in the starting lineup. They have also struggled to develop a winning pitching staff. The Angels have made the playoffs once over the last 11 seasons, which came after six postseason appearances and a World Series title (2002) over the previous eight years. In the team’s 59-year history, Los Angeles doesn’t have another World Series trip. They have appeared in the playoffs a combined 10 times.

In 2019, their pitching staff ranked 25th in ERA (5.12) with 32 saves. The Angels allowed 146 more runs than they did in 2018 (722) and 238 more runs than their last postseason appearance in 2014 (630). Los Angeles placed 15th in runs scored (769), 18th in home runs (268), and 16th in RBI (734).

The Angels made a splash in free agency by signing 3B Anthony Rendon to a massive contract ($245 million over seven seasons). The team took a flier on SP Julio Teheran while also acquiring Dylan Bundy in a trade with the Orioles for four prospects. Los Angeles also brought in Jason Castro to compete for the starting catching job.

The starting rotation gets a bump with Shohei Ohtani expected to be back on the mound in 2020. He has ace upside, but his opportunity will be limited as far as innings in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Overall, the Angels lack a true ace this year. They are still searching for a second arm to become a front-end starter. On the positive side, it appears they have enough starting pitching depth to wheel out a competitive arm on most nights.

Los Angeles will have an improved middle of the lineup, which would be helped by a healthy Justin Upton. The leadoff position remains in flux while the team also lacks top talent at the backend of the starting lineup. The Angels hope Tommy La Stella can build off of his 2019 successful campaign (16 HRs over 292 at-bats) and that top prospect OF Joe Adell can make a push to the majors after seeing some time at AAA in 2019.

The bullpen looked better in 2019 thanks to a push forward by closer Hansel Robles and reliever Ty Buttrey. Both arms don’t have elite pedigree, which means that they each have a chance at regression this season.

The Angels have a chance at having a winning record in 2020, but they remain well behind Houston in overall talent. Vegas posted the team's Over/Under in wins at 85.5. Los Angeles also gains some momentum by adding Joe Madden as the manager.

Starting Lineup

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1. 2B Tommy La Stella

Over his five seasons in the majors, La Stella hit .264 with 84 runs, 10 home runs, 94 RBI, and four stolen bases over 828 at-bats. His path projected him as a liability in all five categories despite a favorable approach (strikeout rate – 12.6 and walk rate – 10.1). His bat was slightly better in his minor league career (.310 with 183 runs, 24 HRs, 185 RBI, and 24 SBs over 1,240 at-bats). La Stella flashed the most power of his career before 2019 at A Ball in 2011 (.328 with nine HRs and 40 RBI over 232 at-bats). 

The Angels saw something in his swing last season, which led to almost every day at-bats from day one of the season. After a 4-for-24 start with no home runs or RBI, La Stella turned up the juice over his next 69 games (.316 with 47 runs, 16 HRs, and 44 RBI over 256 at-bats) while working his way to the leadoff position. Unfortunately, his gravy train ended on July 2nd after breaking his right tibia on his own foul ball. In the end, his CTBA (.326) wasn’t special while showing some growth in his AVH (1.651). La Stella ranked 365th in his hard-hit rate (30.8) and improved dramatically in his HR/FB rate (18.4 – 8.6 in his career and 13.5 in 2018). He tends to hit a low number of fly-balls (33.2 percent – 31.0 in his career). 

This year he’ll compete with David Fletcher for starting at-bats at second base. His power last year doesn’t look repeatable, but I can’t say La Stella won’t 20 home runs if given 550 at-bats. More of a bench player for me with “ride him while he’s hot” value. His ADP (287) makes him a starter in deep leagues. Not my pig and not my farm, so I’d be looking for a better option at second base. At the same time, I'm willing to be open minded if he plays well at the beginning of the season.

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2. OF Mike Trout

The Angels continue to bat Trout second in the batting order, which has led to low RBI chances in four of the past five seasons (341, 283, 301, and 360). To compound this issue, he’s missed 98 games over the past three years. Trout finished 2019 on the injured list with a right foot injury that required surgery. The damage may have come from a foul ball back in late May. He did also miss some time in July with a calf issue. 

Trout played the best over the first half of the year (.301 with 28 HRs, 67 RBI, and eight SBs over 302 at-bats). Most of his power came in July (.286 with 13 HRs and 29 RBI over 84 at-bats). His AVH (2.212) was the best of his career but he saw some fade in his CTBA (.391). He hit for a lower average against lefties (.266 with ten HRs and 26 RBI over 143 at-bats). 

In 2017 and 2018, Trout only had nine home runs and 20 RBI vs. left-handed pitching over 195 at-bats. His approach (strikeout rate – 20.0 and walk rate – 18.3) remains elite. He finished with the highest fly-ball rate (49.2) and HR/FB rate (25.9) of his career while also hitting plenty of line drives (26.6 percent). Trout had the 71st hard-hit rate in the majors while ranking fourth in barrels per plate appearance. 

Great player, but we need to see him play a full year to reach his ceiling. His decline in steals (11) had to be tied to his toe injury. With Anthony Rendon expected to hit behind him in the batting order, Trout looks poised to lead the league in runs scored with 50-plus home runs, 120-plus RBI, and a push back toward 20 steals with a full season of at-bats. His batting average still has league-leading upside. He is being drafted second overall with a high of four. Last year he ranked eighth in SIscore (6.98) while playing in 83.3 percent of the Angels’ games.

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3. 3B Anthony Rendon

Rendon had the best season of his career in 2019, which led to a career-high in runs (117), home runs (34), and RBI (126), not to mention a World Series title. He finished with the most doubles (44) in the National League for the second straight year, and his RBI total (126) was the best in the league. 

Rendon was exceptional with runners on base (RBI rate – 22) with further growth in his AVH (1.874) and his CTBA (.379). His strikeout rate (13.3) was a career-low and he continued to take a high number of walks (12.4 percent). Rendon played great in April (.356 with six HRs and 18 RBI over 73 at-bats) with an immense run from May 14th to September 8th (.344 with 85 runs, 26 HRs, and 95 RBI over 392 at-bats). He had almost equal success against righties (.320 with 24 HRs and 100 RBI over 409 at-bats) and lefties (.316 with 10 HRs and 26 RBI over 136 at-bats). His hard-hit rate (46.6) ranked 39th with 218 balls reaching 95 MPH or more (5th). Rendon continues to hit plenty of fly balls (45.7 percent) with growth in his HR/FB rate (15.9). 

This season he can be had in the second round of drafts with an ADP of 21. Almost a lock to hit over .300 with 90 runs. His swing path projects higher in power if he turns some of his doubles into home runs. Rendon can’t help but have 425-plus RBI chances with Mike Trout being on base a minimum of 200 times in front of him in 2020. I’d set his floor at 30 home runs after his move to the American League with 110-plus RBI. In 12-team leagues, it is very possible to pair him with Trout.

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4. DH Shohei Ohtani

Ohtani ended up missing the first 34 games of 2019 with his recovery from Tommy John surgery. His season ended with 15 more missed games due to a left knee injury that required surgery in mid-September. Over his possible 113 games, the Angels had him in the lineup for 92 contests. Ohtani lowered his strikeout rate (25.9) slightly, but he also took fewer walks (7.8 percent – 10.1 in 2018). His AVH (1.764), RBI rate (15), and CTBA (.401) all regressed. 

Other than his success in June (.340 with nine HRs and 22 RBI over 94 at-bats), Ohtani was a tough start in the fantasy market over the other four months (May – .250/3/13, July – .277/3/8/5, August – .281/1/11/2, and September – .258/2/8/1). Most of his power came against right-handed pitching (.288 with 15 HRs and 49 RBI over 281 at-bats), but he did have some success against lefties (.282 with three HRs and 13 RBI over 103 at-bats). Ohtani had the 33rd highest hard-hit rate (47.1) in baseball. His decline in power last year came from a weaker swing path (ground ball rate – 49.6 percent and fly-ball rate – 24.5). He maintained a high HR/FB rate (26.5). 

In 2020, the Angels will pitch Ohtani about once a week with the idea of adding length to his season as a starter. A fantasy owner should expect about four games per week as a better, which gives him an outlook of about 400 at-bats. Possible 60/25/65 type year with a neutral batting average. His ADP (99) is driven by his ability to pitch at a high level. 

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5. OF Justin Upton

The early sign to get off the Upton bus in 2019 came in mid-February when he suffered tendinitis in his right knee. He teased fantasy owners in mid-March after returning to game action. About a week later, Upton suffered a toe injury in his left foot that ended up costing him 11 weeks of the season. His bat didn’t look right all year, which led to only a slight spark in August (.200 with four HRs and 22 RBI over 80 at-bats). Over his other 139 combined at-bats, he only produced eight HRs and 18 RBI. His strikeout rate (30.5) was a career-high, but he did take walks (12.5 percent). 

Upton ended the year on the injured list when his right knee flared up again in September. Over his previous three full seasons, he hit 30 or more home runs each year with 288 combined RBI. His average is going to have risk, and his speed looks to be a lost asset based on his knee issue. Upton didn’t have surgery in the offseason, and he's hoping his PRP injection in September clears up his patellar injury. Veteran bat with an 80/30/85 skill set if healthy. His ADP comes in at 236. 

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READ MORE: 2020 Los Angeles Angels Team Outlook

Pitching Staff

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SP1 Shohei Ohtani

Over five seasons in Japan, Ohtani went 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA and 624 strikeouts over 543 innings. His walk rate (3.3 – 3.8 in 2018) needed some improvement while offering a strong strikeout rate (10.3 – 11.0 in 2018). His best season came in 2015 (15-5 with a 2.24 ERA and 196 Ks over 160.2 innings). 

In his first action in Major League Baseball, Ohtani flashed electric upside in three starts (three runs over 21 innings with 32 Ks). He allowed two runs or fewer in five of his first eight games, leading to a 3.18 ERA, .196 BAA, and 57 strikeouts over 45.1 innings. His command trailed vs. lefties (13 of 22 walks over 90 at-bats). His AFB (97.3) was an edge in velocity, but batters hit .382 against his four-seamer. Ohtani had an exceptional split-finger (.036 BAA) and a plus slider (.140 BAA). He also threw a low-volume curveball. 

With a full 18 months to recover from his elbow issue, his arm should be ready to go for Week 1 of the regular season. The Angels will monitor his pitch count and innings, which points to 25 six-inning starts at best. I expect him to win ten-plus games with a sub 3.00 ERA and 160-plus strikeouts. With an ADP of 99, a fantasy owner will be buying three-quarters of an ace with a fall back plan to use him as batter if your league allows that type of move. 

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SP2 Andrew Heaney

The command geeks will be all over Heaney in 2020. He finished with a career-best in his strikeout rate (11.1) for a season with 18 starts or more, and his walk rate (2.8) only had a slight regression (2.8). Heaney missed the first eight weeks of the season with a left elbow injury, which may be a sign of a future Tommy John surgery. After an up and down first seven starts (5.40 ERA with nine HRs allowed over 36.2 innings), he pitched great over his next six outings (2.38 ERA and 44 Ks over 34 innings) while also missing 24 days due to a left shoulder issue. 

Over two starts in late August, Heaney allowed one run over 14 innings with 24 strikeouts, but he lost his way in September (7.66 ERA, 30 Ks, and eight home runs over 24.2 innings). His AFB (92.7) fell in line with 2018. He had the most success with his sinker (.231 BAA) with a serviceable curveball (.255 BAA) and a fading changeup (.284 BAA). Heaney struggled to get left-handed batters out (.321 with six HRs over 84 at-bats). Last year he pitched more up in the strike zone (fly-ball rate – 43.6) while continuing to battle home runs (HR/FB rate – 18.3 and HR/9 rate – 1.9). 

Seems viable, but I can’t pay his price point (ADP of 197). His injury path outweighs his small sample size of success. With that said, Heaney does have a sub 3.75 ERA upside with a run at 200 strikeouts if he makes 32 starts. 

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CL/RP Hansel Robles

After a volatile career with the Mets (4.07 ERA and 229 Ks over 208 innings), Robles found the fountain of command in 2019. He posted a 2.0 walk rate, which was much better than his first four years in the majors (4.0). However, his strikeout rate (9.3) drifted downward slightly. 

Robles wandered through his first 22 games (4.26 ERA and 25 Ks over 25.1 innings). Over the final four months, he converted 17 of his 19 save chances with a 1.52 ERA and 50 strikeouts over 47.1 innings. His arm had almost the same value against right-handed (.217) and left-handed (.226) batters. Robles had the best fastball (97.5 MPH) of his career while gaining confidence in his changeup (.169 BAA). He still throws a neutral slider (.256 BAA). I’m torn between resume and short-term success. Robles will open the 2020 season as the full time closer for the Angels. If he checks the boxes in command and velocity in Spring Training, a fantasy owner should expect a run at 40-plus saves with more growth in strikeouts.

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Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Los Angeles Angels Team Outlook

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