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AL West Preview: Los Angeles Angels

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The majority of the Angels roster returns after a disappointing year in 2015.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

At a glance:

Angels (2015)

Batting (wRC+)

97 (10th in AL)

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

18.0 (5th)

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

109 (14th)

Bullpen (FIP-)

93 (8th)

A year after winning 98 games and holding the best record in baseball, the Angels missed the playoffs in 2015 by one game. None of the things that went right for them in 2014 worked for them the next year. Their starting rotation was a mess of injuries and ineffectiveness, and it turns out Mike Trout can only carry a team’s offense so far. Miscommunication between the front office and field manager Mike Scioscia led to the resignation of General Manager Jerry Dipoto midseason. Across the organization, last season was marked by dysfunction and disappointment.

Key Additions:

Key Losses:

SS Andrelton Simmons

SS Erick Aybar

3B Yunel Escobar

C Chris Iannetta

SS Cliff Pennington

3B David Freese

OF Craig Gentry

OF Matt Joyce

OF Daniel Nava

OF Shane Victorino

C Geovany Soto

OF David Murphy

RHP Al Alburquerque

RHP Mat Latos

The new General Manager Billy Eppler had tall task facing him this offseason. A top heavy roster filled with a few very large contracts needed a number of patches to continue to try and capitalize on Mike Trout’s prime years. An already barren farm system was even further depleted when the Angels made a couple of trades for their new shortstop and third baseman, Andrelton Simmons and Yunel Escobar. Owner Arte Moreno’s reluctance to push the payroll over the luxury tax threshold prevented the Angels from investing heavily in the free agent market. With no reinforcements arriving from inside the organization, a rash of small free agent signings filled the rest of the holes on the roster.

Projected Lineup

C Carlos Perez
1B C.J. Cron
2B Johnny Giavotella
SS Andrelton Simmons
3B Yunel Escobar
LF Daniel Nava
CF Mike Trout
RF Kole Calhoun
DH Albert Pujols

The Angels’ lineup is centered around their three biggest contributors, Trout, Pujols, and Calhoun. Outside of those three, they’re simply hoping for a league average offensive line paired with good defense. Last year, that same blueprint led to a total fWAR of 18.3 for their position players, with Trout providing almost half of that figure. The FanGraphs Depth Charts project a slight improvement, much of it thanks to Simmons’s excellent defense.

Two separate position battles are playing out during spring training. Perez is the favorite to win the starting catcher role due to his above average defense, something Scioscia has traditionally valued. Both he and Soto should see a decent amount of time behind the plate, though neither will provide much offense. Left field isn’t so much a battle as it is a straight platoon. Nava should see the most time in the field as he’s a switch hitter who has posted a career 119 wRC+ against righties. Gentry will take on the short side of the platoon and will also fill in during the late innings as a defensive replacement. Together they’re projected to accumulate just 0.6 fWAR.

Projected Rotation

RHP Garrett Richards
RHP Jered Weaver
LHP Hector Santiago
LHP Andrew Heaney
LHP C.J. Wilson

The Angels made no changes to their starting rotation a year after the group posted a collective 8.4 fWAR, backed by a FIP of 4.26. Richards is the clear ace of the staff and he’s now more than a year removed from his freak leg injury he suffered in 2014. Though he only strikes out an average amount of batters, his ability to manage hard contact helps him drive his ERA lower than his peripherals would lead you to believe. He’s also one of the only pitchers on their staff who runs an above average ground ball rate. With the best defensive shortstop behind them, the rest of the rotation is filled with fly ball pitchers, certainly an odd combination.

Heaney is their most promising pitcher and he has the talent and stuff to develop into an above average starter. He’s able to limit walks and his arsenal should push his strikeout rate higher than the 17.8% he showed last year. After these two pitchers, the rest of the rotation inspires little confidence.

Luckily for the Angels, 2016 is the last year both Weaver and Wilson are under contract. Both of them are well past their prime, both are dealing with injury concerns in spring training, and neither should provide much value this year. Should they miss time with injuries or ineffectiveness, Matt Shoemaker and Nicholas Tropeano are waiting in the wings to step in. Both are intriguing in their own way but neither projects to make a big impact this year. Tyler Skaggs should return from Tommy John surgery early this year and will also compete for a spot in the rotation.

* * *

FanGraphs projects 81 wins for the Angels—good for third place in the AL West, a few games behind the Mariners and a few games ahead of the Rangers. The worst case scenario for them is an injury to Mike Trout. As long as he’s on the field, they have the potential to compete. Limiting the amount of time Weaver and Wilson spend on the mound may help them beat their win projection, as unlikely as that is. Instead, they’ll have to hope for a career year or two from some of their role players to really have a chance at making the playoffs. As we’ve seen the last few years, the quagmire that is the American League can produce a contender out of nowhere. The Angels may be hoping for a little of that magic this year.