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2018 AL West Preview: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California

Just call them the Fightin’ Scioscias and be done with it

Chicago White Sox v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Photo by Matt Brown/Angels Baseball LP/Getty Images

Beginning this week, we’ll be previewing the Mariners’ AL West rivals, one per week, and looking at their 2017 performance, 2018 outlook, pitching staffs and position players. We’re starting with the Angels this week, because their flurry of moves means the roster is probably close to complete, and because my personal rule is when you have a list of tasks ahead of you, attend to the least pleasant one first. Tomorrow we’ll look into the starting 9 the Angels will field; Wednesday will cover the pitching, and Thursday will look into their 2018 projections and farm system.

The Angels beating the Mariners out in the Ohtani [REDACTED] sweepstakes was a tough pill to swallow, the kind of pill that is made of cyanide and coated in porcupine quills dipped in battery acid. Not content with their victory, the Angels have moved on to full-on trolling:

So the Mariners have a rival! Unfortunately, that rival owns the universally acclaimed top prospect in baseball (let the fires of righteous vengeance consume you, Acuña) as well as the universally acclaimed top player in baseball. Good times.

2017: the Angels’ season in review:

In 2017, the Angels took a big step forward from a miserable 2016 season that saw them finish 4th in the AL West and while they didn’t post a winning record, they were still able to finish second in the division thanks in part to kicking the tar out of the Mariners over Deadgar Weekend look I told you there was a reason we wanted to do this one first. The Angels rode a breakout season from formerly light-hitting Andrelton Simmons—whose 7.1 bWAR actually outpaced Trout’s—but other than that, the 2017 Angels were very much tied to a stars-and-scrubs model. The difference between their top two bWAR getters (Simmons and Trout) to the next two (Calhoun and Parker Bridwell) was nine wins, a significantly larger difference than any other team in the American League.

High point of the season:

A strong start saw the Angels in first place in the AL West for a whole week at the beginning of the season.

Low point of the season:

The Angels pootered out towards the end of 2017 and tied their longest losing streak of the season (six games) between September 17 - 23rd. However, they still finished ahead of us and as such, will be picking all the way back at 17 vs. our sweet spot at 14. Take that, ye red devils.

Strength of the 2017 team:

The obvious answer is Mike Trout, but a thumb injury sidelined him for enough of the season that Andrelton “hey wow I can hit now” Simmons takes the top spot here.

Weakness of the 2017 team:

It’s sad, really, because Albert Pujols is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and it’s sad to watch a great career come to such an inglorious end, but it must be said: last year the Angels paid Albert Pujols 26 million dollars to be the worst player in baseball. They will pay him 27 million in 2018 to, maybe not be the worst player in baseball, but to be another year older following the year where he was the worst player in baseball. After 2018, they will still owe Albert Pujols 87 million dollars combined over the final three years of his contract. And now with Shohei Ohtani potentially taking DH at-bats, there is a chance Albert Pujols will get paid 27 million dollars to either sit on the bench or play a very poor first base (and then 28, 29, and 30). It’s truly mind-boggling.

Oh, and then there’s the pitching. That should probably be remarked upon. For all we heard about injuries plaguing the Mariners last year, the Angels actually had more players spend time on the DL, with the majority of those players being pitchers:

In fact, as injured as the Mariners’ pitching staff was last year, the Angels were worse, and hurt more by lost WAR:

And it’s not a new trend, either. The Angels were also one of the top five most-hurt squads in 2016, and again the leaders in lost WAR due to injury. A lot of this comes from two of their pitchers (Tropeano and Heaney) needing Tommy John, which, you know, sucks and takes forever to recover from. But there are also 60-day DL stints for pitchers for various other ailments, plus piles of smaller, nagging injuries like Cam Bedrosian’s eternally strained groin (band name). Furthermore, the problem isn’t just at the MLB level: it was recently announced that Nate Smith, the Angels’ ninth-ranked pitching prospect, will miss all of 2018 with something called “anterior capsule surgery.” Pitching health has historically been a struggle for the Angels, and they’ll need healthy seasons from guys like Richards, Shoemaker, and Skaggs to reverse this trend.

Selected off-season additions and subtractions:

Subtractions: 2B Cliff Pennington, 3B Yunel Escobar, RHP Andrew Bailey, RHP Bud Norris, RHP Jesse Chavez, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, RHP Ricky Nolasco.

Additions: RHP [REDACTED] (FA signing), 2B Ian Kinsler (traded from the Tigers for OF Troy Montgomery and RHP Wikel Hernandez), SS Zack Cozart (FA signing), RHP Luke Bard (Rule 5 draft).

The Angels have subtracted several of their scrubs and replaced them with a likely star in [REDACTED] plus two aged stars in Kinsler and Cozart, which has earned them the praise of “winning the off-season” and paroxysms of delight from baseball writers desperate for content in a historically slow off-season. One intriguing player is their Rule 5 selection Luke Bard, who went unprotected by the Twins. Bard is 27, major league ready, having put up solid numbers at AA/AAA this year with a nifty K/9 and should help prop up an unimpressive/inexperienced Angels bullpen.