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AL West Threat Assessment: Anaheim Angels

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in which all the pitcher arms fall off

Los Angeles Angels v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Welcome to LL’s annual overview of our division rivals in the AL West. While the Mariners won’t have to face a Russian Doll-like repetition of California and Texas teams day after day with some Colorado spice sprinkled on top again, make no mistake, these are the teams you will become so very sick of seeing. Our goal with this series is to do a deep dive on what exactly the flavor of that malaise will be. As we do every year, we’ll be summarizing each team’s offseason moves, taking stock of the general state of the team, analyzing best and worst-case outcomes for 2021, and trying to peer into the future to try to predict what the team will look like when the Mariners are, as we are constantly reminded, on The Rise.

You can check out Addie’s deep dive into the hapless Texas Rangers here, and Amanda and Connor’s look at the perpetual Mariner fun-suckers that are the Oakland Athletics here. Today Matthew and Tim gang up on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, Disneyland, Orange County, USA.

2021 Overview:

Threat level: Sandcastle, aka the color in which Mike Trout buys every pair of dress pants.

Key additions: Trevor Bau---hahaha jk. Kurt Suzuki, Raisel Iglesias, Dexter Fowler, Alex Cobb, Alex Claudio, Jose Quintana. “Key” implies these players will help them but we’ll just be generous with that.

Key subtractions: Keynan Middleton (lol he ours), Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran, their last shreds of dignity, Billy Eppler.

[Noted not-subtraction: Mickey “Open Secret” Callaway]

PECOTA projection: 86-76, somehow

FanGraphs projection: 84-78

LL Staff projection: boss can we just write “lol” here [Ed.: No. But I forgot to poll the staff, so you win this one, jokers.]

State of the team:

In 2015/16, the Angels and Mariners both hired new GMs. Since then the Angels have won 332 games. The Mariners have won 348. In case you forgot (you didn’t forget) that includes two seasons in which the Mariners were explicitly not trying to win, as opposed to the Angels, who threw around a lot of “unlimited budget” type quotes every year, landed a SECOND generational talent to go with their first one (and promptly broke him), and flopped their way to literally never finishing .500 while having a 10-win leg up every single year. One might imagine this is karma. Karma for what? Well, take your pick, but if I had to pick something, I’d go with “keeping ticket prices high to keep out the icky poors and their grubby kids”. It rolls off the tongue.

Yes, the Angels lucked their way into a World Series (any success that comes from Adam Kennedy hitting three clutch home runs in a single ALCS game counts as luck, sorry, I don’t make the rules) and the Mariners haven’t. But this is an organization of breathtaking incompetence. Do you know who is the only man to get Mike Trout to the playoffs? Jerry Dipoto. But even he couldn’t help him win a game once he got there. They only played three, against the good but not great 2014 Royals, and one of the Royals’ starting pitchers in that series was Jason Vargas. Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

What could go right:

Alex Cobb and Dexter Fowler turn the clock back. Jo Adell takes a giant step forward and also remembers how to play defense. All 5.5 members of the Angels rotation are all good and all at the same time. The Angels’ new front office remembers to tell their superstar what publicly available information says about his defense. Shohei Ohtani continues to destroy baseballs 500 feet and throw 100 mph once the regular season starts. Any of these things, really, but ideally for Anaheim all of them.

What could go wrong:

Jared Walsh turns into a pumpkin and forces them to roll Albert Pujols out there in his walker every day at first base. The Angels’ pitchers’ arms do what Angels’ pitchers’ arms do, and all fall off by April 15th, leaving them to start (checks notes) well guess what it’s you. You have to gut through five innings against the Mariners sometime in May. Start warming up.

Reinforcements coming?

Not exactly. Trading for Dexter Fowler seems to indicate Jo Adell will be stashed in Salt Lake for some time after Eppler burned almost a year of service time for basically nothing, but should rebound to something respectable. Their other two Top-100 prospects are also centerfielders, and while that can always help them in a trade, Jordyn Adams, their 3rd best prospect, put up a 102 wRC+ in A+ in 2019 (he was young, but still.) They dumped Will Wilson, their first round pick in 2019, five months after drafting him to get rid of Zack Cozart’s salary. Wilson will be in the Giants’ major-league camp this spring. 2020 draftee LHP Reid Detmers buoys the hopes of many Angels fans, and he’s a pretty special arm, but of course he has yet to throw a pro pitch—it’s a tall order to ask him to contribute in 2021. The best case for getting help in 2021 if the Angels are in contention is to trade Adams or Brandon Marsh for something at the deadline; that could fetch them something shiny, but will they take on the salary, and should they be further depleting an already-thin farm?

The future, Conan?

Conan live only for present. Not for paying fish man many millions when he old and bad and have no more hair on thumb head.

Summary:

The Angels suck so hard, dude.

It’s not just that they suck from a baseball perspective (they do), it’s more of a principle of sucking. Let’s examine the facts:

Their stadium answers the question, what if the saddest mall you’ve ever been to also had a baseball field?

After years of being one of the cheapest stadiums to get a beer at, fans there now spend more on fewer drinks than in almost any other park.

They used to be called the California Angels. That’s stupid. California is incomprehensibly huge. You can’t just claim all of that for your silly little baseball team.

You’re right, they said. Let’s simplify. How about we just name the team after the city we play in? Anaheim Angels it is.

[Smash cut to the dulcet tones of Orange County pop punk seeping into the Angels’ front office] Hey you know, what? Staying in your hometown is weak, bro. We gotta get out of this place, at least, like, spiritually, ya know?

[Smash cut to the Angels meeting in which some person got paid actual American currency to come up with the name Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.]

Then there’s the real stuff. The actual, real world troubles that the Angels have created, abetted, and done nothing to rectify.

Tyler Skaggs died from an overdose of drugs that were given to him by an Angels employee, an addict himself who was later thrown under the bus by team officials and has since been indicted while his direct supervisor skipped off to a cushy job at the Hall of Fame. Mickey Callaway, a documented sexual harasser, is still the Angels’ pitching coach, despite concrete evidence showing the exact behavior that Major League Baseball has said all offseason they are trying to get rid of. The fact that Callaway hasn’t been fired yet speaks to the overwhelming cowardice and incompetence that has defined the Angels for Trout’s entire career, a career which, if we’re lucky, will end with his inevitable request to be traded to Philadelphia.

No one here is scot-free though, particularly Trout. If he came out and said “What Mickey Callaway did was wrong, he should not be our pitching coach,” the Angels would fire him yesterday. Trout has not done that. He sucks too.