The LA Angels are the talk of baseball right now. They were an extremely average team last year but we’ve now seen signs of an upward trajectory with the emergence of Andrelton’s Simmons’ bat and now the addition of top Japanese prospect Shohei Ohtani and other good free agent pick ups. For the first, time it feels like Trout’s prime may not go entirely to waste with the additions they made. Their lineup is very deep now, if their starting pitching can chew innings and stay healthy, they could be successful. They won 80 last year and with their newcomers, will look to grab a Wild Card spot.
Shohei Ohtani, SP/OF
Zack Cozart, 3B
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Jim Johnson, RHP
Yunel Escobar, 3B
Yusmeiro Petit, RHP
CJ Cron, 1B
Why they can win: They can win because they have the best player in the game. Mike Trout is a freak of nature and now he finally has some protection in the lineup. They could be the best defensive team in history this season and if they can find any health whatsoever in the starting rotation, they’ll put themselves in a good position to win. Their lineup now has added depth with the long term deal of Justin Upton, and additions of Cozart and Kinsler. If Shohei Ohtani can come in and become a number 1 starter and even an average bat, that will take them a long way. Imagine one guy with 15 wins, 3.50 ERA, .280 avg, and 15-20 homeruns on your roster?
Why they can lose: The Angels can lose if their additions don’t live up to expectations. Zack Cozart most likely had a career year with a 5.0 WAR, and who knows what aging Ian Kinsler (2.3 WAR) and their (for some reason) clean up hitter Albert Pujols (-2.0 WAR) will do. Their bullpen is probably their biggest question mark and that mixed with an injured staff could leave them in a ton of trouble.
Bottom Line: The Angels have a super high ceiling and a deep floor. They’re one of the most interesting teams in baseball. All goes well? Ohtani pans out, Cozart and Kinsler both put up good years, Richards/Skaggs/Shoemaker stay healthy and their bullpen sorts itself out and they win 88+. All goes bad? Ohtani is a bust, Simmons/Cozart/Kinsler bats don’t show up, rotation can’t stay healthy and they can’t find a closer and they lose 82-87 games again. A lot to like, but their is no “Bottom Line,” because they are so unpredictable moving into 2018.
Major4 Numbers Game:
Stud: Mike Trout, CF
What a shame, Mike Trout just had his worst season in his MLB career by the WAR metric. He put up a paltry 6.9 WAR, oh wait that’s still freaking incredible!! He was limited to 507 PAs, and had he stayed healthy, he would’ve lead the MLB at his pace. He posted the highest wRC+ of his career (181, Fangraphs), buoyed by a career high BB% (18.5) and career low K% (17.8). Yes you read that right, the best player in baseball also posted his first season of having more walks than strikeouts. He continues to develop his game and is still firmly in his prime. He’s still an elite baserunner (22/26 in steals), and although his defensive advanced metrics don’t look pretty (-6 DRS), he certainly passes the eye test. If that wasn’t enough, his monster 6/$144M contract looks like a bargain, as he played like a player worth $52M player in 2017 (fangraphs $9M/WAR measure).
Sinkhole: Bullpen, all of it
While the Angels have a couple decent pieces in their bullpen, namely: Blake Parker, Cam Bedrosian, and Jose Alvarez, each possess warts and it’s difficult to expect them to repeat their quality 2017 seasons. Parker had a break out in 2017 posting a WAR of 1.6, but at 32 is that success sustainable? He posted a ridiculously low .229 BABIP mark that is sure to regress. Bedrosian is the best bet to end up as the team’s closer at some point during the year, as his advanced metrics the last two seasons have been very solid (3.38 and 2.13 FIP in 2017 and 2016, respectively). And Alvarez regressed last year, and is only an average arm who allows a lot of hard hit contact (30.9%) combined with below average velocity (91.1 MPH). These are the best options, with not a lot of depth. The bullpen is gonna get a lot of innings due to their 6-man rotation and mediocre 4 through 6 starters. Can they withstand the innings without having injuries? Count me as being a skeptic.
Regression Candidate: Zack Cozart, 3B
What a 2017 season for Zack Cozart, who posted career numbers across the board in his free agency year. The Angels brought him in on a solid 3/$38M contract, with that caveat that he will play a position he has never played in the majors, 3B. Cozart posted a ridiculous 5 WAR (double his career high), 141 wRC+ (25 points above previous high), and increase his BB% by nearly 5 points. The reason we are skeptical is due to to a near identical batted ball profile, as his hard hit percentage actually dipped slightly (30.8%), and 5 point jump in his HR/FB ratio. This combined with a new defensive position will downgrade his WAR. While he should still be a well above average player on a very reasonable contract, expect his WAR to be between 2.5-3.5.
Impact Acquisition: Shohei Otani, SP/DH
The Angels won the ‘Shotani’ sweepstakes and get one of the most diverse baseball players the MLB has ever seen. A true two-way baseball player who posted monster power numbers in Japan (>.320 BA and .540 SLG% the last two seasons), and dominant numbers on the mound (2.12 ERA and 11.6 K/9 in 2016). He is coming off an injury riddled 2017 that limited him to under half a season. He has serious swing and miss tendency (27 K%) which will most likely rise against major league competition. But he throws absolute gas and has a deep repertoire which should allow him to dominate on the mound from the get go. Because he signed at 23 years old, he will be making the league minimum ($545K) and will provide one of the highest surplus values in baseball, should he live up to the massive hype. Hot take: Otani posts a combined pitching/hitting WAR of over 4 and provides the Angels with a surplus value of $31.5M (per Fangraphs $9M/WAR metric).
Major4 Prospects, (Top 100):
Shohei Ohtani, RHP (1)
Jo Adell, OF (62)
Kevin Maitan, SS (87)
Jahmai Jones, OF (93)
Why We Love Them: Best player in baseball and the most polarizing Baseball figure going into 2018. Pujols stinks but it’s still fun to see him rise up the Career HR list. They have some likable guys that can do some damage and hopefully the rally monkey can help them do that. They finally have a decent farm system and have pieces to look forward to. Simba is one of the funniest defenders to watch in the league and my goodness..can’t wait to see what Ohtani does.