Opening Day Preview: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

by Matthew Roberts | Posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2015
Facebook Twitter Plusone

Angels

LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM 2015 PREVIEW

2014 finally saw the Los Angeles Angels reap dividends from the spending spree of the last few off-seasons when they handed out lucrative, though generally ill-advised, mega contracts to Albert PujolsJosh Hamilton, and C.J. Wilson. The Angels finished 2014 with the best record in all of baseball with a record of 98-64, an astonishing 20 win improvement over 2013. Mike Trout finally won his Al MVP award maybe sabermetricians had been demanding he win since 2012. And while Pujols found himself again after a 2013 season mostly lost to plantar fasciitis hitting 28 home runs, it wasn’t the big boys who helped the Angels cruise to the AL West crown. Veterans like Howie Kendrick (4.4 oWAR) and Erick Aybar (4.1 oWAR) put together full seasons of production to complement Trout and Pujols forming the leagues most productive offense. Assisting the offense was the emergence of Garrett Richards in the rotation where he threw 19 quality starts in 26 games started and sported a 2.61 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP before his season was abruptly cut short by a knee injury. Combined with the in-season addition of Huston Street to bolster a bullpen that had been a weak spot and it’s clear why the Angels finished with the best record as one of the most balanced teams in the league. Of course, they ran into the 2014 postseason buzzsaw that was the Kansas City Royals and the rest is history. Now, in 2015, the Angels are poised this year to “run it back” with most of the same roster.

2014 Record: 98-64

Manager: Mike Scioscia

PROJECTED BATTING ORDER

  1. Kole Calhoun – RF
  2. Mike Trout – CF
  3. Albert Pujols – 1B
  4. Matt Joyce – LF
  5. C.J Cron – DH
  6. David Freese – 3B
  7. Erick Aybar – SS
  8. Josh Rutledge – 2B
  9. Chris Iannetta – C

This lineup is largely what will be expected on opening day this year while Hamilton rehabs both his AC joint and probably his various addictions depending on the punishment handed down by MLB, and with Kendrick’s very productive replaced by Josh Rutledge‘s ever-tantalizing potential. Calhoun had the productive near-full season the Angels were hoping to get after the flashes were shown in 2013, but can still stand to improve upon his career .329 OBP as the leadoff man. Trout and Pujols will continue terrify opposing picthers. The lineup begins to fall apart a little bit without Hamilton’s free swinging bat at cleanup and Kendrick’s .292 batting average form 2014 at the 5th spot.

C.J. Cron and Matt Joyce were supposed to platoon at the DH spot while providing valuable 1B and OF depth respectively. Instead each will be a full time player during Hamilton’s absence. Freese is nearly a replacement level player at this point in his career struggling to reach double digit home runs while barely eclipsing the .700 mark for OPS. Aybar, as mentioned above, enjoyed another very productive year, following several in which he enjoyed similar production. He provides a steady bat in the second half of this lineup. Rutledge is the guy who can remake this entire lineup if he is capable of putting together a full season of production based on his flashes of potential. While Rutledge is battling Johnny Giavotella for the starting second baseman spot, Rutledge is not only the favorite to win it, but likely the desired choice after the Angels went out and acquired him from the Colorado Rockies this past offseason to replace Kendrick. At 25, Rutledge has shown both power (8 home runs in 277 ABs in 2012) and speed (12 stolen bases in 88 games in 2013) that he could be a legitimate 20/20 threat. Rutledge however has not had more than 309 ABs in any season and there is surely a legitimate question as to whether he could produce in full this season.

STARTING ROTATION

  1. Jered Weaver
  2. C.J. Wilson
  3. Garrett Richards*
  4. Hector Santiago
  5. Matt Shoemaker

There isn’t any real debate about this rotation. Jered Weaver will continue to be the lead dog as he continues to throw consistently good innings eating seasons, going over 210 IP last year for the fourth time in his career. And while his 3.59 ERA and 1.21 WHIP were both his highest since 2009, there is nothing to indicate that Weaver can’t bring the same level of consistency he has enjoyed since breaking out in 2010. C.J. Wilson’s contract just look worse and worse every year as he is still owed $38 million over the next two season despite leading the league with 85 walks and posting a 4.51 ERA in 175 IP last year. At 34, Wilson looks better served at 3rd or 4th in the rotation, and ordinarily would be, if not for Richards’ rehab from his torn patellar tendon which is expected to continue until about mid-April. Richards was a revelation in 2014. Splitting his time between the bullpen and the starting rotation in 2013, Richards put up a modest 4.16 ERA and 1.34 WHIP over 145 IP, with 6.2 K/9. Nothing suggested that Richards was going to break out the next year with 2.61 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a nearly 9.0 k/9. As long as Richards’ rehab continues on pace he will provide a lot of production in the middle of the rotation.

Santiago is a serviceable back of the rotation guy who will continue to struggle to ever reach the next level if he does not improve his command as he sports an unsightly 4.2 BB/9 over his entire pro career with a career WHIP of 1.36 that is inflated due to the walks. He seems to have a penchant for limiting runs after runners get on however has he does have a nice career 3.54 ERA. Shoemaker had a very nice rookie year last year splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation like Richards did before him in 2013. At age 28, it’s unclear whether we actually saw his ceiling last year when he posted a 3.04 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with a sterling 5.1 K:BB. It’s a nice ceiling if it turns out to be, and one the Angels will hope he can replicate at the back end of the bullpen. Shoemaker’s career numbers in AAA over the previous three years, even accounting for the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, point to last year as more of an aberration than the start of a trend. Shoemaker will be a key cog if the Angels want to repeat as AL West champions and certainly is an intriguing player to watch in the division.

BULLPEN

Once the Achilles heel of the Angels, the front office has devotes some attention and development to the bullpen. Street was electric last year for both the San Diego Padres and the Angels after he acquired in mid mid-July. Further, Street has put together two straight 55+ appearance seasons quieting some of those fragile criticisms. Behind him was the ever dependable Joe Smith, who in his first season with the Angels posted his first sub 2.00 ERA in 74 IPs as the fill in closer and then set up man after the Street acquisition. Morin looks to improve on his great rookie season by incorporating a better slider against lefties whom hit .283 against him last year versus the paltry .181 righties hit against him. This bullpen is again poised to be an area of relative strength as opposed to the weakness it was the previous few years.

PREDICTION: 88-74

While it may appear to be harsh to give the Angels a 10 win regression from last year, they outperformed their Pythagorean expected record by 2 wins and were bolstered largely by surprise performances from Kendrick, Richards, and Shoemaker. The Angels do boast basically the same lineup and rotation that were used to win 98 last year, but I expect some big time regression from Shoemaker and coupled with Santiago’s command problems and C.J. Wilson’s obvious decline, the Angles only have two starters I think they really rely on to win games consistently. I do think the lineup will actually be better than last year’s MLB leading offense, but not enough to balance what I view as the Angels’ weakness in the rotation.

ALL-STAR GAME CANDIDATES

  • CF – Mike Trout
  • 1B – Albert Pujols
  • SP – Jered Weaver
  • SP – Garrett Richards
  • CL – Huston Street

BREAKOUT CANDIDATES

PROSPECTS WHO MAY CONTRIBUTE

Facebook Twitter Plusone
Matthew Roberts
About the Author

Matthew cut his teeth on baseball during $2 Bleacher Wednesdays at the old Arlington Stadium in the 1980's and has loved the Texas Rangers ever since. When he's not teaching his young son to throw a wicked circle change, he enjoys the six month friendly rivalry with his wife and her precious Oakland A's. Follow him on Twitter @ifithasballs.







if ( function_exists( 'pgntn_display_pagination' ) ) pgntn_display_pagination( 'multipage' );