Due to their moves this offseason, the Angels are going to have a difficult situation to juggle. The Angels are going to have to try and manage the most imaginative player in recent history it’s the least imaginative manager in recent history.
Expectations are absolutely sky high for Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani, who is the MLB’s first two-way player in recent history. After being scouted for years by major league clubs, Ohtani finally made the jump across the Pacific this offseason.
While he hasn’t looked exceptional in Spring Training, that doesn’t have evaluators worried. Ohtani may never be Mike Trout at the plate, but he has all the potential in the world at the mound.
However, with Ohtani DHing on days he isn’t pitching, one casualty arises: Albert Pujols. Pujols, who is no longer a fit to play in the field, will be forced to spend 80% of games manning first base, rather than solely hitting. This is a huge step down for the Angels, but a casualty they will for sure take if it meant landing Shohei Ohtani.
It’s also a worthy question to ask as to whether Pujols will even be remotely close to a replacement level player this season. Pujols was worth an outstanding -2.0 WAR last season, and with him now getting knocked for his defense, that number has the potential to sink even higher.
Not all is bad with the Angels’ defense, however, as they boast the game’s best defender. Andrelton Simmons had the best season of his career in 2017, hitting .278 with 14 home runs, hitting at a clip of 103 wRC+.
Simmons also showed, again, his impeccable baseball IQ. This play, which has become Simmons’ patented play, is just the beginning of his defensive highlight reel. Given his defensive prowess, even an average offensive season means that Simmons is in the upper echelon of shortstops.
Simmons’ defensive ability means new signing Zack Cozart, who played shortstop in Cincinnati, will move to third base. Cozart won a donkey from Joey Votto last season after being named to the all-star team, and for good reason. Cozart had a 141 wRC+ for the Reds last season, slashing .297/.385/.548. While a transition to a new position could be tough for Cozart, I don’t feel like it will be disastrous in the slightest.
The last newcomer is someone very familiar to the Angels organization, former Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. Kinsler was one of the last shining lights for the Detroit Tigers, but was shipped to Anaheim this offseason in exchange for RHP Wilkel Hernandez and CF Troy Montgomery.
While Kinsler was below league average at the dish last season, he is just one year removed from a really impressive 123 wRC+. Despite being below league-average, Kinsler was still worth 2.4 WAR in 2017, a respectable number for a contender.
Yes, I know you expected this piece to revolve around Mike Trout. Mike Trout is the best player on the Angels, and also the greatest on the entire planet. That much isn’t up for debate. However, throughout his career in the MLB, Trout has had to fend for himself on a team not fully devoid of talent, but lacking the necessary personnel for a true playoff push.
Trout is simply incredible. He should have won MVP last season, but was robbed due to his thumb injury. You hear me throwing around 110+ as a “good” wRC+, when Trout has a career 169 wRC+. Last season he had a 181 in that category, leading the league.
Trout has been this impressive virtually his entire career as well. In full seasons, Trout’s career lowest wRC+ is 167, and his lowest WAR came last season, when he amassed 6.9 WAR in 114 games, a 9.8 WAR pace. The craziest thing about that number is that it would still rank 3rd in Trout’s career rankings.
Mike Trout trails only Ty Cobb in WAR by age 26, and that’s only because of his thumb injury last season. If that never happens, Trout has this record by a country mile.
Mike Trout is the once-in-a-generation player that you will tell your kids about. While the MLB doesn’t do a very good job marketing him to the casual fan, Trout is this generation’s Ken Griffey, Jr., and should be treated as such.
There isn’t much to talk about in terms of pitchers on this roster, as the staff is what is holding them back. Garrett Richards has plenty of potential, but has never been able to stay healthy long enough to establish himself as an ace.
In order to help Ohtani’s transition to the Majors, the Angels will run with a 6-man rotation this season. This could prove to be a great decision, as it means there is a greater chance that Richards is able to stay healthy. However, the Angels are absolutely depending on Ohtani’s flexibility to work out, as they are keeping a roster spot filled for a 6th starter.
The Angels really look to be playoff contenders this year. They will need to beef up their pitching staff by October, but their lineup is more than ready to make it big time in this league. Mike Trout has deserved a team like this for the longest time, and it’s time to make it happen
Record Prediction: 91-71
(Photo Credit: Glendora City News)