30 in 30: Los Angeles Angels

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Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout may be the most “must-watch” duo in the MLB today. Sure, Mookie Betts and JD Martinez are great together, even Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, but neither of those duos has what the Los Angeles Angels have in Trout and Ohtani – A perennial MVP candidate and a guy that hit .285 and 22 bombs with a fastball that averages in the high 90s in his rookie campaign.

Those numbers along with his 63 strikeouts in less than 52 innings were good enough to earn Ohtani the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year award. The Angels as a team went 80-82 in 2018, the same exact finish they had in 2017. The big difference was in 2017 the finished 2nd in the AL West. In 2018, 80-82 was good enough for 4th place in the West. So basically, while everyone in their division got better, they stayed the exact same. The Angels will draw fans as long as Mike Trout is a halo, but the fans are ready to see what the 2x MVP can do in October.

Last offseason the Angels were very busy, signing multiple big name free agents such as Ohtani, Justin Upton, and Zach Cozart. This offseason, they’ve been somewhat stealthy, making some moves that easily went under the radar but could be very impactful in 2019, with guys like Matt Harvey, Jonathan Lucroy, and their new closer, Cody Allen.

They also parted ways with manager Mike Scioscia who was the longest tenured MLB manager at 19 years with the team. They brought in Brad Ausmus who last managed the Tigers from 2014-2017 going 314-332 in those 4 years. Harvey was signed to a 1-year 11 million dollar deal after a “bounce-back” 2018 season. After getting traded to the Reds in the middle of the year, Harvey went 7-7 with a 93 ERA+. No, that isn’t GREAT, but it is a huge improvement over what he did in NY his final few years there.

Lucroy is a guy who made his name in Milwaukee a few years back but has bounced around a little bit as of late, playing for 4 teams over the past 3 years, spending the entire 2018 campaign in Oakland, so he is familiar with the AL West.

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Cody Allen is a solid back end of the bullpen guy who until now had spent his entire career with the Cleveland Indians. The 30-year-old had a shaky 2018 so the Angels brought him in on a “prove me” deal, a 1-year $8.5 million. Los Angeles hopes that these off-season acquisitions can help propel them back into the playoffs in 2019.

We all know what Mike Trout is going to bring to the table year in and year out. He’s going to hit over .300, hit 30 plus bombs and he’s going to an MVP candidate like he is every year. That we know. Future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols still will hit 20 or so home runs if he can stay healthy coming back from left knee surgery.

Justin Upton has the potential to be an impact middle of the order bat, coming off a year where he finished with 30 home runs and a .808 OPS. The rotation for the Halos? That’s a little harder to predict, with guys like Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, and Harvey, they have the potential to be a rotation good enough to get to the playoffs, but they also have the possibility of being an absolute dumpster fire. Ohtani suffered an elbow injury that is going to keep him off the mound for the entire 2019 season as he recovers from Tommy John that he had last October. Even though he will not throw in 2019 the Angels plan to have Ohtani be their DH and are optimistic that he can start that role as early as May.

So what should Angels fans expect in 2019 under first-year manager Brad Ausmus? In their division, the defending champs the Houston Astros, even with the loss of Dallas Keuchel (assuming he doesn’t sign back with HOU) still look like the team to beat. And the Halos roster just isn’t good enough to beat them for the division.

The Oakland Athletics were a Wild Card team in 2018 and I believe the 2nd Wild Card this year will be a tight race, with Oakland and the Angels both apart of it. The key for success for the Angels will be not blowing games in the bullpen, and beating up on bad teams. Especially Seattle, who I believe has gotten worse this offseason, and Texas, who shouldn’t improve that much in 2019.

If the Angels can keep close in the Wild Card race I could see them adding an arm at the deadline if they think they can get to the playoffs. Who knows, maybe Keuchel will still be available in July. As long as the rotation can hold their own, Trout and Upton have similar seasons to last, and Ohtani and Pujols can be decent threats in the lineup, the Angels will have a chance to make the postseason.

Record prediction: 86-76

Team MVP: Mike Trout

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