Skip to content

2014 Preview: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Mar 25, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 8.00.41 PM Getty Images

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Big Question: After two years of disappointments, do the Angels have a shot?

There has been no bigger disappointment in baseball over the past two years than the Angels. After signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson before the 2012 season and after signing Josh Hamilton a year ago, the Angels missed the playoffs both years. By a wide margin last season. And while Wilson has been solid, the two biggest bats on the market in those two seasons have been busts. Apart from promoting Mike Trout and watching him dominate baseball and apart from nearly single-handedly scaring teams away from long-term contracts for big sluggers, the Angels haven’t done anything of significance over the past two seasons.

But there is at least some reason to hope this year. It’s only modest reason, and it’s based more on unscientific things like the law of averages than anything truly tangible, but at the very least it’s too early for Angels fans to throw in the towel.

Simply put: it’s really hard to imagine Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton putting up two more dreadful seasons between them. Pujols was famously hampered by injuries last year and is supposedly healthy again. Hamilton was less famously aggravated by injuries. While it’s entirely possible that each of them has hit a Dale-Murphy-in-1989 kind of wall, it would be maddeningly improbable for a future Hall of Famer and a recent MVP to both do so at once. It could happen, but for me to believe it will require me seeing it. And if they do bounce back — even part of the way back, to respectability if not dominance — the Angels offense should be in fantastic shape.

Mike Trout is the best all-around player in the game and should continue to be so for a long time. While they lost Mark Trumbo‘s homers, they also lost his nearly unprecedented out-making abilities. David Freese fell off a bit last year, but is capable of solid contributions. Kole Calhoun hit well in 58 games last season and has a nice minor league track record. Raul Ibanez can’t be expected to go on forever, but he had a fantastic season in 2013 and should contribute as well.  The upshot: the Angels were third on-base percentage, fifth in slugging and sixth in runs in the American League last season with Pujols and Hamilton doing close to nothing for them. It’s not hard to imagine the offense being among the best in the league with even a reasonable rebound from those two and expected contributions from the rest of the lineup.

So many ifs, obviously. And the “they look good on paper” thing hasn’t worked out too well for the Angels in a while. But the Angels could very easily have a playoff-caliber offense. And that’s reason to hope.

What else is going on?

  • Obviously offense isn’t everything. What really sunk the Angels last year was the pitching. The Trumbo trade did a lot to address that, bringing in Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs, who should help bolster the back end of the rotation, which was hideous last season. Neither should light the world on fire — and while Skaggs has some upside, we pretty much know what Santiago is — but after the Joe Blanton experience in 2013, Mike Scioscia will probably welcome modest expectations reasonably-met.
  • The top end of the rotation is nominally OK with Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson — they’re big stars and at times have been among the best starters in baseball — but Weaver’s diminished velocity and some late-season forearm issues have to be cause for concern.He’s lost a good four miles per hour off his heater since he came up and has become more hittable. While there’s no reason to panic, if he declines more quickly than expected, all bets are off for the rotation.
  • The bullpen sucked eggs last year too, but it should be improved. Bringing in setup man Joe Smith from Cleveland is a big help. And, while Sean Burnett and Dane De La Rosa will likely start the season on the disabled list, their presence for most of the season will represent a big improvement over last year. More generally, Jerry Dipoto brought in a ton of organizational bullpen depth via minor league signings that, unlike last year, won’t require him to repurpose starting pitchers and generally scramble if and when the relievers who start the season in Anaheim falter.
  • Hot seat watch: It’s been a long time since a major league manager did less with more than Mike Scioscia has done over the past two seasons and not paid for it with his job. Not that the Angels’ problems have been his fault — who bet on Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton forgetting how to hit? — but managers do usually pay for such struggles. If the Angels limp out to a slow start for a third straight year, it’s going to be hard for Scioscia to avoid the hot seat. In his favor, though, are the lack of 2012 or 2013-size expectations.

Prediction: They could surprise and, for once, exceed expectations. But with the Rangers and A’s as stocked as they are, it’ll be hard to see the Angels finishing above Third place, American League West.

Latest Posts
  1. Stephen Strasburg strikes out 11 batters in latest rehab start

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:36 PM EDT

    Stephen Strasburg AP

    Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg has been sidelined since July 4 with a left oblique strain, but it sounds like he’s rounding into form for the stretch run.

  2. Freddie Freeman exits game with right oblique injury

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:13 PM EDT

    ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 11: Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves knocks in a run with a first inning double against the San Diego Padres at Turner Field on June 11, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Braves are calling him day-to-day, but these type of injuries are notoriously tricky.

  3. Cubs designate Clayton Richard for assignment

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    CHICAGO, IL - JULY 08: Clayton Richard #33 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the second inning on July 8, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Clayton Richard tossed six innings of one-run ball in a win over the Padres on Sunday, but he was designated for assignment by the Cubs today for the second time in the past two weeks.

  4. Steven Matz has resumed throwing

    Aug 3, 2015, 8:19 PM EDT

    NEW YORK, NY - JULY 10: Steven Matz #32 of the New York Mets looks on from the dugout during a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 10, 2015 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Matz was placed on the 15 day disabled list. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Matz impressed over his first two starts in the majors before going down with a partial tear of his lat muscle, but he’s starting to ramp things up in preparation for his return.

  5. Kris Bryant in lineup after leaving Sunday’s game with dizziness

    Aug 3, 2015, 6:58 PM EDT

    CHICAGO, IL - JULY 25:  on July 25, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Getty Images

    Cubs rookie third baseman Kris Bryant was forced to exit Sunday’s game against the Brewers after feeling dizzy on a hard slide into second base, but he’s back in the starting lineup for tonight’s series opener against the Pirates.

  6. Carter Capps lands on disabled list with elbow strain

    Aug 3, 2015, 6:01 PM EDT

    MIAMI, FL - JULY 12: Carter Capps #22 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Marlins Park on July 12, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Capps has quietly been one of the game’s most dominant relievers this season.

  7. Yordano Ventura apologizes to Jose Bautista

    Aug 3, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    150803 yordano ventura

    He is now calling Jose Bautista “a good man and a great human being.”

  8. David Price shines in his Blue Jays debut

    Aug 3, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 3.56.25 PM AP

    The newest Blue Jay struck out 11 in eight innings of work.

  9. Joe Panik goes on Giants’ disabled list with back injury

    Aug 3, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    joe panik getty Getty Images

    Panik’s breakout season has been put on hold.

  10. A’s claim Danny Valencia off waivers from Blue Jays

    Aug 3, 2015, 3:06 PM EDT

    Danny Valencia Getty Getty Images

    Dating back to 2013 he’s hit .337 with a .900 OPS off lefties.

  11. A.J. Burnett has a strained flexor tendon. Could pitch again this year.

    Aug 3, 2015, 2:43 PM EDT

    A.J. Burnett A.J. Burnett

    It’s not necessarily likely, but since it isn’t a torn UCL there’s at least a chance he could make it back.

  12. White Sox call up Klay Thompson’s brother, outfield prospect Trayce Thompson

    Aug 3, 2015, 1:47 PM EDT

    Trayce Thompson White Sox Getty Images

    He’s spent this season at Triple-A, batting .260 with 13 homers and 11 steals.

  13. The Marlins are screwing over one of their players… again

    Aug 3, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    Marcell Ozuna AP

    Time for a little Loria bashing to brighten up your Monday.

  14. David Price makes his Toronto debut this afternoon

    Aug 3, 2015, 12:41 PM EDT

    David Price

    Not a bad draw for him, as he has owned the Twins this season.

  15. Mike Matheny admits that players’ contracts matter when it comes to assigning bullpen roles

    Aug 3, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Trevor Rosenthal AP

    Using your closer in the seventh or eighth inning may be a good idea, but Mike Matheny says that it’s not that simple.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. C. Gomez (5736)
  2. C. Hamels (5075)
  3. T. Tulowitzki (5017)
  4. Y. Cespedes (4407)
  5. D. Price (3885)
  1. M. Trout (3605)
  2. B. Revere (3509)
  3. G. Parra (3501)
  4. J. Reyes (3440)
  5. M. Latos (3426)