Skip to content

2014 Preview: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Mar 25, 2014, 9:46 AM EST

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. Rangers shut down Edgar Olmos due to shoulder impingement

    Feb 27, 2015, 11:04 PM EST

    Edgar Olmos Edgar Olmos

    The Rangers will shut down Edgar Olmos days after picking him up on a waiver claim from the Mariners.

  2. Eury Perez is early favorite to replace Melvin Upton in center field

    Feb 27, 2015, 10:55 PM EST

    Eury Perez Eury Perez

    Eury Perez is the early favorite to take over in center field while Melvin Upton recovers from a foot injury.

  3. Paul Molitor to implement limit on electronics use in Twins’ clubhouse

    Feb 27, 2015, 10:05 PM EST

    Paul Molitor Paul Molitor

    New Twins manager Paul Molitor cracked down on electronics usage in his first address to the full squad at spring training.

  4. Ruben Amaro, Jr.: Ryan Howard is in the best shape “since I’ve known him”

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:10 PM EST

    Ryan Howard Ryan Howard

    Ryan Howard had his first full healthy season since 2011 and both GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. and guest instructor Dan Plesac thought he looked like he was in very good shape.

  5. Blue Jays, Athletics talking to Dayan Viciedo

    Feb 27, 2015, 8:20 PM EST

    viciedo getty Getty Images

    Two more suitors enter the Dayan Viciedo sweepstakes.

  6. Michael Saunders to miss 5-6 weeks after surgery to remove meniscus in his left knee

    Feb 27, 2015, 7:15 PM EST

    Michael Saunders Michael Saunders

    Michael Saunders will return to the Blue Jays a lot sooner than anticipated.

  7. Athletics claim Alex Hassan off waivers from the Orioles

    Feb 27, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Alex Hassan Getty Images

    For the second time this offseason, the Athletics have claimed Alex Hassan off waivers.

  8. Orioles to give Chris Davis some playing time in right field during the spring

    Feb 27, 2015, 6:36 PM EST

    Chris Davis Chris Davis

    Chris Davis will get some work in the outfield this spring. He hasn’t played there since 2012.

  9. MLBPA will be monitoring how Cubs handle Kris Bryant

    Feb 27, 2015, 6:05 PM EST

    Kris Bryant Kris Bryant

    MLBPA executive director Tony Clark will be keeping a close eye on how the Cubs handle the eventual promotion of prospect Kris Bryant.

  10. The Pittsburgh Pirates issued a statement about “Jihadi John” wearing their cap

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:51 PM EST

    pirates logo

    Note: they’re not fans of this particular bit of product placement.

  11. Derek Lowe is talking to the Red Sox about a coaching job

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:35 PM EST

    Derek Lowe Red Sox AP

    Lowe pitched for the Red Sox from 1997-2004.

  12. Juan Pierre officially announces his retirement

    Feb 27, 2015, 1:06 PM EST

    Juan Pierre Getty Getty Images

    Pierre was a singles-hitting, base-stealing machine.

  13. Johan Santana’s deal with the Blue Jays has an April 28 opt-out clause

    Feb 27, 2015, 11:19 AM EST

    johan santana getty Getty Images

    If he’s called up to the majors Santana will get $2.5 million in guaranteed money.

  14. Aramis Ramirez says 2015 will be his last year

    Feb 27, 2015, 11:03 AM EST

    Aramis Ramirez Getty Images

    When he’s done he’ll have played 18 years in the bigs and will be pushing 400 homers.

  15. Royals are only looking at Joe Blanton as a reliever

    Feb 27, 2015, 10:47 AM EST

    Joe Blanton AP

    “The only way he is really going to help us is in the bullpen.”

  16. Bartolo Colon may be the Mets’ Opening Day starter

    Feb 27, 2015, 10:35 AM EST

    Bartolo Colon

    Yes, this is mostly just an excuse to post a picture of Bartolo Colon

  17. Giants sign Ronny Cedeno

    Feb 27, 2015, 10:15 AM EST

    Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies Getty Images

    Cedeno had a brief stint in the majors last season with the Phillies.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Hamilton (4530)
  2. Y. Moncada (3753)
  3. F. Rodriguez (3624)
  4. Z. Greinke (3302)
  5. M. Harvey (2896)
  1. E. Cabrera (2861)
  2. A. Wainwright (2495)
  3. A. Gordon (2480)
  4. A. Beltre (2426)
  5. J. Santana (2264)