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. Royals shut down Danny Duffy with shoulder injury

    May 25, 2015, 10:41 AM EDT

    Danny Duffy Getty Images

    Initially the Royals planned to merely push back Duffy’s next start.

  2. Settling the Scores: Memorial Day Edition

    May 25, 2015, 8:10 AM EDT

    Memorial Day

    Do what you’d like this Memorial Day. Wave a flag. Protest a war. Get great deals at Mattress Wholesalers’ Crazy Memorial Day Sale. But remember that Memorial Day simultaneously is about none of those things and allows for all of those things.

  3. Sonny Gray takes liner off of ankle, but is expected to make his next start

    May 24, 2015, 11:35 PM EDT

    Sonny Gray Sonny Gray

    The struggling Athletics got a scare on Sunday when Sonny Gray was hit by a comebacker, but he’s expected to make his next start.

  4. Jose Reyes expected to rejoin the Blue Jays on Monday

    May 24, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT

    Jose Reyes Jose Reyes

    Veteran shortstop Jose Reyes will return to the Blue Jays on Monday after dealing with a cracked rib.

  5. Video: Yankees induct Bernie Williams into Monument Park

    May 24, 2015, 9:20 PM EDT

    Bernie Williams Getty Images

    Bernie Williams was honored with his induction into Monument Park at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.

  6. Video: Justin Upton rips a grand slam to put the Padres up early

    May 24, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    Justin Upton Getty Images

    Justin Upton knocked in six runs in his first two at-bats on Sunday against the Dodgers. Four of them came on a first-inning grand slam.

  7. Pirates starters had a weekend of double-digit strikeout performances

    May 24, 2015, 7:10 PM EDT

    Francisco Liriano Francisco Liriano

    Pirates starters Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett, and Francisco Liriano combined for 32 strikeouts in a three-game sweep of the Mets over the weekend.

  8. Rangers sign Jared Burton to a minor league contract

    May 24, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Jared Burton Jared Burton

    The Rangers added bullpen depth on Sunday, signing reliever Jared Burton to a minor league contract.

  9. Marco Gonzales feeling renewed discomfort in pectoral

    May 24, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT

    marco gonzales getty Getty Images

    Gonzales pitched well in his latest outing for Memphis, striking out seven and allowing only one run over six innings, and he was almost certain to be the next man up for the St. Louis rotation.

  10. Cubs return Anthony Varvaro to Red Sox after MRI reveals torn flexor tendon in his elbow

    May 24, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT

    anthony varvaro getty Getty Images

    Varvaro is now on the disabled list with the Red Sox and won’t pitch again this season. The 30-year-old had an impressive 2.63 ERA, 1.079 WHIP, and 50/13 K/BB ratio in 54 2/3 innings last summer with the Braves.

  11. Giants designate Casey McGehee for assignment

    May 24, 2015, 2:31 PM EDT

    casey mcgehee getty Getty Images

    San Francisco acquired Casey McGehee from the Marlins in December to effectively replace Pablo Sandoval at third base, but the 32-year-old woke up Sunday with a brutal .200/.254/.282 batting line and he had tallied just nine RBI in 35 games.

  12. Video: Steven Souza throws an elbow at Stephen Vogt

    May 24, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    souza getty Getty Images

    Steven Souza appeared to have a clear path to the plate — at least the outside of the plate — yet went right for Stephen Vogt with his elbow raised.

  13. Kyle Lobstein lands on 15-day DL with sore shoulder

    May 24, 2015, 1:25 PM EDT

    lobstein getty Getty Images

    Kyle Lobstein made the Tigers’ starting rotation out of spring training with Justin Verlander (triceps) ticketed for the disabled list. But that spot will now go to right-hander Buck Farmer because Lobstein needs a disabled list stint of his own.

  14. Shane Victorino heads back to the disabled list

    May 24, 2015, 12:32 PM EDT

    shane victorino getty Getty Images

    Victorino has appeared in just 50 of a possible 205 games over the last two seasons due to a variety of leg and back problems.

  15. Mitch Harris’ journey from the Naval Academy to MLB

    May 24, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    mitch harris getty Getty Images

    Really cool feature here from MLB Network on Mitch Harris’ unique path from the United States Naval Academy to a bullpen job with the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals …

  16. Yan Gomes returns to the Indians’ lineup after missing six weeks with a sprained right knee

    May 24, 2015, 10:59 AM EDT

    yan gomes getty Getty Images

    Gomes, 27, batted .278/.313/.472 with 21 home runs and 74 RBI in 135 games last season for the Tribe, earning his first Silver Slugger Award. Cleveland (17-23) could use a big offensive boost right about now.

  17. Marlins jump in Clevelander pool after snapping losing streak

    May 24, 2015, 10:04 AM EDT

    marlins getty Getty Images

    Miami defeated Baltimore to snap an eight-game losing streak late Saturday night on a Martin Prado walkoff RBI single in the bottom of the 13th inning.

  18. Video: Anthony Rizzo slugs game-winning three-run shot

    May 24, 2015, 9:21 AM EDT

    anthony rizzo getty Getty Images

    Rizzo also hit a three-run double in the fifth, finishing the game with a career-high-tying six RBI.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Hamilton (3685)
  2. R. Castillo (3536)
  3. D. Travis (3246)
  4. A. Pujols (3073)
  5. C. Crisp (3019)
  1. Y. Puig (2946)
  2. B. Harper (2936)
  3. H. Ryu (2915)
  4. J. Reyes (2855)
  5. D. Wright (2811)