The Los Angeles Angels fell way short of expectations for the second straight year in 2013 and have now missed the postseason in four consecutive seasons. The pitching was mediocre, the offense from big money players was lacking, and there was no bullpen whatsoever.
The Angels finished third in the division and 18-games back of the AL West Division winners, Oakland. After finishing five games out in 2012, the Angels regressed in 2013 and ended the year with a 78-84 record.
For two straight years, the Angels went big in the offseason and brought in the best player available on the market and for the second straight year, the move proved to be costly as Albert Pujols in 2012 as Josh Hamilton in 2013 didn’t perform anywhere near expectations.
Although the offensive big money players were a disappointment, the rest of the team performed admirably at the plate as they finished fifth in the league in batting average, fifth in on-base percentage, fifth in OPS, sixth in slugging percentage, and seventh in runs scored. But they ranked near the bottom in pitching and that’s where the Angels have to improve.
With their offense in good shape, the Angels moved their 30-homer-a-year slugger Mark Trumbo in a three-team trade to bring in young left-handed arms in Hector Santiago from the Chicago White Sox and ex-Angels’ draftee Tyler Skaggs from the Arizona Diamondbacks. They also added depth to their bullpen with the addition of reliever Joe Smith from the Cleveland Indians.
Can the Angels turn things around and avoid a third straight disappointing season?
Best case scenario
The Angels have the players and the potential to compete for the division crown. The best case scenario for them is that everyone stays healthy, Pujols and Hamilton find their way back to performing at high levels, and the pitching staff improves on the mediocre 2013 season. If the two sluggers can turn things around and newly acquired third baseman David Freese can rebound from a down year in St. Louis, to help offset the loss of Trumbo’s power, their offense should be even better than it has been. The Angels need Skaggs and Santiago to live up to expectations if they have any chance to compete on the mound.
Most Important Angels
At first glance it may seem that Mike Trout is the Angels’ most important player as he has easily become the best all-around player in Major League Baseball. The problem is that he has been the best player in the game the past two seasons and they have missed the playoffs both times. Their most important player this upcoming season will be their number three pitcher in the rotation and that will be Garret Richards. Simply put, if Richards struggles, the Angels will look at another losing season as their biggest weakness was their pitching and after failing to sign a veteran arm to take the third spot in the rotation, the Angels will be relying heavily on Richards to compliment ace Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.
Albert Pujols will also be key to the Angels’ success, after signing a 10-year, $240 million contract in 2012, Pujols has struggled in his two seasons with the Halos mainly due to injuries. With Trout hitting second in the lineup, Pujols will have many opportunities to drive him in as he’ll be slotted in the third spot. Coming into the spring, he’s finally fully healthy and appears to be in good shape. If he can get back to some resemblance of his Cardinals’ days, he will be a driving force for the team.
Potential Breakout Players
With Trumbo gone, the Angels’ will turn to Kole Calhoun to take over full-time duties in right field. The finals months of 2013 for Calhoun were some of the best of any Angel. Calhoun played in 58 games last year and posted a .282/.347/.462 slash line with 8 home runs and 32 RBI. Look for him to continue his success as he did in 2013. After a disappointing arrival in 2012, Calhoun took advantage of injuries to others to shine on the field last season, now given the starting job, look for Calhoun to continue to fight his way into the lineup everyday.
Smith was the big addition to the bullpen for the Angels’ this offseason but look for left-hander Brian Moran to have a breakout season as he has shown he can handle lefty-lefty situations quite well, which will come in handy late in games due to the uncertainty of the lone lefty in the ‘pen so far, Sean Burnett, who is coming off an injury that cost him most of last season.
Worst Case Scenario
With the roster the Angels currently have, nothing can get worse than last season, unless everything comes apart once again. The team traded a big power bat for a couple of young lefties but if the two young pitchers fail to be solid starters, the pitching will once again run this team to the ground.
A fifth straight year without a playoff appearance would be a debacle and they Angels can’t keep squandering these monster seasons Trout is having.
Areas of Concern
The biggest area of concern will be the pitching staff once again, as they ranked near the bottom in all pitching categories in the league. They lack any proven starter beyond Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson as Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs will round out the rotation. If any of those three fail, the Angels will once again have to give the ball to Joe Blanton, who was 2-14 with a 6.04 ERA last season.
The Angels came into the offseason with one goal in mind and that was to improve their pitching staff. They went out and traded for a couple of unproven pitchers which may seem to be a smart move in the long run. However, without making a serious run at a proven veteran like Matt Garza, Bronson Arroyo or even Masahiro Tanaka, there’s no back-up plans if they fail to produce.
Who needs to bounce back from a down 2013?
There are two players that are key to the turnaround of the team and are incredibly important to the franchise. The Angels doled out big money to lure Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to Anaheim. Last year, Pujols was lost for a big chunk of the season due to injuries. When he was in the line up, he was shadow of the player who dominated the National League for so long. Pujols finished 2013 with a .258 batting average, 17 home runs and 64 RBIs
Josh Hamilton, who dropped some 25 pounds prior to the start of last season, finished the 2013 with a .250 batting average, 21 home runs and 79 RBIs. Hamilton has reportedly bulked back up and if, and that’s a big if, he can stay healthy perhaps he will approach the numbers he produced in his final season with the Rangers, .285 batting average, 43 home runs, 128 RBI and a .930 OPS.
If the pair of aging sluggers can bash like they did before they signed on with the Angels, then Mike Scioscia will have a formidable line up.
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