By: Noah Wright
Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times
The Angles entered the season with hope that they would be playoff contenders. While they were likely just gonna be a Wild Card Contender, it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility if they took the division. And at the beginning of the season, it looked as if they could be #1 in The AL West. They got off to a hot start in April, and by mid-May, they were 25-16. However, it’s been a slippery slope for The Angles since then. A slew of injuries is mainly to blame to them falling to below .500, as Ohtani, Kinsler, Cozart, Pujols, Shoemaker, Richards, and Kenyan Middleton are just a few big names to land on the DL at least once this season. With The Angels falling out of contention this season, what’s the future hold for The Halos?
On The 25-Man:
The Major League roster is still headlined by Mike Trout, who’s having a Mike Trout year. Behind him, Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons back a fairly old, weak, and very brittle line-up. Kole Calhoun is usually a decent producer who can be relied on to produce a line around .260/.330/.430 line with 20 home runs, 70 RBI’s, and pretty good defense. While his defense is still above average this season, Calhoun is only batting .185/.237/.315 with 9 homers and 26 RBI’s in 283 PA’s. However, he did spend a few weeks on The DL in early-mid June, and has performed around expected since coming off The DL. Over his last 98 PA’s, Calhoun is hitting .264/.316/.586 with 8 home runs, and 15 RBI’s. Second Baseman Ian Kinsler is one of many other players that has spent time on The DL. The now 36 year old started to decline last season, and it’s only gotten worse since. In his 361 plate appearances in his first season in an Angles uniform, Kinsler is batting .221/.280/.366 with 11 home runs and 26 RBI’s. While his offense is on the decline, his defense has still been useful, with 10 DRS, 1.4 defensive WAR, and 7.9 UZR. Their converted from short to third base man Zack Cozart has also dealt with struggles with his bat, glove, and staying healthy. Cozart has only 253 plate appearances, and it plans on staying that way, as Cozart will likely spend the rest of the season on the DL after undergoing left shoulder surgery. However, Cozart is under contract until 2020. Then there’s Albert Pujols. Pujols hasn’t had a truly good season since his first season with The Halos back in 2012, and he’s been on the decline since. At this point in his career, Pujols is only in it to reach milestones, like his 3000th hit, and 600th home run. While he can still be relied on to reach 25+ home runs, and have a good RBI total, he is another one of The Angles’ injury casualties. Going into pitching, Shohei Ohtani has been one of the bright spots for both hitting and pitching. The rookie has had a great season with the bat, and the arm. In the batters box, Ohtani is batting .283/.362/.524 with 7 long balls, and 22 RBI’s. On the mound, Ohtani has pitched to a 3.10 ERA, 3.27 FIP, and 1.135 WHIP. But what seems like two dozen other players on their roster, Ohtani spent some time on The DL, and just started to start a pitching program to rehab his pitching arm. The rest of the rotation has looked pretty good though. Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs are both having quality years, and the first time that they’ve been mostly healthy for most of the season in what seems like in forever. Rookie Jaime Barria, when he’s in the majors, has done pretty good. However, they have lost two major pieces to the rotation in Matt Shoemaker, and Garrett Richards to injuries, again. The pen has been OK too. The closer’s role has been a bit of a hot potato game. The Halos entered the season with Blake Parker, and Cam Bedrosian sharing the closer role. After Parker ending April with an ERA above 4, and Bedrosian blew a few saves, the role was then passed to Kenyan Middleton. For a while, Middleton looked to be the longtime answer for The Halos, but then he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. After his injury, Parker was handed back the closer role, and it’s been that way since, and he’s done a decent job in that role. On the season, Parker has a 3.05 ERA, 3.60 FIP, and 1.195 WHIP in 44 and a third innings. His 2.8 walks/9 rate, and 10.2 K’s/9 rate have also been decent all season. Behind Parker and Bedrosian, and Middleton when he’s healthy, Jose Alvarez, Justin Anderson, Noe Ramirez, and Hansel Robles formed a solid mid relief corps.
Young players in the pipeline:
The Angles haven’t had a good farm system in recent years, but it has gotten better. Their #1 prospect, Jo Adell is ranked #36 of top the top 100. He’s spent the season in low/high A, and has done pretty well. In 332 PA’s, Adell is batting .314/.366/.591 with 17 homers, 66 RBI’s, and 12 stolen bases. Adell is a speed/power threat, and ranks as an above average outfielder with a good arm. Their #2 prospect is 18 year old Kevin Maitan, who they signed after MLB forced The Braves to release some of their illegally signed international prospects. The #74 prospect has spent all 114 plate appearances in rookie ball, and has batted .262/.307/.374 with 3 homers, and 12 RBI’s. The switch hitter’s ceiling has been compared to Chipper Jones, and his floor has been seen as Miguel Sano. The Halos’ 3rd best prospect is Jahmai Jones. Jones has been converted from an outfielder to a second baseman, and the transition with his bat hasn’t been so smooth. He’s spent time in High-A and double-A ball this season. His combined 398 PA’s between the two leagues has resulted in just a .226/.332/.375 line, with 9 home runs, and 40 RBI’s. While he has been fairly underwhelming this season, Jones still has 16 stolen bases in 19 attempts, and 148 wRC+. He’s been estimated with a very high floor of major league production. Jones, now 20 years old, is estimated to make the bigs in 2019. Their 4th top 100 prospect is outfielder Brandon Marsh. Marsh, 20 years old, is rated as the #86 best prospect in The MLB. He’s spent all 408 plate appearances this season in in both low and high A ball. Overall, Marsh is batting .273/.366/.412 this season with 6 long balls, 56 RBI’s, and 13 stolen bases. Marsh also is rated as a good fielder, with a well above average arm. The Angles’ 4th and final top 100 prospect is right hander Griffin Canning. Canning has moved through The Angles system quite rapidly. This is his first season of profesional play, and he’s already rocketed from high A ball, to Triple-A. Between all 3 levels, Canning has a combined 80 and two thirds innings in where the 22 year old pitched to a 3.46 ERA, 1.227 WHIP, but a very very low 1.64 FIP. He’s also allowed just 3 long balls. Griffin’s fastball, slider, and curve all are ranked around above average. Canning also has a changeup to add to his pitching selection, and descent control. Past their 4 top 100 guys, first base prospect Matt Thaiss has shown promise with his bat. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Thaiss is batting .287/.339/.499 with 14 home runs and 54 RBI’s. He’ll likely make his debut later this season, and will probably be
So overall, what does the future hold for The Angles? Right now, they’re still in a position in where they can retool, and try again next season if they don’t turn things around this season. Zack Cozart, Tyler Skaggs, Mike Trout, Matt Shoemaker, and Andrelton Simmons are all controlled through the 2020 season, with Heaney being controlled through 2021. Justin Upton is controlled through 2022 as well. While Ian Kinsler, Martin Maldonado, and Garrett Richards are the only major pieces that are going to be free agents after this season, most of their big cogs are controllable for a few more years. If The Angles do lose some of their pieces in FA, they do have a few guys coming through the farm that could be ready in a few years, or even later this season. One thing that really does throw a wrench in future signings/plans is Albert Pujols’ contract. The 1B/DH is owed $28-$30 million until 2021. His contract could prevent future signings, which could stand as a problem if they decide to retool. In the end, The Angles future could be bright if they can retool. They still have a handful of valuable pieces under control for 3-4 more seasons, and with a decent farm system, The Angles could be in contention again as soon as next season.