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Los Angeles Angels 2015 Team Preview

The Los Angeles Angels are an interesting mix of veterans on the decline and upstart youngsters but can they repeat as AL West champs?

Mike Trout

The Angels were arguably the most consistent team of 2015, playing .606 ball before the All-Star break and .603 ball down the stretch. They were able to finish ahead of the Oakland A’s, who slumped badly in the second half, but were quickly bounced from the playoffs in three ALDS games against the Royals.

Outside of a few pieces, this season’s team features largely the same core of players as last year.

 

Last Season:

Record: 98-64

Runs: 1st

Batting Average: 6th

ERA: 15th

WHIP: 7th

 

Off-Season:

Notable Losses: Howie Kendrick, Jason Grilli, Hank Conger, Gordon Beckham, Kevin Jepsen

Notable Additions: Josh Rutledge, Matt Joyce, Cesar Ramos

 

2015:

1B: Albert Pujols, C.J. Cron: After an injury-shortened down year in 2013, Pujols looked significantly better in 2014, even if still a far cry from his peak self in his St. Louis days. His .272 BA, .790 OPS, 28 home runs, 105 RBI, and 37 doubles are about what we can expect from Pujols when healthy these days.

Cron proved a very solid backup as a rookie in 2014, posting a .256/.289/.450 line with 11 home runs, 37 RBI, and 28 runs in 242 at-bats. In the minors, Cron showed some huge power and can definitely hit the ball out of the park when given the chance.

2B: Josh Rutledge, Grant Green: After hitting 15 home runs in his first 161 games, Rutledge hit just four last year but posted a decent .269/.323/.405 line. Though it looks like he’ll never reach his power potential, he’s a solid singles and doubles hitter with a glove that leaves a bit to be desired.

After showing a lot of promise in the minors, Green has been thoroughly disappointing in his first 88 Big League games. He hit as many as 20 home runs in the minors and owned a .305 career BA, but thus far has just two dingers and a .259 BA in his short Major League career.

3B: David Freese: Though no longer the .300 hitter we saw in St. Louis, Freese posted a solid par-for-the-course season last year. His on-base numbers fell but he finished with almost identical numbers in 2014 (.260 BA, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 53 R, 25 2B) as he did in 2013 (.262 BA, 9 HR, 60 RBI, 53 R, 26 2B) so that’s about what we can expect this season.

SS: Erick Aybar: Though no longer a threat to steal 30, the 31-year-old reached career-highs in games played, RBI, runs, hits, and walks en route to his very first All-Star selection last season. I wouldn’t expect another 68 RBI or 77 runs but he’s good for numbers very close to that, with around 30 doubles and 15 steals to boot.

C: Chris Iannetta, Drew Butera: Iannetta was a serviceable catcher for the Angels last year, posting a .252 BA, seven home runs, and 43 RBI in 108 games. That about what we can expect from him in a typical season, though usually with a lower average.

Butera is a career .183 hitter so he’s clearly not there for his bat.

Outfield:

Mike Trout: The reigning American League MVP is as sure a lock to contend for the award again as anyone. He led the league in runs scored and RBI last season, but also struck out more than anyone (184). The strikeouts saw his average drop from .323 in 2013 to .287 last year and his steals dropped from 33 to 16. Perhaps he isn’t the perennial 30-30 guys with a .320+ average we thought he was but he’s damn close.

Josh Hamilton: Hamilton was limited to just 89 games last season and posted similar numbers in 2014 (.263 BA, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 43 R) as his lackluster 2013 campaign (.250 BA, 21 HR, 79 RBI, 73 R). He’s not likely to repeat his 43 home run, 128 RBI season that he had with Texas just two seasons ago but a 20-80 guy isn’t bad (though you could argue that with $90 million left on his contract over the next three seasons that’s horrendous).

Kole Calhoun: Calhoun proved to be a good-but-not-great bat in his first full season, posting a .272/.325/.450 line with 17 HR, 31 2B, 58 RBI, and an impressive 90 runs. His minor league numbers suggest he has 25-home run, .300-average potential but he’ll need to be more consistent to reach that level.

Matt Joyce: After averaging 18 home runs, 60 RBI, and 62 runs between 2011 and 2013, Joyce hit just nine home runs with 52 RBI, and 51 runs last season while posting a pedestrian yet high-for-him .254 batting average. He’s a serviceable backup but not the starter he was in his earlier years with Tampa.

Collin Cowgill: Cowgill is the team’s fifth outfielder and the journeyman has proven his role is as an end-of-the-bench roleplayer.

 

Starting Rotation:

Jered Weaver: Weaver’s 18 wins led the American League and he was able to shake the injury bug and start 34 games in 2014 but his ERA (3.59) and WHIP (1.21) were the highest they’ve been since 2009. He’s still a good arm but at 32, he’s not the perennial All-Star we saw between 2010 and 2012. His 4.19 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) suggests his season could have gone significantly worse if not for the gloves behind him.

C.J. Wilson: Wilson posted his worst ERA (4.51) and WHIP (1.45) since 2008 last year and led the American League with 85 walks. Wilson has posted at least a 1.34 WHIP in three straight seasons and failed to reach the 200 inning mark for the first time since 2009. Don’t look now but the 34-year-old lefty is clearly on the decline.

Matt Shoemaker: Shoemaker was stellar in his first season, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting and leading the league in winning percentage (.800). He went 16-4 in 20 starts and seven relief appearances, posting a 3.04 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 124 K/24 BB. Shoemaker spent a long time in the minors and struggled often but the Angels need him desperately to put up similar numbers as last year.

Hector Santiago: Santiago is a solid back-of-the-rotation guy who doesn’t go very deep into games and puts a lot of men on base but is able to get out of jams. In his last two seasons between the White Sox and the Angels, Santiago is 10-18 with a 3.65 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and eight strikeouts per nine to four walks per nine. That’s about what the Angels can expect in 2015.

Andrew Heaney: Heaney posted a 5.83 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in his first 29 Major League innings but the top 30 prospect has a boatload of potential. In 56 minor league games, Heaney put up a 2.69 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 286 K/77 BB. He’s got a live arm and could be a real fantasy baseball steal if he can prove he belongs in the Bigs.

Garrett Richards: Richards is “targeting” Opening Day but will likely be back a bit later after undergoing knee surgery in August. After posting a couple of mediocre seasons as a spot starter for the Angels, Richards proved to be a true force on the mound last year, going 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 164 K/51 BB. With Weaver and Wilson on the downslide, the Angels need Richards to prove he’s the team’s true ace.

 

Bullpen:

Huston Street converted 41 of 44 save opportunities last season between San Diego and Los Angeles and has now posted a 93%+ save percentage in three consecutive years. He’s as good as they get.

Joe Smith posted his best season yet in his first year with the Angels, recording a 1.81 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and 68 K/15 BB in a career-high 74.2 innings.

After a couple of down years in St. Louis, Fernando Salas looked strong in his first year in LA, posting a solid 3.38 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Hopefully he doesn’t revert to the 4.30+ pitcher we saw on the Cards.

Mike Morin is an excellent young reliever who posted a 2.90 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in his rookie year, Cory Rasmus improved drastically to post a 2.57 ERA in 2014, and Cesar Ramos is a solid though inconsistent reliever that can occasionally be called on to spot start.

 

Grades:

Offense: A-

Defense: C+

Starting Staff: C+ to B-

Bullpen: A

Overall: B

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