The Los Angeles Angels didn’t have much luck this past season. They were also pretty bad, regardless. And as we’ve learned almost yearly, having the best baseball player on the planet (and now two-time MVP) can only get you so far. Just three seasons ago, the Angels won 98 games and the AL West. One year later, they were one win away from returning to the postseason.
Then this season came along, and countless injuries came with it. Andrew Heaney; Garrett Richards; Nick Tropeano. Even Matt Shoemaker right at the end. Half of those names won’t make a big-league appearance next season. C.J. Wilson never threw a pitch this season. Jered Weaver threw plenty but nearly all of them were ineffective. Ideally, Wilson and Weaver won’t be around going forward. Let’s not even acknowledge the Tim Lincecum experience. Oh, oops.
Then again, a rotation of Richards, Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Ricky Nolasco, and Alex Meyer (at the moment) shouldn’t worry many.
Heaney is likely out for all of 2017 (Tommy John surgery), as is Tropeano (TJS). Richards is coming off a year in which he partially tore his UCL but opted for rehab instead of surgery, which can be worrying. Skaggs, while promising, is often dealing with injuries. Shoemaker on his best day probably tops out as a No. 3 starter, maybe a fringe No. 2.
Then there’s the wild card in Meyer, the former three-time Top 100 prospect. Drafted initially in 2008 by Boston in the 20th round, Meyer didn’t sign, waiting until 2011 when he’d be selected in the first round by Washington. His 28-inning sample in the majors doesn’t tell us much, plus he’s coming off a season of dealing with shoulder soreness for lengthy stretches. In short, Los Angeles’ rotation is a mess. Here’s how it stacked up last season across the AL:
- 4.28: ERA (fourth-worst).
- 4.62: FIP (worst).
- 7.19: K/9 (worst).
- 3.15: BB/9 (fifth-worst).
- 1.32: HR/9 (fourth-worst).
It only gets worse from there with their farm system, which is arguably the worst in baseball. From March:
a�?The best thing to say about the Angels system, at this point, is that these rankings stories are over. The Halos ranked 29th for position players, 30th for pitchers and received an F for under-21 talent following an off-season in which it sent its top two prospects in pitchers Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis to the Braves for shortstop Andrelton Simmons…a�?
And a month after that:
a�?The best Angels prospect, catcher Taylor Ward, wouldn’t be a top ten guy in most systems. Trades gutted an already very weak system and this is now a complete from-the-ground-up rebuild project. There’s no way to spin it: this may be the worst system in recent memory.a�?
No matter how you slice it, not ideal for a club coming off their lowest win total of the 21st century. And while the offense flashes bright spots that are not Trout, it isn’t enough to make up for their lack of pitching. It isn’t enough to make up for their abysmal farm. The Angels need a rebuild (or at least a reboot), but are one of those teams that attempt to compete every single season. Eventually it catches up to you.
There’s first baseman C.J. Cron, whose injuries shortened an otherwise solid 2016a��his best to date. Kole Calhoun truly broke out, and they’ll need more of the same. But after that? 34-year-old Yunel Escobar has to slow down at some point. 36-year-old Albert Pujols, who’s still under contract through 2021 at a rate of $26-$30 million per season, doesn’t offer much other than power anymore. At that price, he better be hitting 50 per year (he isn’t). And sooner than later, he won’t be hitting 30.
That’s it; end of bright spots. Wilson and Weaver being off the books is good, but injuries to young arms like Heaney and Tropeano essentially cancel that out. There’s no guarantee Richards will stay healthy all season either. There is no shortage of moves to be made before spring training begins, but don’t look for the Angels to make drastic changes. A couple of inexpensive free agent signings here, perhaps a Rule 5 draft pick there. They sure as heck won’t be trading Mike Trout. Probably.
But that’s just it. As good as Trout is, and he is the best, he cannot do everything. Yet the Angels have done very little to build around their superstar. Maybe in 2018, they will be semi-competent again. But it starts with pitching and a strong minor league system, both of which are rather scarce at the moment. That’s not changing overnight.