The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had a win total of 79.5 last year and the odds makers were right on with the Angels just over that at 80 wins. In 2018, the expectations have risen a bit for the Angels based on the offseason acquisitions including the resigning of Justin Upton, signing of Zack Cozart, trade for Ian Kinsler and—perhaps mostly—the addition of Shohei Ohtani.
The Astros are the clear favorites in the AL West, but the Angels look like their biggest competition. Even as the team finished below-.500, they battled for the Wild Card down to the final weeks of the season. They have the best player in the game and, now, one of the biggest prospects in Ohtani. The Angels are an interesting team with a number of interesting pieces, but do they have enough pitching to compete?
2017 Record: 80-82
2017 Moneyline Record: +1.48 Units
2017 Over/Under Total Record: 69-82-11
Current Odds To Win AL: +1385
Current Odds To Win AL West: +455
Regular Season Win Total: 85.5
Defense took center stage for GM Billy Eppler this offseason as the Angels looked to improve on the field and better support a talented, but injury-prone pitching staff.
Andrelton Simmons is already the best defensive shortstop in the game. He picked things up with the bat last year, too, and delivered 7.1 rWAR, more than even Mike Trout given his missed time.
Simmons is now joined by Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart at second and third, respectively. That’s an infield that can pick it. They’re joined by a solid defensive outfield of Justin Upton, Trout and Kole Calhoun, left to right. Add Martin Maldonado behind the plate and it’s hard to find a better defensive unit. Defensively, first base is the weakest link. Albert Pujols will get more time there as Ohtani serves as the occasional DH.
Offensively, this group of players and swing the bat. Trout is a perennial MVP. He finished fourth in the voting last year after playing in in only 114 games. He had his best slash line ever at .306/.442/.629. That’s a 1.071 OPS, good enough for a 187 OPS+. Even in limited at bats, he hit 33 homers and stole 22 bases. He can do it all on offense and defense.
In terms of protection for Trout, the Angels brought over Upton last summer to help beef up the heart of the order around the star centerfielder. Upton went on to hit seven homers and produce a .887 OPS in his 27 games in an Angels uniform. Combined with L.A. and Detroit, Upton was a 5.6 rWAR player with a .901 OPS, 35 homers and 109 RBIs.
Between Trout, Upton and Simmons, the Angels have three returning players with more than five WAR last year. Simmons produces most of his value on defense, but his offense was a huge bonus in 2017 as he produced a 103 OPS+, providing above average offense at a premium position.
In addition to those three, Pujols—even though the sabermetrics don’t like him anymore—produced 101 RBIs last year while Calhoun has been a solid performer for the Angels for years. Kinsler, meanwhile, gives them team a good leadoff option while Cozart had an offensive breakout in 2017.
This team should score runs and the defense should help prevent them. The ultimate success—or failure—of the Angels will come down to the pitching.
Ohtani was brought in to be an ace primarily. He’ll get at bats throughout the season, too, and could help provide more offense as well, but his primary role for the Angels will be on the mound.
The right-hander was limited to a handful of innings in Japan last year, but has dominating stuff and will be an important part of an expanded six-man rotation. Behind Ohtani, the Angels are loaded with good arms, but they all bring their share of injury concerns and/or questions about how effective they can be given their limited sample sizes.
Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker are the most proven, but injury concerns are there. J.C Ramirez and Parker Bridwell both made over 20 starts last year with impressive returns. Skaggs, meanwhile, is a concern both in terms of effectiveness and health, but has electric stuff.
Behind this expanded rotation, the Angels have some good bullpen arms, but—again—more questions. Bud Norris and Yusmeiro Petit are gone. Blake Parker, Cam Bedrosian and Keynan Middleton lead the group of returning arms. Jim Johnson brings a veteran presence to the backend of the pen.
Some of the arms are good, but this team misses a sure-fire presence in the latter innings. They’ll need someone to step up big at the end of games to be able to mount any sort of threat against an Astros team that’s still quite a bit head of the Angels, at least on paper.
|Baltimore Orioles||Baltimore, Maryland||Oriole Park at Camden Yards|
|Boston Red Sox||Boston, Massachusetts||Fenway Park|
|New York Yankees||New York City, New York||Yankee Stadium|
|Tampa Bay Rays||St. Petersburg, Florida||Tropicana Field|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Toronto, Ontario||Rogers Centre|
|CENTRAL||Chicago White Sox||Chicago, Illinois||Guaranteed Rate Field|
|Cleveland Indians||Cleveland, Ohio||Progressive Field|
|Detroit Tigers||Detroit, Michigan||Comerica Park|
|Kansas City Royals||Kansas City, Missouri||Kauffman Stadium|
|Minnesota Twins||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Target Field|
|WEST||Houston Astros||Houston, Texas||Minute Maid Park|
|Los Angeles Angels||Anaheim, California||Angel Stadium|
|Oakland Athletics||Oakland, California||Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum|
|Seattle Mariners||Seattle, Washington||Safeco Field|
|Texas Rangers||Arlington, Texas||Globe Life Park in Arlington|
|EAST||Atlanta Braves||Atlanta, Georgia||SunTrust Park|
|Miami Marlins||Miami, Florida||Marlins Park|
|New York Mets||New York City, New York||Citi Field|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||Citizens Bank Park|
|Washington Nationals||Washington, D.C.||Nationals Park|
|CENTRAL||Chicago Cubs||Chicago, Illinois||Wrigley Field|
|Cincinnati Reds||Cincinnati, Ohio||Great American Ball Park|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Miller Park|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||PNC Park|
|St. Louis Cardinals||St. Louis, Missouri||Busch Stadium|
|WEST||Arizona Diamondbacks||Phoenix, Arizona||Chase Field|
|Colorado Rockies||Denver, Colorado||Coors Field|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Los Angeles, California||Dodger Stadium|
|San Diego Padres||San Diego, California||Petco Park|
|San Francisco Giants||San Francisco, California||AT&T Park|
March 29-April 1: at Oakland Athletics
April 2-4: vs Cleveland Indians
April 6-8: vs Oakland Athletics
April 9-11: at Texas Rangers
April 12-15: at Kansas City Royals
April 17-19: vs Boston Red Sox
April 20-22: vs San Francisco Giants
April 23-25: at Houston Astros
April 27-29: vs New York Yankees
Save for the Minnesota Twins, the Angels will face each of the other four AL playoff teams from 2017 prior to the end of April. Los Angeles figures to be one of the teams that missed out on postseason play last year that has a chance to challenge the playoff teams for a spot in 2018. They’ll get plenty of early tests.
After opening the season in Oakland, the Angels will return home and host the Indians. From they have a big of a break with another series against the A’s and a road trip to Texas and Kansas City. Upon returning home, however, the team will face the Red Sox and Giants before taking on the Astros in Houston and the Yankees back in Anaheim.While the Giants had the worst record in the NL last year, San Francisco still has pieces and was a playoff team in 2016. In fact, they’ve been a playoff team in every even-numbered season since 2010. They should, at the very least, be a tough opponent in 2018. Given that, the month starts off simple enough, but April will end some difficult matchups, giving Los Angeles a good early season test.
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