The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim won 85 games last season despite being a team in turmoil. The turmoil existed between manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Jerry DiPoto, leading to DiPoto's resignation. DiPoto has moved on to Seattle and the Angels have hired New York Yankees assistant general manager Billy Eppler as their new GM. The Angels top off season moves included a couple of trades, first bringing in star defensive shortstop Andrelton Simmons (.265 batting average, 4 home runs, 44 runs batted in, .660 on base plus slugging) from the Braves. The cost was two top starting pitching prospects, mainly left hander Sean Newcomb. The Angels added third baseman Yunel Escobar (.314, 9, 56, .790) in exchange for relief pitcher Trevor Gott. (4 wins, 2 losses, 3.02 earned run average, 1.238 walks and hits per inning pitched). The Angels brought in outfielders Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry to platoon in left field and lost catcher Chris Iannetta, third baseman David Freese and outfielder Matt Joyce to free agency.
The Angels biggest strength will be the middle of their batting order, led by the best player in the game Mike Trout (.299, 41, 90, .991). Albert Pujols (.244, 40, 95, .787) can still hit for power though his batting average has dropped over the past season. Kole Calhoun (.256, 23, 83, .731) added some protection for the two potential future Hall of Fame players. Adding Escobar and Simmons will help, both offensively and defensively. CJ Cron (.263, 16, 51, .739) will likely serve as the team's full time designated hitter. The rest of the offense is very suspect as the Angels will be relying on second baseman Johnny Giavotella (.272, 4, 49, .694), who actually performed well in his first season as an everyday player. The projected left field platoon of Nava (.194, 1, 10, .560) and Gentry (6 hits in 50 at bats, 3 runs batted in) leaves a lot to be desired and I am not sure how ready Carlos Perez (.250, 4, 21, .645) is to be an everyday catcher. The Angels did bring in Geovany Soto (.219, 9, 21, .708) as a free agent from the White Sox to provide a little depth. However, it would be silly to expect Soto to be anywhere near the player he was when he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2008.
I would line up the Angels like this: Simmons SS, Escobar 3B, Trout CF, Pujols 1B, Calhoun RF, Cron DH, Perez C, Giavotella 2B, Gentry/ Nava LF. If the Angels are contending, they will be in a prime position to add another impact offensive player. The Angels lack a lot of depth on the bench but have serviceable players like former Braves outfielder Todd Cunningham and former Diamondbacks and Athletics infielder Cliff Pennington to go along with Soto. Non roster invitees such as Gregorio Petit and Quentin Berry should have a decent shot of making the team.
The Angels have some issues in their starting rotation. On the surface, it does not look like much of a problem as the projected starting rotation could potentially be eight deep. But, it is the questions associated with the pitchers that have one wondering if the Angels' starting rotation could be a strength for them this season. It is likely that Garrett Richards (15-12, 3.65, 176 strikeouts, just over 207 innings pitched) will lead the staff, but there is a question over what can be expected from former top starters Jared Weaver (7-12, 4.64, 1.223) and CJ Wilson (8-8, 3.89, 1.242). Left handers Hector Santiago (9-9, 3.59, 162 Ks, less than 181 IP) and Andrew Heaney (6-4, 3.39 in 18 starts) should round out the rotation. The Angels also have Matt Shoemaker, who went from being 16-4, 3.04 in 2014 to 7-10, 4.46 in 2015. Nick Tropeano and Tyler Skaggs will be there for depth. Shoemaker has to be an afterthought at this point- one in which the Angels will appreciate anything they can get out of him. Weaver and Wilson will be keys to their starting staff, both exhibiting signs of decline and questions still existing over how healthy Wilson is at this point.
The Angels bullpen possesses a solid one- two punch with Huston Street (3-3, 3.18, 40 saves) and Joe Smith (5-5, 3.58). Fernando Salas, Cam Bedrosian and Mike Morin should all help out from the right side and left hander Jose Alvarez (4-3, 3.49, 59 Ks, 67 IP) serving as the primary specialist. Righty Al Alburquerque (4-1, 4.21, 67 games) comes over as a free agent from the Detroit Tigers to provide a little depth. He had put up some solid numbers for the Tigers in the past.
The Angels farm system is a little bit weaker than it has been in years. Infielder Roberto Baldoquin is continuing to develop in the minors and looks to be a solid player for the future. If Kaleb Cowart, a third baseman, is ready to produce at the major league level this season, it could provide some depth. Escobar could move to second if needed.
Looking at the past team previews I have done, I have never been so down on the Angels before. The top part of their roster is as good as any in the game. Richards should be their ace this year, but Weaver and Wilson are there to be the head of the rotation. It would have benefited them to add another solid option at the top of their rotation. Perhaps they just have more confidence in Weaver and Wilson than I do. I also thought the Angels could have upgraded in left field, second base or catcher. The fact that they did not takes some of the firepower away from Trout, Pujols and Calhoun. But the truth is, the Angels are not that far away. Perhaps not as far away as being ranked 23rd out of 30 teams makes it seem like. The American League West will be very competitive and the Angels will have their say. Unfortunately, I have them finishing in forth place in the division. Las Vegas has put their over/ under number at 82.5, but I am taking the under. The Angels of 2016: 77-85, forth place in the AL West division.