Los Angeles Angels 2020: Reasons for optimism

What happened in 2019?
2019 saw the Angels finish in fourth place in the AL West, with a 72-90 record, condemning the team to a fourth-straight losing season and regression from the previous two years that had seen them finish with an 80-82 record. It was the first time in almost two decades that Mike Scioscia wasn’t in the dugout for the Angels but his replacement Brad Ausmus was one and done in Anaheim after the team’s lacklustre performance.

The story on the field for the Angels was once again one of major injuries to key players, and a starting pitching rotation that ranked as the worst in the major leagues, not to mention free agent signings that did not work out. The Angels spent close to $35 million on Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill, Cody Allen, Jonathan Lucroy and Justin Bour – none of whom you could class as a success.

Unfortunately, the injury bug hit again, with several Tommy John surgeries, including to stand-out two-way Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani, and lengthy spells on the sidelines for Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, Tommy La Stella and even Mike Trout.

The Angels through this, however, were able to get some big league experience to some of their youngsters that will be valuable for 2020. Griffin Canning got his first full go in the majors, along with Patrick Sandoval later in the season. Luis Rengifo, Matt Thaiss, Taylor Ward, Jared Walsh to name a few also got some regular at-bats as the season reached its climax.

Off the field, however, the season was overshadowed by the tragic passing of starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs in Texas – with the Angels throwing a combined no-hitter against the Mariners in tribute to Skaggs at Angel Stadium.

Finally, it would be remiss of us not to mention that once again Mike Trout became the American League Most Valuable Player – hitting .291/.438/.645 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI in 134 games – accumulating 8.3 WAR in that time.

Moves & shakes
IN: Anthony Rendon, Dylan Bundy, Julio Teheran, Jason Castro
OUT: Zack Cozart, Kole Calhoun

One to watch
We are indebted to LA Angels FR @LAAngelsFr1 for the suggestion of Julio Teheran. Follow them on Twitter.

Embed from Getty Images

Wouldn’t have been my one to watch, but the starting rotation was in dire need of upgrades this offseason and Billy Eppler sought the durability of Teheran after he was released by Atlanta.

In nine seasons with the Braves, Teheran compiled a 3.67 ERA and 1.21 WHIP – and is one of only six pitchers to throw 170+ innings in each of the past seven seasons. While he probably slots in as back-end starter in the rotation, the ability to go out there and go six innings every five days cannot be understated for an Angels’ pitching staff that has struggled with injuries and going deep into games.

Five reasons to be optimistic for 2020
(1) I don’t think you can write any reasons for optimism for the Angels and not have Mike Trout as the number one reason. He’s the best player in baseball, one of the greatest of all time – and he keeps getting better. Thankfully the Angels have given him more protection in the lineup for 2020 (more on that later), and I think you can expect another MVP-year from Trout.

(2) While the rotation hasn’t improved in the fashion many Angels fans were hoping at the start of the offseason (Cole, Strasburg, Wheeler) with the big money signings going elsewhere; this is perhaps the deepest set of major-league starters I can remember the Angels having for some time. Heaney, Bundy, Ohtani, Teheran, Canning, Pena, Andriese, Barria, Suarez, Sandoval all have starting experience in this league, and will all be hoping to show improvement this year working with new catcher Jason Castro

(3) Joe Maddon is back home! He rejoins an Angel organisation he spent 30 years in previously, to bring his experience, winning mentality, plus fun to our ball club. I don’t think you will find an Angels fan around that isn’t excited to have Maddon in the dugout this year.

(4) The 2018 AL Rookie of the Year Shohei Ohtani will be back on the mound to build on his 3.31 ERA in 10 starts back in 2018. He is one of the most talented pitchers in the game and having undergone successful Tommy John surgery, he is a real asset to the Angels rotation, adding top-end talent to a group that is lacking in it. Of course, he will also want to add to the 40 major-league home runs he’s clubbed since his debut in the majors two years ago, and I expect him to have a huge year.

(5) Finally, while we may have missed out in the high-priced starting pitching, we did secure the best hitter on the market, adding premium third baseman Anthony Rendon to what was an already gifted set of hitters. With Rendon slotting into the lineup with Trout, Ohtani, Upton, La Stella, Fletcher, Simmons and hopefully soon top prospect Jo Adell, this Angels lineup has potential for high scoring every night.

Nick Wright is part of the team covering the Los Angeles Angels for Bat Flips and Nerds in 2020. Follow him on Twitter @LAAngelsUK

Make sure you subscribe to the Bat Flips and Nerds podcasts and follow us on Twitter @BatFlips_Nerds. News, views and interviews, all with a British twist.

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