2020 MLB Preview: Los Angeles Angels

I know the game of baseball has changed when it comes to stolen bases, but maybe the Los Angeles Angels would do well to change it back. Designated Hitter Shohei Ohtani led the team with a dozen as the Halos had just 65 swipes last year and 90 losses. To be fair, they were 17th in the majors. Texas led Major League Baseball with 134 and was an over-achieving 78-84. Call me crazy, but pitchers don’t like throwing curve balls when it means putting a runner on second and hitters seem to do better when they know fastballs are coming.

Speaking of pitchers, 19 Angels were asked to start games last year as wonderkind Shohei Ohtani recovered from Tommy John surgery. The mound results were atrocious. They tried the opener with a bunch of guys. Cam Bedrosian had the best results but he never threw more than two innings. Innings as a whole were a problem as Trevor Cahill led the staff with 102. Tyler Skaggs led the starters with a 4.29 earned-run average on a team with an ERA of 5.12, fourth-worst in the American. The return of Ohtani will help some but this is still a bucket of bolts. Hansel Robles was the best pitcher on the staff but didn’t have many games to save (23). His 4.69 strikeouts-to-walks ratio was impressive, followed by Noe Ramirez who doesn’t have many innings in the bigs but could be really good judging by his 3.95 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Griffin Channing, Patrick Sandoval and Jose Suarez will have to improve for this to be a contender anytime soon. The addition of Julio Teheran (77-73 3.67 ERA) gives them a solid number-two starter. The addition of Dylan Bundy (38-45 4.67 ERA) gives them depth but not much of an upgrade over the existing rotation.

In the first preseason, new Angels catcher Jason Castro told reporters he thinks Bundy and the staff can give them more.

“He’s got swing-and-miss stuff. We’ll continue to build off what he did today.” he said referring to Bundy. “I think we’ve got guys that have been around and some younger guys so it’s a good mix. If we just get guys to be consistent and trust in their stuff, you know, they’re all here for a reason. They have the talent to be successful.”

Manager Joe Maddon brought Castro in for a reason, to fill the role of elder statesman/steadying hand that David Ross gave the Chicago Cubs. Despite his optimism, Ohtani is the key –if he can recapture his form in his 2018 (10-10, 3.31 ERA) rookie-of-the-year campaign.

There’s a second player in the organization besides Ohtani who can pitch and hit. Left handed first baseman Jared Walsh hit 36 home runs in Triple A and sported a 1.80 ERA in five relief appearances with the big club. Worrisome are the six walks in those five innings.

News flash: Mike Trout is still awesome. So is third baseman Anthony Rendon (.319 ave., league leader with 44 doubles and 126 RBI) who comes over from The Washington Nationals. Andeltron Simmons is the real deal at shortstop having won Gold Gloves in both leagues. Along with Trout they and the David Fletcher/Tommy La Stella platoon at second make up a solid middle defense. Fletcher was above average at third and has experience at several positions.

Back to the stolen base question, they won’t be any faster with Rendon, who has just 45 stolen bases for his career, and their minor-league leader, Brandon Marsh had 19 last year in Double A while Trent Deveaux had 15 in a short rookie ball season.

They’ll still be slow, unless they trade for someone or new manager Joe Maddon turns them loose. The Chicago Cubs’ bunch of sluggers had just 45 stolen bases last year, so it’s not likely.

Bottom line: Trout is Trout, Rendon is Rendon and Ohtani could be equal to both someday. This team can’t be any worse pitching-wise than they were when they won 72, unless Teheran doesn’t report because of COVID-19. He and Suarez have yet to report, as of July 18. Fully-staffed, the 2020 Angels would be good for 85 wins.

Coronavirus 60-game prediction: 31-29.

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