Getting To Know The 2015 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim


This is the first in a series of posts previewing the 2015 AL West. Next up: the Houston Astros.

You hate the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. You hate them so much that when you hear about bad people doing bad things on the local news you think to yourself “those damn Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are at it again.” In this era of Yankee ambivalence, the Halos have emerged (in Seattle, anyway) as the game’s least likeable team.

It’s easy to see why: history of success, immense financial muscle, always outperforming the projections, the best player in baseball, the whole two-cities-in-one-name thing, that stupid sock puppet monkey creature… They’re insufferable! People in Los Anaheim, of course, love the Angels. This is a preview of the 2015 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and it’s not for (or by) people who love the Angels.

The Rotation

RHP Garrett Richards
RHP Jered Weaver
LHP C.J. Wilson
RHP Matt Shoemaker
LHP Hector Santiago
LHP Andrew Heaney

Sep 15, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker (52) pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Richards broke out in 2014, his first full campaign in the big league rotation. Or, rather, his first season working exclusively as a starter, seeing as a gross knee injury halted his season at 168.2 innings. All he did was throw to a 2.61 ERA with peripherals to match. Right as Weaver and Wilson’s declines get serious, the Angels suddenly have a new ace. Greeeaaaaat.

Speaking of those declines, FanGraphs has Weaver and Wilson each as roughly one-win pitchers for next year. That’s not awful, but it’s also not good. They’re not really in position to contribute much next year, which is music to my Mariners-liking ears. Your two most recognizable pitchers? Yeah, they suck now. Oh yeah, and your ace is hurt. Haw-haw.

Shoemaker is probably the best healthy Angels pitcher, and he was a nice surprise in his own right last year. He’s good. Santiago is the most fifth starter fifth starter there is, and Heaney is a prospect who will probably get to test the big league waters while Richards is on the mend. A prospect, mind you, who cost the Angels their best infielder, but we’ll get to that later.

All in all the rotation doesn’t suck, but it’s low on depth (next man up: Nick Tropeano!) and the name value at the top no longer has the skill to back up the fame. Here’s your first of what I suspect may be many reminders that this team is expected to compete for the World Series. Here’s a reminder that the Mariners sixth starter is Roenis Elias, who’s coming off a strong MLB season.

The Bullpen

RHP Huston Street
RHP Joe Smith
RHP Fernando Salas
RHP Vinnie Pestano
RHP Mike Morin
RHP Cory Rasmus
LHP Cesar Ramos
RHP Cam Bedrosian

Sep 4, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Huston Street (16) talks to second base umpire James Hoye during a video replay in the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Los Angeles Angels win 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

This bullpen sucks. How many of those guys do you trust in a close game? Smith, sure. Salas, maybe. Ramos, three years ago. With Rasmus opening the year on the DL, the Angels will likely slide Bedrosian into the mix, where he’ll fit in amongst all these other nameless, shapeless figures.

There’s every chance that this group will prove to be surprisingly competent, since bullpens are like that. It’s a collection of dudes who all throw only so many innings per year, and strange things can and do happen over small samples. But you look at this group and you think of the Angels’ quick playoff exit last year. You think about the annual struggles of the Detroit Tigers, not the World Series run of the Kansas City Royals.

Bullpens matter, and this is basically what a two-man bullpen looks like. Oh, and one of those two definitely-maybe competent relievers, Street, only seems alright because his home rate last year was one third of what it was the year before. That’s the closer, who’s representing himself in negotiations for what he hopes will be a $40 million contract. Good luck with that, guy.

The Lineup

RF Kole Calhoun
CF Mike Trout
1B Albert Pujols
LF Matt Joyce
3B David Freese
DH C.J. Cron
SS Erick Aybar
2B Josh Rutledge
C Chris Ianetta

Mar 19, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) warms up before a spring training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Things start off with Calhoun, an under-the-radar star who has (surprisingly) established himself as an above-average major leaguer. Next up is the best baseball player alive on this earth, followed by the shell of the guy who used to be the best. Albert Pujols, man. Remember watching him with St. Louis for all those years? He sure was good, with the Cardinals. The Angels are going to be paying him through 2021.

Joyce fills the Josh Hamilton-shaped hole in the outfield, and while he was once something of an underrated slugger, his warts have started to define him. Freese is another ex-Cardinal who isn’t nearly the hitter he was with America’s Team, or whatever those bros call themselves. Cron might be fun to watch, but isn’t proven in the least bit. Aybar is steadily, invisibly good. Same with Ianetta, though he’s a wash defensively at a critical up-the-middle position.

And then there’s Rutledge. This used to be Howie Kendrick‘s spot, until the Angels traded him (and his salary) to the Dodgers for Heaney. They replaced him with technically Rutldge and basically nobody. Rutledge was last seen as a utility player on a terrible team. Now he’s the starting 2B for a World! Series! Contender! Reminder: Kendrick was one of Anaheim’s very best players.

Pretty much all of these guys project to be above-average hitters, but it’s not quite the group it could have been. The Angels have spent a lot of money the last few offseasons, and had to jettison a star in order to afford everyone else. Second base won’t sink them, but it’s still kind of shocking to see Rutledge’s name in there with all those legit hitters. Point: the Angels’ offense is their strength, and their second baseman sucks big time.

The Bench

C Drew Butera
OF Collin Cowgill
IF Johnny Giavotella
UT Efren Navarro

Sep 19, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; General view of Los Angeles Angels helmets of Albert Pujols (5), Mike Trout (27), Efren Navarro (19), Collin Cowgill (7), John McDonald (8) and Luis Jimenez (13) in the dugout before the game against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

You know who’s better than all those guys? Ex-Angel and now-Rainier Shawn O’Malley. Giavotella is as nameless and shapeless as they come, but he’s also almost the starter at second. Navarro is generic utility slop. This infield could have been a lot better. It was a lot better, quite recently, until the Angels made the conscious choice to make it bad. Silly Angels. Thanks.

Butera’s a fine backup backstop, but his presence is a reminder that this used to be Hank Conger‘s spot. Conger’s another good Angel who went away this offseason. His trade to Houston left the Angels with one less big league hitter on the roster, which is okay I suppose since they still have several of those. Such as Cowgill, who’s one of the most underrated fourth outfielders in the game. He should get plenty of starting time in left, where Joyce isn’t really more than a semi-regular option.

The bench is fine, but it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t better last year at every spot. After making a quick exit from the playoffs, the Angels new World Series strategy is to get worse. That’s true everywhere on the roster, and that clearly holds true here.


Oct 5, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals show their support against the Los Angeles Angels during game three of the 2014 ALDS baseball playoff game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are projected to finish 87-75, two games behind the Seattle Mariners and in second place in the AL West. That would put them in position to host the wild card game and hang some consolation prize ribbons from the Angels Stadium rafters.

Looking at this team it’s hard not to focus on how they’ve gotten worse. You know how many wins Howie Kendrick projects for? 2.5. You know how many wins Josh Rutledge projects for? 0.5. Undo those moves and the Halos project to be dead even in the division race. But they made those moves, and now the Mariners are legitimate favorites.

Los Anaheim has a strong lineup – one of the league’s strongest, even. But the pitching staff is weak, save for a rotation spot and a half (maybe more if Heaney shows up) and the complementary pieces just aren’t there (Cowgill aside). This team might be a World Series threat, or they might be the Phillies dressed up in a World Series threat Halloween costume. You know who wears Halloween costumes? Teams that aren’t playing in the World Series, that’s who.

Given how hateable they are, it’s especially satisfying when the Angels screw up. After screwing up for a few years, the Angels had a dominate-the-world season last year. This time they’ve still got Trout and the gang, but the signs of weakness are there. This team could be exposed. As far as that 87 win projection is concerned, I’ll take the under.