When you hear people talk about the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, you typically hear them talking about a team who might have a chance to make a playoff run. Over the last few years, this has been almost completely because they have the best player in the league in Mike Trout. The Angels actually appear to be a poorly run franchise who can't pull up home grown talent that is able to compete at the big league level. Because of this, they are forced to spend a lot of money on guys that may or may not produce (Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and CJ Wilson come to mind). With a ton of money tied up in free agents and very few home grown players to deal away for value in return, the Angels are completely reliant on a few guys (Trout, Garrett Richards, Kole Calhoun and Pujols) to get them into a wildcard race.
Andrelton Simmons, Yunel Escobar, Daniel Nava, Ji-Man Choi, Al Alburquerque, Cliff Pennington, Giovanny Soto, Craig Gentry, Todd Cunningham, Deolis Guerra, Juan Graterol, Jose Briceno, Rey Navarro, Gregorio Petit, Rafael Ortega, Quintin Berry, Nick Buss, Yunesky Maya, Rob Rassmussen, Bobby LaFromboise, Lucas Luetge, AJ Achter
Erick Aybar, David Freese, Matt Joyce, David Murphy, David DeJesus, Chris Ianetta, Colin Cowgill, Sean Newcomb, Trevor Gott, Mat Latos, Shane Victorino, Rafael Lopez, Danny Reynolds, Cesar Ramos, Chris Ellis, Jo-Jo Reyes, Ryan Jackson, Wesley Wright
Biggest Strength - Mike Trout
You might as well rename the Angels "Mike Trout and friends" because he has put the entire organization on his back ever since he got called up. If you take Trout off of this team, they are immediately competing for last place in the American League. Luckily for them, Trout is a perennial finalist for league MVP. He actually hasn't won it a few times because the Angels didn't make the playoffs in those respective years, but you can only do so much to win on behalf of a whole team. Trout is elite in every aspect of the game with the exception of maybe his arm strength which might only be well above average. The superstar is still only 24 years old and has been considered the best player in baseball for each of the past three years.
Biggest Weakness - Homegrown Talent Not Named Mike Trout
The Angels have consistently had a very difficult time bringing up home grown talent that has been able to contribute. It could be a drafting issue, but it's most likely a system issue since the players they farm have been so consistently sub par with the exception, of course, of Trout. You can probably throw Kole Calhoun, Erick Aybar and Garrett Richards in the category of guys who are pretty good that came out of the farm, but that's about it. Their recent track record of not producing Major League players speaks for itself, but if you look at any current top 100 prospect list, you will not find any Angels at all on it. It appears that they have a serious issue here and it's not an easy one to work through since they have all of their money tied up in awful contracts like Josh Hamilton, CJ Wilson, and Albert Pujols.
Something To Keep An Eye On - Garrett Richards
Richards is a wild card for this team. When he is at the top of his game, he is amongst the best in the league. He has almost done this through a full season before, but it's more common for him to either get hurt or struggle through periods of time. Especially now that Jered Weaver is clearly way over the hill and no longer effective, Richards probably the only pitcher, and only one of a handful of guys who can drag this team to victories. If the Angels can get the Richards too approach a 2.50 ERA for a full season this year, they will be significantly more competitive.
Projected Lineup… Lefties*… Switch Hitters^
- Yunel Escobar - 3B
- Mike Trout - CF
- Albert Pujols - 1B
- Kole Calhoun* - RF
- CJ Cron - 1B
- Daniel Nava^ - LF
- Andrelton Simmons - SS
- Roberto Perez - C
- Johnny Giavotella - 2B
Geovany Soto, Ji-Man Choi*, Cliff Pennington^, Craig Gentry
Projected Rotation… Lefties*
- Garrett Richards
- Jered Weaver
- Andrew Heaney*
- Hector Santiago*
- Matt Shoemaker
Huston Street - Closer, Joe Smith, Fernando Salas, Jose Alvarez*, Al Alburquerque, Mike Morin, Cory Rasmus
Fantasy Bargain - Andrew Heaney
There aren't a whole lot of rosterable players on this Angels team, but Andrew Heany could be a sneaky late pitching selection. After he had a bit of a lackluster call-up with the Marlins in 2014, Heaney fell off of most people's radars. After joining the Angels last season, Heaney actually had a much better time at the big league level. If you look at his full career stats up to this point, you'll find that 2014 is an outlier year for him and the real Heaney is closer to what he did in 2015. You might be able to snag him late because his days of being a top prospect are over, and he is likely to be a pretty consistent above average pitcher.
Overrated Fantasy Option - Albert Pujols
Everyone knows that Pujols has begun his steep plummet towards the end of his career ever since he joined Anaheim. He actually surprised many by smacking 40 homers last season, but he did so while letting his on base percentage drop almost below .300, which makes him a big time liability with regards to those percentage stats. Based on what we know about his production in recent years, he should be getting drafted near where Chris Carter is drafted.
Although this team has little to no depth and is being propped up by mostly one player, they are still in the weakest division in all of baseball. Because of this, they have an outside chance of competing for a wild card spot. Yet, the truth is that if they don't keep up with the rest of the league, it might be smart for them to try a rebuild with most the AL looking like they're in win mode right now. Who knows what kind of return you could get back for Mike Trout. As for 2016, Anaheim should reach a win total in the low 80's and have an outside shot at a wild card spot.