It’s Spring Training time and there are still some moves to be made, but as of today, if you were to ask around, a lot of people would tell you the Angels won the offseason.
Getting Ohtani by itself could do it, considering how much surplus value he brings to the table, but Billy Eppler also brought in Ian Kinsler via trade, Zack Cosart through free agency, filling big holes in their infield, and resigned Upton, I know the Yankees and Cardinals made nice additions as well, but they can’t top this.
It’s always interesting to debate about whether or not it’s a good thing to win the offseason or not, and based on the track record of past winners it probably isn’t, Padres and White Sox sure know that, but the Angels didn’t follow the path of those two franchises, there was no Matt Kemp trade, Myers to CF, or thinking that Melky Cabrera, David Robertson, and Jeff Samardzija are going to take a 76 win team to the playoffs, their acquisitions on paper seem better.
As with any team that makes splashy moves, the media and fans tend to overreact. On MLB Network a few weeks ago the Angels lineup was referred to as “Stacked”. Yes, the Angels improved their roster, but they are not stacked.
Right now, the Angels lineup would have these nine players.
C, Martin Maldonado
1B, Albert Pujols
2B, Ian Kinsler
3B, Zack Cozart
SS, Andrelton Simmons
LF, Justin Upton
CF, Mike Trout
RF, Kole Calhoun
DH, Shohei Ohtani
Part of the reason why they are getting so much attention is catcher notwithstanding, all eight hitters experienced success at some point in time.
Let me ask you a question, how many of those 9, plus Luis Valbuena who is on the roster making 8 mil and should get a lot of at-bats, between 1B, 3B, and DH, were above average hitters in 2017?
The answer is 3.
Trout, Upton, and Cozart.
Note: Simmons technically was above average, but by very little and considering this was an outlier year in his career, projections have him declining for next season.
Their OPS and wRC+ in 2017.
Maldonado: .645 73
Pujols: .672 78
Kinsler: .725 91
Simmons: .752 103
Cozart: .933 141
Upton: .901 137
Trout: 1.071 187
Calhoun: .725 98
Valbuena: .726 94
Ohtani obviously didn’t play and Steamer has him at 113 wRC+, which is pretty good, but it’s very hard to predict how he will perform given the uniqueness of his situation, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Here is what you take away from that, Trout is insane, Maldonado’s really bad, Pujols can’t hit anymore, Mike Scioscia will be lucky to get league average production out of him.
Kinsler and Calhoun are very likely to bounce back, but why?.
For starters, they both had off years.
Here are a few stats to prove it, along with the timespan.
Kinsler: 91(2017) 123(2016) 110(Career)
Calhoun: 98(2017) 117(2016) 110(Career)
wRC+ and wOBA
Kinsler: 97, .313 Calhoun: 108, .329
Kinsler: 97, .313. Calhoun: 105, .325
And any improvements those two experience in relation to what they produced this past year, gets offset by the inevitable regression from Upton and Cozart.
Zack Cozart had a career year and J-Up had his best season since 2011, a few red flags, that point to a decline are:
1, The former Red is a 32-year-old shortstop with a great glove that finished 2017 at the top 15 in baseball on OBP, SLG and wOBA, if anyone thought there was even a 25% chance he repeats that, he’d have gotten much more than 38/3.
Zips and Steamer have him at a 100 wRC+ for 2018, which is a significant improvement from his career number (90), his defense makes him an above average player, just don’t expect to see a perennial All-Star out there.
Justin Upton the same thing to a lower degree.
He had a .268 ISO and 137 wRC+ in 2017, his career marks are .210 and 121, also bound to regress a bit.
Zips: 112 wRC+ .229 ISO.
Steamer: 113 wRC+ .219 ISO.
Andrelton Simmons as an overall player is great, his hitting is around average, projections have him declining a little as well, considering he never hit like this, it becomes a plausible statement to make, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at the same level 100-105 wRC+.
Why do I expect that, since his awful 2014 with the bat, in which he was still worth 1.9 WAR, he has been gradually improving as a hitter, unlike the last 2 who came out of nowhere, which is no guarantee, but it’s a safer bet to sustain.
His wRC+ and wOBA by year since 14.
71, 81, 90, 103
.273, .290, .302, .323
The x-factor for them is Shohei they clearly need him as a pitcher, but if he can really produce as a DH, it would be very helpful.
Obviously the 2B and 3B play for the Angels in 2017 was awful, and the new acquisitions should help out, but the club from Anaheim had the worst lineup in their division last year, finished at the bottom in:
AVG, OBP, ISO, SLG, wOBA, and wRC+.
Close behind the Rangers. A’s, Mariners and Astros were far ahead.
And you can’t really count on that much improvement on the hitting end from those guys, the pitching isn’t deep nor reliable.
A point worth making, is that their potential defensively is very high, Simmons, Cozart, and Kinsler will form a great trio on the infield, but keep this in mind, out of the top 12 teams on Defense in 2017, stat that uses UZR and is part of the WAR equation, 3 teams made the playoffs.
The mighty Astros finished 29th, defense helps, a lot, it doesn’t carry you into the postseason.
Bottom line is this, the Angels can be significantly better, but with so little pitching, be cautious when stating they’ll see the Red Sox/Yankees in the Wildcard game in the AL, it will take all Ohtani can give them, a healthy Garrett Richards and some surprising pitchers outperforming their projections, for it to happen.
As always feel free to comment, suggest and anything else you can think of.
See you later.