Los Angeles Angels
2017 Record: 80-82
Second Place, AL West
Team ERA: 4.20 (12th in MLB)
Team OPS: .712 (27th in MLB)
What Went Right
Mike Trout hit better than ever. His 1.071 OPS was the highest of his career by 80 points. He hit .306/.442/.629 in 114 games. He racked up 33 homers, 72 RBI, 92 Runs and 22 stolen bases even though he fell 100 at-bats short of qualifying for the batting title. He became just the eighth player in baseball history to hit his 200th career home run by the end of his age-25 season. It is hard to believe he could just be entering his prime seasons. The last player to accomplish the feat was his aging teammate Albert Pujols.
The Angels pulled off a last minute trade for Justin Upton on August 31st -- the last day a player can be acquired and still remain eligible for the playoff roster. The team was gunning for a Wild Card spot. The gamble didn't pay off but it wasn't Upton's fault. He put up an .888 OPS with seven homers, 15 RBI and 19 runs in his 27 games with the Angels. For the season he batted .273/.361/.540 with 35 bombs, 109 RBI and 100 runs scored.
Andrelton Simmons continued to play Gold Glove caliber defense at shortstop and turned in the best season of his career at the plate and on the bases. He set career highs in on-base percentage (.331), slugging percentage (.421), runs scored (77), runs batted in (69) and stolen bases (19). His .278 batting average and 14 home runs were the second-best totals of his career. It was the first year in his career that he deserved to be started on a good fantasy roster.
Yusmeiro Petit was dominant out of the bullpen, turning in a 2.76 ERA with 101 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 91 1/3 innings. Blake Parker was even better, registering a 2.54 ERA with an 86:16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 67 1/3 innings.
What Went Wrong
Mike Trout got hurt. That's enough to spoil any team's season. The sport's best player was magnificent when healthy but missed six weeks with a torn ligament in his thumb. He wasn't quite the same after the injury (1.204 OPS before the injury and .981 after) but was still one of the best players in the league. A full offseason of healing should have him good as new in 2018.
Age finally seemed to catch up to Albert Pujols. The 37-year-old was a below average hitter for the first time in his legendary career. He batted just .241/.286/.386 with 23 home runs and 53 runs scored in 636 plate appearances. He did manage to knock in 101 runs, reaching the century mark in RBI for the 14th time in his career. He also hit his 600th home run to provide one of the highlights of the Angels' disappointing season. Pujols battled a foot injury much of the year. He still has four years left on his 10 year, $240 million contract.
The bullpen was a mess, especially in the ninth inning. Veteran closer Huston Street missed all but four games, leaving the team without an experienced closer to rely upon. Converted starter Bud Norris served well in the role for a good chunk of the season, netting 19 saves in 23 chances -- although his 4.21 ERA wasn't pretty. Cam Bedrosian spent two months on the disabled list and was inconsistent when he came back in June. Blake Parker stepped up to solidify the pen and served as the chairman of a ninth inning committee late in the season.
The starting rotation was just as messy as the bullpen if not more so. The only starter to post an ERA under 4.15 was rookie Parker Bridwell, who went 10-3 with a 3.64 ERA despite a woeful 5.43 strikeouts per nine innings. Ricky Nolasco went 6-15 with a 4.92 ERA in 181 innings over 33 starts. No other pitcher on the team could reach even 150 innings. Jesse Chavez was the worst of the bunch with a 7-11 record and 5.35 ERA in 138 innings spread over 21 starts and 17 relief appearances. Matt Shoemaker lasted just 14 starts before having season-ending forearm surgery.
Free agent acquisition Danny Espinosa was brought in to start every day at second base. He played his usual great defense but was so terrible at the plate that the Angels simply released him in mid-July. He hit .162/.237/.276 with six home runs and 29 RBI in 254 plate appearances before getting cut. Luis Valbuena had a .199 batting average and .294 on-base percentage in 401 plate appearances, although he did slug 22 homers and drove in 65 runs. Cliff Pennington had an empty .253 batting average with three dingers and 21 RBI in 87 games. Late season trade target Brandon Phillips hit .255 with two homers and eight RBI in 24 games in September as the team missed out on a playoff berth.
** Blake Parker burst upon the scene to establish himself as one of the best relievers in the league. His elite strikeout and walk rates put him on a par with the likes of Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances -- leaving him just a step behind Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel. The 32-year-old showed he can handle the pressure of the ninth inning and should be viewed as the favorite to start the season as the Angels' everyday closer in 2018. If he falters Cam Bedrosian would be next up followed by Keynan Middleton. Bud Norris and Yusmeiro Petit are free agents
** Matt Shoemaker and Garrett Richards are expected to be ready for spring training. Good health from those two veterans could go a long way toward solidifying the Angels' rotation. Shoemaker has a career 3.87 ERA and has displayed top-of-the-rotation stuff at times, although he has been inconsistent and injury prone over the years. Richards has a career 3.53 ERA but has missed almost all of the last two years with arm injuries.
Key Free Agents: Yusmeiro Petit, Bud Norris, Justin Upton (if he opts out of his contract as expected), Brandon Phillips, Ben Revere, Eric Young Jr., possibly Ricky Nolasco ($13 million team option), Huston Street, Jesse Chavez
The deep-pocketed Angels already have a lot of money on the books and a lot of holes to fill. The team struggled to score runs (11th in the American League) and the outlook for next year doesn't look any better. They have players considered above average at only three positions: shortstop (Simmons), center field (Trout) and left field (Upton if he stays). They don't have a decent second baseman with the departure of Phillips. The rotation is a shambles without any healthy, above average starters to build around. Shaky veteran Ricky Nolasco will be back (if the team picks up his option), alongside rookies Bridwell and Meyer and oft-injured veterans Shoemaker and Richards. The bullpen has potential but not much in the way of depth beyond Parker and Bedrosian.