Posted on February 27, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
After a promising start to the 2018 season, the Los Angeles Angels succumbed to a series of injuries and ended up finishing the season 80-82. Injuries have become a theme for the Halos in recent years, as they’ve seen season after season derailed by a long list of players on the disabled list. With a new manager, they hope this year will be different. Under Brad Ausmus, can 2019 be the year the Angels finally stay healthy and make a run at the playoffs or will it just be another frustrating season that ends in disappointment?
Despite needing the services of 16 different starting pitchers last year, the Los Angeles rotation was actually middle of the pack. However, the Angels also had just one starter win 10 games in 2018. They will also be without the services of Shohei Ohtani, who won’t pitch in 2019 after needing Tommy John surgery last fall.
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On the bright side, lefties Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs return to anchor the rotation. Heaney returned from Tommy John late in 2017 and proceeded to make 30 starts last year. His numbers were solid and the hope is that with the surgery further behind him, he’ll be able to live up to the promise he once had. Skaggs, meanwhile, gave the Angels 24 starts last year despite multiple DL stints due to a groin problem. Of course, those 24 starts were a career high for him, as injuries have been a consistent issue for him.
Without spending much money, the Angels added veterans Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill to their rotation. Harvey has never regained the ace form he had earlier in his career after a slew of injuries. However, he’s young enough to still have some upside. As for Cahill, he’s had an up and down career on the mound. But he was surprisingly effective during his 20 starts in Oakland last season, so he may be worth a little bit of a risk.
There is certainly some potential in the quartet of Heaney, Skaggs, Harvey, and Cahill. But considering the injury history of all four, the Los Angeles rotation could fall apart quickly. The Angels are hoping that 22-year-old Jaime Barria can provide some stability after going 10-9 with a 3.41 ERA in 26 starts as a rookie last year. Felix Pena and Dillon Peters will provide depth and are likely to be needed at some point. Finally, Nick Tropeano and JC Ramirez are wild cards for the Angels after both had their 2018 campaign end early due to injury.
Much like the rotation, the Los Angeles bullpen was solid but unspectacular in 2018. The Angels tried to improve their bullpen this winter by signing Cody Allen to be their new closer. Of course, Allen is coming off a down year, posting a 4.70 ERA last year after five straight seasons with his ERA under 3.00. But if he can have a bounce-back year, Allen will give the Angels a reliable closer at the back end of their bullpen.
In front of Allen, the Angels have some intriguing arms. Cam Bedrosian has a fair amount of experience in a setup role. Justin Anderson and Ty Buttrey also flashed real potential as rookies last season. The Angels are also hoping to get some consistent help from Noe Ramirez and Hansel Robles, although both can be erratic at times. Finally, the Halos are hoping that Keynan Middleton, who began last season as the team’s closer, will make a quick recovery from Tommy John and give them another late-inning ace the second half of the season.
The Angels were average offensively last season, but the Halos have the potential to be better in 2019. Obviously, it all starts with Mike Trout, who remains one of the brightest stars in the game. He and Justin Upton, who’s coming off a 30 home run season in 2018, will anchor the Los Angeles lineup. However, those two are going to need a lot more help than they received last season.
Every day players Kole Calhoun and Zack Cozart were huge disappointments last year. Both are capable of having a bounce-back year, but if that doesn’t happen, the Angels could be in trouble. The Angels can no longer rely on getting a ton of production out of the aging Albert Pujols. He will split duties at first base with Justin Bour, who will provide some power from the left side. The hope is that Ohtani will be able to serve as a full-time DH despite having Tommy John surgery last fall. However, if injuries keep him out of the lineup, the Angels will likely need Pujols and Bour to be everyday players, which could be problematic. The Angels are already sacrificing defense at first base with Pujols and Bour.
The silver lining for the Angels is that Andrelton Simmons has come into his own offensively the past two seasons. He can help add a little depth to the lineup, although he doesn’t have the upside of Calhoun and Cozart. The Angels are also hoping that catcher Jonathan Lucroy can get back on track offensively after a couple of down seasons. However, they shouldn’t be counting on too much offense at the catcher position or second base, where youngster David Fletcher is in line to get most of the playing time.
With Ausmus taking over as manager after 19 seasons with Mike Scioscia, there is renewed hope for the Angels heading into 2019. However, hope is all the Halos have. There are few guarantees outside of Trout, creating only cautious optimism. If everything clicks, the Angels could find themselves in the wild-card race. But it’s more likely that 2019 will be another average season for the Angels. Look for them to finish 76-86, down slightly from a year ago.