With only a few days left until pitchers and catchers report to Tempe, AZ, the baseball writing world at large is getting in their last gasps of computerized projections shot out into the internet ether, becoming last minute bummers to some fans and bringers of hype to others. Angels faithful, unfortunately, would find themselves in the former camp. Between yesterday and today, we saw USA Today give their best shot at guessing how the 2016 unfolds, and Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections were unveiled for us all to peruse, but neither one is going to be the thing that instills unwavering confidence in this year's Halos.
USA Today set out to see how each division would end up, via wins/losses guesstimating, and they see the Angels finishing 83-79, good enough for 3rd place in the AL West(1st: Astros 90-72, 2nd: Rangers 85-77). This is actually quite optimistic when compared to the Angels' PECOTA projections, which we'll get to in a second. Third place is totally believable, although their general outlook on the Angels and how they arrived at placing them 3rd is debatable.
Fiscal discipline wasn’t a great look for the Angels (83 wins), who remade the left side of their infield (Andrelton Simmons, Yunel Escobar) but have far too many holes. Their season hinges on quality outings from C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver.
I think their could hinge on starting pitching, but it's going to be the young guns Heaney, Tropeano and Skaggs that will need to step up the most and will be the biggest difference makers. A good 2016 from Wilson would be great, as well, but if we see that, we may also see C.J. shipped away as a rental for another divisional contender. Weaver will be a lynch pin in theory only; sure, he's up there on the depth chart but this may be the last year we see the Angels rotation put any weight whatsoever on that Jered Weaver crutch. The guile is there, but the arm is on the outs...if the team is relying THAT heavily on Weaver, at least past mid-May, then they will just be throwing in the towel and giving a beloved vet a nice(and probably brutal) swansong. If the '16 Angels are going to give the West a run for their money, it'll come after Weaver is benched or takes himself out of the equation.
Baseball Prospectus' yearly projections, highly anticipated and read throughout the baseball writing world, came out earlier this morning. Yes, it's PECOTA day, and guess what? PECOTA doesn't think too highly of this year's Angels squad. They have them getting a paltry 76-86 record, finishing 4th in the West, just barely above the lowly Athletics. They shake things up a bit at the top, compared to other publications, in having the Mariners finishing 2nd with 84 wins(Astros still take first in these computer sims, with an 87-75 record). Much more conservative overall than USA Today's rankings, PECOTA just doesn't see a lot of fireworks coming out of the AL West, at least compared to the smoke show they have being the AL East.
Projections like these aren't exactly the type of thing you're yearning to read over a cup of coffee, on the week where Spring Training begins and you're wanting to be in that velvety headspace where every team, including yours, stands a chance. If losing is to be the reality, it is not expected to set in until a couple months from now. You might groan and mutter to yourself "Just let me have these next few weeks of deluded optimism", but take heart in knowing one thing: these things are quite often wrong.
Last year, the Angels were primed to win the West, according to BP, and the Rangers and Astros were going to be in the AL West cellar. Yes, sometimes, computers don't have all the answers on what's going to happen in the future, once games actually start to get played. I still think this team, while not full of fireworks, has enough pop and sizzle for them to finish 2nd in the West and perhaps sniffing a Wild Card spot. In the meantime, read these projections for informational purposes only, if you have to at all, but do so while looking out your window at all the Southern California sunshine, with nary a "conveyor belt of El Nino storms" in sight...you know, just like the experts said we were going to have.