Yesterday, I played the optimist and llooked at (somewhat) realistic ways the Angels could surprise us all and put together a truly thrilling 2016 campaign in the Year of the Monkey. Yes, it was about as much wishful thinking as one could muster, but it was fun to think about the different ways this team could surprise us and put together a run to the playoffs and beyond. Well, this aint that post. This is the other shoe dropping...this is the Worst Case Scenario for the Angels in 2016, and while some of it may be just as fantastical as yesterday's ideas, there is still reason to be wary that come October, we find ourselves relating closer to this article than anything. Things could get bad, but what would that look like, exactly? Here's what my pessimistic crystal ball has to say.
Mike Trout is injured, struck by lightning, abducted by aliens, etc.:
The obvious way the Angels could tank it in 2016? Take away their best player...the guy that shows up day in, day out, and contributes to the team's Win column more than anybody else. Yes, it pains me to even think about it hypothetically but here goes: Mike Trout gets a serious injury and misses serious time on the field, causing the Angels to have barely any offense in the already-suspect lineup, and the Angels' implosion is suddenly in full effect. He's not really injury prone, though, so that's the good news, but whether it's an Act of God or maybe Vladimir Guerrero throws him a breaking ball that also breaks his leg, if anything whatsoever happens to Trout, then this team not only becomes a loser in the AL West, but they immediately become largely unwatchable to most fans. I mean, we'll still watch...it'd just be ROUGH. Writing about this sort of thing seems to be tempting fate too much for my own sensibilities to withstand, so let's just agree that if Mike Trout goes, the Angels are done, and let's then move on to some more likely(but still miserable) circumstances that can play out this season.
The Angels' rotation fires blanks:
Picture this: Jered Weaver has nothing left in the tank; his fastball aint fast any more and he isn't fooling anybody with that off-speed stuff that was his bread and butter in the past. Balls are flying out of the Big A left and right off the poor guy...and yet, Mike Scioscia keeps him rotation, letting him die the slowest MLB death possible out there on the bump. This is something that COULD happen. Also, picture this: Garrett Richards continues his downward trajectory that began last season, Tyler Skaggs is no savior coming off Tommy John surgery and C.J. Wilson looks like he forgot how to throw a baseball, let alone pitch in the big league, yet like with Weaver, he's left in the rotation by Sosh to just figure stuff out while costing the team some losses. This COULD happen, too. There are so many things that could go wrong with the rotation and be worrisome, basically just like they were in 2015 but even worse. Fans will bemoan the addition of the great Andrelton Simmons, not because he's a dud, but because they'll remember the Angels gave up two good prospect pitchers to get him, and now they have no pitching. The rotation could be feast or famine this year, honestly, but the famine would be catastrophic and would likely have the Angels battling the A's for the West's primary cellar dweller.
No first base, no DH, no hope, no love:
I don't know who it will be at the bag this year, Ji-Man Choi or C.J. Cron, and I'm not sure if Albert Pujols really is ready to be content with the DH spot at this stage in his career, but I do know that there is a clear cut risk for complete failure in all three of those players at any given moment, and if they can't get anything going this year, the Angels are going to have a tough time scoring runs. They will be dependent on Kole Calhoun to replicate his 2015 season at the very least, or best case scenario, he completely eclipses those numbers...but the problem is he can only do so much, especially from the #5 spot where Mike Scioscia has been putting him this Spring. This team has been desperately needing hitting with runners on the past couple seasons, most notably from El Hombre himself. Then there's the fact that in the #6 spot, you'll most likely see Cron or Choi, and neither one of those guys have proven themselves at the big league level yet. Cron has been okay in spurts here and there, but has struggled to find consistency, while Choi is a Rule 5 guy that had a good start to camp but is slowing showing us all why he was available to the Angels in the first place. We may have seen the best days of Albert Pujols already, and Cron may never become anything to write home about, and that's two big spots in the lineup that begin to form a black hole, sucking in all offensive production around them. We've seen it in small doses already...don't be surprised if we eventually see it in huge, heaping spoonfuls.
Okay, so those are the dark visions I received while trying to come up with ways this team could be a disaster of epic proportions. And you know what? That aint that bad. I mean, I tried to keep it relegated to things I think actually COULD happen, but sure...maybe the whole team somehow bats around .220, Huston Street leads the league in blown saves, Arte Moreno brings back Josh Hamilton, Mike Scioscia takes over catching duties despite not being able to squat or kneel down or run, etc., etc. But if i'm going down that road, i'm beginning to really stretch credulity, because I think this team will be better than last year's, probably not as good as 2014, and better than 2013.
The floor is relatively high, but if they falter, it's going to be because of a nightmarish Mike Trout injury and/or a horrid starting rotation and/or the complete erasure of the 1B/DH spot. If you've got any spare Rally Monkeys sitting in the closet or some thunder sticks in the garage, you might want to bust those out and put them up on the mantle, just for added mojo. They may need it...or they may not.
So, what's your Worst Case Scenario for the Angels in 2016, excluding apocalypse or an earthquake causing California to fall into the ocean?