I heard on the radio a few weeks back that Billy Eppler said (on whether the Angels were buyers or sellers) that the they would be “opportunistic”. In mind, this means buy if they can, and sell if the deal is good enough.
As most know, the Angels don’t have much of a farm system to be buyers this trade season but Eppler managed to grade Yunel Escobar and Andrelton Simmons at a time when the farm system was even thinner.
It’s hard to say if the Angels will buy or sell. Maybe both? You can’t really write off the season when Mike Trout is coming back and you are only 3 games behind in the Wild Card hunt. Let’s take a look at what we’ve seen so far.
1st Half Results
As a team, the Angels are 13th in the AL in terms of runs scored at 378. Compare this to the 1st place Astros at 527 and you have a HUGE gap.
The Angels are also 13th in batting average (.241), 12th in OBP (.312), and 14th in homeruns (94). Looking at some no standard metrics, the Angels are 14th in wRC+ at just 89, last in ISO at .140, and 14th in BABIP with .280. To say the offense has been a bit of a mess would be an understatement.
Some things have gone right for the Angels as a team, and they lead all AL team in stolen bases at 81. However, what good are those stolen bases if you can’t bring in the runners?
With a rotation’s success going into the season weighing heavily on a healthy Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards, it’s no surprise the rotation has struggled without them. The Angels have already used 9 different starters and they are 11th in the league with a FIP of 4.97. Starters are also 13th in WAR with just a 2.3 mark. And of no surprise to anyone, starters have already given up 91 homeruns, good for second most in all of baseball behind the Reds starters (103).
Angels starters sit around the middle of the league in terms of WHIP and BAA, and have the 3rd best BABIP (.286) in the American League.
1st half Duds
Danny Espinosa and his 35% K rate plus .162 AVG have been a HUGE disappointment. Guys with numbers like that don’t last on teams very long yet he has 228 ABs with the Angels so far. He’s been a huge black hole in the lineup during the first half and he’s also been caught stealing more times than he’s been successful so he’s even erasing some of the few times he DOES manage to get on base.
Luis Valbuena seemed like a redundant signing and so far has done very little for the Halos. In his 173 ABs he has a .185 AVG and 53 Ks. Like Espinosa, he’s been a huge hole in the lineup to date.
CJ Cron hasn’t done a whole lot either. Blame it on his lack of ABs or maybe he’s just not that good and Soth is a genius for not playing him. Either way, he has just a .213 AVG and only 2 HRs in 122 ABs. Still, he’s better than Valbuena it seems but doesn’t get near the same playing time. Roles. Matchups. All that good stuff.
Mike Morin hasn’t really been good since 2014 and this year has been his worst yet. He has a .350 BAA and 1.60 WHIP in 14.1 innings.
Ricky Nolasco has been plain terrible this year with his 25 HRs allowed, 1.40 WHIP, and .284 BAA. He’s not fooling many batters and his 5.62 WHIP is pretty craptastic as well.
There are plenty of other guys you could probably throw in the duds list as well, or at least make a good argument for like Jose Alvarez, Brooks Pounders, and Jesse Chavez (who is barely better than Nolasco). On the offensive side you have some more questionable players like Nick Franklin (small sample size but did we really need him Billy???), Jefry Marte, Ben Revere, and Cliff Pennington. You know your team is in trouble when you bench the guy making 5 million so you can play Nick Franklin. Oh and Albert Pujols? He may not even hit 25 homeruns this year. He currently has the highest K rate of his career, lowest ISO/AVG/OBP/SLG, and has a -0.9 WAR. There is age regression and there is there is Albert Pujols 2017. Ouch.
1st half Heroes
Mike Trout is still on the team so at least we have that. Even missing 40 games or so, he still has the best stats on the team. I guess that’s also a sad thing. Thank god he’s coming back on Friday!!
Andrelton Simmons is having back to back career years since joining the Angels. Clearly Anaheim is good for him. He was snubbed for the All Star game despite his .290/.341/.439 slash line along with his 13 stolen bases. He’s having pretty much a career year across the board.
Martin Maldanado has been a huge surprise. Perhaps we got lucky or perhaps Eppler knew something we didn’t, but Maldnado has been an asset at the plate. We knew we were getting a great defensive catcher, but did not expect a guy that would be hitting .251 with 9 homeruns, both of which are career highs. Side fact is that he’s also good at taking one for the team since he has a career high 11 HBP and he leads the team in that category.
Erick Young Jr’s star may have faded a bit but he was the hero we needed when Trout was injured and he went on a tear that eased the pain of a Trout loss. His days of regular at bats (or even being on the big league team) are probably numbers now but thanks for the awesome memories EYJ!!
Cameron Maybin I hesitate to put here but I will. Our expectations out of left field have been very low the last few years. Maybin at times looks super lost at the plate and in general, and at other times has gone on amazing tears. He also leads the team in stolen bases with 25 with is 4th best in baseball and top in the American League.
The bullpen has been a huge surprise as a whole, led by Bud Norris, Blake Parker, the return of Cam Bedrosian, a maturing Keynan Middleton, Yusmeiro Petit, and David Hernandez. Eppler strung together a bunch of random dudes and has put together one of the best pens in baseball (even more so if you drop Alvarez). As a team, the bullpen has a 3.79 ERA which is 4th best in the AL and they have the best walk rate in the league with only 7.4%. The bullpen also has the 2nd best WHIP with a 1.17. They have, however, blown a lot of saves with 12 (out of 32). That load has been shared among 8 different pitchers, none of whom have blown more than 2 saves this year.
2nd Half Expectations
The Angels are going to have tough time closing that wild card game gap (which has grown larger), without making some changes. At the very least they need a second baseman who can hit and some more starting pitching help.
Help could be on the way in the rotation in the form of Tyler Skaggs if he can ever get past his 2017 injury problems. Skaggs should be facing some live hitters in the coming week. Andrew Heaney, who recently threw a 90 pitch simulated game is also determined to make it back this season but I’d be surprised if it happens before September (if at all). Garrett Richards has had improvements but still has not begun throwing so it’s hard to see him back before late August at the earliest. Matt Shoemaker may not be much help since his season has been up and down and now he may be out for an extended period of time. Will the Angels look elsewhere to help bolster the rotation for a second half push??
The Angels already have a potential option at second base, but they don’t quite yet see it that way. Kaleb Cowart has been tearing up the PCL this year and has made huge improvements. He can play second base but Scioscia doesn’t think he’s ready.
“If there’s a need, for sure, he can play here,” Scioscia said, “but he’s not the finished product at second base.”
Personally, I think if the Angels can boost production at second base, get help from one of the above pitchers AND bolster the rotation with another starter, then they could certainly make a wild card push. As the team stands now? Probably not. Mike Trout is coming back but last time I checked he can only play one position. The pitching and lineup holes will still exist with his return and Eppler will have to work some magic if this team is to grab a wildcard spot.