I could just start (and end) this article with “Mike Trout”. Judge? Stanton? Any of those other guys in pinstripes? None of them compare to Mike Trout. The end. You can’t even make a semi coherent argument against that. Think you can? Let me see you try. But then again, it’s not just one man that makes a team.
Mike Trout aside, the Angels are MUCH improved from last year. Don’t believe me? Check out this article. And this one. And this one. I could go on, but there are only so many hours in the day. That’s just a small sample of press from non Angels affiliated sites.
If you are paying attention, A LOT of people are saying the Yankee are the best team (or one of them) in baseball for 2018 (the Astros. and others might disagree). This got me thinking... Are the Angels better than the Yankees? Answer? They can be.
If it all goes right, this is how the teams stack up:
Mike Trout v. Aaron Judge
You may be seated Mr. Judge. This debate was over before it started. Judge has 5” on Trout and about 3000 Ks. Mr. 3000? Yeah, if you are talking about whiffs. Let’s look at spring training this year where Judge has struck out 12 times in 39 plate appearances. Trout? Zero in 44 trips to the plate. Trout had 917 hits and 168 home runs already on his big league resume by the same age at which Judge made his debut. Sure Judge can hit more home runs (who wouldn’t with that short porch in the Bronx) in a season, but even Mike Trout’s worst year, errr, wait. He hasn’t had a bad year. Let’s more on.
Winner: Angels by 100 miles
Justin Upton v. Brett Gardner
Despite Upton being 4 years younger than Gardner, he has nearly the same career WAR. Gardner is a one time All Star while Upton has had the honor 4 times - and he’s also a 3 time silver slugger winner who has also placed (as high as 4th) in MVP voting 4 different times. Gardner is a good player, and has been consistent, but Upton has been better and this year he gets to bat between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols which should only help his cause.
Albert Pujols v. Giancarlo Stanton
It’s quite obvious that Stanton was a beast last year and Pujols, well, he was not. Let’s just say that 9.4 WAR separated these two players in 2017. But last year is only the 3rd time in 8 years that Stanton has played more than 123 games during a season. He’s made of glass and Pujols may be aging, but the Machine dropped a lot of weight this past off season and is ready to roll. Stanton can hit bombs. A lot of them. He’s also pretty good at getting on base. But Pujols? That dude is going into the season with 614 home runs. I think he knows a thing or two about hitting bombs and driving in runs. Pujols’ hitting has definitely gone downhill since his Cardinals days but we are talking about it “all going right” for the Angels. In that scenario, Pujols bats .300+ with 40 home runs and 125 RBIs. Albert Pujols having a season like that and the high probability Stanton spends some time on the DL, makes the race between these two closer than you would think.
Winner: Leans Yankees
Ian Kinsler v. Neil Walker
Nobody wanted Neil Walker. That has to be the reason why he didn’t sign until half way through spring training, right? Last year, Walker DID have a higher OBP thank Kinsler but in Kinsler we are talking about a gold glove winner, 4 time MVP vote getter, and 4 time All Star. Walker? He had a silver slugger award once. Kinsler is a couple years older but in watching him this spring you wouldn’t know it. Even though he got on base less than Walker last year, he did put up a higher WAR and had more overall value - a trend that should continue this year.
Martin Maldonado v. Gary Sanchez
Welp. Ever if everything goes right for Maldonado, I don’t see him coming close to the nubmbers Sanchez can put up at the plate. Behind the dish? There is no comparison and you would want Maldy any day over Sanchez. But Maldonado would be having a great season if he could hit .230 with a .330 OBP. That is a far cry from Sanchez who put up a .278/.345 last year with 33 bombs.
Andrelton Simmons v. Didi Gregorius
Simmons absolutely crushed fellow 28-year old Gregorius in terms of value last year. About the only thing he didn’t have an edge on? Power. But defensively, you can argue Simmons is the best in the league. He had a higher OBP, struck out less, won a gold glove and finished 8th in MVP voting. If things go well for Simmons this year, he should AT LEAST be that good at only 28 years old if not better. Gregorius could only hope to add the value that Simmons can.
Zack Cozart v. Brandon Drury
This is an easy one because we all know Drury is just a fill-in until Miguel Andujar is ready and Cozart is coming off an All-Star season. In Cozart, the Angels nabbed perhaps the 2nd best defensive shortstop and converted him to third base. At the plate? He’s a huge improvement over a guy like Drury. If it all clicks for Cozart he could hit .300 this year (Just missed in 2017) with 25-30 home runs. Sounds good to me.
Kole Calhoun v. Aaron Hicks
Hicks had a break out year in 2017 but the Red Baron is a dad on a mission. Have you seen him this spring? Talk about flying. Calhoun is locked in a ready to roll. A .421 AVG and hit after oppo hit. Go ahead and shift on Calhoun this year, I dare you. Hicks? A breakout year but the dude has yet to play a full season, so good luck with that. The choice is clear here and it only comes in red.
Luis Valbuena v. Greg Bird
Bird is the word. Have you heard? It’s also the name of a guy who hit a measly .190 in 2017. Pfft. Valbuena’s AVG was an ENTIRE 9 POINTS higher. Valbuena is now the word. Bird is well.. unproven. Valbuena on the other hand could hit .240 with a .340 OBP if all goes well for the master of bat flips and new American Citizen.
Bonus: Shoehei Ohtani
The year was 1934 when Babe Ruth last played for the Yankees. The year is 2018 when the Japanese version played for the Angels. If Ohtani lives up to his hype at the plate, he could hit 10-15 home runs, drive in 50 and a be a huge bonus that every other team in the league hoped they would have.
Angels rotation v. Yankees rotation
There’s a lot that can be said about this, but I’d take Garrett Richards over Luis Severino. Severino is good but we have seen how good Richards can be as well. If Richards lives up to his potential this year, we could see a 2.xx ERA, 1.0xx WHIP, and 165 Ks in 165 innings. I also don’t think Tanaka can compare to Shoemaker on an up year. Shoey can be just as filthy. Remember 2014 when he was second in rookie of the year voting? Yeah? Well, Tanaka was 5th that year. I rest my case. Then you have CC Sabathia vs. JCy Ramirez. Sabathia keeps hanging in there despite signs his career has been over. He was pretty good the last two seasons but Ramirez can be better. A healthy Ramirez will have a 3.xx ERA, a 1.2xx WHIP and 15 or so wins. I’ll take it. Sonny Gray is good but Parker Bridwell is on-the-rise as a guy who was over looked in rookie of the year talks last season. He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys, but last year the difference between his and Gray’s WAR was only .6 and Gray had 40 more innings. At the bottom of the Yankees rotation is rookie Jordan Montgomery who is sure to have a sophomore slump. Meanwhile, a healthy Heaney could toss 130 innings with a 1.2xx WHIP and 3.xx ERA. Those 5 guys above don’t even count Nick Tropeano, Tyler Skaggs, and secret weapon Shohei Ohtani who, living up to his potential, could be lights out as the season goes on.
Angels bullpen v. Yankees bullpen
This one gets tough because the Yankees have guys like Chapman and Betances. So let’s break this one down a bit differently. If 2018 Cam Bedrosian is more like 2016 Bedrosian, you have a closer or setup man that can pitch to a 1.xx ERA, 1.0xx WHIP and strike out more guys than innings pitched. Blake Parker is in that same boat and we saw how deadly he could be last year. That’s a potent one-two punch. But wait - there’s more! Keynan Middleton and his lethal fastball had a .206 BAA last year in the first half, a 1.1xx WHIP, and 27 Ks in 27 innings. A full year of that in 2018? Oh it’s possible and then you have 3 brutal dudes at the end of games. The Angels also have trusty lefty Jose Alvarez who can line up right there with most of the guys above and a season with a 3.x ERA and 1.2xx WHIP is probably in store for him. Backing up these guys you have veteran Jim Johnson, Noe Ramirez (who had a 0.846 WHIP last year), and Luke Bard, who is a Rule 5 pick with some nasty stuff.
Winner: Leans Yankees
There you have it, and the choice is clear. I could go through this exercise with every team, but who has the time for that? The Yankees are no match for an Angels team firing on all cylinders. The Astros are no match for an Angels team if all goes right. The 2018 Angels are a team that can go toe to toe with the 2017 World Series champs - if all goes as planned.
Last year the Angels were toward the bottom in home runs hit at 186 with a league average of 204. There is no reason that this new lineup couldn’t hit 210 or more. Runs scored? Yeah also near the bottom at 710 but 800 is completely reasonable with a clicking team in 2018. The Angels ALREADY led all of baseball in stolen bases last year and that was WITH Trout injured for a while. There is no reason they can’t do that again and there is no reason this offense can’t stack up with the best of them.
Overall, in team pitching, the Angels were above average in ERA+, WHIP, and ERA. The pitching staff definitely has the potential to be MUCH better than last season with full healthy years of the above listed pitchers as well as an Ohtani that hits his stride.
There is a lot to be excited about with this year’s roster and the potential this team has is the best it’s been in YEARS.
Hurry up Opening Day!