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2019 Angels Season Preview: Halos Heaven Staff Predictions

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MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Dodgers at Los Angeles Angels Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In keeping with last year’s lead up to Opening Day, the staff at Halos Heaven staff has complied our predictions for the team’s record for 2019. Who do you think has it close? Who is way off? And what do you think the team’s record will look like once the season closes?

H. T. Ennis: It was an executive decision to go highest O/U to lowest. Naturally, being an optimist, my blurb comes first. My number is 99.5. Go Angels!

**twenty minutes later: Sorry folks, JDL has dragged me back in here saying I need to provide something called “logical basis” for my prediction, whatever that means. I don’t understand logical basis. It’s March 27, we’re about to start a new season, and it’s sports! It’s baseball! It’s the fresh grass and the sun beating down and the fireworks and the crack of the bat hitting the ball that makes even the most cynical fan optimistic (umm, don’t read Rick’s predictions). And if you can’t get even the slightest bit hopeful just twenty-four hours before the first pitch of the season, then that last bit of childish innocence is gone.

Today, I’m looking at a pair of records. 6-13 and 8-11. The Angels were 6-13 against the Astros in 2019, and this record should improve a few games. Ignoring Verlander and Cole, we should be pretty even with the Astros in the non-heavy lifter starts, and I anticipate us being able to take eight or so from the Astros in 2019. In 2018, the Angels were 8-11 against the Mariners despite outscoring them. Back then, they had Jean Segura, Edwin Diaz, James Paxton...okay, no need to make them any sadder. There are games to pick up here for sure.

Over/under: 85.5 wins

Jessica DeLine: Most of you know I was not a huge fan of most of the off-season changes to this team. Billy Eppler made a lot of moves and plugged a lot of holes, but plugging all the holes with average or mediocre players is different than plugging a few holes with good players. So, the team plugged holes? Yes. The Angels got better? Questionable.

Lat year the Angels finished under .500 for their 3rd straight year. When you compare this year’s pitching rotation and bullpen to last year, you really don’t see much improvement unless guys like Cody Allen and Matt Harvey can shine. Offensively, the Angels 3 worst spots last year were at catcher, 3rd base, and right field. Jonathan Lucroy may help boost catcher output but there are certainly questions around how well Cozart and Calhoun can perform for an entire season.

The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter, but the best case scenario for the Angels this year in a second wild card spot (and I consider than a looooong shot). A lot of things would have to go right and there would have to be at least one mid season acquisition. The Angels are probably also just one or two injuries away from a 4th straight losing season. I should have gone lower in my prediction, but the new skipper vs. the old should at least be good for a few wins, right?

Over/under: 83.5 wins

Rahul Setty: While the Angels organization has publicly stated their intentions to contend this year, both a deeper dive and a cursory glance offer the same dismal conclusion. Save for making Mike Trout an Angel for life, I find it hard-pressed to be enthused about an offseason addition for a team that needed a bevy of notable reinforcements to contend in 2019.

Make no mistake: there’s no doubt the farm system has come a long way, but the likes of Griffin Canning, Matt Thaiss, and Jose Suarez aren’t nearly enough to mask Billy Eppler’s poor capital allocation decisions and misreading of the free agent market this winter. The paper-thin rotation, on balance, lacks in both ability and durability; save for an ace up Doug White’s sleeve, that will be the inevitable downfall of this team despite impending woes at third base and right field and question marks of a bullpen (please note that I am insentient to bottom-feeding backstops). I’m sure there’s a scenario in which a team with a opening day rotation of Cahill, Harvey, Felix Pena, Skaggs, and Chris Stratton can make the wild-card game.

Despite a weaker AL West, the organization has been focused on profit-maximization (read: fan appeasement) over all else. Playoffs? I, for one, am far from convinced this was even an offseason objective to begin with.

Over/under: 82.5 wins

Chase Kimura: Amazing how one year makes such a difference in terms of general optimism and outlook for the franchise. Last winter was quite an exciting one with the re-signing of Justin Upton, Billy Eppler winning the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, and, at the time, some solid veteran additions of Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart.

Now we’re left discussing a bunch of one-year deals for guys trying to regain their value in hopes of cashing in next winter.

Look, I’ve been a big proponent of what Eppler and his staff have been doing since he took over in 2015 and I knew it would take time for that work to actually materialize into anything, so I’m not sweating a boring offseason. There’s no longer the anxiety of wondering whether or not Trout would bolt for the East Coast after the 2020 season and we’ll actually see some young and exciting talent enter the fray some time this season (e.g. Griffin Canning, Jose Suarez, and Luis Rengifo being a few potential prospects who could get a cup of coffee). While another .500-ish season might be disappointing for a lot of fans who have patiently waited the better part of the 2010’s, I think we’ll finally start to see the new era of ‘Angels Baseball’ after a bunch of underwhelming years.

That might not be something most fans are eager to hear, but the Angels will have another solid first-round pick this summer and should land a similar pick next summer before the kids start taking the team, the team being Mike Trout, to the next level. Just a little more patience, Angels fans. It will all seem worth it when Trout and Jo Adell are patrolling the same outfield together, but for now, braces yourselves for another “eh” season.

Over/under: 82.5 wins

Jeff Joiner: In some parallel universe where the Angels season plays out time and again, Harvey and Cahill stay healthy, Skaggs realizes his potential, and the offense takes off once Upton and Ohtani are back in the lineup. Things go well, a trade is made, and a playoff team emerges.

I’m willing to bet that universe is not the one in which we live, though. Pitching injuries continue to hound the Angels in 2019, the very top heavy offense is consistently inconsistent, and the team hovers around mediocrity in a division full of mediocrity outside of the Astros.

I hope I’m wrong here, but I see the team finishing right around .500 again. Yes, the Angels improved some areas but an inter-league schedule featuring the brutal NL Central will offset some of those potential gains.

Over/under 81.5 wins.

Brent Maguire: Patience has been required for a better part of the decade for Angels fans but good times may be coming soon. It just may take one more year to see a competitive team on the field again.

Billy Eppler played it fairly safe for most of the offseason, bringing in a handful of guys (Harvey, Cahill, Allen, Lucroy, Bour) on one-year-deals. However, he made the most monumental transaction in team history last week, inking Mike Trout to a record-breaking 12-year-deal. This move signifies a positive direction for the organization as their franchise player is locked up and is now a huge player (and marketing tool) to build around for the next decade.

I don't envision this team making it to the playoffs in 2019, let alone overtaking the juggernaut Houston Astros for the division. The Angels roster still has deficiencies and lack of depth at several spots, meaning another season hovering around .500 is likely. There is a real chance, however, for the team to make a serious playoff push in 2020 when Shohei Ohtani returns as both a pitcher and hitter and the club promotes top prospects like Jo Adell, Griffin Canning and Jose Suarez.

Over/under: 81.5 wins

Rick Souddress: It feels like just yesterday that I was giving Billy Eppler an A for his offseason work and his ability to rebuild on the fly. His ability to both bring the Angels to what appeared to be the brink of contention while also resurrecting the farm was impressive, and it was clear that we had someone who was interested in both the long-term and immediate future of the team.

A year later and I am still bullish on him for his front office’s drafts and his ability to get quality minor league talent from seemingly nothing. He also seems like a genuinely likable guy. Realistically, however, his ability to get the Angels to the “Brink of Contention” has left a lot to be desired.

Three consecutive seasons of being over 20 games behind the division leader and over 5 games behind the second Wild Card is not contending, no matter how much we like to say it is. It’s not all his fault, but the same tired narrative of “But pitching” continues to prevail. It means nothing to me when the pitching that is acquired continues to be more of the same: reclamation projects and guys that throw gas but can’t locate. The team is the definition of insanity because they continue to make the same mistakes.

We need some sincerity, both from the Angels and with ourselves. We need to stop telling ourselves that we’re “about a year away” season in and season out. We need to stop hearing about how we figure to compete while having about 5 different holes across the roster. We need to stop taking injury-prone pitchers as reclamation projects and being surprised when they get injured.

Most of all, we need to stop transitioning and start winning. Billy Eppler may have possibly earned his extension already just by signing Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, but I believe that the length of that contract will be highly dependent on the 2019 season. And unfortunately for all parties, I don’t think the outlook is rosy.

Over/under: 78.5 wins