Los Angeles Angels: Closer To Full Strength


Apr 8, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Los Angeles Angels third baseman David Freese (6) (left) and Los Angeles Angels left fielder Josh Hamilton (32) high five after Freese hit a solo home run against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Angels are getting healthy; a blast from the past is returning to Anaheim; and a ton of minor league moves that have been made, and will be made.

Angels Getting Closer To Full Strength

This team is on a roll, and they’re doing it with key players on the disabled list, and lots of role players stepping up. It reminds me of the playoff years.

Last night, David Freese was activated from the DL, and Luis Jiminez was sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake. Freese went 2-for-5 with 4 RBI in his first game back. Freese’s return will fill what is really the inly offensive void in the Angels’ lineup: third base.

Kole Calhoun is back with the club and could be activated as early as today. Josh Hamilton is set to return Monday. Dane De la Rosa is close to returning, as is Sean Burnett. De la Rosa could be back by the end of next week. Burnett is in extended spring training, and could be back by early June.

The best part is that those most of these key players are returning within the next week. So what is this club really capable of at full strength? The Angels already have a dangerous offense, and are on a run, winning 9 of their last 12.

It’s a bit frightening, even for this die hard Angels fan.

The Return of the Role Players

The Angels are defying the critics. They’re hitting well, pitching well, fielding well, running the bases well, and they’re actually coming up with young role players from their minor league system to help them win despite key injuries.

There was a time when the Angels had a reputation for finding scrappy young role players, and maximized their value with great coaching. That time passed for a while after Bud Black left to manage the Padres; after Joe Maddon left to manage the Rays; and after Ron Roenicke left to manage the Brewers.

There was a strong correlation between those departures and the Halos’ demise in coming up with productive role players. That time, however, may have returned.

By 2012, the Angels had a bench and bullpen that were thinned out by major injuries to key players, as well as meltdowns by a couple of important starting pitchers. Because of a botched draft in 2010, and trading away some young players for veterans, the Halos spent a few more years waiting for some young players to develop. These issues exposed the team’s obvious lack of depth.

However, despite having that lack of organizational depth, teams can still produce major league players. They’re just won’t be the Mike Trouts or the Jered Weavers necessarily. The Angels flanked this by making small, under-the-radar moves. To ensure depth in different areas they traded young, major league-ready talent for young major league-ready talent. To go along with this, they also have several prospects who are now major league-ready. Top it off with an overhauled coaching staff, and the Angels are once again maximizing value from their role players.

Some of these key role players include Collin Cowgill, CJ Cron, Grant Green, Hank Conger, JB Shuck (when he’s hitting), Efren Navarro, Hector Santiago, Jose Alvarez, Cory Rasmus, and Matt Shoemaker. This list is a good mix of players who were either homegrown, claimed, or acquired via trade. This is how you round out a roster when you have superstars at the core, but a weak farm system.

It’s also why sometimes the twenty-fifth man is the hero in the World Series.

The Angels are also proving, once again, that they can absorb any struggles and/or injuries from key players, and that they don’t necessarily have to have big years from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in order for the Angels to contend.

So the Angels are creating their own depth. And I have a feeling it may finally pay off the way it did in the playoff years.

Raul Ibanez vs. CJ Cron

According to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez, Angels General manager Jerry Dipoto wouldn’t say whether or not Raul Ibanez will be released when the Angels activate Josh Hamilton, Kole Calhoun, and Dane De La Rosa off the disabled list.

Dipoto’s point is that production can change in that time. Ibanez could improve. Role players can also regress. There are many possibilities that can present themselves by the time the team is at full strength.

Plus, Ibanez was never signed with the intention of him being an every day player throughout the entire season. 1B/DH C.J. Cron is expected to ease his way into the DH role as the season progresses, and is making a great case for himself right now.

Brandon Lyon Elects Free Agency

Right-hander Brandon Lyon has elected free agency. Lyon, 34 had a 4.08 ERA in 17 2/3 innings at Triple-A Salt Lake.

The 12-year Major League veteran spent most of the 2013 season in the Mets’ bullpen, where he posted a 4.98 ERA, a 6.0 K/9, and a 3.4 BB/9 in 34 1/3 innings.

Lyon has a career 4.16 ERA in 681 1/3 innings with the Diamondbacks, Astros, Blue Jays, Mets, Tigers and Red Sox.

Wheeling and Dealing

  • The Angels purchased the contract of right-hander Anthony Lerew from the York Revolution, an Independent League club. Lerew, 31, has experience in parts of five MLB seasons with the Braves and Royals. His last appearance, however, was in 2010. Once considered a top-100 prospect with Atlanta, Lerew has a 7.48 ERA in 61 1/3 innings in the Majors. He does have a 3.90 ERA in 330 1/3 innings at Triple-A. Lerew pitched in Japan and Korea from 2011-13. He returned to the United States this year with the Revolution. There, he had a 2.25 ERA in 24 innings.​
  • The Angels acquired minor league right-hander Greg Billo from the Royals on May 13th in exchange for cash considerations. Billo, 23, had a 1.35 ERA with a 38-to-13 K/BB ratio in 40 innings at Class A Lexington last season. However, this season he has a 7.41 ERA with 17 strikeouts and 13 walks in 17 innings at Double-A. Kansas City selected Billo in the 28th round of the 2008 draft. Billo was once regarded as having the best command of any pitcher in the Royals’ system.
  • The Angels signed outfielder Erik Komatsu to a minor league deal on May 12th. Komatsu, 26, is a former Rule 5 pick, who has limited MLB experience with the Cardinals and Twins. He was recently released by the Nationals.
  • Also on May 12th, left-hander Buddy Boshers cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Salt Lake. Boshers was designated for assignment when the Halos claimed Brooks Raley off waivers from the Twins.
  • The Angels released lefty Robert Carson, on May 10th. The Angels claimed him from the Mets in October, then outrighted him in March. He pitched 33 innings for the Mets in 2012 and 2013, with a 6.82 ERA, a 3.5 K/9, and a 3.0 BB/9. He struggled for Triple-A Salt Lake this season, with 13 walks and nine strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings.