The Los Angeles Angels enter 2020 with hopes of making the playoffs for the first time in six years, especially after the signing of Anthony Rendon.
The promise of Rendon mixed with a fresh start without any injuries is producing an optimistic Angel fanbase. The pitching staff was added to this offseason, although not completely revamped, and the hope is that the Angels can have one of the best offenses in baseball and the pitching staff can be good enough.
This year might feel different for some Angel fans. It might feel like a year in which the playoffs are a much more realistic goal than years past. It might feel like a completely new team, a completely new outlook from the team that won a franchise-worst 72 games in 2019.
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Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but this year is exactly the same as previous years. Could the Angels be good enough to make the playoffs? Sure. But the team needs everything to go their way, and as we are reminded every single year, that is a lot to ask for.
There is not a team in baseball that has everything go right in a given season. Injuries happen, players underperform and the fact of the matter is that the Angels do not have as much wiggle room for failure as some fans like to think.
Let’s look at the offense. If we are being realistic, there are only two players that we could pencil in to be consistent contributors: Mike Trout and Rendon. Could there be other consistent contributors and will there be? Most likely, but the Angels have far more questions than answers.
Albert Pujols is a 40-year-old who is good for a .250 batting average at best with 20-25 home runs. Tommy La Stella was an all-star last season, but it was an “out-of-nowhere” breakout season and he historically has had worse numbers in the second half, something he did not experience in 2019 because of injury.
Andrelton Simmons is an elite fielder but reverted back to his mediocre offensive ways last season. Simmons hit .264 with a lowly .696 OPS. Will we get that version of Simmons at the plate? Or will we get the 2018 version, which saw him hit .292 with a .754 OPS?
Jason Castro has never had more than 500 at-bats in a season and his best OPS in a season was .835, which occurred seven years ago. Castro is a career .231 hitter with a .703 OPS and more career strikeouts than hits.
Justin Upton was just a Silver Slugger three years ago in 2017, but has not regained that form as a member of the Los Angeles Angels. Upton hit .257 in 2018 and .215 last season with 42 combined home runs in 208 games. The power is still there, but we very well could see the same Upton who hits below .230 and strikes out in 35.6 percent of his at-bats.
Brian Goodwin is a solid left-handed hitter that can hit both arms, but is he that much better of an everyday right fielder than Kole Calhoun was? The Angels also have top prospect Jo Adell, but we don’t know when he is making his debut and if he will suffer and struggles once he hits the big leagues, as prospects often do.
Could some of these offensive pieces improve from last year or live up to the expectations? Absolutely, but these are the exact same “what if” questions that are asked about the Angels every single season.
The pitching staff is no different. We have no idea how healthy Shohei Ohtani will be and if he can even pitch to October, let alone handle an entire season of the dual workload. Andrew Heaney is who he is at this point — a 4.00+ ERA guy that will have the occasional great start.
Julio Teheran is an innings eater, which is great for this rotation, but he should not have been the team’s best pitching pick up this winter. Teheran has had an ERA in the high threes the last two seasons, which could get even worse in the American League.
Dylan Bundy has been mediocre his entire big-league career, Griffin Canning has the stuff to be great but he is still young and we cannot completely buy-in until we see it and the depth options for the rotation are nothing more than fringe AAA pitchers.
The bullpen has some solid arms and that is probably the area of the team with the least amount of questions but a bullpen can get quickly exposed if the starting pitching does not live up to the expectations.
This winter was no different because of Anthony Rendon. Every offseason there are signings to get excited for. While there was no massive signing last year, the Angels made multiple one-year signings that got the fanbase excited. Not a single one panned out.
The year before it was Shohei Ohtani, who was electric while healthy, but did not make the Angels a much better team and missed most of the year. All-star shortstop Zack Cozart was also brought in and we all saw how that worked out. It was also the first full season as an Angel for Justin Upton.
The point is that every single winter provides some sort of promise for the Los Angeles Angels, and if we just hold the team to its track record, those expectations are almost never met.
So before you start penciling in the Los Angeles Angels for the playoffs just ask yourself: what is the difference between this offseason and the 2020 Angels from past years? Not much.