Cleat Geeks

Can The 2017 Angels Can Be Like The 2002 Angels?

The current shoals being navigated by Angels GM Billy Eppler are treacherous ones.
On the one hand, you’ve got one of the weakest farm systems in the game and a major-league club that finished 14 games below .500 in 2016. On the other hand, you’ve got the best player in baseball — Mike Trout — who’s in his prime and gives the Halos the strongest one-man foundation in the game.
The defensible decision that Eppler and ownership has made is to try to contend around Trout. This brings us to the next layer of complications.
Those barren minor-league rungs mean the Angels can’t pull off blockbuster trades to improve the current roster. As well, the dubious past investments of Arte Moreno mean there’s not room in the operating budget to chase frontline free agents. Eppler, then, must make improvements at the margins. That’s precisely what he’s done this past off-season. What can Eppler do now to get the Angels into the playoffs?

Obviously, Trout has established himself as something close to a 10-win player, and that, as mentioned, is the best possible starting point for a roster. Elsewhere in the lineup, Eppler managed to eke out a couple of significant potential upgrades.

Image result for cameron maybin angels

Last season, The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim left fielders combined to hit just .204/.271/.313. It goes without saying that that’s miserable production from a bat-first position. The winter addition of Cameron Maybin directly addresses that deficit. Even if Maybin doesn’t produce as he did in 94 games for Detroit last season (120 OPS+), he’ll still provide the Angels with a substantial upgrade at the plate, on the bases, and in the field.

Speaking of in the field, Danny Espinosa is the Angels’ one big failure so far.

Martin Maldonado profiles as the new primary catcher. Last year, Angel catchers didn’t hit, and Maldonado improved upon their bestowals. Mostly, though, Maldonado is a much better defender than the Angels’ two primary catchers from a season ago — Carlos Perez and Jett Bandy — especially in terms of framing.

Image result for cameron maybin angels
The Angels also figure to have improved their depth in 2017, mostly because of the additions of Ben Revere and Luis Valbuena. Valbuena’s power has useful since Albert Pujols’ numbers are down. Revere, meantime, has provided a good hedge against injury to Maybin.

All of this isn’t to say that the Angels are not the greatest team in 2017 or even a serious contender to get to the ALCS. However, thanks to that second wild-card berth in each league and the general environment of increased parity, the bar for contention has never been lower. It’s why the Angels, as of now, have that second wild card spot here in August.

The Angels, you can argue, were better than their record in 2016, and Eppler has done a fine job of improving the roster on the cheap this past winter. This hasn’t been be as good as the 2014 team that won 98 games, but Angels fans are again enjoying some meaningful baseball this late in the summer. You could say the same thing about the ’02 Angels and look what happened there. This current team reminds me a whole lot of the Angels back in ’02. Back in ’02, the Angels were The wild card team with less superstars and talent, but were The hottest team going in. All signs are pointing to it this season. This team has no ace, has two proven stars, a bunch of old-school baseball grinding players. This is when Mike Scioscia makes his money. The Angels have the 2nd toughest schedule in baseball moving forward. Let’s see if the Angels can get into this second wild card spot and make a run.

 

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