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Homer: Whoa, careful now. These are dangerous streets for us upper-lower-middle-class types. So avoid eye contact, watch your pocketbook, and suspect everyone.
Snake: Three card monte!
Homer: Woo hoo! Easy money!
The good news is that this is not going to be just another installment observing that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are running out of chances to win a postseason game with possibly the greatest player of all-time on their roster before he reaches free agency. The bad news is that this is because the Angels locked up Mike Trout through 2030 in March, rather than the franchise bucking the trend of wasting his talent. An awful 2-12 stretch between July 25 and August 9 effectively slammed the door shut on the Angels’ season, and Trout looks poised to once again spend October on the couch.
Per usual, the issues with the Angels stem from pitching. The Halos haven’t fielded a pitching staff outside of the league’s bottom-10 since 2015, and that’s not going to change this season. The Angels’ active rotation has been absolutely putrid at run prevention, as evidenced by the fact that their most accomplished starter in Andrew Heaney is carrying a 4.89 ERA. Heaney’s a rare sinkerballer that doesn’t make his bones on grounders, but rather utilizes a good curveball to rack up strikeouts. Griffin Canning was one of the Halos’ top prospects entering 2019 and he’s had an encouraging enough major league debut this season. His calling card is a hard slider that sits just under 90 mph.
Lefty Jose Suarez allows so many home runs that he should probably be traded to the Orioles; he simply cannot retire right handed batters. Dillon Peters also throws from the left side and is a recent addition to the Angels rotation. He’s been able to keep the Halos in games more effectively than Suarez and doesn’t have as pronounced of a platoon split, but he comes with Suarez-like homer problems. Patrick Sandoval is a lefty prospect who was promoted to the big leagues after not exactly dominating at Triple-A Salt Lake. The control issues that plagued him in the minors have thus far carried over to his brief MLB career.
The Angels’ cast of position players has had its share of warts but definitely features more bright spots than the pitching staff. Shohei Ohtani hasn’t been pitching this season, but he remains a strong bat at DH that slots in behind Trout in the lineup. 28-year-old journeyman Brian Goodwin has bounced around the league a bit, but his line drive rate has spiked in 2019 which has led to a career-best offensive season. Kole Calhoun has rebounded nicely from a lost 2018; with 26 homers already on the year, he’s one away from setting a new career best.
The Angels are missing Andrelton Simmons, and Zack Cozart, so they’ve replaced the left side of their infield with a rotating committee of David Fletcher, Matt Theiss, and Wilfredo Tovar. Theiss and Tovar have been abysmal at the plate, but Fletcher has really stood out with increased exposure. He boasts excellent defense at multiple infield positions and is extremely tough to strike out.
The Halos became the benefactor of the Astros’ acquisition of Martin Maldonado, as framing master Max Stassi was pushed out of Houston’s plans and into Angel red. Stassi can’t hit much, but he’ll at least be a step in the right direction for this young pitching staff as a replacement for the recently-expelled Jonathan Lucroy. 31-year-old Justin Upton missed a huge chunk of the season with a turf toe injury. The version that’s emerged is making soft contact and striking out at the highest rates of his career and looks like a shell of his former self. He’s too young to be declared cooked, but it seems like this season is a lost cause.
The lineup is rounded out by 22-year-old switch hitter Luis Rengifo, who provides another good infield glove at second base, and Albert Pujols, whose presence is largely ceremonial at this point. Pujols is the all-time leader in grounding into double-plays, and again leads the American League this year. It’s been four years since the future first-ballot Hall of Famer has been any good, and his career batting average will probably drop below .300 by the end of this season.
The Angels have struggled to push themselves into relevance over the course of the last few seasons because they’ve had limited resources with which to improve the team. With bloated contracts on the books, they haven’t been willing to extend their budget, and their farm system had been barren for years. Fortunately, some young talent is beginning to materialize, and Trout might finally have some help in the near future. Top prospect Jo Adell terrorized the Southern League this season and figures to arrive soon, and there’s a variety of interesting young players on the current Angels roster that could make themselves part of the future. With Pujols under contract for another two years and Upton on the books for another three, such steps forward from the youth movement are looking like a necessity.
Probable Starting Pitchers
- Thursday, August 15: Reynaldo Lopez vs. Andrew Heaney
- Friday, August 16: Lucas Giolito vs. Patrick Sandoval
- Saturday, August 17: Hector Santiago vs. Jose Suarez
- Sunday, August 18: Ivan Nova vs. Griffin Canning
- David Fletcher – SS
- Mike Trout – CF
- Shohei Ohtani – DH
- Justin Upton – LF
- Kole Calhoun – RF
- Albert Pujols – 1B
- Matt Theiss – 3B
- Luis Rengifo – 2B
- Max Stassi – C
- SP1: Andrew Heaney – LHP
- SP2: Griffin Canning – RHP
- SP3: Jose Suarez – LHP
- SP4: Dillon Peters – LHP
- SP5: Patrick Sandoval – LHP
- CL: Hansel Robles – RHP
- RP1: Cam Bedrosian – RHP
- RP2: Ty Buttrey – RHP
- RP3: Luis Garcia – RHP