The Angels optioned Ed Paredes to make room for Alex Meyer. Cam Maybin's officially on the DL, and Shane Robinson is up as expected.
— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) July 19, 2017
After three-and-a-half months of painfully enduring Danny Espinosa, the Angels finally decided to part ways. Hitting .162 alone, the Southern California native just could not get his swing together and created an even deeper hole than the one that already existed at second base.
Acquired in a trade in the offseason from the Washington Nationals, Espinosa was whining about playing time, and the Halos swooped in. The club took what looked like a steal at the time; they gave up nothing for a salary dump. The team was getting a guy with power, high on base percentage despite a low batting average, and a very good glove up the middle. That’s hard to find. But it never materialized during the regular season. And the Nats were proven right.
This is a player that is always a major risk for a team like the Angels. As long as they’re playing in a ballpark like the Big A, an environment that suppresses hitting, they’re always going to need… hitting.
When looking up the best offenses in this franchise’s history, one will clearly see a pattern of high batting average, above average power, a lot of gap hitters, and a lot of speed on the bases. The only team in the club’s history that thrived on walks was the 1986 Angels that led the American League in free passes. But that was a coincidence because that squad still hit very well and ran all day long.
So when playing half their games in Anaheim, players like Espinosa will likely see their average drop. Just look at Matt Joyce. The team got lucky with Chris Iannetta for a couple of years until the effects of Angel Stadium showed in 2015.
When coming to the Angels, or any west coast ballpark for that matter, a career .240 hitter is likely to hit .220. And even if that player has a high walk total that has their career OBP at .320, the drop in average will pull down said OBP, and they’ll be lucky to be over .300. Even worse if that player doesn’t walk much.
The same is likely true of Luis Valbuena. This team need players who can spray the ball all around the field. They have that in Maybin, Calhoun, Trout, Pujols, Simmons, and Escobar. Even Maldonado has found new life in his bat after being given the starter role at catcher — he was another of the same risk, but has paid off so far.
Ten years ago, the Angels were thriving on players who could hit. Not necessarily elite .300-plus hitters, but guys who could give you a consistent .260 to .280 across the board. There wasn’t a lot of power, but they hit doubles. And much of the difference was made up with stolen bases and taking the extra base. The Halos are back at the top of the American League in stolen bases, and are taking the extra base again, something that stopped while Jerry Dipoto was GM. But they’re last in the AL in doubles, and that’s a big reason they’re 13th in runs.
Those not paying enough attention still think the Angels have no pitching, even though their staff is sixth in the AL in ERA.
The Halos need offense. And what Billy Eppler needs to look for are higher average and gap hitters. The club has been linked to Dee Gordon. But the next week or so will determine their trade deadline approach. But they could also add on for next season, and the season after next. It will take care of a lot that is needed this offseason as we speak. But they shouldn’t stop there if impending free agents leave, and the roster could still use more higher average gap hitters who can run at that point. Regardless, there’s plenty of money coming off the books to get plenty of that.
Just don’t keep getting Danny Espinosa!
Parker Bridwell was called up, and he has finally started to figure out what he was struggling to as a former top prospect with the Orioles. The young righty would be a pleasant addition to a banged up rotation that has kept things together with duct tape, but is still leaking a bit. The bullpen has saved many lives in 2017. Bridwell looks like a kid who can provide more goose eggs, and can give a struggling offense a better window for error while he’s out there.
The starting rotation has held the fort for the Angels in 2017, and any struggles have been covered well by the team’s bullpen. Halos starters have yet to be kicked out of a game before the fourth inning, and surprisingly have the most scoreless starts of any rotation in the Majors. And that’s without their key arms. At 45-49, one could do the math simply using WAR to get a good idea of where the club would be at if their starting five were at full strength.
Over a full season, Garrett Richards would likely post 3-5 WAR. Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs would probably be at about 2-3 WAR. Matt Shoemaker would probably be around 2 WAR.
When you divide those projections to where those four could be in mid-July, you get about 2-3 WAR at this point from GRich, about 2 WAR from Skaggs and Heaney, and a little over 1 WAR from Shoe. Put that together and you get 5-6 additional wins, which would have the Angels at about 50-43.
They’d hold a wild card spot. But after that, the difference would have to be made up by an offense that’s last in slugging percentage, and 13th in runs.
Dee Gordon anyone? Brandon Belt? Who knows?
To get to where Halos’ starters can make the aforementioned impact, they have to complete their rehabs. Here’s an update on the four horsemen who are slated to return soon.
- As of right now, Richards is on track to return some time in August, which could be about a month or so from now. His arm feels much better, and he’s started a throwing program. But the former ace is still far from one hundred percent.
- The Angels are also slated to get Skaggs back within that time. His oblique strain is all but healed, and he is starting games in the Arizona League. His next start will have a 45 pitch limit.
- Another Halos starter is pitching Arizona League games. Heaney is being limited as well. The talented young lefty could conceivably be back on a Major League mound by the end of next month. That’s about six weeks away.
- Shoemaker has been set back a bit, and has no clear timetable. He could possibly find his way back right around the time Heaney might return. If all goes well, the Angels could have their rotation back to full strength by September.
A tough decision was looming upon the return of Mike Trout. Do you go with the well-traveled journeyman who showed an early spark, but has since slowed down? Or do you stick with the extra outfielder with a much more consistent track record over the course of their career, and has been swinging a hotter bat lately after a slow start? The Angels went with the latter in choosing to outright Eric Young, Jr.
The son of former second baseman Eric Young blasted his way out of the gates by hitting .381 in his first six games, but has only been good for a .227 average since then. Balancing things out, Young has settled on a .260/.336/.396 slash line, with 8 stolen bases in 110 plate appearances, and 0.7 WAR in just 32 games.
Meanwhile, Ben Revere has made things more interesting by batting .308 in his last 15 games. 5 of his 9 stolen bases have come in that span as well.
So for now, the decision was not without extensive evaluation. The Halos were simply going with the hot hand. Of course, Revere is back to his fourth outfielder role as the club at full strength in that area. Chances are Young will be back. He’s got just enough weapons to be a valuable bench piece. For now, he’ll just have to wait it out.
Regardless of the performances of Young and Revere, the Angels upgraded just the same as making a big trade. Because Trout is back in centerfield.