On deck: Once pitcher Sean Newcomb was traded to the Braves to secure shortstop Andrelton Simmons, this could have been one big, blank space. If the Angels need help in 2016, they won’t be getting it from a farm system ranked 30th by ESPN.com’s Keith Law. The only thing wrong with that ranking is it might not be low enough. Imagine calling 9-1-1 and getting no answer. Last year’s No. 1 draft choice, catcher/DH Taylor Ward, slashed .348/.457/.438, but advanced as high as just 24 games at a low-level A league. It’ll be a couple of years before manager Mike Scioscia gives him the Mike Napoli treatment if his defense is lacking. In the meantime, there’s a better chance of President Obama getting assistance from Republicans in confirming Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland than of the Angels getting help from their farm system. Finesse lefty Nate Smith, who fashioned a 2.48 ERA in 17 AA starts last year before serving up seven home runs and a 7.75 ERA in 36 innings at AAA might be the best of a soft bunch. His 16.62 ERA this spring training isn’t helping.
2015 Stat: Where have you gone Chone Figgins? Erick Aybar led the Angels, who stole just 52 bases as a team, with 15 (they were caught 34 times. In 2012 they were caught 33 times, while stealing 134 bases. In 2006 Figgins stole 52 bases by himself, and in 2005 he stole 62). The last time the Angels had a team leader with that few steals was 1999 when Darin Erstad and Randy Velarde had 13 apiece. The ’99 Angels, managed by last year’s NLCS skippers Terry Collins and Joe Maddon, stole 71 bases, though they were caught 45 times. The 1983 Angels set the standard for ineptness in the art of stealing, barely breaking 50%. They stole 41 and were caught 39 times (the ’82 AL West-winning Angels, at 55-108, weren’t much better. Hall of Famer Rod Carew, at 10-27, nearly had a higher batting average –.319 — than success rate stealing –.370). The ’67 Angels stole fewer but were more efficient at 40-76, but the very first Angels team in 1961 stole the fewest. They swiped just 37, and it wasn’t because they didn’t have base runners. Albie Pearson walked 96 times and had a .420 on-base percentage, leading the team with 11.
What he said: Jered Weaver on his fastball averaging 79 mph: “I’ve got a lot of people to prove wrong.” What he meant: “We’ll need a lot of runs when I pitch.”
Outlook: Last year’s Angels missed the playoffs by just one game, which was evidence more of how good Mike Trout was than the team. Trout batted .299, hit 41 homers and 32 doubles and led the AL in slugging percentage (.590), OPS (.991), OPS+ (176) and WAR (9.4).
For the third time in four years, Trout was second in the MVP vote, mostly because his teammates weren’t as good as Miguel Cabrera’s (2012-13) or Josh Donaldson’s (2015). That’s not to say he should have been MVP all four years, but that he could have been.
The Angels won 85 games last year and finished third in the AL West, but take away Trout and they would have looked more like the Athletics, who won 68 and finished last.
Trout was that good. His teammates — most of them –were that bad.
Unfortunately for Trout, it appears he’s in for a few more seasons like the last one. He’ll make $34 million per year from 2018-20 with the Angels, but you have to wonder if it will be worth it to Trout. How much money does it take to get an A-list actor to do a B-list film?
The 2015 Angels were 20th in runs scored, 26th in on-base percentage and 24th in OPS. Take away Trout and they’re the Padres, only not as good.
Last year’s Angels gave a half season in the outfield to Matt Joyce, who batted .174, a full season at second base to Johnny Giavotella, who had a .318 on-base percentage, a full season at short to Erick Aybar, who had a .639 OPS, platooned catcher Chris Iannetta, who batted .188, and gave 50 starts to Jered Weaver and Matt Shoemaker, who tossed a home run better than once every six innings.
If they retain Howie Kendrick, they make the playoffs, though pitcher Andrew Heaney (3.49 ERA in 18 starts) might soon be their No. 2 starter.
This year’s Angels replace Aybar with Simmons, who will defend better if not hit better, and Joyce with Daniel Nava, whose .194 average bettered Joyce’s, if barely.
The rest of the Angels look very much the same. Weaver’s fastball can barely break 80 mph, C.J. Wilson’s shoulder is sore, Kendrick still hasn’t been adequately replaced and Albert Pujols’ contract has six years and $165 million to run.
Pujols hit 40 home runs last year — if he hits 40 more this year, he’ll get to 600 — but he had career lows of a .244 average and .307 on-base percentage, off his career numbers of .312 and .397. He’s 36, has played four seasons for the Angels and his contract, which has been more burden than blessing, isn’t half over.
And as bleak as the big-league team appears, the farm system is worse.
ESPN.com’s Keith Law in ranking the Angels last: “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen. They traded their top two prospects in the Andrelton Simmons deal and had no one remotely close to top-100 status. They need a big draft this year to start to restock the system or we’re going to start talking about whether it’s time to trade Mike Trout.”
How do you trade Mike Trout? And what’s he worth? We might be a couple years away from finding out. But Trout must feel like the guy in a 25-man tug of war, grudgingly giving ground, who turns around and finds he’s the only one pulling.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly identified Merrick Garland. This led to, uh, assuming facts not in evidence. Presumably, his honor is no relation to pitcher Wayne Garland, who had a 55-66 career mark from ’73-81, and won 20 for the ’76 Orioles. He left as a free agent, losing 19 for the ’77 Indians. Jon Garland was 136-125 from 2000-13, but topped out at 18 wins for the White Sox in 2005 and 2006. He added a postseason win for the world champion Sox in ’05.
Team Song: Infamous Angel