It’s a time of change for the Los Angeles Angels in 2019. After 19 seasons, Mike Scioscia stepped down as manager following the 2018 season. Now, Brad Ausmus takes the reigns after four up and down years in Detroit. Whether Ausmus was the right hire or not will be a big question in his first season as Angels manager. One thing is certain, however; this team is tired of losing. The Angels haven’t made the playoffs since 2014 and haven’t won a series in the postseason since 2009. This season will be another heavy grind for the Halos.
Every baseball fan knows who the leader of this Angels team is. He is none other than the new $430 million man, Mike Trout. For seven seasons, Trout has been the best player in Major League Baseball. With his previous contract, Trout was scheduled to be a free agent following the 2020 season. The baseball world was more than excited to see if Trout would test free agency and to see just how much he would get. Unfortunately, we were snubbed from ever seeing Trout test the market in his prime. The Angels inked their man to a 12-year, $430 million contract through his age 38 season. That contract not only makes Trout the highest paid player in baseball, and rightfully so. It also gives the Angels organization time to build a winner around Trout. The biggest winner of this contract besides Trout himself is Angels general manager, Billy Eppler. Eppler would have almost certainly lost his job if he let Trout walk. Instead, he can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to the drawing board.
Other than Trout, the Angels offense isn’t terrible on paper, but they haven’t produced enough to make them a playoff contender. Justin Upton is entering his second full season in LA and will be an important part of this Angels lineup. Upton is maybe the most underrated hitter in baseball, having hit 25 home runs in each of the last six seasons. The former number one overall pick is dealing with a bit of a knee issue, but he should be ready to go for opening day.
Another position player to highlight is Andrelton Simmons. If you’ve been a baseball fan for a while, you know that Simmons is one of the best fielders in the game. In his early years in Atlanta, Simmons was a liability at the plate. Since his trade to Los Angeles in 2016, Simmons has revamped his offensive approach, making him a key contributor to the Angels offense. In his three seasons with the Angels, Simmons has an impressive slash line of .283/.330/.401, and he rarely strikes out. My point is, Andrelton Simmons is no longer just a glove. He gets on base a ton and will produce in bunches for the Angels in 2019.
A player that the Angels will desperately want back is two-way Japanese phenom, Shohei Ohtani. The 24-year-old burst onto the scene in 2018, as he became the first player in Major League Baseball history to pitch 50 innings and hit 15 home runs in the same season since Babe Ruth did it in 1919. Ohtani was the clearcut choice for American League Rookie of the Year, despite what Yankee fans think.
When the Angels signed Ohtani, they were told that he had some structural damage in his right arm, but he would still be able to pitch in 2018. Unfortunately for Ohtani and the Angels, his 51 innings were too much. Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery in October and will not be able to pitch in 2019. Despite this, the Angels expect Ohtani to be back in the lineup by mid-May. Although his arm won’t be able to make an impact for the 2019 Angels, Ohtani’s bat should make a big impact on LA’s playoff push.
The obvious crutch of this Angels team is its pitching staff. From starters to the bullpen, these arms are some of the worst in baseball. The starting rotation consists of Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey, Tyler Skaggs, Jamie Barria and Dillon Peters. None of those jump out at you, as there’s really no ace. Cahill will get the opening day start, which may not be all sunshine and rainbows. Though he had a promising start to his career, Cahill has been a below average starter for the whole of his career. The Angels and Cahill both hope that a fresh start in LA will pay dividends.
Cahill isn’t the only Angels starter that is hoping a change of scenery will payoff in 2019. Matt Harvey signed a one-year deal with the Angels following a brief stint in Cincinnati. Harvey was one of the best pitchers in baseball just four years ago, but his days as the “Dark Knight” are well behind him. In the last three seasons, Harvey has a combined 5.50 earned run average, striking out just 274 batters across 63 starts. Now that Harvey is out of the New York spotlight, the pressure is off and he can just go out there and pitch. But, I think his best years are behind him and much to a lot of people’s disappointment, we will never again see the star that Harvey once was.
The 2019 Angels are in the same position as 10 other American League teams. They know that four spots in the AL playoffs are already locked up. The Yankees, Red Sox, Indians and Astros will all return to the postseason barring the apocalypse. Where does that leave the Angels? If they are clicking at the right time, the Los Angeles Angels have a shot at the postseason. The x-factor will obviously be its pitching staff. A team is only as strong as its weakest link, and the Angels’ weakest link has kept them out of the playoffs for years. Baseball deserves to see Mike Trout play in October. Will 2019 finally be the year we see it happen?