Despite sporting one of the most potent one-two punches in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim continued on a slide that has seen a 24-game drop off in the win column and three positions in the NL West division standings since finishing in first place two years ago.
Still just 24 years old, five-year veteran centerfielder Mike Trout continues to make his case as the game’s best all-around player. Trout hit 29 home runs with 100 RBI and a .315 batting average leading the league with .443 on-base-percentage, 116 walks and 123 runs scored to capture his second AL MVP award. Finishing second in MVP voting in his three other seasons, he’s been named to five-straight All-Star teams.
Approaching milestones that will most certainly assure a plaque in Cooperstown, Albert Pujols enters the 2017 season just nine home runs shy of becoming the 9th player in major league history to hit 600 home runs. Pujols collected 159 hits in 152 games last year with 31 home runs and 119 RBI and needs 175 hits to reach the coveted 3,000-hit plateau. His 1,817 RBI are the most by any active player and another 100 RBI season would catapult Pujols from 20th to 10th on the all-time list and make him the only player to have reached the mark 14 times. At 36, Pujols still has five years left on his 10-year $240 million contract rising incrementally from $26 million this year to $30 million in 2021 after which a 10-year $10 million personal services contract kicks in (and the transfer of ownership of the team…just kidding). It is feasible that if Pujols plays through the remaining five years of his contract he could surpass Barry Bonds all-time home run record (762).
But Trout and Pujols can’t carry the Angels on their own. Three-fifths of the team’s starting pitching rotation (Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano) was sidelined last year all from torn ulnar ligaments. Heaney and Tropeano will miss the entire season while Richards will attempt to recover without surgery.
With the departure of 11-year veteran and staff ace Jered Weaver the Angels will have to revamp almost the entire rotation. Weaver led the Angels with 12 wins but also lost 12 games with a career-high 5.06 ERA. In his third full season Matt Shoemaker was 9-13 with a 3.88 ERA and is most likely assured of his spot in the rotation. Acquired at the trading deadline, Ricky Nolasco went 4-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 11 starts and will also fill one of the starting spots. The rest of the rotation will be filled out by free agent signees Jesse Chavez, John Lamb and Alex Meyer who was acquired with Nolasco from the Twins last season.
Los Angeles Angels Prospects to Watch
The Angels first round pick from the 2016 draft Catcher Matt Thiass hit .338 in 15 games at Rookie League Orem and .276 with 4 home runs and 31 RBI at single-A Burlington and will most likely be converted to a third baseman in order to keep his bat in the lineup.