wait a moment

With Shohei Ohtani and reportedly Kevin Maitan, Angels have set up potentially prosperous future

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim could have conceivably taken steps backwards this offseason. Now, the club is set up to contend for the foreseeable future.

Heading into this offseason, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s future was far from certain.

Sure, the Halos had Mike Trout and hung around in the Wild Card Race until late, ultimately finishing five games out of the Minnesota Twins.

However, with Albert Pujols just turned in a -2.0 fWAR and still has four years left on his contract—per Spotrac.

Additionally, outside of Trout, Andrelton Simmons, Kole Calhoun, Cameron Maybin and Martin Maldonado, no Angels position player registered an fWAR north of 1.0.

What’s more, much of Anaheim’s success was attributed to a patch-work bullpen that was surprisingly successful. Blake Martin and Yusimero Petit led the way for Mike Socia’s relief corps after joining in under-the-radar deals.

Still, both Martin and Petit are 32, and the latter recently signed with the division-rival Oakland Athletics. 

While Petit departed, the Angels could have also lost another key piece in outfielder Justin Upton.

However, Upton re-signed with the club, starting a trend of results that have set the Angels up for an extremely bright future.

The Halos acquired Upton from the Detroit Tigers in an August 31st trade that cost the Angels pitching prospects Grayson Long and Elvin Rodriguez.

The trade was the latest in a series of moves that have left the Angels’ farm system more than depleted.

Past trades for complimentary players like Maybin, Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar, Jefry Marte and Jhoulys Chacin sapped Anaheim’s farm system of even more talent,

Anaheim also arguably overpaid for Simmons, flipping Erick Aybar—who was one season removed from an 4.2 fWAR campaign—and a pair of prospects that included Sean Newcomb.

The left-handed Newcomb, 23, was widely regarded as one of the game’s best pitching prospects, and recently made his debut in the majors, striking out 9.7 batters per nine innings to go along with a 4.19 FIP in 100 innings.

Simmons brings plenty of value defensively, but 2017 was the first time he registered a wRC+ north of 100, finishing with a 103 stat.

FanGraphs lists an average wOBA to be .320. Simmons’s career wOBA sits at .300, while he’s eclipsed the .320 mark just once in a full season.

Catch 22

Anaheim’s thin farm system has been one of the reasons the club has been forced to rely so heavily on trades and high-priced free agents like Pujols, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson.

As of late, the Angels’ most notable home-grown products include Cam Bedrosian, Kenyan Middleton and Kaleb Cowart.

While the trio are plenty useful to Anaheim, none have the ceiling to be able to step in next to Trout as a franchise cornerstone.

Now, things have changed for the Halos.

The future

Upton’s re-signing with the franchise certainly improves the short-term outlook considerably.

The lineup is obviously top-heavy with Calhoun, Trout and Pujols, but teams’ best players should be drawing the most at-bats, and hitting that quartet at the top of the order does just that.

Long-term, there’s also reason to believe that the Halos can contend.

According to Spotrac, Upton’s deal runs through 2022. The 30-year-old showed no signs of slowing down last season,

Hitting .273 with a .361 on-base percentage, a 137 wRC_ and a .378 wOBA.

Upton also tied his career best with an 11.7% walk rate while notching a 5.0 fWAR. He set new career highs in both slugging percentage (.540), ISO (.268) and home runs (35).

The Angels now have another star to pair with Trout and Upton in Shohei Ohtani. Anaheim tweeted the following from the team’s official Twitter account on Friday:

Not only will Ohtani help shore up a rotation that has been ravaged by injuries and lacks a clear ace, but he’ll provide more depth to a lineup that falls off after the top of the batting order.

Following the aforementioned Calhoun/Trout/Upton/Pujols quartet, the rest of the lineup is comprised of the likes of Simmons, Phillips (72 wRC+ in an Anaheim uniform), Martin Maldonado (73 wRC+), Luis Valbuena (.308 wOBA) and C.J. Cron (.316 wOBA).

World beaters they are not.

How often Ohtani hits and pitches obviously remains to be seen, but he provides the Angels with another key core piece to build around.

That should help the organization find success in the future, as they’ll have to worry more about finding complimentary pieces than star players.

Moving forward, another name that could join Trout and Ohtani in the lineup is Kevin Maitan.

The young infielder, and former Atlanta prospect, reportedly signed with the Halos—according to a tweet from ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Olney tweeted the following on Tuesday, December 5th:

Baseball Prospectus wrote the following about the infielder when ranking Atlanta’ top prospects in an article last November:

“He has above-average bat speed with some natural whip and could be a plus hit/plus power bat that plays on the left side of the infield, somewhere.”

Anaheim’s current farm system offers little in the way of potential impact prospects, so Maitan won’t be blocked.

At just 17 years old, the infielder could eventually replace the 28-yea-rold Simmons at shortstop, or move to third base or second base where the Halos don’t have anything in the way of long-term solutions.

In Conclusion

It’s been a significant turnaround for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The franchise could have conceivably lost Upton in free agency while missing out on both Ohtani and Maitan in free agency.

Now, with all three in tow joining Trout and company, the Angels set up a potentially prosperous future without dipping further into the team’s razor-thin farm system.

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