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.

The Detroit Tigers Aren’t Out of the Playoff Race Yet

Entering Friday, the Tigers sat an uninspiring 13 games out of the American League Central lead. However, they also began the day only five games back of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the second wild card spot.

Why is this important?

Because Miguel Cabrera is back.

The slugger returns from a lengthy disabled-list stint and immediately gives the Tigers a massive shot in the arm (understatement of the century).

Cabrera’s numbers on the season? A .350 batting average, a .456 OBP, a 1.034 OPS (!), 15 home runs, 54 RBI and 32 extra-base-hits.

Yeah, he’s going to help the Tigers.

Detroit opens a three-game set in Houston against the Astros on Friday before facing the Cubs in Chicago before returning home to face Texas. The former Marlin slots in at third in the Tigers’ batting order. His arrival means the red-hot Ian Kinsler (.374 batting average, .979 OPS since the start of July) receives more at-bats in the second spot in the order. It also means less pressure on Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez, who slide down the order. At the very least, Cabrera moves everyone but Kinsler down in the lineup, thereby lengthening it considerably.

To put Cabrera’s importance to the team in perspective, his WAR is 4.0. That’s for wins above replacement. Four wins. Add four wins to the Tigers and they would be .500 on the season.

Not only is Cabrera back, but Bruce Rondon is pitching like the pitcher most thought he would become. Rondon owns a 1.80 ERA over his last 11 appearances, striking out 14 batters in ten innings in the process.

Rondon’s resurgence gives the Tigers three dependable, late-inning arms at the end of games. With Rondon, Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy, there less of a need to feel anxious when the Tigers close out games.

Further stats of note on Rondon? His FIP (Fielding independent pitching—basically an ERA that the pitcher can control) is 2.43, lower than every reliever the Tigers have used this season. He’s also allowed only three base-runners (one hit, two walks) over his last six outings. He’s struck out 40% of the batters he’s faced over that span. In terms of his last six outings, Rondon’s opponents are managing a .259 OPS.

If he continues to pitch like that down the stretch in save-situations, the Tigers are going to be tough to beat.

The tricky part of the wild-card situation is that the do have to beat a number of teams (at least in the standings) in order to make it into October. The Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays all sit ahead of Detroit in the wild card race. That’s not to mention the New York Yankees and the Angels, who lead the race. Even with all those teams ahead of them, the Tigers can take solace in the fact that all of them (with the exceptions of Tampa Bay and Texas) have struggled as of late. New York and Baltimore are both 4-6 over their last ten respective games while Anaheim is 5-5. Minnesota is the fastest sinking ship in the harbor with a 3-7 record over the team’s last ten contests.

With Miguel Cabrera back in the fold and the back-end of the Tigers bullpen gaining some much needed consistency, the Tigers aren’t out of the playoff picture yet, not even close. Throw in some uncertainty ahead of the team in the standings and Detroit has the potential to make some noise down the stretch and once again make the postseason.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Megan Rapinoe Throws out the First Pitch at the Mariners’ Game

Seattle Mariners: Mark Trumbo’s Early (Lack of) Impact

The Seattle Mariners offense is struggling. Despite the offseason addition of Nelson Cruz and the presence of Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, the M’s offense is in a rut. Entering the week, only the White Sox and Phillies had scored fewer runs.

Given all these factors, the addition of Mark Trumbo would seem like the best early Christmas present known to man. Yeah… not so much.

Trumbo’s early impact, or lack thereof, has been staggering considering the slugger’s track record.

The former Angel was a massive hit for his hometown team, averaging 32 home runs, 94 RBI and a .251 average over three full seasons with the Halos. The M’s needed that Trumbo, not the one they acquired. The first baseman/corner outfielder/designated hitter (he basically plays every “power” position on the diamond) had a rough go of things in Arizona. With the Diamondbacks he tallied 23 bombs, 84 RBI and 128 strikeouts in 134 games. Those aren’t that awful numbers, but when you consider the stats were accumulated over the course of two seasons, it encourages pause.

The Mariners certainly gave up some quality pieces to bring a player who once finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and appeared in an All Star game during his first two seasons.

Out went Welington Castro, Dominic Leone and minor league prospects Gabriel Guerrero and Jack Reinheimer.

(It should be noted that reliever/swing man Vidal Nuno made the move north with Trumbo in the transaction, so the M’s upgraded their bullpen to some extent).

Losing Castillo is the most prominent negative here. Yes, Leone had his moments last season in relief, but he struggled this year and Nuno is likely an upgrade over the now-former Mariner.

Seattle’s catching situation is pretty straight forward. Mike Zunino is the starter and Jesus Sucre is the backup. However, Zunino is hitting .158 with a .230 OBP while Sucre is scuffling with the bat. His batting average, OBP and slugging percentage are all .043. He owns the rare distinction having an OPS under .100. Yes, that’s right, Jesus Sucre’s OPS is .087. Yikes.

So why is this being mentioned? Because Welington Castro happens to be a career .251 hitter, who at his best hits somewhere in the .260-.270 neighborhood.

Why he was dealt for a struggling Trumbo is puzzling.

Trumbo put up half-way decent numbers (9 home runs, 23 RBI, .805 OPS) in 46 games in the desert prior to the trade—however, Seattle was already well-stocked in the first-baseman/corner outfielder/designated hitter areas. In fact, they had a log jam on their hands. Logan Morrison was/is entrenched at first base, while the pre-Trumbo corner outfield/DH candidates included Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith, Justin Ruggiano and Dustin Ackley. James Jones has also received at-bats in the outfield.

Adding Trumbo to this mix makes sense if the Trumbo in question is the one who suited up for the Angels. However, sacrificing an above-average offensive catcher (Castillo) and two prospects for the Trumbo who suited up for the D-Backs is, in layman’s terms, a bad deal.

Losing Castillo hurts catcher production, while adding Trumbo to a position where there is a surplus only rubs salt in the wound. While Zunino is clearly the starting catcher, he’s struggling with the bat, as is his cover, Sucre. Sacrificing offensively behind the dish is fine trade-off when you acquire pre-Diamondback Mark Trumbo, but sacrificing behind the dish for a player who hit entered the week hitting .179 as a Mariner… well, then you have some problems.

The Mark Trumbo acquisition will be a win for the Mariners if the slugger can regain the form he displayed with the Angels, however if he continues his downward trajectory, the M’s may soon come to regret the trade.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

3 Stats from the Seattle Mariners 1-0 Loss vs the Tampa Bay Rays

  • Six

The number of hits allowed by Mariners starter J.A. Happ. The veteran lefty pitched well, but didn’t receive any runs support. He also struck out six batters in seven innings while only walking one Ray, Logan Forsythe.

  • One

The number of hits/runs/earned runs/home runs allowed by M’s closer Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning. In an otherwise scoreless game, Rodney blew the save and took his third loss of the season. Again, Forsythe was the exception, going yard in the ninth.

  • Zero

The number of hits by new Mariner Mark Trumbo. The former Angel/Diamondback went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, hitting fifth behind Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.

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Stats from the Detroit Tigers 4-2 Loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • 151

The number of pitches seen by the Tigers, significantly more than the 124 seen by Anaheim. Despite this and going through five Angels pitchers, Detroit wasn’t able to scratch out more than two hits.

  • Four

The number of runs and walks allowed by Tigers starter David Price, who took the loss. Price ERA on the season sits at 3.15 after an outing Sunday that included 7.2 innings pitched, eight hits allowed, four runs allowed (all earned), four walks and six strikeouts.

  • Six

The number of walks drawn by the Tigers. There walk total was actually superior to their hit total (five), but despite the 11 baserunners, the Tigers were unable to score more than two runs.

  • 26

Joba Chamberlain’s ERA after a short appearance in relief of Price. He recorded one out while allowing one hit on three pitches.

  • Zero

The number of Tigers with more than one hit. Though Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Jose Iglesias all had a hit and a walk, no Tiger had multiple hits.

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Four Stats from the #Detroit #Tigers 8-6 Loss to the Los Angeles #Angels of #Anaheim

  • Seven

The number of runs allowed by Tigers starter Shane Greene in 1.2 innings pitched. Greene also gave up six hits, walked one and struck out one.

  • Five

In addition to the seven runs on six hits in 1.2 innings (and a walk and a strikeout), Greene gave up a whopping five home runs against the Angels.

  • Four

The number of Tigers with multi-hit games. The middle of the Tigers’ order, Miguel Cabrera (two hits), Yoenis Cespedes (two) and J.D. Martinez (three), accounted for seven hits while Jose Iglesias also added two hits.

  • One

The number of runs allowed by the bullpen after Greene exited. Considering the former Yankee only threw 1.2 innings, the bullpen could have imploded, but the trio of Alex Wilson, Blaine Hardy and Al Alburquerque allowed a combined three hits, one run, two walks and five strikeouts.

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Three Stats from the Detroit Tigers 2-0 Loss vs the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • Four

The Tigers managed a mere four hits against the Angels on Friday, an output that isn’t going to cut it against Major-League opposition. To put it in perspective, Albert Pujols had three hits by himself for the Angels.

  • Nine

The number of strikeouts by Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez. For a pitcher who has struggled at times this season, Sanchez was solid against the Angels. He was a tough-luck loser after allowing two runs and six hits in seven, but the outing served as a positive moving forward.

  • Three

The number of times Miguel Cabrera reached base. The Tigers first baseman went one-for-two with two walks, one of which was intentional.

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Three Stats to Know from the Detroit Tigers 12-2 Loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • Seven

The number of runs allowed by Tigers starter Buck Farmer. Farmer’s 2015 debut didn’t exactly go well. The Angels notched nine hits and drew a walk against Farmer, who also allowed two home runs while only striking out one batter.

  • 06

Tom Gorzelanny’s ERA after the game. The Tigers setup man allowed four runs, two walks, two hits and a home run in 0.2 innings pitched. His ERA jumped from 2.93 to 5.06 after the game.

  • Five

The number of hits and walks by the Tigers. On the whole they combined for ten base runners, but were unable to turn the men on base into more runs.

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Fun Fact of the Day: Teammates Jason Vargas & Kendrys Morales Were Traded for Each Other

Fun fact, Jason Vargas and Kendrys Morales were once traded for each other. Morales went from Anaheim to Seattle with Vargas going the other direction.

Both are now members of the Kansas City Royals. Vargas is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA after one start while Morales is hitting .414 with two home runs, five RBI, three doubles and five walks. Entering the day, he is fifth in the American League in batting average