I get that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim don’t truly play baseball in Los Angeles, technically, but how could I resist titling this article after one my favorite crime dramas of all time*?
Drifting through a lost season, there’s intrigue in Los Angeles. What will the team look like next season? Will longtime manager Mike Scioscia return, and if he doesn’t, who will replace him?
Let’s deal with Scioscia first. Mike has insisted he’s staying put, or at least headed off questions about his possible retirement. But the actions of the Angels’ front office suggest there could be truth to the rumors that Scioscia is calling it quits. First, there’s the promotion of longtime Salt Lake City Bees—a triple-A affiliate—manager Keith Johnson to join Scioscia’s coaching staff with the big-league club. His replacement in Salt Lake City is none other than Eric Chavez, the MLB veteran and former Oakland A’s star third baseman.
Even before the moves, Chavez appeared to be favored by Angels General Manager Billy Eppler. He named Chavez “Special Assistant to the General Manager” this season. Still, despite his immense baseball knowledge and favor in the LA front office, Chavez appears to be a curious choice to take over a team, even with less than a month left on their schedule. Chavez has won Gold Gloves and playoff games, but he’s never been a coach or manager at any level. Yanking Johnson from Salt Lake City and replacing him with Chavez could be a way to groom both of them in anticipation of replacing Scioscia.
Whoever inherits Scioscia’s throne in La-La Land will be expected to contend next season with The Chosen One Mike Trout and other exciting players like Shohei Ohtani (maybe Bryce Harper?). But another player could be in the Angels’ plans: David Fletcher has made the most of his opportunities with Los Angeles this season after being called up. In 56 games this year, Fletcher has posted a mediocre-but-not-horrendous .679 OPS, but his true value this season has been in the field.
Playing third base, second base, shortstop, and right field, Fletcher has only saved three runs above average for a fielder, according to Baseball Reference, but as a third baseman, that number rises to eight. He’s only made two errors this season, and as his approach at the plate improves, he could help Scioscia or whoever the Angels manager is next season. He’s only 24.
Rest of the AL West
The Seattle Mariners keep hinting that they’re a good team, then fail to deliver on that hope. It’s been a frustrating season, especially after the All-Star Break. Seattle is 13-15 (and that includes a four-game sweep of the Astros in Houston) since the All-Star Game, and with the A’s streaking and threatening to overtake the banged-up Houston Astros, that’s not going to get it done. The return of Robinson Cano did nothing to prevent a disheartening home series against the LA Dodgers in which they dropped two of three while being outscored 27-7. Their only win against the Dodgers was a 10th-inning balk-off on Saturday night. They’re 3.5 games behind Oakland and 4.5 games behind Houston.
The Mariners have been disappointing, but the Astros aren’t far from panic mode. They’re only 3-7 over the last 10 games. Injuries to Jose Altuve and George Springer have hamstrung them. Springer has since returned to the lineup, but he’ll have to start hitting again, and soon. He’s only 3 for his last 13. Altuve is on his way back, too, but the Astros will have their hands full with Oakland the rest of the way. Houston’s slide and Oakland’s recent dominance throws a mild American League playoff race into limbo. Could the New York Yankees struggle the rest of the way, opening the door to three AL West teams making the playoffs? It could happen.
Wow, Oakland. Just wow. The A’s are rolling and looking unbeatable these days. They’ve won 40 of their last 53 games and nearly finished their series against Houston atop the AL West standings. Matt Chapman is a defensive wizard. Khris Davis can’t stop hitting home runs. The bullpen is lights-out. Bob Melvin is in the running with Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox for Manager of the Year. If Boston doesn’t eclipse the Mariners’ regular-season win record of 116 this year and Oakland wins the AL West, Melvin has to take the award, right? Billy Beane, you sly dog.
The Texas Rangers are getting a new stadium built and will have at least a few young players to build a decent roster again in the future. Baseball America recently praised LHP C.D. Pelham as the top reliever in the High-A Carolina League and his fastball was named the best in the Double-A Texas League. Meanwhile, 2017 first-round pick Bubba Thompson was named to Baseball America’s Prospect Hot Sheet this week.
*Kevin Spacey is barely in it. Just let me have this.
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