How should the Los Angeles Angels approach this offseason?
Anyone could tell you the Los Angeles Angels 2018 season was derailed by injury. They were fourth in the MLB in total players on the disabled list, seventh in money spent on DL players, and first in total days spent on the DL. While the Angels should focus on winning as soon as they can, the organization should look to contend not in 2019, but 2020.
2020 is a significant year for the Angels. It is the last year of Andrelton Simmons and Mike Trout’s current contracts. Along with that, Shohei Ohtani will be fully cleared to pitch, and most of the team’s top prospects are expected to arrive in the majors. With all of the roster changes, the Angels should focus on consistent and undervalued talent in the off-season.
Two of the Angels’ top five prospects are expected to make their debuts by 2020. One such prospect is Jahmai Jones. Jones is the fourth-ranked prospect in the Angels system. He was drafted in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft for his exciting athleticism. Jones turned that potential into a 10 home run, 24 stolen base season in 2018. His walk rate improved from 7.55 % to 11.85% as well.
Jones primarily plays second base but can transition into the outfield. David Fletcher will most likely transition to third base or the bench despite a solid rookie season. The power and speed combination make Jones an interesting modern prospect who can solidify the top of the Angels lineup for years
@ESPNAssignDesk Game respects game. Mobile's Jahmai "Jam" Jones robs Gavin LaValley of a hit that is surely deserving of #SCtop10 recognition. pic.twitter.com/nrnrhWwyIm
— Pensacola Blue Wahoos (@BlueWahoosBBall) July 12, 2018
Griffin Canning was selected in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft. The 22-year-old pitcher is currently the number two ranked prospect in the Angels system. Canning has a low-90’s fastball, curveball, slider, and a changeup that he consistently throws for strikes. His 19.8 K-BB % would rank in the top 15 among qualified starters in the MLB.
Canning dominated in AA ball with a 1.97 ERA in 45.2 innings but struggled in the hitter-friendly AAA Salt Lake with a 5.49 ERA in 59 innings. Despite the struggles, Canning should be a dependable starter for years with the Angels. His groundball ability plays into the innings eater type of pitcher the Angels desperately need.
While those prospects are easier to imagine in 2020, free agents are normally seen as instant upgrades. Though they generally are, the Angels need to think of the future with their 2018 free agency. The organizations older philosophy of short-term success led to the infamous contracts of Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, and Josh Hamilton. To avoid the same mistake, the Angels must look for solid, consistent talent
One of the players the Angels need to consider is current Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal. Good catchers are hard to come by in today’s MLB and Grandal has quietly been one of the best two-way catchers in baseball. His defensive runs saved since 2015 rank second in baseball behind only Buster Posey. His wRc+, which measures a players offensive value, ranks third since 2015.
The 30-year-old catcher has had a long career worthy of more chances at winning. While stealing him away from the Dodgers will be difficult, the Angels need to pry him down to Anaheim. If they do, the Angels will have an effective veteran catcher behind the plate for what looks to be a relatively young pitching core in 2020.
Despite injury struggles throughout his career, current Boston Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi should be on the Angels radar. The 29-year-old pitcher had a career year in Tampa Bay and Boston with a 3.81 ERA in 111 innings. Those numbers aren’t mind-boggling, but this is coming off of two seasons lost to injury.
Eovaldi helped the Red Sox reach the ALCS after successful Tommy John surgeries. If the veteran can remain healthy, he is a solid option to solidify a young rotation. In 2020, the rotation could feature Nathan Eovaldi, Tyler Skaggs, Shohei Ohtani, Andrew Heaney, Jaime Barria, and Griffin Canning. If healthy, this rotation could help an improving offense make a playoff push in 2020.
While immediate success is easy to see, the Angels must play the 2018 offseason with the future in mind. Most importantly, if they can lock up players like Andrelton Simmons and Mike Trout, the 2020 Angels could be a team on the rise.
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