The Los Angeles Angels uncharacteristic offseason has been filled with smaller signings and almost no trades. Despite consecutive headline off seasons for Anaheim, their 2019 signings are following a rough blueprint of how GM Billy Eppler wants to build his team.

Three seasons have passed since Eppler took control of the team, in which he has finished the past two with 80 wins. While the postseason has eluded him, Eppler has set the precedent for how he wants to build a contender in Anaheim.

Starting Pitching

As it stands right now, the starting rotation would look like it does below with Andrew Heaney leading a staff with no other pitcher that played more than 130 innings. Despite reportedly trying to sign high-end free agent pitchers, their signings were more or less underwhelming.

ERA FIP IP WHIP K/9
Tyler Skaggs (LHP) 4.02 3.63 125.1 1.33 9.3
Andrew Heaney (LHP) 4.15 3.99 180.0 1.20 9.0
Trevor Cahill (RHP) 3.76 3.54 110.0 1.19 8.2
Matt Harvey (RHP) 4.50 4.33 128.0 1.25 7.8
Jaime Barria (RHP) 3.41 4.58 129.1 1.27 6.8
Staff Average (2018) 3.97 4.01 135 1.25 8.22

 

The Angels signed Trevor Cahill to a one-year $9 million contract and Matt Harvey to a one-year $11 million contract. While one-year deals are not typically big deals, these signings will pay for themselves in two different ways. Both pitchers had comeback seasons, Cahill as a big rotation piece for a playoff Oakland A’s team and Harvey returning from injury.

Despite both pitchers costing the Angels upwards of $20 million dollars in 2019, they bring value. If one or both pitch well, the Angels could look to re-sign them to bolster an often injured rotation. However, with the Angels not expected to contend this season, flipping the pitchers at the trade deadline could bring mid-tier prospects. With the Angel’s top prospects slated to make their debuts in the next two seasons, mid-tier prospects could fill the cracks in the roster.

Cahill and Harvey will supplement a rotation of mostly unproven talent. Tyler Skaggs has only had two seasons with over 100 IP, and Jaime Barria had an up and down rookie season. The plan for the rotation seems to be to buy low on the potential of proven pitchers while continuing to develop Skaggs, Barria and Heaney as the top three.

Bullpen

The theme of buying low on proven pitching continues into the bullpen. The recent acquisition of Cody Allen should lock down the back half of the Halo’s bullpen. Allen has been one of the best relievers in the league since his rookie season. While his velocity has dropped and his ERA has climbed from a 2.94 in 2017 to a 4.70 in 2018, the Angels hope he can return to form.

While Allen is a big addition, Eppler has built a bullpen based on velocity and overpowering opponents. Below are some of the main pieces in a young bullpen. With Keynan Middleton retuening from injury and Justin Anderson and Ty Buttery looking to improve on solid rookie campaigns, the Angel’s bullpen looks to improve and become a top 10 unit

 

ERA

 

FIP

 

K/9

 

IP

AVG. Fastball Velocity (MPH)
Keynan Middleton (RHP) *injured*  

2.04

 

3.78

 

8.2

 

17.2

96.1

Justin Anderson (RHP)  

4.07

 

3.83

 

10.9

 

55.1

97.3

Hansel Robles (RHP) *w/ Angels*  

2.97

 

3.22

 

8.9

 

36.1

96.6

Ty Buttery (RHP) 3.31 1.63 11.0 16.1 96.0
Cam Bedrosian (RHP)  

3.80

 

4.11

 

8.0

 

64.0

93.1

Bullpen Averages 3.24 3.31 9.4 38.2 95.8

 

While velocity is not the most important tool for a reliever, the intimidation from a flame throwing closer is immeasurable. Eppler seems to be copying his former employer and the team he wants to dethrone in the AL West. Both the Yankees and the Astros had six relievers with an average fastball velocity above 95 MPH. Both bullpens also happened to be top five units in the MLB.

The belief Eppler has in his young bullpen core is aided by the recent acquisition of Jonathon Lucroy. The former All-Star catcher should be able to add a calm presence behind the mound for the hard throwing bullpen. Despite his best defensive years behind him, Lucroy can still aid the development of the inexperienced pitchers in the bullpen and starting rotation. Whether the method of velocity over control will work, it seems to be the plan in Anaheim.

Infield

While most of the infield is set, Eppler added two new faces to the Anaheim dugout. In November, utility infielder Tommy La Stella was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Angels for Connor Lillis-Wright as a PTBNL. Soon after, first baseman Justin Bour signed a one year $2.5 million deal to join the Halo’s.

Both players may not add much in terms of starting potential, especially over players like Albert Pujols at first base, but they add much needed depth. The Angels used a pinch hitter the third most in the American League. Despite the use of the bench, the production failed to live up to the at bats. The stats below are from the 101 pinch hit at bats for the Angels in 2018

AVG OBP SLG OPS HR wRC+
Angels Pinch Hitters .168 .270 .376 .646 6 67
Tommy La Stella (PH) .312 .404 .416 .820 1 127
Justin Bour (PH) .320 .379 .720 1.099 3 186

 

I don’t have to add much more detail to say that those numbers are absolutely awful. While La Stella and Bour don’t add too much defensive value, their offensive ability off the bench is what the Angels value most. Both players are amazing pinch hitters while doing their job in different ways. For Bour, power is his biggest asset with a 1.099 OPS and 3 home runs in only 29 pinch hit at bats. La Stella is more of an on base machine with a .404 OBP in 91 pinch hit at bats.

Their ability to hit well off the bench is why Eppler wanted them on his roster. Another big reason is that they are lefties. According to the Angel’s current depth chart, without La Stella or Bour, they would not have a single left handed hitter. Because of that, we may see a lot of at bats from the two new faces.

Wrap-Up

The Angels seem to be saving their exciting offseason for next year. They’re going to need it then when Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons are up for contract extensions. Until then, Eppler seems to be building a team around potential and not breaking the bank for anyone. Adding veterans to a growing team will also help them build a winning culture under a new manager. While this offseason may not be filled with big headlines, it was an important one for building towards contention in a crowded AL West.

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Content Creator at Armchair Anaheim Angels , The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
My name is Ryan Kanne, and I am a journalism major at Emerson College. I am a born Chicago sports fan but grew up in Chino Hills, California. No, I don’t know the Ball brothers, but I did go to their rival high school. I’m a big fan of the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls as well as the Los Angeles Angels, and Clippers, which means I’m very used to disappointment. I grew up in a sports heavy family, evident by me going to a baseball-themed elementary school and being named after a Cubs Hall of Famer, Ryne Sandberg. Talk to me about the MLB or NFL and I won’t be quiet for a while
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Content Creator at Armchair Anaheim Angels , The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
My name is Ryan Kanne, and I am a journalism major at Emerson College. I am a born Chicago sports fan but grew up in Chino Hills, California. No, I don’t know the Ball brothers, but I did go to their rival high school. I’m a big fan of the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls as well as the Los Angeles Angels, and Clippers, which means I’m very used to disappointment. I grew up in a sports heavy family, evident by me going to a baseball-themed elementary school and being named after a Cubs Hall of Famer, Ryne Sandberg. Talk to me about the MLB or NFL and I won’t be quiet for a while
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