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30 in 30

The Turf’s 30 in 30: The Los Angeles Angels

The Angels can’t get out of their own way, and it’s going to hurt their future.

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The Turf’s 30 in 30: The Los Angeles Angels


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Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

2018: Record: 80 – 82

2018 Finish: 4th in the AL West, 8th in the American League

Surprises in 2018

Shohei Ohtani

Last May, I wrote a piece titled “I’m Not Buying the Sho-Hype” wherein I discussed my apathy for Shohei Ohtani and the over saturation of his dual player nature.

“Look, I am all for Ohtani revolutionizing the way the game is played and how players are evaluated. What I am not for is the way his play has been reported. Yes, Ohtani threw Two 101 MPH fastballs. That’s great. However, he’s not the only player to have accomplished that feat. Aroldis Chapman is known for tossing gas on days that end in “y”. Then there’s Jordan Hicks, the rookie reliever on the Cardinals, who has done it SEVEN times this year. Tayron Guerrero, the young Marlins reliever holds the top spot with a 101.8 MPH pitch, but I didn’t get a notification on my phone about it.

Of course, the MLB is leaning into the unicorn quality of Ohtani, and I’m not knocking that. In a league where the perception is that the game is dying, they need to exploit their young talents and put them on a grand scale. The same thing happened with Maeda is 2016, and he went downhill after his first 6 starts.”

Justin Colombo

I stand by all of that. ALL. OF. IT. And I don’t think Ohtani earned the Rookie of the Year Award, or even earned the finalist nod. (Joey Wendle did.)

However, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Shohei Ohtani wasn’t a goddamn highlight of the year.

The “Japanese Babe Ruth” started 10 games, going 4-2 over 51.2 innings pitched, posting an ERA of 3.31. The number that’s most impressive is his 11 K/9 ratio. For the layman, K/9 is essentially a measurement of the average number of strikeouts a pitcher throws per nine innings. Got it? Good. 11 is awesome for a K/9.

If he stays healthy and starts a full season, maybe this changes, but he didn’t. If he pulls off those numbers and is viewed as a pitcher, then Ohtani’s an elite arm for the Angels.

This one’s gonna rustle some jimmies, but hear me out. Is Shohei Ohtani a better hitter than he is a pitcher? So far, yes, for sure. So why are the Angels pitching him?

Because they need pitching. And because he’s really good at pitching.

At the plate Ohtani’s .285/.361/.564 slash, accompanied by his .925 OPS and 93 hits, made him a force to be reckoned with and welcomed addition to an Angels offense that was often times anemic. Across the board, Ohtani was the second best offensive weapon the Angels had besides Mike “The Greatest Baseball Player I’ll Ever See Live” Trout.

We all knew Ohtani would be a dynamic player, but I don’t think any of us knew the Japanese import would make this kind of splash in his first year.

Jamie Barria

Ahead of the 2018 season, 22 year old Jaime Barria had only started 3 games for the Salt Lake Bees of the Pacific Coast League. Expected to play at the Triple-A level for the 2018 season, the Angels were testing the Panamania lefty to see how he would adapt to the hgiher level of play at such a young age. Coming in at #9 on the Angels top 30 prospect list, the hopes were high that Barria would help out the Angels down the line.

But down the line came sooner rather than later.

On April 11th, Barria made his MLB debut, going 5 innings against the Texas Rangers, giving up one earned run on one hit, striking out 3 on the way to his first win. Barria would continue his solid stretch through the beginning of June, posting a 5-1 record and a 2.48 ERA in 7 starts.

In his remaining 19 starts, Barria would surrender 3 or more earned runs, only times. Ending his season with a 10-9 record, a 1.268 WHIP, and a 6.8 k/9. Barria’s ceiling has yet to be found, and the 22 year old hurler shows no signs of slowing down, if the Angels can keep his progression going for the next few years, they’ll have a solid option for the #2 or even #1 pitcher on their staff with Barria.

Disappointments in 2018

Zack Cozart

The former Reds infielder was signed by the Angels relatively early in the 2018 offseason. Considering the late signings of free agents all over the league, the mid-December contract between Cozart and the Angels seemed quick. Perhaps the Angels knew from the jump they wanted Cozart, understood his value and what he can bring to a team, especially at the hot corner.

Speaking of seeming quick, Cozart’s time on the Angels was short-lived, after he was taken out of a game in mid-June with a shoulder injury. Two weeks after the injury it was revealed that Cozart suffered a torn labrum and would require season-ending surgery. Cozart’s .219 average for 2018 might have recovered, but we’ll have to wait to see how he bounces back in 2019.

The reason Cozart is on this list isn’t his low output in his shortened season. No, he’s on this list because of the nose dive the Angels took after his injury.

Before June 11th, the day of Cozart’s injury, the Angels were 37-32, 7.5 games back from the division lead. After Cozart’s injury, the Angels finished the rest of the season 43-49, crawling to the finish line at 80-82, 23 games back.

Was Cozart’s injury the downfall of the Angels? No, but their inability to adapt to change outside their Opening Day roster was. With Cozart out, the Angels kept Andrelton Simmons at short, which is where he belongs. To plug up the spot at third, the Angels used a carousel of infielders like Luis Valbuena‌ (.199/.253/.335), Taylor Ward (.178/.245/.333), Kaleb Cowart (.134/.210/.241) and the best option the used, David Fletcher (.275/.316/.363) .

The Angels just couldn’t get back on the horse after a blow like losing Cozart. And a good team always knows how to adapt to being dealt a bad hand.

Looking Ahead to 2019

The Angels need pitching to move forward, solid pitching. Yes, Jaime Barria will be a godsend for the Angels, but Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill won’t be quick fixes for the pitching problem in LA.

The Angels need to get solid starting help, but how do they pay for it?

The Albert Pujols contract is a problem and it’s going to continue to hamper the Angels attempts to get better. Pujols is set to make $28 million this season. That’s equal to the amount the Angels are set to pay for starting pitching. That’s a problem.

That $28 million could be used to get Gio Gonzalez, roll the dice on Wade Miley or even reunite with Ervin Santana. Regardless, that $28 million is keeping the Angels from making moves to help the team. And with the Mike Trout window is closing, the Angels are running out of time before the complete rebuild begins.

The Angels are at an empasse, and something has to change.

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