By Scott Bordow, azcentral sports
The 2016 season couldn’t have gone much worse for the Angels, who finished fourth in the American League West and finished with their worst record (74-88) since 1999. No. 1 starter, right-hander Garrett Richards, made only six starts before his season ended with ulnar ligament damage in his pitching elbow, closer Huston Street had a career-worst 6.45 ERA before knee surgery ended his year in August and no team had less production from their second basemen than the Angels
Oh, and the Angels will still pay much of Josh Hamilton’s salary in 2017 even though he’s with the Texas Rangers.
Other than that …
The good news: Center fielder Mike Trout is still one of the top five players in the game, Albert Pujols continues to put up big power numbers and, well, the weather is usually nice in Southern California.
But that pitching staff?
Who else but Trout? He’s only 25 years old and he’s never finished worse than second in the AL MVP voting over the past five seasons. All he did last year was hit .315 with 29 homers and 100 RBIs, steal 30 bases and have an on-base percentage of .441 with a slugging percentage of .550. There are few players in the game worth the price of admission; Trout is one of them.
The other Angel to closely watch this spring is Richards, who opted for stem cell therapy and platelet rich plasma treatments rather than undergo Tommy John surgery. With Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano to miss most – if not all – of the season after Tommy John surgeries, and left-hander Tyler Skaggs pitching his first full season following his operation it’s imperative that Richards stay healthy.
Who’s the closer? Street is coming off a miserable season in which he had a 1.93 WIP and blew three of 12 save opportunities but he had 40 saves just two years ago. Ideally, the Angels would prefer that 25-year-old Cam Bedrosian wins the job. He has the requisite ninth-inning stuff – he struck out 51 batters in 40 1/3 innings last year – but he has just one career save and the Angels need to find out if he has the right stuff mentally to handle the last frame.
The Angels’ top prospects are in the lower levels of their minor league system so it’s unlikely they’ll be of much help to Los Angeles in 2017. The prospect to watch this spring is first baseman Matt Thaiss, the 16th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft. Thaiss had a .367 on-base percentage in 67 minor league games while striking out just 32 times in 264 at-bats. But he played only a half-season of Class-A ball so he’ll probably go no higher than Double-A this year. Also keep an eye on 19-year-old outfielder Jahmai Jones, who is ticketed for Class-A but has the potential to be an impact player in the major leagues.
2016 record: 74-88.
Manager: Mike Scioscia.
Big changes: The Angels no longer have longtime starters C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver. Instead, they’ll hope some of their younger pitchers return from injury and that a lineup bolstered by the addition of outfielder Cameron Maybin and second baseman Danny Espinosa is enough to offset a starting rotation that looks suspect.