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AngelsWin Top 30 Prospects: #30 OF Jonah Todd

Prospect: Jonah Todd       Rank: 23 2016: UR                               Position(s): Right Handed Pitcher Level: A Ball                         Age: Entering Age 22 season in 2018. Height: 6’0”                            Weight: 185 lb. _____________________________________________________________________________                          Present                Future Hitting Ability            45                                           55 Power                        30                                          30 Base Running            50                                          55 Patience                    55                                           60 Fielding                     70                                           70 Range                        55                                           55 Arm                           55                                           55 Overall                      45                                           50 Floor: Minor League depth.                         Ceiling: Starting OF in MLB renowned for his ability to hit for average and play very good defense. Likely Outcome: 4th OF in MLB or AAA OF. Summary: Todd’s story is one that has been told many times before, and it never gets old.  Players, coaches, scouts, front offices and fans alike all love the player that has overcome the odds to be where he is right now.  That’s Jonah Todd.  No one was interested in him after high school, and he went to a relatively unknown JC.  Despite playing well at the JC, no major college programs took notice.  His coach at the JC called a friend at Auburn and convinced them to take a look at Todd.  Auburn liked what they saw and offered him a spot on the team. Without a scholarship, Todd was expected to be depth at Auburn, but not be featured in a starting role. Through hard work and discipline, Todd impressed his coaches and got himself into the lineup.  Since then, Todd hasn’t looked back, batting .376 at a major college program with excellent rated defense. Todd was unable to play in any of the offseason leagues college players tend to play in because he had to earn enough money to pay for school.  He stocked shelves at a local Wal-Mart before being drafted.  Upon his selection, the Angels sent Todd to Orem where he walked more than twice as often as he struck out, which is impressive.  Upon his promotion to Class A Burlington, Todd was at a more suitable level, and was solid yet unspectacular. As a player, Todd’s a solid defender and hitter.  He uses the whole field and is an above average runner that flashes “plus” bat to ball skills.  There isn’t a ton of power to his game, and while he is fast, stolen bases haven’t been featured yet either.  We’ll see if those end up being part of his game in the future. What to expect next season: Todd wasn’t so dominant at Burlington that we can expect him to begin 2018 at Inland Empire in the Cal League.  It isn’t out of the question, particularly if he shows up to camp in the Spring and impresses, but for now, given how young Todd is and his remarkable journey, it may be time to slow down and actually find out what the Angels have here from their 6th round pick. Estimated Time of Arrival: Middle of 2020, Jonah’s age 24 season. Grade as a prospect: C Grades are given from the 20-80 scouting scale.  20-being non-existent ability, 80-being the best I’ve ever seen.  MLB average is 50.  A 92 mph fastball generally would be a 50.  A 97 mph fastball is a 65.  A .260 hitter is a 50.  A .300 hitter is a 70. 

View the full article 2018 Primer Series: Outfield

Is the Impossible, Possible? By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer Edited by Chance Hevia (Inside Pitch) and Jason Sinner (Dochalo) The Angels, as currently constructed, will be entering the new season with what can only be described as one of the best set of outfielders in all of baseball featuring a unique, Hall of Fame-bound, league-enviable center fielder, a competent, defensively-sound right fielder, and a two-time Silver Slugger and four-time All-Star roaming left field. Across the last few years the Angels have had fantastic production out of center and right field so if newly minted Justin Upton can produce 3+ WAR per year during his tenure in Anaheim, the Angels will very likely have the most productive outfield trio in all of baseball, creating a great basis to build the rest of the team around this off-season. Left Field Clearly 2017 was the banner year of production for the Halos in left field over the last three seasons. These players, by recent standards, produced a staggering 1.3 WAR in 2017. Comparatively in 2016 they generated a feeble -0.8 WAR, led by the performances of Jefry Marte and Shane Robinson sharing the top spot at 0.3 WAR each and dragged down by the other seven guys we ran out there that season. Two years ago, in 2015, they had a pathetic -1.1 WAR, led by no one in particular at 0.1 WAR apiece (five different players) and anchored down by, the renowned, Matt Joyce’s -0.7 WAR blood offering. Suffice it to say, this year was a refreshing change of pace. A significant part of that came from the late August acquisition of Justin Upton (0.9 WAR over 115 PA’s). If he had played the full season (500+ PA’s) that number would have been close to the 5 WAR he actually did produce, giving a huge boost to the team. Back in the Strategy article(s) we made an assumption that Justin will remain in Anaheim by either not opting-out or renegotiating with the team for slightly more money, an extra year or two, and/or a full no-trade clause, which he ultimately did. The two sides, fortunately, settled on a 5-year, $106M contract which equates to an AAV of $21.2M per season. This settles our outfield situation for at least the next 2-3 years and can free Eppler to use one or more of our outfield prospects to acquire additional impact talent. This was a win-win scenario for the Angels and for Upton. Eppler and company have filled our left field hole at a fair market rate and restructured Upton’s contract to free up a bit of immediate payroll while Justin gets to play in an area and environment he feels comfortable in and foregoes having to test the free agent market again. If you look at the 2016-2017 off-season, the Mets signed Yoenis Cespedes, a very close comparable to J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton, for 4 years, $110M, which is an AAV of $27.5M per year. Cespedes, at the time of signing, had an approximate wRC+ of 123 with slightly better defense in relation to J.D. and Justin so in comparison it appears we hit the market rate or reached a slightly better than market rate on Upton’s deal. In the end Billy Eppler finally nailed down a more permanent, long-term, left fielder which will be a welcome change and improvement for the next five seasons. Author’s Choice – Based on the O.C. Register’s Jeff Fletcher’s reporting prior to the season’s end combined with the fact that Billy Eppler, by making the trade with the Tigers in the first place, risked the chance Justin might not opt-out, clearly made him the most probable target to fill our left field hole on a long-term contract and that is what obviously happened. This feels like a solid move for the Halos. Center Field That is one big, beautiful light blue bar to the left, rising like an Ares skyscraper in the heart of Anaheim for all to see and be amazed. Obviously the Angels have zero production problems in center field with Mike Trout yielding a pristine 6.6 WAR (the other 0.3 came out of the DH spot) in an injury-shortened season. The only problem that the Angels face with Mike right now is building a team around him that can effectively compete and make a deep push into the playoffs on an annual basis. Thankfully this 2017-2018 off-season should prove to be a turning point in building a quality roster that can achieve the one and only primary goal of creating a championship-caliber team that we discussed in the Introduction. Hopefully, in addition to improving the roster, Arte Moreno and Billy Eppler are also setting the groundwork for a huge extension contract for Mike, to keep him in Anaheim the rest of his career. This is a topic of some concern for Angels fans and this off-season’s success or failure will prove critical from an optics point-of-view for Mike. The odds of him staying seem pretty good if the Angels can show him that they are improving the team and creating a strong supporting cast to make a solid regular-season run to win the Division. If the Angels can do this and have a successful 2018 where they at least make the playoffs as well as setting the table for a strong 2019 and beyond it seems probable that Trout will sign that critical extension through the end of his playing days. So what will it take to keep Mike? Currently Trout has a 3-year running average of 8.3 WAR (WOW!). Assuming he plays full-time next year and pulls in a typical 8-9 WAR season that number will not change when the Angels enter the 2018-2019 off-season. That winter market will see names like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Clayton Kershaw receive huge, record-breaking contracts. Specifically both Harper and Machado are likely to crest $400M in total contract value. Kershaw may crest $35M in AAV too (and Bryce and Manny might as well). The competition for these players will be fierce as the Dodgers, Yankees, Nationals, and Phillies, all large market teams, will rightfully lure them in with their deep pockets. Once these players have signed these mega-contracts the Angels will be free and clear to offer Mike Trout the greatest extension contract in the history of baseball. That number is very likely going to be $500M+. You should prepare yourselves mentally for this probable fact. As frightening as that number sounds to long-term payroll, the even scarier thing is that Trout is worth it, in terms of how teams currently model and valuate players. In 2019 the free agent $/WAR value is likely to be close to $11M/WAR, give or take. If you use a very conservative $9.5M/WAR, while applying a modest 5% inflation increase per year, and begin with a base Mike Trout WAR per season of 8 WAR through his age 30 season, with a -0.5 decline in WAR through his age 34 season, and then a -1.0 WAR per year decrease after that, you get the following free agent value through his age 38 season: Yes you are reading that right. That basic, conservative valuation puts a free agent value of $870M on Mike Trout if he were a free agent in the 2018-2019 off-season, signing a 12-year deal. Now, of course, no team will actually pay him that in free agency, it is simply an unprecedented number. Even the Yankees or Dodgers would refuse to go that high and invest that much money in one player. This is why the 2018-2019 free agent class is so important in setting the bar for free agent value. The highest paid position player in baseball, Giancarlo Stanton, received a 13 year, $325M contract three years ago prior to the 2015 season. He set the bar then just like Harper, Machado, and Kershaw will set the bar next year. Simply put if Harper, for example, sets the pace with a 12 year, $450M contract, you can rest assured that Trout will be paid more. It seems reasonable that a deal at or exceeding $500M over 12 years not only rewards Mike as being the best player in baseball it sets an appropriately record-breaking salary figure that will not soon be bested in the next handful of years. Trout would be the first half-billion player in any sport and he would be underpaid in comparison to his actual production in free agent market terms. Even if you use a lower starting value of $8.5M/WAR, a lower inflation value of 2%, and start out at 7 WAR per season through age 30 (with the same decline from above) it still comes out to $564M! No matter how you parse it, Mike Trout is very valuable! This is why the Angels should do everything they can to extend Trout because if you believe the numbers from above it is an insanely good value play. Anytime you can obtain surplus value in a trade or through a free agent signing you should seriously consider doing it and this is potentially the mother of all value-signings! Author’s Choice – Mike Trout for at least the next 3 years and hopefully the next 13 years, if not longer, even if he still wants to play at age 39 or beyond (and hey why not others have!)! !!!! Right Field Good ol’ reliable Kole Calhoun! Steady with the glove in 2017, Kole struggled earlier in the year at the plate but picked it up in the 2nd half of the season. Last year around this time, Eppler signed Calhoun to a very team-friendly, 3 year, $26M extension contract with a $14M option year in 2020. Already the Angels have accumulated enough value from Kole’s play in 2017 to justify the move, making this a potentially rewarding deal for the team (high surplus value) and for Calhoun’s family. Although you should fully expect to see Calhoun manning right field again in 2018, there is a very remote possibility that the Angels could trade Kole for an upgrade at another position and pursue a different right fielder. For the Angels this type of move would only make sense if they could significantly upgrade one or more areas of the roster, thereby replacing and building upon Kole’s production. It wouldn’t make too much sense to move him otherwise. Frankly in the free agent market there are no “must-have”, game-changing names except for Shohei Otani. Certainly players like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, and J.D. Martinez could impact the team but they will also negatively impact the Angels payroll to a degree that would hurt our future ability to add mid-season or next off-season. In the trade market there are only three potential names that have been bandied about as being available this off-season by their respective teams: Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Archer, and Christian Yelich. Each of these players presents advantages and disadvantages for the Angels. Yelich is a rising young superstar who is under contractual control for the next five seasons at an extremely reasonable $58.25M. He has a 3-year running average of 4.3 WAR and there is no reason to believe that his production will subside anytime soon. The problem with Christian is that he has so much surplus value only the teams with the most premium farm systems would be able to put together a package of prospects that Miami will almost certainly covet in exchange. The Angels could certainly offer Calhoun and perhaps one of our starters as collateral in addition to one of our top prospects but it seems unlikely the Marlins would have interest, thus making Yelich almost certainly off-limits to the Halos. Archer’s issue is also his extensive surplus value. He is under guaranteed contractual control for two more years at an insanely low AAV of $4.25M with two additional team option years attached at $9M and $11M each (still crazy low). Chris has a 3-year running average of 4.4 WAR although he is fast approaching 30 years old and could begin a decline phase in his latter years. He, too, would require a king’s ransom, likely requiring Calhoun (with Corey Dickerson moving to DH and either Souza or Kole manning LF and RF), one of our starters, C.J. Cron, and one of our top OF prospects. Although we would be losing a lot of production the real hidden advantage here is the minuscule amount of payroll Archer would require, which would still allow the Angels to go out on the free agent or trade markets and find a replacement right fielder. This too, just like a Yelich trade, would be very challenging for Eppler to execute based on our available resources making it unlikely to occur. Finally Giancarlo has an unusual contract where he can opt-out after the 2020 season. Because of this, his contract is currently split into two time frames: 1 ) The next three years he is owed $25M, $26M, and $26M, respectively and that translates to an AAV of $17.83M per season which includes the 2015-2017 time frame and 2 ) The seven follow-on years he is owed a total of $208M which translates to an AAV of $29.714M per season over the 2021-2027 time frame. Additionally Stanton has a $25M team option for 2028 with a $10M buy-out. From a strategic standpoint, finding a slugger that can, when healthy, produce upwards of 6+ WAR, at that reasonable price over the next three seasons, would be an exceptional value to acquire. Remember we just signed Justin, who is two years older with a 3-year running average of 3.27 WAR, to a 5-year, $106M deal at an AAV of $21.2M so in comparison Stanton, over the next three years, is potentially giving you double the WAR with an AAV that is $3.5M less. The reality is that after the 2018-2019 off-season when Harper, Kershaw, Machado, and, hopefully, Trout (mega-extension) shatter the ceiling of the top contracts ever signed it will make Giancarlo’s decision to opt-out two years after that off-season a lot more likely as he can easily make an additional $50M in free agency. This means that, barring an unhealthy 2020, Stanton would almost certainly opt-out which means that any team acquiring him should only be paying for his next three seasons of control. Realistically only the large payroll teams can afford Giancarlo and it has been noted he would prefer to play on the West or East coasts. His surplus value is approximately $100M (depends on what valuation model you are using but it is in the ballpark based on his 3-year running average of 4.7 WAR) so out of the three names we have listed here he is probably the “easiest” to trade for in terms of players and prospects if an acquiring team is willing to take on most or all of his remaining contract. To be very clear to everyone reading, acquiring a player like Stanton is a real long shot for any team, much less the Angels. The advantages we have include our geographic location (Los Angeles) which Giancarlo has stated as a preferred destination to play, enough payroll space to actually make it work, and enough resources and prospect capital to make one really significant trade for a player like him. The disadvantages include other clubs like the Dodgers, Phillies, Giants, Yankees, Nationals, and Red Sox that will also inquire on him and in some cases have potentially more attractive prospects in addition to the fact that a contract of this size and complexity will be very difficult to negotiate and pull off. The odds are no more than 10%-15% that the Angels could make this happen in my opinion as an outsider looking in. Eppler would clearly have to send Kole to offset some of Stanton’s salary and provide a great deal of collateral value in the trade as well as at least one top outfield prospect like Jahmai Jones, Jordon Adell, or Brandon Marsh (probably the former). Additionally the Angels would probably need to provide at least one other quality prospect and another “filler” type prospect (think something like Chris Rodriguez and Kaleb Cowart for instance). Also if Billy offers to take on another heavy Marlins contract like Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, or Brad Ziegler it could improve our chances to acquire Giancarlo and could lower the acquisition price slightly. For those of you concerned about the Angels ability to add Stanton to team payroll I have added Giancarlo’s three years to our current roster, replacing Calhoun, which changes the payroll numbers to the following: 2018-2020 Actual Payroll 2018-2020 AAV Payroll Clearly the Angels can manage a Stanton addition in terms of both actual team payroll and in regard to the Competitive Balance Tax threshold. The numbers above certainly do not account for the other moves the Angels will make but they also do not consider players that will eventually be traded off of the roster as well. The bottom line is that Giancarlo’s contract is manageable heading into the 2018-2020 time frame. In the end, Calhoun will likely be our starting right fielder on Opening Day 2018 and that is perfectly fine (I personally love Kole!). However if Eppler thinks he can improve the team significantly by expending the right set of resources and can navigate the very complex deal-making required for a Stanton, Archer, or Yelich trade, you have to seriously consider it in the Mike Trout window of contention. Just don’t hold your breath we’d hate to be responsible for a bunch of fainting Angels fans! Author’s Choice – Kole Calhoun is the logical, six sigma choice here but keep in mind that the Angels are prepared to strike either this year or next and could add an additional All-Star player now, or then, potentially running up over the Luxury Tax threshold in the two-year period in 2019 and 2020 or 2020 and 2021 for Moreno’s “right” player scenario which could make Mr. Grit Jr. expendable in a very narrow set of improbable-trade frameworks. In the next Section we will discuss our backstops and bench players.

View the full article Top 30 Prospects

It’s the time of year again folks! The leaves are turning colors, the winter rains begin to fall, and top prospect lists will begin rolling out of every website.  “Arm-chair GM’s” do their best with the information provided to give you a list they feel is worth looking at.  “Experts” will do the same thing, except they’ll make you pay a monthly fee for it.  At the end of the day, the information can look downright copy and pasted. We here at AngelsWin have our top prospect list too, but the difference is, ours is done by a hand-picked panel of members and minor league fans.  Some have scouting experience, some are well-versed in advanced metrics, some watch the games from their computers and still others are simply fans that enjoy attending games and talking with the players.  One person’s list will be all about upside, another will be chalk full of surprise players, another with prospects that are closest to the big leagues.  The end result is a mix of all of them. Here at AngelsWin, we’ve got it all.  We see the players from every angle an outsider (and in some cases insider) could.  We don’t watch a player once and write up a scouting report and we aren’t limited by what Google can dig up.  Several of us watch the player multiple times from multiple angles.  We make individual decisions, compare them (the debates did become quite heated this year), and come up with a list that works for everyone involved. Sure, we are bias. But we don’t think you’ll find a finer, more in-depth and accurate list anywhere else.  You could pay monthly fees and still not get this sort of analysis.  That’s simply what happens when you have a dedicated base of fans who work behind the scenes all season long to create this list, a culmination of a lot of time and effort. Individual scouting reports will be released in reverse order (#30, 29, 28, etc..). Without further ado, here are your 2017 Top 30 Prospects   OF Jo Adell – Rookie Ball (18) OF Jahmai Jones – Advanced A Ball (20) OF Brandon Marsh – Rookie Ball (19) RHP Jaime Barria – AAA (20) RHP Griffin Canning – DNP (21) 1B Matt Thaiss – AA (22) RHP Chris Rodriguez – A Ball (18) OF Michael Hermosillo – AAA (22) OF Trent Deveaux – DNP (17) C Taylor Ward – AA (23) IF Leo Rivas – A Ball (19) RHP Jesus Castillo – AA (21) IF David Fletcher – AAA (23) RHP Jake Jewell – AA (24) RHP Jose Soriano – Rookie Ball (18) LHP Jose Suarez – A Ball (19) OF Brennon Lund – AA (22) OF Jacob Pearson – Rookie Ball (19) LHP Nate Smith – AAA (25) RHP Eduardo Paredes – MLB (22) RHP Cole Duensing  – Rookie Ball (19) IF Nonie Williams – Rookie Ball (19) OF D’Shawn Knowles – DNP (16) OF Torii Hunter Jr. – Rookie Ball (22) OF Troy Montgomery – AA (22) RHP Luis Pena – AA (21) IF Julio Garcia – Rookie Ball (19) LHP Jerryell Rivera – Rookie Ball (18) RHP Joe Gatto – Advanced A Ball (22) OF Jonah Todd – A Ball (21) Honorable Mention: RHP Adam Hofacket, 3B Zach Houchins, RHP Osmer Morales, 3B Jose Rojas, RHP Wilkel Hernandez, RHP Nathan Bates, RHP Jose Rodriguez, LHP Jonah Wesely,  

View the full article


Angels 40 Man Roster Transactions

Many roster crunches have taken place across baseball today in anticipation of the 5 PM deadline for teams to add players to their 40 man rosters. Most moves are minor transactions or obvious moves but a few big ones have stood out, including former #1 pick Mark Appel being designated for assignment by the Philadelphia Phillies. For the Angels, their moves were rather straight forward. They added 4 key prospects to their 40 man roster, deeming them unattainable for other teams. Jaime Barria and Michael Hermosillo were obvious picks, given their upside potential and their proximity to the majors. Jake Jewell and Jesus Castillo were less obvious selections but they seemed likely for similar reasons as the other two players. Jaime Barria burst onto the scene with a monster 2017 season, throwing 141.2 innings across 3 levels with a 2.80 ERA. He struck out 117 batters while walking just 31, displaying plus command his arsenal. Barria is only 20 years old, is poised beyond belief and is already physically mature for his age. With a plus fastball(92-94 mph) and change up along with a strong slider and developing curveball, there is a clear package for a legitimate starting pitcher here. Any improvements in 2018 will likely put Barria on top 100 prospect lists and, more importantly, land him in the Angels MLB rotation. Barria is personally the #3 Angels prospect on my list.  Michael Hermosillo, like Barria, has blossomed in the past few seasons and finds himself as a potential 4th outfield option in Anaheim as soon as 2018. Hermosillo hit .267/.366/.397 with 9 home runs and 35 stolen bases across 3 levels, finishing off in AAA Salt Lake. The former 28th round pick is extremely athletic, makes hard contact, runs well and handles himself well at all 3 outfield positions. He has less upside than his outfield counterparts(Jahmai Jones, Jordon Adell, Brandon Marsh) but his floor and proximity to the big leagues makes him an intriguing option. With Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Kole Calhoun in the fold, Hermosillo likely profiles as a bench piece when he first arrives. Hermosillo ranks #10 on my prospect list. Jake Jewell doesn’t get recognized in an improving Angels system but he has quality reliever written all over him. His 4.54 ERA and 96:44 strikeout/walk ratio in 140.2 innings in 2017 doesn’t scream a legit prospect but his stuff is good enough to pitch in the majors. Jewell has a heavy fastball that he can sink(91-95 mph) or cut(87-91) while also throwing a quality slider. In short stints, many scouts believe he can excel in a relief role. Jewell ranks #12 on my prospect list. Jesus Castillo is much less flashy than these other 3 players but his results have been great since being acquired for Joe Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. Castillo had a 3.43 ERA in 124.2 innings in 2017 while striking out 118 and walking just 26 batters. Castillo commands his 90-92 mph fastball very well along with an average changeup and mixes in a useful curveball. Castillo is a little behind these other 3 players in upside and proximity to the majors but he could be a real rotation option in 2019. He’s #20 on my prospect list. With these additions, the Angels 40 man roster currently sits at 36 players. Any more transactions will be periodically updated here as they occur.

View the full article 2018 Primer Series: Corner Infield

#HugWatch2018 By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer Edited by Chance Hevia (Inside Pitch) and Jason Sinner (Dochalo) As the season crept to a merciful end, Billy Eppler and his team officially kicked into high gear for the off-season where they will have to make a decision regarding the future of 3B, with the exit of Yunel Escobar, and 1B, where it was a tale of two halves for both C.J. Cron and Luis Valbuena. Both positions are not high priorities to fill when compared to finding a competent 2B, LF (which has already been accomplished by signing Upton), or front-of-the-rotation starter/multi-innings reliever. However, Eppler may find that free agency or trade might provide him with a more affordable upgrade at either corner infield spot (probably more so at 1B) when compared to those other three primary needs so there could be potential action this off-season at one, or both, of the corners. In the end Billy does not have to do anything as he could simply enter 2018 with C.J. Cron at 1B, Luis Valbuena at 3B, and Jefry Marte sharing time with the two of them, primarily against left-handed pitchers. If the Angels really believe that Cron’s and Valbuena’s second half performances were more indicative of their true ability it may be best for Eppler to keep it simple and focus on improving other positions which have been black holes of production over the last three seasons. The bottom line is that the Angels can potentially stand pat at either or both positions or shuffle the deck a bit and get creative to obtain more consistent production. First Base What a difference a half-year makes. If you had not noticed C.J. Cron and Luis Valbuena (and Jefry Marte!) were pretty awful to start 2017. Their 1st half numbers were dreadful and, to be perfectly frank, disheartening: Each of them, separately, produced about -0.5 WAR, struggling heavily on offense. Fast forward a few months to the end of the 2nd half and Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde: Someone must have hit the ‘Easy’ button because the duo of Cron and Valbuena more than tripled their total home run output and more than doubled their RBI totals from the 1st half. Between the two they had a total of 38 HR’s and 113 RBI’s for the year shared between Valbuena’s 48 Games Started (GS) at 3B, 40 GS at 1B, and 2 GS at DH and Cron’s 85 GS at 1B. Basically when you add them together you have just over a full season’s worth of games with the offensive output you would expect from a bat-first corner infielder. So what does this mean for 2018? The reality is that Cron and Valbuena are not as bad as they were in the 1st half but may not be as hot as they were in the 2nd half. Both of them showed strong ISO numbers in the latter time frame (.275 and .338 respectively) and that is generally a characteristic (extra-base power) that does not vary too much year to year. Cron had a higher average while Valbuena walked more. The latter was also troubled by a very low BABIP which was due in-part to his poor handling of defensive shifts and the focus on hitting for power. C.J. had a deceptively above average year against left-handed pitchers but virtually all of that wRC+ number sprang from home runs so I am quite hesitant to state that he has solved that historically bad part of his game. Luis could also improve against lefties but it will probably be best to platoon him again based on what happened this season. Basically both hitters still have warts. They can produce, primarily through home run power, but neither of them has shown consistency at the plate. C.J. is limited to 1B/DH duty only, whereas Valbuena is a 3B, LF, and 1B candidate. Cron’s defense is not bad and in fact may be underrated. Having Luis bounce between the two positions probably messed a little with his defensive rhythm at both spots because he is not as bad as the 2017 numbers indicate. So, ultimately, you have two guys that can hit RHP pretty well. One, C.J., has better overall splits while the other, Luis, is a bit more versatile on the defensive side. There is a very real possibility that Billy Eppler will prioritize filling 2B and finding a starter for the rotation in the coming off-season while standing pat with Cron at 1B, Valbuena at 3B, and Marte spelling them against LHP when he can. This would allow Billy to punt any long-term decisions to the following off-season and would save resources to allocate to other needs now and possibly next year. All that being said, however, there are other routes the Angels can take including trading one or both of them in an attempt to upgrade either corner spot. Collectively 1B produced approximately 0.6 WAR while our hot corner group nearly tripled that number at 1.6 WAR, total. This really points to 1B as the more probable area to improve. One option that might realistically be on the table is a trade for Brandon Belt from the San Francisco Giants. There have been reports and rumors that Belt and superstar Buster Posey have clashed on the field and possibly in the clubhouse. The Giants, who felt they should have been serious contenders in 2017, may want to shake up the clubhouse dynamic by moving Brandon in trade as they retool for a run next season. Skipper Bruce Bochy was even quoted saying they would “welcome a new look” at first base in 2018. In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline it was reported, via, and Jon Morosi, that the Angels may be a good fit for Belt and that makes sense as the Halos could certainly use another left-handed bat in their lineup. Brandon is not a premier power-hitter, averaging about 18 home runs over the last three seasons, but he is a good run producer and has an excellent batting-eye. He strikes me as a good choice to hit near the top of the lineup, perhaps in the 2-spot, as he has sported a .380 On-Base Percentage (OBP) paired with a 132 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) from 2015 to the present. Belt has four more years of contractual control at a very reasonable $14.56M per year in AAV with approximately $68.8M ($17.2M per year) left to pay him on his contract. Near the end of the season he did have a concussion-related injury that put him on the 60-day disabled list so the Angels will have to perform their due diligence in regard to his medicals, if they go down this path, because this is his fourth concussion in eight years. As Jake Mastroianni wrote, any trade for Brandon will likely involve a Major League replacement, a top tier prospect, and one mid-tier prospect based on the relatively strong value he brings in combination with his reasonable money owed. However, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins called the contract “burdensome” so there may be an opportunity for Eppler to extract some value from what appears to be a deteriorating situation for Belt up North. The truth of Brandon’s value probably lies somewhere in-between those two perspectives, so perhaps a trade of C.J. Cron, Michael Hermosillo, and another mid-tier prospect gets it done or maybe an alternative grouping like Michael Hermosillo, Brennon Lund, Matt Thaiss, and Connor Lillis-White would do the trick. Beyond Belt the Angels will probably inquire on Freddie Freeman but he seems unavailable despite the fact that the Braves farm system has a lot of top prospects sitting down in the low Minors that are not ready to support the Major League roster. It would take a lot to pry Freeman away but his bat would have a significant impact to our offense if Billy did pull off a miracle. Other 1B names in free agency include Eric Hosmer, Adam Lind, Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison, Lucas Duda, Mark Reynolds, Yonder Alonso, and Mitch Moreland. An even sneakier, value pick-up could be someone like C Alex Avila who played a competent 1B last season and hit the cover off the ball against RHP. One other option would be Japanese superstar Shohei Otani whom we discussed in Eppler’s Strategy section but every team in baseball will be inquiring on him. If he can play in the outfield, it seems reasonable he could play 1B. Other than Belt and Freeman mentioned above, the trade market does offer other names like Matt Carpenter, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Abreu, Joe Mauer, Chase Headley, Tommy Joseph, and Matt Adams that might pique Eppler’s interest if the price is right. Billy will have to feel the market out as it appears this year’s 1B market will be depressed just like it was last season. There was a glut of supply on the market that, in hindsight, suppressed prices, creating potential bargains. If Eppler thinks he can trade Cron and move some of the deck chairs around to acquire a bargain in free agency or trade it would not be surprising in the least especially when you consider the pitiful production the team’s first basemen put up in 2017. High Price to Pay – Freddie Freeman Miguel Cabrera Brandon Belt Eric Hosmer Middle of the Road –
Matt Carpenter Jose Abreu Carlos Santana Tommy Joseph Adrian Gonzalez Joe Mauer Chase Headley Bargain Basement – Logan Morrison Yonder Alonso Lucas Duda Mark Reynolds Adam Lind Matt Adams Brad Miller Default Solution(s) – Luis Valbuena C.J. Cron Jefry Marte Albert Pujols Author’s Choice For reasons we will discuss later in the Final Thoughts article it is my opinion that the Angels will upgrade at 1B by acquiring a hitter than can not only swat RHP well but pairs that ability with a high OBP. In particular Matt Carpenter strikes me as the right combination of contract length (controllable for 3 years), price (low AAV for the next two years), hitting ability, and on-base skills. It is possible the Cardinals keep him but he has a fairly high salary for 2018 and beyond that St. Louis would likely want to shed if the rumors are true that they are pursuing a big middle of the order bat. Carpenter would be great hitting lead-off or out of the 2-hole for the Halos. An alternate, good, backup solution would be Brandon Belt. He too has a strong history of high on-base ability but would cost the Angels a bit more in money and trade chips, making him a strong second choice. Freddie Freeman and Kyle Schwarber would be my dream choices but both of them will be costly in terms of resources, particularly Freeman. Third Base Between Yunel Escobar, Luis Valbuena, and Kaleb Cowart, Angels third basemen collectively produced 1.6 WAR in 2017, ranking them 24th overall for the season. As you can see there is certainly room for improvement. Rather than rehash the above which applies to Valbuena here in the third base discussion let us play a little game of player blind-comparison. Remember there is no right or wrong answer here (well maybe a couple of wrong answers) just a pure match-up of the numbers produced by 20 players over the last three seasons that represent the most likely trade and free agent acquisitions the Angels could potentially make mixed with our internal solutions. Note that there are some sample size issues in terms of PA’s for some of the players on this chart. The answer key is near the end of this article: The first thing you might notice is that there are a couple of players whose numbers jump off of the page and get your attention. Players 1, 11, 17, and 19 certainly have stronger overall numbers than the rest of the group. On the flip side Players 3, 12, and 13 leave a lot to be desired and perhaps avoided at all costs. Beyond those players, though, it is a somewhat even playing field with little variance across the board. Reasonable cases could be made to acquire one of these middle-ground options if the price is right and the Angels would probably walk away sufficiently satisfied with their purchase if they did. If defense matters most to Eppler then Players 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, and 20 would be more preferable choices. Billy has made it clear he wants every position around the diamond to be defensively strong so it is hard to imagine him dumping defense, completely, for offense out of the hot corner. Based on that assumption Players 1 and 16 are probably non-starters for Eppler. Below is the answer key: As was presented in the forum a couple of weeks ago, member Dochalo pointed out a blind comparison between Mike Moustakas and Luis Valbuena showing quite similar hitting and production profiles over their careers. Of course Moose is younger and could still break out further but the point Dochalo was trying to make and the question Eppler has to ask himself is this: Is it worth dolling out a 5-year, $85M contract to Moustakas or would the team be better served by having Luis play the hot corner this year for the $8M we have already spent? In a season where payroll needs to be intelligently applied to maximize value, spending an additional $17M in AAV per season to upgrade by approximately one win does not strike me as efficient. You could just as easily have Valbuena play 3B and sign a quality reliever like Jake McGee or Addison Reed, for less money, and achieve the same total win effect. High Price to Pay – Nick Senzel Eugenio Suarez Evan Longoria Mike Moustakas Middle of the Road –
Jedd Gyorko Manny Machado Josh Donaldson Maikel Franco Michael Chavis Jake Lamb Josh Harrison Todd Frazier Greg Garcia Bargain Basement – Logan Forsythe Eduardo Nunez Chase Headley Derek Dietrich Martin Prado Asdrubal Cabrera Brad Miller Default Solution(s) – Luis Valbuena Kaleb Cowart Nolan Fontana Sherman Johnson Author’s Choice – Before I started the Primer Series back in late June if I had been asked which positions the Angels needed to address this off-season I almost assuredly would have mentioned 3B in that conversation. However, the beauty of doing a deep dive into the teams finances, production results, and options to upgrade, gives you a better appreciation of what Billy Eppler should or shouldn’t do to make the team better. Although 3B does need to be addressed at some point, the glaring holes of – 0.1 and 0.6 WAR at 2B and 1B, respectively, are far more jarring and in need of attention. Steamer and Depth Charts agree that Valbuena should produce approximately 1.5 WAR give or take next season, basically matching the output the Angels received this season. It is certainly nothing to write home about but it isn’t nothing either. It seems likely, barring a good deal for a player like Eugenio Suarez or Jake Lamb for instance, that Luis Valbuena will be our starting 3B on Opening Day 2018, based on current and future needs combined with our more pressing resource allocations at 1B, 2B, and in the rotation/bullpen. In the next section we will discuss the Outfield.  

View the full article 2018 Primer Series: Middle Infield

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer Edited by Chance Hevia (Inside Pitch) and Jason Sinner (Dochalo)   The Angels enter the 2017-2018 off-season with a surefire superstar at one up-the-middle position and a potential black hole at the other. In regards to the former Billy Eppler took care of that need nearly two years ago and it has quite possibly been the best decision in his brief tenure as General Manager of the Angels. However a good fix to the latter has proven elusive and, although there are internal options to fill the position, the question Billy must ask himself is, are they the best solutions available? Shortstop
  One thing that every General Manager loves to get is steady, consistent performance out of every position, day-in and day-out. Of course the Angels are lucky to have Mike Trout, who is, currently, the best example of that type of player, but they are also very fortunate to have 2017 Gold Glove and Fielding Bible Award winning shortstop Andrelton Simmons in the fold as well. The trade of Andrelton “Simba” Simmons and Jose Briceno for Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis, and Erick Aybar has yet to fully play out in terms of who “won the trade”. That will only be determined when each of the respective players have served their time with each organization and that could take years to fully resolve itself. However it is easy to say that the Angels are probably out to an early lead in that discussion. Simmons has been nothing short of spectacular. Known for his superlative defense, he continues to show his incredible range, quickness, arm, and instincts on a daily basis. More importantly Andrelton’s body frame has matured incrementally and now he is a threat not only defensively but offensively as well, sporting a nifty 104 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) in 2017 that appears to be sustainable moving forward. Beyond Andrelton’s excellent play on the field, his work ethic and commitment to excellence is unsurpassed, resulting in the type of mental fortitude you find among some of the greatest players in baseball. His in-game awareness is second-to-none and it is just one more layer of value he brings to the team that sets him apart from other, lesser, players. The Angels have contractual control of Simba for the next three seasons (2018-2020) on a very team-friendly contract with an Average Annual Value (AAV) of just under $8.3M per year. More importantly this aligns perfectly with the Mike Trout window of contention, adding to a great core of players the front office can use to build around their superstar center fielder. It would not be at all surprising for Eppler and the Angels to approach Andrelton about an extension contract in the near future. Normally it is not the best investment to give a long-term contract to a defense-first player who is heading into his late 20’s/early 30’s but Simmons is not normal and his defense is so otherworldly that even if he declines he would still be one of the better shortstops in the game. Although it may not happen this off-season, it feels like there is a reasonably high probability that Billy will negotiate with Simba’s agent between now and Opening Day 2020. The basis of the deal will likely fall somewhere between Elvis Andrus’ and Troy Tulowitzki’s contract extensions. The former was a touch younger than Andrelton but not as good on defense while the latter already had three 5 1/2 WAR seasons under his belt when he signed his long-term deal. That extension, assuming it happens in the 2018-2019 off-season, would likely be a 7-8 year deal (restructuring Andrelton’s current contract) with an AAV of about $17M per season for a total range of $119M-$136M. This contract would almost certainly exceed the AAV of Elvis’ and Troy’s extensions, thereby rewarding Simmons for his excellent play and likely providing the Angels with reliable value moving forward. Even if Andrelton loses a step or two at shortstop he could, in the worst case scenario, shift over to the keystone in his later years if his athleticism and range decline and would likely still provide reasonable value at second base. Players with Simmons defensive ability do not grow on trees and that is the primary reason Eppler acquired him in the first place to build the best foundation for the organization’s up-the-middle defense. Hopefully Billy will work on keeping Simba in Anaheim as long as possible. In the event Andrelton chooses to explore free agency the Angels should be able to move him prior to the 2020 trade deadline for quite a haul in prospect value, perhaps even matching what we gave up for him in the first place if we are out of contention. Barring something untoward in the future this acquisition is looking like a big win for Billy Eppler and the Angels. Bravo! Author’s Choice – Andrelton Simmons, all day, every day! Second Base For the last few years, after Howie Kendrick left, it has been pretty clear that the Angels need to find a long-term solution to settle their second base situation because continuing to get results like those above, in the graph, is the definition of insanity. A total of -0.1 WAR just will not cut it if the Angels want to have sustained success. Although we said it last year (and the year before), 2018 increasingly appears to be the year the team will finally address this important goal and add the final, fourth element to their exceptional up-the-middle defensive unit of Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons, and Martin Maldonado. The Angels had hoped that one of their AA and AAA Minor League options would pan out and possibly fill the role but the three most likely candidates, Kaleb Cowart, Nolan Fontana, and Sherman Johnson have not produced and developed as rapidly as the team needs them to at this moment in time (and it is possible they may never do so). Cowart of course is the recovering prospect the Angels brought up to the Majors on July 23rd to take a longer look at him over the remainder of the 2017 season. He initially performed well on both sides of the ball but fell off offensively as the season progressed. If Billy is forced to play a prospect, due to market factors, Kaleb could wind up with the job by default. Behind him the less heralded Nolan Fontana put up a nice season in AAA, Salt Lake City, UT playing for the Bees. In fact the Angels even called him up for a short seven game stretch in the first half of 2017 but he struggled a bit offensively in his first cup of coffee in the Majors. Fontana’s defense is probably a touch better than Cowart’s but both can pick the ball well. Nolan is also a likely default candidate, for Eppler, as he is already on the 40-man roster. Finally, Fringe Five Superstar Sherman Johnson has also performed well splitting time between AA, Mobile, AL and AAA, Salt Lake City, UT, playing at several positions (1B, 2B, 3B, SS, and LF) in what may be a pivot towards playing in a super utility role when he arrives in Anaheim. He plays good defense and although he does not have as much pop as Fontana or Cowart he does have a bit more speed. If the Angels do not add him to their 40-man roster by mid-to-late November he will likely be a strong Rule V candidate and could depart the franchise to a more playing-time friendly environment. As we enter the 2017-2018 off-season, Eppler knows that the three internal candidates above probably will not pass muster at this point in time, so he finds himself setting the table for an off-season where there appears to be more readily productive, acquirable options that will not break the Angels piggy bank. Some of those choices can be found on the trade market where keystone players like Cesar Hernandez, Jedd Gyorko, Kolten Wong, Greg Garcia, Jonathan Villar, Brad Miller, Eugenio Suarez, Ozhaino Albies, Yangervis Solarte, Ian Kinsler, Logan Forsythe, Jordy Mercer, Carlos Asuaje, T.J. Rivera, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ildemaro Vargas, DJ LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki (perhaps it’s time for him to move off of SS?), Yandy Diaz, Devon Travis, Martin Prado, and Joe Panik, among others, could be in play. Finding a trade partner is the more likely scenario because the free agent market is lacking an abundance of 2B choices. The top name, Neil Walker, would probably be of interest to the Halos. Behind him it quickly falls off to our old friend Howie Kendrick, the versatile Eduardo Nunez, and short-term Halo Brandon Phillips, and then really drops off a cliff to players like Alexi Amarista and Stephen Drew. One other interesting name in free agency that the Angels could consider at 2B is Zack Cozart (a natural SS). In his first healthy season in quite a while he posted a career high walk rate (12.1%) and hard hit rate (31.5%). Additionally he had solid splits against LHP and RHP on top of his really good defense. The bottom line is that the Angels need to improve at the position if they want to avoid a repeat of the last three years. Fortunately there are good defensive options that are realistically available in both free agency (Cozart and to a lesser degree Walker) and trade (Gordon, Hernandez, Garcia, Kipnis, and Kinsler are probably the top defensive choices) so Eppler should be able to find a fit if the price makes sense (and remember our insider knowledge of negotiations is virtually zero). Below is the author’s best estimate of the most likely targets categorized by total price (payroll and/or prospect cost) in five bins: “High Price to Pay”, “Middle of the Road”, “Bargain Basement”, “Default Solution(s)”, and the last which is the “Author’s Choice”. High Price to Pay – Ozhaino Albies Luis Urias Cesar Hernandez Troy Tulowitzki Yandy Diaz Middle of the Road – Zack Cozart Neil Walker Jason Kipnis Greg Garcia Bargain Basement – Dee Gordon Ian Kinsler Martin Prado Brad Miller Default Solution(s) – Kaleb Cowart Nolan Fontana Sherman Johnson David Fletcher Author’s Choice – Although Dee Gordon is certainly not my favorite selection out of this group (if I had my way we’d pick up Kipnis, Hernandez, Cozart, Urias, or Albies) he does represent the most likely, inexpensive upgrade for the Angels. Dee’s 2017, 3.3 WAR would be a massive improvement over the collective -0.1 WAR that six players produced for us this season! Most importantly if the Angels absorb most or all of Gordon’s salary the prospect price should be relatively low (say a couple of mid to low-tier prospects). In an off-season where Billy Eppler will have to intelligently allocate payroll and farm system assets, 2B is one of the more likely areas based on market supply, particularly at the mid and lower end, where less spent can be more for the team in 2018 and beyond. Another alternate, inexpensive option would be Brad Miller who recently underwent core muscle surgery to correct a lingering problem that probably contributed to his poor showing in 2017. He is a former shortstop who hit 30 HR’s in 2016 so he could be a steal from a Rays team that needs to cut salary. Miller could actually play 3B as well but profiles better at 2B.

View the full article 2018 Primer Series: Bullpen

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer Edited by Chance Hevia (Inside Pitch) and Jason Sinner (Dochalo) If there was one thing that went really right in 2017 it was the Angels bullpen, sporting a 3.92 ERA (11th), 6.6 WAR (5th), 18.5% K%-BB% (5th), 1.20 WHIP (5th), and .238 BAA (12th), spread out over 569 IP (8th most). Leading that charge was Yusmeiro Petit, whom Eppler signed out of free agency, followed closely by waiver-wire claim, Blake Parker. Behind them was trade pick-up David Hernandez (later sent to the Diamondbacks) followed by homegrown Cam Bedrosian. All acquired through different methods and all achieving strong results! Even behind those critical four pitchers, the Angels got positive results out of role players like Jesse Chavez, Bud Norris, Jose Alvarez, Keynan Middleton, and late in the season, our old friend Fernando Salas and waiver-wire pick-up Blake Wood. So what does 2018 have in store for the bullpen? The Angels declined Huston Street’s option, paying his a $1M buy-out, sending him into free agency, along with the other relievers we are losing, so that Eppler can acquire other, higher impact candidates. Unless Billy replenishes the loss of Petit, Norris, Hernandez, Street, Chavez, and Salas (and possibly Wood if they non-tender him) the Angels will likely take a step backward in production, to some degree, next year. Billy has proven very good so far at evaluating talent and combing the free agent and trade markets, as well as the waiver-wire, so Angels fans should have a measure of confidence that our 2018 relief corps will be reasonably good, it is just unknown how good or bad it will be compared to 2017. The table below shows most of the available internal relievers, at the AA, AAA, and MLB levels, that the Angels could potentially call upon to support the 2018 campaign (Options, listed, were pulled from, as of 11/08/2017): The 2018 season should see the return of Blake Parker, Cam Bedrosian, Jose Alvarez, and Keynan Middleton into the fold. Additionally Eduardo Paredes should have a shot to make the team again out of Spring Training (but he has options so they may start him in the Minors). Blake Wood might return too but he will come with a likely, hefty, arbitration salary at about $2.2M so the Angels might non-tender him instead (more likely than not he stays). In addition to those guys, the Angels picked up some additional players throughout the season including Noe Ramirez, Felix Pena, and Dayan Diaz all of which have pretty live arms and could be contributors to the bullpen next year. When you analyze the back-end of the Angels ‘pen it is still relatively intact. Parker was absolutely tremendous in high-leverage situations (28.6% K%-BB%) as was Cam Bedrosian (20.5% K%-BB%) and Keynan Middleton (27.3% K%-BB%). What this really means for 2018 is that the Angels do not have to go out and sign a high-end reliever in free agency or acquire one in trade. Certainly adding another quality arm would be very useful but it is not an area of strong need. Eppler will probably be better off combing the waiver wire and trade markets again or simply waiting out the free agent market, until January, to pick-up a marked-down asset that can contribute quality innings. For instance if Billy wants to supplement the bullpen he could trade for a short-term asset like Brad Hand (approximately $3.8M in 2018 and $6.5M in 2019), Brad Ziegler ($9M), Boone Logan ($7M), Carter Capps (approximately $1.3M), or Jim Johnson ($5M) for example. An experienced veteran would probably be value-added to the youngsters in our bullpen and would only tie up a relief spot and payroll for 1-2 seasons. Alternatively the Angels could probably reunite with Yusmeiro Petit or even Bud Norris on another one year deal. Instead of acquiring a reliever the Angels actually have in-house options available as well. Players like Adam Hofacket, Conor Lillis-White, Greg Mahle, Jeremy Rhoades, and Michael Dimok could be potential contributors at some point in the 2018 season if there is a need. In fact having this many relievers down in AA and AAA could be part of the plan if the Angels run out more “bullpen” starts in 2018. The Halos could potentially fill the remainder of their 40-man  roster with relievers and rotate them in and out of the Major League team, riding the shuttle up and down to Salt Lake City or Mobile each week if the reliever(s) in question have at least one option available (which most of them should). Of course the team could simply take one of our recovering starters, for instance Nick Tropeano, and have them pitch out of the bullpen for some or all of 2018. Tropeano and Ramirez (if he does not require TJS) would be ideal candidates actually if that is the route Eppler decides to go because they will both likely be on a strict innings pitched limit next season, particularly Nick. Another route that Eppler could take is to trade one of Parker, Bedrosian, and Middleton as part of a package for another area of need and sign one of the many relievers available in free agency. Names like Addison Reed, Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Jake McGee, Mike Minor, Yusmeiro Petit, Luke Gregerson, Brandon Morrow, Bryan Shaw, Anthony Swarzak, Zach Duke, Ian Krol, and Tony Watson might all have varying levels of appeal to the Angels front office. As an example the Angels could package up Bedrosian and perhaps a reliever like Michael Dimok and ship them off to the Indians in exchange for 2B Jason Kipnis. Then Eppler could go out and sign someone like Addison Reed on a 4-year, $48M deal. This would raise total payroll by about $20M in AAV but would solve our 2B issue for the next three seasons and replace what we lose in Cam’s absence. It is my suspicion that Eppler will generally try to take the route of least resistance when it comes to building and spending money on the bullpen. This is one trait that Billy and former Angels GM, Jerry Dipoto, have in common but it is the former that has done a far, far superior job of finding the right talent in his short time with the Angels whether it is through trade, free agency, or even picking a gem out of the Minor Leagues. In fact, as Jason Sinner pointed out, there are a slew of Minor League free agents hitting the airwaves this off-season per, that Eppler may want to sign to a Minor League deal to act as team depth. There are some interesting names in that article that the Angels could pursue including Tyler Badamo, Enrique Burgos, Kris Medlen, Jayson Aquino, Andrew Faulkner, Matt Purke, Geoff Broussard, Domingo Tapia, Tim Cooney, Luis Lugo, Chris Withrow, David Hale, Justin Masterson, Mike Kickham, Hiram Burgos, Evan Marshall, Pat Venditte, Ashur Tolliver, Jonny Venters, Paolo Espino, Dario Alvarez, Kevin Jepsen, Neil Ramirez, Tim Collins, and Neal Cotts among many, many others. However, with all of the resources now available this off-season, Billy does have room to make an addition or re-shuffle the deck a little to bring in at least one of his preferred choices in free agency or trade and could very well do so. Based on the current roster here is the projected Opening Day bullpen for 2018: This of course assumes that both Nick and J.C. are healthy and fully recovered. Both Ramirez and Wood are out of options so they have to be on the roster in some capacity if the Angels retain them both (and they probably will). If Tropeano and/or Ramirez (J.C.) are not available on Opening Day, Eduardo Paredes and Noe Ramirez are probably the next most likely candidates to bring up. So the point of this discussion rests on the premise that the Angels could simply enter 2018 with the assembled group of relievers currently in place and probably have an above average bullpen group. It is certainly a nice group of hard-throwers, mixed with some lower velocity types that can give hitters a different look in the batter’s box. However it really feels like Eppler could do a little bit more to improve this squad heading into next season, particularly if he can acquire one more high quality reliever that can get batters out on both sides of the plate. This would allow Billy to afford to either a ) displace someone like Scribner, who has options, down to the Minors or b ) run an 8-man bullpen for most, if not all, of the 2018 season. The Angels, not unlike what the New York Mets are planning to do in 2018, are well positioned to run out more bullpen “rotations” where most Angels starters would not exceed more than two times through the batting order of an opposing team. This is a bit more likely, in part, due to the possible innings pitched limits we discussed for the starting staff in the Rotation section of the Primer Series. It will be very interesting to see what the Angels do with their entire pitching staff this off-season. If Eppler goes out and acquires more than one quality reliever it heightens the odds that the team will move toward this new vector and philosophy on how to statistically utilize your starters and relievers in the most effective manner. No matter what the bullpen winds up looking like, it should be a potent group capable of holding up any lead in the mid and late innings of games. Eppler, in a short sample size, appears to have an excellent group of scouts and analysts with the ability to spot talent so the bullpen is unlikely to be a source of trouble in 2018. Here are the resource tiers with a sampling of players Billy might be eyeing in free agency or trade: High Price to Pay – Greg Holland Wade Davis Addison Reed Middle of the Road – Andrew Miller Kyle Barraclough Jake McGee Drew Steckenrider Brad Hand Kirby Yates Raisel Iglesias Jose Urena Mike Minor Brandon Morrow Tony Watson Carter Capps Bargain Basement – Jim Johnson Bryan Shaw Anthony Swarzak Yusmeiro Petit Bud Norris Zach Duke Jesse Chavez Joe Smith Default Solution(s) – Eduardo Paredes Noe Ramirez Dayan Diaz Felix Pena Greg Mahle Adam Hofacket Michael Dimock Conor Lillis-White Author’s Choice – For the most part I believe the Angels will stand pat in the bullpen when you consider that Nick Tropeano and J.C. Ramirez are unlikely to break the Opening Day rotation. All that being said Eppler has resources to apply this off-season and there will almost certainly be a high degree of interest in one or more of Parker, Bedrosian, and Middleton in the multitude of trade discussions Billy has or is currently having with the other 29 teams. There are a fair number of quality relievers in the free agent and trade markets so it would not be a total surprise to see a guy like Parker or Bedrosian moved for another area of need and then Eppler uses either cash or trade chips to acquire another two-way reliever to replace him. If Billy does go after an additional bullpen piece in trade, I am putting my money on Brad Hand of the Padres. If he prefers free agency I am going with Addison Reed, Jake McGee, Mike Minor, or Yusmeiro Petit, but this search is so wide and broad it is simply anyone’s guess so feel free to insert your own favorite reliever into this discussion. In the next section we will cover the Middle Infield.

View the full article 2018 Primer Series: Rotation

A touchy subject for the last two years running, the Angels rotation appears to be heading towards a semblance of health as the team slides into the 2017-2018 off-season, but whether it stays that way is a different matter, so Billy Eppler will need to evaluate his options from a medical, seasonal, and a potential playoff point-of-view before Opening Day 2018 to determine if it is an area where the team stands pat or is in need of an upgrade. Before we go any further we need to examine which pitchers are currently at the AA level or higher, how many innings pitched (IP) they had in 2017, approximately how many IP they project to have in 2018, are they currently on the 40-man roster, and how many options they have left (the last is courtesy of as of 11/04/17): Typically a Major League team wants to be at least ten starters deep to begin any season, so the first thing that immediately jumps off the page is that the Angels already have significant rotation depth heading into 2018. If you count the prospects and subtract both the two injured players, Meyer and Ramirez, the Angels have sixteen potential starters which is excellent in terms of the number of warm bodies. However it is the quality, health, and length of those warm bodies that Eppler is probably more concerned with and, based on the last two years of significant rotation injuries, it is an area of risk that Billy will once again have to aggressively manage in 2018. So we all know that every team in the Majors wants and needs an “Ace” starting pitcher. This is the guy that runs out there every 5 days and gives you a really good chance to win the game on any given start. He is the guy you hand the ball to in Game 1 of the Division, League, and World Series Championships. He is the guy with the “filthy” stuff and the “bulldog” mentality. The “Ace” is the guy that gets it done and rights the ship if the team has hit a rough patch. Out of that group above the only player who has shown any consistency as an Ace is Garrett Richards. Unfortunately he has spent most of 2016 and 2017 on the disabled list, first with a serious knee injury and then an even more serious, partially torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL). Richards spent the last handful of weeks of the regular season rehabilitating his arm and throwing a minimal number of innings for the team (and looked good doing it). However the concern here, heading into the off-season, is not only his health but the fact that he will almost certainly be on an innings-pitched limit for the 2018 season. Simply put there are questions about his effectiveness (he needs to prove he is healthy) and how many innings he can throw for the Angels next season (including the playoffs if they make it). These are legitimate questions and concerns, particularly if we hit the post-season. Behind Richards, the young, but oft-injured Alex Meyer has shown glimpses of high-quality strikeout ability that hints at Ace-like potential but is often marred by control issues in the form of high walk rates. Unfortunately near the end of 2017 he had shoulder surgery that will likely keep him out all of next year. If he recovers well and stays healthy Alex could also prove to be a #1 starter himself but there is a lot of built-in risk here for Billy Eppler to reliably count on him as a starter heading into the 2019 season. The lost development time probably means that the bullpen is his likely landing spot if and when he does return. Taking a step down from the “Ace” moniker to the next rung of the ladder you have some other familiar names like Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, and Matt Shoemaker. Each of these men has the potential to flash moments where they dominate their competition and others where their mechanics fail them. These three more consistently show front or mid-rotation ability over an entire season. After this trio you have back-end starter types like Bridwell, Ramirez, Scribner, and Tropeano. On the prospect side you have names like Smith, Barria, Jewell, Morales, and Carpenter as potential reserve starters entering 2018. Barria and Jewell have more upside, perhaps mid-rotation level capability, than the rest. Basically, for 2018, the Angels have one “Ace”, a trio of mid-rotation types, several back-end starter types, and some prospects that can act as both mid and back-end rotation depth. So are the Angels in desperate need of another starter or can they run with what they have? Here is the rub regarding our rotation set-up in 2018. Eppler will want his best pitchers to be available and ready for the post-season if the Angels are in contention. Based on the chart above our top five pitchers are Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney, and one of J.C. Ramirez or Parker Bridwell, as the roster currently stands. Under normal circumstances that is a reasonably good rotation. The problem of course involves the number of innings that all five will be capable of throwing including any and all playoff appearances. A healthy, stretched-out starter can start 30 games and provide 175+ innings over a full MLB season and upwards of 200 or more if you add in playoff appearances. Richards has pitched a total of 27.2 innings in 2017. Last year he pitched 34.2 innings. Realistically asking him to pitch more than 120 innings or so, in 2018, could be problematic and possibly dangerous from a medical point-of-view. The likely scenario is that the Angels use Garrett sparingly, perhaps even out of the bullpen, for some portion of 2018. Heaney is also in the same boat. He pitched just 6 innings in 2016 and a whopping 49.1 in the last half of 2017 after he recovered from Tommy John Surgery (TJS). Shoemaker and Skaggs have thrown a total of 80.2 and 98.2 innings, respectively, in 2017. Even those two could be on a moderate leash next season. This of course assumes that these four are healthy and effective after suffering through their various ailments. It would be foolish for Billy Eppler to count on all of them bouncing back to full form. There is a lot of risk built-in to this quartet of starters for the 2018 season in terms of work load, durability, and effectiveness on the mound. So if four of your best starters have to be managed carefully what can Eppler do to mitigate this problem? One idea would be to use Richards and Heaney out of the bullpen for the first part of 2018 and then, when the time is right, slide them back into the rotation for the stretch run. This would put a cap on their inning totals and hopefully keep them fresh for when the team will need them the most. Alternatively the Angels could try running out a 6-man rotation where each starter would pitch every 6th or 7th day instead of the normal 5-day separation between starts. This too would put a cap on their total innings but would not be as strict as a half bullpen/half rotation stint would be. A third option would be to run out a trio of “bullpen” rotations where you have one or more starters pair up with one or two relievers to pitch a full game. For instance one day you could have Richards, Skaggs, and Pena split innings pitched (say 4/4/1, 5/2/2, or even 3/3/3), then the second day have Heaney, Shoemaker, and Tropeano do the same, and then the third day have Bridwell, Wood, and Paredes close out the series. That would leave Scioscia with 3-4 relievers (Bedrosian, Parker, Middleton, et al) to use in high leverage situations or if one of those “bullpen” starters gets in trouble. Realistically it would not be surprising to see Eppler and Scioscia choose a standard 5-man staff and open the 2018 season with a starting rotation of Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney, and Parker Bridwell. Alternatively Troy Scribner or possibly Nick Tropeano could be swapped out for one or more of those names. Also one or more of those starters could begin the year in the bullpen or possibly even the Minor Leagues (unlikely) in this scenario. Obviously having Garrett and Andrew in relief is not ideal, or perhaps even practical, but logically it is difficult to envision them as starters for the entire year based on our discussion above. Matt’s and Tyler’s recent injury histories only add to the overall concern. This whole situation screams for more stability at the top of the rotation for next season and the only way to do that is by making a trade for, or signing, a front- or middle-of-the-rotation starter. The Angels certainly have enough free payroll to do this as we discussed in the Financial section of this Primer series. This simply means that top free agent starters like Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta could be atop Billy’s wish list or maybe someone like Alex Cobb or Jaime Garcia might be more attractive to Eppler. If Shohei Otani is posted this off-season from Japan the Angels will almost assuredly pursue him to the best of their ability as he could potentially start and play left field or 1B (he is rumored to want a team that will play him as a two-way player). If free agency is not to Eppler’s liking he could pursue a trade instead. The Angels have enough prospect and player capital to pull off one big deal. However when you scan the top starters around the league the only name that might be readily available is the Rays Chris Archer whom was reportedly on the market recently. Certainly a top starter like Archer, if he is actually available in the off-season, would cost a lot for the Angels to acquire. Eppler would likely wind up paying some combination of MLB talent and top prospects when dealing with Tampa in this particular case. The conversation would probably start with one of our more controllable MLB pitchers such as Skaggs, Shoemaker, or Heaney and include one of our top outfield prospects, like Jones, Adell, or Marsh, along with someone like C.J. Cron and perhaps 1-2 additional, mid-to-lower level prospects. Alternatively it could be something like a package of Cam Bedrosian, C.J. Cron, Jordon Adell, Chris Rodriguez, and Taylor Ward for instance. It will cost this much because Archer’s contract is so unbelievably inexpensive ($4.25M AAV from 2018-2019 plus a $9M 2020 option and an $11M 2021 option). That would add an incredible advantage in regard to team payroll (AAV). Chris may be the most attractive name in current circulation but he is certainly not the only name the Angels could check in on. The Indians, after this season, may be ready to part with one of their top starters like Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar or possibly Bauer. Perhaps the Detroit Tigers would be willing to move Michael Fulmer or Daniel Norris as well. A rumor has circulated that the Blue Jays may deal Marcus Stroman too. A low payroll team like the Diamondbacks or Rockies might be willing to swing a deal for Patrick Corbin, Robbie Ray or Zack Godley or, in the case of Colorado, one of German Marquez, Jeff Hoffman, or Tyler Anderson.  Other names like Jose Urena, Kevin Gausman, Joe Biagini, and Matt Harvey could potentially be in play as well. The bottom line is that there are options for Billy to explore and pursue. Resources and money cannot buy happiness but they can potentially acquire a 95 mph fastball. Assuming our starting five come back and pitch the actual number of innings based on the projections above it is not unreasonable to believe that Richards, Skaggs, Shoemaker, Heaney, and Bridwell could improve the team by 4-5 wins. Combined with the addition of Upton for a full season and the Angels probably move from an 80 win team to 86-88 wins. Add in a competent 2B and 3B and you probably improve by another 2-4 wins on top of that, cresting 90 wins. Really this will come down to Eppler’s confidence in his ability to find pitching talent (which he has done well so far to-date) versus going with a more known entity with a strong track record in the Majors. Either way the team needs to add one more front- or middle-of-the-rotation starter for 2018 if they go with a traditional 5-man starting staff, otherwise, particularly if Eppler does not want to spend resources on the rotation, they need to find a strong, hybrid reliever/starter, multi-innings type to add to the mix. Below is the author’s best estimate of the most likely targets categorized by total price (payroll and/or prospect cost) in four bins: “High Price to Pay”, “Middle of the Road”, “Bargain Basement”, “Default Solution(s)”, and the last which is the “Author’s Choice”. High Price to Pay – Chris Archer Michael Fulmer Robbie Ray Corey Kluber Carlos Carrasco Zack Godley Tyler Anderson Jeff Hoffman Middle of the Road – German Marquez Danny Salazar Marcus Stroman Trevor Bauer Daniel Norris Jose Urena Joe Biagini Mike Minor Brad Hand Bargain Basement – Gio Gonzalez J.A. Happ Patrick Corbin Matt Harvey Default Solution(s) – Parker Bridwell Troy Scribner J.C. Ramirez (if healthy) Nick Tropeano (unlikely due to IP limit) Nate Smith Jaime Barria Jake Jewell Author’s Choice – If Eppler sticks with acquiring cost-controlled talent and wants to put a majority of his trade resources into someone, Chris Archer makes a lot of sense not only for the top of our rotation but for team cash flow as well. The Rays have to cut payroll this off-season and trading Archer is one possibility for them to do so. Adding another front-line starter like Archer would do wonders for our rotation in 2018, giving us a 1-2 punch of Chris and Garrett at the top, particularly if we make it to the playoffs. The extra bonus is the minuscule amount of AAV that Chris’ contract adds, giving Eppler additional payroll to use in free agency or trade now and moving forward. Alternatively the Angels could target someone with less years of control like Marcus Stroman. He would not help payroll quite as much but he has three years of arbitration control left and could still slot in as an Ace-like starter at the top of the rotation as well. If Eppler wants to convert another reliever type into a starter or a multi-inning reliever, Jose Urena, Brad Hand, or free agent Mike Minor strike me as targets Billy would have some level of interest in. Urena throws in the mid-90’s while Hand and Minor have some excellent peripherals. All three pitched quite a few innings this year in their respective roles. In the end Archer is probably out of reach or not available so I’m placing my money on Jose Urena. He has enough innings logged to enter our rotation and his high heat combined with a nice ground ball rate against RHP’s will fit in nicely with our defensive alignment. In the next section we will cover the Angels potential bullpen options.

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A Career Defining Off-season for Billy Eppler?

By Jason Sinner (aka, Dochalo), Contributor His name is Billy. Not William. At least everything that the google machine produces about him has his given name as such. Not sure why that’s interesting. Maybe it’s because you’d expect it to be conventional but it’s not. Just like Billy. Billy the greenhorn. At least that was my first impression. He’s not Jerry Dipoto. Not some camera kind socal surfer with easy words. And that’s a good thing as it turns out. So instead of Billy short for William, he’s just Billy. The guy who inherited a sub .500 team with a bloated payroll, zero international spending capability, and the worst farm system in baseball history as well as an apparent upper extremity plague affecting any pitcher in a clubhouse radius. Apparently, the rally monkey is actually virus carrying anti-god from the movie outbreak. That inheritance also included Michael Nelson Trout. He’s pretty good. Billy’s first order of business was to make our farm system worse by trading our top prospect and others for a defensive specialist. Actually, that was probably his second order of business. His first was to get a bigger boat and navigate the shark infested waters of the front office. Fast forward two years later. So far so good right? But let the expectations begin. So far, there really haven’t been any. If it wasn’t a mess, it would do till the mess got here. Well, the mess came and went and now we stand with a mediocre farm, international money, injuries healed (for the most part. maybe), kumbaya, payroll flexibility, and a major league roster that seems primed to take the next step forward. There are holes to fill, yes. But now it looks like there are some actual resources to fill them. Would it be a tremendous surprise to not make the playoffs in 2018? probably not. Yet, it would be disappointing if we remained mired in mediocrity. Over the next 5 months I have no doubt that we will parse out every last option and granulate every potential decision. It’s what we do. But the key component is that there are actual options. Lots of them. 2b, 3b, 1b. Do we trade Cron or Shoe or Kole? Do we tap into the farm? How much do we spend? A fairly savvy approach in just two years has put this franchise in a position we didn’t expect to be in two years ago. Pardon my frances, but don’t f**k it up now. Because the wrong trade or bad free agent move could turn that Viagra good feeling into the limp noodle of a Mike Trout departure. There are lots of decisions to be made in the coming months. I don’t know what the right ones are, but Billy, not William better because pressure has resurfaced. Spaulding, this calls for the old Billy Baroo. Oh, Billy, Billy, Billy.

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It’s Baseball for the Win

As Terrance Mann said, the one constant throughout all the years has been baseball. It’s in our DNA. It’s woven into the fabric of America. It’s more than just our national pastime; it teaches us everything from our concept of fairness to what is good in life. And, with so much of America fraying in one way or another, it’s not at all by accident that baseball once again comes to our rescue. While the culture wars rage in Hollywood and the NFL, and politics threatens to rip the country apart, baseball is there to bring us back together. In today’s society, it’s easy to be a cynic. With so many institutions seeming to fail, and so many leaders succumbing to their inner foibles, it’s easy to doubt the intentions of all things and all people. However, there is one thing in which I have never lost faith—that there are baseball gods and that they are good. Like Linus and the Great Pumpkin, I have never lost my faith in them and their watchful presence of the game. To me it seems easy to believe in them. How else can one explain the perfect balance of the game? Imagine if the bases were 100 feet apart instead of 90 feet . . . would there be more hits or fewer? Imagine if the ball weighed 2 ounces more than it does . . . would it be possible to hit homeruns? The symmetry and beauty of the game is so perfect that it couldn’t happen just by chance. No single person could have developed such a perfect balance. And with that in mind, I’d like to point out how they have been bringing us  as a nation back together, healing the country. There’s no doubt that bringing the World Series to Houston, after the horrible devastation wrought by hurricane Harvey, helped balance out the year for their fans. But that wasn’t the only time this decade that baseball shined as a tremendous force of good. Just a few years ago, after the Boston Marathon bombing, baseball brought the championship back to that city to help it heal. In fact, baseball in the 21st Century is having a golden age, as measured by the turnover in teams in the World Series. Of 30 current Major League teams, 19 of them have made it to the World Series. That’s over 60%! And, of those teams who made it to the World Series, 12 teams, or 40%, held the Commissioner’s Trophy by winning it all. That is an incredible amount of change. And with that change, comes hope for fans everywhere. As fans, we’ve seen historic losing streaks end in this century. The Cubs, Red Sox, and White Sox—all long suffering fanbases—finally got to see a championship. The Angels and Astros both won their first championships in their history. The Marlins and Rockies both made their first appearances in the World Series, and the Indians nearly ended their drought. It’s not like only the large market teams have won the World Series. Through proper drafting and key international signings, the Astros put together an incredibly dominant team. Three years ago, fans saw the same thing from the Royals. Sure, there have been teams composed heavily of free agents, but, small market teams have had success. Objectively, the system is working. And the series that they have been playing have been some of the most fun to watch for all fans. This momentum seems to be translating to the fans. After years of doom and gloom predictions, last month an interesting poll came out showing baseball as more popular than football. According to the Remington Survey Group, 30% of all adults listed baseball as their favorite sport whereas only 25% of all adults listed football. The spread between the sports—5%–was greater than the margin of error in the survey of 2.8%. Baseball hasn’t outpolled football in decades, and was a pleasant reminder of what is the true national pastime. As a diehard baseball fan, it was great to see that baseball is returning to its rightful place in our culture. As we once again head into the Hot Stove season, undoubtedly fans will argue and debate about trades and signings for their team. Some will see what their team does and brilliant; others will predict the demise of their franchise. As is the case with all things, it will be easy to cave to the forces of cynicism. But as we go through the Hot Stove season, it’s important to remember one thing. And that is that no matter how much we debate and speculate, we will never be able to predict what will happen next year. As baseball in the 21st Century has proven, all teams, and all fanbases have reason for hope. With so much disfunction in society, it’s good to know that there’s one constant where we can turn for hope. And that’s why it’s baseball for the win.

View the full article 2018 Primer Series: Eppler’s Strategy Part II

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer Edited by Members Chance Hevia (Inside Pitch) and Jason Sinner (Dochalo) Author’s Note: If you missed the first three installments of the 2018 Primer Series you can go back and read the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd posts. So how do the Angels fill one or more positional needs now, to improve the team for 2018, while handing out extensions to key players this off-season, or possibly next off-season, as well as keeping Mike Trout? The answer is, in-part, by acquiring, via trade, cost-controlled and arbitration-controlled players that will have a low impact to AAV and team payroll. Eppler knows that if he wants to keep specific, core players, we have now, reining in total payroll and the AAV of player contracts is critical. This will almost certainly be a primary focus heading into the off-season. If that is the case (and it logically makes sense) then Eppler is probably looking at high-quality players, on the trade market, that meet the cost, arbitration, and pre-arbitration controlled criteria. Remembering that we assumed Upton stays in Anaheim (and, as it turns out, he did!), here are some of the names the Angels might be looking at for our positions of high need (2B and SP) and positions of concern (3B, 1B, C, and RP): This is, by no means, a comprehensive and complete list, particularly because it does not consider most near-MLB ready prospects and many arbitration-eligible candidates, but it does highlight some of the more likely names that could be acquired this off-season. Whether they are within budget is another matter but this represents a broad array of salary ranges. One thing that jumps off the page is the potential number of keystone players and starters available. Those two positions have a greater supply which, in turn, could lead to slightly lower acquisition prices, particularly from teams that want or need to shed payroll. The starter market will certainly be more expensive than the 2B one without a doubt. For instance, if Eppler wants to go after a true ace like Chris Archer with four years of contractual control it will cost the team a lot in prospect and player capital including at least one, possibly two MLB players, and a package of 4-5 quality prospects. Archer would fetch that much because his yearly salary for 2018 and 2019 is insanely low. Once he hits his two option years his price goes up but it is still a very affordable $9M in 2020 and $11M in 2021. The very minimal impact of Chris’ salary to team payroll would be huge for the Angels and would allow Eppler to extend key players, including Trout, with little worry. Of course Archer may be completely out of the Angels reach, or not even available, so Eppler could, instead, target an arbitration-controlled starter like Marcus Stroman for example. He would still cost quite a bit in prospect and/or player capital but would probably leave us with enough trade resources to get a better quality 2B, like Cesar Hernandez, for instance. Then, alternatively, Eppler could spend the additional payroll saved on a 3B free agent like Mike Moustakas. Or, instead, the team could play Luis Valbuena at the hot corner in 2018 and then go after a free agent, like Josh Donaldson, or a trade target, like Nolan Arenado, in the 2018-2019 market. Beyond that Billy could forego a legitimate starter and acquire one or more multi-inning relievers to utilize in a hybrid starter/reliever “rotation” where someone like Richards starts a game on a limited pitch count and is eventually replaced by one or more relievers that can pitch multiple innings (say 2-3 innings each). It certainly is not unprecedented as the Angels used relievers like Yusmeiro Petit and Bud Norris in this very capacity in 2017. Jose Urena of the Marlins, Brad Hand of the Padres, or newly-crowned free agent Mike Minor would be good choices here. Of course the Angels could simply go after the only two-way threat in free agency as it seems possible that Japanese superstar Shohei Otani will be posted in the off-season. He has been called Japan’s “Babe Ruth”, throwing high-90’s heat, even touching triple digits, with the lumber to match. If the Angels somehow managed to acquire him they could potentially put him at 1B or in an OF utility role and fill a rotation spot all at the same time. It’s a long shot, however, because the Angels have spent roughly $3M-$4M of their $4.75M International Bonus pool. The new rules allow the Angels to acquire an additional 75% of their pool base (no more than $3.5625M) but unless they trade for more pool money, to hit their maximum cap of $4.3125M-$5.3125M, between now and the time Otani signs it’s probably a no-go. Otani would be another example of a low-impact to team payroll, at least in the very near-term. All of these examples are indicative of the multitude of permutations discussed at the beginning of Eppler’s Strategy Part I. In battle they call this the “Fog of War” and it applies to MLB free agent and trade negotiations just as much as it does in combat. Despite the many roads Eppler can take, the logic of using the trade market to acquire an arbitration or cost-controlled 2B solution seems to have a higher probability of happening, as an outside observer looking in. The market supply for the position is ripe, with a lot of low-hanging fruit that will not break the bank. This is good for the Angels because Billy has stated he wants to acquire players with robust on-base skills and, as he stated last year, a left-handed or switch-hitting bat, of which the trade market can definitely provide. Dee Gordon, Cesar Hernandez, Greg Garcia, Brad Miller, and Jason Kipnis are just some of those names Eppler could inquire about in the coming days if he has not done so already. Free agency also offers two good options in left-handed Neil Walker and right-handed Zack Cozart (a natural SS). Also, logically, it seems unlikely Billy will want to allocate $30M per year to sign a top-flight starter in free agency like Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish. Even someone like Alex Cobb will command $15M-$20M per season so Eppler will need to decide if losing significant prospect capital or a huge chunk of payroll (or doing nothing) is the route to take for a potential addition to the rotation. Now that the Angels have a 5-year guaranteed fresh coat of paint on Justin Upton’s contract they may feel more inclined to trade one of their top outfield prospects (Jahmai Jones, Jordon Adell, and Brandon Marsh) particularly if they feel comfortable that Mike Trout will sign an extension by Opening Day 2019. The implication is that if two of our outfield spots are locked up long-term, one, or even two, of that trio of prospects could become the foundation of a trade for one or more impact players to add to the Halos roster over the next three years (or more). Additionally other significant prospects like Chris Rodriguez, Jose Soriano, Jose Suarez, Taylor Ward, Nate Smith, and Matt Thaiss could also be on the block in the right trade scenario. Also if Eppler can rein in payroll, by acquiring low-cost, controllable MLB talent through trade(s), it could allow the Angels to pursue extension contracts with certain key players this off-season (and next). As we mentioned above, Garrett Richards strikes me as a really good candidate even if it is just a two or three year deal buying out his last arbitration season and one or two years of free agency. In the small sample of starts at the end of 2017, his peripherals looked really good and the team can probably negotiate a clause in his contract regarding his previous UCL injury, similar to what the Red Sox did with John Lackey. Other than the slight UCL tear, his arm has little wear and tear, in terms of IP, and his upside is high so a short-term (3 years, $30M-$35M) or long-term (6 years, $90M) deal could be appealing to both sides (and also to the third side, Mike Trout, his good friend). Beyond Richards, one other player seems like a prime extension candidate this off-season: Martin Maldonado. “Machete” has been widely praised by Mike Scioscia and the coaching staff. His leadership, ability to call games, good relationship with the teams starters, and ability to control the running game are all big pluses for the team. Earlier this season Mark Gubicza said, live on-the-air, that Scioscia thinks of Martin as an extra coach on the field which is not insignificant praise. He is also a 2017 Gold Glove candidate in addition to his Fielding Bible award. A Maldonado extension would probably buy out his last year of arbitration control plus an additional 3-4 years at an AAV of about $6M-8M per season (something like 5 years, $30M-40M). There are other possible extension candidates including, obviously, Mike Trout (probably will not happen until next off-season), Andrelton Simmons (also possibly in the 2018-2019 off-season), pretty much all of the starting rotation (Skaggs, Shoemaker, and Heaney), and perhaps someone like Cam Bedrosian. The Angels could even consider simply buying out one or more player’s remaining arbitration years of control to help achieve some incremental cost-savings in the near-term. This tactic could potentially be worthwhile for other players, too, like Blake Parker, C.J. Cron, or J.C. Ramirez for example. So if our assumption about extending Trout turns out to be true and the health of the team improves, the Angels will be well positioned to use their monetary and prospect resources now, next year, or both to build a contending, sustainable team over the next several seasons. Now certainly Billy will not be able to keep every player that is currently on the roster through 2020 and beyond but he should be able to trade away expiring or increasingly expensive contracts for players and/or prospect talent to replace any farm system assets he has to use this off-season or next to improve the team in this current, 3-year window of contention. This replenishment process will help build for the future beyond 2020 as well. As examples C.J. Cron, J.C. Ramirez, and Matt Shoemaker are set to make increasingly greater sums of money through the arbitration process over the next three years if they are not extended or do not have one or more of their arbitration and free agent seasons bought out by the team. One or more of them might not see the 2019 or 2020 seasons in a Halos uniform, particularly since we have prospects like Barria, Jewell, Smith, and Thaiss who can potentially replace them on the roster. This ebb and flow of higher-paid players in and out of the system should start to occur more frequently, creating a more sustainable influx of talented young players to add to those key prospects moving through our farm system. By the end of 2020 the Angels should begin to see more homegrown talent than they have had in recent years, which will allow the team to compete well into the next decade, barring a rash of trade deadline deals or bad health and luck. Eppler appears to have a workable strategy and set of resources in place to succeed with Mike Trout’s current contract including the ability to extend him for the rest of his career. All he has to do is simply show Mike the potential of this Angels team, so this 2017-2018 off-season should be an eventful one, in that regard, once Billy has finally put his fingerprints and mark on this 2018 squad.

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Justin Upton re-ups in Anaheim

Less than 24 hours after the Houston Astros won a decisive Game 7 of the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim wasted no time making their blueprint on this upcoming offseason. Justin Upton, whom the Angels acquired on the last day of the waiver trade deadline on August 31st, will remain in Anaheim for 5 more years. Upton had 4 years and 88.5 million dollars remaining on his original deal that the Detroit Tigers handed him before 2016 but his opt out had many speculating he’d explore free agency. Instead, the Angels and Upton essentially added on an extra year to his current deal, dropping his Annual Average Value(AAV) from 22 million to 21.2 million. This move doesn’t come as a huge shocker, given the Angels gave up 2 solid pitching prospects in Grayson Long and Elvin Rodriguez to acquire Upton. Watching him leave in free agency after only keeping him for a grand total of 27 games wouldn’t have been ideal. While the Angels were unsuccessful in making the playoffs, Upton pulled his weight, hitting .245/.357/.531 in his 115 plate appearances with the Angels. Upton’s 2017 season in general in was a huge success, as he set a career high with a .540 slugging percentage and posted the 2nd best fWAR(Fangraphs WAR), with a 5.0 mark, and bWAR(Baseball Reference WAR), with a 5.7 mark. While Upton’s 2017 season was a big success, it’s probably fair to question if he’ll sustain that production. Nothing in his peripheral numbers changed much, with his walk rate, contact rate, fly ball rate and home run/fly ball ratio not differing from his career norms. He even saw his average exit velocity drop from 91.4 mph in 2016 to 88.8 mph in 2017. Like many players in 2017, Upton’s improvements may be due to the “juiced” baseballs that soared over fences at record rates this season. Even if he does regress back to his career norms, Upton is a 3-3.5 win player who consistently posts well above average offensive numbers, plays good defense in left field and runs well. At 30 years old, there’s likely a few more productive season left in the tank before he starts seeing some sort of decline. For the Angels, Upton’s high floor/high upside combination is very welcomed. With no real outfield prospects on the horizon outside of Michael Hermosillo, Upton fills a hole that desperately needed to be plugged. With left field and the #3/4 spot in the lineup filled, the Angels will now have to address the other elephants in the room, namely a new third baseman, second baseman and several pitchers. Luckily, Angels General Manager Billy Eppler created some flexibility with this new deal. Upton will only make 16 million dollars in 2018, with incremental raises coming each following year until he makes 28 million dollars in 2022. This is advantageous for the Angels as they try to fit more talent into the 2018-2020 window, the last 3 years Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons are under club control for. Even with this signing, the Angels are looking at roughly 30-35 million dollars to spend per year on new players. This signing shows the Angels view 2018 as a competitive year and with a few more splashes, the team could be a real threat to compete for a playoff spot in 2018. With this being just the first day of the offseason, there’s plenty more to expect the rest of this Hot Stove Season.

View the full article 2018 Primer Series: Eppler’s Strategy Part I

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer Edited by Members Chance Hevia (Inside Pitch) and Jason Sinner (Dochalo) **** EDIT: Immediately prior to publication the Angels struck early again in the off-season signing Justin Upton to a 5-year, $106M deal. The article has not been altered but realize that Justin is an Angel for the next 5 seasons, solving our LF problem long-term **** We determined in the previous Introduction and Financial articles that team payroll is significantly improved for the 2017-2018 off-season, the farm system is quickly growing roots, and there are few, if any, barriers standing in Billy Eppler’s way. So now, utilizing that information, what can we infer about how Billy Eppler will proceed moving forward? What is the Angels strategy for the upcoming off-season and beyond? First we must caveat this whole discussion with the understanding that there are so many permutations and paths Billy can take that it is impossible to predict with any exact accuracy what the outcome will be for the Angels 40-man roster heading into 2018. As fans we simply lack sufficient information about who may or may not be available in trade, professional scouting reports on any particular player, and which free agents are actually willing to sign with the Halos for a price that the team feels comfortable with from a payroll perspective. This does not mean that the following article is not a useful exercise, just that getting the particulars right is a difficult endeavor. The core of this off-season’s strategy, of course, involves building a contending team around Mike Trout. It is perhaps the best chance the Angels have ever had, in the history of the franchise, to make a deep playoff run and potentially win another World Series (yes, even better than 2002). To waste that opportunity by blowing off any of those precious years would be an exercise in pure foolishness. Arte Moreno, Billy Eppler, and the entire front office staff are assuredly 100% aware of the urgency and it is a near certainty that their off-season transactions will reflect that top priority to win now, not later. This simply means that if a player or prospect is not an integral part of the next three seasons they could be on the trade block. It also means that spending should begin to flow again, perhaps heavily, over the same period. Moreno and Eppler need to expertly and tactically pull out all the stops and go all-in to win without decimating our long-term outlook, i.e. retaining key players and prospects for after the dust has settled in 2020. In addition to contending over those three years, setting the groundwork (if it is not already laid out) to sign Trout to a record-breaking contract extension is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do when you project his plausible, likely production into his mid-to-late 30’s (see the upcoming Outfield section to understand his probable value). Based on the idea that they want him to stay, the Angels need to do the following, now, to help realize that short-term window and prepare for their future and, hopefully long-term, investment in their Hall of Fame-bound superstar: Make sure they have, moving forward, at least $16M-20M in additional AAV payroll space to bring Trout’s current $24MM AAV up to the $40M+ that will be needed to extend him which they will have after Dec. 2nd of this year Use the teams financial muscle to acquire free agents or trade for players that improve or compliment the core members of the team and surround Mike Trout with competent, capable teammates Continue to build the Minor League farm system and only trade away pieces that, either, a ) are non-essential to the team’s success moving forward or b ) bring back an impact player at a position of need Communicate with Mike on a regular basis about what their plan is and their desire to keep him and then show him their intent by executing on the above and improving the team So how do the Angels execute this overarching strategy to extend Trout and build a winning franchise around the “KIIIIID”? Here we need to follow the logic. First we will make an assumption that Justin Upton remains. This is based partly on the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher’s reporting, Upton’s own words, and Justin’s dubious odds to see much of a raise in free agency. The Angels may extend an olive branch and renegotiate his contract to add an extra season or two, offer a full no-trade clause, or even give him a slight raise, but right now the odds appear to be in favor of him remaining with the team. Even if Upton leaves there are other comparable options in free agency and trade we could acquire. Also, realistically, when you look at the organization as a whole it becomes clear that Eppler has enough prospect ammunition to execute one really significant trade and is probably willing to expend payroll on one genuinely significant free agent. He could do more (and he might) but to do so would rapidly deplete the farm system and quickly tie up our payroll moving forward which he may not want to do at this juncture. Currently, the Angels have approximately $75M in AAV to spend if they so desire this year. This number reflects Upton opting-out and the Angels declining Huston Street’s and Ricky Nolasco’s team options. The latter two, at this point, are almost assuredly gone next season. So if we are making the assumption that Upton (or another high profile outfield choice) stays at, or near, his current AAV, the Angels will have about $50M left to spend before hitting the CBT threshold for 2018 of $197M, assuming Arte authorizes and allows it (not guaranteed). Billy will need to carefully allocate and spend this money to improve the team for next season while maintaining flexibility for future extensions and moves beyond 2018. Managing payroll is a lot more critical than the casual fan may realize. Eppler knows that in order to curtail the artificial ceiling created by the Luxury Tax threshold, he needs to optimize his budget by acquiring specific players that fit the Angels short and long term needs. He is also hampered a bit by contractual and arbitration obligations. Also, not only do the Angels need to fill holes around the diamond this off-season, they have to at least be considering extension contracts for players like Martin Maldonado and Garrett Richards. Machete just won the 2017 Fielding Bible award for defense and Richards is an above average, if not great, rotation arm. Additionally, if retaining Mike Trout is the goal, as we assume from 1. above, then planning for his extension has to be included too. We are already eating up a lot of that money and we have not even considered an extension for someone like Andrelton Simmons yet either. In the next Section we will continue our discussion of Eppler’s Strategy heading into the off-season.

View the full article 2018 Primer Series: Finances

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer Edited by Members Chance Hevia (Inside Pitch) and Jason Sinner (Dochalo) Now that we have established some of the Angels primary goals, restrictions, and needs we can take a deeper dive into the teams projected finances heading into the off-season. As it currently stands, if Justin Upton elects to not opt-out and the Angels bring back all of their contractually controlled (including team options), pre-arbitration eligible, and arbitration eligible players and you add in team benefits and any/all payouts (option buyouts, dead contracts, etc.), projected salary (actual) and AAV will be approximately $181.5M and $165.3M, respectively, as seen below: First of all you may notice that the ‘Payouts’ line is empty heading into the off-season. This is, of course, due to Josh Hamilton’s contract finally falling off of the books, freeing up a lot of money that can be applied this season. However the ‘Payouts’ line will probably change slightly once the 2017 season is over because the Angels are unlikely to exercise Huston Street’s $10M team option which will result in a $1M buy-out added to the table above (a net $9M savings). Once this very probable event occurs, it will lower actual and AAV payroll to approximately $172,504,800 and $156,323,848, respectively. Beyond Street, Ricky Nolasco has a clause in his contract that if he exceeds 400 innings pitched, between 2016 and 2017, his 2018 option becomes a player option. The 2012-2016 version of the CBA, Section E (5) (a) (iii), states that if an option year can potentially be both a team and a player option, that option year will be considered a guaranteed year for the purposes of AAV calculation. Simply put Ricky’s option year appears to count towards AAV whereas if it was only a club option it would not. Note that the new CBA clearly states that any year in a multi-year contract that is not a guaranteed year shall be treated as a club option year for the purposes of AAV (2017-2021 CBA, Article XXIII, Section E, (5), (a), (i)). If the Angels elect to decline his option, total AAV will drop by an additional $12.2M. Fortunately, here, when Eppler moved Hector Santiago to the Twins he convinced Minnesota to cover Ricky’s $1M buyout so the Halos will not be on the hook for it if they do part ways with Nolasco. If this happens, the actual and AAV ledgers will decrease to $159,505,800 and $144,123,848, severally. Additionally if Justin Upton elects to opt-out of his contract, actual and AAV payroll will decrease by an additional $22.125M each, down to $137,379,800 and $121,998,848, with the latter a cool $75,001,152 below the CBT threshold ($197M for 2018). Several Angels players including Martin Maldonado, C.J. Cron, Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney, Cam Bedrosian, J.C. Ramirez (he appears to have reached Super-Two status), Eric Young Jr., Blake Wood, Jose Alvarez, Shane Robinson, and Blake Parker are all arbitration eligible in 2018. The projected arbitration numbers, in the table above, were obtained from They publish an annual snapshot of all arbitration controlled players, by team, and their projected salaries. Their system has proven to be reliably accurate over the years and the projected salaries for each of the Angels players, listed above, should not vary too widely, resulting in a negligible impact to this payroll discussion. Additionally certain players, like Carlos Perez and Jefry Marte, had 2017 salaries that were slightly higher than the league minimum salary, per The author has made rough estimates of 2018 increases for those particular players. These estimates, if off, should also have a negligible impact to the payroll discussion. The league minimum player salary for 2018 is $545,700, a $10K increase over last year. This, of course, applies to most of the pre-arbitration players except for the two listed in the paragraph above. Please remember that any player not on the 25-man roster receives only Minor League pay unless their contract says otherwise. This simply means that the total payroll number, above, will be offset by about $2M-4M due to roster fluctuation throughout the 2018 season so please keep that in mind. Per Section XXIII, D.(1)(g) of the new CBA, in 2017 the total Player Benefit Costs were $219,300,000 which equates to $7,310,000 per club. Starting in 2018, and each year thereafter, that total cost will be the higher of either 6% or the annual rate of increase of all player salaries combined from the previous season to the new season per Article XXIII, Section D, (2). Basically if total player salaries, across MLB, increase significantly from one season to the next it could likely result in a percentage increase to Player Benefit Costs above the standard 6%. We may see evidence of this in 2019 if the 2018-2019 free agent class appreciably increases total player salaries. For the purposes of this article we will use the 6% number for next season which means $219,300,000 x 6% = $232,458,000 (which equates to $7,748,600 per club). Based on research in previous Primer series articles, from 2015 and 2016, this appears to be a significant decrease (about 35%-40%) in cost for player benefits. A firm benefits number is a bit nebulous here, due to the new CBA, so it may be slightly higher or lower but the difference is small and will only marginally impact Angels payroll each season and the results of this discussion. Also the stadium question, posed last year, seems to have been put to rest as Arte Moreno has decided to remain in Anaheim stadium through the 2029 season per their original lease agreement. Instead they will focus on renovations over the next 13 seasons to the tune of an estimated $40 million capital outlay. Essentially Arte has punted this decision way down the line to a time and place where he may not even be the owner of the team. In the end, though, Billy Eppler should have good to very good payroll flexibility once the current financial year closes on December 2nd, 2017. This will allow him to target virtually any player he likes whether it is in trade or through free agency to help reinforce the 2018 Halos. As was stated over the last three years, the caveat to this financial discussion is that Arte has consistently and fully funded team payroll during his time as owner so these perceived cash-related issues and thresholds may just be guidelines and could be violated at Moreno’s whim. In fact Arte did go over the Luxury Tax threshold once back in 2004, albeit, by a measly $927,000. One potential roadblock that could curtail spending is actual team payroll  which is about $15M-$16M higher than AAV. If Moreno does not allow Eppler to go over a specific number, say $190M (versus the CBT threshold of $197M) in actual payroll, then Billy will not be able to fully utilize all of the Luxury Tax space available. On the other hand, Arte probably could authorize and handle a measured increase but by how much is anyone’s guess due to our lack of complete team financial information and insight into Moreno’s economical approach to spending. Remember that the team pulls in an annual sum of $150M from their cable deal plus an unknown amount from their partial control of the Fox Sports West Regional Sports Network (RSN) in addition to ticket ($104M in 2017) and merchandise sales. Also, in this past year, the team pulled in $68.1M in operating income, per Forbes, continuing a 4-year trend of rising income. The crux is that a significant increase in payroll, even over a short 3-year period, would, in probably the worst case, make the team break-even, i.e. Arte would likely still profit, albeit in the slimmest meaning of the term, if he makes this aggressive, bold move to spend in this window. After 2020 the Angels can bring payroll back under the CBT threshold and reset their tax rate to avoid the most severe penalties under the new CBA. In the end Moreno completely controls how far the Angels dive in, but it seems crystal clear that Eppler has set a path that will allow Arte to choose exactly how much money is spent, how many resources are expended and where they are applied, and even how long we stay in the deep-end of the pool, which gives Moreno a great deal of leeway to get involved as much or as little as he desires. As part of last year’s Primer we discussed, briefly, the opportunity the Angels missed to exceed the CBT threshold in the 2015-2016 off-season. In hindsight that actually proved to be a blessing for the team heading into 2018 as the Angels have shed bad contracts and are better positioned to address the challenges of the new season (and beyond). To illustrate that here is a snapshot of the guaranteed contractual money owed to Angels players in the coming seasons: The Angels currently have six guaranteed contracts to pay in 2018 for Trout, Pujols, Upton (if he does not opt-out), Calhoun, Simmons, and Valbuena, totaling $94,494,048. If the Angels do not hand out any more guaranteed deals before Dec. 2nd, 2019 and they decline Luis’ team option, the total guaranteed money owed in that season will decrease to $86,827,381. In the following year, currently Mike Trout’s last season of guaranteed control, the total guaranteed money currently projects to be $78,494,048 if the Angels decline Kole’s team option. It will be $92,494,048 if the team retains Calhoun. Finally, if Andrelton Simmons is not extended and he departs and the unthinkable happens and Mike Trout leaves, the Angels guaranteed money owed drops to $46,125,000 in 2021, the last year of Albert’s and Justin’s (current) contracts. The good news here is that the Angels look really sound, financially, heading into this off-season. We have relatively few guaranteed commitments resulting in a reasonable impact to team payroll in terms of AAV. However it should be noted that the Angels have a large group of qualified players heading into their 2nd year of arbitration control in 2019. This will result in a lot more money being allocated to pay their salaries so although our guaranteed commitments are decreasing, the teams arbitration numbers will rise resulting in a net, but mitigated, decrease. This situation worsens in 2020 when a lot of these players hit their 3rd year of arbitration which will likely result in Eppler trading one or more of them away for prospects and replacing them with internal, trade, or free agent solutions to assuage payroll concerns. Despite the arbitration rise, the freedom of those decreasing guaranteed commitments leaves enough room for the Angels to extend Mike Trout, in the next year or two, likely sometime before Opening Day 2019. Frankly there are virtually zero roadblocks in Eppler’s way to re-sign Trout other than Moreno’s willingness to spend which, honestly, has never been an issue. In particular that potential extension seems most likely to occur after the 2018-2019 free agent market has dolled out record contracts to Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, and Manny Machado. Once they have set the bar, the Angels will know what they have to do to secure Mike for the rest of his career (Hint: It is a mind-bogglingly big number which will be discussed in the Outfield section). Mike Trout himself is fully aware that the Angels are trying to improve the team to convince him to eventually sign a career-long extension. Jeff Fletcher quoted him in an October 1st, 2017 article, saying, ““It’s going to be a crazy off-season, … We’ve got a lot of money freed up. It’s going to be interesting. I like the direction we’re going.” The bottom-line is that the Angels are entering the 2017-2018 off-season with solid financial flexibility, a core group of competent players to compliment Mike Trout (and the ability to acquire more), and a rapidly growing farm system to increasingly draw upon as needed in the coming seasons. We may look back and point to this off-season as the turning point for a sustained run over the next several years. Just remember, as we said above, that Arte Moreno holds all of the cards in terms of how far the Angels push, from 2018-2020, in terms of payroll. Although our actual and AAV payroll numbers posted above could be off by as much as $10M, due to imperfect financial insight and information, in the end Eppler can only go as far as the owner will let him. Angels fans should temper their most fantastic expectations in 2018 as it is unlikely that the Angels will exceed the CBT threshold this upcoming season in favor of keeping that option open for 2019 and 2020, instead. Billy will improve the team, for sure, but the Angels will probably stay within their means and under the 2018 CBT threshold of $197M (AAV), probably sitting at an actual payroll of absolutely no more than $195M, if that. In the next section we will discuss Eppler’s possible off-season strategy.

View the full article 2018 Primer Series: Introduction

By Robert Cunningham, Senior Writer Edited by Members Chance Hevia (Inside Pitch) and Jason Sinner (Dochalo) Author’s Note: The author does not have full access to complete team financial data so the numbers contained in this series represent either actual, published contractual details or best estimates. Great effort was made to provide factual evidence and details using reliable sources such as,,,,,,,,,, (specifically Jeff Fletcher), and among others. Despite Billy Eppler’s best efforts to put a contending team on the field in 2017, the Angels unfortunately fell short of their goal to enter the post-season. It is always a disappointment when you do not make it to the playoffs so he and owner Arte Moreno will now take steps to improve the team and prepare for next year and beyond. Again, as we have done over the last three years, the conversation for the 2018 season needs to start by discussing and understanding the Angels goals, restrictions, and short and long term needs. First of all the primary goal each and every year is to put the highest-caliber team on the field of play to secure and bring home a World Series Championship. This key objective is the “parent” of every other goal, restriction, and need that Billy Eppler must address in preparation for Opening Day 2018. One all-encompassing, critical item, that is both a goal, restriction, and need is superstar Mike Trout. The goal is to win while you still have him on your roster which of course means competing heavily over the next three seasons, from 2018-2020. It is also a serious restriction because it drives a large portion of front office decision-making into a well-defined window. This window demands that front office actions and decisions be made on a shorter time frame than, say, a traditional 5-year outlook that many clubs utilize. This is not to say that Eppler and the front office do not have a long-term outlook, it is just acknowledging the fact that their perspective is weighted very heavily toward the next three seasons. Finally it is a need in the sense that it will be the driving factor for Eppler to acquire competent players to surround Trout, the nucleus of the team, over that period of time. Beyond the goals of winning a World Series Championship and building the team around Mike Trout, the Angels must manage team payroll, follow the rules of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), build and manage the front office and coaching staff, continue to construct a top-tier Minor League farm system, and fill several positional needs around the diamond. One factor in Billy Eppler’s favor this season is the significant increase in Average Annual Value (AAV) that opens up with the merciful expiration of Josh Hamilton’s contract and the departure of multiple free agents alleviating a tight restriction the team faced in recent years. Currently that free payroll projects to be approximately $31M, in AAV, and could be even higher if Justin Upton elects to opt-out of his contract and the Angels do not pick up one or two key option decisions regarding Ricky Nolasco and Huston Street. The subtraction of all three would leave Eppler with just over $75M to work with this off-season while staying under the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT, more commonly known as the Luxury Tax) threshold. Last year owner Arte Moreno made some comments that the Halos would be willing to exceed the CBT threshold and that he did not view it as a “hard cap on his spending”. In the year prior Moreno felt the same and was quoted saying, “If it’s the right player, in the right situation, we’ll do whatever is needed.”, in regard to the Luxury Tax not being a deterrent. So will this be the year, now that the Hamilton nightmare is behind him, that he becomes emboldened and empowers his General Manager (GM) to possibly exceed that artificial ceiling? Or will the team stay under that soft barrier one more year to possibly strike in the very strong 2018-2019 free agent class? Whether you like or dislike Moreno as an owner, it is difficult to characterize him as one who does not want to win or spend. Despite the obvious blunders of Gary Matthews Jr., Vernon Wells, and Josh Hamilton, over the years, he has consistently supported large payrolls from the moment he bought the Angels which is better than most teams in Major League Baseball (MLB). Per the new CBA, the CBT threshold for 2018 is $197M in AAV. In the following season it will be $206M, a significant increase of $9M. This, combined with the available options in trade and free agency prior to 2018, could impact Moreno’s decision to open his pocketbook or his choice to exceed the Luxury Tax. To be perfectly frank, if there was ever a time to do it in the history of the Angels franchise, the next three years would be the ideal time to do so. Rarely does a franchise have such an exceptional talent like Mike Trout. Never have the Angels had such a unique opportunity to build a true World Series-bound contender with such a special, Hall of Fame-bound, player in-tow. Moreno assuredly recognizes the potential, special nature of the squad heading into 2018 and may be willing to allow Eppler to spend more freely and get creative in the types and lengths of any contracts he may hand out. Early opt-outs for large mega-signings, significant performance bonuses, or short-term, high salary deals could be contractual instruments that Billy utilizes to bring in top-tier talent if Moreno puts his blessing on it. No matter what decision is made regarding how much payroll the Halos will add, prior to the start of 2018, one thing feels quite certain: the Angels will be a greatly improved team on Opening Day. Billy Eppler, despite his burgeoning supply of prospects, will have marketable assets and a tremendous amount of payroll space, as noted above, to apply in trade(s) and free agency. Eppler will use these resources to fill most, if not all, of our open positions with either long-term controllable players and prospects or short-term rental players, not unlike what he did in 2017, to either satisfy our long-term needs for 2018 and beyond or bridge the gap to the free agent class in the following 2018-2019 off-season where there may be better, long-term players to purchase on the market. For the purposes of this series, though, we will assume that Arte Moreno does not allow his GM to exceed the Luxury Tax next year. This means we will operate under the presumption that team payroll, in terms of AAV, will not go over the 2018 CBT threshold of $197M. The result is that the Angels will likely spend no more than $185M, give or take, to start the season. The reason for that is the team needs to maintain payroll margin in order to make potential trades in-season or before the July 31st deadline to reinforce or upgrade their roster. Keeping a few million in reserve maintains roster flexibility and is a common business practice that Billy Eppler may, or may not, follow based on acquisition opportunities, team performance, and/or firm instructions and concurrence from Moreno regarding payroll expenditures and/or permission to exceed the CBT threshold. Beyond payroll, another very important goal is the continuing growth and development of the Angels Minor League farm system. The Angels had an average draft in 2015, an above average one in 2016, followed by a top-heavy draft in 2017. Names like Chris Rodriguez, Jordon Adell, Jahmai Jones, Brandon Marsh, Griffin Canning, Cole Duensing, Nonie Williams, Jose Rojas, and Matt Thaiss are just some of the names Halos fans should keep an eye on in the coming years. Some of them will form the core of the next great Angels team in 2020 and beyond (maybe sooner!). Also, for the first time in quite a while, the Angels have aggressively and competitively re-entered the international market as well. They signed both 19th ranked Trent Deveaux and 37th ranked D’Shawn Knowles from the Bahamas as well as other prospects from Panama, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic once the July 2nd signing period began. Looking out into the future, names that fans should keep an eye on here include Deveaux and Knowles, from above, and other young prospects like Leonardo Rivas, Jose Suarez, and Jose Soriano who were taken in previous international drafts. These young prospects have a long way to go but one or more of them will hopefully fill a future need on the Major League roster or act as strong prospect currency in a trade. Part of this more recent success has to do not only with better overall draft picks (the Angels had a protected 10th round pick this year that they used on Adell) but the strong efforts of Billy Eppler, newly appointed Scouting Director Matt Swanson, and the tireless work of the Angels cross-checkers and scouts around the country. It really feels like the organization has turned a corner for the better here, both in the U.S. and abroad. Yet another goal Billy Eppler must address are the multiple positional holes to fill including 2B, 3B, LF (if Upton opts-out of his contract), C (backup), and possibly 1B. The team also needs to improve offensive production against both left-handed and right-handed pitching. Billy will also need to ensure the Angels find a quality lead-off hitter as well as another big bat, if not two, to bolster the lineup. Also, the rotation is unsettled so adding a front line starter would do wonders for our chances next season. Even the bullpen could use another back-end type reliever but it does not necessarily have to be a high-end closer as Cam Bedrosian, Blake Parker, and Keynan Middleton all have the potential to handle high leverage situations. As he tried to do in 2017, Billy will need to build sufficient depth behind the 25-man roster, particularly in position player and rotation depth. Some of that payroll is almost certainly earmarked for a veteran utility outfielder and it would not be surprising to see Eppler expertly work the waiver wire, again, to supplement the 2018 team. Without a doubt there are many challenges here for Billy and the front office to handle. Eppler will have to use his talented scouting system to identify the targets they need and want to acquire and either spend the cash and/or the farm system assets needed to obtain them. If 2017 was any indication of his tactical and strategic ability to develop the team, Angels fans should rest well in their beds at night moving forward. Also, just prior to the publication of this opening article, the Angels hired former Major League player Eric Hinske to be their new hitting coach. Hinske had a 12-year career in the Major Leagues including three consecutive trips to the World Series (2007-2009) which should be an added bonus to an improved Angels squad in 2018 and beyond. Finally, Arte Moreno and Billy Eppler will have to address the elephant in the room: Mike Scioscia’s contract expires at the end of 2018 and there has been nothing but radio silence from the top, on down, regarding an extension. To be perfectly frank and honest, as much as Mike Scioscia has frustrated Angels fans with leaving a starter in too long or bringing in a reliever the fans hate, he is a competent manager that runs a consistently tight ship, and is perhaps one of the most intelligent skippers in all of baseball. This could go either way, likely coming down to whether Scioscia wants to retire or take on a different challenge. Baseball is in his blood and he has been an integral part of this organization for 15 years. The reality is that he will likely stay, at least a little bit longer than just next season, and truthfully the team could do a lot worse. It would not be surprising to see Scioscia get an extension for another handful of years to bridge to a potential date and time where he may really want to retire. The smart thing to do here, barring a sea change in the managerial free agent pool, is to retain him a while longer. Starting in 2018 things will begin to really improve in Anaheim. The team will be truly competitive. The farm system, despite the likely, potential, coming trades, will grow. The future success of the franchise is being set no matter whether the Angels retain Mike Trout or he departs during or after the 2020 season. The incremental steps laid by Billy Eppler yesterday, today, and tomorrow should put this organization back on the path to regular, yearly contention over the next several years. In the next Section we will discuss the teams finances heading into the off-season.

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Last Week in Angels Baseball: The Penultimate Edition

By Glen McKee, Something or Other When I came back from camping last Sunday the Angels still had a chance at the second wild card spot in the AL.  Technically speaking, they still do, but yeah, I know.  It’s over.  Last week was the equivalent of driving down the road at 55 mph and then suddenly and simultaneously getting four flat tires. We shouldn’t be surprised, though.  The Angels jalopy has been driving all year behind a truck with a bed full of nails and for some strange reason, a fan blowing those nails onto the road.  It’s no surprise that this happened, it’s a surprise that the team made it this far. The bad.  Obviously, you start with the 1-5 record and work your way down from there.  Everything about the team was inconsistent but most of the time, the Angels were playing from a deficit even when the starters did well.  The Angels scored 18 runs in six games, making for some easy math to figure out they averaged a sad three runs per game.  They gave up 30 runs in those six games, making for more easy math: five runs per game.  The Angels had a -12 run differential last week during a crucial stretch.  Welp. Mike Trout – Trout continued his September to disremember, hitting .217 last week but showing some faint signs of a pulse yesterday.  He’s hitting .233 for September with two home runs.  Trout’s slump has been discussed enough on the board, so let’s move on. Yusmeiro Petit – Yusmeiro has been nails for us most of the year so it’s hard to get down on him.  He just ran out of gas last week, pitching in three games and losing two of them while posting a 20.25 ERA.  Yikes.  He still has a 2.64 ERA on the season, almost two runs below his career average. Eduardo Parades – This week he turned back into Eduardo Parades, giving up five runs in 2.1 innings over two appearances.  His ERA for the season is now 4.71. CJ Cron – Cron disappeared last week, hitting .158 but managing to hit a home run that nobody other than AO will remember. Andrelton Simmons – He was slightly better than Cron, hitting .182 last week. This list could go on and on, but it’s already giving me a sadgasm so let’s move on. The good.  What, there was good last week?  Of course there was!  Let’s look at the few things that pierced the funk that was last week. Justin Upton – He only hit .241 last week but he had four home runs and five RBI.  Those five RBI were more than 25% of the Angels runs scored last week.  He’s making a pitch to be the Angels LF again next year, even if he opts out.  Seven HR and an OPS of 1.021 in September.  I know, it’s a walk year of sorts and beware of stats put up in said years.  Just think about how many players have come to the Angels and tanked (not Tanked, which is going vegetarian).  He’s worth a shot for next year. Garrett Richards – You have no idea how happy it makes me see him make this list.  Six IP, zero ER against Houston.  An ERA of 1.76 and a WHIP of 0.72 for September.  My only regret about this season ending is that we won’t get to see more of him, but he’s giving us hope that next year we’ll have Ace Richards. Ricky Nolasco – Five IP, two ER is good for Nolasco.  He starts again today, which means he’ll get another start later this week just so we can see him one more time.  After that, it’s Godspeed, Ricky.  I’m sure you’ll sign with another team next year and have an ERA in the threes. Keynan Middleton –  This cat is interesting.  He has the stuff to be a closer and I think he’s worth sticking with.  3.1 IP last week, zero ER. Blake Parker – 2.1 IP, zero ER last week.  He has to be looked at a closer candidate for next year. Ben Revere – He seems to be thriving as a pinch-hitter, and who knows, perhaps he’d thrive with regular AB.  3-3 last week pinch-hitting. The rest.  Since being called back up on September 1, Carlos Perez has had three AB.  Huston Street is about ready to pitch off of a mound, or something, who cares.  Kaleb Cowart has gotten two more AB than Perez this month.  Somehow, Luis Valbuena has hit 21 HR this season while posting a .194 BA. The week ahead.  Do you really care?  I care, dammit!  This is the last Angels baseball we’ll see until spring training next year.  Four in Chicago against the White Sox and the season ends with three at home versus the Dipotos. Predictions.  Who gives a flying fart?  I do!  The Angels will give us some false hope, winning three in Chicago and moving us a bit closer to that second wild card spot, but then they’ll lose the first two against the Dipotos before ultimately winning the last game of the season. Next Monday.  The last LWIAB for the season.  I’ll try to go out in style, with all the stuff that was missing from this week’s edition.  I’ll try to make it worth your while to read it.  Until then, enjoy the last week of Angels baseball this year.

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Blake Parker’s superb 2017 season

In a year of the unexpected for the Angels, maybe no player has provided a more unexpected season than reliever Blake Parker. Prior to this season, Parker endured a transactional history that many players never go through. A quick look at his Fox Sports profile gives you an idea of what he’s been through just since the year 2015. It seems as if Major League Baseball teams either really valued Blake Parker or barely valued him, allowing him to swap teams like it was nothing. Just this past offseason alone, Parker went from the Yankees to the Angels to the Brewers then back to the Angels. Angels general manager Billy Eppler was clearly intrigued by Parker, acquiring him numerous times. So what is it that teams saw in Parker that resulted in him moving around so much and burning frequent flyer miles in the process? First, Parker has always missed bats, even across the minor league level. In 423 career minor league innings, Parker struck out 480 batters, which is good for a very impressive 10.2 K/9 rate. Before this season, the lowest strikeout percentage he had in a MLB season was 18.8% in 6 innings in 2012 and posted a career best 28.2% strikeout rate in 21 innings in 2014. The ability to miss bats has always been there, thanks to a solid fastball-curveball combination. Elsewhere, however, Parker was lacking. The majority of his MLB time prior to this year came with the Chicago Cubs, where he had a solid 3.68 ERA in 73 1/3 innings but posted a 1.323 WHIP, which was far too high to be an effective reliever. Coming into 2017, there wasn’t much of an expectation for Parker, who was a low risk arm who had been decently productive in some MLB seasons but was also a 31 year old who had elbow surgery just 2 years ago. Then, Spring Training happened. Deciphering whose over performances or under performances are real in the month of March is always tough but Blake Parker put on a clinic, which resulted in him making the Angels Opening Day roster. In 12 1/3 innings, Parker allowed 1 lone run while striking out an absurd 24 batters while walking just 2 batters. This included Parker striking out 17 of the last 18 batters he faced in Spring Training, which is hard to fake even in a short stint. As many are aware by now, this success from Spring Training carried over to the regular season. In 64 innings this season, Parker is posting career highs across the board: ERA(2.39), FIP(2.61), K%(33.9%), K-BB%(27.3%) and Fangraphs version of WAR(1.6). By fWAR, Parker is the 23rd most valuable reliever in baseball. Baseball Reference, which looks more at strictly run prevention, values him even higher at 1.8 WAR. You can make the case that Parker is a top 20 reliever in baseball who is only topped on the Angels by fellow teammate Yusmeiro Petit(2.2 fWAR). There are numerous factors to the established success Parker has created this year. For starters, his fastball velocity this year is at 93.6 mph, well above his career 92.4 mark. Secondly, and arguably the most important thing that Parker has improved, is the development of his split finger fastball. has discussed this pitch as has Beyond the Box Score. The pitch is a legitimate wipeout pitch that has helped turn Parker’s career around. According to Fangraphs pitch value system, Parker’s split finger is the best split finger among MLB relievers, coming in at 5 weighted runs above average. In 2016, Parker started tinkering with the pitch and threw it 19.4% of the time but without a ton of success. This year, he’s throwing it 31.8% of the time while throwing it a full mph harder. In other words, Parker is throwing much harder and his 3rd best pitch prior to the season is now his wipeout secondary pitch. He still throws his curveball, which has gotten good results even while throwing it less than 10% of the time. Part of the success with these pitches is related to Parker’s consistent release points. Many great pitchers are able to deceive hitters due to throwing pitches from the same release point and Parker has done precisely that this year. Here’s a look at his vertical release point. You put all of this together and you have a dominant reliever. It’s never wise to rely on relievers long term but for the short term, Blake Parker looks like an extremely good reliever. Parker has only racked up 2 years of service time so he’ll hit arbitration for the first time this winter and doesn’t hit free agency until after the 2021 season. Given that he was acquired for essentially nothing, the Blake Parker pickup looks to be one of the most shrewd moves made by the Angels in some time.  

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Last Week in Angels Baseball: The “It Sure Doesn’t Feel Like It, Though” Edition

By Glen McKee, Wearing Reading Glasses as I Type This Ya know, last week wasn’t horrible when you look at it as a whole, but it sure doesn’t feel like it, after another lousy weekend in Arlington.  What do I mean?  I’m glad you asked.  Here are a few examples. – The “red-hot” Twins seem destined to upset us (I won’t get into remaining schedules), and they’re on a tear.  However, we’re only 1.5 games behind them for the second wild card spot, and in the last ten games the Twins are 6-4, the Angels are 5-5.  It sure doesn’t feel like it, though. – Angels pitchers give up so many home runs that they have to lead the league in that stat, right?  Nope.  However, they are fifth in the league, with 193.  You know who is third?  Baltimore, the team directly ahead of us in the wild card chase, with 203.  Minnesota is right behind us at sixth with 191.  It sure doesn’t feel like it, though. – The Angels pitching is killing them.  Well, in Texas that was certainly the case as it usually is.  Add to that Heany has been mostly awful since coming back and there’s definitely cause for concern.  The Angels are 17th in the league in ERA,  yet they’re tenth in BAA (those home runs kill).  Amazingly, the Angels starters are 13th in the league with a 4.51 ERA.  It sure doesn’t feel like it, though.  If you were wondering, the bullpen is fifth in ERA at 3.63.  Doesn’t feel like it, does it?  And because I know you’re curious (who can’t get enough stats?) the bullpen is 18th in HR allowed with 56, the starters are fourth with 137.  That feels about right. So, what I’m saying is, don’t give up hope yet, and understand why Eppler made the trades he did.  As bad as those pitching stats are, look at these offensive (ha ha) stats: 21st in runs scored, 24th in HR, 21st in OBP, 27th in OPS.  It’s no wonder Eppler was looking to improve the offense. – The Bad.  The pitching in Texas, in general.  It was effing awful.  If I was to list all of the bad performances we’d be here for a while, but let’s just say that we all agree Keynan Middleton isn’t fooling anyone and should be relegated to mop-up duty at this point, with the rosters expanded.  The Angels gave up 21 runs in three games (that’s roughly a 7.00 ERA).  There were a few solid performances and they’ll be highlighted later. – Luis Valbuena.  Dude went ice-cold last week, hitting .077 but somehow still managing six walks and three runs.  Valbuena is all or nothing, and last week was nothing.   The Good.  On the offense, there was a lot of good last week.  Kole Calhoun only hit .250 but came up big with 5 RBI.  You can say Mike Trout’s slump is over; he hit .625 last week, going 10 for 16 with five walks.  Boner alert!  Andrelton Simmons showed signs of heating up again, hitting .286.  CJ Cron had a great week: .292, 3 HR, 11 RBI.  in six games last week the Angels scored 41 runs.  This needs to continue, and there’s one guy in particular I’m gonna focus on. – Albert Pujols.  Dude came up big last week, hitting .375 with 2 HR (I called them) and 11 RBI (he’s an RBI machine!).  But you know what else I remember?  Those rally-killing GIDPs.  Dude.  Knock that shit off.  You’ve already broken the single-season record.  Quit adding to it. – Noe Ramirez.  Now let’s look at a few good call-ups.  Noe Ramirez is the Angels’ answer to Angel Pagan in the hair department.  2.0 innings pitched last week, no runs, no hits, 2 Ks.  Gimme some more of that.  Any time Scioscia is itching to go with Middleton in a close game, the real answer is Noe. – Eduardo Parades.  He only pitches 0.2 innings last week with 0 ER, but I’m including him because of his player profile on ESPN.  Look at this snippet: You’re telling me this guy with that face is 6-1, and only 170 pounds? Get outta here! – Blake Parker and Yusmeiro Petit.  As bad as our pen has been, these guys have been rock solid.  6.1 IP last week, 0 ER.  Even our new Blake, Blake Wood, has been good, going 5.2 IP with 1 ER.   Hey Glen, how about those trades?  I alluded to them earlier, but let me address them a bit more now.  Despite the solid week the Angels hitters had, they needed help at 2B and in LF.  It can be argued that Revere was heating up, but the Angels got Justin Upton (here, Upton here) and Brandon Phillips for relative peanuts.  It was an opportunity to immediately improve their offense for a tough stretch run.  Verlander would have been nice, for sure, but the offense was worse off.  The defense may suffer a bit but the return on the bats should more than make up for it.  Talk to me at the end of the season.  At least Eppler took what he thought was the best shot.  Admit it, you were as surprised as I was that he made those moves. The Rest.  The Angels are still 1.5 games out of the second wild card spot with Baltimore ahead of them.  Nothing is over yet.  This team could pull a Rocky, or they could pull an Apollo Creed in Rocky IV.  I don’t know how it will go but I’m gonna be optimistic, while at the same time venting in the gameday threads. The week ahead.  Three in the cesspool at Oakland, a day off, and then three in Seattle.  3-0 is what the Angels need in Oakland.  2-1 is acceptable.  Anything less is bad, really bad.  Seattle is only a game behind the Angels so you can’t take them for granted, but again, 2-1 is acceptable; anything less and it’s: Predictions: I already forgot what I predicted last week but I think I was close, so yeah, that.  For this week, the starting pitching scares me but I think the offense can make up for it with both teams the Angels are facing.  3-0 Oakland, 2-1 Seattle. And finally…a note.  LWIAB is taking a two-week hiatus.  I’ll be on vacation next Monday and won’t return until the following Sunday, and during that time I’ll have no internet access so I won’t be able to write a column the following Monday.  Here’s something to tide you over until the next column.

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Up-ton here, Up-ton here: Angels acquire Justin Upton

The Angels have been unlikely contenders for an American League Wild Card spot in a season where Mike Trout has missed significant time and a barrage of injuries have hit the starting rotation yet again. After a 3 game sweep of the Oakland Athletics to start the week, the Angels were sitting one game behind the Minnesota Twins for the 2nd Wild Card spot. With the August trade deadline approaching, Angels general manager Billy Eppler decided to make a big splash to bolster the roster. He acquired Tigers outfielder Justin Upton. For the past several weeks, Justin Upton, along with starting pitcher Justin Verlander, had been heavily discussed as August trade candidates with the Tigers heading towards a big rebuild. Upton, who is owed 88.5 million dollars from 2018-2021, presented a tricky trade candidate because he has an opt out clause after this season that realistically may be exercised with the year he is having. The Angels will employ Upton for at least one month but they run the risk of trading for him and seeing him leave very quickly. For the Angels, this move is very sensible. With the Angels being so close to a playoff spot, there was an obvious need to either add a frontline starting pitcher or legitimate middle of the order bat to help push this team into the playoffs. Justin Upton represents a legitimate middle of the order bat. Upton is having a huge year after posting down numbers in 2016 as he’s currently hitting .279/.362/.542 with a 138 wRC+ that ranks 21st among qualified MLB hitters. Upton is a bit more than just a big bat, however, as he’s been a well rounded player for a while. His 4.1 fWAR ranks 23rd among all position players and is the 3rd highest total he’s posted in a season. He’s stole 10 bases this year and he’s saved 10 runs defensively(DRS), which furthers his value beyond the batter’s box. Justin Upton looks even better if you look at his past calendar year. Look where he ranks dating back to this exact date a year ago: Justin Upton has been a top 10 hitter and a top 15 position player for the last 365 days. He has hit 41 home runs in that span. Angels left fielders have hit 34 combined home runs since the beginning of 2016. Upton represents a massive offensive upgrade over the Angels left fielders of the past and he instantly becomes the 2nd best hitter on the team. A middle of the order featuring Mike Trout and Justin Upton immediately becomes a terrifying proposition for opposing pitchers. On the opposite side, Detroit will receive Grayson Long, who ranked as the Angels 9th best prospect, along with a player to be named later(PTBNL). Grayson Long has a variety of different views from several pundits, with some believing he’s a fringe starting pitcher(such as Fangraphs), while view him as a potential innings eating 4th/5th starter. He’s a fine piece for the Tigers to receive given the circumstances and Long is close to MLB ready. It’ll be interesting to see who the PTBNL ends up being but given Jon Morosi reported it’s a low level player, it’s likely a raw talent with plenty of issues to iron out. As a follow up move, the Angels exposed Cameron Maybin to waivers and he was plucked by the Houston Astros, who will pay the remaining of Maybin’s 2017 salary without giving up any talent in return. With rosters expanding soon, it was feasible that Maybin could’ve stuck around as a really nice 4th outfielder who could steal some bags off the bench. Instead, the Angels save some cash and will use Ben Revere in that same role. With Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and now Justin Upton occupying 3 outfield spots, you could probably understand the logic in saving some cash by letting Maybin go. The Angels decided standing pat when they were so close to a playoff spot wasn’t a smart plan. Justin Upton could be an Angel for a month and the Angels could miss the playoffs. It’s also possible the Angels make the playoffs and Justin Upton decides to not opt out after the season. There’s a few scenarios that will play out but whatever does happen, today’s trade signals that the Angels are serious about playing in October and Upton adds a legitimate presence to the Angels lineup. Here is some video of Justin Upton hitting the snot out of the baseball in 2017.  

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Andrew Heaney’s encouraging start to 2017

Andrew Heaney has a 5.63 ERA and 7.81 FIP in his first 3 starts of 2017. That may make you question the title of this piece but a deeper look into his numbers bring up some cause for optimism. On Monday night, Andrew Heaney toed the rubber for his 3rd MLB start of the 2017 season. His previous 2 starts were not good strictly from a run prevention stand point. In those first 2 starts since returning from Tommy John surgery, Heaney allowed 15 hits and 9 runs in 10 innings, including 7 home runs. For a pitcher returning from a major surgery, this was not something to freak out about and for a pitcher who relies more on command than pure stuff, it was too early to panic. A bright spot in those first 2 starts, however, was the 9 strikeouts he generated against the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers, while walking zero batters. You could key in on those peripherals and potentially forecast a strong start coming soon. That strong start came on Monday against the Oakland Athletics, as Heaney punched out a career high 10 hitters and allowed 1 run on 2 hits and 3 walks in his 6 innings of work. Heaney sacrificed a bit of his control to get the A’s hitters to expand out of the zone and it worked as he posted a career best 19.2% swinging strike rate in this game, well above his 9.6% career mark. Take a look at the stuff Heaney had on display Monday night. As mentioned before, Heaney has long been touted as a command before stuff pitcher so this jump in swing and misses through his 1st 3 starts has been a bit of a surprise. What isn’t surprising is the jump in swing and misses is probably correlated to a jump in velocity. Thanks to the wonderful website, we can view all sorts of charts and in this case, velocity charts. Here are Andrew Heaney’s average velocities by each game over his career. Andrew Heaney velocity by gameImmediately, you’ll notice the average velocity on his fastball, which is classified as a sinker on Brooks Baseball based on vertical and horizontal movement. Through 3 starts, Andrew Heaney is throwing harder than ever. In fact, his start on Monday night proved to be his hardest throwing night of his MLB career, as he averaged 93.12 mph on his sinker. The previous start was Heaney’s 2nd hardest throwing night in his career, where he averaged 93.06 mph on his sinker. Both starts came at Angel Stadium so it’s fair to question if the gun was potentially hot but based on the swings and misses Heaney got, it’s also fair to wonder if Heaney’s stuff is just better so far. Through 3 starts, Heaney has a very healthy strikeout minus walk%(K-BB%) of 23.2%, which is much higher than his 13.1% career mark. He has struck out 19 batters and only walked 3 in his 16 innings of work, which are pretty gaudy totals for a pitcher with Heaney’s track record of not striking out loads of batters. Heaney’s stuff is better and that’s noteworthy in itself but there’s a little more to him just striking out more batters. Heaney has altered his arm angles and he’s adjusted his positioning on the rubber. Check out the Heaney’s horizontal release point. Andrew Heaney’s horizontal release pointThis is a drastic change in release point for any pitcher, let alone one who just missed over a full year of game action due to surgery. It seems rather likely that Heaney dug into the stats during his down time and tried to make some tweaks to the way he positioned his body and his arm actions on the mound. Video backs up these changes, as Heaney has totally changed his position on the mound. Look at the difference of where Heaney’s back foot is on the rubber in a start from 2015 compared to his start on Monday night vs Oakland. Andrew Heaney 2015 start(via MLB video)Andrew Heaney on Monday 8/28/17(Via MLB video)Heaney has switched from the first base side of the rubber over the third base side of the rubber, which is a drastic change but one many pitchers make if their results aren’t good. This change especially makes sense for a pitcher like Heaney, who faced dramatic platoon splits before this season. As a lefty who placed himself on the 1st base side of the rubber, this may have allowed right handed hitters to get a better look at his release point. Consider this: Lefties hit just .228/.261/.307 against Heaney in 2015, his first full big league season, but righties hit .252/.321/.402 against him. His K-BB% vs lefties in 2015 was 21.8% while it was a measly 7.8% vs righties. While righties have torched Heaney to a .268/.316/.722 clip in 2017, his K-BB% is 25.4% against righties, which is a phenomenal rate for a lefty pitcher throwing to right handed hitters. Another small tweak that Heaney has already made in 2017 is adjusting his vertical release point, which was significantly lower in his 1st 2 starts. That subtle difference may explain the home run issues he had, as a lower release point usually means less plane on your pitches, which means pitches come on a more ideal plane for hitters. Heaney seemingly picked up on his release point quickly and got it back to his usual level in his past start, which probably explains why he had a career best outing on Monday night. Andrew Heaney Vertical Release Point All of these changes Heaney has made has led to a potentially better version than even his biggest fans thought he’d be. A 3 game sample of games is too small to draw huge conclusions but there are some very encouraging signs that Heaney is showing so far. It’s also fair to acknowledge that his past start came against an Athletics lineup whose #3 hitter was Jed Lowrie, whose an owner of a career 101 wRC+. Striking out 20% of batters against any MLB lineup is impressive regardless but we’ll need to see this over a larger sample. The home run issue is likely a small blip on the radar(7 home runs in 2 games is an anomaly) but if these bat missing improvements are real, the upside for Heaney maybe changes from a potential 3/4 starter, which Fangraphs labeled him in 2015, to a potential #2 starter. Lefties who average 93 mph on their fastball, have 2 above average off speed pitches and generate 27.5% strikeout rates are hard to find and that’s the current 2017 version of Heaney. Proceed with cautious optimism but there are reasons to be excited about Andrew Heaney moving forward.

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Last Week in Angels Baseball: The “And the Bottom Drops Out” Edition

By Glen McKee, Assistant Nostalgiac to AO Wow, what a lousy week it was, and what the heck is 90s Charlize Theron doing at the top of the article, not that anyone is complaining?  Glad you asked, voice in my head as I’m writing this.  Last week for the Angels the bottom dropped out (although not completely out, as will be discussed shortly), and that reminded me of the Angels teams from the 90s, and this song from the 90s in particular: I’ve seen better days With that in mind, this misery-filled review is going to be filled with visual odes to some of the women of the 90s, because there needs to be something to make last week more palatable, both for me as a writer and you as a reader.  Off we go. The bad.  Almost everything.  You can start with the record (2-5) and work your way down from there.  That 2-5 came after a very good road trip and the Angels were at home with a chance to prove they were for reals, yo.  Instead of being good, they were bad, very bad.  You know who was bad in the 90s, at least on TV?  No, not Frank Stallone, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen on 90210.    – Albert Pujols.  Statistically and comparatively speaking, Pujols had a good week.  He’s getting a few more hits, as evidenced by his .281 average.  Heck, he even went 2-4 in yesterday’s gut-punch loss.  However, those two hits he didn’t get were in the 7th and 9th inning, both with the bases loaded.  In the 7th inning, he salted the earth with a GIDP.  In the 9th he ended the game on the first pitch he saw.  He seems to be connected at the hip to Mike Trout (Scioscia did the surgery) in the batting order and we continue to see the results day after day, and yet nothing is being done.  Speaking of Mike Trout… – Mike Trout.  He’s in the worst slump of his career, going hitless in his last five games (0-14) but still managing eight walks in that time because he hits ahead of Pujols.  When Trout isn’t hitting, the offense goes from below average to horrid.  Please, Mike.  Wake up soon, like today. – Kaleb Cowart.  I want this guy to succeed as much as anybody else does, but after a hot start, he’s regressed to what all the cynics said he would be.  There is still hope for him, but a 2-19 week isn’t a reason for optimism. – Cam Bedrosian.  He was solid in two out his three appearances last week, but that third appearance was brutal and helped cost the Angels the game, giving up three ER and the lead.  Relievers are going to have bad games, but those bad games are magnified when you have as much hope as you do in a player like Cam, who should be a closer.  Here’s 90s supermodel Cindy Crawford holding an incredibly dated looking can of Pepsi to make you feel better about Cam:  – Cameron Maybin.  Remember that hot month that Cameron had?  Yeah, it seems like a while ago.  .227 last week, with a .235 average on the season (but he’s also toting a .336 OBP, which makes him our best leadoff hitter since Figgy, I guess).   The Good.  Enough of the bad, eh?  How about some good?  Well, despite the awful week and despite being only one game above .500, the Angels are still only 1.5 games out of the second wild card spot.  That’s why the bottom hasn’t completely dropped out yet: the rest of the AL also kinda sucks.  This isn’t from the 90s but it is from one of my favorite movies, and it applies here:  – Luis Valbuena.  Luis hit .300 last week, perhaps the only Angel to achieve such a lofty standard.  He also had eight RBI for the week.  Luis, you da real MVP last week!  He’s raised his average to .208, a number that seemed unpossible for him a month ago.  Bravo Luis!  You know who was hot in the 90s and of swarthy lineage?  You guessed it, LWIAB favorite Salma Hayek!  – Parker Bridwell.  P-Biddy (reason for that nickname soon) had one start last week, seven IP, two ER.  He’s the only starter we can count on now to get past the fifth inning and not destroy our bullpen.  That’s worth quite a few huzzahs, a round of applause and maybe even an ovation, and he didn’t even start the year on the Angels’ fans radar.  Yep, old P-Biddy is solid.  His new nickname sounds a lot like P-Diddy, and you know what hot 90s lady P-Diddy was linked with, amongst others?  You guessed it, future A-Rod fashion accessory J-Lo.  Let’s remember one of her most famous moments.  – Ben Revere.  Dude hit .333 last week and has brought his season average up to .258, but with only a .294 OBP.  I think he deserves a bit more playing time than Maybin at the moment, but what do I know.  I also think Pujols shouldn’t be hitting behind Trout for a while/the rest of the year/perhaps ever again.  Give Ben a few more AB.  He has 20 SB on the year so he has the speed factor.  Why shouldn’t he get a bit more playing time?  Sosh? Is this thing on?   The rest.  Martin Maldonado is still excellent behind the plate and still screaming out for some games off as his batting average continues to fall.  Hopefully, with the expanded rosters we’ll get Perez back up here and give Maldonado a breather.  Yusmeiro Petit continues to be excellent out of the pen, as does Blake Parker.  Since you can never have enough Blakes, the Angels got another one, Blake Wood (no relation to Brandon, I assume).  In his only game with the Angels, B-Woody pitched a scoreless inning, so yeah.  That.   The week ahead.  Three at home versus the As to finish up the homestand, and then three in Texas versus the Rangers.   Predictions.  Last week I was as awful with my predictions as the Angels were with their games.  This week should be better.  2-1 versus the As, 2-1 versus the Rangers.  In Sosh we trust.

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Last Week in Angels Baseball: The “So You’re Telling Me…There’s a Chance” Edition

By Glen McKee, Dumber Every week with this team is a roller coaster.  Sometimes, it’s one of those crappy old roller coasters the theme park keeps around until they can find a way to replace it, like the Gold Rush at Magic Mountain: old, rickety, rough, and at the end, you swear you’ll never ride it again. Other times, it’s like the Guardians of the Galaxy ride at Disneyland: new, smooth, fun, and as soon as you’re done you want to get back in line and ride it again.  Last week was a Guardians week. The bad.  I already used my Denny’s pun so I have nothing for the Angels giving up another walk-off grand slam.  It felt inevitable as soon as Machado came up to the plate.  Everyone, including myself and apparently excepting Mike Scioscia, wondered why Middleton was in the game to face Machado.  Then, on Sunday Mike brought Middleton in again for a pressure situation and…he wasn’t that bad. – Kenyan Middleton.  Yeah, that grand slam was bad and he gave up the game-tying hit Sunday, but was he really that bad?  ERA of 9.00 for the week, two IP, two ER.  However, if you dig a bit deeper in the month of August he has a 3.86 ERA.  Not great, but passably good.  Given the state of our bullpen and our starts not going more than five innings at a time, it’s almost understandable that he was used like he was.  Almost. – Albert Pujols.  This isn’t even relative to his contract, it’s relative to having a decent DH hitting behind Trout.  .214 last week, but hey, three RBI!  He also managed to get walked four times, while striking out only once.  But, those GIDP.  You shouldn’t have a GIDP machine hitting behind Trout. – Kaleb Cowart.  I hate to say it as much as you hate to read it.  He started three of the five games last week and had a pinch-hit appearance in the non-start.  For whatever reason, and we can think of a few, his production is falling.  .182 last week, .279 for the season.  But you know who else was bad last week?  You guessed it, Frank Stallone!  And, this guy… – Cliff Pennington.  The guy who starts when Cowart sits.  Kinda sucks on defense, hitting .247 for the year and trending downward.  If he was a stock, you’d already have sold him.  If Pennington and Cowart are gonna hit the same, why not go with the better glove in Cowart? – Andrew Heaney.  What?  Come on dude, he just came back.  I know, and that’s awesome, and I know he’ll get better.  But come on, five runs in five innings.  I know, he’ll get better.  Welcome back, Heaney. – CJ Cron.  Remember when he was hot?  It seems like it was just last week because it was last week.  Now, he’s cold, like a Katy Perry song.  Nope, no pictures.  He did have a HR but it was his only hit in 16 AB, for a .125 BA.  I expect he’ll heat up again this week, but I expect a lot of things that don’t happen.  Still expecting Salma Hayek to call me.   The good.  There was a lot of good last week.  First off, the record, 3-2.  Any week you win more than you lose is good.  The Angels moved into a wild card spot and are making August interesting.  Some unexpected players are heating up, and none of them are hotter at the moment than… – Luis Valbuena.  I think this is the first time this season Louie V has been on the good list.  He hit .500 last week with three HR and five BB.  His average is at the Mendoza Line as we read.  As Luggage Man Yunel Escobar fades from our memory, Valbuena is finally stepping up.  Here’s to another hot week. – Mike Trout.  Yeah, it’s redundant to have him on here.  He was 0-5 yesterday and that hurt his average for the week (.238) but he’s Mike goddamned Trout so he gets a break.  He hit three HR and had a two-HR game. – Cam Bedrosian.  At the risk of a whammy, Cam is back.  0 ER in August, three IP last week. There’s no reason why Cam shouldn’t be the closer right now, other than Scioscia experimenting with the bullpen. – Blake Parker.  Paker only made two appearances last week, 0 ER.  2.30 ERA for the season.  Another surprise in a bullpen full of them.  And now, a few surprises on the good list for the week: – Andrelton Simmons.  It’s not a surprise that he’s on the good list, it’s a surprise that he’s on it this week, as his bat has frozen.  Two hits in 20 AB for the week, but one of those hits was a big HR on Sunday.  That, coupled with his consistency incredible defense, was a key factor in winning the game and the series. – Bud Norris.  3.00 ERA last week,  but he pitched two key innings, one in each win in Baltimore, and got the save on Sunday.  Welcome back, Bud!  A note about Bud: we’ve already gotten so much more than anyone could have reasonably expected from him (19 saves), given his career 4.50 ERA.  Nobody expected him to be thrust into the closer position this season and he did remarkably well for longer than he should have.  I still count Bud as a win for the season.   The rest.  Juan Graterol went 0-6 last week, and Carlos Perez is hitting .377 in Salt Lake.  You have to figure that Perez will take over as backup catcher when the September call-ups are made.  Why wait?  Get him up here now!  Eduardo Parades (I think that’s Spanish for “parade”) has been solid all month and he would have made the good list, but I looked into him too late, so here he is on the rest.   The Rest of the Season.  The Angels have six games left versus Oakland and three versus the White Sox.  They have ten games left versus the Rangers, nine versus the Astros, three against the Indians (WTF?), and five versus the Mariners.  Take out Oakland and Chicago, and the rest of the teams are either playoff teams or in the hunt for the wild card (Seattle is only 1.5 games behind the Angels right now).  That’s a brutal schedule, and that’s how it should be.  The team will be tested and if they make the playoffs, they certainly deserve to.   The Week Ahead.  Four at home versus the Rangers, who are only 2.5 games behind the Angels for the second wild card, and three at home versus the Astros, who have led the AL West for about three years in a row now.  Houston is 5-5 in their last 10, Texas 7-3.  The Angels are 8-2.   Predictions.  Last week I got back on track, calling 1-1 and 2-1.  This week is tough to call.  The Angels are 33-26 at home and Texas is 26-33 on the road.  Houston is ridiculous on the road with a 40-21 road record, better than their home record.  3-1 versus the Rangers, and 1-2 versus the Astros.  Post your predictions here, if you’re not chicken.  

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Exploring an Angels-Giancarlo Stanton trade

GIancarlo Stanton has taken the baseball world by storm the past few weeks by putting on one of the most impressive power displays in baseball history. Power has always been the 27 year old’s main calling card but even this recent stretch has been impressive for his standards. In a stretch of 35 games, Stanton pounded out 23 long balls, claiming the attention as the game’s premier slugger that Yankees rookie Aaron Judge tried to take away earlier this year. Stanton slugged a healthy .731 in the month of July and is slugging a ridiculous 1.018 in August. He’s been baseball’s best hitter and player in the 2nd half so far, leading baseball with 2.2 fWAR and a 215 wRC+(115% better than the league average hitter). As is custom with good Miami Marlins players, Stanton’s name is now floating around in trade talks around the league. With a mediocre MLB team, the league’s worst farm system and the team in the middle of changing ownership, it seems inevitable that Stanton will end up changing teams in the next calendar year. Add in the fact that Stanton is having a monstrous year and it makes too much sense that he will be shopped to contending teams in the next 6 months. What makes any Stanton trade tricky, however, is the huge amount of money he is owed for the next decade. In late 2014, the Marlins and Stanton surprised the baseball world by agreeing to a 13 year 325 million dollar contract extension. This deal is still the largest in baseball history and likely will be until Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are slated to be free agents in the next 4 years. At the time of the deal, it looked like a fair contract, albeit one with a lot of risk, given Stanton just slashed .288/.395/.555 with 6.3 fWAR as a 24 year old. Given his generational like power and surprising speed and athleticism for a 6’4″ 245 pound man, it seemed like he was on the verge of becoming a consistent top 5 player. Stanton produced well in 2015 but missed 88 games due to injury, then produced just 1.7 fWAR and a 114 wRC+ in 2016, leaving his future value in doubt. It appears as if Stanton is now back to his elite self, thanks to a change in his stance and swing mechanics that have led to a decline in strikeouts(22.8% strikeout rate in the 2nd half) while keeping the prodigious power. Here’s a look at the changes he made to his stance, which have helped him cover more of the strike zone and not allow himself to open up his front side too quickly. Stanton April 2017Stanton August 2017What’s noteworthy about the Stanton trade rumors is one team that is listed as a possible suitor: the Angels. J.P. Morosi of Fox Sports came out with a piece on Wednesday that listed the Angels, Giants and Nationals as 3 serious suitors, citing that the Angels will likely be interested after being off the hook for Josh Hamilton’s contract this coming offseason. With 50+ million dollars to spend this offseason and a farm system that won’t supplement the major league club all that soon, the match with Stanton is pretty obvious. Angels owner Arte Moreno has never been shy about making big splashes(Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton) and while the club has been resistant to make big moves lately, Stanton represents a young, star level player who also has ties to Southern California(Los Angeles native). Let’s assume the Angels are serious bidders for Stanton. The first and obvious red flag here is the fact that he is under contract through 2027 and has a 25 million dollar club option in 2028 with a 10 million dollar buyout. Assuming that club option isn’t exercised, Stanton will be paid 295 million dollars from 2018-2027, nearly 30 million dollars a year. He does have an opt out after the 2020 season but it seems rather unlikely that he will opt out unless he ends up staying in Miami. In 2027, Stanton will be 37 years old. For a club that has been recently crippled by handing out big contracts to 30+ year olds, this doesn’t seem like a wise move on paper. Stanton is obviously a younger option than the previously mentioned Angels signings but he’ll be getting paid heavily in his later years much like those players. Another serious issue for most of Stanton’s career has been his injury proneness, as he missed pretty significant time in 2012-2013 and 2015-2016. Large human beings like Stanton tend to be a bit more injury prone so that’s another legitimate worry when you add the contract into the mix. Even with those 2 huge red flags, Stanton is one of the game’s elite talents and would pretty easily become the Angels 2nd best player, or 3rd best(hello Andrelton Simmons). Since reaching the big leagues in 2010, Stanton has been the 15th most valuable position player in baseball. His 144 wRC+ ranks 7th in baseball in that same time frame. His .553 slugging percentage ranks 4th. Stanton is a legitimate middle of the order bat who would instantly make the Angels lineup a formidable group just by grouping him with Mike Trout. Stanton consistently posts above average walk rates and with this recent cut back in strikeouts, there is legitimate talk of Stanton being a top 5 hitter once again, much like he was from 2011-2014. Stanton is also a legitimately good defender in right field, which surprises some people based on his size. He has accumulated a healthy 39 defensive runs saved(DRS) and a 24.2 Ultimate Zone Rating(UZR) in right field. Statcast backs this up as he generally makes all of the routine players and makes plenty of 4 star catches(45.5% in 2017). Add all of this up and you have a true talent 4+ win player and that’s including the time he misses with injuries most years. We’ve established that Stanton is a really good player. The tricky part is working out a deal. There is so much money tied up in Stanton that any team trading for him likely will either want to take on the whole deal but give up no meaningful talent or have some salary sent back while sending more talent in return. Many believe that the Stanton deal is a really bad deal but if you break it down, it’s not really a poor deal but rather one with a lot of risk due to the length of the deal. I did a very rough projection of Stanton’s value over the duration of the deal, projecting him for a few 5 win seasons coming up then docking a half a win off each following season until the deal is up. I included his annual salary and also calculated what his actual worth is based on his production and what the free agent market pays for 1 WAR. As of now, teams are paying roughly 9 million dollars for 1 WAR on the free agent market. Here’s what Stanton’s breakdown looks like, with his projected WAR listed first followed by his annual salary and what he would be paid in free agency. Inflation is a basic concept of economics and it applies to baseball as well. If we assume there’s roughly 5-10% of inflation over the next 10 years, Stanton will be worth 300-315 million dollars in this scenario. Again, this is a rough estimate and given Stanton’s injury history, it’s likely he’ll probably have a few injury riddled years. If you think this is too high of an estimate, that’s fair so maybe you dock him down to 250-275 million dollars of earned value. Even if that’s the case, Stanton is being paid pretty appropriately for what he’s providing on the baseball field. That means any team trading for Stanton and taking on the whole contract is probably paying him appropriately, which really means that team shouldn’t have to send anything meaningful back in return. But the Marlins are in the midst of changing ownership and it seems unlikely that Derek Jeter and his business partners will salary dump a franchise icon without getting some talent in return. This is where some potential issues may lie. If the Angels enter the bidding process, they’ll likely want to take on most of the Stanton deal and give up less talent in return. If the Angels were to take the Stanton deal off and assume he’s being close to what he’s worth, the Angels likely won’t have to send much back. The Marlins likely want prospects and not MLB talent in return since a Stanton trade likely signals a rebuild so this rules out players like Kole Calhoun, Andrelton Simmons, etc. Maybe a top 10 prospect and some filler fits the mold. Chris Rodriguez and some lower level prospects, for example, might be a fair return if the Angels take on all of the salary, or even most of it. The Marlins may ask for more but it’s unlikely they’ll get more value back unless they kick in cash, which is a possible scenario too. For the Angels, they soak up a lot of payroll but they also add a premier talent and will still have enough money to fill a few holes through free agency and trades. Let’s assume the Marlins eat 25% of the contract, knocking the deal down to 221 million dollars over 10 years. 10 years still looks like a lot but that 22.1 Annual Average Value(AAV) looks a lot more enticing and is probably paying Stanton under what he’s actually worth. In this scenario, the Marlins can ask for a better prospect package in return, with Stanton being a bit of a bargain. Miami can likely ask for a few blue chip prospects, such as Jahmai Jones and Jaime Barria, and another project such as Elvin Rodriguez or Jose Suarez. This hurts the Angels farm system but it also gives the Angels more payroll flexibility and creates less risk by taking on less money on a gigantic deal. If the Marlins really want to maximize their return value and aren’t too concerned about the money, they can split the cost of the contract, bringing it down to 147.5 million dollars over 10 years. Now, the Marlins have some serious leverage to ask for a monstrous return but are also on the hook for nearly 150 million dollars of dead money while also sending their franchise icon out of town. The Angels are probably sending Jahmai Jones, Jordon Adell, Jaime Barria, Chris Rodriguez and more in this hypothetical deal but are also getting a premier slugger for 14.75 million dollars a year over the duration of the deal. The Marlins likely don’t eat this much money and the Angels are probably hesitant to crush a farm system that is improving so much but it’s a possibility. This scenario means the Angels really undo the work of improving the farm system but they add a legit top 10 hitter and pay him well less than he deserves and allow themselves to spend more in free agency. What we have here is two sides who are a match for negotiating a Giancarlo Stanton trade. What we don’t have is clarity on what each team would prefer: exchanging money or prospects. In any scenario, there seems to be a fit here considering how much free payroll the Angels have coming up and the dire need for another big bat to pair with Mike Trout before he hits free agency after 2020. Bringing Stanton in could be that big move that signals to Mike Trout that the Angels are serious and could sway him into re-upping to stay in Anaheim for the rest of his career. It’s a risky move and we’ve seen the Angels get crippled with big deals but the Angels also have the chance to add a premier player and possibly create the best duo of hitters in all of baseball. There is no doubt that this is an incredibly risky move, regardless of which route the Angels took to acquire Stanton, but it’s also a move that would help put the Angels firmly into contender mode and would maximize this Trout window. The upside with acquiring Giancarlo Stanton is obvious. The risk of acquiring him may be just as big, if not bigger, than that reward. Deciding if that risk is more than the reward is the ultimate question to any Giancarlo Stanton trade discussion.  

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Parker Bridwell on MLB Network’s “MLB Central”

Leading up to yesterday’s day game, Parker Bridwell joined MLB Network via Ballpark Cam to discuss the following items with MLB Central’s Mark DeRosa, Matt Vasgersian and Hall of Famer John Smoltz: Here’s some highlights of the segment with Parker Didwell. On what works for him, Bridwell responded, “Primarily I’d say executing fastball command, being down in the zone early, and when guys are hacking it really works in your favor and helps you be more efficient. If I can get an out in two pitches instead of three then I’m gonna be in good shape and I’m gonna do that every time if I can. I just look to be efficient and get my team off the field and keep our bats hot.” On facing the Orioles this coming Sunday, Bridwell said, “I think the way I am wired, there is a little extra something something. I like competing and that’s just the way I am. Like I told some of the guys after the first appearance with them, ‘There [are] some good friends on that side and they treated me and my family very well in that organization.’ So, it’s just a game and at the end of the day I just want to go out there and put my team in the best position to win.” On befriending Hong Kong-based fan Fergus Chan, Bridwell said, “There was always this one kid that was always yelling positive things to me and Keynan Middleton. I got to talking to him one day and asked him about his story, or who he came with to the games, because he was always by himself. He said he bought a $10 ticket and sat way up in right field stands every game. So I told him to come to will call the next day and I’ll leave him a ticket by the dugout so he can kind of interact more with the players and stuff. From there it just took off, he’s an awesome kid and I’m very glad I got to meet somebody like that. He’s somebody that inspires a bunch of people and for me, I like doing stuff for people that are good to me.” You can watch the entire segment with Bridwell below.

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Last Week in Angels Baseball: The “!!!” Edition

By Glen McKee, Staff Writer Believe it not, there isn’t a whole lot of preparation for writing this column.  I give it a bit of thought during the games throughout the week.  Then, on Monday morning when I take my dogs for a walk I try to solidify it and see what sticks in my head, in between finding dead bodies, loose cash, tools, and golf balls.  Usually, that Monday morning walk is long because I’m trying to pick nuggets of silver out of a week filled with mediocrity.  Today, however…sorry, dogs.  They got a short walk because for the first time this year I was genuinely enthused to get back and write about the last week of Angels baseball.  !!! The bad.  Let’s get this out of the way because there was a little bit of bad last week.  The Angels started the week with a 3-2 loss in Baltimore and that looked like it would set the tone for the week.  However, the Angels spent the next six days coming from behind and showing that characteristic most valued at, grit. – Cameron Maybin went 4-22 last week.  Seriously, Sosh, that ridiculous hot streak he had a while ago is looking like exactly that, a ridiculous hot streak.  More on Scioscia in a bit, and why Maybin is still leading off and it took so long to quit giving Norris save opportunities. – Luis Valbuena.  With Escobar out, Valbuena will start every damn game because we don’t have a better option at 3B.  Sorry, Cowart.  You had a bad game so you’re back to sporadic starts and occasional pinch-hit appearances.  Luis will hit the occasional HR but in between HRs will give you nothing at all.  Nothing at all.  Stupid sexy Scioscia! – Ricky Nolasco.  In his only start last week he gave up 5 ER in 5 IP.  In his start before that, 5 ER in 4 IP.  He’s given up 30 HR so far this season and we’re only halfway through August.  He’s scheduled to start Wednesday against the Nationals.  Washington is fourth in MLB with 173 HR.  You do the math (more on math in a bit, too). The good.  Last week was so good we don’t need to dwell on the negative.  Let’s have some fun! – Mike Trout hit a HR on my birthday (his, as well) and then had what was, for him, an off week, still managing to hit .318. – Parker Bridwell.  Ya know how almost every year there’s at least one or two guys that the Angels either traded or let go, and they end up having a career year with their new team?  Well, for once we have the reverse of that.  On April 17 the Angels got Bridwell for nothing from the Orioles and since then he’s gone 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.  Parker Bridwell can’t lose!  Two starts last week, two wins, two ER, 13 IP.  What a stud.  Good job, EpPler. – CJ Cron.  Speaking of studs, let’s take a gander at CJ’s week.  3 HR, .407 average, 7 RBI.  CJ is streaky but when he’s hot he’s a thrill to watch.  He crushes HR like Trumbo used to for us. – Cam Bedrosian.  3 IP, 0 ER last week.  It looks like Bedrock is back.  He has to be in line to get the closer job again because while Middleton has been “successful” in that role he’s also giving up a lot of runs (4.16 ERA to Cam’s 3.67).  Why wouldn’t Scioscia give Cam the job back? The Scioscia conundrum.  I’ve finally figured out Scioscia, and this might help me (and you) enjoy the games a little bit more.  His decisions will still be frustrating but at least you’ll have a bit of understanding.  Scioscia is like your algebra teacher.  You come up to him with the answer to the problem and you know it’s correct.  Sosh looks at it and says “that’s nice, now show me your work.”  You’re not sure how you got the answer but you know it’s correct and you know you can’t show the work.  That’s why Bud Norris kept getting opportunities to close, even when the rest of us knew he was going to blow it (the answer to the math problem).  He was showing Scioscia the work.  That’s why Middleton will keep closing and Maybin will keep leading off, and Valbuena will keep starting.  They’re showing Scioscia the work, even though we all know the answer already. The rest.  You already knew this, but if the season ended last night the Angels would be in the playoffs.  Thanks, lousy American League!  The Angels also have the best current winning streak at six games.  Finally, let’s not overlook Yusmeiro Petit, who should also be considered for closer (although he’s equally useful getting the key outs late in the game before the 9th like he’s doing now).  4 IP, 0 ER last week and a 2.36 ERA for the season. The week ahead.  A day off today, two games in Washington (WTF?  A two-game series?), another day off, and then three at Baltimore.  A strange week. Predictions.  Hoo boy, was I wrong last week.  I predicted 1-2 and 1-3, and the Angels went 2-1 and 4-0.  They’ve made me a believer, at least temporarily, which means my whammy could be in play.  1-1 versus the Harper-less Nationals and 2-1 versus the Orioles.

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