You can never predict what will and won't go right, and that's maddening. 2014, pretty much everything that could go right, did. 2016-2018, pretty much everything that could go wrong, did. In these predictions, we assume neutral fortune, but nothing about the Angels in the last 5 years has been neutral as it seems to be for most teams.
If it's neutral, I'm just going to go ahead and assume a few things I probably shouldn't.
- Jon Lucroy is an upgrade both offensively and defensively. The numbers away from Oakland were much better and the way he handled that pitching staff was pretty miraculous. +1 win.
- Pujols will continue to fall off the proverbial cliff, which makes the team worse, but Justin Bour's presence should make up for the deficit. +/-0
- Despite the lackluster offensive performance, Kinsler was still worth 2.5 wins in 2/3 of a season with the Angels. Putting Cozart or Fletcher or even La Stella out there, I think it's hard to predict them being worth more than that. +/-0.
- It's hard to predict Andrelton Simmons being better than the 6 wins he was worth last year, though I do get the feeling he's going to have a career year at the plate this next season. Still, +/-0
- Cozart and Ward were hot garbage at third base last year, and both figure to get the majority of the starts at third base again. There's no way to confidently predict they'll be better.
- Kole Calhoun will be better, but still not great. He's got the right environment, right coach, and he's in a contract year. +1 win.
- Mike Trout will be Mike Trout. He might get hurt and be worth 8 wins, he may be healthy and in top form and be worth 13. I'm going to say he's worth 11, so +2.
- Justin Upton is as consistent as they get. +/-0
- Shohei Ohtani is likely to miss Spring Training, which has proven to be a killer for most hitters. But he'll also log more at bats than he did last year, so I'll say it's break even. +/-0
- Starting rotation: They were blessed with a half year of Richards and Ohtani, and the staff this year quite frankly can't match that unless Harvey is in his rookie form, which no one predicts. They also had the best 2/3 of a season that Tyler Skaggs has ever pitched. And Jaime Barrie's performance does not appear to be repeatable based on his peripheral stats. However, these some room for optimism, Andrew Heaney is another year removed from Tommy John surgery and has been as consistent as they come. He's entering his prime now, so he'll likely improve. Tyler Skaggs has also reached his physical peak and can hopefully replicate last years performance but across a full season. The addition of Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill has a lot of directions it can go. But it's fair to say both will likely be better than they were last year. But the big difference between last year and this year figures to be depth. Pena, Canning, Suarez, Sandoval are all a lot better than what was there beyond the starting five last year. Still, because of the lack of upside in this unit, I think they're pretty much going to break even with last year's staff, but will be better in one key way, working deeper into ball games. +/-0.
Bullpen: Statistically, last year's unit wasn't bad, and statsticlaly' this years unit should be about the same, though they do figure to be deeper. I'll say +/-0.
Conclusion: The pessimist in me says this is likely a 76 win team in 2019. The optimist says this is a 93 win team. The luck neutral version of this crap job at predicting/projecting says they're an 85 win team. And that's basically what I see right now, 85 wins. Not good enough for a wild card spot, they'll probably remain about 5 games out the majority of the season. But they will finish above the Rangers and Mariners, and probably even with the A's.
If Eppler was willing to bring in Mike Moustakas or Jed Lowrie, then I could see them being an 87-88 win ball club, and if they brought in Shelby Miller or Drew Pomeranz and it actually worked out, they could be an 89/90 win team. These things are certainly doable within their budget. The Angels do have the available resources to win the second wild card and stay within budget. But I don't think do it. I think Eppler's pretty much done after spending 24 million.