Will The Angels End Their Playoff Drought In 2020?

Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have not made the playoffs since 2014, despite having a top-10 payroll in each of the subsequent seasons. The team has not exactly capitalized on having the best player in the world on its roster, and there is some restlessness in Anaheim as a result.

The Halos made one of the biggest splashes of free agency when they landed Anthony Rendon with a seven-year, $245MM deal, and he and Mike Trout will form one of the deadliest combinations in baseball. But after those two, there are some questions marks. While his Tommy John surgery kept him off the mound in 2019, Shohei Ohtani still served as the club’s designated hitter and performed well, though not to his Rookie of the Year standards from the 2018 campaign.  And Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons missed a combined 158 games, and neither hit very well when they were on the field, so the Angels will be counting on bounceback performances from both.

Beyond that, second baseman David Fletcher performed at a roughly league-average level offensively but did display the type of patience and batting eye that could portend a more fruitful 2020. Tommy La Stella, meanwhile, suffered a broken leg that ended his All-Star season early, but it’s difficult to know if his age-30 breakout is sustainable.

Of course, the club is looking forward to the eventual emergence of top prospect Jo Adell, but it’s unclear if the 20-year-old (21 in April) will be ready to contribute right away. A midseason call-up may be more likely.

The Angels’ defense should be strong, but even with that, and even if their offense improves, the starting pitching remains a major concern. Though they had interest in some of this year’s top free agent and trade market talent, the Angels only managed to add Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy, both of whom should add stability but are unlikely to be the frontline talent that the team really needed. And, while having Ohtani back in the rotation should help, it would be unwise to count on too many innings from him.

The Angels have a major hill to climb. They finished 24 games out of a wildcard berth in 2019, the division-rival Rangers have improved, and the rest of the American League looks just as strong as it did last year.  Their pitching staff finished near the bottom of the league in 2019, and it does not look as though they did enough to meaningfully improve that performance. Adding a strong pitch framer in Jason Castro should help the staff and the lineup, and new manager Joe Maddon may be able to work some magic, but does it all add up to a 95+ win season? It doesn’t seem like it.

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