The Los Angeles Angels enter 2021 with many of the same question marks that have derailed any postseason run over the previous six seasons. Do they have enough starting pitching? Is the bullpen strong enough? Did they surround Mike Trout with enough firepower? Will Shohei Ohtani stay healthy?
It’s been a resounding no to each of those questions since 2014, the last time the club reached the playoffs, Trout’s only exposure to the postseason, but one in which they were swept by the Royals in the ALDS.
In fact, this is a team looking for their first playoff win since 2009 when Mike Scioscia was the AL Manager of the Year, and Kendrys Morales led the team in home runs.
Los Angeles Angels 2020 Results
The 60th season for the franchise ended in disappointment yet again in 2020, with Joe Maddon taking over for Brad Ausmus, who lasted one year. The Angels finished 26-34, fourth place in the A.L. West, 10 games behind the Athletics.
After two games, they were 1-1 but never saw the .500 mark the rest of the way. They dropped 11 of 13 during a stretch in August and were swept by the Dodgers in a three-game set to close out the regular-season slate.
The Angels’ longest winning streak topped at five games, four of which came at the Astros’ expense in early September, three decided by just one run.
The Angels’ front office decided to completely tear down and rebuild their bullpen, which we’ll highlight in a moment, but a big piece of that overhaul comes in the form of Raisel Iglesias, whom they acquired in a trade with the Reds. Iglesias, who possesses a dominant slider and changeup, is expected to be the team’s closer after saving 34 games in 2019 and another eight last year.
Raisel wasn’t the only Iglesias LA picked up this winter as the team traded for Jose Iglesias, sending two minor-leaguers to the Orioles in exchange for the shortstop. Iglesias was limited to 22 defensive starts for Baltimore due to lower-body injuries but hit .373 with 24 RBI in 142 at-bats and should provide the Angels some added pop should he remain healthy for the whole season.
Casual fans will recognize some more additions as the team got some more depth with the arrivals of Jose Quintana, Dexter Fowler, and Kurt Suzuki. Quintana (likely 5th starter) and Fowler reunite with Maddon after playing for him with the Cubs.
The (Jose) Iglesias trade signaled the end of the Andrelton Simmons era in Los Angeles, with Iglesias arriving in December and Simmons leaving town for good in January.
Simmons spent the last five seasons of his major league career with the Angels, wrapping up his L.A. tenure by opting-out in September due to depression and suicidal ideations. The 31-year old who started his career with the Braves agreed to a one-year deal with the Twins, getting more than $10 million to play in Minnesota.
Los Angeles Angels Pitching
The Angels plan to use six starting pitchers, potentially one of two teams in the division to do so, along with the Mariners.
That might feel ambitious for a team that’s had trouble finding two reliable starters lately. In the six seasons since the Angels’ last playoff appearance, their starters have compiled just 37.1 wins above replacement, the fewest of any major league team.
They’re counting on Dylan Bundy, Griffin Canning, Alex Cobb, Andrew Heaney, Quintana, and Ohtani to get it going in the opposite direction.
The potential is there, but will the health keep pace? We’ll see.
Trout is the best player in the game, with a Rookie of the Year and three MVPs on his already incredible resume. His lack of a supporting cast has been noted ad nauseum, but the names in the lineup are threatening on paper.
Anthony Rendon was the big free-agent splash last year, and all he did was finish with a higher WAR than Trout as both finished in the Top 10 in AL MVP voting. Fowler should provide intelligence, patience, and pop in the bottom half of the order. David Fletcher had the best contact rate in baseball last year, and we mentioned what Iglesias could bring to the table.
We may also bear witness to the Albert Pujols Farewell Tour as the three-time MVP’s contract expires at the end of the year, and he has yet to announce what his plans will be following his 21st big league campaign.
3 Key Players
It might be easier for Pujols to walk away if Jared Walsh is able to overtake his first base post for good. Walsh hit 36 HR in 282 at-bats in Triple-A in 2019 and followed that by hitting .337 with nine dingers in September with the big league club, or once every 11 at-bats.
Trout. Need we say more?
And we’ve omitted detailing Ohtani until now because he just might be the biggest key of the entire Angels season. The Japanese star has yet to realize his full potential, as his first two seasons were ended prematurely due to injury, and a flexor strain compromised his season as a pitcher last year, though he did hit in 43 games.
The plan is to deploy the full Shohei experience this year, even using him as a batter on days he pitches, which instantly becomes a fascinating subplot to a pivotal year in L.A.
A mid-March approval for Orange County to move into the red tier will allow the Angels to sell 20% of the seats in Angel Stadium, and they’ll kick off their 2021 season with six games against the White Sox and Astros.
The first half of their schedule is highlighted by a 13-game stretch, exclusively against fellow AL West opponents that could go a long way in shaping the division race. Baseball fans will certainly hope the Angels aren’t out of it by the first week of May when they play host to the defending champion Dodgers in what should be a must-see City of Angels showcase.
In terms of regular-season wins, BetUs.com has the over/under at 83.5 games for the Los Angeles Angels. If you are new to sports betting, please check out our MLB betting hub page to get started.
Trout is the betting frontrunner to win the AL MVP, with odds of +225 to win his fourth.