Can the Los Angeles Angels defy expectations, win the AL West and compete for the American League pennant? The MLB odds are not in their favor but having Mike Trout in his prime gives them a fighting chance.
Never count out Mike Trout, arguably the best player in baseball. Trout's stats do the talking for him. He already has two MVP awards (and was a runner-up three times) and he can put the Angels on his back and almost single-handedly win them games. The 25-year-old is entering his prime and now after five full major league seasons he will get more help than ever.
The Angels added Cameron Maybin, Ben Revere, Danny Espinosa, Luis Valbuena and Martin Maldonado, low-cost, talented players who will upgrade last season's roster and Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and Andrelton Simmons will continue to produce as above-average everyday players.
Albert Pujols is not 100% yet, he is coming back from offseason foot surgery and it's fair to wonder how much he has left at 37 years old, so even with Trout, Calhoun and Simmons leading the way, there's little margin for error for this offense.
What to Improve?
The main reason why the Angels struggled last season was pitching. Full seasons from Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker and Tyler Skaggs will help their chances and Ricky Nolasco has to be serviceable as their No. 4 starter. The fifth starter spot is vacant and the race is pretty much down to Jesse Chavez, Alex Meyer and Bud Norris and any of them can win the job if they perform well over the next week.
Manager Mike Scioscia is still not sure if Garrett Richards will start on Opening Day and the bullpen has plenty of room for improvement but even if Richards misses some time, Shoemaker can be a solid No. 1 starter and if Richards pitches like the ace he has been in the past, it will improve this team's chances to compete. BetOnline has the Angels at +3300 MLB odds to win the American League pennant and at +900 to win the AL West and a lot of things have to break right for them to compete.
For example, will Albert Pujols contribute? Pujols' rehab seems to be going fine but it's not clear if he will be ready for the season opener. He has seen some action on Spring Training but he hasn't been able to play in back-to-back games so far. Pujols hit 31 home runs with 119 RBI last season and the Angeles need him to stay as healthy as possible this year.
The Angels have improved on defense and the additions of Cameron Maybin, Ben Revere, Danny Espinosa, Luis Valbuena and Martin Maldonado will translate to more wins. The biggest key to this team's success will be the health of Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker and Albert Pujols. Richards and Skaggs attempt to make full recoveries from UCL tears in their elbows and Shoemaker looks to get back on track after suffering a fractured skull last season. If these four players can return to form it will help the Angels contend for a playoff spot.
Should you bet on the Angels this season? Bovada has set their season win total at 79.5 and I see them winning at least 80 games, but they won't win the AL West so I'm not placing an MLB pick on them winning the American League pennant either.Free MLB Pick: Los Angeles Angels season win total to go 'Over' 79.5 (-115)