Opening Day is just around the corner (knock on wood after 2020, of course) and as such, that means it’s time for everyone’s favorite post series! OK, maybe second favorite after Top Cards on Twitter. It’s Playing Pepper! Year 13 of our intrepid series finds us, as always, asking questions of bloggers (both former and current) of other teams, seeing how they view the upcoming season. I think it’s a solid way of getting a handle on MLB as a whole. So get your bats and ignore that sign on the fence–let’s play some pepper!
The Trout drought continues. In 2014, the player deemed the best of this generation has not been in the postseason. Three games out of his 10 year career. Mike Trout is the owner of only one postseason hit. Can the Angels reverse this trend and let Trout back into the postseason (while, incidentally, perhaps ending Albert Pujols‘s career on a high note)? Let’s find out!
C70: Baseball in 2020 was like nothing we’ve ever seen before. What are your thoughts on that season? Did you like the rule changes? How was following baseball the same or different during the pandemic?
Jacob: My thoughts on the season overall was that it was best we could have in a time of such uncertainty. Obviously, I would’ve loved the league to play more than 60 games, but understood the implications that were involved between the league and the players union. I seem to be in the minority when I say that I actually liked some of the rules changes, I did like the runner on second after 9 innings as I did think it helped speed up the game and we don’t have to wait for a 20 inning game or something like that to be over. The one thing I didn’t like was the 7 inning double headers, while I understand they were meant to squeeze in games that were delayed either by weather or COVID-19, it just didn’t feel normal in any way to have two whole innings from a game taken away. Following the game was easy as it felt like normal with the way broadcasters were calling games, for me personally, I was just glad to be covering a season at all as it was my first season writing about baseball. I had done some off-season work and it felt like it kept dragging on in terms of making content as their were no games to react to.
C70: Dexter Fowler now continues the line of Cardinals who have made their way to Anaheim by one manner or another. What are your thoughts about bringing him in and what do you expect from him?
Jacob: I wasn’t too excited when hearing that Dexter Fowler was coming over as it wasn’t a flashy move by any means. While I think he’ll do great to keep the clubhouse loose and bring fun into the organization, it can’t be ignored that he’s only a stopgap player as Jo Adell will probably start in the minor leagues. He also has ties to Joe Maddon with his time in the Cubs organization, which makes me curious if this move was motivated by Maddon somehow.
C70: The Angels struggled again from the mound in 2020. What are your thoughts about the state of the pitching staff for this year?
Jacob: There’s no doubt that the main problem for the Angels was pitching and while they did bring in two starters to help solidify the rotation, they weren’t huge names. They acquired Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb, both come with question marks in terms of how they’ll fare with the Angels and if they can make the proper adjustments. They should’ve at least aimed at a starting pitcher that they could confidently put as their number one starter and help the others in the rotation as the Angels rotation is somewhat young with guys like Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, and Jaime Barria. I probably would’ve been more optimistic about the rotation with seeing them go for any of the starters that the Padres got in Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove.
C70: Jo Adell scuffled a bit in his first time in the big leagues. Has that dimmed his star any or are expectations still high for the young man?
Jacob: As previously stated, there’s no doubt Jo Adell struggled, but I do believe he can be a star that the Angels are hoping he can be. A lot fans on social media have even reminded many that even when Mike Trout got called up, he struggled and then blossomed into what he is now, that being said, Adell can still be a star. Some blame could be put on the fact that he came up during a weird year for everyone which might have made the adjustment to the big leagues even harder for him.
C70: What is your expectation for this team this coming season?
Jacob: While the starting rotation does have a lot of question marks surrounding it, there is still a lot to like about the team. They have stars within Trout, Rendon, and Ohtani that can help the team stay afloat should the start to struggle and have other young players to be excited about. One of them is Jared Wash, who was a two-way player like Ohtani, but is looking to get a lot of starting time at first base and is no longer looking to try and pitch. Walsh struggled out of the gate like a lot of Angels players, but picked it up towards the end of the season and had a good stroke of power, he could be that power hitting first basemen the Angels have been lacking with a continuously struggling Albert Pujols, who may be the only one stopping Walsh from getting full playing time. My expectation is for them to at least get a wild card spot with a early knockout in the postseason, while there is hope for the team, I can’t see them getting past some of the juggernauts within the American League such as the Yankees, Rays, Astros, and now White Sox.
C70: Overall, what sort of grade would you give this organization and why?
Jacob: Overall, I already gave my off-season grade in an article for Halo Hangout, which was a C+ and I still stand by that grade even coming into Spring Training. They added starting pitching which they no doubt needed, but they got starters that are hoping for bounce backs in their careers. If it wasn’t for Mike Trout, I could definitely see the team not being afraid to rebuild as they don’t have a strong farm system which might be one of the reasons why they didn’t get any of the key starting pitchers that were on the market in the off-season. If a proper rebuild did happen, they could easily get to a strong competitive team that lasts as Angels owner, Arte Moreno, has shown he’s not afraid to write a huge check for a player when needed. This team could rival the Dodgers in terms of success and management of their farm system had they not landed Mike Trout and have tried to make the postseason every year since his call-up. There are a lot of pieces to like within this Angels team, but it’s hard to see them being a dominant team in the American League, they could do just enough to get by and squeak into the postseason before an eventual early knockout.