How will things shape up in the AL West?
Mike Trout made his big-league debut as a 19-year-old on July 8, 2011. In the years since, he has won a Rookie of the Year award and three Most Valuable Player awards and established himself as the best player of his generation, one who stacks up against the all-time greats.
Since Trout's debut, however, the Los Angeles Angels have gone 721–708 (a .505 winning percentage) during the regular season — and 0–3 in their only playoff appearance with Trout (an American League Division Series flop against the Kansas City Royals in 2014).
They've cycled through three managers in that time (Mike Scioscia, Brad Ausmus, and Joe Maddon) and now three GMs (Jerry Dipoto, Billy Eppler, and Perry Minasian). Eppler was able to resuscitate a moribund farm system during his time leading the franchise. But he couldn't get the Angels off the treadmill of mediocrity they have been stuck on.
It is now Minasian's charge to build a contender around Trout as the future Hall of Famer nears his 30s.
"You guys see it. I see it," Trout said to the media as another disappointing season wound down last fall. "It sucks being out of it. It's time. We got to get to the playoffs."
Opposing Scouts Size Up the Angels
"Their starters stayed healthier last year, which is always their problem, but it's still far from a championship-level rotation. Griffin Canning has the most ceiling there, but he's also got the highest-risk arm — except for Shohei Ohtani, who can't seem to stay healthy on the mound and looked totally lost at the plate. He's a huge key for them, though, because we know what he is at his best: a top-of-the-rotation starter and a middle-of-the-order bat who can fly. At this point you'd have to bet against him doing both, but he's only 26, so they might as well keep trying. They need a lot from Jo Adell, too, and while he didn't do much in his first taste of the big leagues, neither did Mike Trout. With Trout and Anthony Rendon, you know they'll have two of the most reliably elite hitters, and David Fletcher's the pesky little guy that pitchers hate. Jose Iglesias isn't a .370 hitter like he was in Baltimore last year, but he'll be a good fit in that offense. The other Iglesias, Raisel, is an even better fit — that was a good get, and he'll settle the back of the bullpen."
Beyond the Box Score
Winding Road Perry Minasian's career path to becoming the Angels' new GM was unusual. His father, Zack, was the Texas Rangers' clubhouse manager, and Perry worked as a clubhouse attendant. He moved into an analytical role with the Rangers, boiling down advance scouting reports into easy-to-digest instructions for players under manager Buck Showalter. Minasian moved into scouting from there and became the Blue Jays' pro scouting director under GM Alex Anthopoulos. The two were later reunited in Atlanta.
Fake Trout Jersey native Mike Trout is well known for his passion as a Philadelphia Eagles fan and has often been seen in the stands at Eagles games — including during the 2020 season. Even with spectator limitations at Lincoln Financial Field during 2020, Trout was still there shouting out his support — in cardboard cutout form. Trout's cutout was among those filling the stands at Eagles games. Next to him was a cutout of his son, Beckham (born on July 30), in Eagles gear with wife, Jessica, in the next seat.
Two-Way Shohei Shohei Ohtani was a revelation when he debuted as a two-way player in the major leagues in 2018, winning the AL Rookie of the Year award after posting a 3.31 ERA as a pitcher and hitting 22 home runs as a DH. That two-way play has been absent for two years now. Injuries limited Ohtani to being a DH — and not a very good one — in 2020. But Ohtani is intent on continuing as a two-way player in 2021. "I feel the exact same way about being a two-way player as I did in the past," he said last fall. "I just need to get past me being able to throw without any worries or any setbacks."
Baseball Immortality The Angels used 2020 to get top prospect Jo Adell some big-league experience. It did not go well. In addition to a .161 batting average, Adell also had the embarrassing misfortune of being charged with a four-base error during a game at Globe Life Field in August. Adell ran down a drive by Nick Solak of the Texas Rangers on the warning track in right field only to have it bounce out of his glove and over the fence. Adell's mistake will live on in blooper videos.
2B David Fletcher (R)
CF Mike Trout (R)
3B Anthony Rendon (R)
DH Shohei Ohtani (L)
SS Jose Iglesias (R)
1B Albert Pujols (R)
LF Justin Upton (R)
RF Dexter Fowler (S)
C Max Stassi (R)
C Kurt Suzuki (R)
1B Jared Walsh (L)
INF Luis Rengifo (S)
OF Jo Adell (R)
LHP Andrew Heaney
RHP Dylan Bundy
LHP Jose Quintana
RHP Griffin Canning
RHP Shohei Ohtani
RHP Alex Cobb
RHP Raisel Iglesias (C)
RHP Ty Buttrey
RHP Felix Pena
RHP Mike Mayers
RHP Jose Alberto Rivera
LHP Alex Claudio
RHP Jaime Barria
2021 Prediction: 3rd in AL West
(Mike Trout and Justin Upton photo courtesy of @Angels)